The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist joins the small number of convertible Windows 8 tablets to hit the market after the launch of that new operating system at then end of October 2012. The Twist looks like a standard ThinkPad or ThinkPad Edge compact system until you open it up and try out the center swivel hinge that allows you to use the Ultrabook like a laptop, tablet or in presentation mode. The 12.5", 350 nit brightness IPS display is sharp and colorful. Better yet, it has 10 points of capacitive multi-touch, though there's no digital pen option as with the ThinkPad X230t.
The ThinkPad Twist is a relatively affordable machine that at first was going to be a part of Lenovo's affordable Edge line, but the company created a new category for the Twist. Like Edge machines, it has that ThinkPad look and Raven black soft touch finish, but the chrome accents and occasional gloss that are telltale Edge touches. Lenovo calls this 3.5 lb. machine an Ultrabook, and though it's a little heavy for that designation, it has all the key elements: third generation Intel Core i3/i5/i7 ULV CPUs, Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3 RAM and your choice of a spinning hard drive with a small caching SSD or a full 128 gig SSD drive.
As you'd expect from a ThinkPad, the Twist is a sturdy and understated laptop with a superb keyboard and very good Synaptics trackpad plus Trackpoint. Alas, the keyboard isn't backlit, but that's our only qualm. The build is solid and the uni-directional traditional center swivel hinge that's been used on Windows Tablet PCs for a decade is strong. There is a little bit of wobble when you poke at the screen with a finger, and so far slider designs do the best job of fighting wobble.
Our review unit shipped with the usual 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U ULV Ivy Bridge CPU, 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD. The configuration sold at Staples stores for $899 has the same internals except the drive, which is a 500 gig HDD with a 24 gig SSD caching drive to speed up boot and launch times. Unlike the 1600 x 900 Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13, the Twist's display is the more common 1366 x 768 resolution. It looks sharp enough, though it obviously not as razor sharp as full HD displays like that of the Sony Vaio Duo 11 convertible Windows 8 Ultrabook-tablet.
What's the difference between the ThinkPad Twist and the Lenovo ThinkPad x230t? The Twist is approximately $300 less, and it runs on slower ULV CPUs rather than the full mobile CPUs used in the X230t. The X230t is available with either touch or a digital pen (but not both) and has a matte display vs. the glossy Gorilla Glass-clad Twist.