Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable review: Taking on the Surface Pro 7 Plus in the 2-in-1 market

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable is Lenovo's 2-in-1 Surface Pro competitor with a focus on enterprise features.

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable Review
(Image: © Windows Central)

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable was announced at CES 2021 as a powerful, feature-laden alternative to the Surface Pro line. It's essentially a ThinkPad laptop that's been shrunk down into a compact 2-in-1 design. This isn't the first ThinkPad 2-in-1 from Lenovo; the now-extinct ThinkPad X1 Tablet was a solid attempt at competing with the Pro, but the X1 received no further revisions beyond 2018. I've been using the new X12 Detachable for about a week to determine what makes it great and why you might want to choose it over Surface.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable at a glance

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Lenovo supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the ThinkPad X12 Detachable 2-in-1 PC. It includes an 11th Gen Intel Core i5-1130G7 processor (CPU), 16GB of dual-channel LPDDR4x-4266 RAM, 512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics. The 12.3-inch touch display has a 3:2 aspect ratio and supports inking, with tilt functionality using the correct active pen.

PCs include an attachable keyboard modeled after full-size ThinkPads, with a TrackPoint system and three-stage backlight. Also included is a basic active pen for Windows Ink.

You can equip models with up to an Intel Core i7-1180G7 CPU with vPro, 16GB of RAM, and 1TB SSD. The SSD is capped at FHD+ with no option for a higher resolution.

Here's a look at the exact specs in my review unit.

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OSWindows 10 Pro
Processor11th Gen Intel
Core i5-1130G7
4 cores, 8 threads
Up to 4.0GHz
RAM16GB LPDDR4x-4266
GraphicsIntel Iris Xe
Storage512GB M.2 NVMe PCIe 3.0 SSD
Display12.3 inches
1920x1280 (FHD+)
Touch, IPS
3:2 aspect ratio
Gorilla Glass 5
PortsThunderbolt 4
USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2)
3.5mm audio
Nano-SIM (optional)
AudioDual 1W speakers
Dolby Audio
ConnectivityIntel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
Bluetooth 5.1
4G LTE CAT9 (optional)
eSIM support
CameraFront-facing 5.0MP
World-facing 8.0MP
IR camera
Webcam shutter
KeyboardAttachable (Pogo pin)
White backlight
SecuritydTPM 2.0
Fingerprint reader
IR camera
Webcam shutter
Kensington lock
64W AC adapter
DimensionsWith keyboard:
11.15 x 8.01 x 0.57 inches
(283.3mm x 203.5mm x 14.5mm)
WeightWith keyboard:
2.4 pounds (1.1kg)
MaterialMagnesium alloy

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Design and features

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable borrows a familiar design, recognizable to any fans of the Surface Pro line. It's a 2-in-1 PC with a built-in stand and attachable keyboard, and it's just as comfortable acting as a tablet as it is an Ultrabook. The tablet alone weighs in at just 1.67 pounds (760g) and is 0.34 inches (8.8mm) thin. The keyboard adds about 0.75 pounds (340g) to the weight and 0.22 inches (5.7mm) to thickness. The chassis is made up of a magnesium-aluminum alloy for rigidity and durability, plus its MIL-STD 810G certified to ensure it can withstand harsh environments. While the Surface Pro line can live a fairly rough life, the X12 Detachable should stand up much better to regular abuse.

One more thing to note about the design is the X12's finish. Lenovo has gone with something called Peachskin paint here, moving away from the usual soft-touch paint. It feels fantastic, with a more matte look. It also seems to counteract smudges and fingerprints better than the soft finish.

The X12 Detachable's keyboard brings most of the ThinkPad feel to a tablet, including TrackPoint and physical buttons.

Attached with a magnetic Pogo pin, the keyboard snaps on and remains securely fastened during use. It also uses magnets to keep the device shut when on the go. The keyboard is relatively thick, but you get a far more rigid base than the Surface Pro's Type Cover. There's almost no bend at all beneath the cupped ThinkPad-style keys. It's not quite full size, but keys are spaced well, and I never felt cramped while typing. Key travel is about on par with the Type Cover, possibly a bit deeper. There is a three-stage white backlight to help with working after hours, and a TrackPoint system with physical mouse buttons accompanies the Precision touchpad.

The keyboard includes a snappy fingerprint reader for logins through Windows Hello. The keyboard must be attached to use the reader, but fear not if you're working only with the tablet. An IR camera comes included with all models, doubling up on the front with a 5MP standard camera. No matter how you're using the device, you'll be able to take advantage of some extra security. The world-facing camera is boosted up to 8MP and puts up a crisp picture. A privacy shutter covers the front-facing camera when not in use. Whether you're using the X12 for video conferencing or some still shots, the built-in hardware does a good job.

Ports include the new Thunderbolt 4, as well as a USB-C 3.2 (Gen 2) and a 3.5mm audio jack. No microSD card reader and no USB-A, which the Surface Pro 7+ offers. The X12's port selection sets you up nicely for the future, though the lack of USB-A could hurt some people. The lack of a microSD card reader hurts more for my personal workload; moving photos back and forth now requires extra hardware. These issues can be solved by adding one of the best laptop docking stations.

A volume rocker resides on the right side of the tablet, just above a Kensington lock slot. The top edge houses a recessed (to prevent accidental presses) power button, and there's a row of venting that doesn't harm the overall aesthetics of the tablet. An intake is also positioned on the right side. It's not a lot of venting, but the PC didn't seem to struggle with thermal issues even under load. The fan kicks on from time to time but never gets loud.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Dual 1W speakers are hidden in the display bezel on either side of the screen. You get unmuffled audio no matter how you're using the device; just keep in mind that these speakers aren't going to wow you. The sound is clear and gets relatively loud, and you can tune EQ with the Dolby Audio app. Dual-array microphones can be optimized to pick up your voice only, helping deal with noisy environments while you're on a call.

The X12 Detachable can be had with a Fibocom L850-GL wireless modem for 4G LTE CAT9 connectivity. A SIM slot is built into the left side of the tablet, and there seems to also be eSIM support through Gemalto. This is an entirely optional feature. Without 4G, the X12 relies on Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1. Unless you absolutely need 5G connectivity, the X12 should have you covered for connectivity.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Display and inking

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

The X12 Detachable has one 12.3-inch display option. It has a 1920x1280 (FHD+) resolution, which at this size seems sharp enough. The 3:2 aspect ratio is ideal for this type of device that should see a fair bit of use as a tablet, but don't expect a thin bezel. It certainly doesn't match up to the Surface Pro's boosted 2736x1824 resolution, but it still looks great. And it's in line with what Dell offers in its Latitude 7210 Detachable line.

There's an anti-reflective layer on the screen to reduce glare. Combined with a measured 427 nits brightness, you should only have glare issues in the most well-lit rooms. Lenovo uses Gorilla Glass 5 for better durability and resistance against scratches.

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Testing color reproduction, the X12 Detachable hit 100% sRGB, 75% AdobeRGB, and 78% DCI-P3. These are solid results, especially for a device that's meant mostly for business work. The addition of a Lenovo Digital Pen with X12 models adds to the value — remember, you're also getting the keyboard for the listed price — and it does a great job for sketching and writing out notes. The downside here is that it doesn't magnetically attach to the tablet. There's an elastic loop on the keyboard through which you can slip the pen, but it's far from an elegant solution.

You can upgrade to the Lenovo Precision Pen if you're passionate about inking and want a better experience. The pen attaches magnetically to the tablet, it has 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity, and it offers tilt detection for better drawing and shading. The Precision Pen adds about $59 to the total.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Performance and battery

Source: Windows Central (Image credit: Source: Windows Central)

Lenovo went with Intel's 11th Gen Tiger Lake CPUs for the X12, which is the same line the Surface Pro 7+ employs. However, the X12's CPUs have a lower 15W TDP compared to the 28W TDP in the Pro 7+'s chips. The X12 is available with Intel vPro for enterprise buys that need the extra management tools.

Despite the CPU differences, the X12 comes in just behind the Pro 7+ when testing Core i5 CPUs in Geekbench 5. I also ran a bunch of other synthetic benchmarks to see how the X12 compares.