The Bottom Line
Aug 16 2012 - Lenovo's Thinkpad X1 Carbon offers such an extremely thin and light system but doesn't skimp on features that it is going to be the corporate laptop to get. The new carbon fiber chassis is certainly going to stand up the the abuse of anyone who travels frequently. The display is also the largest of the ThinkPad X series and one of the best available on an ultrabook to date. It also has Lenovo's famous keyboards that is accurate and comfortable to use. There are still some minor issues with the system including battery life that is below some of the competition and the limited selection of peripheral ports that certainly isn't consumer friendly. Pricing for it is on the premium side but this is definitely a laptop that should hold up well to constant usage.
- Extremely Thin And Light
- Superb Display With Anti-Glare Coating
- Excellent Keyboard
- Battery Life A Bit Below Average
- Only One USB 3.0 Port
- Pricing Higher Than Many Other Ultrabooks
- Intel Core i5-3427U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 128GB Solid State Drive
- 14" WSXGA+ (1600x900) Display With 1.3 Megapixel Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet (via USB Dongle), 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, Mini-DisplayPort, 4-in-1 Reader, Fingerprint Scanner
- 13" x 8.9" x .74" @ 3 lbs.
- Windows 7 Professional
Review - Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Aug 16 2012 - The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gets its name from the carbon fiber material that is used for the body. The material is extremely lightweight but very durable. The exterior has a soft touch finish that makes it easy to carry and is very resistant to fingerprints and smudges. Weight is kept just below three pounds that makes it extremely lightweight at roughly the same weight as the hugely popular Apple MacBook Air 13 which nearly the same dimension but slightly larger because of the display. It is however the thinnest and lightest of the new breed of 14-inch ultrabooks.
In terms of performance, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers three different ultra low voltage processors with the middle version using the Intel Core i5-3427U dual core processor. For the average corporate user, this offers more than enough performance for email and productivity software. It is even capable of more demanding applications but it will be slower than a full sized laptop. The 4GB of DDR3 memory is fairly typical for this class but many buyers will want to upgrade to 8GB when it is ordered as upgrading the memory is not something that end users will be doing.
While many consumer ultrabooks have been switching to hard drives with a solid state cache to meet the performance requirements by Intel and give the capacities that consumers demand, the ThinkPad is a business class laptop where storage capacity is not as much of a concern. Because of this, it uses a 128GB solid state drive as its primary storage. Read performance was generally very good from the drive but the write performance was a below average. Booting times were good at roughly twenty-six seconds for a cold boot and extremely fast as just two seconds to recover from sleep mode. If there is need for additional storage space, there is a single USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external storage. It would have been nice to see both USB ports use the faster interface as this is what Apple does with its MacBook Air 13. There is no optical drive as with all ultrabooks but an optional USB external drive will be available for those that need it.
The display is going to be one of the best overall features for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The 14-inch panel is larger than previous ThinkPad X laptops but it frankly isn't really noticed. The panel offers a very high 1600x900 native resolution that offers great color, contrast and brightness levels. Unlike most consumer laptops glossy coated displays to help bring out the colors when viewing media it uses anti-glare due to the harsh overhead lighting that is prone to glare and reflections. It may not be a full 1080p resolution as some other displays but it strikes a nice balance on size and legible text. Driving the graphics is the Intel HD Graphics 4000 that does a decent job for the average corporate applications. It does lack 3D performance and has limited ability to accelerate non-3D applications but it does support Quick Sync video for use with compatible video transcoding applications.
As with past Lenovo laptops, the keyboard here uses the isolated keyboard design that is one of the best in the industry. It offered a sturdy feel and accurate typing experience. My only gripe is a minor one with the left Fn key being outside of the Ctrl button. It also uses the combined trackpad and j-key pointer setup that has been on the ThinkPad models for ages. The trackpad portion is large and features integrated buttons but there are also dedicated buttons located just above it for use with the pointer. Since this is a corporate system, there is also a fingerprint reader for added security.
The battery pack for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an internal one like most ultrabooks but has a relatively low 45WHr capacity rating. This was likely done as a means of keeping that laptop under the three pound weight. In my digital video playback tests, the laptop was able to run for just over four hours before going into standby mode. This is a bit slower than the Dell XPS 13 that but well below the six hours that the MacBook Air 13 was able to achieve. This isn't necessarily bad as it will likely last a whole day on the battery with the average corporate use but it would have been nice to see it at least match what Apple has achieved.
Pricing for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is on the premium side at $1499 as tested. This is roughly $200 more than a similar equipped Apple MacBook Air 13. It should be noted though that Lenovo provides a three year warranty on the system compared to Apple's one year so the pricing is similar if one were to buy the Apple Care extended warranty. Dell's XPS 13 is more affordable at roughly $1000 but it is still based on the second generation Intel processors and technology. There are obviously much more affordable ultrabooks out there but it would be hard to top the quality that Lenovo has put into this system.