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Although they're both useful and entertaining, tablets like Apple's newest iPad fail to make our lives any simpler. As much as we'd like to travel with only the weight of a tablet in our bags, there's simply no way to get around our need for content creation, even if that's as simple as banging away at a Word document. And content creation is what separates tablet PCs like Lenovo's X230T from tablets.
Tablets are good enough for what they're designed to do: read a book, browse the Web, watch a video. But they're difficult to type on quickly. And multi-tasking is nearly impossible. Forget about using powerful Windows-based applications. Really, to get the best of that world and what tablets offer, you have to pack multiple devices.
That's a real bummer, though. Our bags are already loaded with cameras, phones, and batteries. Adding a tablet and notebook only serves to make us realize that we're slaves to technology. Often times, it's just as easy to leave the tablet at home in favor of the more useful gadgets.
Tablet PCs attempt to conjoin the worlds of tablets and notebooks. Granted, the battery life of a tablet PC can't come anywhere near what you expect from an iOS- or Android-based device, and we're a long ways away from a tablet PC with such a compact form factor. But then again, products like Lenovo's ThinkPad X230T level copious processing power at Windows, allowing you to run heavy-duty applications in Windows without delay.
Nevertheless, for their benefits, tablet PCs continue to merely fill a niche. Samsung's Series 7 Slate was the last tablet PC to pass through our labs, and that was almost a year ago. The X230T is the first Ivy Bridge-based tablet PC, and we'd absolutely recommend it to the business professional on the go. A built-in keyboard makes this convertible better-suited to offices and classrooms than standalone slates that rely on external connectivity for keyboard functionality.
Though tablet PCs are rare, we may see more variety once Microsoft's Surface emerges later this year. Initially, the Surface is expected to be limited to ARM-based hardware and a more tightly-controlled software ecosystem. However, we expect a more flexible model centering on Intel's x86 platform in 2013. Until then, power users looking for a Windows 7-based tablet will have to be content with the X230T. Lenovo deserves a lot of credit for keeping alive this endangered form factor—but one is a very lonely number.