Thinkpad Tablet: King of the Road


I took my new Thinkpad X41 Tablet PC on the road for the first time this week. I went to San Francisco to give a speech. Here’s the report.

To begin with, packing and carrying the computer around is a breeze. It is small and light. It fits nicely into my medium size computer case with room left over to safely pack my digital camera. Working on the plane is easy and comfortable. In fact I’m typing this paragraph from a 737 while listening to an album by Gerald Collier.

The typing part is what really sets the Thinkpad apart from my prior traveling computer, the Fuijitsu Stylistic. That was a dandy computer, but the lack of a keyboard really limited my ability to get things done on the road. Of course most planes, including this one (even though I used some miles to upgrade to first class), don’t have internet access yet, so I’m still pretty limited.

The music via my Panasonic headphones is excellent. My battery life says I have 3.5 hours left, which means I’ll get all the way to San Francisco before I have to use the spare battery I brought along.

Unlike my last trip to San Francisco (when I stayed at the Fairmont and was able to connect to the wireless network of the apartment across the street), I was unable to find a reliable free wireless network from the Palace Hotel. There were a ton of networks nearby but they were either secured or too far away to give me a reliable connection. So I bought a day of access from the hotel for $16 (it’s ludicrous that hotels charge for this) and set up my Linksys WTR54GS. Within minutes I had a (somewhat) fast and reliable wireless network.

The Thinkpad was a pleasure to use, both in laptop mode and in tablet mode. My only complaint is the the stupid caps lock buttom is right above the shift key and I kept pressing it unintentionally until I disabled it.

On my return I was surprised to see that there is no free wireless network at trhe San Francisco airport. T-Mobile has the exclusive rights there it seems. Unfortubately T-Mobile’s interface is unfriendly and unusable. Even though I have an account with T-Mobile, I couldn’t access it. Even when I tried to buy a day pass for $10 I couldn’t get pass the credit card screen. I kept getting error messages saying that I had failed to fill in all the blanks, even though I had. I gave up in frustration. Wireless access from the road continues to be too hard and too expensive.

In sum, the Thinkpad rocks. A DVD drive would be nice, but would add to the size and weight. I didn’t try Movielink for a movie to watch on the plane, but I probably will give it a try next time. If that service works decently, it will nullify the main reason I miss a DVD drive- on flight movies.

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