Lenovo X41 Tablet PC Review

I have to say that I’m impressed. The Lenovo Tablet PC, like any of IBM’s products is not the most inexpensive offering on the market. But, as I expected from my other IBM ThinkPad experiences, it is rock solid and works as advertised.

The package I purchased includes the biometric fingerprint scanner as well as the X4 Dock. The fingerprint scanner, frankly, has me giddy. I’m pretty security minded and was interested to see if this new technology would be an asset to somebody wanting to properly protect their machine or a kludgy add on that caused more problems than it solved.
I’m happy to report that it seems the former is the case with the biometric fingerprint scanner. I have separate and distinct passwords for power-on, my hard drive access and my account access on the machine. All of which are navigated by a single swipe of my finger on the scanner.
If you are interested in more than just the most basic security (Account login password) it takes a little knowledge or, in my case, research on Lenovo’s site to figure out what is needed and how to implement it. I have to say that all the information was there so I didn’t have to go scouring the ‘net to find what I needed.

Writing with the Digitizer pen couldn’t be easier, my handwriting has actually improved over the past few years as I’ve been making an effort to adhere to my philosophy that “if it’s worth writing down, it’s worth being able to read again” so I have had very few issues with my handwriting being recognized accurately. Even more astonishing to me is the fact that my cursive handwriting is also being recognized with no effort at all on my part. I am writing as quickly, if not faster, than I would write on a piece of paper and the well-thought-out software reliably figures out what I’m trying to put down.
I don’t know what the digitizer surface is made of, but the resistance to the stylus is surprisingly similar to writing on a sheet of paper. Not at all like some of the experiences I’ve had trying to put my signature down for a credit card purchase where it feels like you are using a ball-point pen on a mirror.
One hint – don’t get too obsessed with trying to watch the intermediate guesses at your final word that show up as you are writing, that will only slow you down and it will magically sort itself out by the end of the word in nearly all cases.
The only issue I have is that corrections can be a little slow. Say it inadvertently capitalizes (or doesn’t) a word because I was a little sloppy with my handwriting, going back and correcting words requires figuring out a very different way of thinking for me at least. Even after coming from many, many years of PDA use. Oh by the way, unlike PDAs you don’t need to re-learn how to write, it recognizes REAL letters.
An article I read on the ThinkPad handwriting recognition said that if you dedicate yourself to using only pen-based input for the first little while (I’d say about 2 or 3 weeks) you’ll become so proficient at it that the keyboard will become practically reserved for true marathon messages.

I would certainly not want to hand write a lengthy email using just the pen, my hand would probably seize up with a writer’s cramp, but for a single paragraph or entering a search term in Google it’s absolutely fine.
A hint, you’ll want to switch to the little digitizer keyboard to enter passwords.

I also have the larger 8 cell battery with my unit. I think it’s a stretch, though not a huge one, to claim 6.5 hours of use is possible with this battery. But I find, using the “ThinkPad Default” power setting that I can see 4+ hours from the unit easily. There are nearly a dozen included settings, everything from “Maximum Performance” through to “Timers Off (Presentation)” to “Maximum Battery Life”. I have played with most of them now and can see where the “Maximum Battery Life” may actually get you much closer to the claimed 6.5 hours of usability but, with the screen that dim, why bother? The battery longevity that I’m seeing is ample for my intended uses for this unit. If I can get through a feature length movie and still have enough power to surf the web and deal with my email for a couple of hours, I’ll be a happy camper indeed.

Probably the only downside to the unit is the lack of a built-in CD ROM drive. The package that I bought included such in the dock, and the lack of a CD drive in the actual unit itself no doubt is part of the reason it is so compact but this makes it very challenging to be useful for movies, which I think is a need any traveller has for their laptop – be it in the airport, on the plane or in the hotel room. I have plenty of shows and movies that I would like to watch during that down time.
Included with the unit is “Virtual Drive” software. It will let you copy an image of just about any number of CDs and DVDs and store them on your hard drive for access later. It is supposed to completely emulate the DVD/CD drive so you can access any of those images without the need to keep swapping in and out the physical disks. One catch though, it can’t deal with CSS encrypted disks which is how the vast majority of Movie DVDs are “protected”.
So the Luddite-inspired MPAA has managed another coup – they can keep me from the content that I have purchased yet again (My Roku Soundbridge can’t play any DRM protected content from iTunes either).

So, even though I consider myself an honest sort of fellow, it looks like I’m going to have to look to one of the peer-to-peer networks to try to acquire a copy of the movies that I already own so that I can use them in a manner that I wish to.

This is not the worst problem in the world, and is a small ‘nit in an otherwise wonderful notebook experience but it’s something you need to consider should you often require the ability to receive and access CDs on the spot. I can see this being an issue perhaps at conferences such as Lotusphere and the like where you might want to follow along with the presenter with your own copy of the slides for greater visibility or to annotate them as the presentation proceeds. If that’s that case, then this may be a consideration for you. If you can get back to your hotel room and rip the DVD/CD to your HD before attending the presentations then there may be no issue.

Again, I’m very pleased with the X41 so far.

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