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Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review: Solid Surface Pro alternative

A great place to start if you want a Windows 10 tablet two-in-one for work.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo's ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a 12.3-inch tablet with a built-in kickstand and detachable keyboard. If that sounds familiar, it's because it's essentially the same as Microsoft's Surface Pro. The Surface Pro hasn't changed much at all for generations, though. The X12 may be familiar-sounding but it's a fresh design with new components -- including Intel's 11th-gen processors and Thunderbolt 4 support. Lenovo also includes its keyboard cover (an add-on purchase for the Surface Pro) as well as an active pen. And while it might not have the stylish appeal of Microsoft's top tablet, the X12 is built to survive extreme heat and cold, dust, drops, spills and impacts.

8.0

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

Like

  • Strong build quality
  • Multiple privacy, security features
  • Keyboard, active pen included

Don't Like

  • Only has USB-C ports

Pricing for the ThinkPad X12 Detachable currently starts at $1,088 but it fluctuates with whatever deals Lenovo has available. In the UK, Lenovo's site says the X12 is "coming soon" at the price is listed as £1,520. It's available in Australia starting at AU$2,199. A similarly configured Surface Pro 7with a similar configuration to my review system goes for $1,400 and that's without the keyboard cover and pen. Lenovo offers a variety of configuration options including five 11th-gen Intel Core processors, with two being vPro versions for greater security and remote manageability. Unlike most ThinkPads, however, there's only one screen option -- but it's a good one. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

Price as reviewed $1,349
Display size/resolution 12.3-inch 1920 x 1280 touch display
CPU 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-1130G7
Memory 16GB 4267MHz LPDDR4X (onboard)
Graphics 128MB Intel Iris Xe Graphics
Storage 512GB PCIe NVMe SSD
Networking 802.11ax wireless, Bluetooth 5.0
Connections USB 4 Type-C with Thunderbolt 4, USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C, 3.5mm combo jack
Operating system Windows 10 Pro 64-bit 
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The complete package

Sarah Tew/CNET

The tablet's 12.3-inch display has a 3:2 aspect ratio that gives you more vertical room to work than widescreen 16:9 displays. 
Color gamut covers 100% sRGB and its brightness is rated at 400 nits. It actually hits just above that brightness at the center and slightly below around the rest of the display. Uniformity is overall good, though, and the brightness does help some with glare. All in all, this is a first-rate screen for work, presentations and entertainment. 

With this being a tablet, there's not much to the body but still, Lenovo captures the look and feel of its ThinkPad laptops. Because everything is packed in behind the display, the tablet is solid and weighs in at 1.7 pounds (760 grams) alone or about 2.5 pounds with the keyboard and pen. Nonetheless, that's lighter than most laptops and it's built to meet 12 Mil-Spec standards

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The kickstand holds firm and gives you enough flexibility for positioning. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

The ThinkPad design continues to the detachable keyboard that snaps on firmly to a set of magnetic contacts. A strip just above the keyboard folds up, magnetically attaching to the bottom of the display that, in turn, lifts the rear of the keyboard up for a more comfortable typing position. 

The keyboard layout and size required little adjustment for me and there's enough travel to keys that you don't feel like you're typing on a flat surface. The function keys are preprogrammed with shortcuts for VoIP calls, mic mute and notifications. The keyboard is also backlit so you won't struggle to see the keys in the dim light of an airplane cabin. 

A fabric loop on the right side of the keyboard holds the included pen when not in use. Though the pen performance is smooth and responsive, you won't mistake it for writing on paper. It really is great to have for marking up documents, drawing out a quick flowchart, taking notes or simply doodling to refresh your mind. 

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The Fn and Ctrl keys are swapped but Lenovo's Vantage software lets you instantly swap their functions.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Alongside the serviceable touchpad (there's a ThinkPad TrackPoint if you'd rather) is a fingerprint reader for fast sign-ins. When you're not using the keyboard, there's also an infrared camera next to the 1080p webcam so you can sign in with facial recognition. There's also a privacy shutter you can slide to block the webcam. There's a world-facing 8-megapixel camera as well -- for those times when you need to quickly snap a photo or video of a project or job site.

Where the X12 sort of slips up is with ports. It has two USB-C ports, one of which supports Thunderbolt 4, and a 3.5mm headset jack and that's it. You're relying on dongles, hubs and docks for all legacy ports, and there are no dongles included for USB-A, Ethernet or HDMI. Lenovo will sell them to you when you configure your system, though. They're also all on one side and spread apart so that if you're using both in laptop mode, something's going to be awkwardly dangling from the top of the display. 

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If you need legacy ports, you'll have to use dongles and docks with the X12. 

Sarah Tew/CNET

Given how slim the tablet is and the components inside, I was surprised I was able to get a battery life of 9 hours, 23 minutes from the ThinkPad X12. That's just about an hour shy of Lenovo's battery life claim and it's possible that was with a lower-end Core i3 configuration. 

My Core i5 configuration performed on par with clamshells and convertible two-in-ones with comparable components. It is a step behind 11th-gen Core i7 laptops we've tested, though honestly not by much. If you want a little extra performance or longevity insurance, it would be worth going up to the i7. For everyday office, school or field use, the i5 with 16GB of memory should keep your work zipping along. 

And that's pretty much the story of Lenovo's ThinkPad X12 Detachable: It's a slim, sturdy tablet PC with lengthy battery life, zippy performance and all the accessories you need to get working already in the box. Just be prepared to get dongles or a dock if you need more than a USB-C connection. 

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Sarah Tew/CNET