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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet review: Smart design makes up for performance shortcomings

Mark Hachman | May 18, 2016
Lenovo's ThinkPad line has a proud history of great design, which continues with this new convertible tablet.

I’m less enthused about the pen itself, which feels somewhat cheap and plasticky. Inside is an industry-standard AAAA battery.  Though it supports 2,048 levels of pressure, the Wacom pen only includes two configurable buttons on the shaft—there’s no “eraser” button to launch OneNote, or actually erase, a function I’ve grown used to with other pens. Lenovo may be waiting to see how many people take advantage of Windows 10’s new Windows Ink mode, but there’s still room for improvement here. 

ThinkPads have a reputation for great keyboards, but the ThinkPad X1 Tablet’s felt about average in key travel and resilience compared to those of other convertible tablets I’ve used. It appears that while the ThinkPad X1 Tablet’s keys are faintly scalloped, they are far less so than on ThinkPad notebooks, which might disappoint some users. I wasn’t impressed with the touchpad, which generally felt somewhat cheap and unresponsive compared to the competition. The accompanying buttons and trackpoint nubbin also seemed a bit archaic on a touchscreen tablet armed with a pen, but they’re traditions that would probably incite the ire of ThinkPad fans if removed.

lenovo thinkpad z1 tablet keyboard 
The X1 tablet’s keyboard should look quite familiar to previous ThinkPad owners. Credit: Mark Hachman

Finally, Lenovo includes its own utility, Lenovo Companion, which serves as an alternative to the various Windows control panels and update menus. Lenovo doesn’t force you to use the Companion app, and you might be able to get by without ever opening it. But its attractive design and overall utility make it worth checking out.

My review tablet was, thankfully, free of bloatware, though Lenovo does recommend certain apps for you to download. The WRITEit app, for example, mimics Windows Ink by allowing you to digitally mark up whatever’s on the screen, and to fill in various fields using pen input. Out of the box, the palm-rejection feature on the Wacom pen is pretty lousy. Make sure you download the updated Wacom driver from its website to improve performance.

Productivity-focused performance

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet’s chip runs at the same 1.1GHz core clock speed as the chip in the competing HP Elite x2. Though the two chips are very similar, the x2’s processor includes both vPro and a set of instructions focused on multithreaded performance scaling. It's possible the additional instruction support assist in the Elite x2’s performance, but Lenovo also appears to be limiting its own Core m5-6y57’s clock speed.

While encoding an MP4 video file using the Handbrake benchmark, the HP Elite x2’s processor tended to smoothly cycle between 2GHz and 2.2GHz, using Intel’s Extreme Tuning utility. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Tablet’s chip, meanwhile, showed considerable evidence of power throttling—though no thermal throttling, even though its processor climbed to a package temperature of 84 degrees Celsius. (The HP Elite x2’s chip maintained a package temperature of about 70 degrees Celsius.) 

 

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