Review: Lenovo ThinkPad T400s (Multitouch)

Lenovo loves to push and prod at the boundaries of notebook technology. Sometimes these results are fascinating (as with the dual-screen ThinkPad W700ds). And sometimes they fall flat, as is the case with the ThinkPad T400s with multitouch hardware.

The T400s is the first ThinkPad — and one of the first laptops — with a multitouch display. Mind you, it’s not a tablet. It’s a regular laptop, with a screen that does not rotate and fold down flat like a typical convertible. Rather, if you want to do something with the touchscreen, you reach up over the keyboard and, well, you poke at the thing like Koko the gorilla.

In the wake of the iPhone, multitouch has become the tech world’s biggest buzzword, to the point where if a cellphone doesn’t have a multitouch display it is written off as suitable only for Luddite geezers. Now comes the inevitable extension of the technology, but does it make sense?

Consider the possibilities. Using the T400s touch features you can, for example, access your volume and display brightness settings by tapping on the screen instead of pushing the dedicated buttons on the keyboard. Or you can also draw up to four lines simultaneously in the Paint application by dragging your fingers across the screen. That’s about it, for now: Other uses may eventually exist, but they’ll require specialized software that’s been made or modified to work with a touchscreen.

Of course, no matter what you do with it, all of this means a seriously uncomfortable stretch to a vertical screen an arm’s length away — the very problem that killed touchscreen monitors back in the ’80s.

As a laptop, the T400s multitouch edition is rife with trade-offs. Compared to its non-touchscreen brother with the same model number and nearly identical components, the T400s with multitouch doesn’t measure up: It’s 36 percent slower; it’s half a pound heavier; its LCD is barely half as bright; it gets 45 minutes less battery life (a paltry 85 minutes total); and it costs about $500 more. There’s literally no category in which this version excels over the standard Lenovo laptop, except that you can scribble on it with your hand.

And that might be reason enough to buy it, but the more you use the T400s, the more you find yourself uninterested in its multitouch features and annoyed by the giant red half-circle (used to access those tappable machine settings) on the edge of the screen.

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