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Lenovo ThinkPad, a tablet with ‚Ouch’

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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 (www.worldwideworx.com). Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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Featured

Hit the road with high-tech night light for bikes

Cyclists need effective lighting by night and day, writes JOEL DORFAN, in his test ride of the latest in high-tech from Fenix

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Since 2004, Fenix Light has been manufacturing quality lights ranging from flashlights and headlamps to lanterns and bike lights.

There are many folks who ride their bicycles at night for various reasons. Whether on-road or off-road, there is always the need to see the path ahead of you. During the day, it’s wise to have a really bright strobe light so others around you can see you coming. 

Enter the BC21R V2.0.

The original 880 lumen BC21R was released some years ago. Besides the main light, it also had two red lights at the side. However, there were several complaints about this older version. The main ones were:

  • Plastic construction – does not dissipate heat causing the light output to step down;
  • Rubber mount – stretches and perishes over time;
  • No helmet mount.

With the launch of the new light, now called the BC21R V2.0, the folks at Fenix have kept all of the good features and added a bunch more, as well as remedying all of the complaints from the original. In a nutshell, it offers:

  • 1000 lumen output
  • Removable 18650 LiIion battery
  • Built in USB Type-C charging port
  • Dual Distance Beam System
  • Battery level indication and low-voltage warning
  • All-metal heat fin; IP66 rated protection
  • Quick-release bike mount compatible with Fenix bicycle light helmet mount

The increase from 880 to 1000 lumens means that there is now better coverage of the road ahead. The dual distance beam system means that the areas both near and far are illuminated. They do this by graduating the top half of the front lens that refracts some of the light down towards the front wheel, allowing the rest of the light to illuminate the roadway.

When you do not need all 1000 lumens, sequential taps of the on/off switch will cycle through the different output settings of low, medium, high and turbo. In any of these modes, a double tap of the switch will put the light into strobe (alternating high and low output) mode. On a fully charged battery, runtime on Turbo is published as being 2 hours, and on low at 50 hours. 

Many lights today are sealed units. Once the battery stops taking a charge, the light would have to be discarded. The removable battery means that, once it reaches end of life ,it’s a simple matter of inserting a new 18650 battery. Also, should you be on a really long ride and find that the battery starts going flat, you could stop along the way and swap out the battery for either another fully charged one or two CR123 batteries. 

At any time, you can tap the on/off button, which will light up an indicator to tell you the current state of charge of the battery. This same indicator will flash red when it’s time to recharge the battery.

To prevent damage to the LED light source, temperatures are monitored and, if the light gets too hot, the output is reduced. This is not ideal when you are out on a ride on a hot evening. By changing the head from plastic to metal with cooling fins, however, the light will now remain cooler, allowing for full output for longer periods.

Instead of a stretchy plastic mount like on the older model, Fenix has now gone with a proper clamp type mount. This is secured to the handle bars using a thumb screw; and then there is a quick release that allows the light to be attached or removed from the clamp with ease. Two different-sized rubber inserts for the clamp ensure a good fit on different diameter handle bars.

A bonus of this type of quick release mechanism is that the light is now compatible with the Fenix helmet mount should one wish to mount it there. Also, should you wish to use the BC21R V2.0 as a handheld flashlight or to stop it being stolen, no tools are required to remove it from either the bike or helmet mount.

So how does the BC21R V2.0 perform in real life?

It puts out a very concentrated spot-like type beam optimised for distance. The lens setup ensures that most of the light is below the horizon where it needs to be, which also makes sure that it does not blind oncoming motorists. 

The light will start getting warm to the touch when stationary or when hand held. However, when cycling, the cool air passing over the finned head does keep the light cooler.

Being a single 18650 battery light, a ride of longer than about 90 minutes will see the light starting to reduce output. It’s the tradeoff of size vs run time. Therefore make sure that, if you’re going to need the full 1000 lumen output for an extended period, to carry a spare battery with you.

The older model cost $75, and the good news is that Fenix appears to have maintained this price even with all of the extra features of the V2.0 model. This places the BC21R V2.0 in the mid- to high-range of  single battery lights. Given the features and multi-use applications it’s pretty good value for money.

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Product of the Day

Hisense adds AI-cameras to handsets

Hisense has entered the AI-camera space with the Infinity H30, aimed at the mid-range market. BRYAN TURNER tests the new camera technology.

Click below to read the review.

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While many know Hisense for its TVs and appliances, it has an impressive lineup of smartphones. Its latest Infinity H30 smartphone packs a serious punch in the mid-range market, including features like a low-bezel screen and AI camera.

Out the box, the phone comes with the usual charger, charging cable and earphones. There is a surprise in the box: a screen protector and a clear case. A nice value-add to the already affordable smartphone.  

The polycarbonate plastic body feels premium, especially for a device in this price range. It has a colour changing body, depending on the angle at which it is held. The colour of the device we reviewed is called Ice Blue, and shimmers in darker and lighter blues. Aesthetically, this is a big win for Hisense.

The 6.5″ screen is a narrow-bezelled FHD+ display with good colour replication. Hisense is known for creating colour-accurate displays and it’s good to see it continue this legacy in its smartphones. The shape of the display is interesting, taking some design notes from Huawei’s Dewdrop display with what Hisense calls the “U-Infinity Display”. It makes the phone look really good. 

On the rear of the phone, one finds a dual-camera setup with fingerprint sensor. On the bottom of the phone, there is a speaker, a USB Type-C Port and a headphone jack. The speaker’s placement on the bottom isn’t optimal and the sound is muffled if one accidentally covers the single speaker area.

The 4,530mAh non-removable battery is very capable, providing a good 12 hours of medium usage (checking messages every half hour and playing an online game every hour) until it reaches 20%. The battery capacity isn’t the only power feature of the device; it runs on the latest Android Pie operating system, which includes AI power-saving software measures to keep background apps from using battery.

It is a little disappointing to see the device came with some pre-installed games. Fortunately, one can uninstall them. Hisense makes up for this by issuing Android updates and security patches as the come out. This, coupled with the MediaTek Octa Core processor, provides a good user experience for playing games and multi-tasking.

The H30 has a whopping 128GB of on-board storage, and it can be expanded even more with a MicroSD card. The 4G-LTE capabilities are perfect for most high-speed broadband situations, with around 40Mbps download and around 10Mbps upload in an area with good cell service.

The 20+2MP rear camera configuration is good at taking shots on Auto mode, but pictures can be better after figuring out all the camera modes available. There is a professional mode for those who want to be extra creative with their photography. It also includes a baby mode, which plays various noises to make a baby look at the phone for a better picture. The AI mode can be enabled to make full use of the processor in the device, and fif the camera mode to be selected based on scenes photographed. 

The 20MP front camera performs equally as well. This camera is the reason for the U-like shape at the top of the screen. The camera app has beauty-face filters, for those wanting a slimmer face or smoother skin.

Overall, the Infinity H30 is a prime example of a good phone in an affordable price range.  The camera is very capable, and the AI processing helps what would otherwise be a regular camera. The aesthetically pleasing colour saves the day, and makes this mid-range device look like a high-end flagship. The device is retailing for R5,499 from most major carriers.

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