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Lenovo ThinkPad, a tablet with ‚Ouch’



If you’re wondering why Lenovo has been so quiet about their entry into the tablet market, it may just be that there is too much to talk about. As in too much weight, too much heft, and too much ‚Ouch‚ , says ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK, as he puts the ThinkPad through the Ten Question Tablet Test.

The new version of Android, 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich, comes with a slogan that must appear wishful thinking to users of earlier versions: “Enchant me. Simplify my life. Make me awesome.”” While some tablets using earlier versions of Android, like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and HTC Flyer do indeed enchant, they still have to discover the second two parts of the slogan.

Can the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, running Honeycomb ‚ Android 3.1 ‚ enchant?

The Lenovo brand is certainly a rarity in being enchanting in the notebook arena. Its ThinkPad X1 notebook, described as the thinnest business laptop on the market, offered enterprise users the same sexy look and feel as well as portability that tends to be associated only with ultrabooks like the MacBook Air. On top of that, Lenovo asserted, it passed such stringent military tests, it could be used in any environment.

Lenovo South Africa’s country manager, Henry Ferreira, appropriately described the X1 as ‚the ultimate do machine for users who lead the economy by getting things done quickly, efficiently, anywhere, anytime‚ .

However, Lenovo’s first tablet, the IdeaPad Tablet K1, couldn’t claim the same accolades. When Lenovo launched it in South Africa last year, it did so with little fanfare, and it seemed to dim the brand’s notebook legacy.

Can the new ThinkPad tablet restore this legacy? Our Ten Question Tablet Test (updated for 2012), explores this question.

Spot the difference: The author holds the Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet, in the middle of a sandwich with the Apple iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

1. General look and feel (aesthetic judgement, differentiation in look and feel)

The ThinkPad is a different breed of tablet, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. Two things stand out, and the most obvious is its size. At 10.1‚ , it may not have the largest screen of any tablet we’ve seen. As tablets go, it simply looks big, and begs the question of whether a more functional ultrabook wouldn’t be a better choice. And with a thickness of 0.6‚ (14.5mm), it is almost twice as ‚ let’s not mince words here ‚ fat as its main competitors.

You also can’t miss the four control buttons, below the screen in portrait mode. Along with a wide bevel, they add to the impression both of size and functionality, again suggesting that this tablet really wanted to be a notebook when it grew up.

Score: 6/10

2. Keep control (How effective are the control buttons ‚ hardware, software, on-off)

The first sign of trouble is the Power button. It is almost hidden away, in a recess on the top right hand side of the device. Once you find it ‚ and in the dark that is not a certainty even once you’ve used it for a while ‚ you have to hold it down firmly for around 10 seconds before it provides the feedback buzz that tells you the device is going to turn on. In other words, the time it takes other tablets to boot up, is required merely to switch this one on. Those with big fingers might find even this task beyond them.

The four control buttons have great potential: Home, Return, Browser and Aspect Lock (to prevent it slipping from portrait to landscape mode when you don’t want it happening) are all fairly standard. However, they need a determined click to get them to respond, and the Return button sometimes doesn’t respond at all. Replace it with a Power button that responds instantly, and half the pains that come with this device will disappear.

The virtual control buttons include Home, Return, Open Apps and, err, Open Apps buttons. Clearly, a user interface engineer somewhere has difficulty openeing apps.

Score: 4/10

3. The sound of one-hand tapping (Can you comfortably hold it in one hand and operate it in the other? i.e. a weight test)

One word: ouch. When you say 750g (average between 3G and non-3G version), it doesn’t sound like much. In a tablet, it is not the sound you want to hear. This is not merely heavier than any other tablet we’ve tried, it takes the weight test to a new level. Unless you are regularly doing weight training, there is no way you could use this on the run, holding it in one hand and navigating or typing with the other.

Score: 3/10

4. The Angry Birds test (How responsive is the device in interactive tasks?)

The ThinkPad gets its fuel from a Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor and 1GB of memory. This is just enough to ensure it is smooth and responsive during interactive tasks. It handled both undemanding and demanding games, ranging from Angry Birds (pre-installed) to Lane Splitter, with little noticeable lag in the former, but a suspicion of catching you unawares in the latter. Where precision timing is needed, it doesn’t have quite the edge, but you’d have to be alert to notice.

Score: 8/10

5. The tablet gender test (How well does it multi-task?)

A virtual menu button on the bottom left of the screen, alongside the virtual Home button, calls up all currently running apps. In truth, it is a button to show all open windows, but the result is the same. Open windows appear in a stacked menu format on the left of the screen, which also allow you to close these windows by clicking the X in the corner of each image in the menu.

A virtual control button at the bottom centre of the screen allows for a form of managing multitasking. It is really intended for highlighting favourites, but before you’ve set your favourites, by default it shows most recent apps used. Aside from looking like a cross between the BlackBerry and WhatsApp logos, it sometimes needs two taps to bring up a carousel of open apps on the right side of the screen. These can be clicked to open any apps in current use.

A context-related in-app settings button appears alongside the virtual buttons once any app is opened, much as with any Android tablet.

The device handles multiple open apps with ease and without apparent memory challenges.

Score: 8/10

6. One to rule them all (Can it replace a PC or laptop? Does it make your life easier?)

The ThinkPad tablet is unnecessarily complicated for a device that is meant to represent simplified computing. Aside from the button array discussed below, the slots and ports present a number of problems. A full-sized USB port is placed on the left side of the device, as the sole feature on the left edge. The micro-USB port, on the other hand, is crammed in between an HDMI and power port along the bottom ‚ which in turn reside alongside a headphone jack on one side and, on the other, a port door that needs especially long nails to open. If you get the door open, you’re rewarded with an SD slot and 3G SIM slot.

It’s not as if there’s no space on the other edges: the Power button is the solo feature on the right hand edge, and two volume buttons are the lone arrangements along the top.

The software arrangement starts with an opening window showing the Lenovo Launch Zone, which comprises four major categories of content or applications, both Launch Zone and general tablet settings widgets and a browser widget in the centre. The core function widgets here, Watch, Listen and Read, link to apps related to those functions.

Confusingly, it offers both a Lenovo App Shop and the Android Market, with little indication of which is best or most appropriate, and the Lenovo version offering little benefit over the standard alternative.

Pre-installed apps include a trial version of McAfee Security ‚ an approach already discredited in the laptop world. However, it makes up for this with Docs To Go and a file manager called USB File Copy, which facilitates moving files between the tablet and its storage options. It is also pre-loaded with Amazon Kindle, Zinio, Movie Studio and Google Maps, among other, providing a satisfying honeymoon experience when starting out with the device.

The real difference comes in when you add the optional keyboard folio case. This is an almost seamless approach to turning the tablet into a laptop. The connection is via the USB port, which may appear to explain why the port is by itself on the bottom of the tablet. However, the case also blocks access to the SD port. It does keep the micro-USB port open for both charging and file transfer, so it is something of a compromise, but not the most sensible approach.

The main problem, when using it in keyboard mode, is that what was a heavy tablet now becomes a heavy notebook. Most ultrabooks will give this combo a run for its money.

Score: 7/10

7. Live long and prosper (How’s the battery life?)

It offers 8 hours, and delivers 8 hours. That’s not as good as the main rivals, but an okay average.

Score: 7/10.

8. Sound and vision (Video and audio quality?)

It may be a top-of-the-range tablet, but both audio and HD video are average.

Score: 7/10

9. The new new (innovations and unique features)

Aside from offering all the features and ports a tablet should, the most innovative features are the seamless integration of the keyboard folio case, and slot for an optional digital pen. If you take up the latter option, you will be using a DuoSense digitizer, a battery-charged digital pen that integrates easily with the tablet. The main problem here is that the only native app that can take advantage of it is the Notes Mobile note-taker ‚ and it operates only in portrait mode.

Score: 5/10

10. The Price Test (Is it competitively priced?)

One word: ouch. If you bought this at around R9 000 before accessories, I have one question for you: What were you thinking?

Score: 4/10

In conclusion

Total score: 59%

Two simple features, weight and price, will quickly convince you to look elsewhere.

* Arthur Goldstuck is editor-in-chief of Gadget and heads up World Wide Worx ( Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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Amazfit Bip – An unassuming smartwatch competitor

The Amazfit Bip has everything a smartwatch needs: notifications, heart rate monitoring and a month-long battery life, writes BRYAN TURNER.



The Amazfit Bip is one of the most appealing devices in the smartwatch lineup from Huami, a low-cost brand backed by Xiaomi.

Coming in at around R1500 depending on where you shop, the price point puts the Bip into the budget smartwatch space. Combined with a large set of offerings, it makes one wonder: “Why aren’t more smartwatches like this?”

Aesthetically, the rectangular face is similar to the Apple Watch but, on closer inspection, is more reminiscent of the Pebble Time smartwatch. Ergonomically, the Bip has a single button which mostly acts as an unlock button and a back button in menus. The watch strap is made of hypoallergenic silicone and is replaceable. 

The Bip has an always-on transflective colour screen with a backlight for darker situations. This kind of display is very similar to a 90’s Gameboy, and happens to be quite the power saver. The display is covered with 2.5D curved Corning Gorilla glass with an anti-fingerprint coating, giving that extra bit of knock resistance.

The unit is 18 grams without the strap and 32 with it on, making for an extremely light smartwatch that’s roughly half the weight of the Apple Watch. While the Bip is rated IP68 in terms of waterproofing and dustproofing (meaning it can withstand 30 minutes of being under 1.5 meters of water), Huami’s website says that it should not be used while swimming, diving or bathing, and should not be taken into a sauna. When the Bip we used got dirty from rock climbing, it was washed with a soap-free cleanser (as Fitbit recommends) and a soft-bristled toothbrush.

GPS tracking with a visual route of a run.

The number of sensors in the Bip is astonishing: heart rate sensor, accelerometer, geomagnetic sensor, barometer, and GPS. This sensor set is usually reserved for the premium smartwatch market but budget Bip packs all of these. Most interestingly, the geomagnetic sensor allows for compass readings (as well as assisting the GPS in locating the watch while it’s moving) and the barometer for measuring elevation by detecting changes in pressure. 

Battery life has been optimised to a month of regular use, with some reports measuring up to 45-days with the heart rate sensor off. Huami claims the smartwatch can last for 4 months with only step and sleep tracking on. The 190mAh battery was run down in 28 hours with the GPS, barometer and heart rate sensor set to permanently on.

The built-in software is basic and lacks app support but redeems itself in other areas. Firstly, the customisation of watch faces is limited but can be easily changed with a third party app. Notifications are handled well, available for viewing only, and require the phone for replying or other interactions. 

A notification from Telegram on the Bip with the backlight on.

The menu options become available with a swipe left, notification settings with a swipe down, past notifications with a swipe up and the weather with a swipe right. The menu has options for checking one’s current status (steps, heart rate, distance, calories), followed by quick activity tracking (running, cycling, walking weather (a five-day forecast with icons), alarms, timers, compass and settings.

The companion app, Mi Fit, is well-designed and syncs quickly with the Bip. Mi Fit is where the watch and sync settings can be fine-tuned. Mi Fit also gives very detailed sleep analytics, including showing how much time one spent sleeping compared to other Mi Fit users. 

Overall, the Bip is an attractive smartwatch for those who are looking to purchase a device that provides value for money while being highly-functional.

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Samsung A51: Saviour of the mid-range

For a few years, Samsung has delivered some less than favourable mid-range devices compared to the competition. The Galaxy A51 is here to change all that, writes BRYAN TURNER.



It’s not often one can look at a mid-range phone and mistake it for a flagship. That’s what you can expect to experience when taking the Galaxy A51 out into the open.

Samsung went back to the drawing board with its new range of devices, and it shows. The latest Galaxy A range features some of the highest quality, budget-friendly devices we’ve seen so far. The Samsung Galaxy A51 is one of the best phones we’ve seen in a while, not just aesthetically, but in what it packs into a sub-R7000 price tag.

Looking at the device briefly, it’s very easy to mistake it for a flagship. It features a four-camera array on the back, and an Infinity-O punch-hole display – both of which are features of the high-end Samsung devices. In fact, it features a similar camera array as the Galaxy Note10 Lite but features an additional lens in the array. The cameras line up in an L-shape, clearly avoiding looking like a stovetop.

Apart from the camera array, the back of the handset features a striking pattern called Prism Crush, a pattern of pastel shades that come in black, white, blue, and pink. For the review, we used the Prism Crush Blue colour and it looks really great. The feel is clearly plastic, which isn’t too surprising for a mid-range device, but the design is definitely something that will make users opt for a clear case. It’s also great to see a design pattern that deviates from the standard single iridescent colours many manufacturers have copied from Huawei’s design.

Along the sides, it features a metal-like frame, but again, it’s plastic. On the left side, we find a SIM and microSD card tray while the right side houses the power button and volume rocker. The bottom of the phone features a very welcome USB Type-C port and a 3.5mm headphone jack, which isn’t too uncommon for mid-range phones.

On the front, the device is pretty much all screen, at an 87.4% screen-to-body ratio, thanks to a tiny chin at the bottom and the small punch hole for the camera. The earpiece has also been hidden inside the frame in attempts to maximise this screen-to-body ratio. When powered on, the 6.5-inch display looks vivid and sharp. That’s because Samsung opted to put a Super AMOLED display into this midrange unit, giving it a resolution of 1080 x 2400 (at 405 ppi) in a 20:9 format. This makes the display FullHD+, and perfect for consuming video content like Netflix and YouTube in HD.

Hidden underneath the display is an in-screen fingerprint sensor, which is very surprising to find in a mid-range device. While it is extremely accurate, it takes some getting used to because the sensor is so large that one needs to put one’s entire finger over the right part of the display to unlock it. Most other types of non-in-screen fingerprint sensors don’t mind a partial fingerprint. The display itself feels nothing like the back and that’s because it’s not plastic, but rather Gorilla Glass 3, to prevent the screen from shattering easily.

What’s interesting about this device is finding accessories which aren’t quite available in phone stores yet. When browsing online for screen protectors, one has to be on the lookout for screen protectors that are compatible with the in-screen fingerprint sensor. Make sure to check out the reviews of users before purchasing them.

In terms of software, Samsung has made a great deal of effort to make the experience slick. Gone are the days of TouchWiz (thank goodness) and now we have OneUI in its second version. OneUI makes the phone easier to use by putting most of the interaction on the bottom half of the screen and most of the view on the top part of the screen, where one’s thumbs don’t usually reach.

Out of the box, the device came with Android 10. This is a huge step forward in terms of commitment to running the latest software for major feature updates as well as for Android security patches to keep the device secure.

It also has most of the cool features from the flagship devices, like Samsung Pay, Bixby, and Link to Windows. Samsung Pay is an absolute pleasure to use, even if it still confuses the person taking your payments. From linking my cards, I have stopped taking my wallet out with me because all merchants that accept tap-to-pay will accept Samsung Pay on the A51.

Bixby is useful if you’re in the Samsung app ecosystem, especially for owners of SmartThings devices like Samsung TVs and SmartThings-enabled smart home devices. Otherwise, Google Assistant is still accessible for those who still want to use the standard Google experience.

Link to Windows is an interesting feature that started with the Galaxy Note10 and has since trickled down into the mid-range. It allows users to send SMS messages, view recently taken photos, and receive notifications from the phone, all on a Windows 10 PC. This can be enabled by going to the Your Phone app found in the start menu.

The rear camera is phenomenal for a mid-range device and features a 48MP wide sensor. The photos come out as 12MP images, which is a common trick of many manufacturers to achieve high-quality photography. It does this by combining 4 pixels into a single superpixel to get the best colours out of the picture, while still remaining sharp. It also performs surprisingly well in low light, which is not something we were expecting from a mid-range device.

The 12MP ultra-wide angle lens spans 123-degrees, which is very wide and also useful for getting shots in where one can’t move back further. It’s not as great as the main lens but does the trick for getting everyone in for a group photo in a galley kitchen.

The 5MP depth-sensing lens supplements the portrait mode, which adds a blur effect to the background of the photo – the same lens as its predecessor, the Galaxy A50. It features a 32MP wide-angle selfie camera, which is perfect for fitting everyone into a large group selfie.

The processor is an Exynos 9611, which is an Octa-core processor. It performs well in most situations, and there is software built in to give games a boost, so it performs well with graphically intensive games too. In terms of RAM, there are 4GB, 6GB, and 8GB variants, so keep an eye out for which one you are trying. For the review, we had the 4GB, and it performs well with multitasking and day-to-day tasks.

For storage, it comes in a 128GB model on Samsung’s website, which seems to be the standard size. This is extremely welcome in the mid-range segment and is the largest we’ve seen for internal storage capacity as a starting point.

At a recommended selling price of R6,999, the Samsung Galaxy A51 marks the beginning of a great era for Samsung, because it provides a feature-rich handset at an affordable price.

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