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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet 3rd Gen review: A top-quality 2-in-1 detachable

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  • Editors' rating
    8.1 Excellent
  • $1,599.00

Pros

  • High quality 3K touch-screen
  • Good kickstand
  • Bundled ThinkPad Pen Pro
  • All-day battery life

Cons

  • Fiddly access to MicroSD card slot
  • LTE mobile broadband is an optional extra
  • Housing for stylus still not perfect
  • No ThinkShutter camera privacy

When Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Tablet made its debut in 2016 it was designed to compete with devices like Microsoft's Surface Pro 4 and Apple's 12.9-inch iPad Pro. Two years on, the X1 Tablet has become a staple of the ThinkPad line, and is now on its third generation. With the classic ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga 3rd Gen also in Lenovo's top-tier line-up, business users have plenty of ThinkPad X1 configurations to choose between.

The 13-inch ThinkPad X1 Tablet is designed to bring tablet computing into the office without compromising on traditional laptop features. It should be the only laptop a mobile professional needs -- that's the idea, anyway, and the bundling of Lenovo's ThinkPad Pen Pro will please those of a more creative persuasion.

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The 13-inch X1 Tablet runs 8th-generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with up to 16GB of RAM and up to 1TB of PCIe SSD storage. The tablet weighs 890g, rising to 1.27kg with the keyboard attached.

Images: Lenovo

The industrial design and build quality is exactly what you'd expect from the flagship ThinkPad X1 range. With MIL-STD 810G certification, the X1 Tablet should withstand knocks and drops, while the Gorilla Glass-protected touch screen should resist scratches and dings.

SEE: 20 pro tips to make Windows 10 work the way you want (free PDF)

As usual with a detachable laptop-tablet hybrid, the bulk of the ThinkPad X1 Tablet's components are in the screen section, so that's the bulkier, heavier element. For the record, the tablet alone weighs 890g and measures 304mm by 225.56mm by 8.9mm (11.96in. x 8.88in. x 0.35in.). With the keyboard section attached the weight increases to 1.27kg and thickness to 15.1mm (0.59in.).

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The kickstand supports a wide range of screen angles.

Image: Lenovo

The tablet keyboard sections are held together by strong magnets -- and I mean strong. While I don't recommend it, you can carry the whole unit around by the screen, with the keyboard dangling below, and it won't fall away.

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The tablet's build is very solid. The durable kickstand hinge supports a wide range of angles, so the screen can easily be set up for comfortable viewing.

The keyboard is a little less tough, being thin and having a fair amount of flex. Still, it's fine when the screen and keyboard are linked for transit: the two halves shut together neatly, and the whole thing feels like a solid unit.

The ThinkPad Pen Pro is too fat to sit in a chassis-integrated housing. Thankfully the rather cumbersome stylus holder that occupied a full-size USB port in the original model has been ditched, and there's now a holder that fits into a dedicated slot on the back of the tablet, beneath the kickstand.

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With the ThinkPad Pen Pro in its holder, the volume rocker is inaccessible.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

I found this works quite well, but it's not a perfect solution. The ThinkPad Pen Pro wedges into the holder quite tightly, which is good in that it's less likely to drop out of the holder of its own accord and get lost, but bad in that it takes quite a yank to get the pen out, ready for use. Also, inexplicably, Lenovo has placed the tablet's volume rocker so that it's inaccessible when the ThinkPad Pen Pro is in its holder.

The screen's 13-inch 3,000-by-2,000-pixel (3K) IPS touch screen delivers superb image quality, although it's quite reflective. Gorilla Glass 4 should prevent the surface from getting scratched, or worse.

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The 13-inch IPS screen is quite reflective but delivers excellent image quality. The keyboard section is somewhat flexible, but still allows you to touch-type at good speed.

Images: Lenovo

The keyboard is necessarily built into a shallower space than is the case with a conventional laptop. It's recessed so that the keys don't damage the screen when the ThinkPad X1 Tablet is closed down, and as a result the feel is slightly less comfortable than usual under the fingers. The keys are all well sized -- and that includes the arrow keys and Fn keys -- and there's a large Enter key. I was able to touch type at my normal speed, although the experience is less satisfying than on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga 3rd Gen.

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The touchpad is responsive, and its size has not been compromised by the two-piece setup. Indeed, Lenovo includes its signature scroll and mouse buttons between the top of the touchpad and the space bar, and also has its signature red TrackPoint between the G, H and B keys.

The 2018 ThinkPad X1 Tablet uses 8th generation Intel Core processors. There are just three preconfigured models on Lenovo's UK website, and I was sent the mid-range model to review. The top-end option costs just a shade over £2,000 (inc. VAT), but for the money you get a Core i7-8650U processor. None of the preconfigured models have integrated LTE mobile broadband, though.

  • Intel Core i5-8250U, Windows 10 Home, 13.0 inch 3,000 x 2,000 IPS touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD
    £1,479.99 (inc. VAT; £1,233.32 ex. VAT)
  • Intel Core i7-8550U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.0 inch 3,000 x 2,000 IPS touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    £1,849.99 (inc. VAT; £1,541.66 ex. VAT)
  • Intel Core i7-8650U, Windows 10 Pro, 13.0 inch 3,000 x 2,000 IPS touch screen, Intel UHD Graphics 620, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD
    £2,019.99 (inc. VAT; £1,683.32 ex. VAT)

Ports and connectors are closer to what we'd expect to find on a tablet than on a laptop. So, there are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of which will be occupied when the device is charging, and a headset jack. And that's your lot. Well, actually, not quite: there's a SIM tray for those who want to add LTE mobile broadband, and the caddy has room for a MicroSD card too. This is handy, but whenever a card needs to be used, the tray has to be popped out. Cue the old open-paper-clip manoeuvre, which isn't an elegant solution for a premium laptop.

There's a fingerprint reader on the bezel, looking just like the home/biometric button on other tablets. There are two cameras -- 2MP and 8MP at the back -- and you can add IR as an option if you want to use Windows Hello authentication.

Unlike on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, there's no ThinkShutter to cover the camera lens when required. Lenovo has created a problem for itself here: if this privacy solution is deemed important enough for the X1 Yoga -- and to feature lower down the ThinkPad range, on the ThinkPad T480s for example -- why is it absent from the X1 Tablet? Either it matters or it doesn't.

The stereo speakers deliver plenty of volume, but -- as so often on laptops and tablets -- there's a distinct lack of bass. They'll do the job for video calls and after-hours movie watching, but don't expect top-quality audio.

Lenovo rates the X1 Tablet's 42Wh battery for up to 9.5 hours, which seems like a good estimate. In one test session involving writing to the web, a fair bit of streaming and some web browsing, I got through 48 percent of battery life in 4.5 hours. Depending on workloads, it may well be possible to get through a working day from a full charge.

Conclusions

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Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Tablet 3rd Gen is compact and portable, and the bundled stylus expands the range of use cases. Many users should find battery life good enough for all-day working, and twin Thunderbolt 3 ports will be handy -- although one will be occupied when the battery is charging.

There are some drawbacks: the MicroSD card slot is fiddly to get at, audio quality should be better on a device that's aimed at mobile professionals and creatives, there's no ThinkShutter for the camera, and Lenovo still hasn't provided a perfect external housing for its stylus.

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Specifications

Display
Resolution 3000 x 2000 (QHD+)
Touchscreen Yes (10-point multi-touch)
LCD Backlight Technology LED backlight
TFT Technology IPS
Diagonal Size 13 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 33 cm
Native Resolution 3000 x 2000
Image Aspect Ratio 3:2
Miscellaneous
Compliant Standards RoHS, GREENGUARD, low halogen
Features MIL-STD-810G tested, reset switch
Color black
Color Category black
Case Material aluminum, magnesium alloy
Security Slot Type Kensington mini security slot
Compliant Standards GREENGUARD, RoHS, low halogen
Processor
Clock Speed 1.6 GHz
Number of Cores Quad-Core
64-bit Computing Yes
Type Core i5
Processor Number i5-8250U
Manufacturer Intel
Communications
Wireless Protocol 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, NFC
Camera
Features rear camera with auto focus, rear camera with flash
Networking
Data Link Protocol Bluetooth 4.1, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11ac, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n, NFC
Input Device
Type TrackPoint, UltraNav, digital pen, digitizer, keyboard
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Multimedia
Graphics Accelerator Integrated Intel® UHD Graphics 620
Battery
Technology 4-cell lithium ion
Technology lithium ion
Capacity 42 Wh
Power
Run Time (Up To) 9.5 sec
Header
Brand Lenovo
Product Line Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet
Model 20KJ
Localization English
Packaged Quantity 1
System
Platform Windows
Security Devices fingerprint reader
RAM
Technology LPDDR3 SDRAM
Installed Size 8 GB
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Integrated Intel® UHD Graphics 620
Digital Camera
Features rear camera with auto focus, rear camera with flash
Audio Input
Type two microphones
OS Provided
Type Windows 10 Pro 64-bit Edition
Power Device
Nominal Voltage AC 120/230 V
Frequency Required 50/60 Hz
Service & Support
Type 1 year warranty
Service & Support Details
Type limited warranty
Full Contract Period 1 year
Dimensions & Weight
Width 12 in
Depth 8.9 in
Height 0.4 in
Weight 31.39 oz

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