Monday, June 27, 2011

Impressions On My Lenovo Thinkpad X200 Tablet Running Ubuntu 11.04 (Natty)

Alright, first --albeit not comprehensive-- thoughts on my new laptop and its handling of Ubuntu 11.04. On my previous computer, which was simply too old and slow to even bother listing the specs here (suffice to say that the chipset it was running also helped launch the Apollo missions) I never bothered to upgrade from 10.10, so both the machine and the Unity experience are new to me.

The Specs (Important ones anyway)
  • 1.86-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo L9400
  • 2 Gig of RAM, upgradable to 8 Gig
  • 160 Gig, 7200 rpm SATA HDD
  • 12.1 1280x800 display
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • 3.5-4.2 lbs (depending on battery)
  • ports: 3 USB, Ethernet port, VGA out, ExpressCard slot, audio out, mic in, modem jack

The Computer

It's heavier than I expected. There, I said it. While it's light enough, and the size is perfect for me ( I can't imagine ever going bigger than this in the future), it's both fairly hefty and thick enough to be awkward handling sometimes. Mostly this is when in tablet mode, which definitely presents a couple of grip difficulties. I'd heard rumblings of this around when I was researching the tablets on the market. I'd heard all the stories, but I thought 'Fuck it, I'm Sam Rothstein, I can change her'. This was a mistake. The extended battery (8 cell on my model) is supposed to serve as a handle but it just doesn't feel secure, and I worry a bit to much to chance using it that way. It's possible this'll change, and apparently the newer models (x201t, x220t) have a more solid feeling here, so that's a step in the right direction.

Noise-wise, not applicable. There is a definite whirr, which if you're totally alone in silent room is noticeable, but almost any amount of incidental noise masks it nicely. the speakers themselves are, well, acceptable. This is being sold as a light business laptop, not a multimedia machine, and that the speakers are-- (a) Located on the bottom of the computer and (b) a little tinny-- isn't surprising.

The heat. Keyboard-wise, not bad at all, most noticeably warm on the palm rest areas, but nothing out of the heat range you'd expect from a comparatively recent laptop. Where there does seem to be spikes are outside the exhaust port when the computer is in tablet mode, which I assume is a result of the slightly more intensive imaging programs I'm usually using when in tablet, and the bottom corners of the screen. The first of these wouldn't be an issue really, were it not for the fact that a large part of the fun of tablet mode is to rotate the computer in different directions, and while doing this you risk ending up taking the risk of uncomfortable blasts of hot air to the crotch. The second problem is more glaring, as your hand will be doing a fair amount of resting in the effected area while in tablet mode, and it gets very uncomfortably hot after a few minutes. It's big enough to be more than an irritant, but not the hugest of problems either-- and again-- the newer models are said to run cooler than this.

Other thoughts on the build... There's a lot that's been written on the keyboard quality of IBM/Lenovos, some of it hyperbolic sounding, and yet... words cannot describe... It's.....beautiful.... They should have sent a poet... It is excellent, probably the best keyboard I've ever used, never mind just in terms of laptops, full-size, just enough push back, the edges of all the keys are nicely beveled, which maximizes the distance between them. The browser page backward and forward buttons (which sit just above the left and right arrow buttons, respectively) were a little grating at first, if you don't know they're there it leads to some initial irritation, but you settle in fairly quickly.

The much disparaged IBM/Lenovo "nipple" trackpoint (this machine doesn't have a trackpad) is another one that'll hold you back the first day or so, but I'm quite taken with it at this point, it integrates browsing and typing in a way that trackpads/mice can't really hope to manage. Add to that the scroller between the left and right buttons and you have a very effective non-screen based navigation, albeit one that takes some getting used to. My one complaint here is that there does seem to be an occasional drift/stickiness to the trackpoint, once in a while I'll be leaving it alone and the mouse begins to crawl almost imperceptibly across the screen. I haven't ruled out communication from the spirits of the unquiet dead yet, but it seems unlikely, as I think is the possibility of this being a Unity driver error of some kind. This might be one to chalk up to refurbished problems or the original build.

Well, here we go then, the big one: the screen. It is, for the most part, excellent. I got a fairly bare-bones model, without the touch/multitouch feature, which feels unnecessary for arts/design purposes, and adds not inconsiderable weight/depth to the machine. It is also not the outdoors friendly no-glare/reduced-glare screen, and while both the colors and viewing angles indoors are certainly exceptional it doesn't hold up too well in direct (or sometimes even indirect, really) sunlight (again, not the model that's designed to, so not super surprising). In terms of the pen receptiveness, mine worked fine right out of the box, one calibration later on didn't seem to make a difference, the stylus and the pointer are pretty perfectly in sync, although viewed from head-on there's a bit of a gap between the two when working at the sides of the screen. I can be a bit irritating doing freehand drawing, the pen tip doesn't protrude too far from the barrel of the pen, which causes it and the cursor to be blocked by the bulk of the pen. Although not strictly a screen issue, after a long enough drawing session the screen misses every alternate stroke, I think this is a result of needing more RAM, I'm looking forward to complying.

So there's the breakdown of the machine itself. Next week comes a not-especially thinking man's thoughts on Unity, and after that comes the reason I bought this sweet baby in the first place: what it's like to draw on. So stay tuned my two friends who subscribe to this thing.


Anonymous said...

Heh heh... Nipple.

Roommate's note: the tablet's rotating screen makes sharing internet sundries 700% more fun.

Anonymous said...


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