Friday, April 21, 2006

Hugo Ortega spends time with the Lenovo X41

Tonight my intention is to review the Lenovo X41 Tablet PC. Having not been a great fan of “reviews” in the past I’ve often struggled to put my own thoughts into a review. My biggest dilemma with reading a review is deciphering whether I’m with the reviewer, or against. For this reason my reviews are often focused on one or two points, and sometimes even entertaining.

Lenovo. My initial contact with Lenovo was via a coffee session with Lenovo management; I found the organization to be receptive to Tablet and surprisingly proactive. It wasn’t very long after this encounter that I received a Lenovo X41, surprisingly fast, and it didn’t take me long to work out the reason why. Lenovo, it seems, as an Organisation, is onto something sweet. The X41, after having spent the last six weeks with her, is a real contender.

Let me start with the looks. To me this is the x41’s biggest liability and yet its biggest asset too. As a liability in the looks department I can explain myself this way:

I’ve owned a 1967 VW Beetle that had been fully restored to factory standards. It was my first car, bought from proceeds of the sale of a motorcycle of mine, and I loved it. It did everything I needed it to do. It looked retro enough for me to appear intellectual, and it was tidy enough for me to garner attention… When VW decided to re launch the Beetle in 1999, long after I’d sold my beloved model and moved onto shinier more modern automobiles, I remember feeling rather glum. Not only had VW repackaged “the people’s car” in refurbished clothing but they managed to bump up the price so that it was out of the reach of most “people” at all.

Roll in the Lenovo X41.

As the ink finished drying on the courier’s paperwork I was already into my second layer of cardboard, ripping and tearing my way into the bubble wrap that embraced this new guest that had come over to play. My joy would quickly turn to disappointment however; when I finally unveiled the Tablet, all I could see staring back at me was the same IBM Thinkpad I owned in 1998, and nothing more. I proceeded, as anyone who has ever bought a Tablet does, to open the beast up and swivel the screen. That first swivel action is one you’ll never forget. As your stomach turns with unfamiliarity towards this new but funky action, the swivel, you begin to realize that you’re now part of the most innovative form of computing. As the morning moved on my thoughts often turned back to my 1967 Beetle and I realized that I was now at the steering wheel of a 1999 VW Beetle. I had a modernized antiquity that came at a very high cost. It was history repeating itself, but at a costly premium.

Aesthetics is now paramount in this self indulging planet we live in (just ask all the iPod owners) and yet I was about to spend the next six weeks with an IBM Thinkpad, rebadged, swiveled, and marked up in price. So how is it that I came to find her looks as an asset you may ask? Well, the asset my friends, is the wolf in sheep’s clothing. As I attended meetings and talked tablet downunder I began to realize that perhaps Lenovo had planned this all along. You see, every meeting I attended I no longer attracted as much attention for being a Tablet user, but rather I found myself spending more time being productive. It took most people a double take to even notice that I was inking on the Tablet, mostly because the “IBM black” casing was so well entrenched in the corporate arena.

Perhaps Lenovo, in the fear of losing hard core IBM supporters, and in the effort to avoid costly retooling, had actually created a Tablet that was so aesthetically part of the culture that everyone introduced to her could not help but greet her as one of the gang. Now to put this into perspective you need to know that I, as Australia’s Tablet Guy, have access to many tablets; in my office alone I can choose between one of 6 possible makes at this very moment. I’ve walked into meetings with the Sahara slate, the motion LS1600, the HP TC1100, and always been greeted by the silence of awe that is mostly reserved for rock stars and famous sportspeople. This greeting can be a great stroke for the ego, but what if you actually want to get some work done?

The rest of my six weeks were shear bliss. The device, a featherweight title contender, was soon a welcome guest at all my functions. With Bluetooth, infrared (wait till you hear the sound of two infrared devices talking to each other) and WiFi, the X41 did everything I needed it to do. I skyped, I inked on MSN, I took notes, I rotated the screen through all 360 degrees, and even typed sometimes too. The speaker, oh yes, the speaker is in a very stupid location, right under the spacebar (on the under carriage of the chassis) and therefore nearly always muffled when in use as a laptop – doh! The biometrics, seen as more of an encumbrance to me, was available and worked well.

The screen size had just the right amount of inches (12.1), and the pen was in the right location. It wasn’t until my alarm sounded, on the 20th of April 2006, indeed a somber day, that I realized just how attached we’d become. Lenovo had summoned back the courier and I was forced into my office for a very unceremonious farewell. As I stood in my dressing gown (we’ll keep the show PG) and entombed the X41 back into its cardboard carcass, I began to realize just how attached I had gotten. Knowing that we’d inked in cafés, bars, restaurants, seminars and congregations of geeks alike, I was finding it hard to let go of this plain, but functional beauty.

Good bye my girl. While you're definately not an Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC), you pack a far mightier bunch than they ever will. Perhaps when Lenovo gets you Vista ready then we may meet again. Until then you will remain but a photo in my closet.

If you’re in the market for a convertible Tablet, and see Vista as nothing but a pipedream, then look at the X41, seriously, she won’t let you down. Make sure you send her my regards.


Jon said...

Very, very well written Hugo .. the X41 is probably on top of my "convertibles" list

SamT said...

Just as I feared.

The X41 is a great buy for convertible types (me)

Thanks for the post, and coming from a slate guy it is saying a lot of the X41.

Hugo Ortega said...

Hi Jon,

Thanks Jon...not hard to see why the X41 is on top of a lot of lists.

Hi SamT

Sorry it took me so long to write the review, I know you'd been waiting.

I am a slate fan and have been rather ambiguous towards my new amorous attitude towards the Lenovo. Oh well, love is blind I guess.

THANKS FOR ALL THE LINKS TOO BOYS! James Kendrick, Warner Crocker and Rob Bushway.

tabletuser45 said...

Hugo, you read my mind. I've been using the X41 since last August and it is indeed a wolf in sheep's clothing. It was some weeks after I received the X41 before my colleagues noticed I was using a tablet. It "disappears" in meetings and I now use it as my primary computer (replacing both a desktop and a laptop).

Hugo Ortega said...

Hello tabletuser45...

You know what, the camouflage is a hidden advantage not touted on brochures, and a feature I never had thought before this time.

I'm a real fan of this device now mate.

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