Great screen, robust design, brilliant keyboard and Thunderbolt 3 make the third-generation ThinkPad X1 Tablet a potent combination
Lenovo’s third-generation ThinkPad X1 Tablet aims to be a no-compromise Windows 10 detachable that gives users what Microsoft’s Surface won’t: USB-C and Thunderbolt 3.
The form factor is familiar. The actual computer is squeezed into an
8.9mm thick tablet with a kickstand out the back and a magnetically
attached keyboard that sits up on an angle for better typing.
But here Lenovo
departs from the winning minimalist Surface 2-in-1 formula, bringing
ThinkPad staples such as a pointing nipple, trackpad buttons,
bucket-shaped keyboard keys and optional road-warrior appealing 4G.
That’s not to say this is a pure workhorse, but the matt-black paint
job, ancient-looking ThinkPad logo and red highlights certainly give the
impression this machine is about getting stuff done.
The 13in screen is bigger than you’ll find on the Surface Pro and the Eve V, and that makes it easier to use solo as a laptop. The screen itself is pin-sharp, colourful and just about bright enough to use outdoors. Movies look great on it, with good viewing angles, and while the bezels around the outside are quite large, they accommodate two front-facing speakers, a fingerprint scanner and a Windows Hello-enabled IR face recognition system.
On the back is a solid-feeling kickstand with a wide angle of motion,
which is just as good as that on the back of the Surface Pro, and
perfect for getting the right angle on your lap or desk.
The front-facing speakers are perhaps a weak point for using the X1
Tablet as a media machine, because although they are relatively clear
and distortion-free, they’re also not very loud and lack any sort of
bass. They’ll be fine if you’re hand-holding the machine to watch a TV
show, but watching something while cooking and hearing what’s going on
over an extractor fan is a no-go.
The X1 Tablet is designed to be more durable than most. The screen is
covered in a sheet of Gorilla Glass, like most of the competition, but
the ThinkPad line has a history of going the extra mile in testing
against humidity, vibration and mechanical shock, meaning it should cope
with the everyday jolts and jostles of commuting.
- Screen: 13in QHD+ LCD
- Processor: Intel quad-core Core i5 or i7 (8th generation)
- RAM: 8 or 16GB
- Storage: 256, 512GB or 1TB SSD
- Operating system: Windows 10 Home or Pro
- Camera: 8MP rear, 2MP front-facing
- Connectivity: Wifi ac, Bluetooth 4.1, 2x
Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C), headphones, TPM, microSD, face recognition,
fingerprint scanner, optional nano sim and NFC
- Dimensions: 304.1 x 226 x 8.9mm (15.1mm with keyboard)
- Weight: 890g (1,270g with keyboard)
High-end ultraportable performance
The X series is Lenovo’s top-end ThinkPad line, which means the X1 Tablet comes with all the power you’re likely to want.
That includes your choice of the latest eighth-generation quad-core
Intel i5 or i7 processor, 8 or 16GB of RAM and plenty of storage.
The machine as tested had a Intel Core i7-8550U processor, 16GB of
RAM, 512GB of storage and 4G, and absolutely flew through everything I
threw at it.
While the integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics card may be the weakest
point of the X1 Tablet, the machine managed to handle some enormous
23,000-pixel wide images without breaking too much of a sweat.
The fans in the tablet fire up more often than some competitors, but
they also don’t get particularly loud unless you’re doing something very
processor-intensive. Most of the time they’re inaudible in an office
Overall performance is excellent, matching that of a high-end
ultraportable machine, but don’t expect to do hardcore gaming on it – I
didn’t try it with an external graphics card.
One of the things that’s sacrificed in most PC tablets is battery
life. Lenovo quotes “more-than-all-day” battery life of nine-and-a-half
hours, but the reality is the ThinkPad X1 Tablet lasts only around seven
hours between charges. That was with the “Better battery life” power
setting active, word processing in Typora, browsing in Chrome, using
Nextgen reader, some image editing in Affinity Photo and lots of email
in Microsoft Mail.
It’s enough to get through most of a day’s work, but isn’t enough to
leave the charger at home on intensive days. Thankfully as it uses USB
Power Delivery to charge, any USB-C charger with sufficient wattage
should work such as those shipped with other laptops or even
multi-chargers putting out 30W or more.
Thunderbolt 3 ports
The X1 Tablet comes with just two Thunderbolt 3 ports that double as
USB-C ports. Having Thunderbolt 3 is a huge boon as the expansion
capabilities are endless, including the holy grail of one cord to
charge, connect a 4K monitor and every other peripheral you can think
of. It’s a significant advantage over competitors that lack even USB-C.
However, having only two ports, one of which will be needed for
power, means you will rely on docks or hubs. It’s not such a big deal
for most, but a bit of port-juggling is inevitable if you don’t invest
in a dock of some sort.
There’s also a microSD card reader, which is great, but it’s hidden
in a sim-slot similar to that which you would find on a smartphone. It’s
not practical as a hot-swappable memory card reader as you need a sim
ejector tool to get it out, and it means ejecting the 4G sim if you’ve
got one at the same time.
Unlike Microsoft’s Surface Pro, the X1 Tablet comes with a keyboard,
and what a keyboard it is. Windows 10 detachables such as this live or
die by the quality of the keyboards, as most of the time they’re used
like a laptop.
Lenovo’s keyboard is the best I have used on any detachable, and
better than the vast majority of laptops. The keys are full-sized,
solid, feel great under your fingers and have enough travel to make for a
comfortable, satisfying typing experience.
The trackpad is equally good. It’s pretty big, has a smooth, precise
surface and a solid click to it, as well as plenty of options to
customise the experience. But there’s also a ThinkPad stalwart in the
form of the little red nipple TrackPoint between the G, H and B keys,
and three mouse buttons between the spacebar and the trackpad. I found
little use for them except when on a train where the end of the keyboard
was pressed up into my gut by the zero legroom blocking the trackpad.
The keyboard does have its quirks, such as the Fn key in the bottom
left corner instead of Ctrl, something I had to almost immediately
switch round in settings for muscle-memory cut and paste. There aren’t
any media keys either.
The X1 Tablet has an IR-based facial recognition system that’s just
as good as that on Microsoft’s Surface line. It recognises you from the
lock-screen and automatically logs you in, making login seamless.
There’s also a fingerprint scanner, which has a slightly odd
combination of tapping and swiping for registering your fingerprint, but
works well in day-to-day operation. I didn’t end up using it at the
desk as the face recognition worked so well, but it was useful for
unlocking the tablet when handheld in portrait orientation, and the more
biometric options the better.
- To turn on the X1 Tablet from opening the keyboard you have to hit the power button or press the Fn key on the keyboard
- You get a choice of Windows 10 Home or Pro
- The optional ThinkPad Pen Pro clips into the side of the machine
with a detachable holder and works well for marking up or signing
- The Lenovo Vantage app takes care of driver updates and settings bespoke to the X1 Tablet with minimal fuss
The third-generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet starts at £1,480 with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage and keyboard and tops out at £2,422 with all the options.
The machine as tested cost £1,973.59 with a Core i7 processor, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of storage and 4G.
For comparison, Microsoft’s Surface Pro 6 starts at £879, with models similarly priced to the X1 Tablet.
The ThinkPad X1 Tablet proves that Lenovo can make a great detachable
2-in-1 Windows 10 tablet computer. It’s not cheap, but offers similar
or better specifications than its chief rival the Microsoft Surface Pro,
including the much-needed modern port selection of Thunderbolt 3.
The X1 Tablet feels like it can take a beating and will survive the
rigours of mobile working, which is what it was designed for. The screen
is great, and at 13in is an ideal size, the kickstand and keyboard are
brilliant and performance is top-notch.
The seven-hour battery life could be better, but the integrated 4G
and two biometric options are welcome additions. It’s still a better
machine for work than play, but it is good enough to pull double duty
unless all you want to do is watch videos from across the room.
If you’re in the market for a top-end 2-in-1 Windows 10 detachable, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet should be on your list.
Pros: solid construction, good screen, brilliant
keyboard, Thunderbolt 3, optional 4G, microSD card reader, fingerprint
scanner, face recognition
Cons: only two USB-C ports, microSD card reader not easily accessible, expensive
1 Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Tablet Review: As Good As Surface Pro But With USB C Photos