Review: Lenovo's New ThinkPad X1 Tablet Is A Top Contender In The 2-in-1 Wars

This is shaping up to be the year that 2-in-1 tablets really break out.

We recently gave a strong review to Samsung's Galaxy Book, while Apple's new iPad Pro is also getting a generally favorable reception. Microsoft plans to release a refresh to its pioneering Surface Pro this week, as well.

However, Lenovo is well-positioned to compete with all of them thanks to its second-generation ThinkPad X1 tablet.

[Related: Head-To-Head: Microsoft Surface Pro Vs. Samsung Galaxy Book]

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The X1 tablet may not feature as sexy of a design as the other 2-in-1 tablets we just mentioned. But its smooth performance, sturdiness and ability to do things the others can't — such as turn into a projector on a whim — make it well worth consideration for work use.

Lenovo succeeds at transferring the ThinkPad look and feel over to the X1 tablet 2-in-1. Maybe the biggest place this is noticeable -- and the biggest differentiator overall -- is in how sturdy the device is.

The X1 tablet comes with a detachable keyboard that is a huge departure from the flimsy feeling keyboard of the iPad Pro. The keyboard sits stiffly and feels very durable. The keys are deep and a pleasure to type on. The touchpad on the keyboard also works smoothly right out of the box.

Unlike some of the other 2-in-1 tablets, the stand for the X1 tablet is flexible enough to allow for usage at a full range of different angles (rather than just a few preset angles). The stand is also made from metal, which adds a lot of strength, but the flexibility means you can adjust the angle just by moving the tablet rather than fiddling with the stand itself.

Thanks to the excellent keyboard and stand, the ThinkPad X1 tablet is pretty close to being able to offer the equivalent of a laptop experience. It can, in fact, be comfortably used on your lap -- unlike some of the other leading 2-in-1s. We think this is a huge advantage.

Portability, after all, is a chief benefit of going the 2-in-1 route. The ability to use the X1 tablet in more ways than the typical 2-in-1 is a major complement to the portable aspects of the device, which weighs 2.4 pounds for both tablet and keyboard.

The model we tried out was configured with a seventh-gen Intel Core i5 processor (from the low-power Y-series) and 8 GB of RAM, which provided terrific performance. Web pages loaded swiftly and the tablet was able to keep up with running numerous open windows at a time.

In our tryout, we got five hours of battery life on a charge (75 percent screen brightness), which is perhaps the only real downside. We've tried out convertible laptops that can offer more, although the Samsung Galaxy Book gave us the same battery life in our recent test.

Lenovo does have a solution, though, which brings us to the tablet's most unique feature -- the ability to attach external modules for additional functionality. One of them is the Productivity Module, which promises another five hours of battery life by snapping it onto the bottom of the tablet.

We didn't test the Productivity Module, but we did try out a potentially even more transformative one -- the Presenter Module. This snap-on device allows you to use your tablet as a projector, and we found it to project a sharp, high-quality image.

We should note that it is a bit awkward to use because the module projects in the same direction that the tablet display is facing -- meaning you are in front of the projector while doing anything on the tablet. But every projector has its foibles, and the X1 tablet approach is still simpler to set up, and enables using a projector in more types of settings and situations. We can see plenty of cases where the ability to more easily offer a presentation to a group would come in handy.

The 12-inch touch display is a good size, enabling plenty of work space while still being smaller than the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which seems a bit overkill for many users. The X1 tablet display looks great, too, with resolution of 2,160 x 1,440 and a high degree of brightness. It also includes Gorilla Glass 4 for some extra durability.

Other features that business users will appreciate include a fingerprint reader, Windows Hello login, a TPM security chip and Intel vPro. The tablet also comes with a digital pen, which worked naturally, with minimal latency, in our tryout.

On ports, Lenovo's X1 tablet stakes out a middle ground between the approaches of the Surface Pro (which has no USB-C) and the Galaxy Book (which has no USB-A). The X1 tablet opts for one USB-A port plus one USB-C port -- along with a MiniDisplay Port and microSD card slot.

Lenovo's second-gen ThinkPad X1 tablet is available for $1,499 from CDW in the configuration we tried out (Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage). The Presenter Module adds another $289. These don't feel like bad prices for all that the X1 tablet and projector functionality have to offer.

All in all, the X1 tablet stands out as a 2-in-1 that wisely puts the needs of business users front and center -- and can actually serve as a true laptop replacement, unlike some other 2-in-1s. The sturdiness, flexibility and projector features could give the tablet wider appeal to businesses and solution providers than others on the market.