As I have written in the past, I have a bit of a “love-hate” relationship with Lenovo and their ThinkPad line, but its way more on the love side because their hardware utterly rocks. As it was getting time for a new laptop, I surfed over to the Lenovo site at on April 28 and went through the customized build process to build my ultimate X200 Tablet. I’d checked out the new machines a couple of months ago, but noticed a few interesting things they’d added.

The first was they were now offering a 2.13 GHz L9600 Core Duo with a 6MB L2 Cache as a CPU option. While not a huge speed bump over the 1.86 GHz, every little bit helps. I configured the machine maxing out everything with 4GB RAM, touch screen display, AT&T mobile broadband, fingerprint reader, camera, Bluetooth, 8-cell battery, and the 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD). (A guy can always dream, right?) Anyway, I was sure the machine I configured was going to be too expensive to buy. That’s when I noticed something very interesting, the SSD price was wrong with the result that the SSD drive was free!

There was no way that could be correct, but I thought it couldn’t hurt to go through with the order. The front page of the Lenovo site had mentioned an e-coupon code that if you ordered by the end of the April, you got 15% off. The configuration computer price never changed through the end of the order and I duly got the 15% discount. Feeling lucky, but sure there was no way I was going to get a free SSD drive, I submitted my order.

The next day I called Lenovo to find out the real cost of the computer. The customer service person quoted me the $1,800 (minus tax) that I had from my web site order confirmation. When I pointed out that SSD pricing was wrong, the representative said: “I guess it’s your lucky day because that’s the price we are charging you. In fact, I didn’t know we sold 2.13 GHz CPUs in that computer either.” That sent me scrambling back to the Lenovo web site and it no longer showed the 2.13 GHz CPU for the X200 Tablet and the SSD price error was fixed.

I’d managed to order a model that didn’t exist and was far underpriced so I wasn’t sure what was going to happen. The ship date was originally May 8, and as I expected, on May 8 the ship date changed to May 14. Now I was curious to see what was going to happen so I waited until May 14, mainly because I was in China, thinking that there was going to be further delays because of the messed up order. My plan was to call Lenovo and get everything straightened out by opting for the 1.86 GHz CPU and a normal hard disk as my current order was probably going to be stuck in their system until they actually released the version with the 2.13 GHz CPU many months from now. On May 14, my order status changed to “shipped” and had a tracking number, which was quite a surprise.

On May 19, UPS delivered the computer. The specifications sticker on the box said it had a 2.13 GHz CPU and firing it up reported two important facts, first it did contain the 2.13 GHz CPU, and second, it definitely contained a blazingly fast SSD drive! Looking at the price of the maxed out X200 Tablet as I write this shows the price to be $2,900 (with no coupons applied) and still does not offer the 2.13 GHz CPU as an option. There’s nothing like getting a smoking hot computer for nearly half off!

I was expecting Lenovo to call me and ask me to pay for the SSD drive before shipping the computer, which I would have completely understood and gladly have done, but they never did. I hope they will accept my full gratitude for the deal, and even more devotion from me in exchange. While you probably won’t get the deal I got, if you need a rock solid laptop you can trust, go with a Lenovo. I’ve been using them for 15 years and loving them. OK, there was that two-year flirtation with a Toshiba M200 that I got free, but I never liked it and felt dirty the whole time.

After verifying that everything worked on the machine, it was time for Win7 x64. As I wanted to control the machine, I wiped out everything Lenovo had installed and started fresh. The Win7 RC install off a bootable USB memory drive was trivial. If others with X200 Tablets are looking to go to Win7 x64, which I would highly recommend, here’s all I installed. All the rest of the drivers I let Windows 7 or Windows Update install for me.

Two things that aren’t working for me are the Intel AMT serial drivers and the fingerprint reader. I don’t really care about the AMT part, but I tried to get the Lenovo Vista fingerprint reader software to work, but there are too many changes between Vista and Win7 for biometric devices in order for them to work.

The big thing I’ve learned with the X200 Tablet is that I will never use a platter hard disk again. I’d read that an SSD makes a big difference, until I used one the last couple of days for real world use, I didn’t realize just how much faster they are. Another feature is the silent operation. I guess I had gotten used to the hard drive noise, but now that it’s gone on the new machine, it’s annoying to use a regular computer again.

While I have taken a Surface development class, I never used the touch features in Win7. Now that I have, I don’t know how I ever lived without them! With the taskbar in particular, it’s so convenient and faster to have your hands on the keyboard and reach up to touch the application to switch to, especially if you run as many as I do. After two days of using my new laptop, I went to my old laptop and couldn’t understand why I couldn’t switch applications any more when I touched the screen.

While you’re probably already sick of this blog entry because of my killer deal, I do have one last thing to brag about, battery life. I have the 8-cell battery in this machine and the other night I worked six solid hours and still had 20% of the battery left when I put the machine back in the UltraBase. Between Win7 and better hardware, it’s now realistic to get real development work done when you fly across the US.