Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review

Lenovo’s latest 2-in-1 offers a solid alternative experience to the Microsoft Surface Pro, especially for fans of the ThinkPad.

The whole idea and purpose behind the Microsoft Surface Pro is to offer a versatile mobile computing experience with enough power and prowess to handle the various tasks you need to complete each day. Microsoft has been able to achieve a great deal of success with the product, and not many competitors have sprung forth. However, Lenovo managed to deliver the ThinkPad X12 Detachable which emulates the Surface Pro’s appeal while also doubling down on the company’s strengths in the laptop market. The result is a great alternative to the Microsoft option that’ll cost roughly the same.

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable, at least the one I reviewed, costs about $1,330 from Lenovo’s website. Meanwhile, the spec-equivalent Surface Pro 7 costs $1,399 and doesn’t come with a keyboard and pen, two items Lenovo’s happy to throw in the box. You don’t get the Microsoft logo and the design is a little more niche than some might like, but the X12 Detachable is an overall winner when it comes to 2-in-1 PCs.

Whether it appeals to you will depend on what you’ll use it for, but for most potential Surface Pro buyers, I think a strong consideration of the X12 Detachable is something you need to have.

Design

Lenovo’s design language over the years hasn’t evolved very much beyond thinness and form factor. That’s at least in terms of ThinkPads which have looked the same since… forever. Fans of the ThinkPad line will love the look and feel of the X12 Detachable given how much it leans into the more industrial design language ThinkPads are known for. It’s also thin (8.8mm without the keyboard, 14.5mm with it) and light (1.7 pounds without the keyboard, 2.5 pounds with it), so you’ll barely feel it in a backpack or messenger bag.

Black and red create the prominent color scheme once again, and the entire package feels sturdy and premium. The hinge on the back of the device itself is a bit hard to pry off, but with a little practice, you get the hang of it. Just keep in mind it’s a two-hand operation always.

Speaking of the hinge, it can get low enough to provide an easier drawing position for creatives and can sit at any angle a typer could want thanks to its free-stop mechanism. The keyboard is detachable (hence the name) and can either sit flat or at an angle when you prop it up and magnetically connect to the device’s bottom bezel.

The entire package feels extremely familiar, for better or worse, and it’s a spitting image of what one might imagine a Lenovo-branded Microsoft Surface Pro would look like. But while I like how it fits in with the rest of the ThinkPad line, it doesn’t do very much to stand out. The bezels around the screen are still chunky, the design remains boxy and not very elegant, and there’s nothing here that adds sex appeal to attract consumers. It is a convertible ThinkPad focused on business customers, case-closed. You’ll have to be okay with that if you plan on buying it.

Another compromise you’ll be making is on ports. Around the tablet itself, you’ll find nothing but two USB-C ports (one compatible with Thunderbolt 4) and a headphone jack. Nowadays, people are used to having such limited ports, but it still sucks because anything beyond USB-C connections requires an adapter. If you plan on buying this device, plan on picking up a USB-C hub or two in the process.

Versatility

Despite having some downsides, there’s no question that the ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a very versatile device. It can go from being what looks like an ordinary laptop to a full-blown tablet and writing pad. Obviously, you won’t get an iPad-like experience once you separate the keyboard and tablet (it’s running Windows, after all), but it’s certainly not bad if all you wanna do is pull up Netflix or YouTube on the couch and unwind.

That’s how I’ve found myself using the X12 Detachable. It’s replicated a similar setup I have with my iPad Pro where the keyboard stays at my desk and I bring the tablet over to my comfortable chair of choice. That’s a level of versatility you simply don’t get with a standard laptop. And with the kickstand, you don’t have to worry about holding the X12 Detachable while watching a movie like you do an iPad.

Audio

If you do plan on watching content on the ThinkPad X12 Detachable, do yourself a favor and do so with headphones on. I cannot tell you how disappointed I am in the speakers on this thing. They sound absolutely terrible and get extremely tinny even at medium volumes. There’s nothing to enjoy about them whatsoever, so I hope whatever set of cans you own do the job for you because these speakers simply won’t.

Screen

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable’s 12.3-inch display is fine, to say the least. It gets pretty bright and is plenty colorful, but it is only Full HD+ at 1920×1280. I would’ve liked to see a higher resolution, but I suppose it can help with battery life.

At least it offers a 3:2 aspect ratio. This is something that’s coming increasingly normal in the laptop market as a lot of companies are finally caving to consumers’ demand for taller screens to display more information vertically. Typically, the thinking companies have is to supply a screen with a 16:9 display so videos are full screen, but that limits the height of content like articles and web pages so you’re scrolling more often than not. I’m definitely team 3:2, and I’m glad to see it on the X12 Detachable.

Keyboard

The keyboard is that can make or break a device for me while I’m reviewing it. After all, I spend a lot of my time typing, so having something that’s comfortable and quick is an absolute necessity for me.

With the ThinkPad X12 Detachable, I fell instantly in love with how much travel you get and how comfortable the keys are to type on. The noise they make is also incredibly satisfying.

In either position, whether the keyboard’s angled slightly from the tablet or flat on my desk, I’ve enjoyed typing on it.

Also of note, the trackpad is fine for what it is. It gets the job done and not much else. It isn’t all that smooth and it could be a bit bigger, but it’s not that big a deal.

One thing that I noticed with the keyboard was its ability to disconnect itself from the tablet without notice. If I took a break from typing for a few minutes, it either went to sleep or simply decided to cut off its connection (I assume to save battery life). When I went back to start typing again, I’d often lose the first letter I tried to type. This issue only extended into the second letter I tried typing a couple of times, so it’s not that big a deal. Still, I thought it was an odd quirk.

What’s most important about the keyboard (and the stylus, for that matter) is the fact it comes with the X12 Detachable in the box. Microsoft refuses to do this with the Surface Pro line, so no matter which configuration of the ThinkPad you get, you’ll consistently wind up spending less money since you won’t have to shell out extra for something to type on.

Specs & Performance

Lenovo offers various configurations of the ThinkPad X12 Detachable ranging from an 11th-gen Intel Core i3 with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage all the way to an i7 with 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. I got a model in the middle with an i5-1130G7, 16GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage priced at $1,331.40.

During day to day use, I never experienced any significant slowdowns on the X12 Detachable, but my workload is typically light anyway. The most I usually have open is Microsoft Publisher, around six or seven Chrome tabs, Spotify in the background, and maybe Word or Excel. I’m a very office-centric laptop user, so the X12 Detachable was able to handle it gracefully.

That being said, this tablet isn’t designed to be a gaming machine or video editing powerhouse. It comes with Intel’s Iris Xe graphics, and they’re not really built to handle anything intense. I’ve done some light photo editing with Adobe Lightroom, but it wasn’t something I enjoyed doing given how sluggish it was. The ThinkPad series is built to handle office tasks, not heavier things in the creative category.

I also noticed that the fan would kick on quite often, and it could get hot if I had a ton of stuff open and I was charging it. Beyond that, the X12 Detachable stayed relatively cool and calm.

I’ve enjoyed using the X12 Detachable particularly thanks to the 11th-gen chip inside. The features it brings like Thunderbolt 4, Wi-Fi 6, and instant wake-up make everything feel a bit more pleasant to use. The chip also means LTE connectivity is possible through an optional SIM card slot. I received such a slot on my review unit, but I never used it during my testing period.

All in all, with the kind of specs Lenovo offers in the X12 Detachable, it’s clear that this is a mobile extension of a business user’s main PC. It can’t replace it, but it can serve as a nice machine to toss in a bag and use on the go.

Battery

Working from the many places I decide to take a seat in to do some writing, I’ve had plenty of time to analyze what kind of endurance we’re looking at with the ThinkPad X12 Detachable.

My conclusion? I’m able to achieve up to seven hours of usage on the 42Whr battery. This was with the screen set almost to max brightness, all of my normal apps running, and the power mode set to maximize performance.

I’m pretty certain the Full HD+ display is to thank for the improved battery life since it doesn’t take much to power it. Furthermore, Intel has made some notable improvements to its chips to consume less power and be more energy-efficient. If you’re super careful, you can probably eke out another hour and a half before you need to plug in, so you can probably count on the X12 Detachable to last you all day.

Speaking of plugging in, Lenovo includes a 65W USB-C charger that can juice up the tablet from zero to 80 percent in 60 minutes using Rapid Charge. I found this to be true, while the remaining 20 percent took an extra half hour or so.

Security

As is the case with many ThinkPads, Lenovo includes plenty of security features with the X12 Detachable that should appeal most to business users.

Obviously, you get a fingerprint scanner and an IR camera setup (with a physical shutter) for Windows Hello, while under the hood lives a dTPM 2.0 chip for encrypting your finger and face’s data. Lenovo also has its signature self-healing BIOS which can recover from a hack or crash without any intervention.

There are a few other settings included as well for enterprises, so businesses should feel safe with the X12 Detachable if they decide to deploy them to their staff.

Conclusion

There aren’t a lot of companies who have successfully made a viable alternative to Microsoft’s Surface Pro, but Lenovo definitely has with the ThinkPad X12 Detachable. Its focus on emulating the Surface experience while appealing to its own fan base makes this tablet a compelling option for anyone looking for a new 2-in-1.

It has good specs, a decent design, a fantastic keyboard, good security features, and solid battery life. Overall, I recommend the X12 Detachable if what you want is a Surface without going the Microsoft route. You’ll even wind up saving money in the process.

ThinkPad X12 Detachable

$1,331.40 (as reviewed)
6.6

Design

7.0/10

Display

6.5/10

Performance

7.5/10

Battery

7.0/10

Extras

5.0/10

Pros

  • Great 2-in-1 design
  • Fantastic keyboard
  • Good performance
  • Included stylus

Cons

  • Audio quality is terrible
  • Design feels dated
  • Limited ports

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