Acer Aspire S3

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 Acer Aspire S3

Overview

The first-generation ultrabook war is getting bloody, with the Toshiba Satellite Z830 and Lenovo Ideapad U300S emerging from the pits to take on the Asus Zenbook and this machine, the Acer Aspire S Series. This four-way battle royale should be a fierce contest, but can Acer do enough to beat down the super-thin-yet-powerful laptop competition?

The Taiwanese company certainly has experience producing every variety of laptop, from the ultra-portable Timeline range of models such as the Acer Aspire Timeline X 3820TZ to the mighty Ethos multimedia machines including the Acer Aspire Ethos 5943G.

One of its dinkiest offerings yet, the 13.3-inch Acer Aspire S3-951 is an appealing prospect for regular travellers.

The Intel Core i7 2637M version we tested is priced at £900 in the UK and costs $1300 in the US (where it has the more specific name of Acer Aspire S3-951-6432), which is enticing, considering the impressive specs list.

A less powerful Core i5 model can be bought for £700 in the UK, while in the US there are three cheaper Core i5 machines, two of which cost $900, while one retails at $1199.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

At 1.38kg, the Acer Aspire S3-951 is a similar weight to the other ultrabooks and just slips in under Intel’s specified 1.4kg ultrabook weight. Even a skinny eight-year-old could carry this laptop around all day, although we wouldn’t trust some whippersnapper with a piece of kit like this.

With a thickness of 19mm at its widest point, the Acer Aspire S3-951 may not be as size-zero slender as the Toshiba Satellite Z830 or Asus Zenbook UX21, but it’s certainly thin enough to slide into a backpack, briefcase or even an oversized handbag.

However, even though the lid is impressively slim, it’s also tough enough to take a pounding. There’s almost no flex in the centre, so the display remains protected even when the laptop is bumping around in a bag. The brushed aluminium surface repels fingerprints and other marks, keeping it clean and shiny.

We were also pleased to see sturdy hinges, which hold the screen still even when you’re pounding the keyboard. This solid build quality continues throughout the rest of the chassis. We found no worrying weak spots, although we’re not convinced that the Acer Aspire S3-951 would survive a fall from a desk.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

One potential peril of compact laptops is that usability might suffer – the reduced chassis space means smaller keyboards, the nemesis of anyone with fat sausage fingers. Thankfully the Acer Aspire S3-951 doesn’t suffer too much from its stunted stature.

Shift and Ctrl keys are well-sized, although the Enter key is squashed into a single row and the arrow keys are almost comically tiny. Touch typing was a breeze. We bashed out emails and articles for hours at a time without our hands cramping up, and with minimal errors. While the shallow key travel is unavoidable, it isn’t as bad as the Asus Zenbook‘s (which feels like you’re tapping on a solid piece of plastic).

The Acer Aspire S3-951’s touchpad is also a decent size, but is cursed with integrated mouse buttons. Instead of having separate mouse buttons, you need to push the left and right corners of the pad down to simulate mouse clicks. Frankly, it’s a horrible experience.

Anyone who’s used one of these touchpads will know the deal. Often when you push the corners in to select a menu option, the cursor will skip across the screen, leading to incorrect menu selections. Considering how fiddly Windows menus can be, we came close to busting out the power tools and giving the Acer Aspire S3-951 a few new air vents.

Our advice is, stick to tapping the surface for mouse clicks. It’s a little hit and miss, but might save your blood pressure.

Specifications

Acer aspire s3-951 review

The Acer Aspire S3-951’s compact build means you’re stuck with a small screen, but the 13.3-inch display is perfectly serviceable for both business and pleasure. It isn’t the brightest screen ever, but the 1366 x 768-pixel resolution means images are sharp.

HD movies look crisp, if not particularly vibrant.

Although 13.3 inches doesn’t give you a huge viewing area for the latest blockbuster films, it’s perfectly fine when you’re on the move and sat right in front of your laptop. The sharp resolution is also perfect when you’re working on tables or spreadsheets.

However, the glossy Super-TFT finish is reflective, which is a hindrance if you want to use the Acer Aspire S3-951 outdoors. Anyone who’s regularly out and about will prefer the matt screen of the Toshiba Satellite Z830.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

Business users will be happy to see an HDMI port and two USB ports crammed onto the rear of the slender chassis. Accessing them is a little awkward, and fans of wired networking should check out the Toshiba Satellite Z830, which has a built-in Ethernet port. However, the Acer Aspire S3-951 is pretty much standard when it comes to ultrabooks.

If you have tons of files to lug around, you’ll need to use one of the USB ports to hook up an external hard drive. Despite the specs listing a 240GB solid state drive, the Acer Aspire S3-951 only reported 200GB of storage space available. This fills up far too quickly, especially if you’re hoping to carry some music or movies with you, although at least it gives you super speedy and reliable access to your data.

You also have an SD card reader for extra storage.

Aside from that, the Acer Aspire S3-951 is typically light on features. A 1.3MP webcam positioned just above the screen enables you to video chat with mates or colleagues, and that’s your lot. However, at least the Acer Aspire S3-951 doesn’t come laden with dozens of useless app trials that clog up your hard drive and constantly pester you with annoying pop-ups.

Performance

Acer aspire s3-951 review

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Cinebench 10: 8,827
3D Mark ’06: 3,279
Battery Eater ’05: 149 minutes

The real selling point of the Acer Aspire S3-951 is the impressive set of components stuffed in its tiny gullet. Gone are the days of clunky low-voltage CPUs plaguing ultra-portable laptops.

The dual-core Intel Core i7 2637M processor stormed through our Cinebench tests, proving well matched to any task we threw at it.

Backed up by 4GB of memory, we had no problem multitasking with all kinds of software. Applications loaded quickly (helped in part by that speedy solid state drive) and ran smoothly. In fact, the Acer Aspire S3-951 proved to be the most powerful ultrabook we’ve reviewed, narrowly beating the Core i7 Asus Zenbook UX31.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

Graphical performance is dependable, thanks to the flexibility of the Sandy Bridge chipset. Although the GPU is integrated, it’s still capable of running multimedia software such as photo and video editing suites, without suffering from glitches or crashes.

Of course, you aren’t going to get any serious gaming done on an ultrabook. Older games will run as expected, and you won’t have any trouble smashing your mates at a game of online Scrabble. But try testing it with a recent FPS game and you’ll meet a stuttering mess.

Even when we ran fairly demanding software, we were impressed by how cool and quiet the Acer Aspire S3-951 remained. The SSD obviously helps, because there are no spinning discs to contend with. The area around the vents (positioned at the rear of the laptop) remains cool at all times.

Acer aspire s3-951 review

Unfortunately the battery life was a lot less impressive. We ran HD video on loop and were disappointed when the Acer Aspire S3-951 died after just 149 minutes. This isn’t a disastrous performance, but it is below average for a modern laptop – we usually get around three hours of movie action before the screen fades to black.

Considering this is an ultrabook built for portability, the result is even more disappointing. The Asus Zenbook, for example, survived for over four hours with the same test. If you’re looking for a new laptop, you’ll have to seriously consider what’s more important to you – performance or longevity.

Verdict

Acer aspire s3-951 review

We’ve tested the first generation of ultrabooks, and so far we’ve liked what we’ve seen.

This attractive blend of performance and portability might not be new (as Apple fanboys will be quick to point out), and we’re not sure why it’s taken Intel’s intervention to stimulate manufacturers into producing mini laptops such as the Acer Aspire S3-951. However, for anyone who’s a regular road hog, the ultrabook is an enticing prospect.

We liked

The Acer Aspire S3-951’s slender chassis may not be as stupefyingly thin or sleek as the Asus Zenbook, but it’s still compact enough to fit in almost any bag. It’s also impressively tough considering the girth, with a firm lid and tough body.

We were impressed by the excellent Intel Core i7 processor performance, and saw next to no slowdown when running several applications at once. Multimedia software runs fine, and the ultrabook starts up and shuts down in no time at all.

If you need a machine to bash out emails and documents on the move, the Acer Aspire S3-951’s keyboard will do the job. It isn’t too cramped, despite the compact frame, with the exception of the miniscule arrow keys.

We disliked

Unfortunately, for a laptop marketed on its portability, the Acer Aspire S3-951’s battery life is pants. Just two and a half hours of movie playback on a single charge is below average, even for a bog-standard entry-level laptop.

We also had massive issues with the touchpad. Those integrated mouse buttons are a massive pain, and we resorted to tapping the surface to select menu options instead.

Anyone with a huge media collection will need to cart around an external hard drive, because only 200GB of storage space is available on the 240GB SSD.

Final verdict

While the Acer Aspire S3-951 is a well-built and powerful ultrabook, which offers good value for money, we were more drawn to the Toshiba Satellite Z830 and the Asus Zenbook. However, a cut-price Core i5 version of the Acer Aspire S3-951 can be had if your budget is tight, and nobody will be disappointed by the excellent performance of this Core i7 model.

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ViewSonic VX2739wm, 27-inch LCD monitor with a response time of 1ms

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ViewSonic VX2739wm, 27-inch LCD monitor with a response time of 1ms

Coming attractions by ViewSonic. The American company has announced the upcoming market introduction of a new 27-inch LCD monitor for all those who want uncompromised performance.

ViewSonic VX2739wm has a Full HD native resolution, has a 100,000:1 dynamic contrast ratio and a brightness of 300cd/m2. The factor that sets it apart from the crowd, however, is the response time set at a value never before achieved: a millisecond.

The display, as well as HDMI inputs, DVI and VGA, it boasts the presence of four USB ports and two speakers of 2W each.

ViewSonic VX2739wm is now in pre-order online store overseas at a price set at 349.99 U.S. dollars. At present there is no news on the actual availability of the product.

5800, v.50.0.005 firmware available for Product Code 0595998

After a few days from within the product code 0596011, with reporting by Manuel, we knows the number that Nokia has released new firmware for v.50.0.005 5800 with product code 0595998.
Completed thus expected to update the product code, at least for the No Brand. The devices branded by operators, however, almost certainly will not receive any updates.

You can upgrade to new firmware directly from the Nokia Software Updater.

44 of 100 iPad replace a netbook!

A recent survey by Alphawise, analyst Katy Huberty and Morgan Stanley, on March 2010, informed that 44% of shoppers have bought the iPad tablet sostituzone an Apple netbook / notebook!

The “middle way” between the iPhone and Macbook (so that the tablet was initially described in the Apple keynote in January) has been an enormous success, in both WiFi and 3G, as sales exceed one million devices!

The initial criticism from the iPad, focused on the impossibility of using such a product to a full replacement notebook! But it seems that many of these users would prefer the iPad to the laptop, did not consider therefore essential tastira physics, a webcam, a removable battery, Flash Support, Multi-tasking (which still will), etc..! It even seems that the iPad has slowed sales of notebooks in early 2010!

Probably it was the arrival of the iPad to direct the company HP, a leader in the field of notebookPC, the purchase of the Palm smartphone WebOS.

But while the iPad does not promote the sale of non-Apple laptops (20%), analysts tell us that in 41% of the tablet has replaced an iPod Touch, a Macbook in 24% and even 14% in the ‘buy a Mac (13% of a desktop PC)! Other data definitely positive for Cupertino indicate that 20 iPad of 100 have been purchased instead of another e-Reader is not Apple (like the Amazon Kindle’s) and in 17 cases out of 100 instead of a game-console, portable non-Apple (see Nintendo Game Boy and PSP).

Reade comic comics reader v2.03 for Windows Mobile, htc HD2 test on Video

We do not know how many of you read comics on a mobile device, but this program could be useful to someone. There are several programs for the iPhone and other devices. This program, comic reader, is also available for Windows Mobile and allows you to directly read a variety of formats like zip, rar, crb, cbz and directories containing images, all formats that are popular comics on the web.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet

Overview 

and features

For those with a penchant for tech throwbacks, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is a reminder of past accomplishments. With its all-black design and an optional pen with a large red faux-pa eraser, this tablet looks a bit like one of those original IBM ThinkPad notebooks from years ago. Sadly, its throwback design is still no match for the thin and powerful Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 or Apple iPad 2.

Like the Acer Iconia Tab A500 and Asus Eee Pad Transformer, the ThinkPad Tablet has quite a few extra ports including a camera card slot for loading images from a digital camera straight from the SD memory card, a USB port for connecting peripherals such as a keyboard and mouse and a micro-HDMI port for sending the screen out to your HD TV.

However, at 14.5mm thin and 748g heavy, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is not as sleek or portable as the Apple iPad 2.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, which runs on the Android 3.1 operating system, is loaded with the latest chips, as expected. There’s an Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core ARM Cortex-A9 1.0GHz processor, 1GB of DDR2 RAM, and – at least on the version we tested – 32GB of storage. Lenovo offers 16GB and 64GB versions as well, costing £683 for a 16GB Wi-Fi-only version, £788 for a 16GB Wi-Fi and 3G version and £885 for a 64GB Wi-Fi and 3G version.

The tablet has a 2MP front-facing camera and a rear 5MP camera for videos and photos. There’s a SIM slot for adding an optional 3G card, and Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections are both on board.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The most unique feature is the pen, which is thankfully just an optional add-on that enhances the interface in dramatic ways. For most tasks, you can just use finger presses and swipes. Yet, if you want to jot down notes, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet converts what you write to text quickly and, for the most part, accurately. You can also draw objects in a sketchpad and annotate documents with ease.

From a design standpoint, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet feels a bit chunky and is reminiscent of older slate tabs that ran on Windows Tablet PC. That said, unlike the Toshiba AT100 (known as the Toshiba Thrive in the US), the IPS screen, made of Gorilla Glass and so exceptionally durable, is viewable from a side angle, like the iPad 2’s.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

There are four buttons on the top left-hand side that serve as the screen lock, Web, Back and Home buttons.

The tablet is loaded with extra software. Lenovo includes the Documents To Go app, which normally costs £9.99 to download. Lenovo says its ThinkPad Tablet is the first Android tab to include the Netflix app – the popular US TV and movie streaming site – on its US models. There are two unique interface add-ons – one is an app launcher that sits in the centre of the screen, and the other is an app wheel that functions just like the app pop-up menu that’s standard with Android.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Lenovo advertises its ThinkPad Tablet as “professional grade”, and we think that means it’s focused less on the consumer side. That’s a good thing, because one of our overall impressions is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet runs slowly for video.

The Chinese PC maker might be targeting business people with the higher price as well. At £821 for the 32GB model (although currently offered at the discounted price of £580 on the Lenovo website), the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is one of the most expensive Android tablets around. It may not be worth the high price, but some of the features are definitely business friendly.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

In the box, Lenovo includes a charger and USB cable, but no earbuds, case or stand

.

Taking a tour around the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the first impression is that the tablet seems big and bulky. At 748g, it’s heavier than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, at 565g, and the Apple iPad 2, at 601g. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is even heavier than the Toshiba AT100, which we described as too bulky.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

There are ports galore, though. We tested the USB port, which is below the screen on the right, and it worked with a USB keyboard called the Luxeed, and even a wireless mouse from Microsoft. However, the tablet didn’t work with one USB flash drive loaded with music and video files. We tested another flash drive, formatted on the same Windows 7 PC as the first one, and it worked fine.

Above the USB slot, on the right-hand side, there’s a three-in-one camera flash card reader that works with SD, SDHC, and MMC cards up to 32GB. A docking port, micro USB port (for charging and swapping files) and a mini-HDMI port are also on the left-hand side. The power button is on the top to the left. On the left-hand side, there are volume control buttons and a slot for storing the pen.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The 1280 x 800 IPS display, measuring 10.1 inches, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, looked a bit dull for movie playback and games. At least it is viewable from a side angle, up to 178 degrees, since the technology is the same as the Apple iPad 2. Like almost every tablet we’ve tried, the screen glare on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is obnoxiously bad – the device is barely useable outside.

Other notable hardware features are here to appease the business user. For example, Lenovo includes an app that you can use to encrypt sensitive business documents stored on flash media. There’s also a handy USB file transfer app that works for copying internal files to an external hard drive or USB flash drive.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Battery life on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is about average for most Android tabs, lasting for around eight hours. In our testing, we experienced all-day usage from sun-up to sun down when we used the device under normal conditions for checking email, browsing the web and playing YouTube clips.

As expected, when we watched several episodes of The Killing one after the other, with the display turned up bright so we could see what was happening, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet only lasted for about four hours of continuous playback.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

One other hardware perk is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet comes with a service called PrinterShare. You install a utility on your PC, select your printer and can then print directly from the tablet – although you have to configure the printer under Settings – over a Wi-Fi network. Of course, the printer has to be on the same network as the tablet.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Interface


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Other than the slightly unusual hardware features, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet Tablet is also outfitted with some interesting new user interface enhancements. Some of them work well, but others aren’t as impressive.

The thing first you notice about the main screen is that Lenovo has added a Launcher widget in the centre of the screen where you can quickly start the internet browser, open a book, watch a movie or listen to music. The widget really only sends you to an app – Slacker Radio for music or the mSpot app for movies. For new users, the widget is a smart idea because it calls attention to main features on the device.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Another addition is the App Wheel. There’s an icon on the lower centre of the screen – press it and you’ll see a circle menu you use to start an app. This is different from the pop-up menu included with Android that shows you open apps – this wheel is for storing favourites. The App Wheel looks a bit clunky though, with an unconvincing drop-shadow. Also, it’s easier to just store apps on the desktop.

Both of these are just extra UI icing on the standard Android 3.1 interface. There are no radical interface overhauls like there will be with the Amazon Kindle Fire. There are also no app categorisation bins like there are with Samsung and Acer tabs, although these bins don’t add a lot of value.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Many of the other interface features are standard – you can drop widgets onto the main screens. None of these stray too far from the norm – Lenovo hasn’t added any extra widgets. There’s a back button on the lower left-hand side and a Home button in addition to the pop-up app menu.

One oddity, though, is that the hardware buttons on the left of the screen require that you press them close to the screen. If you press near the edge, the button might not work. In daily use, you might just skip these buttons altogether.

Market and apps


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Some of the best features on the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet are all behind the scenes. Lenovo includes IT-specific tools such as Computrace for finding a lost device or wiping the data if it’s stolen, LANDesk for pushing apps to the device over a network and requiring that data has to be encrypted when moved to an SD card, and the McAfee Security app, which is designed mostly for backing up and restoring data.

Lenovo went well beyond the norm for bundled apps. In addition to the IT tools, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet includes an app called ArcSync that enables you to synchronise documents, music files, photos and videos to a website, then sync the same media to your phone and computer.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet also includes Angry Birds HD, Documents to Go for viewing and editing Word, PowerPoint, Excel and PDF files, several “virtual” board games such as Backgammon and a few card games including Euchre and Spades.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

As you’d expect, all of the Android apps are here as well, including a light app for editing movies you’ve taken with the built-in camera, the Google Music app for syncing music to the cloud, a built-in Maps app that includes turn-by-turn navigation, and Google email, web browser and calendar apps.

One interesting addition has to do with the Lenovo app store, called App Shop. This cluttered app store pales in comparison to the Android Market. We searched for any pinball game and found none listed. Worse, the screenshots that show up on the main screen were stretched as though the app store was designed for a thinner tablet. When we searched for a PDF reader, the store only had two suggestions – one was the free Adobe reader.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

There’s also an AppVerse feature within Lenovo’s App Shop, which is designed to help you find the best apps. This enables you to browse through the popular apps suggested by other users. The section works like Twitter – you can follow other users and they can follow you. The main problem at the moment, though, is that there just weren’t enough users actively making app suggestions to make this feature useful.

Screen


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The summary so far is that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet does offer some extra IT services, there are some good bundled apps, and the Lenovo app store isn’t really worth the effort. But what about the screen? A tablet lives or dies on the quality, brightness, and touch input of the screen.

Lenovo uses the same IPS technology on the Apple iPad 2 that makes the screen viewable at a sharp angle. That was helpful in a crowded coffee shop when trying to work with a laptop and the tablet at the same time – sitting on a table, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet screen was still viewable.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The colour quality looked a bit dim, though, and the screen brightness isn’t anywhere near as luminescent as the iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1’s.

In terms of gesturing, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is just average. We didn’t notice any serious problems – in a session with Angry Birds HD the screen registered our flicks and swipes with ease. Pressing on an app icon registered quickly and accurately.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

However, during several tests with the keyboard, we found the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet would occasionally miss a finger press. There’s no haptic feedback (a slight buzz that tells you your finger registered) but the keyboard does make a chime to register a finger press.

For pen input, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet works wonderfully well if that’s what you need to do. Modern tablets are designed for finger input, but there were times when we used the pen to annotate a document, write down notes and control the interface. The pen proved to be highly responsive.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

Using the Notes Mobile app, we wrote out a grocery list and found that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet recorded these notes accurately as text.

In the SketchPad app, we drew a complex artistic drawing with the pen and were impressed with how accurate the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet registered every brush stroke and spray paint blob. We liked that Lenovo includes the pen not as a primary input device but as an extra option you can use when you need that functionality. There were no times when we felt dependent on the pen to control the tablet.

Usability

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet seems like a throwback device at times. The all-black design doesn’t help – it reminded us of a ThinkPad with the red mouse control nub from the early noughties. Lenovo meant for that to be a bit nostalgic we think, but the overall impression is that the design looks dated. The tablet felt a bit heavy and bulky, not exactly state-of-the-art thin and light like the Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 models.

We also found the buttons a bit superfluous. The buttons to the right of the screen are all repeated as software buttons, and our focus tended to stay on the screen. So we used the software home button more often, rarely used the hardware button for the web browser and never bothered locking the screen rotation, although that last one’s partly due to the fact that the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet rotates the screen correctly.

The ports tell a different story. We used the USB port with a USB flash drive throughout a day of testing, and snapped in an SD card from a Nikon D7000 camera several times.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

We also tested the mini-HDMI port with a 50-inch Sony HD TV, and were mightily impressed: the screen looked crisp and ran fast on the HD TV, and finger swipes were responsive, even with the mirroring.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

When we watched the movie Fast Five, playback looked a bit dim and had a poor, muddy contrast ratio, but at least the movie looked properly formatted and streamed fluidly from the mSpot app.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet lacks that pick-up-and-go aesthetic of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and Apple iPad 2. There’s something about the extra thinness of those devices that makes you think they’re designed to grab quickly to look up a recipe in the kitchen or flick through a website.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has a business-like aesthetic that’s designed more for a conference room than for quick YouTube sessions. It almost feels and looks like a small LCD from a Lenovo laptop, only at a 10 inch size.

Media


Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

By emphasising the business features on the ThinkPad Tablet, Lenovo has made some of the consumer features a little less compelling. There are no first party apps for renting movies, buying music, or serving up your photos to a secure image library. Instead, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet relies heavily on apps.

For example, the mSpot service is included for renting Hollywood movies. This app is actually quite useful, because it streams movies instead of forcing you to download them first. So, in our test of the movie Fast Five, the first chapter of the movie started playing immediately after we rented it. You can set the app to use a low bandwidth or high bandwidth mode, which determines the quality level.

At the high bandwidth setting, the movie looked similar in quality to a LoveFilm or BBC iPlayer stream. The low bandwidth setting made movies look almost unwatchable, with a soft jagged look to objects.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

For music, there are a few options available, but none of them match the tight infrastructure of iTunes. The main portal is the Amazon MP3 app, but there’s also a music purchase store from mSpot. If you have your own music, you can load files onto the tablet easily using a USB flash drive, connected over Wi-Fi, or from an SD card. When you do, you can use the Google Music app for playback and cloud storage.

From what we hear about the Amazon Kindle Fire, these features might all suddenly seem outdated and even archaic. The Kindle Fire enables you to store all media in the cloud for free, and that feature is baked right into the device – it will be seamless. That means every photo, movie, music file and document will be transferred automatically over to a cloud server from the Kindle Fire.

With the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, and every other Android tablet, cloud integration is app-specific.

We had no problems with media support – the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet worked fine with every music file we loaded, including several WAV and MP3 files. We also loaded several hundred JPG photos. The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet worked well in terms of playing these media files and formatting them for the screen.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet review

The one glitch we noticed appeared when we loaded Windows Media video files for the TV show The Killing. The videos would stutter and pause occasionally. We loaded the exact same files, which weren’t even HD quality, on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, and they played smoothly.

Camera

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

Let’s be clear about camera technology on tablets: it is not what it should be. Shots with the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet tended to look a tad blurry, with a washed-out look and lack of colour variance. In fact, comparing the photos to those taken with a handheld Samsung Galaxy S2 smartphone, there is quite a disparity.

In a pinch, when all you have available is the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, the camera does work OK. But there were times when it was difficult to hold the tablet steady, and shots looked blurry.

Indoor shots looked less colourful than those taken outside on a bright sunny day. The problem isn’t particular to the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet – no modern tablet is really ideal for taking photos.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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Lenovo thinkpad tablet

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In terms of videos, colour quality was also an issue, but there wasn’t as much of a problem with blurriness. In a scan of a back garden scene, the video looked clear enough and had some colour variance, but the movie wasn’t nearly as impressive as what you’ll find on any typical handheld pocket camera, and is definitely far worse than a dedicated video camera or the video mode on a DSLR.

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet offers a few extra scene modes than we’re used to on Android tablets. You can quickly press the scene button and select a setting for a beach, sunset, snow or even fireworks. There’s also a solarise setting, which casts your image in a pale silver outline. White balance settings for indoor shots or even on a cloudy day help to improve colour accuracy.

There are no scene settings for the video mode, though, other than using black-and-white, sepia or other colour modes. For video, it would have helped to have scene modes that improve shutter speed for recording at a sporting event or for low light conditions (say, a birthday party).

Verdict

Lenovo thinkpad tablet

We ended up liking what Lenovo has done to make its ThinkPad Tablet a more professional-grade tablet than some of the competition. IT folks can track the device and wipe data if it’s stolen, the back-up app from McAfee means not worrying about lost business documents. Help desk staff can push apps to the device, which isn’t something Samsung or Apple offer out of the box.

Overall, the design is a bit dated, which is odd for an Android tablet. It has a throwback look that seems more like a Lenovo laptop than a sleek, modern tablet. The device is a bit hefty and bulky for daily use, but if you are a mobile professional and need to run a Citrix client all day and tap into your ERP system, then the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has you covered – and you might be willing to overlook the design issues.

That said, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is also a poor consumer choice. The AVI movies we tested stuttered and looked washed out, like looking through a steam-covered window.

There isn’t the same quick mobile movie session of competing tablets, and that’s a shame, because even for business use there are times when watching a movie on an aeroplane or at the hotel makes sense.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet beats several other Android tablets, including the Acer Iconia Tab A500, the Toshiba AT100, the Motorola Xoom, and the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Each of those tablets also provide some extra ports, including one for USB connections, that make them more suited for a PC-centric tablet user, but are not exactly thin and light enough for mobile entertainment.

Yet, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet adds some extra business-oriented features. We loved the pen input for jotting down notes and drawing in pen-enabled apps. Other than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the iPad 2 and potentially the Kindle Fire, which is coming to the US soon, the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is a good bet.

We liked

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet has extra business features for tracking the device in case it’s stolen or lost, pushing apps for a secure install and backing up your data.

The pen, which slips into a holder below the screen, is useful for making notes that are accurately converted into text, and for making original art sketches.

The eight-hour battery life is about what we’d expect from a 10-inch tablet – the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet lasted all day and them some for typical web browsing and email activities.

We disliked

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet felt bulky and heavy compared to thinner tablets on the market. The all-black design works well at the office, but not so much on a long plane ride or at a sporting event. Other sleeker and more modern-looking tablets point to a future age when most computing takes place on a thin device.

The camera, like the one included with most tablets, is just not that great. It’s hard to take really compelling photos and videos and want to keep them forever (aka, on Facebook). Some AVI videos played with stuttering that made the TV show unwatchable.

It’s unfortunate that not many apps actually support the annotation features – the pen didn’t work with Adobe Reader or Documents To Go. That means the pen is useful but not essential.

Final verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet is a smart option for those who need to use a tablet at work. It has an understated but somewhat bulky design that fits well with a full-size laptop.

Movies and other media are hit and miss, but mostly miss because of the less than colourful screen and choppy playback.

Our final conclusion is that this tablet is better than many other Android models, mostly because of the extra ports and the business apps, but the larger size and weight make it a runner-up to Apple and Samsung models.

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Review: Samsung RV720

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With its 17.3-inch screen, the Samsung RV720 is a large laptop. It isn’t quite the chunkiest, with a surprisingly slim body considering the girth, but at 2.8kg it is pretty heavy.

While it can feasibly be carried around if needed, it works much better as a desktop replacement machine, especially given the mediocre battery life. For a family machine that will sit on your desk at home, this is a great option.

We loved the half-metallic, half-gloss design. The brushed aluminium palmrests are resistant to fingerprints and smudges and also reassuringly solid. We pushed and prodded the laptop as much as we dared and found no weak points.

Like most of the new laptops around, one of Intel’s Sandy Bridge processors provides excellent performance. It’s the same model as found in the Acer Aspire 5750G, but while the Acer has a mammoth 6GB of memory, this Samsung opts for a more modest 4GB.

The difference in our benchmark tests was minimal, however. Only the Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E520 and Medion Akoya E6221 were significantly more powerful with their beefy Core i5 processors.

We found we could run all kinds of applications at once with no significant impact on performance. Whether you enjoy catching up with friends on social networking sites, watching the latest films in high definition (HD), or touching up your holiday snaps, this laptop can handle it.

However, the basic integrated graphics means that you’re limited when it comes to complex multimedia tasks. For instance, while you can play older games with high detail levels and get a smooth frame-rate, the latest titles will stutter and crawl. Gamers are better off with the Acer 5750G or Lenovo ThinkPad E520.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 158 minutes
Cinebench: 7262
3DMark 2006: 3267

Movie lovers will rejoice, however, at the large and crisp 17.3-inch widescreen display. Photos and films look fantastic on the glossy panel, with rich colours and pleasing brightness levels.

Audio is also acceptable, although music and sound does distort occasionally on top volume. As with most laptops, you’re better off with an external pair of speakers or a set of headphones.

Excellent keyboard

Samsung rv720

If you spend large amounts of time emailing friends, you’ll need a comfortable keyboard. Thankfully, the Samsung’s board has a lot of space to work with, thanks to the wide chassis. Keys are well spaced, using the popular isolation style. This means that each key protrudes through its own individual hole in the frame, with the resulting gaps between them meaning you’re less likely to miss-hit keys. This is also one of the firmest boards in this group.

Like the Acer and Medion, a generous 640GB of storage gives you plenty of space to hold your files, software and media such as songs and photos.

VGA and HDMI ports can be used to connect external monitors and televisions, if the screen isn’t quite big enough to satisfy you, while an SD card reader is a quick and easy way of accessing your photos and other data from your mobile devices.

You also get built-in Bluetooth, which can be used to connect compatible headsets or transfer data with other devices.

If you’ve been hunting for a desktop replacement machine to entertain you and your family at home, the Samsung RV720 is well worth considering. The excellent performance and crisp, colourful 17.3-inch screen are highlights, although the lack of dedicated graphics is a shame.

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Review: Toshiba Tecra R840-11E

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Toshiba’s Tecra range strikes a fine balance between consumer and business laptops. The Tecra R840-11E offers tons of business features and great performance in a light and slim body, but at a price that isn’t out of grasp for the average consumer.

The first of the business features is a built-in fingerprint scanner wedged between the mouse buttons. You can use this to log on to your laptop, which saves the hassle of remembering complex passwords.

An ExpressCard slot allows you to add peripherals, such as graphics cards, TV Tuner cards and extra storage, while an eSATA port can be used to back up your files to an external hard drive.

DisplayPort and VGA ports mean you can hook up an external monitor or projector. You can even connect wirelessly with compatible televisions.

Your data will be protected from theft by the aforementioned fingerprint scanner, but it’s also protected against accidental damage by the hard drive. If the drive detects an unexpected motion (for example, the laptop plummeting off a desk), it will reset itself. This lowers the risk of failure on impact.

While 320GB of storage space isn’t a lot, it should still suit most users who simply want to carry their important files around, as well as a modest collection of songs and photos.

More impressive is the fact that Toshiba has squeezed in a DVD drive. Not a bad effort, considering the slender body measures just 31mm at its thickest point and weighs a modest 2.1kg. With its compact chassis, it fits with ease into most bags.

You can find more portable business machines out there, such as the Samsung 9000 Series and Sony’s VAIO Z-Series, but they tend to cost more than the Tecra R840’s price tag.

However, while the Tecra may be slim and light, we weren’t exactly excited by the plain black design. The frame and lid have a bevelled plastic texture, which does a great job of hiding fingerprints and scuff marks, but isn’t visually appealing. Thankfully there isn’t much flex, and the lid is particularly solid.

One of Intel’s latest Sandy Bridge Core i5 2520M 2.5GHz processors is the brains behind this laptop. Combined with 4GB of memory, performance is even better than we expected. Not only can you run all of your business software, you can often run them together at the same time, with no kind of slowdown evident.

Basic integrated graphics mean you can’t run the latest games, but then you would rather be working on a spreadsheet, right? We still found some down-time to watch a high-definition (HD) movie, which played perfectly, and you can even edit photos from your collection and movies.

TechRadar Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 239 minutes
Cinebench: 10,650
3DMark 2006: 3741

Of course, with its matt TFT finish, the 14-inch screen was not designed for enjoying films. Images are crisp, but the best part of this display is the lack of reflections when used outside or in bright offices. If you’re constantly on the move and need a machine for staying productive, then consider this laptop.

Portability is further improved by the excellent battery life. We watched movies for four hours before the Tecra died, while less power-sapping activities such as browsing the web stretches battery life out to five or six hours.

Sleep-and-charge technology means you can connect your portable devices via USB, such as smartphones and MP3 players, and charge them even when the laptop is hibernating.

Usability is another important consideration and while the keyboard looks and feels rather plasticky, it’s well-sized with covered gaps between the keys. The keys have a shallow travel when you hit them, which we weren’t huge fans of, but it didn’t stop us touch-typing at our usual pace. You also have an ‘eco mode’ shortcut key which lets you fiddle with power settings.

The touchpad is a generous size and perfectly smooth. The mouse buttons are firmly mounted, but are strangely sunken into the palmrest, which makes them awkward to push at times. Toshiba has included a pointing stick alternative to using the touchpad, which is a tiny nubbin mounted in the middle of the keyboard. Pushing it around moves the on-screen cursor, but we personally prefer the touchpad.

Managing to cram impressive performance and a mass of excellent business features into a slim and light body, Toshiba has impressed with the Tecra R840. The design is basic and there are some slight usability issues, but if you need a portable business solution on a limited budget, you could do a lot worse.

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