Pen tablet computers are laptops for people who work while standing or walking around. They are used in a wide range of business applications, from healthcare to sales, but have fallen far short of the industry’s initial optimistic expectations - they still account for less than two percent of the laptops sold. Perhaps the main reason for this slow uptake (they’ve been on the market since 2002) is their continuing high price - a substantial premium over conventional laptops - and the fact that touchscreens have not proved popular. But if your business has a specific need for pen-based input, a tablet PC could prove a worthwhile investment.

Lenovo, thanks to inheritance of IBM’s personal computing technology, is at the forefront of tablet PC innovation. The company’s latest model, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet, marks a technology ensemble for innovation, portability and performance. With two new screen choices and other innovative Lenovo features, such as dynamic screen rotation, the ThinkPad X60T provides a productive way to compute more naturally, whether working in the field or in the office. It’s also jam-packed with a raft of business productivity tools and applications, helping end-users and network managers to really get the best from the system for years to come.

Starting from £1,040 (ex. VAT), the entry-level ThinkPad X60T features Intel Core Duo L2500 (1.83GHz) and Core Solo ULV processors (no Core 2 Duo option) for solid performance, as well as an industry-leading battery life of up to 7.5 hours using the optional 8-cell battery (standard 4-cell battery lasts around 3.5 hours). Lenovo also offers Windows Vista operating system, plus online training courses to help you use it, though the test machine ran the proven Windows XP Pro that will prove more attractive to the majority of businesses. There’s also 1GB PC2-4200 DDR2 SDRAM (4GB maximum), 60GB (ATA-100) hard disk drive, 12.1-inch display (1024x768 pixels), Intel 3945 a/b/g, Gigabit Ethernet, V.92 modem, Client Security Solution, and Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 900.

Spending a little more (£1,280 ex. VAT) gets you an 80GB SATA HDD, Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 950, 802.11n and Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0. A couple of things to note: The ThinkPad X60T has no built-in optical drive and the mono speaker is located on the bottom of the system, which makes for muffled audio. Expansion options are very good for an ultra-portable. There are separate headphone and line-out ports, infrared, 4-pin FireWire, three USB 2.0 ports, VGA-out, Type II PC Card (with ExpressCard 34 adapter), Bluetooth, and SD/MMC card reader. Security features are excellent, comprising a security lock slot, supervisor password, hard disk drive password, power-on password, and IBM-inherited Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0 (including hardware fingerprint reader).

The ThinkPad X60T has the full functionality of other ThinkPad X Series laptops, plus a unique swivel hinge which allows the screen to rotate 180 degrees. This provides the flexibility to take handwritten notes directly on the screen with your finger or the supplied - and dockable - Tablet Digitiser Pen. The machine’s new 12-inch MultiView indoor/outdoor, anti-reflective/anti-glare display also helps to dramatically helps increase viewability in multiple environments. For those looking for sharper, crisper images with more vibrant colour, Lenovo offers a high-resolution SXGA+ (1400x1050 pixels) screen - the system comes as standard with a 1024x768-pixel XGA display.

The machine’s design also focuses on improving more traditional tablet features like navigational tools and the pen. The redesigned navigational dial lets you move easily in four directions, and it even remaps keys so ‘up’ is always ‘up’ as you change orientation with Active Rotate. Also, a new, more natural and durable pen resumes from suspend mode automatically when you remove it from its cradle. An enhanced digital microphone repositioned on the front bezel helps to enable accurate voice recognition and rounds out the ThinkPad X60T’s sensory improvements.

Conclusion
Lenovo’s ThinkPad X60T is perhaps the best tablet PC currently on the market. It marries the best aspects of a laptop and a pen-based device, offering an improved sensory experience interacting with the tablet. It is better built than any competing system, the keyboard is very comfortable considering its size, and the choice of XGA or SXGA+ MultiTouch displays allows you to save money if necessary. If you can do without a built-in optical drive, the ThinkPad X60T delivers a best-in-class balance of comfort, performance, battery life, and portability. Plus, it ships as standard with Lenovo’s class-leading system and data management tools. Definitely one we would recommend.