This new ThinkPad X12 Gen1 is a great tablet PC with a fantastic performance/weight ratio and build quality

Highs

  • Excellent build quality, security
  • Best in class keyboard
  • Great performance/weight ratio
  • Good battery life

Lows

  • So-so sound quality
  • No full-size USB

Rating + Price

  • Rating: 9/10
  • Price: ~$1407.6

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Gen1 is the successor of the ThinkPad X1 tablet that came out in 2016 (!). The chassis design makes it a Surface Pro-like mobile computer, but Lenovo has pushed that form-factor to new heights with this latest iteration.

This form-factor concept works well and is very popular. When I was in Japan, I saw an abnormally high number of these laptops, and there’s certainly a market for ultra-light PCs like this.

At 1.67 Lbs without the keyboard, it is a very compact Windows laptop. Yet, its hardware is fast enough to perform any productivity duties you throw at it as its capabilities are comparable to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 nano we reviewed in April.

Specs Highlights

The ThinkPad X12 Gen1 is built around an ultra-low voltage Intel Gen11 processor, and you can choose between five options: i3-1110G4, i5-1130G7 (as tested), i5-1140G7, i7-1160G7, and i7-1180G7. For most people, the i5-1130G7 is probably the best performance for the value.

The more expensive Core i7 SKUs are only available with 16GB of RAM (which I recommend), but others can be ordered with only 8GB if that’s a better fit for your budget and use case. There is an extensive choice of NVME SSD storage capacities, going from 128GB to 1TB (+$283).

Our test unit has the Core i5-1130G7 CPU, a 512GB SSD, 16GB, has 4G, and runs on Windows 10 Pro. It costs $1407.60 (keyboard and pen included) on Lenovo.com at the time of publishing.

A comparably fast version with 128GB, 8GB, Windows 10 Home, and no 4G, would cost $1189.2, and that’s the baseline price we’ll use in the perf/value charts.

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Industrial Design

The ThinkPad X12 Gen1 industrial design is classic for this category of devices. It has all the hallmarks of a Surface Pro competitor, with the addition of typical ThinkPad finishes like the magnesium chassis, solid hinges, and a resistant soft-black finish.

With the keyboard cover protecting the display, I wouldn’t worry much about the general durability of this laptop, and this is a perfect computing companion in cramped spaces such as planes or trains.

The chassis design is inherently less “lappable” when compared to clamshell laptops, so you need to be aware of that, but it is perfect to use on a table or tray.

Overall, the X12+keyboard thickness is very comparable to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 nano, which is slightly bigger because it has a larger screen size. The main difference is that the ThinkPad X12 Gen1 is better if you intend to use it as a full-on tablet (without the keyboard) often.

The chassis volume of the ThinkPad X12 (no keyboard) is about half of the ThinkPad X1 nano. The X12 is also 22% lighter between these two, and that’s a big difference when you hold it with one hand.

The ThinkPad X12 Gen1 has a superior design compared to the Microsoft Surface Pro 7 because of its durability and security options, such as the Kensington lock and ThinkShutter. However, the Surface Pro 7 has a full-size USB port, which could be a big deal for some users.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The ThinkPad X12 keyboard is another reason why Lenovo is taking the lead in this form factor. It is very agreeable to use, is very stiff, and has a built-in backlight (2 brightness levels).

The key travel is about 1mm, and the whole experience is as close as you can get from the classic ThinkPad keyboard with a detachable keyboard. For security purposes, there’s a fingerprint reader.

The keyboard attaches to the chassis via strong magnets and uses a wired data connection with the laptop, so there won’t be any BT pairing mishaps, dead battery, or input lag. On the other hand, you must attach the keyboard to use it.

"THE BEST DETACHABLE KEYBOARD I HAVE TESTED. IT FEELS INCREDIBLE"

Overall, this is the best detachable keyboard I have tested, and it feels incredible. This essential piece of the puzzle puts Lenovo well ahead of the Surface Pro, especially if you consider that the keyboard is included in the purchase.

The Trackpad’s surface is decent but could use a glass upgrade. However, the physical trackpad buttons make click & drag operations much more precise as you can click without moving the cursor at all. For ThinkPad fans, the classic red-colored TrackPoint controller is present as well.

Ports

There are only two USB-C data ports, but one of them is compatible with Thunderbolt 4, which opens a universe of high-speed connections to external storage, displays, or even GPUs! You can have a one-cable docking solution if connect it to something like the Sabrent Thunderbolt docking station.

For enterprise users, a Kensington security connector could be essential for preventing theft (and data loss), and our unit has a SIM slot for the optional 4G connectivity. Unfortunately, there’s no SD/microSD connector, which would have been great for photographers on the go.

Sound

The ThinkPad X12 Gen1 speakers are small and crammed into a tiny space. As a result, they aren’t very powerful and lack bass. Fortunately, the Dolby Premium software helps give the sound much more “body” than it would otherwise have.

This might be the ThinkPad X12’s Achilles heel compared to potential competitors. Still, the physics of sound is such that it’s challenging for this form factor to have fantastic audio.

With the volume at 100%, the sound did have a bit of distortion, and while it might be fine for a video call, it’s not the best audio experience for a movie. I would instead use headphones at that point.

Display

There’s only one display option which is a 12.3” FHD (1920×1080) IPS-LCD. It has a glossy anti-reflective finish which does well with smudges as well. No glass surface is smudge-free, but the coating Lenovo is using seems to help.

The brightness specs mention 400 NITs, but in reality, it’s a little higher than that, closer to 440 NITs. Pair that with the 100% sRGB color gamut, and you have a very capable display that’s well suited for working “in the field,” including outdoors.

The 16:10 aspect ratio helps with productivity apps where more vertical space is required, and now I wonder how a 3:2 version would be like.

Webcam

The 5MP front camera is located at the top of the display and features a privacy shutter, yet another difference from potential competitors, especially in corporate environments.

This camera’s quality is noticeably better than virtually all the laptops we’ve tested in the past year and can better deal with HDR if your lighting is not perfect. There’s a secondary IR camera that makes secure face unlock possible with Windows Hello.

An 8MP rear camera is also available with slightly higher quality. This is a welcome addition and could be very useful to anyone who needs to take field photos directly from a reporting app. The quality is not as good as smartphones or an iPad Pro (far from it), but it’s among the best you will get from a PC laptop.

Pen

A Lenovo Digital Pen is included in the box. It is an Active Pen powered with one AAAA battery and relies on the Wacom AES standard. I’m no designer, but it seems good enough for sketching. I believe that the original intent was to enable excellent note-taking, and that is a success.

Performance

Thanks to Intel’s 11th generation of ultra-low-voltage processors, the performance of this ultra-compact computer is great, and our Geekbench tests show it outpaces even the X1 nano for “performance per Lbs,” a critical mobility metric. And that’s not even with the most expensive processor option!

Even the graphics performance is very decent, with higher numbers than acclaimed laptops such as the 2020 Dell XPS 13 9000 (i7-1065G), so it is a laptop capable of the occasional Photoshop session.

The storage performance is not particularly impressive, and with a maximum of 16GB of RAM, I wouldn’t use this computer for video editing or any app that requires massive amounts of data and disk I/O, but you can if you need to.

Thanks to the low-power nature of this hardware platform, it is also very quiet. The fans do not turn on very often unless you keep a gazillion browser tabs open or play 3D games.

Battery Life

Having a 42Wh battery capacity for such a small device is reasonable. In our office productivity tests, we were able to get about 8 hours of continuous office app usage at a brightness of 110 NIT.

You can expect to go from zero to 80% in one hour, which is standard when you need to charge. Lenovo has laptops that can charge faster, as shown in the chart below. Fortunately, Lenovo’s new 65W charger is much more compact and easier to carry, so if you have an outlet nearby, you’ll be good to go.

Conclusion

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Gen1 is an excellent alternative to the Microsoft Surface 7 Pro. In many ways, it is a Surface 7 Pro Killer, and it’s tough to find an objective reason not to select the X12 if I had to choose between these two.

The cost between the two would be nearly identical for a comparable configuration, but Lenovo’s keyboard design is so much better, and the X12’s chassis seems extra durable. The user inputs would be my #1 priority here because of their vast user experience contribution.

"IN MANY WAYS, IT IS A SURFACE 7 PRO KILLER"

The lack of a full-size USB-A port on the X12 is regrettable, but it’s no longer a sway factor for most people. Finally, corporations might be swayed by the vPro hardware, the ThinkShutter webcam, and the security lock features.

This new ThinkPad X12 Gen1 is a great tablet PC with a fantastic performance/weight ratio and build quality, and Lenovo has made the right choice by including the keyboard and pen.

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