Sunday, May 07, 2006
I upgraded to an X41 Tablet
I got a ThinkPad X41 tablet for work about two weeks ago, as a replacement for my Fujitsu Lifebook T3010D. After spending the weekend configuring it so it had everything my old Fujitsu did, I took it to EMC World and took notes for four days. I've had some office days and my usual weekly St. Louis trip to work with it so I wanted to get my impressions down. I'll start with the good, then let the complaining begin, and then I have a section called "The different" for those of you who wonder what it's like to switch from an older TabletPC to a new one.
- The fingerprint login makes so much more sense than anything else that I can't imagine how I lived without it on the Fujitsu. Swipe to unlock the BIOS and it lets you all the way through login. Forget typing your password on that stupid on-screen keyboard while people stare at it.
- The battery life is awesome -- four and a half hours with wireless versus two without (and, no joke, only 1.25 with) on the Fujitsu. I barely worried about running out of power during the many days I've been at EMC World and it would have been a nightmare with the Fujitsu.
- The screen is much clearer than the Fujitsu -- seeing them next to each other, the Fujitsu seemed to have a thick coating over the screen.
- The flat side of the pen feels right and helps it fit nicely into the case
- The rocker is recessed, which was not the case on the Fujitsu and led to a lot of unexpected right-clicking and erasing
- Much better engineered form factor: it's thinner and has rubberized grips in the right places for comfortable use in tablet mode.
- More generally, this is a solid piece of hardware compared to the Fujitsu (or my coworkers' Dells). Very strong case and excellent keyboard. It's really a well-designed machine.
- I'm digging the forward and back keys. I assume my reader(s?) know that these work in Outlook (to switch between folders) and OneNote (to switch between pages)...
- The utilities are fairly slick (albeit not 100% bug-free). I like the concept of Access Connections very much, in which it will switch me to my nearby Lexmark printer in my office, my LaserJet 4100 at home (courtesy of a generous individual at a downtown law firm who retired it), and the printer at my St. Louis client.
- The Client Security Solution software is not exactly right -- I have a wizard that runs every time and refuses to accept my password. This is different than (though relies upon) the IBM Fingerprint Software which does work just fine. I am not sure exactly what Client Security Solution does (besides encrypt your hard drive) but I was sort of hoping that it would get me into sites and programs for which I need to enter my password. I have a very slow and somewhat annoying email conversation going on with Lenovo tech support which I hope someday resolves this, but I have my doubts.
- My cursor sometimes jumps to the bottom right -- the effect is that all of the sudden the Time Zone applet pops up. This sounds like a hardware problem, but it only happens in Outlook, not OneNote or the various other applications I use. It's really annoying.
- ThinkVantage Access Connections sounds like it would be helpful and cool, but is actually a pain in the ass. I ended up uninstalling it because of the following:
- Drops connections if Wireless Zero Config finds them first, so you connect to something, start working, then Access Connections wants to get in on the action so it disconnects you, then takes its sweet time reconnecting you. Sometimes it doesn't actually reconnect you.
- It cannot be connected via Ethernet and wireless connections at the same time. Doesn't sound like a big deal unless you're me and you split your day between docked at your desk and wireless in a meeting. Leaving the wireless off while you're docked means that it has to turn on wireless, find it (see above since our office wireless uses slightly complicated authentication and IAC can never get it right the first time), and then reconnect all your programs which have probably crapped out while the above was happening. Much easier to leave both on so that they quickly recover when you undock or otherwise go off LAN.
- It is also buggy. Sometimes it will freeze trying to connect to something new.
- The TIP occasionally freezes when clicking an incorrectly recognized word.
- The flat edge of the pen and clip dug into my index finger when I was writing a lot at EMC World. The problem with any TabletPC pen is that the rocker switch is just in the way of proper finger placement when writing.
- I'm afraid the spring-loaded pen release mechanism is going to blast the pen into someone's eye; or at the very least, cause me to lose it. I already had an embarrassing moment in a Monday morning staff meeting in which the thing went flying.
- The Fujitsu remembered that when it was on battery, the screen brightness should be low, and then when I plugged it in, the brightness should be high. The ThinkPad, despite its fancy and separately configured power profiles, does not seem to have this feature. Weirdly, though, it does still know to jack the brightness up a bit when I plug in power, just not all the way up. So I have to remember to turn the brightness down when switching from hotel use to conference/meeting use...
- On the X41, Outlook doesn't always seem to remember (for example) the orientation of the reading pane, which I recall the Fujitsu handling just fine.
- I hated the Fujitsu's keyboard at first because the home, end, PgUp, and PgDn keys were only accessed by pressing Function plus the cursor keys. But now that I'm used to it I'm finding it a little difficult to accurately hit those keys even though they are in the normal places they should be.
- Loss of Windows key -- and the Keyboard Customizer Utility does not provide usable replacements. (I'd like to be able to use a key combination for Windows like Shift-Fn rather than lose a left or right shift, Ctrl, or Alt key.) I have gotten good with Ctrl-Esc for Start Menu functions and using Fn-F2 to lock the screen is an acceptable substitute. In general I think the Fn key utilities are pretty useful.
- I worried that my biggest adjustment would be losing the touchpad for a TrackPoint. I do not use a mouse when at work (since I work at too many different surfaces to bother to bring one, and I'd always been fine with the touchpad) so the integrated input device is a big deal to me on my laptop. I think I'm getting used to the TrackPoint now that I'm getting the hang of the scroll, tap-to-click and tap-to-drag features. I still think the TrackPoint gives you a bit less control than a touchpad does. And I am speaking as a person that remembers when my boss at IBM was given a TrackPoint keyboard hand-made by the inventor of the TrackPoint himself, and thinking, "wow, that's a really cool input device". (Of course, my next thought was, "Why would you ever not just use a mouse?" It didn't occur to me to think of laptops since at the time I'd never seen anything more portable than the PS/2 model P70...) So I've used a TrackPoint on and off since 1993.
- Different buttons on the tablet screen:
- Enter and Esc are useful
- The function ("suitcase") button has more useful functions than the Fujitsu edition
- Function button has a more useful menu than the Fujitsu
- I missed the Ctrl-Alt-Del button from the Fujitsu but now realize:
- first, there IS a button (albeit tiny and unlabeled)
- second, I don't need to press Ctrl-Alt-Del anywhere near as much because I use the fingerprint sensor to log in)
To give you a real synopsis in case you didn't want to read all those words, I'd say that thanks to the battery life and generally professional package make this a totally worthwhile upgrade for me (despite the fact that it has the same RAM, slightly better graphics, and is only 200MHz faster). I'm sorry to my TabletPC posse that I didn't get much into the tablet-specific stuff; if you are unfamiliar with TabletPC features there are plenty of reviews out there of this model. I've had a tablet for almost a year and a half and so I just wanted to compare that model (Fujitsu T3010D) to this model.
Technorati tag(s): TabletPC