The Lenovo Twist Ultrabook powered by Windows 8 works as a standard Clamshell laptop as well as twisting it’s hinge to become a stand, tablet or tent. The message from Lenovo is that enterprise users can buy the Twist and use it as a standard Laptop as well as a Tablet using Windows 8 touchscreen features.
The Twist’s 12.5-inch IPS screen has good viewing angles coupled with Corning Gorilla Glass scratch protection and a run of the mill 1366 x 768 resolution, which displays information at a respectable 350 NITS brightness with some kind of coating put on it to reduce glare. However, when we used it during a meeting at a Sydney cafe to share information that involved lots of touchscreen use it got quite smudgy quickly, requiring frequent wiping down with a handkerchief.
When it comes to the hyped hinge, which attaches the Twist's screen to its body, it only works in one direction and so any absent-minded attempt to move it strongly the other way will be at your peril.
At the bottom right-hand side of the screen is a power button and next to it an auto rotate lock/unlock button. We found that the accelerometer, which helps the Twist figure out what orientation it’s being held in, quite slow when it worked. When it didn’t work we had to shake and tilt the Twist around until it caught on and oriented the screen properly. We haven’t encountered this issue on any tablet before and we’re surprised that this flaw passed product testing.
As usual, the Lenovo heritage of good keyboards continues with the Twist, keys sufficiently spaced apart, slightly curved inwards on the surface and with good travel so you can type fast with few errors.
The traditional mid-keyboard red Lenovo TrackPoint returns but you have to wonder how much it will be used in the Windows 8 era when users can make use of several fingers at once on the multi touch capacitive screen. The Twists’ trackpad, unfortunately, has the common Lenovo weakness of being textured, we would much rather it had a smooth glass finish.
Using the Twist to type notes at a media event we found to our dismay that it the keyboard isn’t backlit, which is disappointing for a business laptop that might be used while flying during work hours to a meeting or sitting in a poorly lit taxi.
When it comes to ports, connectivity and video the Twist is fully kitted out, starting with a 720P wide angle webcam, mini displayport and mini HDMI ports, Bluetooth 4.0 (turn this off to save battery), 2 USB 3.0 ports, gigabit ethernet port, kensington anti-theft lock, Wifi a/b/g/n, SIM card slot for 3G broadband, SD card reader and combined headphone/mic jack. The stereo speakers are nothing to write home about.
Storage options for the Twist are a 320GB/500GB magnetic hard drive or 128GB SSD. The processor is either a 3rd generation Intel i3, i5 or i7 and RAM options are 4 or 8GB.
Given the base model and a choice to upgrade just one of these components, we would choose the SSD drive as it will make the most noticeable difference.
Should you unfortunately drop the Twist, Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Active Protection System will kick in, with an accelerometer stopping drive activity to prevent damage and internal connections setup to reduce shock.
While the battery is rated to last up to seven hours, early buyers, especially those who chose the more wallet friendly magnetic hard drive option, are finding they are achieving real world battery life of about four hours, well short of the claimed maximum.
Overall we’d prefer to use separate dedicated best of breed laptop and tablet devices. We’re not sold on the Lenovo Twist unless your budget is tight and you can’t buy two devices. Buying the Toshiba Portg Z930, Lenovo X1 Carbon or MacBook Air as a laptop and an iPad 4 or Google Nexus 10 as a tablet would be far more productive than the Twist in our opinion.
Another alternative is the new Windows 8 powered Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro which allows its screen to be magnetically locked or unattached from the keyboard rather than having it permanently attached via a hinge.
The Lenovo Twist is available starting at $1050 for the base i3 model, up to almost $1700 for the top i7 equipped version. Prices at the low end are not much more than the US once taxes are taken into consideration but the top models appear to have a large "Australia margin” added to them.