Make what you will of that video. It does a better job at showing you than I would explaining what it's like using the system.
To speak about the feel of drawing on the screen, it's not like a standard Intuos or Cintiq tablet. Wacom uses materials and coatings to get a "pen on paper" feel to their tablets. The X201T doesn't have these coatings, meaning the feeling is a little more smooth comparatively. There's still some decent friction generated between the pen tip and the glass of the screen, but it's not as satisfying as a true wacom surface, to me anyway. This hasn't affected my ability to draw on it at all, however. It's more of a subconscious thing.
I should say, though, this direct-on-LCD drawing is nice when compared to my Cintiq 12WX. On a Cintiq, the LCD is set below a layer of thick glass, with a layer of air inbetween. This means when you draw on a Cintiq surface, there's a parallax between the pen and the LCD. This means that the cursor only looks like it's directly under the pen from very specific viewing angles. On the X201T, however, this doesn't occur. The glass you draw on is direct-bonded to the LCD itself using a special type of liquid. This means the thick glass you're drawing on transports all light from the LCD to the top of the glass through refraction. So when you're drawing on the screen, it looks like you're actually pressing the pen against the LCD itself. There is no parallax.
Other software, I can't speak much about. Some of you may be wondering how 3D software might run on this. The X201T can probably run 3D software BASICALLY, but don't expect any true stellar performance in this area. It's strengths are in 2D mediums, not 3D. And if you're a 3D artist, you should probably not be looking at a Tablet PC to do that kind of work on, anyway.
While the X201T is capable of creating large artworks from start to finish in Photoshop, I don't see myself using it for this quite as much. I see myself using it for almost exclusively sketching. I'm waiting somewhere, like on a train. Pull out the thinkpad, start sketching some stuff. Maybe add some color. Conceptualize on-the-go. If I want to finish an artwork, I'll do that on my desktop at home later. I enjoy having the ThinkPad as a mobile creative outlet.
To touch briefly on this, the X201T is by far the quietest computer I've ever used. The fan keeps the processor very cool while remaining very hard to hear. When the fan does ever fire up to high speeds, I just about never notice because typically the ambient noise of my room is louder, [and even that doesn't get very noisy.] Even the hard drive is impossible to hear, both in spin noise and read/write noise. I had to check closely to make sure my X201 hadn't shipped with an SSD inside it.
Temperatures are also excellent. The bottom never gets hot, just lukewarm to the touch, and even then only directly under the processor. Warm air comes out of the vent all the time, but it never gets hot -- even when playing a game like Team Fortress 2. Since the system uses ULV processors, I'm not surprised by the low heat output.
The entire screen layer never gets even warm. With LED backlights, there's no real heat output into the panel. No sweaty wrists!
- PERSONAL GRIPES / CRITICISMS
This is a tricky part, because many problems of things you use every day only tend to exist if you actively look for them. So, I'll only talk about the ones that pop up when doing work.
1. The pen, honestly, isn't very good in the long run.
Though the pen is made by Wacom, it's made under the base requirements for a tablet PC. The tip end of the pen is fine, works just as you'd expect it to. However, the eraser is pretty much useless artistically, and it's frustrating that there's only one side button instead of two. The eraser is way too springy. It doesn't have the standard wacom feel. It compresses like a spring, and bounces back like one too. This makes it difficult to erase since it must be pressed past a certain point to begin registering pressure. Simply touching the eraser on the screen doesn't work, you need to give it a good press to activate, meaning getting any in between pressure on it is difficult to maintain. Wacom sells true Wacom quality Tablet PC pens that have true erasers and two button switches. They're not too expensive at about $35, but it's a purchase I wish I wouldn't have had to make if only the stock pen were a little more thoughtful.
2. Lack of tablet face buttons.
In tablet mode, there's not a lot you can do to improve your workflow. As many of you know, I need my tablet set up a certain way to access keys like Alt, Shift, and Undo. The four buttons on the face of the tablet, though programmable to do other things, are pretty essential to keep as they are already. One button rotates the screen 90-degrees, important to specify the orientation you want. Another button presses Ctrl+Alt+Del so you can access that screen easily. The third button calls up the settings menu [such as brightness, volume, pen settings, etc] which you see me use in the video, and the fourth button locks the all face buttons to prevent any accidental presses. I'd say the lock button is the best one to change, since it's pretty easy to avoid pressing them as-is. I'm trying to find a small wired/wireless keypad of about 6 to 8 blank, programmable buttons to use a Photoshop sidekick. No luck, so far.
3. The speakers are terrible.
I like to listen to music sometimes while working, or when friends gather round to watch a youtube video, I like there to be good sound clarity. The speakers in the X201T are best suited for VoIP and THAT'S IT. Music, no. Games, definitely no. Movies, forget it. The closest thing I can describe the speakers sounding like is a cell phone ringer, or an answering machine in stereo. They get really loud, yeah, but they'll hurt your ears from the terrible frequency response. Be sure to pack a good pair of headphones on-the-go, if you want to spare your hearing.
4. Confusing issue involving a piece of software causing the screen to has a minor flicker.
The intel graphics drivers were responsible for an annoying problem where the screen would get a minor flicker whenever my desktop appeared after closing windows. I noticed the screen gets slowly brighter during the flickering, and eventually stops. Turned out, this was a power saving method the graphics drivers were using. When a bright white screen appears, it slowly lowered the brightness to sort of "normalize" the brightness of the display. Close that bright window, and it starts to jack it back up. This was annoying to me, so I discovered the "feature" goes away when you access the Intel GMA settings menu and set the Power Settings to "Performance" in both Plugged-In and battery. I have seen no decrease in battery life by selecting this, and I'd honestly rather have it set to performance instead of power-saving anyway.
And honestly, that's it. The X201T is a solid companion for doing digital art with. It runs all of my software, even Adobe Premiere, superbly. It cost me $1500, but considering that the system is essentially a Cintiq 12WX with its own self contained computer, I'll take that as an inbetween option to the 12WX and 21UX. I don't regret buying it at all! Lenovo computers are hard to find on display in stores, so I hope this little insight comes in handy to some of you.
TOSHIBA PORTEGE M780:
I can't speak wholly about this as I've never used one, but here's why I didn't go with a Portege [widely considered to be one of the first true lines of tablet PC's.]
- Spec wise, the Portege M780 and X201T are similar. Core-i7 processors, blahblah.
- Yet, ergonomically, the ThinkPad had much more going on in this department, including the fantastic outdoor viewable screen option that Toshiba doesn't provide.
- And all for a cheaper price than the Portege. I bought the X201T for $1500, compared to the $1700~$1900 you'd have to spend for the bulky, less rugged competitor.
HP TOUCHSMART TM2T:
I used one of these at a store, and I was put off very quickly. It's a decent laptop, however...
- The screen is downright shit. Absolute shit viewing angles, shit color, shit brightness. Sorry for the language, but I was seriously unimpressed. On a device that will be used from different angles and positions, the quality of the screen is imperative -- and HP completely missed the mark here.
- Vastly under performing processor comparatively. The X201T is capable of going up to 3.06 GHz with a Core-i7 in it. The TM2T is able to only have a 1.6 GHz Core2 ULV comparatively, which is about twice as powerful as a typical netbook pretty much.
- Design wise, it was hit and miss. It becomes very thick at the back end, making it hard to hold in my opinion, and the screen doesn't lock closed. The metal lid and palm rests were nice, but the forced laser-etched design was completely unnecessary.
- To the TM2T's credit, however, it did have ATi Radeon 4550HD dedicated graphics, which make up for the lower-end processor. However, when using software that relies heavily upon a strong processor, the dedicated graphics won't add much performance. Sure, it can play some last generation games, but something tells me if you're concerned about gaming, you shouldn't be looking at a tablet PC. The price was spot-on, too, at about $950 to $1000. The X201T is considerably more expensive, but I'll take that for the higher quality it has where it counts. I will also admit that the speakers were pretty great on the TM2T. Lenovo should take note.
FUJITSU LIFEBOOK LINE:
I didn't know what to make of the Fujitsu tablet PC's since I've never even seen a Fujitsu computer anywhere in person before. The T900 is mostly equivalent to the X201T, but with some slightly lesser hardware [slower Core-i5 instead of a Core-i7, and no boost in graphics.] However, it still looks like a robust system with a screen almost as good as the X201T. It gets about 3/4 as bright, [but only in the upper right corner with significant dropoff in the lower left,] but its color vibrancy and viewing angles look excellent. Check out this video of a T900 to see what I mean: www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vaI4L…
. The T900 is larger than the X201T with no resolution gain, and is heavier by more than a pound. Still, it has a DVD burner for those who still use those things, which also means the system is much thicker than the X201T. It can be found for almost the same price as my X201T here: www.costcentral.com/proddetail…
-- which is worth a look for those who want a comparable alternative. I think the T900 would be better suited for someone who wants a touch screen as well, and a slightly larger screen for a little bit more work room. I wanted the X201T system for EASE of portability, so its slimmer, smaller design, lighter weight, and longer battery life enticed me to take the plunge.
I looked into this, but got turned off from the idea pretty quickly. The ModBook can only be applied to specific 2007-2008 era white macbooks running at Core2 speeds of 1.8 to 2.2 GHz. On hardware that aged, and spending about $1800 for the process, and getting a system that is NOT reversible to a normal laptop [it's a permanent slate,] it just didn't seem worth it, especially since I've left the Mac camp.
- Sure, the ModBook has 512 levels of pressure compared to a standard tablet PC's of 256. But let me tell you this: my Cintiq has 1024 levels of pressure, and I can't find a damn difference between drawing on my Cintiq and my X201T! I'm sure there's some isolated, demonstrate-able difference between the two, but in true, passion-fueled practice, I don't notice a damn difference or seem to care. Both tablets get me the same result.
And that's all I have to say about this, for now! Any additional questions, feel free to ask in the comments!
So, it's been about two months since I got the system. How is it faring after really getting to know it?
- EDIT: 2 MONTH REVISIT REVIEW
I can say that almost everything I talked about in the review above still holds true. It is truly powerful enough to do any of my Photoshop work, the battery life on it lasts for 6, 7 hours on low power modes, the screen still remains to be one of the best I've seen on a laptop aside from the Sony Vaio Z.
Drawing on it is still easy and enjoyable, but I will state that it is not AS easy or enjoyable as on my Cintiq. This doesn't come as a surprise -- the primary reasons come from the fact that the Cintiq is just overall a higher quality tablet. Higher quality sensors, pen, and screen. I prefer my X201T for doing line art, sketching, and thumbnailing. Not full final color artwork. Then again, this is primarily what I bought it for -- a kind of digital sketchbook. For those looking to buy an X201T, or any other tablet PC for that matter, I think I can still only recommend them as a SECONDARY computer. They make fantastic accompaniments for your desktop workstation at home, since Tablet PC's are lighter, highly portable, and very very functional. They offset the desktop experience very well. I bought my X201T as a companion computer to my desktop, and I really prefer it this way. I like coming up with new ideas on the X201T whether I'm on break at work, sitting on a train, or in a cafe, and then bringing those drawings to my desktop when I get home and really work them up to a finish [if I feel like it.] Of course, I could be biased to a two-system workflow. I'm sure that if the X201T were my ONLY computer I could adapt to it over time to complete all of my work on it. But, since it's not, I can't truly comment about that. I just know it serves its purpose excellently as a travel companion.
Elsewhere, I'm not sure if most tablet PC's are like this, but the X201T did require quite a bit of fooling around with to get the settings JUST as I liked them. Talking about things like pen calibration and custom drivers.
The standard Wacom Tablet PC Driver wasn't working as well as it should have, so I looked online and found that many things offered from Jujitsu are cross-compatible with other Tablet PC's. I downloaded this driver: support.ts.fujitsu.com/downloa… and applied it to my X201T, and I can now have two sets of calibrations that work in tandem -- one set for the operating system (for windows exploring and writing for text conversion,) and one set that automatically activates within drawing applications like Photoshop, SAI, and Sketchbook Pro. (This calibration turns off Hold for Right Click and other obtrusive windows functions.]
Elsewhere, I also picked up a Fujitsu LifeBook Pen from eBay for about $20. tabletprofi.files.wordpress.co… It's the pen that you see in that picture, there. I prefer this pen over the stock Lenovo one because 1) the eraser is rounded, not flat on the top. 2) The pen barrel is thicker in diameter. 3) It has a dual side-switch instead of just a single button. Unfortunately this pen can't fit into my X201T's reserve slot, so it must travel separately in my bag.
I also picked up a custom-cut screen protector from www.photodon.com - Photodon. They have top quality screen protectors for Tablet PC's and other devices that aren't overpriced. (I was finding some companies selling screen protectors for as much as $60 each. Geez! I'd gladly take Phtoodon's better quality $12 one instead.) I bought a screen protector NOT because I was worried about damaging the screen (well.. I was a LITTLE.) But the real reason was because I was looking for a true "Wacom surface" feel. Drawing with the pen on the X201T's glass screen just wasn't as nice feeling as I was hoping. It felt like drawing on a glass window. Not like a nice pen and paper feel. After applying the screen protector, I'm sad that my screen not has much more of a glare problem than it NEVER had before, but the overall feel of the pen on the screen is nothing short of perfect. Smooth yet with a little friction. I suppose I also feel a little better knowing the screen is safe from minor damage, as well. It's an investment, might as well try to make it last. [I got my screen protector custom cut to a little larger than the edges of the LCD itself. I took the bezel off of the screen and put the screen protector on underneath -- so when the bezel was put back on, it's beyond edge-to-edge coverage. I think this is ideal.]
Another thing I've come to appreciate -- the fact that the computer has no restoration discs. It has a separate 6GB uneditable partition on the hard drive that has the Factory Restore discs on them. If you ever need to reformat, you always have the discs on hand to get it done in about 10 minutes (especially since there's no DVD drive on this machine, this is double helpful.) I've already had to do this once when I accidentally royally screwed up windows (I'm an inexperienced hacker -- it was my fault hahaha.) And I got everything back up and running in no time.
Lastly, I also bought an additional 2GB of memory for it. I was very surprised to find that Lenovo supplied the laptop with 1x 2GB stick of memory and not 2x 1GB sticks in BOTH slots [like apple always does.] This means that with the free slot I only had to buy ONE 2GB stick to get a total of 4GB instead of TWO 2GB sticks to replace the 2 useless 1GB's that could have been in there. Saved me about $40. (I bought an ADATA 2GB stick from NewEgg. About $40.) The system is overall quicker and more responsive now, especially in photoshop. I recommend this upgrade for ANY system running Windows 7. 4GB is the standard issue today. 2GB will only get you by.
Other than that, I'm still pleased with the purchase. I like the fact the laptop has a powered USB port so I can recharge my phone and Zune HD even when the laptop is turned off. It also has WAY better wireless reception than any computer I've ever used. I'll pick up SSID's from nearby businesses that my other friends would have to be sitting INSIDE the store to use. In the end it serves what I'm looking for from it nearly perfectly. Just know that for drawing and paitning, it's no Intuos or Cintiq replacement. It will get the job done just as much as any dedicated tablet, but the overall experience won't be as smooth or (possibly) intuitive. It comes with a learning curve and a lot of experimentation.
And, before I close this edit, let me say that for those looking to buy either a tablet PC or a Cintiq, it comes down to what you're looking for. If you REALLY care about portability -- get a tablet PC. If all you care about is making good art -- get a Cintiq. Remember, the Cintiq is only a monitor. It has no internal hardware that ages over time. The cintiq is only as fast and as good as the computer you're hooking it up to. If you have a good computer already, a cintiq can be a cheaper purchase for better functionality. However, if you have a slow computer, it could be cheaper to get a tablet PC instead since it's a new system AND cintiq-like functionality in one. Just remember, however, that the hardware in a tablet PC will age over time and become less valuable as newer models and softwares are released.