Top critical review
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Exactly what I wanted in a mobile laptop/tablet combo, but ended up returning
on November 4, 2012
I purchased two of these units for my wife and me from Staples a few days ago. We've both run them through enough of our routine work tasks that I can say I am officially in love. My rating is really a 4.5, but I choose to round up instead of down because, for me, the benefits outweigh the shortcomings.
My wife and I are both Realtors with iPhones and we work full time off our two laptops from a home office. We are very mobile, meeting clients mostly in the field, at coffee shops, or at their homes, but do spend a lot of time at a desk, working in "desktop" mode. She's been bugging me for over a year to get an iPad. I've resisted because I don't view the iPad as a solution to any of our productivity issues, and I didn't want each of us to have a third device to deal with. Instead, I have been patiently waiting for the right Ultrabook, and the Thinkpad Twist is it.
Is it big enough to work on full time?
When we downsized from full PCs to fulltime 15.6 Laptops 3+ years ago, I was very worried about adapting to the smaller size keyboards and screens. It worked out just fine, but I have the same concern going from 15.6 inch screens to 12.5 inch screens, especially as we're both in our 50s now and don't see as well.
For both of us, the Twist passes the size test, no problem. I can see just fine with the smaller screen. So can my wife. The keyboard is, surprisingly, actually better for me than the bigger laptop keyboard or even a full size desktop keyboard. I basically type with two finger (each hand) plus thumbs. So I'm having no trouble at all. All the keys I normally need and use are located well. I tried out some of the Surface Tablets in the Microsfot store in Austin, and, to me, the keyboard provided on this ultrabook is so much better than the keyboards available with the Surface that I wouldn't even consider trying to work full time on anything less.
How is the Touchpad and Button setup?
In my normal work desk area, I use a mouse, so no issues there. I plugged in the small usb plug and it set itself up in a few seconds and the wireless mouse was working, just like that. Easy. (As an aside, i've had no connectivity issues with my wireless printer, WiFi, Home network, Public WiFi either. Everything has connected seamlessly with no problem at all)
However, as I type this in my favorite coffee shop, without a mouse, I'm still adapting to the touchpad and, specifically, the darned gestures that Windows 8 thinks I'm making, which constantly changes the screen to another app. I had no idea that I lightly graze the touchpad with my thumbs so often when typing, but I do, and I'll have to learn to stop that. Meanwhile, in the settings, I've told Windows to not change screens with "swipe from left". Instead, it now pops up a small left-side column of recently used apps, which is still annoying but not disruptive. I simply swipe from left again to close it, then carry on.
The other bit of training I'm having to learn is the actual speed of motion when moving the mouse. Sometimes, when just moving the mouse left, it thinks it's a swipe because I moved too fast. I feel that I will continue to learn and adapt to the sensitivities of the machine and Windows 8.
The other non-mouse issue is the buttons and clicking. I haven't used the red pointer at all, other than out of curiosity. Nor the pointer buttons at the top of the pad. Both the bottom left and right of the touchpad itself depress and act as "right click" and "left click". I find it easy enough to do this because this is where the buttons were located on my old laptop anyway. It's also easy enough to click and drag when dragging and dropping files from one folder to another, or when dragging windows to one side or the other to set up split screen view of two different windows.
Finally, my wife hasn't experienced one single instance of the "accidental swipes" changing her screen. She's oblivious to what I'm even talking about when I ask her. She uses all fingers to type and her thumbs don't flop around the touchpad like mine, and I guess she uses kinder, gentler movements of the mouse. So, this issue will vary from user to use I feel.
Does it get too Hot?
I read some reviews complaining about the heat so I'll address that quickly. Running side by side next to my old Dell Studio 15 laptop, the two systems produce exactly the same amount of heat. I don't think the ThinkPad produces too much heat, and I wouldn't have thought to even mention it had I not read about it in so many other reviews. In tablet mode, yes, I can feel that it's hotter in one area in back than the other, but no more so than my daughter's iPad that her school provides, which I held for comparison. To me, this isn't an issue.
How is it in Tablet Mode?
I spent a couple of hours yesterday in tablet mode. This is actually my first Tablet, so I have nothing to compare it to (oter than iPhone). And I spend more time producing than consuming content on my computer, but I really enjoyed reading news, swiping through articles, etc. I don't play games so I didn't try any of those and can't comment about that.
The system was responsive and quick. The screen easy to read (though it randomly dims temporarily every now and then), and I found it easy to learn the gestures and movements needed to navigate through apps and content. It was especially wonderful watching sports news videos. I tried an app where I could draw with my finger. Not my thing, but it seemed to work just fine for those who want to create/draw or annotate photos or documents in that manner.
The real tablet-mode test will come later as my wife wants to replace paper printouts with pdf files of sales listings when showing properties. Many Realtors do this with iPads, and I imagine this will be accomplished on the Twist in tablet mode with a pdf app of some kind.
How is the portablility?
This is one of the things we will enjoy most. This computer is very small and thin. My wife can actually slip it into one of her larger purses instead of lugging the bigger, heavier laptops we had. We will be travelling for 5 days next week and will put them through the real life travel test then, but already I can tell this is going to be a very easy unit to carry around and work with, especially having WiFi hotspots built into our phones.
Do Legacy Windows Programs Run OK?
This is more of a W8 questions, but I do have two legacy desktop software applications that I need to run, which is another reason I ruled out an RT tablet, and they both run fine in desktop mode.
Did you look at the Lenovo Yoga?
Yes, but ruled it out because the hard drive is too small (way smaller usable hard drive space than the specs suggest) and the keys are exposed at bottom in laptop mode (though disabled). Also, the Twist can assume all 4 positions of the Yoga, so I personally saw a destinct advantage with the Twist. Finally, I wanted a business-oriented build and design, and the Thinkpad is built for business (though I think a home user might also find it a better entertainment machine as well).
Overall, three days in, I'm very pleased. More importantly, my non-techie wife is very happy with hers as well. I'm especially pleased about having been patient and waited so long for the right combination of form factor and utility. This unit really hits the right note for me as a mobile professional. I never bought into the "tablet only" solution. Twist offers both a full fledge windows machine with real keyboard, and a useful tablet for uses better suited to a tablet factor. It has real posrts and connectivity to other hardware. It hits a real sweet spot for me. It's not "too small" as a 12.5" laptop, and not "too big" as a 12.5" tablet. Perfect!
If I left anything out (which I'm sure I did), feel free to ask.
EDIT: I've reduced my Review star score to 3 stars.
After writing the initial review, different problems started showing up. For my wife, the best description would be "Bloatware Gremlins", constantly pestering and prompting her to click this, install that. She kept getting popups for all different things. I have no idea what she did but her IE started freezing up regularly and she started having intermittent issues. On our business trip, she ended up not able to use the computer, but used mine.
For me, I guess I'm not as susceptible to the Bloatware Gremlins, and swat them away without thinking much about it, but I did eventually find the "dripping" out of these prompts and popups to be annoying. Also, my Lenovo Service Window box would remain open constantly and I couldn't get it to close. When I closed it, it would open right back up. I called support and they couldn't find the record of my warranty or registration, even though I could type it in at their website and it confirmed as being a registered computer under warranty. The trouble ticked was "escalated", yet I never heard back from anyone, and still haven't to this day.
Finally, I was experiencing intermittent flickering of the screen in tablet mode. I'd have to turn off the unit and restart to get it to stop. And the screen would not rotate properly from landscape/portrait mode at times. Also, direct sunlight on the screen seemed to cause problems.
I could probably have worked through the issues on mine eventually, but my wife and I always use identical computers in our business/usability, and she was unwilling to keep trying to deal with her unit. With the 14 day return window almost up, I decided to take them back. The lady at Staples said someone else had returned theirs that day also, with some sort of hard drive issue.