Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon is a serious contender for best ultrabook on the market -- TECH TIME REVIEW
One of the machines on the higher end of that spectrum in the ultrabook market is the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon, which I recently had the chance to test.
In a nutshell, what I found was an extremely light, portable, powerful and capable machine that is among the best ultrabook offerings available, and I’m here with a full report on all the details.
Looks, designOverall dimensions on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon are 13.03 inches wide, 8.9 inches deep, and 0.71 inches thick. Its weight starts at just 2.998 pounds. That makes it fit very well in the ultrabook category, and it’s one of the lightest ultrabooks on the market. It feels good in the hand when you’re on the go, and I found myself regularly commenting just how light it was compared to the competition. (most other ultrabooks start around 4 pounds)
As the name would indicate, the cover and roll-cage on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon are made from carbon fiber, a material which not only has good gripability and an attractive look, but is as strong or stronger than alternatives like aluminum and magnesium, despite weighing much less.
This means you won’t have to worry about an occasional tumble, as this machine is built to last.
In addition to Lenovo’s own tests for drops and spills, the X1 Carbon passes many military spec tests, including:
-- Low Temperature -20° Celsius for more than 72 hours
-- High Temperature 30° to 60° Celsius over seven cycles of 24-hour duration
-- Extreme Temperatures -20° to 60° Celsius over three cycles of 2-hour duration
-- Sand 140 mesh silica dust exposure for 6-hour cycles
-- Altitude Operation at 15,000 feet
One other small note regarding the design: the screen on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon is very flexible, in fact it bends all the way back to flat, instead of stopping at a certain point like most laptops. So no matter what angle you want to view it from, all angles are covered.
Overall, in terms of look and feel , this machine is one of the best ultrabooks I have tested.
ScreenIn terms of what you’ll be looking at on the screen, you get a crisp, high-quality 14-inch HD+ display with 1600x900 resolution, plus anti-glare.
It’s good enough to play 720p video without delay, but it’s not full HD 1080p, so video of that quality will take a little longer to load.
Still, overall it is very bright and clear, and most people will be very happy with the quality of the screen. The 14-inch size of this machine is just right -- big enough to view video and movies and games comfortably, but not too large -- a necessity if you’re going to call your machine an ultrabook and market it to people on the go.
Keyboard, touchpadThe spacious 6-row keyboard on the Thinkpad X1 carbon is well-designed and easy to use. And for those like me who tend to work at night, the keyboard can be backlit (just click Function and Spacebar and you can toggle between having the backlit keyboard or not, and you can choose dim or bright lighting).
I also found the glass touchpad to be responsive and a proper size, and didn’t experience the accidental brushing that I have experienced with some other laptops.
There is a joystick button (more like a nub) in the middle of the keyboard that can maneuver around the screen, though i didn’t use it much.
My only complaint on the keyboard was a bit of a weird setup with the Function and Control keys at the bottom left having their positions switched from their normal positions, which I never quite got used to and would often get confused.
ProcessorSo what kind of power is making the Thinkpad X1 Carbon run?
The machines run the latest Intel offerings (the Ivy Bridge lineup), and my test machine had a very capable 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5 processor, though you can upgrade to a 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7 processor for a little extra.
My machine had 4GB of RAM, enough for most people, but power users can go as high as 8 GB with upgrades.
In terms of storage, my machine had a 128 GB Solid State drive, and there is an option for a 256 GB Solid State drive.
I like Solid State drives, which are faster and more reliable than tradition spindle drives due to their lack of moving aprts. But what I don’t like about them is that they offer much less space than traditional drives -- which can often hold 500, 750, or even 1,000 GB of storage space. It’s a bit of a tradeoff, and a detriment for people who want to store a lot of big files of their computer -- but expanding cloud options are making massive storage on your machine a little less necessary, so this is becoming less of a concern over time.
BATTERYOne area where Lenovo did a great job is the battery, both in terms of life and charging speed.
I experienced more than 6 hours of battery life on average, which is among the best I’ve seen on any ultrabook.
And better yet, the charging time is very quick. A full charge takes just 90 minutes, and just 30 minutes of charging will get you about 70 percent of battery life. That’s much better than some of the competition, which take much longer to charge. If you’re in a hurry and want to get it juiced up fast, you don’t have to worry.
Slots/portsThe Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon features the following ports:
One USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port, a 4-in-1 media card reader, and a MINI-DP slot.
You also get a headphones/mic jack, plus a 720p Webcam that can be helpful for staying in touch in both your personal and work lives.
There is no optical drive, due to the slimness of the machine, so you’ll have to connect an external drive if you want to insert discs. There is also No VGA port, which might bother some users. There also is no Ethernet port, but you can connect with an included USB-to-Ethernet dongle if you need to go the direct-connect route to get online.
The machine is Bluetooth and wireless capable.
Operating systemThe Thinkpad X1 Carbon I tested cames with a couple options for operating system -- Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium or Genuine Windows 7 Professional. Also, just last month, a new model with touch capability was released that features the new Windows 8 operating system, if you want to go that route.
The X1 Carbon, like all ThinkPads, comes with a 30-day trial of security software, which should of course be renewed to protect your files and identity.
Good for businessThe Thinkpad is one ultrabook that’s being promoted as both a personal and work machine, and there are several features which make it an attractive option for businesses.
There’s a fingerprint reader included, for security purposes.
The machine features Intel VPRO technology, which allows IT employees to better manage the company’s machines.
You also get Intel’s Anti-theft and BIOS locker features … which are also controlled remotely by your company’s IT department and allows them to track down hardware remotely and disable it if necessary. BIOS locker allows IT to lock BIOS to prevent security threats from modifying BIOS settings.
Often when you’re on the go, you need to get your machine running quickly, and the RapidBoot technology on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon will let you do that. This is done in part by having nonessential services delayed until after the booting process is complete.
RapidResume also allows you to reconnect more quickly when starting the machine from a sleep/hibernation mode. And when you resume, your wireless connectivity is back within a couple seconds.
I mentioned early that the 720p HD Webcam is included, but there are also some details about that Webcam that make it good for business. The camera will find the primary face and focus on it automatically, audio pickup is impressive, and keyboard noise can be reduced on the machine so it doesn’t interfere with the discussion, which can be helpful especially in work settings..
You can also adjust settings so that the voice of the speaker looking at the camera is picked up better, while surrounding noise is drowned out during Webcam calls. If you select Multiple Voices as an option, more than one voice will be picked up.
PRICEBeing a high-end ultrabook with impressive design and specs, the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon is going to cost a bit more than some of its competitors. The version I tried was priced at $1,290 (at Lenovo.com), but depending how you build your machine, the price can grow to upwards of $1500.
The touch version with Windows 8 will start around $1,500.
Whether you’re willing to pay this kind of premium, or are willing to sacrifice some features and lean toward other, more affordable ultrabooks, will be up to each consumer.
BOTTOM LINEWithout question, the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon is an impressive ultrabook that offers a very complete package -- looks, design, performance -- and would do the job well in both your home and work settings.
Especially if you’re on the go a lot -- for school, work or personal reasons -- and are looking for a machine that’s going to be almost unnoticeable as you transport it, this machine is definitely on the short list of top candidates to fit your needs.
The price will turn some people off, but if this falls in your price range, the user experience is one of the best I’ve had on a laptop in recent years, and I would highly recommend considering this in your hunt for a top-notch ultrabook.
Matt Myftiu can be reached at email@example.com