Skip to main content

Life with a 2-in-1 laptop: How this Surface Pro rival helped awaken my creative side

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable
(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Like many of you, I thought to use the extra free time gained from working from home during a pandemic to try something new. First, I downloaded a trial for Fender Play to learn how to play the ukulele (that didn't go far). I then finished a few thousand-piece puzzles and made it a goal to read a new book each month. Somewhere between my failed hobbies, I thought I would unlock my right brain by buying a license to Affinity Designer and the companion book to learn graphic design. 

I've always considered myself a left-brained individual — an analytical and methodical thinker, hence my career in data science. I spend my days synthesizing and modeling data into actionable results, building Power BI dashboards to enable leadership, and liaising between the business and IT.  I wanted to have a hobby that challenged me to not only develop a skill but also transform the way my mind could see things. I wanted to look beyond optimization and KPIs and think more in terms of shapes, colors, and layers.

The initial excitement of entering a new artistic realm quickly wore off as the screen fatigue from work, Instagram and Reddit scrolling, Peloton workouts, and Netflix took a toll.

Enter the ThinkPad X12 Detachable

Months later, the stars aligned. I wanted a custom pop art piece for my apartment, had no idea how to get someone commissioned, and Phillip Tracy, Laptop Mag's Assistant Managing Editor, my husband, was reviewing the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable. If you've read any of his reviews, then you already know the extent of my artistic abilities as I'm the secret mastermind behind the drawings on those articles (see below).

Dell Latitude 9410 2-in-1

(Image credit: Future)

Are you mimicking the Pikachu surprised meme? Same. So my artistic ability bar was low, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable has helped me improve drastically.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable's stylus made my first foray into graphic design a stimulating and child-like arts-and-crafts experience. It allowed me to get the perfect precision in angling my lines and ultimately made designing feel different from my typical workday experience of clicking and scrolling through research papers, building dashboards, and statistical modeling.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

I had no issues pairing the pen to the laptop and really appreciated the ability to program the buttons on the stylus to adjust line thickness while I outlined the beginning of my first pop art piece. The stylus was fun to use, but not completely necessary as a beginner in graphic design. I found using a mouse and sporadic pokes on the touchscreen of my XPS 13 was just as simple. 

Like many laptops in the detachable 2-in-1 class, the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is compact and lightweight. It sat nicely on my desk in laptop mode as I fired up Affinity Designer and Googled my way through certain settings and tasks I was trying to accomplish. The keyboard felt like a typical Lenovo keyboard — satisfyingly clicky — which was a pleasant surprise for hardware in this ultrathin class. The kickstand is and will always be the bane of existence for detachable 2-in-1’s but Lenovo isn’t to blame. The kickstand is sturdy and easy to flip out with built-in notches. It was easy to detach the keyboard when I wanted to lay the laptop flat so I could continue working from the comfort of my bed. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

My desire to be constantly wrapped in my silky bed sheets while I do basically anything was challenged using the ThinkPad X12 Detachable in tablet mode.  Keyboard shortcuts are the saving grace in graphic design and I found that I was stuck between a rock in a hard place as the kickstand wasn't great to use under certain conditions and using the stylus to tap between different tools quickly got old.  Whether on my lap or propped up on a makeshift pillow desk, the kickstand provided some support but was often wobbly, making it difficult to find the sweet spot. For those of you who have kickstands on your bike (I’ll admit to it even if I'm shunned by the biking community), you know it can be difficult to get the tilt of your front wheel and the placement of the kickstand just right to stand your bike up on the uneven terrain; I had a similar problem with the ThinkPad X12. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

After wrapping up the final stages of my first piece, I decided I should see what it would look like on a larger scale. The Lenovo ThinkPad X12’s 12.3-inch screen was bright and vivid, but not as large as I would like. I used the USB-C port to project my design onto a 27-inch Dell UP2720Q Ultrasharp monitor and made the necessary adjustments that I couldn’t make by zooming in and out on the ThinkPad X12. 

Connecting to the large monitor was my bildungsroman in understanding why something like the Microsoft Surface Studio exists. In no time, my first print was off to the presses and I could not have been any happier with the result. The ThinkPad X12 inspired me to really start my graphic design journey and to keep going with a second design for my sister’s birthday. 

Detachable 2-in-1 vs. clamshell laptop

The second time around, I used my XPS 13 with a Logitech MX Anywhere 3 mouse. It’s difficult to say whether this setup improved my speed or if I was just becoming more familiar with Affinity Designer, but it was definitely a different experience from the stylus and trackpad on the ThinkPad X12 Detachable. The mouse scroll wheel allowed me to zoom in and out with ease, and the stability of the clamshell design let me use my keyboard comfortably without worrying about placing it down just right.

Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 review

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

Sure, I could have simply paired my Logitech mouse via Bluetooth to get a similar setup on the ThinkPad X12, but for those who are about that USB-A-dongle-wireless-mouse-life, you’re out of luck; the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable does not have a USB A port. In the long run, I prefer having different ways to adapt to the work I needed done and the tools I required at that point in time. I was pleasantly surprised with the speed of completing my second piece of my sister posing under the hood of her Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack. 

Lenovo Yoga 9i

(Image credit: Laptop Mag)

If I wanted the best of the ThinkPad X12 and my Dell XPS 13, I would opt for a traditional 2-in-1 laptop like the HP Spectre x360 14 or Dell XPS 13 2-in-1. I could then easily go into tablet mode for a paper-like drawing experience while having the stability of a clamshell-style design.


At the end of the day, the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable inspired me to unleash my creative side. The compact design, stylus, and excellent keyboard helped me complete my first graphic design. If the typical qualms of the detachable 2-in-1 form factor don’t bother you,  I would recommend it as a catchall laptop for Netflix, work, graphic design, and any other task you throw at it. Who knows, you may just end up like me — doing design work on the side.