Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p Thoughts

Last year there were three products that I wanted or wanted to try, and they were all delayed and more expensive than advertised. The first was the Helix. The second, which I have not mentioned, but may write about in the future, is an update to the Corsair K60 with new switches and backlighting. The third, which has been delayed by far the longest, is the one I’m talking about today, the Lenovo ThinkVision LT1423p.

I’ve been complaining for a while now that there are basically no good convertible tablets out there anymore, and as of now I’m going to stick with that. Everything comes in a gimmicky form factor with the wrong digitizer in an overweight or under powered package (I’m not really one to care about compute power, but I don’t want an Atom even in my secondary notebook). As such I’ve been looking to go back to using a “conventional” tablet along with an awesome ultraportable, but with a tablet more like a Cintiq than an Intuos. I was very close to shelling out and buying a Cintiq, but then, maybe early last year, I heard about the LT1423p.

Three reasons why I then wanted an LT1423p over a Cintiq: 1) it’s less than half the price, 2) it comes in a smaller and lighter form factor, 3) it only needs one wire. Number three seems like the lamest reason, but I really can’t stress it enough: I don’t have the desk space to permanently set up a Cintiq-like display, so I’m going to have to set it up and take it down everytime I want to use it, so the fewer cables the better. Plus, just like batteries, I hate, hate, hate external power bricks.

Anyway, I heard about the thing in January. Then there was nothing for a while. The first official release date was probably something in the summer. When I was finally able to buy one in late October, I didn’t actually receive it until a few days before I left for Hong Kong in mid December. That being said, I took it with me to Hong Kong, but I didn’t really get the chance to sit down and finish painting something until recently, and hence I’m not writing this post until now.

So what exactly is it? It’s a fancy piece of plastic with a screen and a Wacom digitizer that plugs into your computer via USB. It may require an additional USB port for more power. You can use it as a screen – it’s 13 inches with a 1600 x 900 resolution – or you can draw on it. It comes with a built-in stand and an external stand (presumably for monitor mode) that doubles as a protective case. The screen itself weighs 1lb 14oz, and 3lbs exactly with the stand/case. There’s also a wireless version that has a built in battery. There’s also touch, but I’ve neither cared or cared to figure out how to make it work.

Yes, I am implying that it was hard to make it work. I think there is some driver conflict because I’m trying to use it with my x220 tablet, which already has a built-in digitizer using the same Wacom driver that the LT1423p is supposed to use (or everyone assumed that because it doesn’t come with a special Wacom driver). There is a separate driver for the display part of the LT1423p, which seemed to work okay. Eventually I got it to work consistently after disabling the internal Wacom digitizer but it still sometimes takes Windows really long to recognize the device. Touch never worked properly even when I was testing the thing with something other than the x220 tablet; they would always act on the main display in the same way the pen on an Intuos acts on the main display. What’s cute about the whole driver situation is that the drivers are actually distributed through the device itself: the LT1423p has an internal 4GB USB drive on which you can get the bundled driver.

At first, the wireless version seems to be a good idea if you want to use it on battery. The LT1423p draws a whopping 3W when idling with the display off, and may pull up to 10W with max brightness and the digitizer active. This is admittedly pretty bad: the entire x220 tablet probably draws about that much power under the same circumstances. There is a very simple OSD that controls brightness and contrast. Finally, I’ve heard that the latency of the wireless version in wireless mode is far too high to do anything other than stream video.

Unsurprisingly, the implementation of the Wacom digitizer is about as good (or bad) as it is on the x220 tablet and on the Helix. There are still edge tracking problems on some edges, but it’s otherwise perfectly usable and more or less what I’m used to. It has not made drawing from scratch on a tablet any easier, which may or may not have happened on an actual Cintiq, which thus may or may not have been one of the benefits of getting an actual Cintiq. The pen is also the same as the one on the Helix, and thus it’s really only useful in a pinch, and I’ve been using my x220 tablet pen instead. Everything I’ve read suggests that the x220 tablet pen should have worked with the Helix too, so now I don’t know if mine actually didn’t or if I was crazy.

All that being said, the LT1423p is probably half as good as a Cintiq and thus probably worth the $450. For now I’ll probably keep it, though I’m kind of biased as I really want to like it and get rid of the x220 tablet (then again I really wanted to like the Helix too, and I didn’t keep that). It’s too bad that my awesome ultraportable still doesn’t exist yet, so maybe I’ll change my mind…

Likewise, I have actually painted something on the LT1423p, and it turned out pretty well.

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