Lenovo ThinkPad Twist review: a great business tool

The Twist has some flaws, but it does what it’s designed to do very well – it’s a great business-oriented tablet-Ultrabook hybrid.

Lenovos ThinkPad Twist is the latest in a string of Windows 8-running tablet-laptop hybrids, and its a little different from the competition. Mainly, its a business-oriented tablet-laptop (excuse me, tablet-Ultrabook) hybrid that stays true (sort of) to the ThinkPad lines traditional, if somewhat boring, aesthetic.

Like other tablet-Ultrabook hybrids, the Twist has a unique way of converting itself from a tablet to a laptop and back again. This time the screen is attached to the bottom of the laptop with a single, sturdy rotating hinge. You can rotate the laptops screen 180 degrees, and then fold it backward to use it as a tablet. This isnt a new concept we actually first saw this style of convertible tablet-laptop way back in the early 2000s when Microsoft was trying to make pre-iPad tablet computers a thing but its implemented much better than what weve seen before.

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Our review model, which costs $899.99 as configured, has a third-generation Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB of RAM (3.82GB usable), and a 500GB HDD spinning at 7200rpm alongside a 24GB SSD caching drive. The Twist also has built-in Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, and a slot for a SIM card, for users who want to be connected

Performance

In PCWorlds WorldBench 8 tests, the ThinkPad Twist scores 47 out of 100. This means that its 53 percent slower than our testing model, which is no surprise our testing model has a third-generation Intel Core i5 desktop processor, 8GB of RAM, and a discrete Nvidia graphics card. The Twists score isnt great its on the lower side of the systems weve tested that have the same processor. For example, Lenovos IdeaPad Yoga, which has the same i5-3317U processor and 4GB of RAM, scores 60 out of 100 on WB8. Likewise, the Dell XPS 12 Convertible Touch, another convertible tablet-laptop hybrid, score 64 out of 100. The score differentials are probably because those other systems ship with SSDs instead of rotating hard drives.

The Twist also falls short in our individual performance tests. For example, in the PCMark 7 productivity test, the Twist scores 1099, which is just a little behind the Yogas 2115 and the Duo 12s 2187. Although the Twist does have a 24GB SSD boot drive, it takes longer than other convertible Ultrabooks to start up 13.4 seconds, which is almost twice as long as the Yogas 7.9 seconds and the Duo 12s 8.8 seconds. It is faster, however, than laptops that do not have SSD boot drives, such as the Toshiba Satellite P854t-S4310 (22.7 seconds) and the Acer Aspire V5-571P-6499 (21.3 seconds).

Graphics performance on the Twist is right about where we expect it to fall, considering its an Ultrabook with no discrete graphics card. In our Dirt showdown test (maximum quality settings, 1366 by 768 pixel resolution), the Twist managed 28.8 frames per second, which is on par with the frame rates of both the Yoga (30.1fps) and the Duo 12 (33.3fps) in the same test.

We managed to eke out just three hours and 15 minutes of battery life with the Twist, which is not very good considering the class. Other tablet-Ultrabook hybrids typically get at least five hours (the Yoga got five hours and 37 minutes, while the Duo 12 got four hours and 39 minutes), and some, such as the Samsung XE500T1C-A01, get as much as nine hours.

Design and Usability

The Lenovo ThinkPad Twist looks like a sleeker, sexier version of traditional ThinkPad laptops. Lenovo has been careful to keep its ThinkPad line visually similar, keeping the traditional matte black finish and red accents, though it has been updating the look in subtle ways.

The Twist has a flat, smooth cover made of soft, rubbery material. In the lower left corner theres a silver Lenovo logo, and in the lower right corner theres a traditional ThinkPad logo. The ThinkPad logos i has a red dot, which is actually a light that pulses when the computer is turned on. The cover is very simple, and theres a thin silver line around the edge.

Inside, the Twist looks a little cluttered. Theres another ThinkPad logo (with another pulsing, red-dotted i) in the lower right corner of the wrist rest, which is made of the same soft, rubbery material as the cover. The glossy 12.5-inch touchscreen is surrounded by a thick bezel, and there are a couple of buttons located below it: the Windows 8 button for switching back to the home screen, and volume controls.

The laptop sports a full-size, spill-proof, island-style keyboard with small, rounded keys. The keyboard is comfortable to type on, though the keys are a little slippery. In the middle of the keyboard theres a small red TrackPoint. The TrackPoints corresponding three buttons are located directly below the keyboard, above a small matte touchpad. The touchpad has no discrete buttons, and is instead clickable itself. Both the TrackPoint and the touchpad are comfortable as input devices, and offer up smooth, accurate pointing and easy clicking.

Like other tablet-Ultrabook hybrids, the Twist can be used in several different ways. You can open it up and use it as a laptop, or you can twist the screen around to use it as a tablet. The screen, which is attached to the bottom of the laptop by a small, sturdy hinge, only twists one way, and only 180 degrees. In tablet mode, you can tilt the screen backward and use the bottom of the laptop as a stand, or you can tilt the screen all the way back (flat), and use the Twist as a typical tablet.

The Twist is a bit heavy at 3.48 pounds to use as a tablet, so you probably wont be using it like that very often. But still, its a nice option to have.

Lenovo also advertises a tent mode, which is when you twist the screen, tilt it back, and then stand the laptop on its edges to make a tent-like structure. While this mode works well with the Yoga, which has balanced parts, its not very effective with the Twist. The Twists screen is much slimmer and lighter than the bottom part of the laptop, and so propping it up in tent mode does not seem very sturdy.

The Twist offers up decent port selection, considering its a tablet-Ultrabook hybrid. It has a Gigabit Ethernet port, which is very useful for business travelers and not something you usually see on Ultrabooks. It also has two USB 3.0 ports, a Mini-DisplayPort and a Mini-HDMI port, a 4-in-1 card reader, and a Kensington lock slot. Theres a combined headphone/microphone jack, and the power button is located on the right side of the screen, along with a screen lock button for when youre in tablet mode.

Screen and Speakers

The Twist sports a glossy 12.5-inch IPS touchscreen with a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. This resolution can look a little dated on larger screens, but its just fine on the Twists screen, and images and text look sharp and crisp. Overall, the Twists screen is nice-looking: its bright, at 350 nits (the average screen brightness for a laptop is between 200 and 250 nits), which means that youll be able to use it outside or in bright situations. Extra brightness is ideal, since the Twist is meant to double as a tablet.

The Twists screen offers up excellent contrast and off-axis viewing angles; the only small issue I had with the screen was that colors sometimes seemed a little off. For example, whites occasionally looked a little yellowish, especially when the brightness wasnt pumped up.

As a touchscreen, the Twists screen works very well. Its responsive and accurate, and multi-touch gestures are smooth more on par with a tablet than with a laptop. Its similar to the Yogas touchscreen, which is also responsive and smooth.

Video looks and sounds pretty mediocre on the Twist. HD streaming video plays back fairly smoothly, but I did see a lot of artifacting and noise in just about every part of every scene whether I was watching the animated My Little Pony series, or the dark, action-packed Arrow series.

Audio on the Twist is&interesting. Its been a long time since Ive heard laptop speakers that are just kind of blah not outright awful, but also not in any way good. Heres the thing: first, the speakers seem to be located in the keyboard, which is just kind of weird. Second, though the sound gets pretty loud (and doesnt distort, even at the highest volume), its just very flat. There doesnt appear to be any bass or treble happening, and so all audio sounds flat, and a little echo-y. This isnt too much of an issue if youre just watching a quick clip, but its definitely an issue if you want to listen to music.

Bottom Line

Although the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist has its flaws, it does what its designed to do very well. That is, its a fantastic business-oriented tablet-Ultrabook hybrid, and its a great choice for a business user.

The Twists performance is a little on the low side for systems in its class, but its nothing to be too concerned about. The twisty screen is particularly useful if youre working with someone and you want to quickly show them whats going on on your screen (assuming theyre sitting on your left the screen only twists one way). And of course, the spill-proof keyboard and mobile data option are great for traveling businesspeople.

Dont get me wrong the ThinkPad Twist has some issues, and its not designed for entertainment. But if youre just looking for a business tablet-Ultrabook hybrid, then this laptop is definitely worth a look.

This story, "Lenovo ThinkPad Twist review: a great business tool" was originally published by PCWorld.

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