Lenovo ThinkPad Twist; Best Tablet Hybrid for Business? [Review]

Lenovo’s ThinkPad Twist caught our attention when we were looking for the so-called best tablet laptop (ultrabook) hybrid for business users. Lenovo’s ThinkPad Twist is the latest in a string of Windows 8-running tablet-laptop hybrids, and it’s a lot different from what the competitions are coming up with. But being a tablet hybrid, it stays true to to what a tablet-ultrabook hybrid is expected to feature; it has a screen that rotates and can be used as a tablet/slate. With its well engineered keyboard, the red pointer and the secondary touch button set, it is as business-friendly as its predecessors. It also has the added advantage of the Windows 8 Pro touch-friendly OS, which supports a wide array of gestures. While there are other touch capable notebooks, this one is exclusively meant for business users.

Design and Usability

The design and appearance is in line with Lenovo’s ThinkPad series, with its soft touch black finish and rounded edges, the island style keyboard and the logos with the gleaming ‘i’s. However, this is a low end machine, with a lot of plastic being used in the build, and of course, the price is much lesser than the others in the range. It weighs in at a slightly chunky 3.49 pounds, but is easy to hold, and it does feel solid; compared to a tablet, it may be a tad cumbersome. The screen is responsive and the soft material is nice to feel with your fingers.

You can rotate the screen clockwise to use it in tablet mode; moving it from tablet to laptop mode takes a bit of hard work though. The accelerometer is not super efficient in tablet mode. Surprise, surprise: this machine has an Ethernet jack. So if you’d rather plug your computer in to access the Internet, the option is available. You also have 2 USB ports, a mini-Display Port, HDMI out and headphone jack, along with a Micro SD card reader slot. You also have a screen lock button.

The keyboard is similar to the ones found in the ThinkPad range. The island style keyboard has 6 rows and is in the chiclet layout, with 30% extra surface area than before, meaning they are more spaced out. It’s also spill resistant, so you can drink that Latte while working, without worrying about your laptop. The ergonomics on this keyboard make typing less of a chore. If you’ve been using a Lenovo from time immemorial, you might have a few hiccups adjusting to the new style.

There are also 4 new hotkeys in the Function row, and there is no backlighting for the keyboard. So this means that while touch input is available for search settings and so on, you also have keyboard shortcuts if that’s what you like. The red pointing stick is as accurate as ever, when you need to move the cursor on the screen. You can also push it to the left or right to zip thru the Live Tiles. The touchpad is good for Windows 8 specific gestures, though its performance is wee bit unpredictable yet.

Screen, Multimedia, Performance, Apps

The 12.5 inch Gorilla Glass lets you view from several different angles, and its brightness rating is pretty good too. The 1,366 x 768 pixel display may disappoint some users, considering that most other laptops in this range have a 1,600 x 900 resolution. As a touchscreen, the Twist’s screen works very well. It’s responsive and accurate, and multi-touch gestures are smooth – more on par with a tablet than with a laptop. It’s similar to the Yoga’s touchscreen, which is also responsive and smooth. Video looks and sounds pretty mediocre on the Twist. HD streaming video plays back fairly smoothly as well.

ThinkPad Twist’s extra-bright 350nit HD display and Dolby Home Theatre should deliver an impressive multimedia experience for everything from video presentations to playing your favorite movie on a flight. You can also connect the Twist to a HDTV or projector with the Twist’s mini-HDMI or DisplayPort jack. Like the new IdeaPad Yoga, you can convert the Twist into a “stand” for presentations or collaboration with others while taking advantage of the multitouch screen.

Though it takes 17 seconds to boot up, considerably slower than other Win 8 machines, it’s not a bad proposition really. The graphics capability is pretty good, and considering this is aimed at business execs, shouldn’t be much of a problem. The battery life, just 4 hours, leaves something to be desired, though. Preloaded apps include Evernote, Skype, Accuweather, Kindle app, eBay and so on. It is available with i3 and i5 processors, so you can choose depending on your needs and budget.

Bottom line

Although the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist has its flaws, it does what it’s designed to do very well. The Twist’s performance is a little on the low side for systems in its class, but it’s nothing to be too concerned about. The ThinkPad Twist is innovative and affordable, but with the poor battery life, some of the executives at whom this is aimed, may well run for cover. Overall, the ThinkPad Twist has some issues, and it’s not designed for entertainment. But if you’re just looking for a business tablet-Ultrabook hybrid, then this laptop is definitely worth a look.

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