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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet hands-on

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Lenovo can’t seem to get enough of hybrid and modular designs. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet has a little bit of both, but despite sounding like a full-on tablet, the convertible we have here behaves more like a laptop. Let us explain.

Convertibles aren’t a new concept; in fact, all the hybrid notebooks released in the past couple of years feel like they’re playing catch-up to Microsoft’s pioneering Surface lineup. To stand out, every execution is a bit different. Take the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S, for example: It disguises itself as an Android tablet, but it’s a full-fledged Windows computer through and through. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet takes a different path, choosing to be a business-oriented Windows convertible with modular components more than anything else. It’s this kind of flexibility that makes this fledgling category so exciting.

Since hybrid laptops are so distinct from one another and function differently for every type of user, we’ll apply the same idea to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet. After all, certain features will serve an office worker really well, but a multimedia buff not so much. We’ll simplify things by narrowing down the usage cases to four.

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Writers will love the keyboard

Despite lots of convertibles successfully acting like actual laptops, few manage to provide a pleasant typing experience. We have to applaud Lenovo for upholding the ThinkPad lineup’s image and bringing its keyboard expertise to the X1 Tablet. It has to be the most laptop-like implementation we’ve seen on a convertible this year.

Key travel is splendid for a keyboard this thin, and there’s a distinct amount of space between each key. Wrists rest comfortably on the end of the board, and since the attachment doesn’t have its own power supply, there’s no heat to make your palms sweat. There’s also backlighting in case you’re working at night and are too lazy to reach for a light switch.

With the keyboard attached, there are a total of three ways to navigate: You can use the tablet’s touchscreen, the keyboard’s trackpad, or the signature red TrackPoint. We’ve always chosen the trackpad, because the touch experience on Windows 10 still feels five years behind iOS and Android devices, and the TrackPoint felt mostly unnecessary when there’s a touchscreen available. This isn’t to say the trackpad wins by default; the three clicky buttons above the trackpad and its compatible Windows gestures are fast enough to speed through open tabs on Chrome and Microsoft Office.

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Artists shouldn’t give up their graphics tablets for this

The stylus pen is both a blessing and a bother. It’s great that you don’t have to plug it into a power source to charge, but you also have to go through the hassle of finding an uncommon AAAA battery to slide in once the bundled one is dead.

Using it to draw on the touchscreen is a slippery affair. Without any replaceable tips or added texture, the stylus glides across the display like ice. This is bad news for anyone who wants precise control over inputs, and if you want to backtrack on any mistake, there’s no eraser on the other end to save you. The good news is that it behaves like an actual pen, thanks to a thick body and 2,048 levels of sensitivity. On top of that, the stylus has built-in left- and right-click buttons that you can program to other functions on Windows.

Fortunately, the build we received is equipped with an Intel Core m5 processor and 8GB of RAM, making it more than qualified to handle Photoshop and some light video editing. We managed to make the X1 Tablet open a hundred high-resolution photos at once on Photoshop without trouble, and the tablet didn’t flinch when we began editing each one. There are variants with a weaker Core m3 or faster Core m7 installed, but the one we have here seems suffice for everyday tasks. The 256GB SSD that came with our unit is also recommendable, since Windows 10 takes up a lot of space and you can easily eat up more once all your videos and apps are imported.

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Multimedia consumption is a mixed bag

We can summarize this section in two parts: The available ports make connectivity on the X1 Tablet seamless, but the 12-inch display and stereo speakers don’t do their ends of the job.

With so many manufacturers relying on a sole USB Type-C port for charging and plugging in peripherals, it’s such a breath of fresh air to see the X1 Tablet offer a full-sized USB port, USB Type-C port, an audio jack, and Mini DisplayPort. The USB port accepts all those flash drives stored in your desk drawer, while the Type-C port is used for charging, as well as future-proofing in case every single company begins focusing on USB-C as the only standard.

It’s those things that push the X1 Tablet into laptop territory, but it’s a shame it doesn’t leap in terms of visuals or sound. The stereo speakers, in particular, are a lot weaker than what you’d find on much smaller smartphones. And in spite of its 2160 x 1440-pixel resolution, sharpness and strong color reproduction seem lost on the display. Plugging in external speakers and pumping up the brightness to maximum are prerequisites to movie watching.

If you want to get fancy, Lenovo is selling a presenter module for $279 that can shoot a 60-inch projection from about two meters away. We weren’t able to try it out ourselves, but we can say with certainty that it’s a hefty investment, so consider your lifestyle and living space before spending the extra cash.

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Built for travelers

Something all users are going to appreciate is the adjustable kickstand at the back of the tablet. You can adjust it freely without set positions or help from the keyboard attachment. The stand is also wide enough to sit on your lap as long as you keep your legs together. And even with the keyboard attached, the whole thing is feather-light for a laptop replacement at 1.1kg.

Behind it, you can find slots for a microSD card and SIM card. Anyone who transfers photos from a camera during a trip and needs a data connection to instantly upload online knows how vital these two slots are. If for some unfortunate reason your camera is unusable, there’s a decent 8-megapixel camera with LED flash at the back of the tablet to help out – just don’t expect any miracles.

And now, we must ask: How’s the battery life? To be frank, it’s average compared to all the other tablets and laptops we tested. With mixed usage, which involves streaming TV shows, surfing on Chrome, and editing on Photoshop every now and then, the X1 Tablet can last a little less than five hours on a full charge. What’s impressive it how fast the tablet charges, able to achieve an ample amount of juice in only 30 minutes of charging.

Like the presenter module mentioned earlier, the productivity module costing $149 comes to the rescue. Lenovo claims it can add an additional five hours to the battery life, which means it would double the endurance if it works as advertised. We highly recommend purchasing one if you plan to work far from a wall socket; plus, it provides additional USB 3.0 and full-sized HDMI ports.

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Fun in a block

You really can’t tell by the industrial design and blocky exterior, but the X1 Tablet is more fun to use than it looks. And by fun, we mean it doesn’t give you a headache when you make it work. In typical ThinkPad fashion, the tablet simply takes all the tasks you throw at it and performs. You don’t have to put much thought into using it, such as charging the keyboard or stylus. Snapping the keyboard on and adjusting the angles are straightforward, and once you begin typing, you forget for a moment that it isn’t an actual notebook.

Again, you can’t rely on it for pure multimedia consumption. The battery life and audio-visual outputs just don’t hold up. Lenovo probably noticed these weakness during the production stages, and hence, we have the productivity and presenter modules to fill in the cracks. The pair of attachments actually bolster the functionality and make the tablet a true entertainment device, but you’ll have to pay the hefty price.

(Notes: The ThinkPad X1 Tablet package Lenovo sent us came with the tablet itself, attachable keyboard, and stylus pen. According to Lenovo, if you purchase the variant costing P83,990 in the Philippines, it’ll come with everything we mentioned, plus the productivity module. Elsewhere, the X1 Tablet’s price begins at $1,029 for the entry-level Intel Core m3 variant, and it costs around $1,299 for a Core m5 build similar to what we have.)

CES 2018

Episode 001: Getting lost at the world’s largest tech show

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In this first epidose of GadgetMatch Podcast we talk about the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2018) which just wrapped up in Las Vegas. Michael Josh and Isa share behind the scenes challenges of covering the world’s largest tech show. And the team talks about the most attention grabbing tech from the show including an entire range of Artificial Intelligence and Google Assistant gadgets, Vivo’s new phone with an in-display fingerprint sensor, Sony’s new robot dog, and Razer’s Project Linda.

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Apps

How to hide from Instragram’s new Activity Status feature

It’s on by default!

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Instagram silently rolled out a new feature of its app. If you don’t like your friends to know that you’re online (and also protect your privacy), you might want to take action. Why? Because it’s automatically turned on.

If you have the latest app, you probably noticed something new inside the Direct Messages section. This new feature dubbed “Activity Status” lets your Instagram buddies know if you’re online. If you happen to be scrolling through your timeline moments ago, the status will show that you’ve been available earlier.

This is switched on by default but the data is only shared with users that you follow and those you message privately. There’s no need to panic if you think a stalker will know that you’re online — unless you follow them, too.

How to turn it off?

You can easily switch it off inside the app. Just go to your profile page and tap the top-right icon for Options.

Next, scroll down until you see “Show Activity Status” and switch the toggle button beside.

That’s it! Now that it’s off on your end, your status will not show up to your buddies. Although, you won’t be able to see the status of other accounts as well.

Since the new feature was smoothly included in the recent updates from the Play Store or App Store, it’s not clear when Instagram introduced the function. Some might not have it yet, which could mean it’s still an experimental approach with a limited number of users.

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Automotive

The Best Car Tech of CES 2018

Exciting times ahead!

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We recently wrapped up CES 2018 (see our top picks) and even though the trade show originally revolved around consumer electronics, a big chunk of what was introduced was directed towards connected cities with a focus on making driving a lot smarter.

The idea of self-driving cars surely isn’t new and has been around for quite some time now. It’s basically the concept of what the future is like in addition to flying cars. At this year’s CES, brands who participated made us realize that this “future” isn’t too far away.

Here are some of the most promising cars and car technology that we’re excited to see in the near future.

Assistance

Multiple brands showed off their new toys left and right. There’s the announcement of Amazon’s Alexa coming to cars for voice assistance and content consumption. Toyota will be the next to adapt voice assistance in addition to BMW, Ford, and Hyundai. Meanwhile, Waze has also been integrated into select infotainment systems.

Nissan, on the other hand, is taking the user-machine a step further by introducing the brain-to-vehicle (B2V) technology. It basically uses a system that could read your brain patterns and signals to better prepare for what you’re about to do next while driving.

Platforms

In terms of services, Ford is slightly stepping out of the shadow of car-making and plans to be the new platform for autonomous vehicles. It has partnered with Lyft, Domino’s Pizza, and Postmates to create an operating system which small to large businesses can use for their unique services.

Speaking of unique services, Toyota unveiled its e-Palette concept vehicle which has all the potential to go big in the future of mobility. It’s envisioned as a self-driving vehicle running on Toyota’s tech and platform that other brands can use for food deliveries, as a moving boutique, or even a mobile hotel that you can rent.

As far as ride-sharing goes, expect it to join the bandwagon as smart cities are developed. During the trade show, car tech company Aptiv was present and was hand-in-hand with Lyft as they demonstrated their self-driving cars to the participants of CES. The public could just hail a ride from the Las Vegas Convention Center using the app and enjoy the view of the Strip to their destination.

Additionally, NVIDIA has also added Uber and Volkswagen to their growing roster of brands that will run on the company’s self-driving computer platform.

Cars

Apart from the new platforms, there were cars — quite a lot, actually. From concept to actual models on display, we got a peek at these vehicles that probably want to take on Tesla.

Derived from Bytes on Wheels, BYTON wants to blur the line between digital and automotive with their electric intelligent SUV concept. The new-gen smart device communicates with users and pedestrians via lights and patterns on its grille and recognizes the driver and passengers by face.

Kia was also present with its very own Niro electric crossover. This concept is basically an electric version of the Niro Hybrid but gets a new grille design. Like BYTON, it is now an interactive panel with a built-in Active Pedestrian Warning System, but what makes this something to look forward to is its range. It can go as far 383km (238 miles) before needing to charge again — beating what the Tesla Model 3 can offer.

Car designer Henrik Fisker gave another shot at making vehicles; this time in the form of the EMotion luxury sedan. The vehicle is a level 4 autonomous car and is equipped with the world’s first Butterfly Doors. Fisker also wants to set standards for other EVs so they made the vehicle last up to 644km (400 miles) on the road.

Meanwhile, Hyundai is continuing its push to go green and introduced the NEXO fuel cell electric vehicle. It has a more efficient engine, is a lot quieter, and maintenance is kept to a minimum. Although the best thing about it is that it emits nothing but water vapor. Features-wise, it has autonomous driving, self-parking, self-retrieval — the whole shebang.

In-vehicle Networking

Software updates are an important aspect of vehicles relying on digital systems. Tesla has somehow established its system already but for other car brands, updating hundreds, even thousands of vehicles across a country, is still not an easy task.

Hyundai and Cisco addressed this and aims to overhaul the process of in-vehicle networking. With the use of Ethernet connectivity and the Automotive Linux platform, they promise to be able to roll out updates remotely and it’s as simple as pushing a button.

 

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