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June 14, 2007

Thinkpad X61 tablet -- MultiView vs. SXGA no more!

I've been window shopping tablet PCs for a few months now, with particular interest towards Lenovo Thinkpads. About a month ago, I made a brief excursion MicroCenter only to find an overpriced, underspeced Thinkpad tablet in inventory. A few weeks ago, I almost pressed the (online) trigger, but couldn't get past struggling between the MultiView vs. SXGA pardox. The MultiView option provides higher visibility during daytime -- good for computing at parks while keeping eye on kids. The SXGA, well, not sure if I can really live with only 1024x768... With the X61, Lenovo presents a new option, 12.1" MultiView WVA SXGA TFT and Intel® Core™ 2 Duo L7500 LV . Fortunately, they made me think twice by placing "Selecting this option may delay your shipment 3-4 weeks" right under it. Nice.

With employee discount + sale dejour, here's what got speced:

ThinkPad X61 Tablet Series 1 Yr Depot Warranty
  • 12.1" MultiView WVA SXGA TFT and Intel® Core™ 2 Duo L7500 LV
  • Genuine Windows Vista Business
  • 2 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM)
  • 60GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400rpm
  • DVD Recordable 8x Max Dual Layer, Ultrabay Slim
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN
  • Integrated Wireless WAN: Verizon Sierra CDMA2000 (New)
  • ThinkPad X60 Tablet 8 Cell Li-Ion Battery
  • 7764: Express - 1 Yr Depot Warranty
  • Microsoft Office Small Business 2007 - English
  • ThinkPad X6 Tablet UltraBase
Total: $2,067.20

Not bad, considering that the overpriced underspeced non-MultiView, non-SXGA X60, non-Core 2 Duo tablet at MicroCenter was about the same price. Estimated shipment date: 8/2/2007. Uncool. A lot can happen between now and early August. Does Lenovo manufacture these AFTER they get enough orders? This is not "just-in-time", this is "NOT-in-time". Tim suspects that once the back-to-school orders start shipping (1) price will drop, and (2) availability will be immediate. Is there a Lenovo store? I say wait.

Thinkpad X61 Tablet -- MultiView vs. SuperView

Evidently, there is a typo on the Lenovo site regarding the new X61s. There is no "12.1" MultiView WVA SXGA TFT and Intel® Core™ 2 Duo L7500 LV". It should be SuperView, not MultiView. That in itself is confusing already, shouldn't a "super" view be better than a "multi" view? Here are the options on Lenovo's site, read and scratch head. Every option may delay your shipment... nice.

  • 12.1" WVA XGA TFT and Intel® Core™ 2 Duo L7500 LV
    Selecting this option may delay your shipment 3-4 weeks.
  • 12.1" MultiView WVA SXGA TFT and Intel® Core™ 2 Duo L7500 LV
    Selecting this option may delay your shipment 3-4 weeks.
  • 12.1" MultiView + MultiTouch WVA XGA TFT and Intel® Core™ 2 Duo L7500 LV
    Selecting this option may delay your shipment 3-4 weeks.

dp22 on tabletpcreview.com has kindly provided the lowdown:

1) MultiView SXGA+ is actually SuperView SXGA+ which is NOT an actual outdoor screen as the XGA option totes. SuperView works better than normal indoor screens and tests have shown good results outdoors (in the shade).

2) aphex, as alucard kindly confirmed, the "SXGA" is a typo because I called the rep and he confirmed this as well. In fact, the SXGA+ on the X61 is noted to have a brighter and clearer screen than the X60 (check out the report at gottabemobile.com). This is also due to the SuperView technology.

gottabemobile has a bit more SuperView

There has been a lot of confusion on this, some of it due to some confusing info on the Lenovo product site where, depending on where you were looking, it was called Multi-view or SuperView. SuperView is the correct terminology. It is designed to make viewing in outdoor conditions better especially in sunlight. I can’t really report on any significant results for this because our skies have been cloudy and we’ve had rain for the time I’ve had the X61 in my hands. From what I can tell the process is called “Direct Bonding” and it is designed to cut down on reflectivity and make the screen less susceptible to scratching (although I hadn’t noticed any problems with scratching at all on the X60), and more durable under harsh conditions. Here’s what I have noticed. There appears to be an extra layer on the screen. All well and good. But when you have a white background on the screen there is a detectable moire pattern viewable. It seems to be more pronounced in portrait mode than in landscape mode. I don’t find it distracting, but it is there. I also notice that the screen is particularly susceptible to fingerprints, or rather the grease or oils that may come off your skin. More so than the X60. Using any sort of cleaning solution designed for this purpose only serves to smear it around, so you’ll need a dry cloth to keep those impressions off the screen. (Remember this is a demo unit, so shipping units might be different.)"

Sounds like I am where I was before... pondering bright screen versus high resolution.

I have to say, so far, I have no doubt to Lenovo technical prowess (probably due to superior marketing), but sales and delivery have really been lacking. I've been sitting on the sidelines with a check dedictated to buying an X6x tablet, scratching my head on screen configuration and delivery times. Note to Lenovo, available to work with you on sales and delivery, can communicate in Mandarin... will travel, happy to bring components between countries in check-in luggage if this helps accelerate manufacturing.

Update: Tim Supples, who writes for lenovoblogs.com, has a posted on erroneous August shipping dates. Maybe it won't come so late after all. I hold back my tongue, for a bit. Should I hold my check? What do you guys think? (Thanks, btw, for writing me back Tim.)

June 15, 2007

Thinkpad X61 Tablet -- MultiView/SuperView update

This thread from thinkpads.com suggests that the outdoor viewing feature of the MultiView is encapsulated in SuperView. "All three good for use indoors or in bright light (sunlight)." However, reading through, including rep responses, suggests there is massive confusion about this. Remember that MultiView also includes better viewing angles... bottom line is that I'm interested in an outdoor viewable display at 1400x1050 (SXGA). The question is if it exists, or if SuperView is only "improved" viewing vs. outdoor viewing. GomJabbar summarizes:

Slashgear wrote:

The X61 Tablet has a new SuperView SXGA+ screen, coated with a special scratch-resistant and anti-reflective layer which makes it extra usable outdoors. MultiView and MultiTouch remain options. [emphasis mine]

TheTabletPC wrote:

With SuperView, a direct bonding technology in SXGA+ resolution screens, users experience lower reflectivity than similar panel technologies for excellent readability outdoors, even in direct sunlight. The technology helps prevent scratching, making the Tablet PC extremely durable under harsh conditions. [emphasis mine]

I think it is all still speculation. A good question would be whether MultiView has anything to do with the so-called "direct bonding technology". It would seem from this press release that SuperView is something else all together. (On another interesting note, the press release quotes Jerry Batt, VP and CIO of Pulte Homes... why are they quoting from a home builder? Interesting... I would say if Jerry Batt uses the SuperView SXGA in broad daylinght, reviewing some CAD drawing, I'm game.)

Let me try asking the question again (which only Lenovo can really answer...). With regards to outdoor brightness viewability (no i didn't mean the font size), choose one answer:

  1. SuperView = MultiView
  2. SuperView < MultiView
  3. SuperView > MultiView
  4. SuperView <> MultiView

I bet it is #4.

Update: This is direct from the Lenovo site:

Work efficiently indoors and outdoors with the MultiView/MultiTouch and SuperView screens, even in sunlight.

MultiView/MultiTouch display provides outstanding indoor/outdoor viewing and versatile interaction through touch or digitizer pen. SuperView SXGA+ high resolution screen offers improved outdoor view-ability, especially in sunlight.

Does "outstanding" = "improved"??

Thinkpad X61 Tablet -- SuperView outdoor viewability

Warner Crocker at gottabemobile.com has an update on his Thinkpad X61 escapades. Specificially relevant to your truly are his comments on the screen:

I’ve already commented on how much I like the brightness of the screen. And I have had a chance to view it outdoors. (Still no successful way to take a picture of this, sorry.) It is readable in outdoor conditions, but the screen brightness needs to be turned up, especially on bright days. That said, the screen collects dust, grease, and oils from anything that comes in contact with it. After using it in Tablet mode for any length of time it can be quite covered with residue. What I’ve noticed that I find troubling is that this residue does cause the stylus to drag a bit as it passes over a dirty area. And if you take the X61 outside the residue shows up as a white chalky looking mess. This seems to defeat the idea behind SuperView in my mind and I find it troubling. I’m not sure what the best method to clean the screen is, and I worry about using any cleaning solution on it until I get some word about what is recommended. Some of the smudges and residue can be removed with a dry cloth designed for cleaning screens (like the ones by 3M) but in some cases it still leaves residue behind. I’ve also discovered that if, on a hot day, any of the residue is still moist or damp, it just gets smeared around if you try to clean it. I have more success if the screen is completely dry. The real plus of the SuperView technology is that the screen is easier to read under fluorescent lighting which is what we have in our rehearsal hall. This is a big plus for me. [emphasis mine]

He later adds in a comment,

My personal tastes here, I would not call this an indoor/outdoor display. The viewability is better outdoors than screens (like the x60) that don't have the SuperView Bonding. (Look for other posts on that on the site.) But it isn't designed for outdoor use in the context that many think of has indoor/outdoor. [emphasis mine]

Still no clear comparison with the MultiView outdoor performance, but it helps. Note cleanliness... I suppose you would want some sort of plastic on top of the display if possible.

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