Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Lenovo Thinkpad: Android tablet review for schools

I was fortunate enough to get a hold of a Lenovo Thinkpad 10 inch tablet this week.  (Thanks to GovConnection).

Basic Specs:
Image: http://www.lenovo.com/products/us/tablet/thinkpad/
Lenovo Thinkpad 10.1 inch 16gb

  • Android 3.1 Honeycomb
  • 1GHz Tegra 2 
  • 10.1-inch (1280 x 800) IPS display
  • battery good for up to 8.7 hours of use, 
  • 1GB of RAM, 16/32/64GB of storage, 
  • 3-in-1 card reader, 
  • A-GPS, 
  • accelerometer,
  • ambient light sensor,
  • front (2MP) / rear (5MP) cameras, 
  • a mini HDMI port (1080p capable!) 
  • and Lenovo's own app launcher / app market.

Overall impressions:
  • Screen - good resolution and is very snappy and responsive (unlike other Android devices I've had my hands on.)
  • Camera - Pretty good, struggles in low-light
  • Speed - The dual core processor makes this tablet pretty snappy.
  • Internet speed - Good, about the same or a touch slower than my iPad.  (This is hard to judge due to wifi speed and variability)
  • Mail App - Mail has one app for exchange and one for gmail.  I like having both accounts in one app (like my iPad).  The Mail app doesn't have a default file view for office & pdf docs.  A separate app must be installed and set as default for viewing these docs.  (This is a big drawback for me, especially when using this with students, I want something that just works. But perhaps not a big deal for everyone)
  • On-Screen keyboard - The keyboard when compared to an iPad keyboard doesn't come close to measuring up.  The auto-prediction/correction is pathetic at best.  I missed little features like double tapping the space-bar to auto insert a period and capitalize the first letter in the next sentence.  This was probably the most frustrating aspect of using the device.
  • Apps - There are some great apps on Android.  I didn't notice any problems with any apps scaling to size the 10.1 inch widescreen.  
  • Google Docs App - I was somewhat disappointed with this app.  It works, but not any better than the web version you can get on any iPad or iPhone
  • Stylus - This tablet comes with a stylus and I really liked it.  The tablet was snappier and more responsive to the stylus rather than my finger.  When i really needed pin point accuracy on the screen, this made it much easier.
  • USB port (full size) - For many people this will be a a great feature, as long as you have an app installed that will open the files on your flash drive.
  • 3 in 1 card reader - Also very cool.  Can easily pop out SD card from camera or any device and upload files onto the tablet.
  • Physical buttons - One of my favorite features on Android phones is the physical menu button.  The only buttons besides the volume and power/sleep buttons were: screen rotation lock, instant browser launch, back & home.
Image: http://www.lenovo.com/products/us/tablet/thinkpad/

The big question here 'Is this a good device for a teacher or student?'  I think the jury is still out on that one.  If the school is going to purchase these devices, there is some work to do.  There needs to be an easy solution for managing multiple devices at once.  Preferably and over-the-air syncing solution, that doesn't require a month of training to use.  Also, since our district is using Google Apps, multiple sign-in of Google accounts on one device is not very desirable. If this device were for an individual student to be purchased and managed by the student, however, I believe this device or one like it would be a good solution if the price were right.  In my opinion, if the price difference between a tablet like this and an iPad were within $100, I'd still have to recommend the iPad.  Although, this and other Android tablets can be good competitors, the standard, for now, is still the iPad.  The most compelling reasons to get an android table will be price and/or a hatred toward Apple.