Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable Review

Function beats form in this rugged Windows 2-in-1

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3.8

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable
Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith.
What We Like
  • Rugged, durable exterior

  • Outstanding keyboard

  • Strong graphics performance for the category

  • Great 5MP webcam

What We Don't Like
  • Unattractive design

  • Display resolution barely exceeds 1080p

  • Mediocre battery life

  • Price is hard to justify

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a rugged Windows 2-in-1 that has an amazing keyboard and strong performance, though its display and battery life fail to impress.

3.8

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable
Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith.

Lenovo provided us with a review unit for one of our writers to test. Read on for the full take.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is tough, rugged 2-in-1 laptop that’s skewed entirely towards function. It has an unusual 3:2 display, a black matte magnesium-aluminum body, and even an optional nano SIM slot for cellular connectivity. All this makes the ThinkPad X12 Detachable’s focus on business travel plain, but can a 2-in-1 that’s all function and no fun compete with Apple’s versatile iPad Pro and Microsoft’s attractive Surface Pro 7?

Design: Rough and tumble has its benefits

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a dark, ash-black slate a hair under a foot wide and 8 inches deep. On the top of the closed tablet is the kickstand, which holds the screen in place once opened. Unlike most 2-in-1s, the X12 Detachable does nothing to obscure the kickstand hinge. 

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

This look has the same intrigue as an expensive power tool: it’s potent, durable, and more than a little unfriendly. I like it, but also recognize that an iPad Pro or Microsoft Surface Pro 7 offers a more refined and stylish look. 

The look has the same intrigue as an expensive power tool: it’s potent, durable, and more than a little unfriendly.

The ThinkPad picks up a clear win in weight, tipping the scales at 2.4 pounds with the keyboard attached. That’s less than the iPad Pro and exactly equal to the Surface Pro 7. Yet the X12 Detachable packs more ports than either competitor. This 2-in-1 comes with one Thunderbolt 4, one USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, one 3.5mm combo audio jack, and a nano-SIM slot. 

Display: Good, but behind the competition

Lenovo wisely decided on a 3:2 aspect ratio for the ThinkPad X12 Detachable. This provides a taller screen compared to the typical 16:9 aspect ratio and makes the device feel more comfortable when used as a tablet. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 uses this aspect ratio, while Apple’s iPad Pro uses a 4:3 aspect ratio, which is even closer to square. 

Display resolution comes in at 1920 x 1280, which is disappointing. This is much lower than the Surface Pro 7’s 2736 x 1824 resolution and the iPad Pro 2732 x 2048 resolution. The X12 Detachable looks sharp in most situations, but fonts and high-resolution photos don’t have the ultra-crisp look of competitors. 

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

The display is glossy but bright enough to combat glare unless a light is sitting directly behind you. Viewing angles are great and the display looks vibrant so, despite its modest resolution, it’s adequate in typical use.

Performance: The graphics stand out

An Intel Core i7-1160G7 quad-core processor with Intel Iris Xe graphics powered my ThinkPad X12 Detachable review unit. My test system also had 16GB of RAM and a 512GB solid-state drive. 

It performed well in PCMark 10, reaching an overall score of 4,059 and a productivity score of 5,897. However, these figures are behind the Microsoft Surface Pro 7. The X12 Detachable felt snappy in my day-to-day use, but I wouldn’t suggest it for video editing or heavy photo editing.

The X12 Detachable I tested had a powerful version of Intel Iris Xe graphics with 96 execution units and a maximum graphics frequency of 1.1GHz. It scored well, delivering 59 frames per second (fps) in the GFXBench T-Rex test and 83fps in the GFXBench Car Chase test. I also ran 3D Mark Fire Strike, where the X12 Detachable scored 3,907. 

These results are much better than usual for a Windows 2-in-1. Intel’s Iris Xe Graphics delivers performance on par, or slightly better than, an entry-level GPU like the Nvidia GeForce MX350. However, you’ll only find the GeForce MX350 in larger devices. Most 3D games will at least be playable, although demanding games will force you to significantly dial back resolution and detail.

While the X12 Detachable performs well overall, I tested the most extravagant model. The entry-level version has an Intel Core i3 processor and lacks Intel Iris Xe graphics. I suspect it performs far worse as a result.

Productivity: The keyboard is the killer feature

I love the ThinkPad X12 Detachable’s magnetic keyboard cover. In fact, I’ll say it’s the 2-in-1’s most important feature. The iPad’s Magic Keyboard and Microsoft’s Type Cover are stiff competition, but this ThinkPad easily defeats both with its spacious layout and outstanding key feel. 

The keyboard is supported by an excellent, large touchpad and the classic Lenovo TrackPoint, a red nub in the center of the keyboard that offers a way to control the cursor without lifting your hands from the keys. 

I love the ThinkPad X12 Detachable’s magnetic keyboard cover.

The X12 Detachable is compatible with the Lenovo Digital Pen and Precision Pen. Mine came with the Digital Pen, which is bundled with all X12 Detachables sold in the U.S. It’s a competent, usable stylus, but feels awkwardly thick and has an unpleasant ridge on its plastic end-cap. I far prefer the Surface Pen and Apple Pencil, both of which feel more natural in-hand. The pen can attach to a fabric loop on the keyboard cover for safekeeping though the position of it caused the pen to rub my hand while typing, so I often removed it. 

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

Battery: Endurance is fine, but it charges quickly

A 42 watt-hour battery powers the ThinkPad X12 Detachable when you’re away from an outlet. That’s not a large battery for a Windows 2-in-1. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 has a 46.5 watt-hour unit. Still, I saw six to eight hours of battery life while using Microsoft Word and Google Docs (opened in Chrome) to edit documents, interrupted occasionally by social media or opening GIMP to edit a photo. This is competitive with my experience with the Microsoft Surface Pro 7, Dell’s XPS 13 2-in-1, and other similar devices.

The X12 Detachable supports rapid charging. Lenovo says the device can hit 80 percent of its maximum capacity in an hour, and my real-world experience exactly mirrored that. It topped off at lightning speed when using the provided charger and when connected to a USB-C monitor.

Audio: Just the basics

A pair of 1-watt speakers packed in the ThinkPad X12 Detachable provide modest but usable sound. They’re clearly tuned towards function. Video calls sound crisp, but music can become muddy, and games sound lifeless. 

Those on the other end of a video call will hear you clearly thanks to the dual-array microphone. Audio is clear and crisp, though it’s no miracle worker; a loud dishwasher or barking dog will come through.

Network: It’s very fast

Wi-Fi performance is a highlight. The ThinkPad X12 Detachable supports Wi-Fi 6 and hits network speeds of up to 800 megabits per second (Mbps) on downloads and uploads when used in the same room as a Wi-Fi 6 router. Performance held up at long range, downloading at 56Mbps and uploading at 25Mbps in an exterior office 50 feet and several walls away from the router. 

An optional nano-SIM provides 4G cellular connectivity, but my review unit lacked this feature. 

Lenovo Thinkpad X12 Detachable

Lifewire / Matthew S. Smith

Camera: A good choice for remote work

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable has an impressive 5-megapixel webcam that can record at 1080p resolution. It includes an IR sensor that enables Windows Hello’s quick, reliable facial recognition login. A manual privacy shutter is standard.

Video quality is as good as you’ll find on a 2-in-1. The image provides a sharp, realistic look that holds up well in an evenly lit room. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 7 also has a 5MP camera and stands toe-to-toe with the X12 Detachable, but most Windows devices have measly 3MP cameras (or worse) that can only record at 720p resolution. The X12 Detachable is a big upgrade over them.

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable has an impressive 5-megapixel webcam that can record at 1080p resolution.

There’s also an 8MP rear-facing camera. It’s fine for quick, functional photos but will never impress. The X12 Detachable has none of the fancy AI-driven photo optimization you’ll find in a modern smartphone, and its photos look flat and dull by comparison. 

Software: Windows is still a desktop OS

My ThinkPad X12 Detachable review unit came with Windows 10 Pro. It’s the standard, x86-compatible edition that will run all the applications you’d expect a Windows device to handle. That’s good news when using the X12 Detachable as a laptop or with an external monitor, but it’s a problem once the keyboard is detached.

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a good laptop, but a merely OK tablet.

Microsoft’s updates cadence for Windows 10 has slowed significantly. The OS received only two significant touch-centric features in 2020: larger buttons in File Explorer and 39 additional languages for the touch keyboard. Windows 10 remains a scattered touchscreen experience marred by a lack of standardization among its many apps. Apple’s iPad Pro, when used as a tablet, is a significantly better experience. 

I’ve always viewed Windows 2-in-1s as laptops that can also work as a tablet, while Apple’s iPad is a tablet that can also work as a laptop. The ThinkPad X12 Detachable is no exception. It’s a good laptop, but a merely OK tablet.

Price: Secretly competitive

Lenovo has a habit of listing its products at high MSRPs and then slashing the price. The ThinkPad X12 Detachable is an extreme example of this practice. It supposedly starts at $1,829 and runs as high as $2,759, but actual pricing starts around $1,079 and runs to about $1,849. Pricing can vary depending on active sales, so it pays to shop around. 

The X12 Detachable is a good value when judged by its retail price. You’ll spend as much for a Microsoft Surface Pro 7, but it doesn’t come bundled with a Type Cover or Surface Pen. The iPad Pro 13 starts at $999 but, again, the Magic Keyboard and Apple Pencil are extra.

Resist the urge to snag Lenovo’s least expensive X12 Detachable. It looks like a steal when priced under $1,100, but it has an anemic Intel Core i3-1110G4 processor with outdated Intel UHD graphics. The Core i5-1130G7 model is typically $100 to $150 more and will offer a big leap in performance. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 7

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable and Surface Pro 7 look nearly identical on paper. They have the same display size and aspect ratio, are nearly identical in size and weight and promise similar battery life. Yet they are built with different owners in mind.

Microsoft’s alternative is an attractive, refined device that skews towards tablet use more heavily than most Windows 2-in-1s. It doesn’t even come bundled with the Type Cover, which is sold separately. The Surface Pen is also optional, but it’s the best stylus in the Windows world.

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable fights back with an absurdly good keyboard that feels better than that on any Surface device, including the Surface Laptop 3. It has the latest Intel processor with optional Iris Xe graphics and supports Thunderbolt 4, an absurdly fast and versatile connector. 4G cellular connectivity is available as an option, something Microsoft limits to the enterprise-only Surface Pro 7+.

Final Verdict

A solid and functional 2-in-1 for business travelers. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a hyper-focused 2-in-1 for business travelers who need a device that can navigate Excel formulas that would make most people faint, yet is portable and durable enough to chuck into a day-trip bag at a moment’s notice. Its no-nonsense design is hard to broadly recommend but, for some, this 2-in-1 will be an excellent fit.

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Specs

  • Product Name ThinkPad X12 Detachable
  • Product Brand Lenovo
  • MPN 20UW0013US
  • Price $1091
  • Release Date March 2021
  • Weight 2.40 lbs.
  • Product Dimensions 11.15 x 8.01 x 0.57 in.
  • Color Black
  • Price $1,819 to $2,739, depending on configuration
  • Warranty 1-year limited warranty
  • Operating System Windows 10 Pro
  • Processor Intel Core i7-1160G7
  • RAM 16GM
  • Storage 512GM PCIe NVMe SSD
  • Camera 5MP front-facing / 8MP rear-facing
  • Audio Dual 1-watt speakers, dual noise-cancelling microphones
  • Battery Capacity 42 watt-hour
  • Ports 1x Thunderbolt 4, 1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2, nano SIM slot
  • Wi-Fi Wi-Fi 6
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Waterproof No
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