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Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Tablet modules add features but limit functionality

Mark Hachman | Nov. 1, 2016
The tablet's modules do support keyboards, but you might be turned off by those plastic bits.

Lenovo’s one-page manual for its presenter module doesn’t indicate the “ThinkPad” cutout can be removed. No, there is no page 2. (Click to display the entire page.)

Presenter module: A pico projector in a can

The Presenter module turns your tablet into a projector. It’s a neat trick to flip the tablet on its back, prop it up using the kickstand, then swivel out the projector module to point it at a wall or other suitable surface. An internal battery stores enough juice for two hours of projection time.

Lenovo productivity modules
The Presenter module’s pico projector mount swivels to protect the lens when not in use. Here, it’s ready to go.

Tap the power button, and the projector warms up. In a second or two, it throws a small square of light onto the projection surface, performing automatic keystone adjustment to align the image properly.  Alternatively, an HDMI toggle—the module can either display an HDMI signal from another source, or else project the tablet’s screen—allows for an external display. 

Lenovo productivity modules
The X1 tablet in presenter mode.

Unfortunately, the Presenter module is hamstrung by a lack of luminosity. With just 28 to 32 lumens of power available, the module’s projected image is only truly readable in a dim to dark room. With virtually any ambient light, the image is washed out. Even in a darkened room, the projected image is just subpar. Worse still, Lenovo says the module can only cast a 60-inch display at 6.5 feet, with a rather poor 854x480 resolution.

Lenovo productivity modules
Lenovo’s Presenter module, at night, projected against the wall. Compare this image with the one at the top of the article, shot in the same room but during a cloudy day.

To be fair, many, but not all, of the dedicated external pico projectors you’ll find elsewhere offer roughly the same luminosity and resolution. But for the $280 you’ll pay for the Presenter module, you could get an external model like the iCODIS G1, which offers the same resolution, but at 100 lumens.

My impressions of the Presenter module: You have a dim, low-resolution display projected just a few feet in front of a bright, high-resolution laptop screen. Why not just huddle around the laptop?

Lenovo X1 tablet module plastic bits
When using the modules, be careful not to lose the cutouts. (USB key shown to provide scale.)

Productivity module: A hefty chunk of battery life

Lenovo’s Productivity module is much more straightforward. The most important element is a 2-cell battery for an additional five hours of battery life, an HDMI connection, a USB 3.0 connection, and a Onelink port. The latter is the connection Lenovo uses for its docking stations...so we have a modular accessory that can connect to a dock that can connect to other modular accessories, like a monitor or hard drive. Flexibility!

 

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