Friday, December 21, 2012

Twist, But Too Early to Shout About Travel-Friendly Laptop

Well I must have touched a nerve when I wrote in September about the lack of space for working on a laptop when traveling in the cheap seats on most airlines. I was back from Japan and at my desk about one minute when Lenovo offered to let me test drive its new Twist. Seems my grumbling about the travails of trying to work at 38,000 feet was, coincidentally, aligned with Lenovo's Sky Warrior campaign.

I knew this device was designed for me when I read what Lenovo executive Matt Bereda had to say about it.

"Business travelers are seasoned experts in challenging work environments"
Check.
"Especially in the skies.”
Check.
They know how to pack, race through security lines and get their work done under any condition."
Check.

I never know where I'll be working next.
I've been using the products of this Chinese company since 2005 when it acquired the personal computer division of IBM and I am - full disclosure - a big fan. The X220 I use now is a convertible laptop, meaning the touch screen monitor pivots and folds back over the keyboard so that I can use it as a tablet. After a day of sitting at the computer working, I like that I can disconnect the X220 from the docking station, take it into the kitchen or the living room and use it like a tablet to do my pleasure reading, hang out in the Flying Lessons group on Facebook or shop on Craigslist.

The Twist takes convertible one step farther. From laptop to tablet, to standup monitor, which is useful for watching videos or sharing what's on the screen with others.

Right out of the box the Twist makes a good impression, because it is very stylish. Thin and wide with a 12.5" display, it is 21st Century and I felt very early-adopter each time I placed it in the bin at airport security.

The X220, on the other hand is boxy with a hump on the back where the battery extends beyond the hinge. My 22-year old son, Antonio says the X220 is ugly, but the user replaceable battery and supplemental battery "slice" - a one pound layer that attaches to the base - helps me get as much as 9 hours without having to plug it in.

The lighter, skinnier Twist runs for about 7 hours on its internal battery with a 25% weight savings. So I was excited to have the opportunity to travel with the Twist for two weeks earlier this month. I toted it on airplanes, buses, taxis and trains, across the U.S. and into Turkey.
I took the Twist with me to Turkey

Where it shines, it shines. The monitor is brilliant and clear, even in the sun. The processor is rapid fast and the thing can find a wifi signal as good or better than my X220.

On the down side, the touch pad is hyper-sensitive even after adjusting so that merely brushing my sleeve across it sent a file from one location to another. Converting the computer from laptop to tablet was also frustrating. More times than not, the screen orientation did not conform correctly and I could never resolve the problem without disabling the rotation entirely which defeats the purpose. Lenovo says a computer update addresses this problem.

The X220 convertible laptop/tablet. Photo courtesy Lenovo
So I came home to pet and fondle my X220, knowing we'd be together for more business trips since Lenovo hasn't made a satisfactory replacement. Yet.

What the company has done is recognize and go after a hole in the market with lighter and less expensive versions of the X220. The Twist (and the somewhat similar Yoga) let business travelers pare down by carrying just one device that is a fully operational computer with the portability of an iPad.  I know from my X220 that they got it right once, I have no doubt they'll do it again, soon.
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