The scoop: ThinkPad Tablet, by Lenovo, starts at $599.
What is it? Offered as a tablet for business purposes, the ThinkPad Tablet runs the Google Android 3.1 Honeycomb operating system, and comes with an optional pen with digitizer for customers who want the additional feeling of a stylus for handwriting purposes.
Specifications include a dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor from Nvidia, a 10.1-inch display, up to 1GB of memory, up to 64GB of SSD storage and integrated front (2 megapixel) and back (5 megapixel) digital cameras.
Unlike the Apple iPad, this tablet supports Flash video content, has a full USB 2.0 port and micro-USB slot, as well as a mini HDMI port for displaying on a larger monitor. Network connectivity includes 802.11b/g/n, and it has a SIM slot for 3G wireless access.
The optional keyboard plugs in via the USB port and provides a stand for the tablet as well as a protective cover. The full qwerty keyboard provides a better content input experience, and it also includes a ThinkPad "nub" (Lenovo calls it the optical TrackPoint) for mouse navigation (it's fun to see a mouse cursor travel around on a tablet screen).
Why it's cool: Lenovo has done a good job at adding its touch to a standard Android tablet -- the ThinkPad includes many preloaded apps out of the box, including Netflix and Documents to Go (for accessing Office documents).
The company's Lenovo Launcher on the home screen lets users choose from four main activities (Watch, Email, Listen and Read), with the ability to choose which apps to launch from those activity boxes.
An additional Navigation bar along the bottom of the tablet lets users quickly go "back" in an app, go back to the home page or switch between apps quickly (via the Layers button, which is also a nice way of closing open apps). The USB 2.0 slot is a handy way to quickly move files between a PC and the tablet.
Some caveats: I was less impressed with the Lenovo App Shop, which tries to provide users with hand-picked or recommended apps for purchase. in the end it gets confusing between that app store and the Android Market, which provides more apps.
The App Shop also made us sign up with a different account name (apart from Google Account access) and credit card information, adding to the confusion. The tablet's short battery life was bothersome, considering a very short power cord that made it difficult to keep the tablet on a desk (not to mention having to keep a tablet tethered to a power outlet).
Bottom line: The addition of a digitized pen/stylus, keyboard and business-focused apps makes the ThinkPad Tablet a winner for companies considering a more serious offering than consumer-centric tablets.
Grade: 4.5 stars (out of five).
Shaw can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter -- @shawkeith.
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