Saturday, November 18, 2006


Lenovo’s X60 Thinkpad: A perfect balance of tablet portability, notebook functionality?

  • Saturday, November 18, 2006
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  • Ever since the very first Thinkpad (I believe it was the 700c), I've relied on the sleek black portables with the slightly rubberized black finish to get my job done. Over the years, I have strayed a few times. An HP Omnibook here. A Sony Vaio there. A brief affair with a Dell Latitude. But always, I come back to the Thinkpad (even though their displays have occasionally failed me). Whenever I've wandered elsewhere, I longed for my Thinkpads' keyboards and Trackpoint pointing sticks. So it came as no surprise when the lab folk here at CNET Networks (ZDNet's parent) had this to say about Lenovo's latest offering, the X60 Thinkpad Tablet:

    The Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet strikes the best compromise between a ultraportable tablet and a full-featured laptop.

    Although it only scored a 7.5 out of 10 (discriminating bunch down there in the labs, aren't they?), Michelle Thatcher points out how the this follow-on to the X60 (base price $1799, $2299 as tested) was so convincing as a tablet that if you're not a fan of tablets now, this follow-on to the Thinkpad X41 tablet could turn you into one. According to Lenovo's Web site, the more tricked out of the X60 tablets comes equipped with Intel's L2500 1.83 Ghz Centrino (mobile) Core Duo processor (a member of Intel's "Yonah" family of processors). The base model comes with the 1.66 Ghz L2400. The L2500 processor will set you back an additional $300.

    Compared to the T-Series of Centrino Core Duos which draw 31 watts of power, the L-series Centrino Core Duos draw only 15 watts which means they're not quite as powerful as their T-series counterparts, but they go easier on the X60's batteries. Speaking of batteries, the X60 tablet's batteries are not interchangeable with those of any other Thinkpad (an issue for some corporate shops). A special exception in battery design had to be made for the X60 tablet in order to accomodate the swivel that enables the display to be flipped around when putting the X60 into its tablet mode. The advertised weight of X60 tablet includes the weight of Lenovo's standard four cell .53 pound battery. But, for those cross-country flights, long days in the field where tablets are often used, or long back to back classes in academic situations, you'll probably want more battery than that.

    In terms of additional battery capacity, Lenovo offers two options: a $159 eight-cell battery that snaps into the same position normally occupied by the four-cell battery or a $179 four-cell beveled "wedge" battery that snaps onto the bottom. One advantage of the wedge is continuous operation. In other words, with a four or eight-cell battery on the back of the X60 and a four-cell wedge mounted underneath, you'll never have to power-down the X60 in order to replace one of them. On the downside, it adds an additional 1.32 inches of overall thickness at its thickest point brining total system thickness (at that point) to 2.42 inches. The eight-cell battery weighs 1.03 lbs which, when compared to the .53 lb $129 four-cell battery that it takes the place of, only adds an additional .5 lb of weight (bringing total system weight to approximately 4.3 lb).

    Although it's not true of the entire Yonah family of processors, both the L2400 and L2500 processors include Intel's VT (hardware-based virtualization technology) and Execute Disable Bit. XD, a hardware-based security technology that battles certain types of malware, is worth having given the way the software enabler of it — Windows' Data Execution Protection (DEP) — has stopped some zero day exploits dead in their tracks. In other words, for desktops and notebooks, steer clear of chips lacking the XD technology. There are something like six different names for XD technology, depending on who it comes from. AMD calls it EVP (Enhanced Virus Protection).

    On the performance front, the X60 was inexplicably slower in CNET's multitasking and Office productivity tests than a similarly configured system (the Asus S6F) with a slower processor and slower memory (see benchmark chart below):

    One possible source of the delta could be the extra cycles that the Tablet PC version of Windows XP needs to monitor the tablet's digitizer for events (eg: a tap of the stylus). The unit furnished to CNET's reviews department was an engineering sample that may have included unfinished software drivers.

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