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Lenovo's new ThinkPads go after Microsoft's Surface Books

The X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga also feature Dolby-enhanced voice chat

ThinkPad X12 Detachable in tablet mode Credit: Lenovo

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The new ThinkPads are here, and they’re packed with exciting new features. Fresh for the all-virtual CES 2021 exhibit, Lenovo has dropped four new models: the 9th gen X1 Carbon, the 6th gen X1 Yoga, and the brand new X1 Titanium Yoga and X12 Detachable.

We’re especially curious about the X12 Detachable, which is basically Lenovo’s version of the Microsoft Surface Book 3—a laptop with a completely detachable screen that turns into a tablet. Unlike a tablet with a keyboard folio, the Surface Book 3 feels like a classic clamshell laptop when the display and keyboard are connected, and we expect the X12 Detachable will have a similar feel.

ThinkPad X12 Detachable 1st gen

Credit: Lenovo

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable could be a long-due rival for the Microsoft Surface Book 3.

This is one of the most interesting releases of CES. The 12-inch ThinkPad X12 Detachable is not a 2-in-1. It’s a laptop, with a keyboard and trackpad, that can transform into a true tablet at any time—just remove the display. It’s extremely difficult to nail this sort of design, and so far the Microsoft Surface Book line has been the only one of note to succeed at it.

The ThinkPad X12 could be a boon for those who need a screen they can write on (think artists and modelers). Its Corning Gorilla Glass 5 display should withstand more abuse than the typical touchscreen display, and the display supports the Lenovo Precision Pen and Lenovo Digital Pen for up to 4,096 levels of pressure sensitivity (this is on par with the iPad Pro, but well below some of Wacom’s Cintiq offerings).

Like the rest of the lineup, it will support Wi-Fi 6, as well as Thunderbolt 4 and fingerprint login. Sadly, it only offers up to 16GB of memory and will not come with the new Dolby Voice software (it uses AI to clean up voice audio on web calls), Dolby Vision, Dolby Atmos, or 5G support like the rest of the ThinkPads discussed in this piece.

The ThinkPad X12 Detachable doesn't offer the X1 Carbon's 32GB of memory, but it has enough unique perks that it's worth checking out once it launches in January. It starts at $1,149, which is much cheaper than the comparable Microsoft Surface Book 3’s starting price of $1,499. If it proves to be as reliable and powerful as the Surface Book 3, the ThinkPad X12 Detachable could be an amazing new alternative for creative professionals.

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ThinkPad X1 Carbon 9th gen

Credit: Lenovo

The 9th generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon is looking as slick as ever.

Pointing stick lovers: rejoice. There’s a new ThinkPad X1 Carbon coming in 2021, and it’s revamped with the latest tech and features while still holding onto its iconic style.

The new 9th generation will come with a 16:10 aspect ratio, blue light filtering, a fingerprint reader on the power button, no-touch sign in with Windows Hello, and a slew of Dolby features (Vision, Atmos, and Voice). We’re used to seeing Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos (in a notably reduced form) on laptops and TVs these days, but Dolby Voice is totally new and only available on the X1 Carbon and the X1 Yoga. In short, it uses AI voice recognition to attempt to enhance web calls with more voice separation, clearer audio, and better word recognition on voice assistants. We don’t know how much Dolby Voice will accomplish, but the success of Dolby Vision and Atmos gives us high expectations.

On the hardware side, there are also quite a few neat features in its 2.5 pound body. The X1 Carbon packs in a 57 Watt-hour battery that claims to deliver up to 16 hours of battery life, a dual-fan design to cool the inside, WiFi 6 and 5G support, two Thunderbolt 4/USB-C ports (plus several USB-A and an HDMI port), up to 11th gen Intel Core i7 vPro processors, and up to 32GB of memory for those that plan to push their X1 Carbons to the limit.

Overall, this looks like it will be another excellent X1 Carbon that’ll provide many of the features professionals have come to rely on from their Lenovo laptops. While it’s a smidge pricey for casual users at $1,429, it’s in line with other premium laptops like the MacBook Pro 13 and the Dell XPS 15. Expect to see it in February 2021.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga 6th gen

Credit: Lenovo

The 6th generation Titanium X1 Yoga aims to bring the X1 Carbon's power to a 2-in-1 form factor.

This generation of the X1 Yoga will bring us many of the same features seen on the new X1 Carbon, from the same 16:10 aspect ratio to the inclusion of Dolby Voice. We expect an amazing visual experience in particular from its 4K screen option and Dolby Vision.

Where they differ is in their form factors: while the X1 Carbon is (and always has been) a clamshell, the X1 Yoga will be another 2-in-1 in the greater Yoga lineup. It will also come with a backlit keyboard, and its battery life promises 15 hours (despite being the same battery size as that on the X1 Carbon).

Like the X1 Carbon, the X1 Yoga will be available in February, and it will start at $1,569. It’s more expensive than the comparable Dell XPS 13 2-in-1 and the HP Spectre x360 14, but it comes with extra business features not included in the other two laptops (such as human presence detection).

ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga 1st gen

Credit: Lenovo

The Titanium Yoga is made for those who need the lightest PC possible, at any cost.

If you love the idea of the X1 Yoga but feel it’s a little big at 14.9 mm thickness and 3 pounds of weight (to be clear: we do not think the X1 Yoga is big or heavy by any metric), the X1 Titanium Yoga is 11.5 mm thick and weighs 2.5 pounds.

While its 3:2 aspect ratio and 2K display are much appreciated, it does feel like a bit of a downgrade from the regular X1 Yoga. The Titanium Yoga will not come with Dolby Voice, has a 44.5 Whr battery (which claims to power up to about 11 hours of use), does not come with a 4K display option, and maxes out its memory configuration options at 16GB. It also has fewer ports—just two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack.

We don’t think this is a bad set of features. It would be a fine, even great, set on a model cheaper than the X1 Yoga. However, the X1 Titanium Yoga plans to sell in January for $1,899 and up. We may be wrong, but it seems like the X1 Yoga will be a much better value for those after a portable 2-in-1.

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Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.

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