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Living with the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

 Living with the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

.Detachable computers—essentially machines that can be used as Windows tablets but which are designed so you can snap on a keyboard and use them as a traditional laptop—are making a resurgence. Microsoft set the formula with its Surface Pro line, now up to the Surface Pro 7, and other makers seem to be putting more of a focus on such machines.

One of the most impressive of these is Lenovo's new ThinkPad X12 Detachable, essentially a 12-inch tablet that comes with a keyboard that snaps on the bottom and a pen (stylus) you can store in a strap located on the side of the keyboard.

Measuring 0.34 by 11.15 by 8.0 inches (HWD) and weighing 1.67 pounds as a tablet and 2.4 pounds with the keyboard and stylus CHECK, it is a very portable machine, easy to take with you. For comparison, the Surface Pro 7 measures 0.33 by 11.5 by 7.9 inches (HWD) and weighs almost the same.

There are a couple of reasons you might want to choose a detachable over a more traditional notebook computer. One is the ease of transportability. Detachables often are thinner and lighter than most laptops; and that alone makes them attractive to people who travel a lot, as I used to do pre-pandemic. For executives, we're now seeing some enterprise machines, such as the ThinkPad X1 Nano and the HP Elite Dragonfly, that offer other very lightweight alternatives, but the X12 Detachable is still quite easy to carry.

The other reason, of course, is to use it at least part of the time as a tablet, without a keyboard. Almost every enterprise laptop maker offers convertibles, where the keyboard flips over to use it as a tablet. Such machines are almost always heavier. Those who use the stylus pen for drawing or annotating find the tablet option indispensable.

In the US, the X12 Detachable comes with the Lenovo Digital pen, which offers 4,096 levels of pressure; and seemed to work quite well in applications such as Photoshop and Acrobat. An optional $59 Precision Pen adds tilt detection, an additional configurable button, and the ability to attach magnetically to the tablet itself (as opposed to being held in place by a strap on the keyboard.)  The screen isn’t quite as high-resolution as that on the Surface, although that didn’t get in my way (of course, I’m no artist), and the X12 Detachable seemed to work well with the stylus.

Another big category of tablet use is for things such as reading newspapers, magazines, and books; or for watching videos.  Here, the X12 Detachable—like all Windows-based detachables—fails in my eyes. This isn't a hardware issue. The problem is that the Windows ecosystem never got the kind of tablet or mobile applications that the Apple and Android ecosystems have. The Windows Store seems to have more misleading or frivolous apps than legitimate or useful ones. So instead of dedicated applications for things like The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, or even Amazon Kindle you have to access publications via websites. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have apps, although not as advanced as those in other platforms. The web works of course, but the experience isn't quite the same, and that doesn’t help for offline reading. Even the tablet itself at 1.7 pounds, it's not as light as an iPad (1 pound for the 10-inch Air to 1.5 pounds for the 12.9-inch iPad Pro) or most Android tablets, so it isn't as easy to carry around.

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