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Life with the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC, the Dennis version



Well, after Warner’s excellent update on life with the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet PC, I knew I needed to do the same. I have had this machine for a little over 3 weeks now, and really think I have a very good handle on using it for my style of work. If I may just ramble a bit, let me share my experiences this far.

Just as background here, in my day job I am a Microsoft MCSE working as a consultant to small and medium business on network design, implementation and support. My typical client has 10-25 computers on a Microsoft Small Business Server network, and little or no on site technical expertise. I may very likely be in 4 or 5 places a day, since I have 30-40 of these clients I either directly support, or provide technical backup or design for. I also by the way have a good deal of responsibility each day on a very cool web site called :)

I am a pretty early riser. A typical day for me starts with that first cup of coffee, checking my email, RSS feeds, etc. This is all done in my home preferred corporate office location (my bed). My wife is doing the same. A Tablet PC is a must have for this activity. I then get ready by planning my day with a Mind Manager template I have developed that encompasses my work plan. Once planned, I get on the road to client sites, and move from place to place, using my tablet as both my notetaking tool as well as my laptop computer to attach to networks, etc. handling technical tasks. I am in laptop mode one minute, in tablet mode the next. At the end of a day, I typically end up back where I started — in bed with my tablet.

Let me explain how the features of the X60 Tablet PC have enhanced this experience.

As an owner of a Toshiba M200 for several years, I have to admit that I lost a lot of my notetaking process. I used a TC1X machine for a long time, and took lots of notes. The M200 just felt too big, was too heavy and thick, and just was not as conducive to carrying around. The X60 has changed that for me, and I am once again using the awesome features of OneNote as I move through my day. It is small enough to carry comfortably, but large enough to work well for notetaking. Weight is most acceptable.

As you may be aware, I have the MultiTouch indoor/outdoor touchscreen display. I really don’t use the touch functionality much, to the point that I forget it is there at times, but the viewability of the indoor/outdoor screen helps a lot! As I mentioned, I may be in 4 or 5 different environments in a day, and I never know what the lighting will be like. Yesterday I was sitting next to a bright window, programming a managed network switch in laptop mode, and had not really paid that much attention to the light I was in. Then it struck me that if I had been using my M200, I would not have been able to see the screen. I have stated before that this screen does not appear to me to be as bright as the M200, but it simply is not an issue to me. In a portable device, mobility is key, and being able to have a consistent view no matter the lighting is a huge plus for me.

I know, I know, it would be nice if Lenovo was announcing a Core 2 Duo version of this machine. I too would like the extra millisecond or so it gives me as I move through tasks, but in all honesty, this machine has run well for me. I basically have the bottom line performing model, with the 1.66mhz processor and the 5400 RPM drive. Guess what folks? No issues here, and I am one that uses my machine all day long. As you may have seen, I also have installed Windows Vista RTM now, and it is running even faster under Vista (although it is possible that the absence of a lot of memory hogging utilities, etc. is helping as well). I am most happy with the performance. Get over the Core 2 Duo thing, okay?

The Ultrabase mobile dock:
Once again, this has fit well with my style. I do not carry the dock in my bag, I leave it in the car. Last week I discovered that I needed a serial port in my work in order to attach to the console port on a managed network switch. With my M200, I would have been out of luck. With the X60? No problem, just a short walk out to the car, grab the dock, attach it and do the job. You corporate guys are really gonna appreciate that dock. I really do not often have to use a CD/DVD, but having it available when needed is very nice. Not having to plug the dock into power is also nice, since I am not always conveniently located next to a power plug, or want to haul out the AC adapter. The mobile dock is a nice concept.

I cannot echo Warner’s comments on his battery experience enough. I have no problem making it through the typical day on one 8 cell battery charge. I have my settings set at a typical level, and do not keep brightness turned up or down, but do tend to set my tablet down more often, whereby it obediently goes into sleep, then hibernate mode. I have the settings tuned to my style. Time to turn on is most acceptable, and has yet to fail me. I have had no issues returning from standby or hibernate, and I do nothing typically between clients except shut the lid, put it in my bag, and move on. When I get to the next client, I open the lid and go back to work.

As I said, I am attached to a number of different networks in a day. I have had few issues trying to get onto either wireless or wired when I need to. Now that I am on Vista I am fighting some User Account Control and security issues, but that is not an X60 issue. When I need it, I have my Verizon Aircard slipped into the card slot, and all works there as well. I love the way I move through my day, switching connectivity options at will, and the X60 adapts to each one with style. I would prefer the integrated WWAN, but that has the negative impact of only being able to be used in one machine. My Aircard goes into my wife’s TC1100 on a long card trip as well, which is an added plus.

I really enjoy writing again with the pen. The M200 has a very good ink experience, but the X60 seems more fluid to me, part of which I think is a performance issue. I never feel like my ink is lagging behind, which I did experience with my M200 periodically. I have to agree with Warner though about the pen button. It is just hard to find in my hand when I want it. Maybe it will get better with time. The addition of the eraser is a plus for sure though, since I was used to having that with my M200. It is very natural to just flip the pen around to erase. There is practically no “drift” of the pen cursor at the edge of the screen either, which has been something a lot of tablet PC’s have suffered from. I do not use touch to ink at all, and have in fact experienced some vectoring issues if I happen to set the pen down and accidentally rub my fingernail or ring across the screen while it is in my lap.

Touch is just not a necessity to me, and in fact interferes at times. I have grabbed the X60 off a desk, walked down the hallway with it tucked under my arm, and when I looked at it at my next destination, found 2 or 3 programs opened, or some other stray and strange window open as a result of “touching” the wrong icons in transit. I really do see the need for this in a lot of vertical applications where using a finger will be much more convenient, but I just do not have that need, so am better served with it turned off. I really like the Windows Vista touch interface though. Once you learn how it works, it is a much needed assistant to your finger if you choose to use it.

What can I say, the ThinkPad keyboard feels great to me. Keys are solid, not too noisy, feel spaced right, etc. I still wish they did not have that FN key on the far left though, I miss the CTRL key a lot, since it SHOULD be in the lower left. The addition of a couple extra keys for page forward / page back in IE is also a nice addition, I use those a lot.

The mouse “Wart”:
The thing I still dislike the most is that touchstick thing in the middle of the keyboard. I am over it, but still would prefer the touchpad. It actually interferes with my typing at times, and is just harder to hit a small target. I do like the addition of the center mouse button for scrolling though, and use it a lot.

I just do not have any major issues with this machine, and am in fact quite enamored with it. The one area that is a big change for me though is the desktop dock scenario. With my M200, I would come home, take it out of my bag, and plunk it into my desktop dock. I instantly had it charging, connected to all my desktop peripherals, network, etc., had a full size keyboard, monitor and mouse, all the desktop goodies. When I left, I would grab and go. It was easy, it was simple. the concept of the mobile dock is one I like and enjoy, but I still want to dock with the mother ship when I get home without having to go through a bunch of cable plugging, etc. I have to check more into this, I find it hard to believe that this will not be supported, especially in the corporate environment. Maybe it is there and I just do not know about it, if so, someone educate me!

I’ll ask the same question Warner did, but not answer it. Is this my next Tablet PC? I’ll let you use your own powers of deduction to come up with the response. :)

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