Surface Pro X vs Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable: Which one is better?

Surface Pro X vs Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable: Which one is better?

Choosing a new PC is always a tough decision. There are lots of fantastic laptops out there, and nearly all of them have reasons why you might prefer them. Choosing between different devices isn’t always easy, but we’re here to help. We’re comparing Microsoft’s Surface Pro X to the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable, two detachable tablets that can also be used as laptops.

The Surface Pro X was recently updated to come in a Wi-Fi-only version as well, but it’s essentially still a two year old device. By comparison, the ThinkPad X12 Detachable was launched in 2021 with high-end components. You may already be able to guess where this is going, but let’s take a closer look.

Surface Pro X vs ThinkPad X12 Detachable: Specs

Surface Pro XLenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable
Processor
  • Microsoft SQ1 (up to 3GHz, 8-core)
  • Microsoft SQ2 (up to 3.15GHz, 8-core)
  • Intel Core i3-1110G4 (up to 3.9GHz, 2-core)
  • Intel Core i5-1130G7 (up to 4GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i5-1140G7 vPro (up to 4.2GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1160G7 (up to 4.4GHz, 4-core)
  • Intel Core i7-1180G7 (up to 4.6GHz, 4-core)
Graphics
  • Adreno 685 (SQ1)
  • Andreno 690 (SQ2)
  • Intel UHD Graphics (Core i3)
  • Intel Iris Xe Graphics (Core i5, i7)
RAM
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
  • 8GB
  • 16GB
Storage
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 128GB
  • 256GB
  • 512GB
  • 1TB
Display
  • 13 inch PixelSense (2880 x 1920), touch, Surface Pen support
  • 12.3 inch Full HD+ (1020 x 1280) IPS, touch, 400 nits, COrning Gorilla Glass
Audio
  • Two 2W stereo speakers with Dolby audio
  • Two 1W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio
Webcam
  • 5MP, Full HD front-facing camera
  • 10MP, Full HD/4K rear-facing camera with autofocus
  • 5MP front-facing camera with privacy shutter
  • 8MP rear-facing camera
Biometric authentication
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Windows Hello IR camera
  • Optional: Fingerprint reader (on optional keyboard cover)
Battery life
  • Up to 15 hours of typical device usage
42Wh battery

  • Up to 10.36 hours of battery life (MobileMark 2018)
Ports
  • 2 USB Type-C
  • 1 Surface Connect port
  • Optional: nano SIM slot
  • 1 USB Type C 3.2 Gen 2 (with Power Delivery and DP 1.4)
  • 1 Thunderbolt 4/USB 4 (USB Type-C)
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Pogo pin connector
  • Optional: nano SIM slot
Connectivity
  • Wi-Fi 5 + Bluetooth 5.0
  • Optional: LTE Advanced Pro (Qualcomm Snapdragon X24)
  • Wi-Fi 6 (2×2) + Bluetooth 5.1 (Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201)
  • Optional: LTE (Fibocom L850-GL, Cat 9)
Colors
  • Platinum (SQ2 only)
  • Matte Black
  • Black
Size (WxDxH)
  • 11.3 x 8.2 x 0.28 in (287 x 208 x 7.3 mm)
  • 11.15 x 8.01 x 0.34 in (283.3 x 203.5 x 8.8 mm)
Weight
  • 1.7 lbs (774 g) (excluding keyboard)
  • 1.67 lbs (760 g) (excluding keyboard)
Starting price$899.99$1,099.80 including keyboard (varies)

Performance: The Surface Pro X is aging rapidly

Comparing the Surface Pro X to any modern device is bound to be an unfair battle because Microsoft hasn’t done much to update the tablet since it debuted in 2019. It released a minor refresh in 2020, and this year, it just stripped LTE out to make it more affordable. Because of that, Intel processors now handily beat the Microsoft SQ1 and SQ2 processors inside the Surface Pro X. The only exception would be the Intel Core i3 model, which we probably wouldn’t recommend either way.

Here’s a quick comparison of these processors based on GeekBench scores:

Microsoft SQ2Intel Core i3-1110G4Intel Core i5-1130G7Intel Core i7-1160G7
GeekBench 5 (single/multi-core)796 / 3,2061,025 / 1,8931,287 / 4,7931,413 / 4,992

One thing that’s worth noting is these Intel processors are what used to be called the Y-series, which means they use less power. That also means sustained performance won’t be quite as good as it would be on laptops with 15W processors, such as the Intel Core i5-1135G7. Still, it’s easy to see that these processors are significantly faster than the Qualcomm competition. Plus, with Intel Iris Xe graphics, integrated graphics are also faster on the ThinkPad X12 Detachable.

In terms of RAM and storage, the two tablets are fairly close, each maxing out at 16GB of RAM, with the caveat that you’ll need to opt for an Intel Core i5 processor or higher to get that configuration on the ThinkPad. For storage, the configurations are almost identical across the two, except the ThinkPad X12 Detachable can go up to 1TB, while the Surface Pro X maxes out at 512GB.

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable product image

Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable

Finally, there’s battery life, and this is where the Surface Pro X gets its first win. Microsoft promises up to 15 hours of battery life with “typical usage”, while the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is rated for 10.36 hours according to MobileMark 2018. These are different measurements, but MobileMark does test typical office scenarios, so the difference shouldn’t be too big. ARM-based processors like the Microsoft SQ2 are known for their efficiency, so this makes sense.

Display

One area where the Surface Pro X easily takes the win however, is the display. Featuring a 13 inch PixelSense display with a resolution of 2880 x 1920, the Surface Pro X is incredibly sharp. Plus, it comes in the tall 3:2 aspect ratio, which gives you more surface area both in landscape and portrait modes. The screen naturally supports touch and the Surface Slim Pen, but the pen isn’t included with the tablet.

The Surface Pro X has a sharper and bigger display, plus louder speakers.

On the other hand, the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable has a 12.3 inch Full HD+ (1920 x 1280) display, which is still fine, but nowhere near the sharpness of the Surface Pro X. It’s still an IPS panel, and protected by Corning Gorilla Glass, so it’s not like you’re getting a bad experience, but if you enjoy super-sharp screens, the Surface Pro X is better.

On the other hand, at least the Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable includes the Lenovo Active Pen, so you can draw or jot down notes right away.

Screen on the Surface Pro X

Surface Pro X

Similarly, the Surface Pro X offers a better audio experience thanks to the dual 2W stereo speakers with Dolby Audio. The ThinkPad X12 Detachable also has two speakers and Dolby Audio support, but those speakers only have 1W of power, so they won’t be as loud or immersive.

As for the camera, both laptops have 5MP front-facing cameras with IR for facial recognition, but Lenovo has a privacy advantage since the camera includes a privacy shutter. On the back, the Surface Pro X takes the advantage with a 10MP camera that can record 4K video, while the ThinkPad X12 has an 8MP camera. Both laptops have dual far-field microphones for voice pickup, so you should sound great either way.

Design: The ThinkPad X12 Detachable has more ports

Turning to the design, the two tablets are fairly similar. Both being tablets, you can easily attach a keyboard to use as a laptop. Their dimensions are also fairly close, but the Surface Pro X is slightly taller and wider thanks to the larger screen. However, it’s also thinner, and in the end, both are super light at 774 grams for the Surface Pro X and 760 grams for the ThinkPad X12 Detachable.

Rear view of ThinkPad X12 Detachable with kickstand open

That’s without counting the keyboard since it’s detachable. It’s worth pointing out the ThinkPad X12 Detachable also includes a keyboard by default, at least on the configurations available from Lenovo’s website. With the Surface Pro X, you need to pay extra for the keyboard and pen. Aside from that, the keyboard on the ThinkPad X12 weighs in at 340 grams, and 5.4mm thick.

On the other hand, the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard weighs 281 grams (294 grams if you include the Surface Slim Pen 2) and 4.89mm thick. While the Surface Pro X is a bit more portable because of that, you’ll probably get a sturdier and more comfortable keyboard with the ThinkPad X12 Detachable due to its larger size.

With Thunderbolt, it’s easy to plug in docks, displays, and external GPUs on the ThinkPad X12 Detachable.

Where the biggest difference lies however, is the ports. Being powered by Intel processors, the ThinkPad X12 includes Thunderbolt 4 support, in addition to a standard USB Type-C port and a headphone jack. The Surface Pro X only has two USB Type-C ports, plus a Surface Connect port, and no headphone jack.

While Surface Connect offers somewhat similar capabilities, it doesn’t have as much bandwidth as Thunderbolt, and the ecosystem is much smaller. You can find a lot of Thunderbolt docks, but for Surface, you pretty much only have the Surface Dock 2.

Connectivity: The Surface Pro X has faster LTE

For mobile workers, LTE connectivity can be very important to stay connected to the internet without depending on Wi-Fi. Thankfully, both tablets support LTE in some capacity, but the Surface Pro X should be noticeably faster. It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon X24 modem, which supports LTE Cat 20, with downloads up to 2Gbps and upload speeds up to 316Mbps. Plus, adding LTE will generally only add $100 to the price of the tablet compared to the Wi-Fi-only versions.

Top angled view of Surface Pro X in Platinum

On the other hand, the ThinkPad X12 uses a Fibocom L850-GL model with support for LTE Cat 9. That gives you up to 450Mbps download speeds, and just 50Mbps for uploads, which isn’t fantastic. Plus, it’s going to add around $200 to the price, excluding any discounts Lenovo may be offering (it actually seems to add just $120 at the time of writing).

Aside from cellular, the ThinkPad X12 Detachable does offer faster Wi-Fi thanks to Wi-Fi 6 support and it also supports Bluetooth 5.1. By comparison, the Surface Pro X still only has Wi-Fi 5 and Bluetooth 5.0.

Bottom line

Comparing the Surface Pro X and Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable more closely, it becomes easy to see where the two differ, and that those differences are actually very significant. In each of the categories we looked at, there’s a clear winner, and that makes it easier to choose between the two.

If you want better CPU and GPU performance, or if Thunderbolt connectivity is important to you, the ThinkPad X12 Detachable is clearly the way to go. The performance difference is significant, and Thunderbolt does offer a lot more connectivity options than the Surface Connect port. Plus, the ThinkPad X12 Detachable includes a keyboard and pen already, which you have to pay extra for when buying a Surface Pro X.

ThinkPad X12 Detachable tablet with pen underneath

On the other hand, Microsoft’s Surface Pro X has a much sharper and slightly larger display, better audio, and much faster LTE speeds if you want to go that route. While it’s slightly larger, it’s just as portable, and when you consider the add-on keyboard and pen, it’s actually lighter than Lenovo’s offering. It also touts better battery life and a slightly higher quality rear camera, so those are big benefits, too.

At the end of the day, your preference will dictate which option is best, but the benefits of one device over the other are clearer than in many other comparisons, so the choice should be easy to make. You can buy either one of the tablets using the links below.

Not looking for tablets? We also have a list of the best Lenovo ThinkPads you can check out if you’re looking for something else.

    Surface Pro X
    The Surface Pro X is a premium ARM-based tablet, offering great performance and battery life in a thin and lightweight design. It now comes in a Wi-Fi-only model.

For the Surface Pro X, you can also buy the Surface Pro Signature Keyboard with the Surface Slim Pen 2 to complete the experience.

    Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable
    The Lenovo ThinkPad X12 Detachable is a lightweight and capable Intel-powered tablet, with a keyboard that can be attached whenever needed.

About author

João Carrasqueira
João Carrasqueira

Writer at XDA Computing. I've been covering the world of technology since 2018, but I've loved the field for a lot longer. And I have a weird affinity for Nintendo videogames, which I'm always happy to talk about.