Lenovo’s ThinkPad X60 is an ultra-light Tablet PC with a heavyweight punch. The X60 takes advantage of and positively upholds the excellent reputation of the IBM ThinkPad line of laptops. ThinkPads are slightly utilitarian in design, but this is part of their universal appeal. Even as an ultra-portable, the X60 may have enough sinewy power to give bulkier, high-spec laptops a tough run for the money.
Features and Design
The Lenovo X60 tablet PC, aka ThinkPad X60 Tablet, is billed as an ultra-portable 12″ laptop that crams a lot of features into a relatively small package. The X60 is absolutely lightweight and travel-friendly at a reported 3.8lbs. Of course, this weight is sans-battery. When I placed the X60 on my digital scale, the weight was slightly higher than expected at 3.94lbs. With the 8-cell battery attached (4-cell battery available as well) the weight of the X60 increased to 4.94lbs. This is still lighter than most competitive laptops.
Lenovo offers an optional expansion dock for the X60. This dock gives X60 users access to a 24/16/8/4/2.4X CD-RW/DVD drive, 4 USB 2.0 ports, VGA video out, an archaic serial port, parallel port, audio in/out, a secondary power adapter port, a fax/modem and a 10/100 LAN port. The expansion dock is ideal for execs and managers who have external monitors, keyboards and mice permanently set up at one or more work spaces. Moving the X60 between mobile/compact mode and docked/desktop mode is as easy as a single click in XP and releasing the undock lever on the expansion dock.
Without the “ThinkPad X6 Tablet UltraBase” expansion dock, the X60 is slightly less functional. It does not have an optical drive built-in, which means no CD or DVD drive. To use CDs or DVD on the go, one must have copied disk images to the hard drive with an included utility, or one must use an external USB CD/DVD drive. There are three USB 2.0 ports, a single 4-pin FireWire port, built-in SD/MMC card slot, dial-up modem port, infrared port, embedded WWAN, VGA video out, audio input and output jacks, and a much-appreciated PC Card slot for flash card readers, USB expansion ports, etc. Essentially, any expansion needs could be managed by way of PC cards or USB devices.
The 12″ TFT screen is clean and bright. Surprisingly, the X60 doesn’t take advantage of the highly popular widescreen format. It’s odd using a near-square portable after being on wide-screens for several years. Additionally, the matte screen is limited to a 1024×768 resolution. The X60 doesn’t have a dedicated graphics card – rather, it uses upwards of 128MB of system memory for video. Sadly, the X60 doesn’t offer any DVI video out, even with the expansion dock. Finally, unlike many new laptops on the market, the X60 does not have an integrated webcam.
The keyboard measures just over 10″ wide, which forces keys to be slightly smaller than on standard laptops, but near equal to that of other ultra-portables. The X60 however, superimposes a great number of Fn options on keys which makes it look a little hectic. Once the visual noise settles down, keyboard use is intuitive and fluid.
The internal hard drive (60GB to 120GB) is a 5400rpm SATA drive. If you want a 7200rpm drive for extra speed, Lenovo offers a 100GB SATA drive for an extra cost.
Like most IBM/Lenovo laptops, the X60 has a red mouse pointer nub smack in the middle of the keyboard instead of a trackpad below the keyboard. I’m sure there are thousands of people who prefer the nub. It’s easy to get used to, but this techie thinks it’s a misplaced oddity.
The X60 has a built-in biometric security device – a small fingerprint scanner located at the bottom right corner of the LCD screen. The scanner is about the size of a piece of macaroni, or the tip of a 6-pin USB plug. When the biometric security is enabled, it can be used for XP login, program/file/website access. This is an essential security feature where corporate competition and identity theft force people to be more protective of their data.
As for design, the X60 is pretty utilitarian. In a world of pretty MacBooks, Sony Vaios and Toshibas, the X60 looks Borg. It’s a no frills, no pizzazz workhorse – albeit a tough, high powered, skilled workhorse that can run circles around competitive systems.
Amazing 4GB RAM Capacity
One of the most impressive and desirable aspects of the X60 is the fact that RAM can be upgraded as high as 4GB. That’s right – 4 whole gigabytes of lightning fast PC2-5300 667MHz RAM. It’s enough to make a geek break into a giddy sweat. Major kudos to Intel and Lenovo for such an awesome endowment.
Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet
Lenovo X60 Setup and Use
Setting up the Lenovo X60 tablet PC is quite simple. Once unboxed, the X60 is self sufficient – you only need to plug in the power adapter. Thankfully, Windows XP Tablet Edition 2005 is pre-installed. This means that from the time you first turn the X60 on till Windows is fully set up and has booted to the XP desktop, no more than 24 minutes should pass.
Once the X60 has booted for the first time, you’ll need to connect to the Internet, whether by LAN cable or by connecting to a wireless network in order to get any Windows XP driver & security updates. This process could take anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes.
The X60 comes with Symantec Client Security. Depending on your preferences and corporate IT policies, you can install any number of antivirus and firewall programs. There are plenty top-quality, free programs that can be found at download.com.
Once the X60 is properly configured with security updates, antivirus/firewall and productivity applications, reboot as necessary. One unfortunate statistic is the X60’s boot time which averages between 72 and 90 seconds. That’s a very, very long boot time for a Core Duo system with 1GB of RAM.
Despite the slow boot times of the X60, programs run very quickly. Internet Explorer opens in less than 1 second. Outlook Express opens in about 1.5 seconds. Microsoft Word and Excel open in 2-3 seconds each.
Awesome Touch Screen
Of course, the X60 is a tablet PC, so the LCD screen is touch capable in both laptop-mode and full tablet-mode. This Wacom-powered touch capability is one place where most, if not all, competitors fall behind. The X60 has near flawless handwriting recognition, extremely smooth pen-based controls and, if the included pen is lost, the X60 can be used with a fingertip or nearly any PDA stylus.
I have several different writing styles that I switch back and forth from depending on the purpose of my writing and how much coffee I’ve had. It progressively moves from pristine block to scribbly gobbledegook. The X60 was able to recognize all my writing styles and, in a lengthy series of test sentences, only missed two letters.
All programs and menus can be controlled by the touch screen. The pen is very accurate, never missing a menu item or dialog button once. The mouse can be moved along the screen without the pen ever touching the physical surface of the LCD.It seems there is a 1/4″ to 1/2″ control atmosphere over the LCD where the pen is still recognized with decreasing accuracy the farther away the pen is from the surface.
The touch screen features are probably the most impressive feature of the X60.
ThinkPad X6 Tablet UltraBase
Hooking the X60 tablet PC to the expansion dock is a no-brainer. The dock and laptop pair by means of a male/female connector built into the top of the dock and the bottom of the X60. Once connected, the X60 instantly recognizes the CD/DVD drive and all ports on the dock are instantly activated. The X60 can be used in laptop AND tablet modes with the dock in place.
The expansion dock adds an extra inch of thickness to the X60 and nearly 2lbs in weight. Because of this, it may not be sensible to travel with the dock unless you have some extra room and a little muscle power.
The only caveat in using the UltraBase is that prior to removing the X60 from it’s docked position, you must deactivate the dock via the Start menu. Otherwise, you’ll get a stern warning message from XP.
The Thickest Thin
One of the key marketing points of the X60 is it’s ultra-portability. This typically means that a laptop/tablet is noticeably thinner than typical laptops, narrow and very light – no more than 4lbs. The X60 is certainly light and it is narrow, but it is a lot thicker than expected. Placing the X60 side by side with a MacBook Pro, it is clear that the X60 is quite a bit thicker. With the UltaBase attached, the X60 is over twice the thickness of a MacBook Pro. It’s a little difficult to reconcile an ultra-thin tablet PC being much thicker than a full-sized laptop.
According to the IBM website, the X60 gets upwards of 7.5 hours of battery life. This is with the optional 8-cell Lithium Ion battery. The standard battery is 4-cell, which logically gets half the battery life – just under 4 hours. Of course, manufacturer’s battery ratings are often higher than real-world results. If you’re a road warrior who needs to crank away at your reports during the entire length of a cross-country flight, the 8-cell battery is your best bet. The 8-cell battery weighs 1lb.
Left: Apple MacBook Pro, ThinkPad X60 Tablet w/ Base
While the Lenovo X60 is not sexy or aesthetic in design, it is a powerful and reliable workhorse. The X60 has numerous features that are absolutely ideal for corporate and mobile-management use. The touch screen is awesome. Battery life goes far beyond expected norms. Without any stretch of the imagination, the X60 could easily be a favorite of many large IT departments and tablet PC enthusiasts.
• Very fast Intel Core Duo processor
• Amazing 4GB RAM capacity
• Lightweight without dock
• Excellent quality touch screen
• Fantastic battery life with 8-cell battery
• Biometric security
• Thick body
• No built-in optical drive
• Not wide screen
• Busy keyboard