Hands-on review: CES 2016: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

For the professional that lives out of their suitcase for the better part of the year, Lenovo has cooked up just the thing: the ThinkPad X1 Tablet.

Debuted at CES 2016 and set to land in the US this February starting at $899 (about £612, AU$1,255) with an included stylus, this is the most versatile computing device I’ve seen in a long time, if not ever.

lenovo thinkpad x1 tablet

Taking inspiration from the firm’s Yoga series of tablets and Microsoft Surface Pro line in seemingly equal measure, the 12-inch X1 Tablet employs various detachable base modules that enable a ton of interesting, if highly specific, features.

Want to turn your tablet into a projector? Done. How about tacking on an extra 5 hours of battery life? Ditto. Well, “ditto” if your IT department is game to buy each of these accessories separately, including the signature AccuType, backlit keyboard cover.

lenovo thinkpad x1 tablet

But that’s beside the point, at least for the moment, because this is an intriguing device regardless.

Lenovo packed the slate with 6th generation, Intel Core m series processors with vPro up to Core m7, as much as 1TB of PCIe, NVMe solid-state storage and up to 16GB of LPDDR3 memory. All of that sits behind a 2,560 x 1,440, IPS touch display in a 3:2 aspect ratio, much like the Surface Pro line of tablets.

lenovo thinkpad x1 tablet

Design (or modules for days)

Rather than simply follow Microsoft with an a-frame hinge, Lenovo borrowed from its Yoga tablets to bring its flip-down hinge to the professional-bent, metal-clad X1 Tablet. The result makes for about as resilient of a touch experience as I’ve enjoyed on the Surface Pro, but more importantly makes room for the aforementioned line of base modules.

For an additional $149 (about £101, AU$208), the “Productivity” module offers a 5-hour-strong battery cell, HDMI-out and Lenovo OneLink ports. For $279 (about £190, AU$389) more, the “Presenter” module can project images up to 60 inches from 2 meters away as well as offer HDMI in/out with sharing support. Finally, the $149 (about £101, AU$208) “3D Imaging” module uses Intel’s RealSense camera technology to capture and edit objects for design and 3D printing.

lenovo thinkpad x1 tablet

Honestly, I found attaching the modules to be a bit of a process, or at least a far cry from simply snapping on a keyboard cover. The X1 Tablet uses a goofy clasp release system and many-pinned connectors to hook up each module, but also includes special magnetic covers for each that seem far too easy to lose.

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However, once the connection is made, it’s hard to ignore the versatility these modules enable. Lenovo even tacked two magnetic strips onto its ThinkPad Keyboard, so that you can type at a comfortable angle regardless of whether a module is attached. (These modules add quite a bit of height to the device, so it’s a welcomed feature.)

lenovo thinkpad x1 tablet

Speaking of the keyboard cover, Lenovo naturally nailed it, bringing the AccuType keys and even the TrackPoint hardware to the add-on. Save for the angles, typing on the ThinkPad Keyboard feels nigh-identical to how it does on, well, a ThinkPad.

As for ports, Lenovo managed to cram the X1 Tablet with one USB 3.0, one USB-C for charging and data, mini DisplayPort, microSD, an audio jack and a Nano SIM slot. That SIM slot is for optional LTE-Advanced connectivity.

lenovo thinkpad x1 tablet

All of this comes in a package that’s just 0.51 inches (13mm) thin and 2.4 pounds (1.1kg) light. Those figures are with the keyboard attached, mind you.

Early verdict

Frankly, this is an incredibly versatile, but awfully specific, device. So, who is this for, then? A Lenovo representative simply said that the X1 Tablet was designed with mobility in mind first and largely for content creators or other hardware-light professionals (i.e. sales folks, marketing professionals and the like).

Many will likely question the Core m series chips, but Lenovo says it fell on the side of mobility and versatility over raw power when developing the X1 Tablet, and it shows. This is one of the most well-equipped 2-in-1 laptop devices I’ve ever seen.

Of course, that comes with a price – or, in this case, several prices. That could be a tough sell for IT managers that likely aren’t looking to complicate their fleets with gobs of accessories. But, in a BYOD world, the X1 Tablet could very well be a power player when it launches later this winter.

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