IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet
A great laptop and a whole lot more
There are dedicated band of people out there who swear by Tablet PCs, those odd looking devices that claim to be computers but have no keyboards. If you are interested in exploring the wonderful world of Tablet PCs but want the conventional functions of a laptop, then the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet is a great place to start. Open it up, turn it on, and it behaves just like any good quality IBM laptop. Turn and tilt the screen, release the stylus-pen and you enter a new realm of computing possibilities.
As a Laptop
The IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet is a great laptop. Its main selling points are its compact keyboard, its superb IBM computing quality and its overall sturdy and sensible design. It has all the features that you might look for on a laptop with some more notable additions and omissions mentioned below.
Instead of a mouse it has a Trackpoint or "nipple". It's a small red button in the middle of the keyboard, and it functions much like a joystick, except that you apply pressure rather than using an actual stick. If you haven't used one before it takes a bit of getting used to, but after a few hours I quickly got used to it. The nipple makes sharing your Thinkpad with other non-Thinkpad users a bit of a pain, which isn't always a bad thing.
The Fingerprint Scanner
This is supposedly a big selling point of the Thinkpad, but for me it's totally useless. I never leave my laptop where anyone else can get to, and I don't have any sensitive material on it, so I've never even tried using it
If sound is important to you on your laptop, don't get the Thinkpad unless you are prepared to use it with speakers or headphones. There is a single mono speaker, and I find it isn't even adequate for many pedestrian uses, like watching the occasional youtube video, or listening to the VIOP phone messages I receive via email.
Depending on your computing needs the keyboard is either a selling point or a drawback. To keep the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet small IBM have taken some shortcuts with the keyboard and moved some of the minor keys around. For me the trade-off of having a more compact laptop is well worth the loss of a little conventional positioning of a few keys. Plus the Trackpoint saves a lot of space normally taken up by the more common Trackpad, leaving plenty of room for hand rests on the keyboard.
No dvd/cd drive
The IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet has no dvd/cd drive. Not a big problem for me, but could be if you rely on dvds to install software, or need a dvd drive for other purposes.
The mystery clicking noise
The one drawback of the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet is the mystery clicking noise it makes. I think this is a problem across the whole range, of X-series Thinkpads. It's a very soft mechanical click that on my machine comes and goes. This drives some users crazy. It doesn't bother me in the slightest, but if you are in any doubt, try before you buy.
As a Tablet
Of course it's as a Tablet that the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet comes into its own.
The Tablet Stylus
The IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet comes equipped with a special stylus that is housed to the front left of the keyboard. It is released via a spring mechanism that is easy to use, but keeps the stylus secure when not in use. The stylus itself has the look and feel of a ballpoint pen, and is easy to hold and use. The main disadvantage of the stylus lies in the fact once it's lost, it has to be replaced if to use the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet as a Tablet.
The Tablet Screen
You can use the Stylus to "write" on the screen without adjusting the screen, which can be handy if you are say typing a word document and want to make a few hand written notes, but for most Tablet functions you will want to adjust the screen. The screen turns and flips round so that it can lay flat on top of the keyboard. I worried when I first got the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet that the fact that it turned in one direction only would bother me, but again I soon got used to it. The screen is very securely attached to the keyboard. It never feels flimsy or likely to break. When you turn the screen the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet automatically re-orientates the image on the screen, but there are also clearly marked buttons on the screen in case it gets disorientated that allow you to control this function manually
The Tablet Functions
Having a tablet allows you to keep hand written notes in the pre-installed Windows Journal, to make digital drawings in the pre-installed Ink-Art and to make hand written comments on conventional Word and pdf documents. There is also the capacity to point and click using the stylus
Why I Chose The IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet
I was looking for a new laptop and liked the sound of the Thinkpads, well known for their quality. Reading up on them led me to the Thinkpad Tablet range. I have some fairly specialised computing needs. As a laptop user with a disability I was looking for a flexible machine, that would allow me to alternate typing and hand writing. One of my symptoms means that I can't sustain any repetitive fine motor activity like typing for any length of time. The IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet gives me the option of swapping over to hand-writing text and back again. I chose the X41 over other models because its more compact size means that it's easier for me to carry around.
In summary: Don't buy if you need a good sound system or a built in dvd/cd drive.
Otherwise, I would highly recommend the IBM Thinkpad X41 Tablet to anyone looking for a good dependable laptop, who also wants to explore Tablet PCs.