Reviewed Oct. 25, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor
Mobile computing users have waited for
years for IBM (now Lenovo) to enter the Tablet PC market. IBM
waited until the market and technology matured so they could
make a strong offering. Three years after the first tablets hit
the shelves, we have the ThinkPad X41, their first Windows XP
Tablet Edition notebook. Has it been worth the wait? Yes: the
machine offers good performance, that ThinkPad look and feel,
along with the build quality and software add-ons we've come
to expect from that line.
This convertible machine, which looks and
works like a traditional notebook until you rotate the screen
and lay it flat for tablet use has a 1.5 GHz Intel processor,
Centrino architecture, 512 megs of RAM, WiFi, Bluetooth, a biometric
fingerprint reader and a 12.1" XGA display with integrated
digitizer and EMR pen. It weighs only 3.5 lbs. and will slip easily
into a briefcase or oversized women's bag. In fact it's currently
one of the lightest convertible tablet PCs. That light weight comes
at the cost of an internal optical drive: the tablet edition, like
all IBM X series notebooks lacks an internal CD or DVD drive.
Design and Ergonomics
The X41 is through and through a ThinkPad. It
has that signature black matte sure-grip finish, compact design,
eraser stick pointing device and excellent keyboard along with
strong build quality. Given the convertible design, it could easily
be mistaken for one of IBM/Lenovo's standard ultralight offerings.
The computer features magnesium casing and a small but sturdy
metal display swivel mount which should stand the test of time.
The X41 has a power button on the bottom half
of the clamshell just above the keyboard and another on the display
bezel, so you can power it up in both tablet and standard notebook
positions. Along the screen you'll find
buttons for Esc, enter, screen rotation, scrolling up and down,
indicator LEDs for the usual suspects (WiFi, Bluetooth, charging,sleep,
hard disk activity) and the biometric fingerprint reader.
The full sized notebook keyboard's color matches
the exterior's, with the exception of the purple Enter key. There
are quick access buttons on the bottom slab for volume controls
and the Access IBM button which takes you to their familiar command
and control center.
Our unit shipped with the 4500 mA extended battery
which extends the lower back portion of the notebook (see photos below)
and makes for an ergonomic hand grip when carrying the notebook in tablet
mode. The extended battery brings the tablet's weight up to 4.0 pounds
and extends the unit's depth by 1.25 inches.
The single RAM slot is located under a large door on
the notebooks' bottom, and the hard drive is accessible via a door fixed
by a phillips head screw on the front edge. The X41 is both cool and
quiet, as expected for a 1.5 GHz low voltage Centrino machine.
Horsepower and Performance
The X41 uses Intel's Centrino core technology
with their PCI Express 915 chipset. The 1.5 GHz low voltage Intel
758 processor is up to the task of running business and Internet
applications speedily and the machine is fairly responsive overall,
though of course it can't compete with faster non-tablet machines
such as the Sony
Vaio S460 which
we reviewed last month. Benchmark numbers were good by ultralight
and tablet standards.
Futuremark's 3Dmark's tests require discrete
graphics and the X41 uses integrated graphics, so we weren't able
to run that test. But the ThinkPad X41 tablet isn't intended to
be a gamer's machine, nor is it designed for serious 3D modeling
and CAD work. It's perfectly suited to MS Office work, databases,
2D graphics and Internet. However, games that aren't graphically
intensive should work fine on the ThinkPad. Age of Empires is a
good fit as are cards games but Rise of Nations was a bit taxing
at an average 15 fps.
The standard 512 meg ThinkPad X41's single SODIMM
memory slot is unoccupied (that 512 megs is permanently installed),
so all you need do is pop a PC-4200 SO DIMM memory module in the
slot to upgrade memory to the maximum of 1.5 gigs or less if you
prefer. Given that memory architecture you won't be able to take
advantage of the Intel 915 chipset's support for dual channel paired
memory for better performance unless you go with a 512 meg PC-4200
The ThinkPad ships with a 4,200 rpm ATA100 40
gig hard drive and has no internal optical drive. You can use your
own external DVD or CD drive, or purchase the IBM X4 dock which includes
a DVD/CDRW drive.
Expansion, Networking and Ports
The X41 has integrated 802.11b/g WiFi wireless
networking. It uses Intel's PRO/Wireless 2200BG adapter which offers
reliable connections and good range. In addition, the ThinkPad
has Gigabit (backward compatible with 10/100) wired Ethernet with
an RJ45 connector and a .v92 56k modem for wired networking.
IBM provides a standard selection of ports by
ultralight standards. These include a PC card slot compatible with
type I, II and cardbus cards, an SD card reader slot, three
USB 2.0 ports (one powered), a VGA
port and audio in and out jacks will keep you connected to peripherals
at home and work. FireWire isn't onboard. The ThinkPad X4 Dock,
an optional $219 docking station adds a DVD/CDRW drive in a hot-swappable
bay (you can put a hard drive module or 2nd battery in the bay
if you wish), three USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet (RJ-45),
modem (RJ-11), serial, parallel, one PS/2 for mouse or keyboard,
VGA for monitor, and power. The dock comes with an AC adapter (same
as the notebook's).
Windows XP Tablet Features
Handwriting recognition, digital ink technology,
voice dictation and voice command are built into the tablet operating
recognition and the TIP (tablet input panel) on Windows XP Tablet
Edition 2005 are much improved over the original versions and are a
joy to use. Tablet Edition 2005 is built on Windows XP Professional.The
X41's display is one of the nicest we've "felt" when it comes to a
natural pen on paper feel.
How does writing work? The TIP will open anywhere
you tap in a document of most any kind. Tap (or
hover, depending on your preference setting) with
the pen, and you'll see a little icon appear. That's
the dynamic floating TIP. Tap on the TIP to open
it up and start writing. As you write and come
to the end of a line in the TIP, it automatically
creates a second line so you can continue writing. In fact, it will
keep opening lines as needed until you run out of screen real estate.
As you write, the tablet will turn your writing
into text, and show you what it thinks you've written. Simply tap on
any of these words to correct them as needed. When you tap on a recognized
word, the new TIP will show several alternate word choices, or you
can write over any letter in your word to correct it. If you've ever
used Decuma on the Sony Clie or Pocket PC, the concept is similar.
If you prefer ink writing for fast note taking,
Windows Journal, which is included with every XP Tablet allows you
to write on virtual sheets of paper. Journal offers several pen thicknesses,
a highlighter, various colors and has an eraser. You can even return
to your desk after a meeting and highlight the writing in Journal to
have the tablet recognize it and turn it into text. While not 100%
accurate, the feature works reasonably well and a spell checker can
clean up most recognition mistakes.
Above: the TIP which opens anywhere you wish. New
input lines are added as necessary and the recognized words appear below
The ThinkPad has an XGA 1024 x 768 resolution display with a wide, 170 degree
viewing angle. Recent tablets have much better displays than 1st generation
machines which were murky and had very narrow viewing angles. The X41's display
is nearly as sharp, bright and clear as non-tablet ThinkPad displays, and the
viewing angle is indeed good. Colors are saturated, even small text is sharp
and easy to read and there's no parallax effect to speak of.
The low voltage Intel LV 758 processor and 12.1" display
are perfectly battery friendly, and as a result, the ThinkPad gets very good
runtimes. The standard 4 cell Lithium Ion battery has 1900 mAh capacity, and
while that doesn't sound like much, it's enough to keep the unit running for
three hours. We received the 8 cell 4,500 mAh battery and the unit managed
over 5 hours with WiFi turned on and the screen set to 65% brightness.
Security Features: Fingerprint Reader, TPM and
The ThinkPad has an integrated biometric fingerprint
reader which provides improved security and ease of use. No need
to remember passwords, simply swipe your finger to boot up the
computer and log on to Windows. In fact, the included Client Security
Solution will handle most all passwords for you including web site
passwords, network logons and more. The fingerprint reader works
in conjunction with IBM's password
manager and the ThinkVantage Security Subsystem 2.0 to manage security
effectively. In addition, the machine has a embedded Trusted Platform
Module (TPM), a chip that's tamper-proof and is isolated from the
All the goodness of a ThinkPad in a Windows XP
Tablet: that's a winning combination. This machine has excellent
build quality, enterprise level security and IBM's excellent management
software. At less than an inch thick and 3.5 pounds, this is one
of the smallest and lightest convertibles on the market. The display
is quite good and the viewing angle is wide. Battery life is excellent,
though you're forgoing a faster processor and discrete graphics
to achieve those long runtimes. We wish the machine had an integrated
design, typical excellent ThinkPad build quality and keyboard.
Very good battery life, superb security features and a nice display.
The unit is very light and compact.
Con: XGA resolution,
though fairly common still among tablets, isn't exciting by notebook
standards. No internal optical drive.
32 bit color display with 170 degree extended viewing
angle. XGA display, resolution 1024
x 768 pixels. Tablet display, used in
conjunction with included EMR pen. Intel
GM915 graphics card with 96 megs shared memory.
battery: 1900 mAh 4 cell Lithium Ion rechargeable.
4,500 mAh 8 cell extended battery available for purchase.
technology: Centrino. Architecture: PCI Express.
1.5 GHz Intel Pentium LV 758, 2 megs level 2 cache.
Intel Sonoma 915GM chipset with 400 MHz front side
bus. One DIMM slots for a standard 400 or 533 MHz
PC-4200 DDR2 SODIMM (memory bus speed is 400 MHz).
512 megs RAM standard, 1.5 gig max RAM.
0.81” x 8.3” and 3.5 pounds
with standard 4 cell battery. 4.0 pounds with extended
8 cell battery and 1.25" deeper.
gig 4200 rpm ATA 100 hard drive. No internal optical
drive.Optical drive available in optional
in speaker. 3.5mm standard stereo headphone
and mono mic jacks. SoundMax audio.
Ports and slots:One
PCMCIA - Type II/Type I card slot with CardBus support,
SD card slot. VGA, three USB 2.0 ports (1 powered),
3.5mm stereo out jack, 3.5mm mono mic jack, docking
station connector, IR, RJ45 Ethernet and RJ11