Introducing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

It shouldn't be surprising to know that AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel (especially Intel) will seed hardware amongst the tech reviewing industry. Most often it goes along with a product launch, but periodically it will be kit that they feel paints their product in a particularly good light. I don't think it's a secret that Ultrabooks and touchscreens have had a little bit of trouble getting off the ground. You could argue that the whole Ultrabook branding scheme, particularly after Intel expanded the definition, was more a way of renaming and redefining the notebook than anything. That it happens to be trademarked by Intel and thus AMD cannot have an Ultrabook is, I'm sure, just a coincidence.

We've had a lot of good Ultrabooks come through, mostly at the 13.3"-and-below scale. The problem the majority suffer from is a a simple one: Intel's initial definition of the Ultrabook basically aped the MacBook Air, and so that design language essentially became the order of the day. Ironically it was really only Dell and HP that had the audacity to tinker with the specs and color around the edges, but with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Lenovo has produced something that is unique. It's a 14" Ultrabook, but it hopefully heralds more of the kinds of designs we can look forward to in the 14" and up Ultrabook bracket.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-3427U
(2x1.8GHz + HTT, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 22nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel QS77
Memory 2x2GB integrated DDR3L-1333
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1150MHz)
Display 14" LED Glossy 16:9 1600x900 Touchscreen
SHP5108
Hard Drive(s) 180GB Intel SATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel Centrino Wireless-N 6205 802.11a/g/n 2x2
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 4-Cell, 45Wh (integrated)
Front Side -
Right Side SD card reader
Mic/headphone combo jack
Mini-DisplayPort
USB 3.0
Kensington lock
Left Side AC adaptor
Vent
USB 2.0
Wi-Fi switch
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
Dimensions 13.03" x 8.9" x 0.74"
331mm x 226mm x 20.85mm
Weight 3.4 lbs
1.55kg
Extras 720p Webcam
SSD
Bluetooth
Backlit keyboard
Intel vPro
10-finger touch
Fingerprint reader
Warranty 1-year depot/express warranty
Pricing Starts at $1,319
As configured: $1,556

I understand the enterprise sector often lags a little bit behind the consumer sector; new hotness typically needs to be proven reliable before it can get shipped to the more demanding business environment. For the most part the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is as modern as a notebook can be until Haswell arrives, but there are one or two oddballs.

The Intel Core i5-3427U is a respectable CPU and difficult to find fault with, sporting a healthy 1.8GHz nominal clock that typically bumps up to 2GHz under sustained load, yet Lenovo is stingy with the memory. If you want 8GB of memory, you have to buy their top end $1,759 model; it's not even an upgrade option on the lesser models, where you're stuck with 4GB of memory. 4GB of DDR3L-1333, not DDR3L-1600 like Lenovo's competitors are shipping. Thankfully, while Lenovo's site states the X1 Carbon is limited to one DIMM, the memory is operating in dual channel mode.

Given the X1 Carbon's enterprise aspirations, the SSD is Intel kit; the specific model number isn't readily available, but it supports SATA 6Gbps and features the odd 180GB capacity. Most of what's included with the X1 Carbon is as you expect, though the high resolution display is welcome. Note that while it's listed as being glossy, the glossy coating is actually a mild one; it's too glossy to really be called a true matte display, but it's not the nightmare of reflectivity that most glossy displays are.

Finally, thankfully, wireless connectivity includes 5GHz. It still baffles me how in 2013 anyone can ship a notebook without this.

In and Around the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
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  • Dustin Sklavos - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Not true! Chris Heinonen plays, so there's at least two people. ;) Reply
  • Exodite - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    There are probably more of us than one might initially think. ;) Reply
  • IVIauricius - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Why do laptop makers keep putting the Ctrl and Fn keys backwards? That is one of the top reasons I purchased a Dell XPS 13 over a MacBook Air 13. Craziness. Reply
  • Greenthum6 - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    I wondered the same before purchasing a Lenovo W520. Fortunately, you can easily switch Fn and Ctrl in BIOS. It takes 5 minutes to memorize the change and I've had zero issues with it since. Reply
  • chubbypanda - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    It's actually the opposite, this is the layout it suppose to be. If needed Lenovo, unlike Apple give you option to switch these two. Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    There is no "layout that is supposed to be". However there is historical precedent and Apple and Lenovo are breaking it, for what that's worth.

    Apple may not give you the built-in option to switch but there are free and easy to use apps that allow you to reconfigure the keyboard on OS X. Within 10 minutes of getting my rMBP I had downloaded and installed such an app and used it to switch the Ctrl and Fn keys and then popped the key caps off of the keyboard and switched them.
    Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    I should point out that you can't switch the key caps on the Lenovo since they are different sized keys. However on the Mac they are identically sized and so they can be switched with no issue. Reply
  • bji - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Also may I point out that back in the day when Sun worstations were de rigeur in software development, we used to remap the Control and Caps Lock keys, which on Sun keyboards were for some bizarre reason switched from where they are on a normal PC keyboard. Reply
  • Bob-o - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Bizarre? The UNIX world always had Control located where PC keyboards have CapsLock. Control is used much more frequently and it's a more natural location. Especially if you are an emacs user.

    Those of use from that world struggle with modern keyboards and xkb mappings. Luckily I still have my Type 4 and a USB adapter. :-)
    Reply
  • bji - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - link

    I'm an emacs user and I find control in the bottom left to be very usable. The "pinky pull down" to hit the control key is easy to do. However playing with my keyboard for a few moments I can see where Control where caps lock would be wouldn't even require moving the pinky finger. So I guess it's better, except that pulling the pinky down to hit control is so effortless as to make the point fairly moot. Reply

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