First Look: Lenovo ThinkPad T400s

On Tuesday, Lenovo unveiled two new ThinkPad models, the ThinkPad X200 tablet and the ThinkPad T400s laptop, the company's first to have multitouch screens. With the new notebooks, it also introduced SimpleTap, an application Lenovo says "brings simplicity to the multitouch screen experience." The CRN Test Center had the chance to work with a preproduction unit of the ThinkPad T400s for a glimpse at the future of computing.

The ThinkPad T400s is a 14.1-inch laptop in the standard Lenovo design. The excellent ThinkPad keyboard is still intact, as is the little red "eraser head" in the center of it.

Offered with either a 2.4GHz or 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 1 GB, 2 GB or 4 GB of memory (our evaluation unit had the 2.53GHz P9600 and 4 GB of RAM), the T400s is available with almost every version of Windows Vista, as well as a 32-bit XP downgrade. A free Windows 7 upgrade will also be available, which will take advantage of the multitouch display. Other notable features include Wi-Fi and Bluetooth support, and a variety of choices in CD/DVD drives, including Blu-ray.

We're not sure whether it was Windows 7 or Lenovo's implementation of touch functionality, but either way the feature worked very well during our testing. Up until now, most touch-screen notebooks have been tablet-based and, as such, used a stylus. Although using a fingertip was possible, the accuracy was just not there because of the difference in surface size. That isn't the case with the T400s; being a multitouch device, fingertip use is expected and the touch area compensates for it.

Lenovo's SimpleTap application adds to the functionality of the touch screen. A large red semicircle is perfectly situated in the upper right corner of the screen, making it easy to simply tap with the index finger, or with the thumb as if grabbing the screen to close it. SimpleTap is basically a grid of large, transparent square tiles that can take the place of hardware buttons, or even shortcuts. Among the default tiles are ones to mute and unmute the speakers, adjust the volume, turn the integrated 2MP Webcam on or off, and control the brightness of the screen.

The tiles can be slid all over the screen and even continue sliding and bouncing all around after the finger is released. Additional tiles can be created by the user to launch applications and perform other functions, as easily as creating a Windows shortcut.

Using our usual battery life test, reviewers played a Windows Media formatted movie in repeat mode, with all the power-saving features turned off. The T400s' six-cell Li-Ion battery lasted exactly two and a half hours before the battery gave out. It took about the same amount of time to recharge the battery back to 100 percent. Lenovo's Power Manager application has a variety of settings that should allow the battery to last much longer, depending on the users' requirements. We don't think the specified five and a half hours would be impossible to attain with the right settings.

When benchmarked using Primate Labs' Geekbench 2 testing suite, the T400s scored 2,951. This is typical for a system with the P9600 CPU and 4 GB of RAM, and we found that the unit responded quickly when launching and running programs.

Overall, the ThinkPad T400s lives up to its ThinkPad heritage and offers excellent performance in a thin (21.1mm x 337mm x 241mm), relatively lightweight (3.91-pound) package. While the mutitouch screen initially gives off the impression of being a little gimmicky, some hands-on time shows the potential of its functionality. As applications are released to utilize this feature, it is sure to become an input method as invaluable as the mouse.