Lenovo Thinkpad X201 Tablet PC review

Filed Under () by Mike Monroe on Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Posted at : Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Here's my take on the Lenovo Thinkpad X201 Tablet PC as an artist who likes to bring his Photoshop/Painter/SAI with him. I found out about the Thinkpad mostly from this article which seemed to give it pretty good reviews. I was also considering the Fujitsu Lifebook T900, but the price to me wasn't worth the ho-hum battery life.

Ordering the laptop itself from Lenovo was a major ordeal since they couldn't figure out how to charge my card despite having the bank themselves say it was completely legit, but Lenovo still felt like stringing me along for two weeks. I eventually canceled my order after 2+ weeks of waiting and managed to get the same laptop on sale much cheaper, and significantly faster from Overstock.com. (2 days)

Anyways, onto the laptop. I'm coming from a Toshiba Tecra M4, which I got 4 years ago and really enjoyed despite it's clunky size, viewing angles, and short battery life. So in theory an upgrade should be an easy impress by now right? Well, not exactly.

The Shit:
- Getting Wacom driver pressure sensitivity working on this thing was a total bitch, and I was rather fortunate Davi Blight had gone the ordeal before I did and made ironing out the problems easier. Basically the TabletPC driver Wacom and Lenovo both supply is crap- it's fine for moving the mouse but forget about pressure sensitivity. What I ended up having todo is installing (ironically) Wacom drivers Fujitsu setup for their Lifebook series. That's pretty fucking embarassing for a tablet PC of all things. Considering tablet pen interactive is the foundation of what the machine is about, neglecting support of such functionality is a clear symbol of slack ass developers. Unfortunately, I've heard about this also happening on Toshiba Tablet PCs now so I'm not even sure what to make of it. Perhaps it's something involving Windows7 Tablet PC integration and its tablet functionality not playing well with Wacoms? Or is Wacom just shitting the bed on tablet PC support.

- I got one with a multi-touch screen because I had seen the viral Fujitsu video of a guy panning the canvas with his hand (iPad style) and drawing, and figured maybe Windows 7 would make such awesome interaction possible. Hell no. Windows 7 touch screen support is pretty lame. It's exactly the same as a desktop computer except now you're using your fingers instead of a mouse. The touch screen actually got in the way of drawing most of the time and would cause crazy drawing lines to fly out from nowhere. In a mixed reaction of fortune, having to install the Fujitsu Wacom drivers disabled multi-touch interactivity. UPDATE: A clean re-install of the drivers re-enabled multi-touch, though I ended up disabling it again.

On a side note there's some YouTube video demoing the interactive touch apps the Lenovo team developed to make touch screen worth it. 1) They're pretty much useless (why should I press a button on the laptop to bring it up to adjust my volume when I can just press the volume button on the laptop instead?) 2) Whenever I tried launching this app it took ages to launch. At least 10-30 seconds. Pretty much everytime I was confused if the thing was actually launching.

- Face button bugs. The buttons next to the screen (for rotating the screen resolution) tend to stop working after hibernation. I haven't figured out the fix for this yet and have to usually rotate my resolution by hand in the display settings. UPDATE: Fixed with a clean re-install of the Fujitsu drivers.

- Photoshop will produce graphical glitches with the mouse if used in Portrait mode. I'm not sure what this is all about since Davi Blight doesn't have this problem at all. But, Photoshop runs just fine in landscape tablet mode- and as much as I want to be pissed about having to do that I really enjoy Photoshop more in landscape mode anyways cause of all those damn floating windows.

The Get:
+ The battery life is enjoyable. I think they advertise 8 hours for the model I have, which is of course fucking lies. But still I can mange to get roughly 2-5 hours of battery which I consider a nice boost to my Toshiba's 1-2 hours. The Thinkpad seems pretty adamant about optimizing to save battery life as well.

+ It's very light. Holding my Toshiba like a drawing pad while standing up was out of the question. With the Thinkpad it's small and light enough that holding it is pretty comfortable. It's definitely no iPad in terms of lightweight, but it'll work for me and feels like a thick sketchbook.

+ Performance is great. Granted I got a high powered one, but it boots up cold (45sec-1min) and from hibernation(23sec) satisfyingly quick. I would pretty much need 2-5 minutes before I could do anything on my Toshiba.

+ This one is sort dumb, but typing on the keyboard is crazy satisfying.

So there it is. Part of me wants to return the thing, but I wouldn't know what to get in place of it that would have the same satisfying weight, battery power, and performance for this price. It still really feels like producers of Tablet PCs don't know what kind of market they're completely missing to tap on with digital artists, and seem content to make laptops that just happen to use Wacom pens so business yokels can scribble words onto sticky note apps.

Does it beat an iPad? Yes, absolutely. I think so at least. Fuck finger/stick painting and no pressure sensitivity. Would this thing replace a Cintiq? Of course not, but I'd like to see you bring your Cintiq out into the open and draw with it.


VCoke said...

Been shopping around for a tablet pc the last few days, basically in your same position. I have a wacom 12wx but I want something mobile, and powerful enough to run 3d applications. Im using this for industrial design applications.

Your post is a few months old now, but from what I've found the 201x seems like the only obvious choice still.

I'm looking at getting it with the i7 and 8gigs of ram. Only upsetting thing is on-board video, but I guess you cant expect much more out of a 12" laptop.

Anyways, thanks for the review, I definitely agree on what youre saying about an untapped market - completely pathetic on the part of these electronics companies and wacom for that matter.

Mike Monroe said...

No problem Rob. I hope it was useful.

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