Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Review

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Editors' rating:
The Pros

Sharp, vivid display; Strong performance; Long battery life with extended battery; MIL-STD 810G tested; Keyboard (with TrackPoint) comes standard

The Cons

Mediocre endurance (without extended battery); Extra pieces to store when using modules

Verdict

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a lightweight laptop replacement with strong performance and a great display, but you'll need to shell out extra for the external battery.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet (2017) is the second generation of Lenovo's capable business 2-in-1. This model updates the versatile slate with Intel's newer Kaby Lake hardware but otherwise leaves the design and features unchanged. As you might expect with Lenovo's reliable ThinkPad line, the new ThinkPad X1 Tablet ($1,499 as reviewed) retains all of the business-friendly capabilities of the previous model, including an excellent keyboard cover and optional add-on modules that let you work in any circumstances. However, the tablet still suffers from below-average battery life, unless you purchase a $149 module attachment that includes an additional battery.

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Design

The slim X1 Tablet shares a family resemblance with the rest of the ThinkPad line, thanks to its matte black finish, and the overall design of the tablet is unchanged from the 2016 model. Outwardly, it's the same system, with a magnesium chassis, a durable business-rugged design and a built-in kickstand.

The 12-inch slate measures 11.4 x 8.2 x 0.3 inches and weighs 1.68 pounds as a tablet alone, and bulks up to 0.55 inches thick and 2.38 pounds with the included keyboard attached.

Along the edges of the tablet, you'll find a USB Type-C port that doubles as a power connector, one full-size USB 3.0 port, a mini DisplayPort and a security lock slot. Behind the folding kickstand is a microSD card slot, as well as a nano-SIM card slot for optional LTE connectivity. To the left of the display is a built-in fingerprint sensor for simple, secure logins.

On the back of the tablet is a built-in stand that folds out for hands-free use on desks and tables. Though we've seen kickstands in other tablet PCs, like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the Dell Latitude 5285, those models use a stand with a hinge in the middle of the tablet and rest upon the edge of the extended kickstand. The Lenovo uses a hinge along the edge of the tablet and distributes the weight of the tablet along the full surface of the extended stand instead of the edge. This small tweak in design offers better comfort and stability, even on a lap or airplane tray table.

Display

The tablet's 12-inch IPS display looks good from most angles and boasts a 2160 x 1440 resolution. When I watched the trailer for Blade Runner 2049, the vibrant colors popped, and the details looked crisp as I watched Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford traipse across futuristic sets. While the screen was pretty good, the glass surface of the display was almost mirror-like in its reflectiveness.

In testing, the display offered an average brightness of 375 nits, making it a bit brighter than the Samsung Galaxy Book 12-Inch (342 nits) and nearly equal to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (382). Colors looked great, covering 115 percent of the sRGB gamut, which is slightly better than the Surface Pro 4 (100 percent) but nowhere near as impressive as the Samsung Galaxy Book's 205 percent gamut coverage.

The X1 Tablet's color accuracy is not great, though; it had a Delta-E rating of 4.99 (closer to 0 is better, and anything over 1 is noticeable). That's significantly less accurate than the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (0.35) and the Samsung Galaxy Book (1.65), but it's not that far off from the Acer Switch Alpha (3.69).

As expected, the X1 supports 10-finger touch, as well as pen input from the included Lenovo ThinkPad Pen Pro.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pen

As with most productivity-focused, detachable tablets, Lenovo's detachable keyboard doubles as a tablet cover, and comes in black, red or silver. Lenovo includes the keyboard and an active stylus with the tablet, unlike the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the Dell Latitude 5285, which offer the keyboard and pen as optional accessories.

The overall setup is quite similar to that seen on the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, with a magnetic pogo connector and a folding bezel attachment, which snaps into place easily and then holds securely for all of your typing needs. Unlike the Surface Pro 4, it uses a rigid plastic for the keyboard deck instead of Microsoft's felt-and-vinyl design. The result is a better experience, with less bounce when you're typing.

The mechanical keys have a comfortable 1.2 millimeters of travel, which is just a bit less than the 1.5-to 2-mm range we prefer, but it's still admirable for a tablet keyboard cover. The keys require 72 grams of force for a full keystroke, which provides a good amount of resistance (we like 60 grams or more).

Lenovo takes the keyboard feel a step further with the inclusion of the familiar red TrackPoint in the middle. It also adds physical buttons to the touchpad for right and left clicking, and a middle button for scrolling. The touchpad itself measures 3.5 x 2.0 inches, with multitouch support for the gesture controls you expect on a Windows machine.

MORE: Best Lenovo Laptops

The tablet also comes with Lenovo's ThinkPad Pen Pro, an active capacitive pen with 2,048 levels of pressure sensitivity. The slim pen is comfortable to write with, has right and left click buttons that are easy to use in a regular pen grip, and is powered by an AAAA battery. The pen comes with a plastic holder that slots into the tablet's full-size USB port, but it's a clunky solution to the problem of a loose pen. Thankfully, the included keyboard cover has a built-in fabric loop for stowing the pen when it's not in use.

Audio

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet has stereo speakers and dual-array microphones that help eliminate ambient noise during video chats. The speakers are good enough for calling into meetings from the road, but this tablet is not made with media consumption in mind.

When I listened to Galactic's "Today's Blues (Into the Deep)," there was a noticeable lack of bass, with tinny mids and highs. I also heard some unwanted buzzing at high volumes, which is all the more disappointing because the overall volume from the speakers is fairly quiet. If you're listening to music or watching video, you'll get better volume and sound quality using headphones.

Performance

Armed with an Intel Core i5-7Y57 (3.3 GHz) processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid-state drive, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a business-ready machine that will let you stay productive both at your desk and on the go.

On the Geekbench 3 general performance test, the ThinkPad X1 scored 6,371 points, putting it alongside the Samsung Galaxy Book (6,381) but behind the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 (6,811) and the Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1 (8,449).

The 256GB M.2 PCIe NVMe SSD in the ThinkPad X1 completed our file duplication test in 18 seconds, copying 4.97GB of files at a rate of 282.7 MBps. Again, this puts it somewhere between the Samsung Galaxy Book (267.9 MBps) and the Surface Pro 4 (318.1 MBps), and well ahead of the 189.1-MBps category average.

On our OpenOffice spreadsheet macro test, the ThinkPad X1 took 5 minutes and 2 seconds to pair 20,000 names and addresses. That's faster than both the category average (5:40) and the Samsung Galaxy Book (5:14) but slower than the Surface Pro 4 (4:11) and the Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1 (3:27).

The tablet's graphics performance is perfectly suited to office work, but the integrated Intel HD Graphics 615 won't impress anyone. In 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, our basic graphics benchmark, the ThinkPad X1 scored 48,953, actually falling behind last year's model (61,799). It was even farther behind current competitors, like the Surface Pro 4 (60,424) and the Samsung Galaxy Book (63,187).

Battery Life

Although Lenovo claims that the X1 Tablet will get up to 10 hours of battery life, when we tested it with the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi), it lasted just 5 hours and 23 minutes. For comparison, most major competitors lasted more than 6 hours: The Samsung Galaxy Book lasted 6:38, the Surface Pro 4 eked out 6:05 and the Dell Latitude 5285 managed a respectable 6:52.

MORE: 10 Tablets with the Longest Battery Life

You can stretch that runtime with Lenovo's optional Productivity Module ($149.99), an attachment that includes an additional 5-hour battery. When we tested the 2016 model with the module in place, the battery life stretched from 5:32 to 9:14, and we would expect similar performance from this updated model.

Webcam and Camera

The tablet is equipped with a 2-megapixel camera on the front and an 8-MP camera on the back. It will work for Skype and other virtual meetings, but the low resolution is noticeable, especially when compared to the 5-megapixel front-facing cameras seen in the Samsung Galaxy Book and the Microsoft Surface Pro 4. The color is also slightly dull, and the camera doesn't handle bright lights and shadow particularly well.

In addition to a higher resolution, the rear-facing camera has an LED flash and autofocus. Photos taken with this camera were better than those from the webcam, but they were a little grainy.

Heat

Thanks to its tablet design and detachable keyboard cover, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet never had any problems with a hot keyboard or leg-toasting underside. The touchpad and keyboard stayed at a cool 77.5 and 78 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively, after we streamed video from Hulu for 15 minutes. The tablet itself warmed up, but even at its hottest, the back of the tablet reached only 84 degrees, which is well under our 95-degree discomfort threshold.

Software and Warranty

One of the big improvements over last year's version of the X1 Tablet is the decision to move to Windows 10 Signature Edition, a clean version of Windows 10 Pro that has none of the common bloatware such as Candy Crush.

Lenovo covers the ThinkPad X1 Tablet with a standard one-year warranty, with extended three-year protection plans available for purchase. See how Lenovo stacked up to competitors in our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ratings.

Configuration Options

The second generation of the ThinkPad X1 Tablet is available in several configurations, with multiple processor choices, and memory and storage options. Our review model came equipped with an Intel Core i5-7Y57 processor with vPro remote management technology, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB OPAL-compliant SSD with OPAL self-encrypting technology, and Windows 10 Pro. Lenovo sells this configuration for $1,499.

Standard configurations include another Core i5 model with an Intel Core i5-7Y54 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive, which costs $1,559. You can step up to an Intel Core i7-7Y75 for $1,969 and double the memory to 16GB for $2,019.

Accessories

The tablet includes the Lenovo ThinkPad Pen Pro ($40 when purchased separately), along with a pen holder that slots into the USB port. The accompanying keyboard is also included with the tablet, but if you need to pick up an additional one, they sell for $149 and come in black, silver or red.

The tablet is designed for more customizability, with two add-on modules that attach to the bottom of the tablet for additional functionality. The Productivity Module ($149) is both a port extender and a secondary battery, which adds up to 5 hours of battery life and gives you one full HDMI port, Lenovo's proprietary OneLink docking port and an additional USB 3.0 port.

MORE: Best 2-in-1s (Laptop/Tablet Hybrids)

The other option is the Presenter Module ($299), an attachable pico projector that lets you display an 854 x 480 image onto a wall or screen up to 60 inches away. It also includes its own battery, which should give you 2 hours of projection time without chewing through the tablet's battery, and has HDMI input and output for more video-sharing flexibility.

Bottom Line

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet is a capable and well-made business 2-in-1. The detachable design boasts excellent construction and a superb keyboard, and the tablet performed fairly well in most performance tests. But although the 2016 model stood out as one of the best business 2-in-1s to hit the market, the newer model doesn't feel like an improvement.

The consistent design retains compatibility with all of the original ThinkPad X1 modules and accessories, which is a huge boon to companies that are adding new systems to an existing fleet of devices. It also means that many of the features we loved about the first-generation ThinkPad X1 are still great, particularly the added functionality offered by the add-on modules.

Unfortunately, the market hasn't stood still in the past year. If the ThinkPad X1 Tablet offered significantly improved performance or battery life, we'd give a stronger recommendation, but other systems, like the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and the Dell Latitude 5285 2-in-1, offer longer endurance for similar prices. The ThinkPad X1 Tablet is still a good choice, but we'd suggest investing in the secondary battery if you intend to travel with this slate.

Photo Credit: Shaun Lucas/Laptop Mag

CPU Intel Core i7 7Y75 vProTM processor
Operating System Windows 10 Pro
RAM 8GB
RAM Upgradable to 16GB
Hard Drive Size 256GB SSD
Hard Drive Speed
Hard Drive Type SSD
Secondary Hard Drive Size
Secondary Hard Drive Speed
Secondary Hard Drive Type
Display Size 12
Highest Available Resolution
Native Resolution 2150x1440
Optical Drive
Optical Drive Speed
Graphics Card Intel HD Graphics 615
Video Memory
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Wi-Fi Model Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
Mobile Broadband
Touchpad Size 3.5 x 2 inches
Ports (excluding USB) SIM card
Ports (excluding USB) Mini DisplayPort
Ports (excluding USB) Lock Slot
Ports (excluding USB) Combo Headphone/Mic Jack
Ports (excluding USB) microSD card slot
USB Ports
Card Slots microSD
Warranty/Support
Size 11.45 x 8.24 x 0.33 without keyboard
Weight 2.35 lbs. with keyboard 1.69 lbs without keyboard
Company Website http://www3.lenovo.com
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