New Toy — Brief Review of Thinkpad X61 Tablet and Windows Vista

Jun 22, 2007  |  Michael Wurzer

x61After toting around my Sony Vaio and an HP tablet for several months, I finally decided to get the Thinkpad X61 tablet from Lenovo so I could consolidate to one computer. Here’s a blurry picture of my new baby just after syncing up my iPod and Treo. So far, I’m pretty excited about it and know that my life will be simpler with just one computer.

I’ve been carrying both because the tablet is fantastic for drawing mockups of new features we’re developing. I still had to carry my Sony, though, because the old tablet wouldn’t run a projector at a resolution higher than 800×600, which isn’t effective today. Also, for whatever reason, my Treo wouldn’t pair, no matter what I tried, with the HP tablet, so I couldn’t get Internet access through my phone. These shortcomings led me to be a two computer geek for months, and it was giving me a headache.

With the X61, I’m hoping I have the best of both worlds and I thought I’d write about it here because I think a tablet is a great choice of computer for a real estate professional. The small form factor, the ability to lay the screen flat like a book for showing your clients a CMA or photo tour, and the ability to write (literally) contracts with digital ink are all killer features for real estate. The X61 I ordered has the Wacom digitizer (a must), the Intel Santa Rose processor, 2 GB of RAM, a 1 GB solid state drive, and a 100GB 7200 rpm hard drive. The last two features are noteworthy. The solid state drive seems to really help with boot and resumption times (the unit wakes in just a few seconds) and the 7200 rpm hard drive is relatively rare in the world of laptops because of the power requirements. The battery life, though, seems to be great so far. The battery lasted well over four hours last night, with quite a bit of heavy duty use moving documents.

Every time I get a new laptop, I’m filled with excitement and dread, because I really want the new features but know transitioning all my data will be a chore. I like to take advantage of the freshness of the new laptop and so I pick and choose the files to move over instead of doing a backup/restore. It’s a lot of work but worth it. I particularly wanted to start clean this time since the new tablet has Vista on it and I didn’t want to hassle with any complexities from the XP/Vista migration.

I’m not sure if this is a Vista issue or the Lenovo setup, but, for whatever reason, the ClearType fonts weren’t selected by default and so I freaked out for about an hour wondering why the screen looked so bad. After pouring over all the options (Vista hasn’t made any of that easier!), I finally saw that ClearType wasn’t turned on. Another problem has been Vista incompatibilities with the Sprint dial-up networking client, so Bluethooth is the only option right now.

Otherwise, Vista looks great with the Aero interface and the writing experience is unbelievable. I have some of the worst handwriting of anyone I know and the recognition is just fantastic, which leads me back to my recommendation of a tablet for real estate professionals. Microsoft has done a magnificent job integrating tablet functions into their OS. Once you get used to touching the screen, you’ll find a whole new world of productivity and you’ll never go back. Though the iPhone and Surface are getting tons of hype right now in the touch-screen space, Microsoft has been advocating tablets for a long time and I know I wouldn’t have anything else right now.

11 Responses to “New Toy — Brief Review of Thinkpad X61 Tablet and Windows Vista”

  1. Kevin Boer says:

    I’d have to agree. The Thinkpad Tablet series is simply brilliant. I have a 2-year old X41 which gets some serious use and abuse, and it’s held up marvelously. I had to replace the battery after the first year, but other than that it’s been great.

  2. Ryan Brown says:

    Great review! I am very satisfied with my Thinkpad T30 but it is starting to show its age. I am seriously considering the new Lenovo tablets based on positive reviews I’ve read from CNET & PC World, but I needed a more user-level hands on review. Thanks for pushing me over the edge :).

    I’m glad the tablet interface doesn’t disappoint, as it could easily come off as more of a gimmick than a useful feature. Have you had any application software issues in moving to Vista? What SW do you use for note-taking, MS One Note?

  3. Ryan, Firefox has locked on me mysteriously a few times, but, other than that, no problems. That being said, it’s still very early. The lack of compatibility with my Sprint connection software is frustrating, because that requires using Bluetooth, which I find unreliable. I think the Firefox locks may be due to Bluetooth problems, though my guess is that IE wouldn’t have had the same problems. 🙂 I do use OneNote, though I found it weird that Lenovo didn’t include it either standard or as an option. Anyway, I do think tablets are great and the X61 is one of the best.

  4. Jason Moser says:

    Michael, I’m a few months into a new Vista notebook and also had trouble with my sprint connection via USB. I did find a solution (easy fix) if the problem you are having is getting your phone to connect via USB. If so, let me know and I’ll email you the file (driver) I had to use. After that, the sprint connection with my PPC6700 had been solid.

    I have found that the Aero interface is very nice but a battery hog. I also found a vista battery saver app that turns off Aero when on battery and turns it back on when plugged into the grid. Its handy since I’m usually trying to squeeze all the battery life I can out of my machine.

  5. Jason, I’d love that patch. I use a Treo, so maybe it won’t work, but that sounds like what I’m looking for. Sprint’s website said it wasn’t yet compatible. I’d also like to look into that battery saver app. You know where you can e-mail me. 🙂

  6. Robbie says:

    My old Dell 600m is dying, and I’ve been leaning toward replacing it with a Thinkpad. Although I’ve been leaning toward the T61, I think you may have just swayed me into getting the convertible.

  7. Robbie, after a few more days with the X61, I can say that I’m happy but not 100%. My primary concern is that I’m seeing some strange, brief lockups. I’ll be typing away and all of a sudden it will just lock, seeking memory or swapping disk or something weird. I mean, the thing has 2GB of memory (with over 1 GB free) and the 1GB solid state drive, it shouldn’t have to go to disk for much. So, I’m not sure if it’s just Vista newness or what, but it’s not yet my favorite computer. Also, why do so many companies insist on building their own wireless connection managers? This computer had three of them loaded (Windows, Lenovo and I think an old one from IBM). I had to remove the non-Windows one in order to get the wireless connection to work. So, all in all, I think it’s a very nice piece of hardware and I love having the tablet functionality in up to date laptop, I just wish it was a little more stable. Time likely will solve that problem, but I just wanted you to be aware.

  8. Now you can add Real Estate Dashboard to it and sign/fax all your contracts.

  9. Robbie says:

    As I much as I hate to admit it, I’d probably blame Vista first. My desktop machine does that at times, it’s usually some system install process that’s a little too greedy for it’s own good. Oh well, at least folks are predicting Vista SP1 by Christmas…

    That said, it doesn’t help that OEMs install so much Crapware on your PC when you buy it.

  10. […] been writing about his frustrations with monopoly software vendors, and now it’s my turn.  A few months ago, I purchased a new x61 tablet PC from Lenovo.  When I purchased it, I had no choice but to order […]

  11. […] ago, I wrote about my experiences with Windows Vista on my IBM/Lenovo X61 tablet.  Short summary: loved the hardware, hated […]