Vista Shines as Tablet Platform

Review: Tests of 2 Tablets Show the OS Smooths, Enhances Computing Experience

Microsofts decision to incorporate tablet PC features and functionality into the Windows Vista operating system is one that eWeek Labs believes will help to convert tablet PC skeptics.

We installed the operating system on two tablet PCs—Lenovo Groups ThinkPad X60 Tablet and Fujitsus LifeBook T4215—and found that Microsoft has delivered a much more practical and smoother tablet experience in Vista.

ThinkPad X60 Tablet

Weve always been fans of Lenovos ThinkPad notebooks, so it was no surprise that we were pleased by the Vista experience on the ThinkPad X60 Tablet.

Released in late 2006, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet is a convertible notebook with a starting weight of 3.8 pounds. With an eight-cell battery, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet can deliver more than 8 hours of battery life at a slightly increased weight of about 4.16 pounds.

In its basic configuration, the ThinkPad X60 Tablet comes with Intels 1.67GHz Core Duo L2400 LV processor; 1GB of RAM; a 60GB hard drive; Intels GMA (Graphics Media Accelerator) 945; and an integrated Intel Wi-Fi module capable of accessing 802.11a/b/g networks. This configuration is priced at $1,823.

The ThinkPad X60 Tablet we tested had the same configuration except for a slightly larger (80GB) hard drive. Our $1,879 evaluation unit came with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005 installed and had a 12.1-inch TFT (thin-film transistor) XGA display.

Installing Vista on the ThinkPad X60 Tablet was almost problem-free. Before installation, we used Microsofts Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to determine what issues we might run into during the upgrade process. The Upgrade Advisor, which determined that the Windows Vista Business SKU was best for our hardware configuration, could not see the DVD drive in our docking station for some reason. Since we knew we had a DVD drive, we chose to go ahead with the installation.

The Vista installation took about an hour on the ThinkPad X60 Tablet and required that we uninstall Symantec Antivirus, which came installed directly from Lenovo.

Once Vista was installed, we found that we were missing only a few drivers. We had no problems using the ThinkPad TrackPoint or the digital stylus, which we used for taking notes with the Windows Journal application that comes with Vista.

We did, however, run into issues when it came to using Lenovos suite of ThinkVantage support tools. We had to download software from the Lenovo Web site and then install it before we could use any Lenovo tools. We also ran into a problem using the biometric fingerprint reader, but we found no Vista driver that could fix it. Lenovo officials said they are working on a fix.

When the ThinkPad X60 Tablet was first announced, we were concerned with Lenovos decision not to release it with a Core 2 Duo processor and instead go with the ultra-low-voltage Core Duo processor. However, Vista ran fine on the unit. In fact, our evaluation system turned in a respectable 3 (out of 5) on the Windows Experience Index score.

The overall Windows Experience Index score is based on the lowest score in each of five categories: processor, memory, graphics, gaming graphics capability and hard drive. The ThinkPad X60 Tablets graphics adapter and memory came up short on the index, but business users should get more than enough performance when running Vista on the system.

Overall, we found the ThinkPad X60 Tablet to be a good Vista machine. The handwriting recognition is greatly improved, and pen flicks, which allow users to navigate the notebook using a flick of the pen, are an addition tablet PC users are bound to use extensively.

IT managers considering the ThinkPad X60 Tablet for their user base should consider the multitouch/multiview display if they have outdoor users or those who might benefit from touch-screen functionality. Vistas touch-screen capabilities are what the ThinkPad X60 Tablets display is made for. We do, however, recommend the eight-cell battery (an additional $50) for all users.

With a four-cell battery, we got almost 3 hours of battery performance from our ThinkPad X60 Tablet evaluation unit. Despite fears about Vistas power-hungry nature, we saw no noticeable battery performance degradation when running Vista, as opposed to Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005, on the notebook.

Fujitsu LifeBook T4215

Fujitsus lifebook t4215 is a convertible notebook best suited for those who make heavy use of tablet capabilities but who want access to a traditional laptop.

The base configuration of the LifeBook T4215, which was released late last year, includes Intels 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 processor; 512MB of RAM; a 40GB hard drive; and an integrated Intel Wi-Fi module capable of accessing 802.11a/b/g networks. This configuration, which is priced at $1,799, also includes a Modular DVD/CD-RW Combo Drive.

The LifeBook T4215 we tested was armed with the more robust 2GHz Intel T2700 Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM and a 100GB hard drive. Our unit was also equipped with an indoor/outdoor display with wide viewing angles and a modular dual-layer, multiformat DVD drive. In this configuration, the LifeBook T4215 costs $2,429.

For users who want to run Vista on their LifeBook T4215, we recommend buying at least 1GB of SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM).

Like the Lenovo X60 Tablet, our LifeBook T4215 evaluation unit shipped with Windows XP Tablet PC Edition 2005. Microsofts Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor, which we ran before installing Vista, determined that Vista Business was best suited for our hardware configuration. The Advisor warned us to uninstall Norton AntiVirus and the Toshiba Bluetooth Stack before proceeding with the Vista upgrade.

Installation of Vista took about an hour. Upon booting Vista for the first time, we scanned our LifeBook T4215 to determine its score on the Windows Experience Index. Our configuration got a score of 2.3 out of 5, hindered by the LifeBook T4215s graphics performance when running Windows Aero. When it came to processing performance, though, the system got extremely high marks.

Despite the lower graphics score, we found that the LifeBook T4215 handled Aero just fine. As with the Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Tablet, Vista dramatically improved the handwriting experience on the LifeBook. Handwriting recognition was faster and more accurate than it was pre-Vista, and the full-featured TIP (Tablet Input Panel) made input easy.

However, the first time we ran Vista, the calibration of the LifeBooks pen was off by more than an inch. Rebooting fixed that issue, but we found the LifeBook T4215s pen and screen to be less responsive than the Lenovo ThinkPad T60 Tablets. For example, when it came to pen flicks, we were never able to move the pen just right; the ThinkPad was much more forgiving.

We also ran into some issues when using the fingerprint reader on the LifeBook T4215 running Vista. Other than that, however, there were no driver issues that couldnt be easily remedied downloading fixes off the Fujitsu Web site. ´

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com.