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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star

What's Hot: Slim and light, lovely display, included keyboard is excellent. Can add features via optional modules, Quiet fanless design.

What's Not: Intel Core M performance is good, but not as strong as a Core i5. Pricey.


Reviewed May 12, 2016 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet is Lenovo's first business 2-in-1 tablet since the ThinkPad Helix. The Helix showed promise but its Frankenstein design meant a less than elegant keyboard attachment, and the tablet tended to run a bit hot and loud since Lenovo ambitiously used fan-toting Intel Core i CPUs in a thin design. The X1 Tablet is a simple and elegant product in comparison; an unassuming slim matte black rectangle that looks pleasingly modern and spare in a good way. Its looks are closer to the ThinkPad 10, but it builds on the modularity of the Helix. The 12" Windows 10 tablet/2-in-1 comes with an excellent, albeit small keyboard that lives up to the ThinkPad reputation and it's available with Intel 6th generation Skylake Core m5 and m7 CPUs with 8 gigs of RAM and an SSD. It competes with the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 but it adds a twist: snap-on accessories that seem to be the 2016 trend for smartphones and now tablets. You can add on a projector, or an Intel RealSense 3D camera or a Productivity module with extended battery and a few more ports (HDMI, OneLink+ docking connector and USB 3.0). So far, Intel Core M products haven't been less expensive than their Core i5 competitors, and the ThinkPad X1 Tablet is no exception. Our review unit will retail for $1,350 according to Lenovo, and configurations range from $1,200 to $1,600 (keyboard included along with the ThinkPad Pen Pro). It's priced similarly to Surface Pro 4 Core i5 and the Toshiba Portege Z20t 2-in-1 tablet with Core M.

Specs at a Glance

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet has a 12" 2160 x 1440 IPS glossy display that supports touch and the included Wacom AES pen. That's the same resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio as Microsoft's last gen convertible tablet, the Surface Pro 3. It's available with Intel Core m5 and m7 CPUs with Intel HD 515 graphics and 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM. You can get it with a variety of SSD capacities and it has Intel 8260AC dual band WiFi 802.11ac with Bluetooth. The tablet weighs 1.7 lbs. and 2.3 lbs. with the included keyboard (3 ounces less than Surface Pro 4). Modules connect to the bottom edge in a clean and simple way (no complex clamps or plastic baffles like the ThinkPad Helix). The tablet has no fans and is thus silent; a benefit of the Intel Core M platform. According to Lenovo, the back is removable for servicing and upgrading internals such as the battery and SSD (RAM is soldered on and not upgradable). We haven't taken ours apart yet since the method for doing so isn't obvious and the service manual isn't yet available. The tablet has a fingerprint scanner that works with Windows Hello for login.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet


Design and Ergonomics

The tablet is slim at 0.34" and it's fairly rigid thanks to the magnesium alloy internal structure and a PPS injection molded plastic casing. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet feels like a well-made machine, though some might find the lack of metal on the outside less than luxurious. If you're accustomed to the ThinkPad build, I don't think the matte black plastic exterior will bother you--rather you'll feel right at home.

The companion keyboard is excellent. The keys have decent travel for a thin detachable keyboard and they're backlit. Tactile feel and damping are excellent, and the only issue we'd imagine is with the diminished size since it has to match the 12" tablet. It's obviously more compact than a 13.3" Ultrabook's keyboard, but I suspect only those with very large hands will have issues. The buttonless trackpad and NavPoint with hardware buttons are up to ThinkPad standards. They work well, though the trackpad is a little noisy when clicking thanks to the thin keyboard's design (it resonates, much like the Surface Type Cover).

The built-in stand is an upside down version of the Surface Pro kickstand. Rather than deploying from a hinge on the middle back that drops down, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet's kickstand is a metal plate that attaches along the bottom edge and drops down so that plate of metal rests flat against your legs. That means no thin metal edge will leave a crease on bare legs and it's a bit more stable when using it on the lap. The kickstand releases via a slider on the back and it has a fairly wide usable range, though you can't use it nearly flat nor completely upright at 90 degrees. You can however flip the tablet and use it upside down (the accelerometer will rotate the screen, so it won't really be upside down in terms of screen orientation) if you want it to lay propped up just a bit on a table for note taking or drawing.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

The tablet has few ports, and these include the connector on the bottom (hidden under a removable plastic piece) for the optional modules, a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C 3.1 Gen. 1 port for charging and for USB-C peripherals (but not Thunderbolt 3), a 3.5mm combo audio jack and a mini DisplayPort. Thus the ports are similar to Surface Pro 4, but the ThinkPad adds the USB-C port. Like Surface Pro, the microSD card slot is hidden under the stand flap, and there's a nano SIM card slot for optional 4G LTE.


How the Keyboard Attaches

The keyboard with integrated trackpad attaches to the tablet via strong magnets and it has pogo pins for the electronic connection. The magnets are very strong, and like Surface Pro you can dangle the tablet by holding the keyboard and they won't separate, though we don't recommend making a habit of this. Again like Surface Pro and its optional Type Cover, there are two keyboard positions: flat on the table and slightly angled (magnets keep it in place). The keyboard's attachment area is like a flexible book spine and it looks good in faux leather. You can't however wrap the keyboard behind the tablet--you'll have to remove it if you want it out of the way.

MS Surface Pro 4

Above: the optional modules that snap onto the tablet's bottom edge.



The tablet's display doesn't disappoint, and that's refreshing since Lenovo's business ThinkPad laptops often fall short of the consumer competition for color gamut and even sometimes contrast. The tablet represents the full sRGB gamut and 75% of Adobe RGB, as do other laptops and 2-in-1's in this price range. With 365 nits of measured brightness, it's bright enough to combat bright environments and contrast is good at 760:1 with a 0.47 black level at max brightness. The Gorilla Glass 4 clad display is glossy and it has plenty of glare, though the high brightness mitigates this. The display puts up a good fight against the slightly larger and slightly higher resolution Surface Pro 4. it can't compete for over the top vibrance with the Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Windows tablet and its AMOLED display, but Lenovo will be answering that challenge with the AMOLED version of thier lovely 14" ThinkPad X1 Yoga convertible laptop.


Deals and Shopping:


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Video Review

Wacom AES Pen

Lenovo has switched from Wacom EMR digitizers and pens to the new Wacom AES technology that has much in common with N-Trig on Microsoft Surface Pro 4, Surface Book and some Vaio models. Both N-Trig and Wacom AES use electrostatic pens where the pen is active (it supplies power rather than the display's digitizer providing power). The Lenovo ThinkPad Pen Pro, which uses a AAAA battery just like N-Trig pens is included. This is a full size pen rather than the toothpick that's included with some of Lenovo's convertible laptops. There's no silo to store the pen, but Lenovo includes a plastic holder that slots into the USB port. The pen has two side buttons but no eraser on the end.

Edge detection and parallax (pen tip offset) are excellent, again like N-Trig and better than Wacom EMR in that respect. Wacom says EMR is still their most precise and premium technology, but it does cost more and adds weight and thickness due to the digitizer on the display. I actually feel that lack of parallax and good edge detection are more important than absolute accuracy, so I'm content with Wacom AES and the latest N-Trig for my writing and art needs.
Palm rejection works well (you can rest your hand on the display when writing and drawing), and the Wacom control panel allows you to adjust the pressure curve to a limited degree. It supports WinTab for those who use older art programs that require WinTab for pressure sensitivity. It's a pleasant experience for art, though there's no pen tilt like the iPad Pro and some Wacom Cintiq pens. The 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity allow for a realistic feel, though the slippery glass and hard pen tip don't feel much like pen on paper.

Performance and Horsepower

Intel Core M Skylake 6th generation CPUs are no slouches, and performance falls somewhere between the Core i3 and Core i5. The benefit isn't cost since these CPUs are priced similarly to the Core i5 dual core CPUs used in Ultrabooks and Surface Pro, rather it's the cooler running fanless design that means no noise and no burning hands when you hold the tablet. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet won't be quite as fast as the ThinkPad X1 Yoga with a Core i5 or Core i7 CPU, nor will it beat the Core i5 Surface Pro 4, but it's faster by a little bit than the entry level Core m3 Surface Pro 4 and it's fast enough for MS Office, photo editing and streaming full HD video. I wouldn't buy it to edit video professionally or to multitask like a demon with many heavy programs running, but it's fine for everyday business and school use unless you're an upperclassman in engineering.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet is available with 1.1 GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57 and 1.2 GHz Core m7-6Y75 CPUs, both with Intel HD 515 graphics. The HD 515 falls 20% short of Intel HD 520 graphics used in Core i tablets and laptops (the graphics performance divide is greater than the CPU divide). The tablet has 8 gigs of DDR3L RAM soldered on board (not upgradable) and an M.2 SATA-3 SSD that should be upgradable if you remove the back cover.




Battery Life

You'd think the Core M with its lower power requirements would offer longer battery life, but because the CPU can spend so much time in Turbo Boost mode at higher clock speeds to offset the low base clock speeds, it doesn't fare better than Intel Core i CPUs. Our Core m5 review unit averaged 5.5 hours of battery life. The Productivity module with secondary battery adds 5 more hours of battery life according to Lenovo (the module wasn't available during our review period).

The tablet has a 37 Whr battery that's sealed inside, and it ships with a square charger with a thin cable rather than a two-piece laptop style charger. The charger plugs into the USB-C port, so you'll need a USB-C dock or port splitter that supports power-in if you wish to use the tablet with a USB-C peripheral while charging.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet



The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a thoroughly modern tablet with a slim and light design and a simple yet sturdy keyboard connection. Optional modules seem to be the in thing for 2016 with everything from smartphones to tablets offering some kind of add-on functionality for a price. The Productivity module is likely to be the most popular since it increases battery life and adds a few key ports. The projector will likely appeal to sales folks who need to give presentations and the Intel RealSense 3D camera could be useful to vertical market business users who need to capture dimensions.

The tablet's high resolution display doesn't disappoint in terms of brightness and color gamut, and performance is perfectly adequate for everyday use. The keyboard is superb, albeit small, and the trackpad and NavPoint are every bit ThinkPad good. The stand is a bit more lap friendly than Surface Pro 4's since you won't have a thin metal edge digging into your leg, but the Surface Pro does fight back with an arugably sexier design and more powerful internals on all but the base model.


Price: $1,350 as reviewed, pricing ranges from $1,200 to $1,650

Related Reviews:

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Review

Lenovo Yoga Book Review

Huawei MateBook Review

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Review

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 260 Review

Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 460 Video Review

Toshiba Portege Z20t Video Review

Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Review

Vaio Z Canvas Review

Microsoft Surface Book Review


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Display: 12", 2160 x 1440 IPS touch screen with Wacom AES pen support. Intel HD 515 integrated graphics. Mini DisplayPort. HDMI available on some optional modules that connect to the tablet's bottom.

Battery: 37 Whr Lithium Ion rechargeable, sealed inside.

Performance: Intel 6th generation Core m5 and Core m7 CPUs. 8 gigs DDR3L RAM (soldered on board, not upgradable). 128 or 256 gig SATA-3 SSD.

Size: 11.48 x 8.25 x .34 inches. Weight: 1.7 lbs. (tablet only) and 2.3 lbs. with keyboard.

Camera: 720p webcam.

Audio: Built-in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm standard stereo headphone jack.

Networking: Integrated Intel 8260 dual band WiFi 802.11b/g/n/ac and Bluetooth.

Software: Windows 10.

Security: TPM 2.0 and 1.2. Fingerprint scanner.

Expansion and Ports: Keyboard and optional module connector, 1 USB 3.0 port, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio and microSD card slot. Nano SIM card slot for LTE 4G option.



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