Every laptop maker is trying to create the perfect tablet that does a little more than the usual, and now Lenovo has a fresh take on the formula. At CES today, Lenovo is introducing the ThinkPad X1 tablet. It’s a regular 12-inch tablet powered by Intel’s latest Core m7 chipset, but it’s also a little more.
Lenovo is known for its unique take on the laptop with its flipping and twisting Yoga series, and now it’s trying to modularize the tablet. While the main portion of the ThinkPad X1 just looks like any other Windows tablet, you can attach three modules to the bottom to transform it into a laptop, projector, or a 3D camera. The modules look like battery packs, and the “productivity” one extends battery life by an additional five hours alongside HDMI and USB ports.
Lenovo’s "presenter" module includes a pico projector to project a 60-inch display out of the bottom of the ThinkPad X1. The final module combines Intel’s RealSense camera to capture and edit objects for 3D printing. We’ve seen these cameras appear on laptops and desktops, but not many tablets have taken advantage of 3D imaging just yet. Placing a 3D camera at the bottom of the ThinkPad X1 really limits it to just capturing objects, rather than doubling as a webcam that you could use to log into Windows 10 with.
The main problem with Lenovo’s modules here is that they’re incredibly tricky and awkward to attach. You have to peel off a case that covers the ports for the connectors, and attaching the modules involves releasing some latches to ensure they’ll attach securely. It’s all a little too messy for regular use.
The modules are a little tricky to attach
While the modules might be a little fiddly, Lenovo is also combining the use of a kickstand and keyboard, just like Microsoft’s Surface tablets. The ThinkPad X1 tablet’s keyboard is a full ThinkPad keyboard with a TrackPoint and trackpad. I wasn’t able to use the keyboard during our brief time with the device at CES today, but it attaches magnetically to the bottom of the ThinkPad X1 tablet alongside an additional module. There's even an active stylus if you're interested in sketching, but it's optional and priced at $50.
I did get a chance to try out the kickstand, though. There’s a tiny latch at the rear that releases it, and it adjusts to a number of angles thanks to a fairly resistive hinge. Like many other tablets that try to be a laptop, it lacks the simplicity of a full laptop hinge. It’s also not sturdy enough if you’re tapping on the display and using it as a stand, and I noticed it would bounce a lot.
My first impression here is that Lenovo hasn’t perfected the tablet laptop hybrid, but its additional modules are an interesting concept. Unfortunately, those won’t come bundled with the ThinkPad X1 tablet. The 3D camera or additional battery / ports modules are $149, and the projector is even more at $279. Lenovo is planning to launch the ThinkPad X1 tablet in February priced at $899, so you’re looking at more than $1000 if you want the full functionality of the modules.