ThinkPad X61 tablet — nice design, but pricey

The only major change to this upgraded ThinkPad X series model is a processor update

A tidy little 1.96 KG machine, the tablet version of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X61 ultra-portable lacks an integrated optical drive but, nevertheless, is nicely designed. It also has a long battery life and an easy-on, easy-off docking station. At $2,999, however, it’s pricey.

The only major change to this upgraded ThinkPad X series model is a processor update. Our review machine was equipped with a low-voltage 1.6-GHz Core 2 Duo L7500 chip and 2GB of DDR2-667 SDRAM, and turned in a good WorldBench 6 Beta 2 score of 64. Battery life, with the eight-cell battery our test machine came with, was fantastic at five hours and two minutes. (Other X-series models come with four-cell batteries.)

The tablet’s features are generous, too. They include a 7200-rpm, 100GB hard drive, an SD card slot, 802.11 a/g wi-fi, and Bluetooth. In addition, with the UltraBase docking station, which is an extra $319.79, you gain an optical drive, four more USB ports (making a total of seven), and several legacy ports, including a parallel port and a serial port. The modular drive bay allows for one-handed swaps of the optical drive, a second battery or a second hard-drive. Including a docking station, with a dual-layer DVD drive (but not the power adapter), means the whole package then weighs-in at a still reasonable 2.8 kg.

The keyboard has many premium features, including an eraserhead pointing device that’s so good it hardly seems fair to complain about the lack of a touchpad. I also liked the dedicated back and forward internet keys, and space-bar magnifier. The 12.1-inch display looks tall but doesn’t have a wide-screen aspect ratio, however it’s easy to read and handle.

For tablet-mode, the screen swivels smoothly, locks down with a press of the lid latch and easily accepts pen or finger input. The AutoRotate feature automatically rotates the display every time you change the tablet’s position. This can be a great time-saver if you frequently switch between portrait and landscape modes, although manually pressing the orientation button also gets quick results and saves battery life.

Those who aren’t sure they need or want a tablet might be better suited to the non-tablet X61 model, but if you rely heavily on pen input, the X61 tablet is the way to go.

The X61 tablet notebook is available from Lenovo’s website. It costs from $2,999, excluding GST but including delivery.

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