Lenovo Thinkpads - x61T review - A Teacher's Tablet PC Friend

A ThinkPad laptop featuring both a red pointin...Image via Wikipedia
It is no coincidence that I see versions of our Tablet PC (Lenovo X61T) everywhere these days. On the plane, at the coffee shop, in the homes of parents of tutoring students, the trusty black laptop with the iconic red trackpoint may come in a variety of flavors, but the Lenovo (formerly IBM) Thinkpad has firmly established itself as one of the most popular laptops. The company decided to bring attention to its sales achievement (over 60 million sold) recently, so I thought I'd offer my two cents on our experience with the Tablet PC version.

Love It or Hate It
That's pretty much the stance you take with the Lenovo Thinkpads largely as a result of the red trackpoint. As I remind teachers when I go through basic training, it takes about a week to get used to the new method of using a mouse. However, as a user of a large Macbook Pro trackpad,  I can certainly sympathize as one becomes accustomed to the gestures and intuitiveness of the pad versus the point. Supporters of the trackpoint will likely point out that your fingers don't need to leave home row with the point, and you could arguably be more precise with the point. Although our supply rep claimed that Lenovo would never give up the trackpoint, it seems that the company has begun to embrace the trackpad by including both as options on their newer machines. 

Similar to other Thinkpads, our X61T's came with a fair amount of Lenovo software, or "bloatware" as I'll call it. We've run into a few problems with both the Access Connections manager and the Presentation Director. Notably, these issues were quickly addressed once these programs were uninstalled, which causes me to question why they were there in the first place. Two other hardware complaints include a fairly dull screen (brightness) and equally dull sound (poor speakers).These issues seem to be addressed in updated machines. Lastly, our machines did not come with a built-in optical drive. 

The above complaints aside, the X61T itself has been extremely durable. I tote one around whenever I visit a classroom for troubleshooting. The laptop wakes from sleep (we're running Windows XP) promptly, and wireless connectivity is established when available. Although I thought the square screen shape was strange in beginning, I've grown accustomed to it, and compared to the wide screen model (X201T) that I'll be reviewing later, I feel the square design lends more to the portability of the machine. 

For teachers using Tablets in the classroom, we're most concerned with how the machine runs, and the performance of the inking features. To this extent, the X61T proved to be a great choice. Although I would love additional brightness, writing on the screen is pure bliss. Prior to the Lenovo, we used a Toshiba Portege, and the difference between build qualities, especially when writing on the screen was noticeable. Teachers can ink on Word, Excel, Powerpoint, and everything else through MS OneNote (more on that here). Thus, the X61T excels where it needs to the most, and this has made it a solid choice for our Tablet PC in the classroom. 
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