Lenovo ThinkPad X1: Nothing Compares to It Including Microsoft's Surface Pro
In the small hours, when the usual conversation about work and family and politics has all been exhausted, it's time to turn to the Big Topic, the enduring question that every one of us will still be asking as we take our final breaths:
Which covers are better than the original?
Obviously Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah. Definitely Sinead O'Connor's Nothing Compares 2 U. Maybe Indigo Girls' Romeo and Juliet if you want to be controversial. Possibly Ben Harper's The Drugs Don't Work, though that's a close run thing.
Some covers, like Gary Jules' version of Mad World, improve on the original by slowing it down. Others, like Iron & Wine's take on Such Great Heights, reveal the true brilliance of a song by stripping it away almost completely.
In the case of Lenovo's new ThinkPad X1 Tablet, a cover version of Microsoft's flawed masterpiece, the Surface Pro, the improvement is made through both addition and subtraction.
Well, let's hope subtraction is part of it, at any rate.
We haven't had the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet in the Digital Life Labs long enough to know for sure, but we're hopeful and have reason to think that it has improved on the Surface Pro by removing the number one bug that has plagued Microsoft's device.
In the four days we've had it, the X1 Tablet has yet to turn itself on randomly. We're yet to suffer that sinking feeling of opening a bag only to discover a piping hot computer with almost no battery left.
And since Lenovo has been at the game of making PCs much longer than Microsoft has, we can only suspect that such will prove to be the case for the life of the device.
I should explain why it is we're calling the X1 Tablet a cover version of the Surface Pro.
Like the Surface Pro, the X1 Tablet is a Windows 10 tablet that converts into a notebook with the addition of a backlit keyboard.
Like the Surface Pro, the X1 Tablet is made to the 3:2 aspect ratio that we find so appealing for productivity. It should be noted that the Surface Pro has a 12.3-inch, 267 pixel-per-inch screen, and the X1 Tablet has a slightly smaller, slightly less sharp 12-inch, 216 PPI screen, but using them side-by-side, it's hard to pick much difference.
They're both marvellous to work on.
Like the Surface Pro, the keyboard on the X1 Tablet attaches to the bottom of the tablet magnetically, and it has folds in it that let it attach a couple of centimetres up the screen, giving you a pleasantly angled typing surface.
(Though I should add that the folds in the X1 Tablet's keyboard aren't quite flexible enough, meaning the keyboard doesn't quite sit flat on the table when you're not using the angled mode. It may be something that benefits from a bit of aging, however.)
Unlike the Surface Pro, the keyboard comes in the box of the X1 Tablet and it has the iconic and brilliant ThinkPad track pointer on it: that, and the fact that the keyboard is slightly nicer to type on, are some of the additions that make the X1 Tablet a better machine.
The big addition that comes with the cover version of the Surface Pro is something we've been unable to review at this stage, however.
Where the keyboard is the only thing that is (currently) attached to the bottom of the Surface Pro, the X1 Tablet also has three add-ons you can buy: a pico projector; a dock with extra USB and monitor ports and with a second battery that Lenovo says adds five hours of life to what we estimate to be the 6- to 10-hour battery life of the tablet; and a 3D camera that could be used in certain industrial and design settings.
We're generally not big believers in things that clip onto other devices – after the novelty has worn off, they often go unused – but when the add-ons become available in the next few weeks we're keen to try out the dock, in particular.
Something the Surface Pro has always suffered from is a lack of ports, and the dock could prove indispensable for people who use the X1 Tablet as their main machine (which we would do without hesitation, just as we would the Surface Pro).
Though, that's another area where the cover is better than the original: the X1 Tablet comes with the same USB 3 port as the Surface Pro, but instead of a dedicated power connector it has a USB Type C port, which will come in increasingly handy as more devices move over to USB C.
The model we reviewed has also got a slot for a 4G SIM, which won't matter to some people but which will be a definitive advantage for others.
We loved having 4G when using the X1 Tablet in cafes, but connecting the SIMless Surface Pro to a WiFi hotspot is usually a perfectly fine option, too.
Speaking of using the X1 Tablet on the road, that might be the one area (other than the keyboard not flexing enough, which might not be a permanent issue) where we think that the original might sometimes prove to be better than the cover.
The kickstand on the X1 Tablet hinges at the bottom of the tablet, rather than from the centre, and though that makes it slightly more stable than the Surface Pro, it does add three or four centimetres to the overall depth of the computer at certain screen angles.
We haven't tested the ThinkPad X1 Tablet during an economy class flight, but its 28.5cm footprint might prove to be too deep.
If it does, you could always stop working, put on some headphones, and enjoy some other cover instead. I'd suggest Everything But The Girl's version of Alison, but that suggests Elvis Costello missed something, which we all know is impossible.
Image source: http://www.afr.com/technology/gadgets/computers/lenovo-thinkpad-x1-nothing-compares-2-it-including-microsofts-surface-pro-20160423-godo5f