If you’re a 2-in-1 fan who is tired of waiting for Microsoft to get its Surface Pro act together, Lenovo may have just the PC for you. The ThinkPad X12 is what the firm calls a detachable—that is, a Tablet PC with a detachable keyboard cover—and it may be just what the doctor ordered.
That said, let me start with my only major gripe right up front: Those bezels. Granted, compared to Surface Pro 7, they’re not particularly galling. But compared to the ARM-based Surface Pro X and, more important, to most premium portable PCs these days, the X12 has anachronistically large bezels. I was a bit surprised by that.
But now that that criticism is out of the way, I can tell you that the ThinkPad X12 improves on the Surface Pro lineup in several important ways. Key among them is its backlit, detachable folio keyboard, which is stiffer and provides an even better typing experience than Surface Pro. It also includes the legendary ThinkPad dual pointing system, with both a TrackPoint nubbin and a glass precision touchpad. It’s early days yet, but it seems fantastic.
Like many ThinkPads, the X12 utilizes a magnesium alloy body and comes in the traditional ThinkPad black color. It’s immediately recognizable as a ThinkPad, visually and from a build quality perspective. It has a reasonably thin and wedged profile at .34 inches thick, compared to .28 inches for Surface Pro X and .33 inches for Surface Pro 7. Add the folio keyboard cover and the thickness is just .57 inches.
It’s quite portable too, at just 1.67 pounds if you omit the folio keyboard cover, so it’s a bit lighter than either Surface Pro. That said, with the folio keyboard cover, it’s 2.4 pounds, which I suspect is just north of either Surface Pro.
As with Surface Pro, the X12 features a built-in kickstand. It’s rock-solid, as one should expect.
And you can tilt this sucker all the way back, just like Surface Pro.
Lenovo includes a Precision Pen with the X12, and this peripheral supports 4,096 level of pressure, tilt detection, a configurable button, and can attach magnetically to the X12 directly; you can also more securely tether it to the folio keyboard cover using a built-in loop. It appears to be a bit smaller than Surface Pen, which I consider to be the standard for such things.
The display is just 12.3-inches, and, yes, I can easily imagine a larger display in that body, but here we are. It’s a Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) IPS panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio and Gorilla Glass 5 for protection, and it is brilliantly bright, throwing off 400 nits of light. Of course, both Surface Pro models provide much higher resolution displays and an ideal 3:2 aspect ratio, but at this display size, I think the X12’s resolution is ideal.
From an audio-video perspective, the X12 has you covered with dual stereo speakers back by Dolby Audio Premium and its automatic sound profiles for different types of listening needs. There’s a set of dual-array microphones for video conferencing, and the front-facing camera provides Windows Hello facial recognition in addition to the classic (and appreciated) ThinkPad fingerprint sensor on the wrist rest.
Speaking of which, Lenovo is really pushing the X12’s security capabilities. That fingerprint reader features Lenovo’s hardware-accelerated Match-on-Sensor technology for isolating your fingerprint data from the rest of the system and thus from hacking. There’s a manual ThinkShutter privacy switch for the webcam. And the X12’s BIOS is self-healing, which prevents you from accidentally bricking the device if a firmware update fails while helping to prevent corruption and attacks.
Internally, you’ll find modern componentry as well. This includes 11th-generation Intel Core processors with Iris Xe graphics, up to 16 GB of LPDDR4x RAM, and up to 1 TB of PCIe NVMe solid-state storage. It features Intel Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 chipsets, it and can optionally be had with LTE/4G cellular connectivity as well, as God intended.
Expandability is about as expected for such a device. There are no classic ports, but the X12 comes with 1 Thunderbolt 4 port, 1 USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 port, and … and … OK, that’s all there is. There is a headphone jack, of course, a nano-SIM slot, and a Kensington lock slot as well.
There’s no word on expected battery life, so I’ll need to test that. The X12 has a 42 watt-hour battery and it ships with that same new-ish 65-watt power supply I first saw on the ThinkPad Fold (and like quite a bit).
The trick here, of course, is the price. A Core i3 model with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage starts at just under $1100, and that does include the folio keyboard cover. You could spend up to $1665 for a fully decked-out system, and it looks like the review unit configuration—Core i5-1103G7, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of storage, would set you back about $1400.