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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet review: A Surface-like tablet with a grab bag of add-ons

This Windows slate has the standard keyboard cover, but also offers optional add-ons, from a projector to a port replicator.

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Jacob Krol
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Jacob Krol

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Jacob Krol is an editorial intern for CNET. He has a big love for all things tech, and is a huge Springsteen fan and also a native New Jerseyan. Jacob is currently a rising junior at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.

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Lenovo's ThinkPad brand is best known for professional-grade laptops, but it also includes hybrids and even tablets. The latest is the high-end ThinkPad X1 Tablet, which stands out by offering not only a standard keyboard cover, but also a series of modular add-ons (some available now, some coming later), making this potentially a very flexible system.

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7.9

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

The Good

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Tablet offers modular add-on options, and has a sharp display and a great keyboard.

The Bad

The Intel Core m3 base model is not the fastest machine around, and adding faster parts and optional modules can get expensive. There's no slot or magnetic anchor for the optional stylus.

The Bottom Line

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 tablet isn't as slick as some other Windows tablets, but its modular add-ons give it a cool built-to-order feel.

The X1 Tablet starts at $1,029 in the US, which gets you an Intel Core m3 processor and the keyboard cover. Similar configurations start at £1,049 in the UK and AU$1,899 in Australia. Upgrades are available for the processor, storage and other components, and you can also swap Windows 10 for Windows 10 Pro. We tested a version with a Core m5 CPU, which costs $1,300.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

There's no shortage of Windows tablets these days. The Huawei MateBook comes to mind, as do the Surface Pro 4 and even Lenovo's hybrid Yoga line. And while ThinkPads have always been geared toward enterprise or business users, many recent ThinkPads are sharp-looking enough to appeal to consumers as well.

The Core M processor means the device can go fanless, and while the Core m3 is not as powerful as the Core i3/5/7 CPUs in mainstream laptops and tablets, it still performs well enough for most mainstream tasks. For storage, the base model has only a 128GB SSD, although a microSD card slot is there for expansion.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

Display size/resolution 12-inch, 2,160x1,440 touchscreen display
PC CPU 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57
PC memory 8GB DDR3 SDRAM
Graphics 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515
Storage 256GB SSD
Networking 802.11ac wireless, Bluetooth 4.0
Operating system Windows 10 Home (64-bit)

If you want a device that will have people stopping and staring when you take it out in public, this is not that device. It's built more for productivity and completing tasks than looking good and garnering attention. The design is almost industrial, in matte black with sharp angles rather than smooth curves.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Like the Surface series from Microsoft, the X1 Tablet has a kickstand. However, the Lenovo version is hinged on the bottom, and opens into an L-shape, where most other tablet kickstands are hinged midbody. This makes the X1 Tablet feel more like a traditional laptop, plus it makes it easier to use on your lap.

Those who don't like having only USB-C ports and who don't want to carry around dongles will be happy with the port setup. The X1 does charge through its USB-C port, but it also has a regular USB port, DisplayPort, headphone jack and microSD card slot. It is pretty nice to have a regular USB port in a sea of devices that are opting for just USB-C. The bottom of the device has a proprietary port for the keyboard attachment or for the different modules.

The productivity module is probably the most useful accessory: Not only does it provide extra battery life, but you get another USB port, along with an HDMI and docking port. While this module costs an extra $149, it really makes this tablet into a true two-in-one device. It does add some weight and thickness to the bottom of the device, but you can still attach the keyboard with this module. The $299 presenter module adds a small projector that projects at a 854x480-pixel resolution with a max display size of 60 inches. Coming in the future is an add-on with an Intel RealSense camera for depth sensing and 3D scans.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo is known for keyboards, and even in this attachable keyboard format, these keys are not too shallow. Lenovo has managed to create a small keyboard that works, and typing on it is a solid experience. The touchpad on here is a lot smaller, but you still get the familiar red trackpoint.

The 12-inch display is an IPS LED panel with a resolution of 2,160x1,440 pixels, which is essentially 2K. It provides a great viewing experience, one that stays vibrant with bright colors and shows good contrast. The image does not appear washed out from side angles, so theoretically you could share the display by watching Netflix with a few people.

The Core m5 version of the ThinkPad X1 Tablet we tested includes 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. The processor comes in at 1.1GHz and was great for work. I could run a web browser like Google Chrome with plenty of tabs and not get too concerned with it slowing down. Tasks such as high-res video editing or gaming will require more power, but in those cases, you're probably not looking for a two-in-one tablet anyway.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

By itself, the X1 Tablet ran for 5:29 hours in our streaming video battery test. That's pretty good for a small, slim tablet, but not exactly all-day performance. Adding the productivity module, it jumps to 9:09 hours of total runtime.

Conclusion

While Lenovo has built a solid two-in-one touchscreen device, it does come at a price, because upgrading the processor, RAM or storage -- or adding extra modules -- gets expensive quickly. If you're looking for a tablet or two-in-one for classroom tasks or as an office-friendly work device, the X1 Tablet will fit the bill. But if a faster processor or more storage is a necessity for you, a full-featured thin laptop might be the better option, for example the HP EliteBook G1.

Multimedia Multitasking test 3.0

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 519Lenovo Yoga 900 586Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 694Huawei MateBook 825Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 856Lenovo Yoga 900S 930
Note: Shorter bars indicate better performance (in seconds)

Geekbench 3 (Multi-Core)

Microsoft Surface Pro 4 6775Lenovo Yoga 900 6713Huawei MateBook 5293Lenovo Yoga 900S 5218Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 4804Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 4722
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Streaming video playback battery drain test

Lenovo Yoga 900S 571Samsung Galaxy TabPro S 435Lenovo Yoga 900 422Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 325Huawei MateBook 309Microsoft Surface Pro 4 298
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y57; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128GB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 256GB SSD
Huawei MateBook Microsoft Windows 10 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 256GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Pro 4 Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit) 2.4GHz Intel Core i5-6300U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM TK; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 256GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 900S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core m5-6Y54; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 128GB SSD
Lenovo Yoga 900 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.5HGz Intel Core i7-6500U; 16GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 520; 512GB SSD
Samsung Galaxy TabPro S Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 2.2GHz Intel m3-6Y30; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 515; 128GB SSD
lenovo-thinkpad-x1-tablet-01.jpg
7.9

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 7Battery 8
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