REVIEW: Lenovo T400s Touch-Screen Is Responsive and Smudge-Resistant

Lenovo's T400s touch-screen model is as solid a laptop as the non-touch-enabled T400s, but a dearth of touch-enabled apps as well as a premium for the touch-screen make the system less than compelling at this time. However, in eWEEK Labs' tests, the system was responsive and even passed the post-lunch smudge test, and the future looks brighter for touch systems when Windows 7's enhanced touch capabilities are considered.

Lenovo's T400s touch-screen model responds well to taps and gestures and even passed eWEEK Labs' dreaded post-lunch smudge test, but a dearth of touch-enabled applications-plus a premium of $400 for the touch-screen-should place the new Lenovo unit on IT managers' "consider for the future" list. That said, the non-touch-enabled T400s is a stalwart system that is worth putting at the top of any organization's laptop shortlist.

The latest member of the Lenovo T-series laptop family started shipping in September. It weighs 3.91 pounds with the optical drive and is 13.3 by 9.5 by 0.89 inches when used with the six-cell, 5.5-hour battery. The T400s multitouch uses a 25-watt processor and either an Intel Core 2 Duo SP9400 (2.4GHz) or SP9600 (2.53GHz). Other battery options are rated at up to 8.5 hours of operation.

Click here for images of the Lenovo T400s touch-screen laptop.

The T400s multitouch system starts at $1,979 with 2GB of RAM and no camera. The unit I tested priced out at $2,479, including the optional 128GB solid-state drive and Bluetooth support. In addition, my test system was equipped with the Intel Wireless Wi-Fi 5100 for 802.11b, g and draft-n connectivity. Lenovo also offers optional WiMax and wireless broadband network hardware.

I tested the touch-enabled T400s with Windows 7, which includes enhanced touch capabilities that will make multitouch notebooks more appealing. Lenovo also makes the unit available with Windows XP and Windows Vista, both of which have some support for touch features.

For systems running Windows 7, Lenovo includes the new SimpleTap feature. Activating SimpleTap by tapping the screen with two fingers brought up a palette of on-screen icons that control hardware functions such as turning the camera, microphone and speakers on and off. In general, the capacitive multitouch screen accurately responded to light taps and finger gestures with a minimum of practice.

Using my fingertip and Paint, I was also able to use the multitouch screen to create crude pictures. Using my fingertip instead of the mouse, I used tools such as Select to quickly and easily manipulate images. It was usually easier for me to work with images by directly touching the screen rather than indirectly through the touchpad or mouse.

To resist fingerprints and smudges, the surface of the T400s has an "oleophobic" (fear of fat) coating. I used the touch-screen throughout the day, which included several doughnut breaks. Taking only moderate care to wash my hands, the screen remained clean and remarkably free of smudges, with only an occasional wipe needed to clear debris.

The extra screen coatings that enable touch sensitivity and smudge protection only slightly dull screen brightness.

The main body of the T400s multitouch remains the same as the unit I reviewed in June, with the following exceptions: The new laptop's screen is almost imperceptibly thicker, and the tension in the hinge is stiffer, to hold the screen in place while it is being tapped.