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Tablet PC ThinkPad X201T - Artist's Review [EDIT]

Journal Entry: Sun Aug 22, 2010, 1:08 PM
[go to the bottom for the update to the review! It's all in bold!]

  • GETTING HERE FROM THERE
While I had planned to get a new laptop for some time to replace my veteran 2007-era MacBook Pro, I antagonized about finding one that looked nice, had good performance, and was an acceptable price. Then, one day I realized, I rarely ever actually use my laptop. My MacBook Pro remained unused for weeks at a time. With a much newer and more powerful Windows 7-based desktop computer in my studio, the only thing my MacBook Pro could give me was lesser performance for generally the same experience [since I still had to use a desk when doing tablet work with it.] I need a laptop for portable work, presentations, and conferences with clients, but I didn't want one just for that purpose and sit around doing nothing in the meantime. So I thought about a game changer -- a Tablet PC.

I researched the Toshiba Portege line, Fujitsu LifeBook line, HP TouchSmart TM2, the ModBook, and the ThinkPad XT line. When comparing prices, performance, and overall quality, something drew me back to the ThinkPad every time.

  • FUNCTION OVER FORM
Unlike my old MacBook Pro, the ThinkPad is made of seemingly less impressive magnesium and plastic. Turned out, this was a welcomed change, since the entire laptop feels solid, sturdy, and rugged. The thin metal casings of aluminum-based computers, especially macbook pros, always felt like you could damage them at the slightest provocation. [My MBP got a dent on the lid from my tablet pen falling on it. No joke.] And this is the basis of the no-frills, stark boring corporate design approach to the ThinkPad line of computers. They're designed to be 100% practical at the expense of good looks. With just how well this system is built, I have to admit, in hindsight I'm a little ashamed to place the form of the system so high as a priority, [to think "When I take this computer out in public, I want to look COOL!"] -- when for a portable system it's the usability and durability that ultimately count -- not how many heads I'll turn with it. I'll get my moneys worth from the work I'll create with it, not how jealous I make others feel.

Ergonomically, this computer just makes sense. The keyboard appears old school, but man is it fun to type on. [I'm typing this review on it right now. I'm typing fast and accurately. Man these keys have a great tactile bounce to them.] The extended battery sticks out the backside with rubberized grips, so that when in tablet mode, you can grip the tablet like an artist's paint palette. USB ports on both sides of the system. Even the casing of the system has a kind of rubber coating all over it, making it VERY hard to slip out of your hands no matter where you hold it. The trackpoint [the small red nub dot on the keyboard] is placed so that you can move the mouse around while never picking up your hands from the keyboard. Makes moving between the mouse and typing non-existant. The tiny trackpad is nice, about the size of a sugar packet, but sensitive and high-resolution enough to be just as usable as the largest of Mac trackpads. [Not to mention it supports multi-touch like two finger scroll.] The computer is completely user-repairable, with spare parts able to be purchased through lenovo directly. A manual on how to dismantle and replace any part of the system comes with it, which is simply amazing to me since I like doing at-home repairs for cheap.

  • THE X201T ITSELF

In standard laptop mode - click images to enlarge

I picked up a configured model with the following specs:

CPU: 2.8 GHz Intel Core-i7 ULV [dual-core edition]
MEMORY: 2GB 1066MHz DDR3
HDD: 160GB 5400RPM
GPU: Intel GMA 4500HD
SCREEN: 12.1" 1280x800 IPS-Panel, Outdoor Viewable 400nit, Anti-Glare, Anti-Reflective, Wacom Digitizer Layer, NO Capacitive Touch Layer
BATTERY: 7.5 Hour Extended 8-Cell
OS: Windows 7 Professional
EXTRAS: Webcam, 3G Wireless Modem, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth installed
This configuration is model 2985F3U -- so search for this to find prices for this exact machine.

Photos of the 400nit outdoor viewable screen:

In tablet slate mode. Current brightness at level 5 of 15. Note that the lighting in the room is actually very bright, with three 120-watt equivalent lights on.


Brightness now adjusted to max 15 of 15. No, I didn't turn off the lights in the room, they just appear dimmer now compared to the screen to get proper exposure for my camera!


The color rendition and contrast of the screen is superb. Black levels are deep, whites are pure without any color cast/tint, and colors look pleasingly natural. In this photo, both the X201T and my iPhone are set to maximum brightness. The X201T is brighter than the iPhone at max brightness, so if you've ever used an iPhone on max brightness, either in a dark room or outdoors, you know what to expect.

For any artist interested in getting the X201T for doing work on, I highly, highly, HIGHLY recommend getting the Outdoor Viewable screen upgrade through custom configuration or find a pre-built model with one already installed (like I did.) The upgrade to the Outdoor Panel does more than just make the screen very bright -- it vastly increases viewing angles, color neutrality, and color gamut. The outdoor viewable upgrade cannot have the Multi-Touch screen layer installed at the same time, meaning the screen will be interactive with the pen ONLY. The reason for this? The Multi-Touch layer [called "Capacitive Layer,"] has a bunch of micro circuitry within the glass and additional anti-smudge coatings, making the screen dimmer and duller. The outdoor panel also adds additional thickness to the glass, meaning the capacitive layer would push the thickness of the LCD assembly past the design of the casing. As an artist, pen control and good color should be all you care about, anyway.


The outdoor viewable LCD is an IPS panel, which inherently has excellent color rendition and massively wide viewing angles. It may not be completely apparent in the photo, but at this exteme of an angle, there are no color or gamma shifts at all in the screen. When's the last time you've seen a laptop do this? In most laptops, you see something happen called "inversion and crush." It's when the colors of the screen seem to invert, disappear, and become unrecognizable when viewed from anywhere other than straight-on. I'm happy to say that with the Outdoor screen, the X201T experiences no inversion or crush whatsoever, no matter how extreme the angle. The brightness does drop off a little bit at angles, but color stays true. The mark of an IPS panel!


Closed. The X201T isn't the thinnest laptop out there, but it is notably thin and light despite being a pretty tough computer. The screen being as thick as the pen is a pretty good achievement for a tablet PC. The design of the system is completely flat -- there is no taper so the thickness remains consistent throughout the body. Unlike the HP TM2T which becomes excessively thick at the back end.


Pen compared to the Wacom Intuos 4 pen, and the charger for the X201T. The pen is relatively small, so that it can fit within the computer's built-in holder slot. It feels like holding a standard BiC pen or pencil in terms of thickness. The charger is also very pleasantly small!

  • USING THE X201T
With my particular configuration, the performance is much better than I initially anticipated. Since the system uses ULV [ultra low voltage] processors, I was expecting a bit of a notable hit in performance, especially since the specs seem to read as though the system is an ultra-glorified netbook. However, performance stays consistently excellent, even when power saving modes are enabled on battery use.

I could talk about how it feels to draw on, but why bother to explain it? Just watch the video I recorded of me messing around in Photoshop and Tool SAI on it!

[ WATCH THE VIDEO OF USING THE X201T ]

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.

  • HEAT & NOISE
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.

  • CONCLUSION
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.

  • COMPARED TO...

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.

AXIOTRON MODBOOK:
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!



  • EDIT: 2 MONTH REVISIT REVIEW
So, it's been about two months since I got the system. How is it faring after really getting to know it?

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.


Add a Comment:
 
:iconforeveryoursandmine:
ForeverYoursandMine Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I'm looking for a secondary computer and i was wondering where you bought that from.
I've been searching EVERYWHERE for one and i haven't been able to look for a decent one
Reply
:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Jan 12, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
The ThinkPad X line is about to be outdone by the new HELIX line. It looks absolutely freaking amazing. It's coming out in February. Check some hands-on articles/videos from CES 2013. The Verge had a nice overview.
Reply
:icontopicality:
Topicality Featured By Owner Mar 11, 2012
Hey is the Tablet PC still holding up? :lol:
Reply
:icondebondok:
deBondok Featured By Owner Sep 19, 2011  Hobbyist Digital Artist
This is a great review Fox-Orian. I'm in market to look for one of these as the new X220t has a lot of digitizer problems, it's now a 16:9 ratio, weird battery hump makes holding a problem and screen isn't as nice as the x201t even though it's IPS Outdoor.

When you have a moment I'd love to chat via IM or chat to see if you're still plugging away on the system. Thanks ahead!

Bon
Reply
:iconfotomedic:
fotomedic Featured By Owner Aug 5, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Thanks for the review. I wish I would have found it three months ago. I sold my Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 Mk II and still had enough to buy one of these (maybe not as slick as a MBP, but it still draws a LOT of attention with the huge initial price and relentless durability). Mine came with the multi-touch screen and 4GB RAM (funny it only came with Win 7 32-bit, but it is upgradable to 8GB). I have done all the updates imaginable, plus went right to Wacom's web page and to Customer Care, then Drivers and selected Tablet PC, and after installing that, my pen works with Photoshop CS5. I run CS5 Design Premium, Acrobat 9, Win7 (will be upgrading to 64 bit). Since these have the Intel HD 3000 graphics, I'm going learn Sketchbook and 3DS Max so I'll give it a try, and Maya after I upgrade to 64-bit, so if you want, I'll shout back and let you know how that goes.

I almost bought the TM2T with the i5 and 8GB RAM just because of the video card, but got seriously bummed out when they discontinued it right when I got the money - plus no free XBox 360 for me :-( but I am not sorry a bit I found this machine instead, even though it was more expensive. Your review is spot on accurate, and I'm glad to know other pens will work for it. Does your Cintiq pen work on it, or just a Fujitsu pen? My pet peeve is mostly the Fn button should be switched with the Ctrl button, and I agree about the buttons on the edge of the screen, but can live with it. The hinge is weaker than I'd like only for stability when I use it as a touch-screen laptop. Slate mode, it has a setting that senses a change in position and auto-rotates the screen for me, so that frees that button up for me.

My goal is to integrate this into my Photoshop classes so the students can see what working with a tablet is like, plus it will allow me to build my skills until I can get a real killer desktop setup.

Lenovo also now has the X220 Tablet as the successor with the second gen i7 processors out for purchase. Also, did you know you can run OS X in a virtual on this (for educational purposes only, of course ;-)

If you're looking to do any other reviews, consider the ASUS EP121. Drawbacks are the too small 32GB or 64GB SSD and 2GB or 4GB RAM and Intel graphics again. It is slate only, but has a wireless keyboard. Runs a Wacom tablet screen and pen, other features are really nice.
Reply
:iconxconfrontox157:
xconfrontox157 Featured By Owner Jul 19, 2011
I hope one day to buy a Cintiq, but due to the high price that triples against the dollar, there are no conditions for hours. So I thought that this tablet pc as its a great alternative to cintiq. this model could not find her here where I live, even for local sites.

Would you know SOME other Lenovo models that are better or similar to yours? or its successor model?

focused on looking for something to draw and paint.
Reply
:iconmarattacks:
marAttacks Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2011
I've been looking for reviews done by artists and they are not very plenty. I saw your video in youtube first and I was happy to find out that you made a written review as well. Thanks for the information you shared. I am quite torn about buying a tablet pc or a cintiq 12wx (I cant afford the 21ux yet)... I have somewhat decided to get the tablet pc instead because of the fact that is is a computer (so if I am not comfortable drawing on it, I can always use it as a computer). But I am still torn on which tablet pc to get (this lenovo x201t or an hp 2740p) your review along with your insights are pretty helpful. I wonder if you have any idea about the latter?
Reply
:iconnicoll:
Nicoll Featured By Owner Jun 6, 2011
Cheers for that review, you may well have persuaded me. I've been looking for the 'right' digital sketchpad for ages, and I've spotted on one ebay...

I'm just currious as to whether or not you've sorted out your workflow issues, with the lack of face buttons and all? You said you were looking for a mini keypad but hadn't found anything useful; wouldn't one of those USB keypads do the trick? [link]
Reply
:iconstewartjoseph:
StewartJoseph Featured By Owner Mar 15, 2011   Digital Artist
Hey Fox-orian,

This is a great review and I love the youtube video of your x201T demo. This lis the bomb.

I purchased a similar configuration to yours, except I got the previous model x200T, only pen-enabled, super bright 400nit screen, Win 7. Still under warranty, mint, off of eBay.

I really would like to modify it according to what you've done.

A few questions:

The link to the fujitsu drivers you have listed, to replace the wacom drivers, is not active anymore. What fujitsu model was this driver for? Is it fairly straightforward to activate either configuration?

Also, what version of the photodon screen protector did you get, the clear or anti glare version? I have a seen a youtube review of both and the anti-glare version, though giving good pen feel, has minor "speckling" issues for the screen. Is this the one you have? Cool that you actually put the bezel over the screen protector, awesome!

I am consider getting another pen also, I have read good Forum reviews of the Axiotron Stylus Pen, have you ever used this pen? Are you quite happy with the Fujitsu pen and can you use other pen nibs with it, felt, spring, etc?

Many thanks for your review, as it convinced me to get the Lenovo X20x Series Tablet.

SJ
swj2009@gmail.com
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:iconjbthethird:
JBTheThird Featured By Owner Feb 17, 2011
Hi, do you know the model number for the superbright screen? I'm trying to find one to put replace the standard x201 tablet screen.
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:iconcloudofwords:
cloudofwords Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2011
In Control Panel open the Tablet PC Settings, under the buttons panel you can configure new functions for both long and short presses. Quite handy when you're using the computer in tablet mode and need some special keys.

This is cut and paste from a different forum.
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:iconcloudofwords:
cloudofwords Featured By Owner Feb 12, 2011
I would love to know if the Fujtsu pen fits securely in the lenovo pen silo. It would be nice to carry it in the field as a single "unit" rather than having the 2-button pen separate, in a pocket or backpack.

Also, I've read that you can reprogram the onscreen buttons with the tablet and pen menus, under (I believe) Device Manager. Would be nice to see if this were true as well, as I'm also thinking about getting the x200t. You had mentioned this problem, I think, in your (very informative and helpful) review.
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:icongoldknightpk:
GoldKnightPK Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2011
Glad to see you're enjoying your purchase. I bought the Portege m780 and I am not at all pleased with the purchase. It doesn't work with ANY art programs out of the box, forcing you to go driver-hunting, and even after that, it wouldn't work with half of the programs I tried!

I actually stumbled upon your journal while trying to resolve these issues. I know it's not very relevant, but I just felt like sharing!
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2011  Professional Digital Artist
Tablet PC's are really finicky. It's the unfortunate truth about them. My X201T works well, but it can't hold a single candle to my Cintiq -- there's actually almost no comparison after I've had more extensive use between the two. A tablet PC will do in a pinch, but it's hardly something I'd consider for long term use anymore.

I still LOVE my X201T as a laptop / "windows" tablet, though.
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:icondavid-toronto:
David-Toronto Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2011
Well, my X201T has arrived. Unfortunately I'm too busy with school work to do any drawing. I have installed SB Pro and SB Designer on it and doodled around a bit - that's all i have time for now.

I've used the fujitsu pen on it. In terms of weight and feel, to my insensitive hands, it is identical to the lenovo pen.

The fujitsu nib has a rubberiness to it, will skid once in a while unpredictably, but this might go away with nib wearing. The lenovo nib is super smooth, like drawing on glass. I took out the fujitsu nib and replaced it with a red lenovo tip.

But you will want the fujitsu for the two-button (who doesn't want that?). As for eraser tip springiness I find that with both pens I have to press down harder than I would like on the glass to activate it. I can imagine this wearing the glass over time. Pressing hard plastic against glass makes me uneasy, so with the fujitsu pen I've been using the right click to erase with the nib. However, comparing these 2 pens to my Intuos4 pen eraser is like comparing cheap toys with the real deal. Intuos4 eraser requires almost no pressure. The pen's own weight resting on the eraser will make it seat. If I were to rate the eraser tip pressure needed with 0 being no pressure needed and 5 being hard:

Intuos4 - 1
Lenovo pen - 4
Fujitsu pen - 3

I'm excited that I have one of the programmable usb keypads made by Genovation. I have model 682 with 35 unassigned keys, should be an easy thing to do to program an erase button on it - if i ever find the time.
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:iconnikixiaoyou:
nikixiaoyou Featured By Owner Feb 3, 2011
Thank you for the feedback, David! It has helped me a great deal understanding better the differences between pens; I think I'll stick with the Lenovo one for now!
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:iconnikixiaoyou:
nikixiaoyou Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
Hi!
I have just purchased the X201 Tablet with Superbright screen after having read your review and can't wait to receive it! I wanted to know if there is a particular reason you bought the Fujitsu pen and not a wacom/bamboo/graphire pen (I don't know much about the differences).
I would be glad to hear your take on that, it would help me take a decision!

Thank you

Geneviève :love:
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:icondavid-toronto:
David-Toronto Featured By Owner Jan 4, 2011
You got a superbright screen? Where did you order from? Lenovo's store only offers multi-touch and pen-only standard screen, no superbright.

I was curious about the Fujitsu pen as well. Why not some other pen? I read somewhere that you can use any wacom pen with a product code that begins with ** (I don't remember what ** is, but you can search for it). But when i looked at the wacom store I couldn't find any pen with ** product code. That's why I bought the Fujitsu :P Also because two people have confirmed that this pen is compatible (fox-o and jessebanderson on youtube). Slightly annoying that you have to buy the 2-pack though.
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:iconnikixiaoyou:
nikixiaoyou Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2011
I got the superbright screen from an eBay Lenovo reseller. I wasn't able to find it on the Lenovo store either, and the eBay prices were comparable even with the Lenovo discounts and some coupons I had found for the Lenovo site.

I find it's hard to find reviews about tablet pens only, and I want to buy the best compatible pen there is for this tablet... I guess I'll wait until I have tried it enough to have a better idea of what pen I should look for, apart from two buttons and a rounded eraser! If you read any review regarding tablet pens that could apply to the X201, let me know!

Genevieve
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:icondavid-toronto:
David-Toronto Featured By Owner Jan 5, 2011
Well in a few weeks I'll be able to do my own review but I'm scared because fox-orian's review has really set the bar high.
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:icondavid-toronto:
David-Toronto Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2011
Since I've placed an order for the X201T, a purchase based on some of the points in your excellent review, I am wondering how I will position it whilst drawing on it. How have you, fox-orian, been using it? Do you set it down flat on the desk, or mounted on an ergotron, or cradled in your lap while curled up in the sofa? Is it important to have it tilted to the optimal drawing angle like the Cintiq when you using it?
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:icondavid-toronto:
David-Toronto Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2011
One more thing for the students here. You can get a pretty sweet deal if you buy from the Lenovo's student site. Even during the boxing sale specials, the student prices were well below the regular site. However, sometimes the site is a bit wonky (won't take ecoupons, won't accept your configuration, login probs, etc.) but then you just order via phone (what I did).

I also ordered the Fujitsu tablet pen set (2 buttons vs the 1 button) from Fujitsu.

Nothing has arrived yet, but will let you guys know how it is when it does.
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:iconxsoma:
xSoma Featured By Owner Jan 1, 2011  Hobbyist General Artist
Finally I found this exact build online! Thanks so much for writing this. Now all I need is the money :lol: My current PC is really starting to f*ck up more and more. I really love it, but love has limits :XD:
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:icontenkkay:
tenkkay Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2010   Digital Artist
Love this review. Infinitely useful. I'm buying my x201t within the next few days, and this review sealed the deal.
Reply
:iconlandisfields:
LandisFields Featured By Owner Nov 21, 2010
So does anyone know if the x201t can run mudbox or maya. I know zbrush works since its not a true openGL based 3d app (its strength and weakness). I know the tm2 has discrete graphics but the 2 killers for me in regards to the tm2 is the screen and the lack of tablet buttons. Can the x201t tablet buttons be customized (I know the first 2 to go would be the lock button and the ctrl alt delete). I would map alt and shift to those. The others would go to B for brush and probbably M for magnitude. Donskies.
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:iconnettokun:
Nettokun Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2010
Anyone on here thinking about getting a lenovo x201t!! Lenovo is having a pretty great sale right now at www.lenovo.com

You can pick up one with a core i5-540M (2.53ghz), 4GB Memory (1 DIMM I believe), WXGA TFT LED screen with a 7200rpm 320GB SATA HDD (part order was 3249A25 ). This offer starts at $1489 and is only on sale until SEPTEMBER 29, 2010! There is an ADDITIONAL 20% OFF at the checkout if you include the code X201EXPRESS and apply that. This brings the price down to $1191 + FREE shipping! That is the price without tax, mine is shipping to MA, so there was an additional $75 in tax. I have done a LOT of research on this models' processor. The i5-540 vs the i7-620 only holds about a 300 point difference on benchmarks, but the i5-540 has been tested to have a longer battery life, and will run any 2D art program you throw at it (especially if you opt to add extra memory).

If the X201EXPRESS code is expired by the time you try this, give a quick google search for coupon codes for the x201t, I have seen a half dozen the past few weeks ranging from 15-20% off or straight up $200 off.

I really want to thank Matt for giving such an extensive and honest review of this tablet. If it wasn't for this review I would have never come to my decision to purchase the x201t. Thank you Matt!
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:iconjack-y-zhang:
jack-y-zhang Featured By Owner Sep 17, 2010  Hobbyist General Artist
Question: 64bit or 32bit? Cause if it's 32, you're easy going, but my x200t is a nightmare for tablet drivers in 64bit.
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:iconfan4battle:
fan4battle Featured By Owner Sep 13, 2010
Truly Great review, really thorough! Thank you! Made me want the thing! :D
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:iconhavoc-dm:
Havoc-DM Featured By Owner Sep 6, 2010
Great review fox! I'm pleased to say you helped me pull the trigger and I am loving this baby.

Quick question: You mentioned that you installed a certain fujitsu driver because it enabled you to have two sets of calibrations, one for windows and one for paint programs. I've installed the same driver, but I cannot for the life of me figure out how to have the side switch act as the alt key when in photoshop, and a normal right click for the rest of windows. What am I doing wrong?
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:iconfudging:
fudging Featured By Owner Sep 5, 2010
A Cintiq's hardware doesn't age, but it can run out of warranty and break on you.
Reply
:iconravencroaking:
ravencroaking Featured By Owner Sep 1, 2010
Thank you very much for the review! I am considering to buy a laptop for art college and was quite unsure about which laptop screen (one of my top priorities after the rather awful 20'' iMac screen) would be good for art purposes, but this cleared things up a bit.

I still have some questions (also about other products), though:

- Is the lenovo x201t adequate for Photoshop CS5 extended? I have seen your video and so far, everything looks very nice and smooth with still images, but I am also interested in the animation and video editing options that according to some on the internet may need more GPU power. Do you know anything about how the tablet performs with basic video editing? And does Photoshop support GPU acceleration on the Intel GMA HD? I searched the internet, but found no answers - maybe my ideas are way off mainstream...

- I also consider buying a Wacom Intuos4 tablet, but I have heard a lot of negative comments about the USB port build quality. So did you have any problems with the USB port so far? How tight is the fit of the USB cable (is there any wobble that might loosen the port)?

- Lastly, through this review and the comments, I also got interested in the Logitech G13. Has it been VERY useful to you also when you are working in non-tablet mode? The high price does hold me off quite a bit since every function might also be accessed via normal keyboard and the express keys on the tablet.

Any reply will be appreciated. :)
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:icondavid-toronto:
David-Toronto Featured By Owner Jan 2, 2011
I bought this at a electronics surplus store not meaning to solve the usb port prob on my intuos 4 but simply because i wanted to reduce cord tangle. You'll have to shave the head down a bit to get to fit into the port.

Philips SWR2111/27 Mini Retractable USB 2.0 A/B Cable withPower Sync (3.2 Feet, Black)

However, once it's in you will observe that this wire (for it is too thin to call it a cable) applies ZERO stress on the port no matter how much you wiggle the cord around. The is because the wire is so flimsy. The same way your ear buds will stay in your ears even when you jerk your head this way and that...due to the slackness of the flimsy wire.


[link]
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:iconnellyaa:
Nellyaa Featured By Owner Aug 27, 2010  Student Digital Artist
The best lenovo review I've ever read! Almost definitly buying a lenovo now when I have enough money to afford one.

Do you know if you can play games without high graphic requirements smoothly? Like Warcraft 3, WoW, UT2004?

Thank you!
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:icondigimagicnb:
digimagicnb Featured By Owner Aug 24, 2010
AMAZING review...and I have yet to watch the video (old hardware on basement PC, as I type right now). I had a journal out asking for just this sort of info. Was leaning to HP, maybe Apple, because I've seen them promoted, but hadn't yet done my homework. Had a thinkpad years (like over a decade) ago, that I used to teach from...hooked it up to the U's projector, so students could see non-Apple options since many of them had pc's at home (this was especially interesting as apple declared 'war' specifically on IBM, yet had to be saved by Msoft...who I also worked for at one point, later). I did love that machine, even though Vaios, et al, were sexier.

My sister was a HW tech for the major cereal manufacturer, and they used them exclusively, especially for high-up execs...years later, mine ended up with the same 'known issue' (HW integration flaw) she had seen there: the soldering of the battery? terminals?? (I'm so NOT a Ms. HW) on the motherboard, behind a bunch of stuff you have to take apart to get to it...she tried to fix it for me last year, but they used to send them back to the shop to actually do the soldering, and we didn't have much luck. Don't know if they've fixed that. Prob'ly. It's literally a different company now. Anyway, the battery started not being able to hold the charge even when it was plugged into the wall, so now it can't boot (and I'm planning on making art outta the parts, at some point)...it was a problem with the wall socket thingy soldering, that we tried to fix.

Anyway...this was stellar. Thank you, thank you. I'm getting back into what we old-timers called 'multimedia' and wanted a desktop quasi-replacement, as all my eqpt has some age on it.

I was also curious how flash, ae, rest of suite works with this, if you have anything to add... :D
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:icondanifox:
Danifox Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010
very accurate info. good to hear your opinion as artist
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:icongiorunog:
giorunog Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010
thanks, is this better than wacom tablet?
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:iconenzudes1gn:
EnzuDes1gn Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010  Professional Interface Designer
great review man :)
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:iconmodalmechanica:
ModalMechanica Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010
Cant get more intuitive than with the Intuos lol
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Hahah well I'd say the Cintiq is the most intuitive, least learning-curve tablet on the market. It doesn't get much easier than "put pen on screen, drag. Look, lines!"
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:iconmodalmechanica:
ModalMechanica Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010
yeah, to bad most of the people buying those are past any learning cure lmao
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
True. I do tell people, as a rule, looking to buy a cintiq to get something smaller and cheap first -- like a bamboo or something, because you don't even know if you'll like digital art. A $70 bamboo is a good starter because it has the basic feel and experience of an intuos. Upgrade to an intuos later if you really like it, or make the jump to a cintiq if you REALLY catch on. I don't understand the people who drop $1000 outright for a Cintiq without EVER having tried a tablet before, and and up letting it collect dust because they can't catch on to working within photoshop or other software with it.
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:iconmodalmechanica:
ModalMechanica Featured By Owner Aug 23, 2010
Haha yeah, its like american consumerism, HAVE TO HAVE THE BEST. Though still, I wouldn't really recommend bamboos, just because a lot people's screen's tend to be too large to use them effectively. lol I'd say buy an older Graphire or something for $50, nice and large size, and go from there.
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:iconkanuto:
kanuto Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010
I kinda like its design. It looks just like the old ibm laptops.
Thanks for the review!
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Hahah yeah, Thinkpads have never changed in design since their first introduction like 10 or more years ago.
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:icongazdowna:
gazdowna Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010  Professional Artist
I have 17 yo IBM laptop that looks exactly the same, just thicker and probably heavier.
Reply
:iconsag-d:
SAG-D Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010  Professional Filmographer
Wow! I fell in love with it.
I mean Cintiq is great and all, but first off its so expansive, and second off who
wouldn't want to sit outside in the summer sketching or painting away. I actually
didn't know that something like those kind of laptops even existed. Thanks so
much for sharing. Now I know what I'll be saving my money for :)
When you switch the monitor over for use as a tablet you can still use it for other
things on the side as well right? listening to music playlists while painting...
My current monitor I'm able to rotate to read texts and websites better, but it wont let
me do certain other things. So, does something similar apply to the laptop?
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:iconmuzski:
muzski Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010   Digital Artist
Thanks for spending time putting this review together. I felt that I have learnt something, that I would have normally overlooked.
Reply
:iconarisa-tan:
Arisa-tan Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
I have a question. Is it possible to hook up a cintiq on it anyway?
I use an old laptop that gets very hot and makes a lot of noise to use my cintiq. I want to save up to replace it and this sounds like a very good option! (with the extra sketch on the go added)
I do have a brand new HP touchsmart, but they're stupid hardware wise and so I can't hook up my cintiq as HP is convinced nobody wants extra monitors with a desktop computer with 23" screen :|
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:iconfox-orian:
fox-orian Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010  Professional Digital Artist
Yeah, the X201T can still hook up to a Cintiq via the VGA port on the side.

Also, how do you mean with your touchsmart? Does it have a VGA port? Or HDMI only? Or do you mean that the hardware is too weak to control two screens at once?
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:iconarisa-tan:
Arisa-tan Featured By Owner Aug 22, 2010  Hobbyist Writer
Ah thanks! That's good to know!

No I mean it has no video outports whatsoever. No VGA, no DVI, no HDMI. It has an HDMI in port, but that's not much use... That's for hooking up game consoles for example, to use the touchsmart as monitor.
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August 22, 2010
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