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Jewish World Review
Jan. 26, 2007
/ 7 Shevat, 5767
The Tablet ThinkPad First Impressions
Spend about $1900 or so for a notebook computer, and you should expect
some things. One of the interesting surprises of the Lenovo (nee IBM)
ThinkPad X60 - on first contact - is what comes with it: 1 Gbyte of RAM, a
120 Gbyte hard disk drive and the tablet display, which is activated with
a pen-stylus device. All this in a package which weighs less than 4
pounds, and with approximately 5 hours of battery life, enough, I hope, to
cross the continent by air.
Now, that might not seem like an incredible value for money, but remember,
there's still an IBM logo on this thing: you're paying for image, for
style and for cachet. Not to mention some pretty cool engineering.
During an initial "spin" with the ThinkPad, the computer impresses on
several levels. There's an integrated fingerprint scanner for added
security. It's a good idea, but apparently doesn't work as well in
situations with low ambient light, when it failed to scan my index finger
properly. The built-in Wi-Fi wireless networking is quite good and easy to
use, connecting to available work and home networks at 54 Mbps, which is a
good speed; Bluetooth computer-to-cell-phone-modem connectivity was a bit
Other operations were rather pleasant, however; more than I might have
expected. This is a computer with a 12.1-inch, diagonal measure, display
screen, and that might seem antediluvian in a world where the 15-inch
display is a de facto standard, and where Apple Computer's 13-inch display
for the MacBook isn't all that bad. It took some getting used to for my
eyes to accommodate the 12.1 inch screen - yes, even nine-tenths of an
inch can make a difference - although in "portrait" display mode when used
as a tablet, the screen seemed perfectly fine.
The keyboard on the ThinkPad X60 is a delight. I've long maintained the
IBM-branded notebooks have been among those with the best keyboards
around, and this new model doesn't disappoint, which is encouraging given
that a Tablet PC, by definition, should be designed as much for pen input
as for typing. They keys are responsive and pleasant to use, especially
for combinations of letters and control characters; this may not seem
important, but experienced users will likely recognize a good keyboard
when they encounter one, and this is a good keyboard.
The joystick/click-button combination for the mouse function, as opposed
to the very popular trackpad setup used in many portables from
Hewlett-Packard, its Compaq subsidiary and Apple Computer, to name three,
was for me a bit of a challenge at first, but I'm getting used to it.
Having a Wacom pen-based system in this Tablet PC is a good thing;
Wacom's stylus systems are among the best out there, and I've enjoyed
Because the machine arrived late last week, and because we're on the cusp
of Microsoft Corp.'s expected Jan. 30 release of Windows Vista, it's going
to take some time for me to work with this machine, and hopefully with
Vista's Tablet PC version, to see just how useful this kind of a machine
really is. I'm not sure how many applications there are which can take
advantage of all the pen-input capabilities a Tablet PC should offer, and
I'm still a little uncertain as to whether it's worth the hassle.
But for the executive-on-the-go, or for any other kind of road warrior,
having a fair amount of power in a rather light package is not at all a
bad thing. I'm hoping for positive experiences with this computer, and
will be sure to report back in a few weeks.
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JWR contributor Mark Kellner has reported on technology for industry newspapers and magazines since 1983, and has been the computer columnist for The Washington Times since 1991.Comment by clicking here.
© 2007, News World Communications, Inc. Reprinted with permission of The Washington Times. Visit the paper at http://www.washingtontimes.com