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Windows XP Tablet Notebook Reviews

IBM Lenovo ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC

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Reviewed Oct. 25, 2005 by Lisa Gade, Editor in Chief

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.

IBM ThinkPad X41


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.

top of IBM ThinkPad X41 tablet

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.

bottom of ThinkPad



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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.

PCMark04 score: 2556
CPU: 2835
Memory: 2359
Graphics: 783
HDD: 2082

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 DIMM.

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).

IBM ThinkPad X41 tablet notebook

Windows XP Tablet Features

Handwriting recognition, digital ink technology, voice dictation and voice command are built into the tablet operating system. Handwriting 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.

TIP screenshot

Above: the TIP which opens anywhere you wish. New input lines are added as necessary and the recognized words appear below your handwriting.


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. Not bad.


Security Features: Fingerprint Reader, TPM and ThinkVantage Software

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 operating system.


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 DVD/CD drive.

Pro: Bullet-proof 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.

Price: $1,899, 3 year parts and labor warranty

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Display: 12.1" 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: Standard battery: 1900 mAh 4 cell Lithium Ion rechargeable. 4,500 mAh 8 cell extended battery available for purchase.

Performance: Core 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.

Size: 10.5” x 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.

Drive: 40 gig 4200 rpm ATA 100 hard drive. No internal optical drive. Optical drive available in optional docking station.

Audio: Built in speaker. 3.5mm standard stereo headphone and mono mic jacks. SoundMax audio.

Networking: Integrated Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG WiFi 802.11b/g. gigabit wired Ethernet and 56k V.92 modem. Bluetooth.

Software: Windows XP Tablet PC 2005 Edition.

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 modem.


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