This review has been a long time coming and I have spent more time with the ThinkPad X1 tablet than I should have. Lenovo keeps sending us review units faster than we can finish the previous one. The company introduced a lot of devices and new product lines at CES 2016 and the ThinkPad X1 is among them. Read on to find out why the ThinkPad X1 snagged a Techaeris Top Pick 2016 award.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Specifications
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 tablet is a squared off slab with slightly angled edges that give it a nice feel in the hand. Consturected of metals, plastic, and glass it feel premium and solid, not cheap at all. Around the front of the tablet (landscape orientation) sits the 12″ FHD+ 2K (2160 x 1440) IPS, 3:2 display along with the fingerprint sensor, 2 MP front camera and LED indicator. Along the bottom edge is the 12 pin connector to dock into the optional keyboard as well as a latch release we’ll get into later.
Along the right edge you’ll find the USB Type-C charging port, full size USB 3.0 port, Mini DisplayPort and speaker. Along the top edge you’ll find the power/wake button and nothing more. Along the left edge is where the volume rocker, headphone jack and second speaker live. The back of the ThinkPad X1 tablet is where the 8 MP camera with flash resides as well as the flip out stand and ThinkPad branding. Under the flip out stand you’ll find the microSD expansion slot which accepts up to a 64GB microSD card. The placement is odd and it took me a few minutes to find it but it is there.
The optional keyboard is also well designed and sturdy and it adds a layer of protection to the front of the device. The keyboard is really amazing. I’ve been impressed with the ThinkPad lineup of keyboards lately and this one is right up there. Of course you have the TrackPoint button that has become synonymous with the ThinkPad lineup and the keyboard is even backlit. The trackpad on the ThinkPad X1 tablet was another surprise. Not as muddy as previous Lenovo trackpad’s I’ve used it really felt good and had a nice feel and responsiveness to it.
The ThinkPad X1 tablet doesn’t weigh a whole lot coming in at 1.69lbs but you will add another .66lbs if you add the keyboard to it. The weight will climb even higher should you opt for the productivity packs feature which we’ll cover more later in the review. Overall this is a nicely designed tablet. It keeps the rectangle slab look and adds in a little bit of personality with the angled edges.
The 12″ FHD+ 2K (2160 x 1440) IPS, 3:2 display is absolutely crispy, clear and clean. While Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4 still has the narrow edge in terms of resolution, the ThinkPad X1 tablet provides stiff competition. Colors were accurate with no saturation, typical of a quality IPS display. Blacks were rich and deep and consuming video content was very enjoyable on this panel. Text was crisp and easy to read, though if you have vision issues you might crank up the scale.
Scrolling was smooth and lag free with no stutter in apps or browsing and pinch to zoom works fluidly and with ease. Windows Hello also comes on the ThinkPad X1 tablet and it works remarkably well. In this case Windows Hello operates through the fingerprint sensor not through face detection like the Lumia 950 I reviewed some time back and that fingerprint sensor works fast. Overall the display is crisp with spot on color, deep blacks, and an amazing fingerprint sensor. The only complaint is a little glare from certain angles which isn’t at all a deal breaker as most devices will have a bit of glare.
Windows 10 is what’s under the hood on the ThinkPad X1 tablet and nothing here has changed. Microsoft has done an excellent job with Windows 10 and you can read our full review of Windows 10 for more about how it performs and our thoughts on it. Otherwise the X1 had just a few Lenovo programs installed and a handful of other Microsoft programs installed. Nothing out of the ordinary but we still would love to see PCs ship with no additional software. Overall Windows 10 works flawlessly here and using it on this tablet was a pleasure.
The ThinkPad X1 tablet can be configured a myriad of ways, our review unit had the following specs.
- Intel Core m5-6Y57 CPU 1.10GHz – 1.51GHz
- 8GB RAM
- 64-bit Windows 10 Pro
- 256GB SSD
This configuration is about mid-range for the X1 and is just over $1200, a little over $400 more than the base model. It used to be mobile processors weren’t very robust at running much more than basic browsing and Microsoft Office work. These days mobile processors like the Intel Core m5 can run Photoshop, Lightroom, and other heavier programs. Even Apple’s small 12″ MacBook, which runs a mobile processor, can handle heavier loads. I found the ThinkPad X1 tablet muscled through just about everything I threw at it. I didn’t test Photoshop but I did use GIMP which worked like a charm.
While the Core m5 is capable of handling heavier programs, you will have to be careful how many files you’re working with in those programs. The X1 is probably best suited to light use when it comes to photo and video editing. Overall the machine loaded programs quickly and without hesitation and everything moved along without an issue. I always recommend you upgrade your RAM at the very least when buying any computer.
Lenovo has included a feature on the ThinkPad X1 tablet involving add on modules. These are modules that easily attach to the charging port of the tablet to expand its capabilities. Earlier in design I mentioned a latch release on the bottom of edge of the X1. Sliding this to the left disengages the metal bar at the bottom exposing a docking station of sorts. The modules can be attached giving the user some options. The module that was sent to us for review was the battery and port pack which includes an HDMI port, Onelink+ port, USB 3.0 port and a 2 cell battery which expands the battery life of the tablet up to 5 hours. The other available module houses an Intel Real-Sense 3D camera. These modules do add a bit of weight to the tablet and they are an extra cost.
Finally, the X1 supports Lenovo’s ThinkPad Pen which is powered with triple A batteries and works really well for basic functions. Drawing was decent with it as well but probably not as diverse as a Wacom stylus or other more refined products made for drawing. You can certainly use a Wacom or other stylus with the X1 but the ThinkPad Pen should do you just fine for basic needs.
Speakers here are surprisingly loud, though a bit on the thin side. Watching YouTube videos is just fine on this tablet but if you’re planning on movies, headphones are recommended. Overall the sound is acceptable, could use a bit more on the low end but the speakers are tiny.
We’ve stressed this before and we’ll continue stressing it, taking pictures with a tablet is silly. But the ThinkPad X1 tablet does have a 8MP rear camera and 2MP front camera. The front camera is good enough for Skype and video conferencing while the rear camera is decent but not outstanding. Save picture taking for your smartphone or DSLR, tablet cameras are a last resort.
The advertised battery life is 10 hours for the tablet adding on the productivity module is supposed to give you 15 total hours. Testing the tablet alone I was able to get just about 9 hours of battery life with brightness about half way. Adding the module gave me an additional 4.5 hours but battery life will vary depending on how you use it and what you have running. Overall battery life was pretty near advertised levels.
The ThinkPad X1 tablet is a bit on the pricey side for a tablet. But this is designed to compete with the likes of the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and it does that very well. It’s a solid performer and you should do well with a mid-range configuration.
Pricey yes. Performer yes. If you need a tablet hybrid option that has some muscle, the ThinkPad X1 tablet is a serious contender and walks away with a Techaeris Top Pick 2016 award.