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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  • Silma - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    The X1 Carbon would have been interesting with a better higher resolution screen, removable better battery, an ethernet port and less outrageous price - notably in Europe where it is incredibly expensive.
    On the plus side kudos for the mini display port as well as 8GB RAM option (would have preferred 16GB though) and the battery fast charge.
    In addition there are many other interesting ultrabooks now (Samsung Series 7, Toshiba Kirabook) and even an Asus Zenbook Touch will compare favorably if you can do with 4GB RAM.
    Reply
  • zodiacfml - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    i thought the price was due to the carbon fiber and i thought it's going to have problems with regards to heat. it's pretty neat overall. Reply
  • Calista - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    For those devoted to the mighty trackpoint I guess it will be an easy sell no matter what. Reviewers (both from Anandtech and others) often spend a fair amount of time describing the trackpad and keyboard. What they seem to overlook is all the people who couldn't care less about the size or quality of the trackpad as long as the pointing stick is working well. And in this the Thinkpad series have always excelled.

    Still, I agree that 4GB is stingy this day and age, but paired with a quick SSD it will outlast the 3 years or so the laptop is supposed to be in use in a corporate setting. The only thing that worry me is if we see a huge shift in the use of virtualization, and the expected increase of memory that will follow. 8/16GB would increase the longevity of the laptop although, and so it's a bit sad a saving in the $50 range could cut several year from the expected lifetime of the laptop.

    Anyway, I understand the position of the X1 well, it's a stylish Thinkpad. For those asking for extended battery life, a better display, more power or whatever Lenovo offer a huge range of different models to cater to those wishes.
    Reply
  • CSMR - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Lenovo has some great products but this is not one of them. Poor quality screen at a steep price. Reply
  • Daniel Egger - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Not going to buy Lenovo ever again after the disaster with the breaking displays on the X121e which Lenovo simply declared as a customer problem because you're according to Lenovo not supposed to carry a laptop just like that in a regular laptop bag. ThinkPad is just not a decent brand anymore as it used to be. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Still better than most... and when you call tech support, you're talking to someone who speaks ENGLISH. Reply
  • Belard - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Folks should keep in mind that its only the ThinkPad T-Series that is considered their TOP-END. The X1 is not a work-horse, never designed to be one.

    The ThinkPad T430s series is their thin serious computers (1" thick) but from experience, its still better to get the regular T-Series. its .5" thicker, far easier to service and about $200 less. And those we regular screens come with Windows7Pro by default.
    Reply
  • noeldillabough - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    The screen on my T520 sucks compared to the one on my X230...one is a corporate buy so its probably not the upgraded screen but still. Here's hoping the future is bright on screens and there are no more 768 pixel high screens anymore. Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    The higher end screen looks better... none of them are as bright as the glossy screens. I'd take that over having the screen have the mirror look. Reply
  • Johnmcl7 - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    "The X1 Carbon is further evidence of the consumerization of the ThinkPad line; the chiclet keyboard may be the best you can find, but it's still a chiclet keyboard"

    I don't understand this statement, what is the but for? I've used a variety of Thinkpad machines over the years and I find their current generation of chiclet keyboards both on their smaller and larger machines to be the best they've made. I find them comfortable to type on with better speed and accuracy than previous machines and users of the machines at work have made similar comments so I don't see how having a better keyboard is a 'but' regardless of whether you're an enterprise or home user. Yes, it may not be the classic Thinkpad keyboard but Lenovo have to move forwards.

    I normally don't mind trackpads but their current one is horrible, I don't know what they were thinking as the button action doesn't work very well. I would have preferred they just left the trackpoint as with the older x200 as I end using the trackpoint anyway but with the trackpad there tend to default to it first then remember how bad it is and switch to the trackpoint.

    John
    Reply

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