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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  • noeldillabough - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Yeah I was VERY worried when the x230 came with a new keyboard, having used the old school keyboard for so many years. But after using it I realize the keyboard is GREAT! I hope they keep this in mind, if they mess up the keyboard it will be time to move to another manufacturer. Reply
  • chubbypanda - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    What makes it difficult to review this laptop is its name. This isn't real ThinkPad (same as ThinkPad Edge, better than majority of consumer-grade production but not quite there). No upgrades possible including battery, no docking station connector. But for an ultrabook, it's pretty solid machine. If you want ThinkPad, you buy X or T series. It's obvious from interview with Lenovo designers last year:

    Otsuka: I'd like to make a successor to the X300.

    That may have been Lenovo's goal with the original X1. But personally when I refer to a successor to the X300 I mean a conventional Classic series product with well-balanced attributes.

    The X300 has a perfect balance of size and weight, despite providing expandability for the optical disk drive and battery. I'd like to make a product like that. I think that would be a product faithful to the Classic series pedigree.

    In contrast, I'd compare the X1 Carbon to a Formula 1 car with leading-edge specs. It can't drive on public roads. I'd like to make the successor to the X300 a compact, all-round sports car that applies Formula 1 technology but can still drive on public roads.

    The T4X0s and original X1 were actually products that utilized the technology in the X300. Now with the X1 Carbon we've moved up a step. We still have a lot of challenges ahead of us.
    (see http://blog.lenovo.com/design/developers-on-the-x1...

    Hopefully this suggests there is X230 successor coming and it's going to be that ThinkPad we know and enjoy. Fingers crossed!
    Reply
  • hasseb64 - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Hope Haswell really is improving things for this market. (been disappointed so many times before by Intel)
    These "Ultrabooks" are not good enogh products.
    Better battery, less emissions, more power and every little single technical detail must be perfect, then people may find "Wintel" products enyoyable again.
    Reply
  • deeps6x - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    I saw the article, and was hoping that this might be a Haswell sneak peek. No? Darn. Kept reading. Came to this: "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." and was thinking, 'well, maybe it still has some redeeming qualities'. But then I saw the spec sheet. Shitty resolution, glossy display. Dead stop. No need to read any more. Jumped to the comments.

    I will give them props for using a 5GHz wifi chip. $3 well spent in the BOM. Any 2013 laptop maker that doesn't include this must not want sales. Any 2013 laptop manufacturer that thinks a checkmark next to 'glossy screen' and 'touch screen' is a positive, is to be avoided at all costs. They should be forced to use their junk in perpetuity. I'm thinking this must be one of Dante's hell levels. Right?
    Reply
  • nportelli - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Why do all 14in laptops only have 900p display tops? Yet smaller 13in ones have 1080p? Seems silly. And only 4gb? For that price? Reply
  • Sm0kes - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Quite simply, cost. OEM's don't think they need to offer a more compelling display if it only a small percentage of customers care. I'd be willing to bet the bulk of Lenovo's X1 sales were through the enterprise IT channel. Those buyers are typically only focused on price.

    It's only the likes of Apple, Asus, Sony (and now Toshiba) that continue to raise the collective display bar. It's shocking it still hasn't caught on, but it's getting better.
    Reply
  • danjw - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Any review of a big OEM's computers should include a list of spamware that is pre-installed. So everyone knows how much work it will be to uninstall the junk. Also a section on how easy it is to remove would be nice too. I know, in a previous job I had, we had a Dell lab computer that shipped with security software that needed to be patched to even be able to uninstall it. Since this system was one we used for testing, it was a real pain in the butt, since we were regularly re-setting it to the state it came from Dell. Reply
  • Kornfeld - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    I have to take issue with a number of items in this review. I certainly think the price on the X1 Carbon Touch is high, but it is being compared to other devices that aren't like for like. If you're going to compare the XPS 13 to an equivalent Lenovo product, then it should be compared to the X1 Carbon, not the touch version. The non-touch version weighs under 3.00 lb and seems to run about $130 USD less compared to similar configurations for the Touch models. I can understand that this review wasn't for the non-Touch version, but it still seems unethical to make such comparisons without at least adding some caveats regarding the disparate features of the products.

    There is also a few comments regarding enterprise features that are lacking in the X1 Carbon Touch.

    I don't understand why some of these things are being brought up. AnandTech has never really properly evaluated enterprise features of laptops. If you want to talk about Enterprise features, you probably need to start with listing what features you consider to be relevant to Enterprise usage. For me, this involves a number of items including: product lifecycle, global availability of the system, serviceability of parts, vPro support, support for BIOS changes via script or some other tool, Ethernet for OS deployment, and PXE boot support for OS deployment (either via USB Ethernet or wired Ethernet). You could even evaluate enterprise support provided for related utilities, like whether or not the vendor provides admin templates to manage utilities via Group Policy. The default warranty should not be considered an Enterprise issue. As long as the vendor provides warranty options that are well matched for the Enterprise, that is the only real factor. Beyond that, it's really a matter of pricing for the specific warranty options. Why is the chicklet keyboard being mentioned as a consumer feature? Both Dell and Lenovo are switching their enterprise products to this style of keyboard. It may be a trend that started in the consumer space, but there's no reason provided as to why this would be considered less well suited for Enterprise environments.
    Reply
  • herzigma - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    According to other reviews, the non-touch Carbon gets substantially better (~2 hours?) battery life and ways less than 3 lbs. I wonder if that model would do better in the above review?

    Also, I wish it were smaller! I travel too much so an 11" machine is totally worthwhile.
    Reply
  • zsero - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    I have been a huge Thinkpad fan, but if I were to buy an ultrabook, I'd definitely buy a Samsung Series 9 these days. Is there any chance of a 900X3E review one day? 1.1 kg!!!, 1920x1080 IPS screen, upgradable RAM and SSD (once you open up the machine). Reply

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