Rugged Tech

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Review

by Vlad Tudorie on April 18, 2016
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Item Reviewed

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet

Author
April 18, 2016
Synopsys

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Tablet hybrid computer is a tablet-turned laptop offering a selection of modules which greatly enhance its feature offering, blending good performance with great storage and memory and great design, making for a one-of-a-kind mobile professional machine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet is an exceptional 2-in-1 hybrid tablet right from the first glance. Though the device is not yet available for purchase, I’ve had the pleasure of spending some valuable hands-on time with it for the past week. At the moment the tablet must still receive FCC approval before reaching the market.

This review was first written in Romanian and published on www.zonait.tv.

Though global tablet sales have declined since 2014, Lenovo is one of the few manufacturers who has recorded increased sales. They won’t give up, and continue to release hybrid models – tablets that easily act as laptops, and vice-versa.

We’ll start by mentioning the design – somber, stylish, perfect for business.

The chassis is made of a durable material – we suspect carbon fiber – which is also quite resistant to fingerprints. Lenovo also took after Microsoft with this product, and equipped it with an embedded stand and magnetic keyboard.

An interesting aspect about the ThinkPad X1 Tablet is its’ connectivity – X1 Tablet is a modular device, with multiple accessories – a.k.a modules.

The Productivity Module – offered separately at a 149$ price-tag, the module consists of a battery promising to extend the life-span by a further 5 hours, along with an HDMI-out and Lenovo OneLink port, as well as an extra USB slot.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Productivity Module

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet’s Productivity Module – promising to upgrade the battery time up to 15 hours.

The Presenter Module – it costs 279$, and is basically an attachable projector which can throw a 60″ (154cm) wide image from six-and-a-half feet (2m) away, along with an HDMI in/out port with sharing support.

Finally, the 3D Imaging Module – at an extra 149$, it uses an Intel RealSense-equipped camera to scan and save 3D, editable models of objects, for design or 3D printing.

Unfortunately the device under review only came with the first module (Productivity), along with the back-lit magnetic keyboard.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Laptop Mode with Magnetic Keyboard

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet in Laptop Mode with its magnetic keyboard attached – pretty stylish.

Lenovo are targeting this device at traveling professionals – the device weighs barely 2.38lbs (1.08kg) with the keyboard attached and 1.62lbs without.

While the feeling will never match that of a laptop due to the rather flimsy-feeling flexibility of the design, it’s sturdy enough that it’s not a problem during real use. The keyboard also serves to protect the screen when the device is “closed”.

Speaking of, the screen has a 12″ diagonal, a sweet-spot for portability and virtual real estate, especially when considering the 2160×1440 IPS panel, with good color reproduction, wide viewing angles and excellent brightness. This is a 12″ device which allowed me to comfortably split my screen into 4 equal squares and do real work in each, using fingers on the touchscreen for quick response or the stylus for precision.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet Stand

While I struggle to think of uses for the Stand mode other than making sure cooking recipes are followed, surely someone will find a better use.

The connectivity options of the X1 Tablet are made up of one USB 3.0 port, one USB Type C doubling as a power connector, one mini-DisplayPort, one microSD-card slot, one 3.5mm Audio Jack and a nanoSIM slot allowing for LTE-A connections.

Lenovo X1 Tablet nanoSim slot

The X1 Tablet’s nano-SIM and micro SD slots are hidden under the stand.

First of all I want to mention that I was VERY pleasantly surprised by the signal quality of the LTE modem. Combined with the Productivity module, the device is capable of staying connected for the better part of a day (not a working day – a DAY) without any power sockets nearby. I actually traveled extensively while testing the device, and carried out my work on it for the better part of two weeks. During one rather frequent 100-mile (160Km) trip heading out from Bucharest and into the Sub-Carpathian mountains, the X1 Tablet lost connection to the cellular network only twice and for a joint time of about 5 minutes – while my laptop (equipped with a Dell 5560 WWAN card) and every phone I ever used on that network and on that trip barely manages to hold a signal for maybe half the trip – and that includes simple GSM calls.

Friends and family asking why I had turned off my phone because they could see online on Facebook represented a delicious bit of irony.

The Lenovo X1 Tablet’s battery life is equally impressive.

Like I said before, I used this device for about two weeks, for a variety of tasks, ranging from reading, to simple browsing, to lightweight gaming, to doing honest-to-god work using multiple browser windows with tens of browser tabs, with Firefox and Chrome windows both open (I needed some specific extensions in each), with Excel spreadsheets, running Brain.fm in a background tab, checking e-mail, all while writing various articles.

This is the kind of workload that got me about 11:30 hours of battery life (with the Productivity module). Lenovo’s claimed lifespan when using the module is about 15 hours, and had I been using less strenuous testing conditions, I have no doubt I could have broken that. Have I mentioned I used ThrottleStop to squeeze 2.7Ghz out of that ULV chip?

The story’s not over yet. A tablet focused on designers and creative folk would be pretty lame without one important extra function.

Lenovo X1 Tablet ThinkPad Stylus Pen

I would have loved to have tested this functionality in-depth. But I’m not a very good artist/designer and was too busy for it (which you’d know if you’ve read my review of the Yoga P40).

The X1 Tablet offers a stylus with an active digitizer, aptly titled ThinkPad Stylus Pen (terribly original, I know).

Now let’s talk a bit about technical specs.

The model I received for testing cam equipped with an Intel Core M5-6Y54 CPU. This one features two HyperThreaded Skylake cores, and is strong enough for some image processing or light video editing. It’s an interesting, low-power chip. The two cores are (theoretically) capable of up to 2.7GHz single-core or 2.4GHz dual-core speeds.

The CPU is cool enough that an active cooling mechanism (read: a fan) is not required, so the cooling is passive – which allows the tablet to be quite thin – however the use of passive cooling (coupled with my need to maximize the chip’s operating frequencies) did result in a rather hot tablet.

Under continuous load, the CPU clock stabilizes somewhere around 2.1-2.2GHz. Lenovo designed the X1 Tablet to automatically throttle the CPU the moment the cores reached 176F (80C).

The X1 Tablet’s test sample I got offered 4GB of RAM – however the tablet is easily openable and upgradable – and will be available in configurations featuring up to 16GB LPDDR3 RAM, while the storage offered will be up to 512GB.

I guess I should also mention the Wi-Fi. In my experience, these devices aren’t always the fastest. Well, the X1 Tablet impressed me in my speed testing, reporting a whopping 430Mbps real throughput when matched with our office router.

If that weren’t impressive in itself, the X1 Tablet also features an Intel Wireless Gigabit W11000 module, a technology which promises theoretical speeds of up to 7Gbps in select usage environments.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet with its magnetic keyboard and Productivity Module

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet with its magnetic keyboard, ThinkPad Stylus Pen and Productivity Module

In all, I found Lenovo’s X1 Tablet a versatile little hybrid computer, offering a lot of options to its target market. I really appreciated the performance on offer in such a thin and light package, along with the excellent cellular and wireless connectivity and the awesome screen – which allowed for some serious work.

In all honesty I am now less productive on my own personal computer – partly because of the much weaker screen, partly because of the weight of it.

A couple of things I took as downsides were the keyboard – which felt fragile and bendy. I’d have loved a more rigid design, maybe one using real hinges. Hopefully Lenovo will up their game on the keyboard materials. I also rather hated the modular nature of the device at first, though I got over it fast after the first 30 minutes once I got used to easily taking the module off or putting it back on.

The starting price of the device should be somewhere at around 899$. Not terribly cheap, but not bad either, though pumping the RAM and storage options along with a few modules might get you sweating fast.

In all, the X1 Tablet is an excellent product in its niche. I hope it reaches market soon – and I just might get one for myself.

Pros

- Lightweight;
- Powerful in its class;
- Large memory and storage capacity;
- Great battery life;
- Excellent signal strength;
- Exceptional versatility due to the selection of various modules;
- Great screen;
- Backlit keyboard;

Cons

- The backlit keyboard is flimsy;
- The modules are pricy;
- When a module is used, the flimsy plastic protective rim is taken off - you're liable to lose or break it if you're not paying attention;
- Would have liked an interior slot for the Active Stylus, like on the ThinkPad Yoga P40;

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