Back at CES 2017, Lenovo debuted its new ThinkPad X1 lineup for the year. In that lineup sat the X1 Tablet in the middle. The device is essentially a Microsoft Surface Pro with Lenovo’s tweaks throughout. It has a sturdy but cheap feeling body, a keyboard that’s detachable, a stylus, a fingerprint reader, and a 2K display. Mind you, all of this comes right out of the same box. In other words, you don’t have to purchase the keyboard or pen separately like you do with the Surface or iPad Pro. Lenovo provides the full experience when you purchase the device, and that experience isn’t too shabby.
Touching more on the body, the X1 Tablet is made of plastic. The display is covered by glass, but there’s no getting around how cheap this device feels when it costs upwards of $1,000. The construction is fine and it serves its purpose, but it doesn’t feel as nice as something like a Surface or iPad by any means.
For IO, the X1 Tablet includes a USB-C port for charging, a standard USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort, and a microSD card slot. It definitely doesn’t lack in ports, that’s for sure. But at the same time, I would’ve preferred maybe one more USB-A or USB-C port for connecting extra peripherals, but what can you do?
Around the back, Lenovo includes a kickstand that can be adjusted to nearly a 180-degree position. When you reach 180 degrees, it automatically snaps onto the back of the device and is secured by a hook. Because of this, you’ll have to release the stand with a switch that isn’t all that easy to pry. I’m definitely not a fan of this system since competitors’ alternatives to this are so much simpler. But hey, at least I can adjust the height of the X1 Tablet anyway.
Below the tablet is where your keyboard will sit most of the time. It can either sit flush with your lap or desk or can be snapped with magnets at a higher angle for more comfort while typing. Using the keyboard is fine, with the keys feeling a bit too mushy for my taste. There’s also a bit of flex when you have the keyboard snapped at the higher angle, but you’ll really only notice it if you type physically harder than the average person.
Also, the space bar – I keep experiencing double spaces when I tap it lightly for whatever reason. Luckily, the entire keyboard is backlit, so at least you’ll be able to see the bar when you hit it even at night.
Regarding the mouse, Lenovo’s trackpads are always plastic unless you buy one of their higher-end Yoga laptops. I seriously hate this, which means I seriously hate the trackpad on the X1 Tablet. I just wish the actual surface of the pad were smoother. There’s just too much friction for me.
Since the X1 Tablet is plastic, it collects heat easier. There’s no fan to cool the internals down, so you’ll notice the tablet getting hotter as you use it even with light to mid use. For fear of burning myself, I didn’t try any heavy tasks on this guy during my testing. It couldn’t handle it anyway, mind you. I say this because Lenovo includes Intel’s Kaby Lake rebranded M-series processors. I was shipped the Intel Core i5, and boy is this chip a poker. At least on Windows 10, the rebranded Intel Core m5 processor is near tolerable. It’s not unusable, by any means, but it definitely lacks in performance in comparison with a real Core i5 processor.
Luckily, where the X1 Tablet slouches in processor speed, it shines in RAM. The model we’re testing comes with 8GB of RAM which is plenty for the normal user to get work done juggling multiple apps like Google Chrome, Microsoft Word, and File Explorer. I was able to keep about five or six Chrome tabs open at once with Word and File Explorer in the background, and everything was pretty smooth. Mind you, the processor didn’t aid in speeding things along at all, but at least the RAM allocated for this many processes running in the background.
As for the display, we’re looking at a 12-inch 2K (2160×1440) IPS touchscreen, and might I say everything is beautiful. Colors pop, sharpness is on point thanks to the high resolution, and Windows 10 just looks great on it. Since this is a tablet, it naturally has a touchscreen because you can rip off the keyboard and use it like you would a standard tablet. Touch responsiveness was good, while input with the included pen was also a pretty smooth experience.
Speaking of which, the stylus that comes with the X1 Tablet is similar to what you’d get with the Surface. It features 2048 levels of pressure sensitivity, while it requires a AAAA battery to operate. It connects wirelessly to the tablet, and I never really had a problem with it. There’s some additional software on board that lets you tweak what the two buttons do, and that’s it. Overall, using the pen that comes with this device was a nice experience.
Oh, and thankfully, Lenovo actually gives you somewhere to put the thing: right on the side of the keyboard thanks to a dedicated loop. It’s a convenient place to put it since it’ll always be in hand’s reach. Maybe some should take cues from this design choice (I’m looking at you, Microsoft and Apple).
For added security, Lenovo includes a fingerprint scanner on the side of the X1 Tablet that’s compatible with Windows 10. For whatever reason, it never really worked for me. In other words, the experience was never really consistent for me. When it felt like it, the sensor would work. But any other time I wanted to quickly log in, it would just give me an error message. It could be the software’s fault, but I tend to doubt that.
Touching a bit more on the software, Lenovo packs in Windows 10 Pro Signature Edition, meaning there isn’t a bunch of software or games you won’t ever use or play. They only include some homemade tools for controlling the hardware of the tablet, but that’s really it. All in all, I enjoyed the clean build of Windows 10. I didn’t have to uninstall a bunch of junk before I got started reviewing the thing, and all I had to do was log in with my own Microsoft account and I was set. Therefore, if you pick up this 2-in-1, you won’t be disappointed software-wise.
Where you may be disappointed is in the audio department. There’s a headphone jack (don’t panic) so you can enjoy personal listening, and there’s two stereo speakers on either side. They basically are garbage since they’re way too tinny for enjoying any type of listening, while they also don’t get very loud. Overall, I wasn’t very impressed with the speaker quality on the X1 Tablet which is a shame since, with tablets, you like to do things like stream YouTube or play some Spotify with its speakers. In fact, the $499 Yoga Book has better speakers, and that thing is way thinner than this device will ever be.
Battery life on the X1 Tablet was actually pretty good. Lenovo advertises 15 hours, and while you won’t get near that, I still saw myself getting around 9 hours of usage on a single charge. That’s usually more than enough for a normal work day and leaves me with some spare juice if I wanna chill on the couch for an hour or two and watch a movie. Of course, you can blame this on the wimpy Intel Core Y-series processor that doesn’t draw much power at all, but it’s still great anyway.
Oh, there’s two cameras on this thing too. Neither of them are any good. Try not to use them. That is all.
All in all, the X1 Tablet feels like a makeup device. Wherever it struggles, it shines in another respect. The keyboard’s no good, but it’s backlit. The speed isn’t great, but it aids in battery life. The pen’s pretty normal, but at least you can actually put it somewhere. The body’s plastic and feels cheap, but thankfully it’s sturdy. In a nutshell, if you buy the ThinkPad X1 Tablet, you’ll probably like it. You’ll also hate it, but if you know what you’re gonna use it for such as in place as a travel laptop or secondary device to your main PC, you’ll be pleased. Just don’t get too annoyed by that kickstand. I’m just warning you.