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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

Verdict

Lenovo revisits its disappointing X1, and the result is the ThinkPad Ultrabook we’ve all been waiting for

Review Date: 29 Oct 2012

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £1,134 (£1,361 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Despite a rich heritage of ThinkPad-branded laptops, Lenovo’s 2011 vision of the ultimate boardroom Ultraportable, the ThinkPad X1, simply didn’t live up to expectations. Now, however, Lenovo has taken the X1 back to the drawing board, trimmed grams off its already slim figure, and attempted to right the ergonomic wrongs of its predecessor. Enter Lenovo’s business Ultrabook: the X1 Carbon.

As the name suggests, Lenovo has whittled down the weight of the X1 by employing lightweight, yet super-strong carbon-fibre in the construction process. A carbon-fibre skeleton keeps the chassis feeling solid and sturdy, while a fibre-clad lid does its bit to protect the LED-backlit panel from harm. In doing so, Lenovo has managed to shave off more than 400g from the original X1 to end up at only 1.36kg, and the chassis’ thickness has also come down from 22mm to 19mm. For a 14in Ultrabook, the X1 Carbon is exceedingly portable.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

It isn’t just the materials that have changed, however. The sharply contoured figure of the previous model is a distant memory, with Lenovo introducing a more curvaceous design where every edge softens into a smooth, gentle curve. The result is a chassis that feels every inch the classy, practical business Ultrabook.

Elsewhere, Lenovo has responded to every one of our criticisms of the X1. We couldn’t be more pleased to see the back of the original X1’s glossy, 1,366 x 768 panel. In its place, Lenovo has used a matte, 1,600 x 900 display, and image quality is drastically improved across the board. A maximum brightness of 343cd/m2 is matched by a contrast ratio of 647:1, and the colour accuracy is good, too, with an average Delta E of four.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Horizontal viewing angles are wide, although tilting the display back and forth to more extreme angles results in the usual contrast shift and colour inversion. There are other mild complaints – namely, the visible pixel structure and slightly bluish tone to images due to the high 7,204K colour temperature – but these are small annoyances.

The X1 Carbon’s touchpad has undergone a radical transformation. Lenovo has stuck with the buttonless design, but the larger touch area and the silky-smooth glass finish feel far more pleasant under the finger. The pad depresses with a solid, confident click, and we didn’t experience any issues with getting the pad to recognise right-clicks, whether by dabbing with two fingers or tapping in the pad’s bottom-right corner. Two-fingered scrolling and zooming gestures work reliably and, as ever, there’s a grippy, responsive trackpoint set into the centre of the keyboard.

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User comments

Windows 7!

Does it have a UEFI BIOS for fast cold booting on Windows 8?

By stephen_d_morris on 30 Oct 2012

To be (A Listed) or not to be...

So, the review marks it as an 'A-List' Product, and very firmly places it as an Ultrabook.

However, the 'A-List' section only shows it as a recommended alternative in the 'Business Notebook' class and not in the 'Ultrabook' class.

Did I miss a meeting?

By mikemor22 on 31 Oct 2012

Ethernet

Is there an Ethernet adapter available (either in the box, or as an accessory), this is absolutely essential for a business class machine IMO on our gigabit network.

By isofa on 31 Oct 2012

Ethernet 2

To partially answer my own Q - the USB to Ethernet adapter is £12 (very Apple-esque not throwing that in), but not available yet from the Levono shop yet! Or you can shell out an eye-watering £155 for the USB 3 dock which gives you Ethernet, DVI, VGA and a more USB 3 ports.
The full X1 Carbon specs are here: http://www.lenovo.com/shop/emea/content/pdf/notebo
oks/ThinkPad/X-Series/x1_carbon/en/X1_carbon_DS_EN
.pdf

By isofa on 31 Oct 2012

Poor customer support

I bought a lenovo laptop based upon your product recommendation. Unfortunately, I soon discovered that lenovo after sales support was truly abysmal! you have been warned!!

By wizwot on 1 Nov 2012

good review

Good review. IBM and now Lenovo have always produced high quality laptops (talking about the Thinkpad line). I was always happy to pay an extra premium and get a thinkpad. For instance comparing @pples to thinkpads is like comparing toys to tools.

I have had the X1 for more then one year and never had an slight whim from it.

I don't agree that this was a disappointing model. I think that they have not been marketed properly. Apart from maybe the screen, which could have been HD, it has nothing wrong. In essence I think its more flexible and useable then the new x1 carbon. This is an "on the go" machine aimed to be a portable, I doubt the HD experiance will be a crucial factor. Apart from the fact that for individuals that are always moving around with the laptop, a Gorilla glass is a safe bet. Case in point I was in a meeting and a exec started to poke on my screen with his pen to follow a graph !! 0_o Dont know about normal TFTs but thank god it was glass!! ( next time around I will whack him anyway :) ) Another plus for the X1 is the slice battery option! The carbon does not have this! And also the missing ethernet port. Lenovo could have included the adapter!!

Maybe this new model is aimed to go head to head with @pple's air models, maybe its ok. The older x1 model may have been somewhere in between ultrabooks and notebooks, but still its a great machine. Also, can someone please explain why the core i7 and 8 gigs ram is not an option on the new carbon model?

By PC_PROMalta on 1 Nov 2012

'ow much granville?

whilst 1600 x 900 is better than 1368x768, etc. Asking 1400 queen's portraits for it is just ludicrous.

Macbook Air it is then.

By brunnian on 1 Nov 2012

battery

I will never buy a laptop or tablet or phone without a removable battery.

By gavmeister on 5 Nov 2012

UEFI and batteries

Hi all,

Sorry for the slow reply, I've been off on holiday all week.

The X1 Carbon does indeed have a UEFI bios.

Secondly, the battery is replaceable, but you do have to unscrew the base to actually get inside and do so.

Shout if you have any further questions.

Sasha Muller
PC Pro

By SashaMuller on 5 Nov 2012

@sasha

Is the battery "removable" in the sense that when I am plugged into the mains I can remove the battery and run the laptop without it?

By gavmeister on 5 Nov 2012

@gavmeister

Not really, no. It is possible to replace the battery once it has exceeded its functional lifespan, but it's not removable per se.

I'd imagine you most probably could run the X1 without the battery in place, but as it would require around 7 or so screws to be removed, along with the whole underside of the laptop, I doubt it's something you'd want to do unless you were upgrading the internals or troubleshooting a power issue.

By SashaMuller on 5 Nov 2012

@sasha

I thought Thinkpads, of all brands, were better than this. I have a 6 year old x60s w/W7. When office/home based I store battery charged to min 50%, and use it when I actually need it (meeting, travelling, moving round house). I always make sure to "exercise" battery every month with full discharge/recharge. result? battery functions at 100% of design capacity, 6 years later.

My X60s is 20-28mm thick and weighs 1.2kg without battery, 1.4 with normal battery, 1.6 with high capacity (8h). Who cares if a non-removable battery would make it 2mm thinner? How many grams/cubic cm are *actually* saved by making the battery non-removable?

In my view non-removable batteries are a gimmick foisted on consumers conditioned by marketing drivel as cover to enable manufacturers to build in obsolescence, sell batteries and profit from service charges.

I think PC Pro should be campaigning against it.

By gavmeister on 5 Nov 2012

@sasha

final post on this I promise!

The problem goes away if there is a switch on a laptop to bypass battery. do any have this? maybe a Vaio?

By gavmeister on 5 Nov 2012

@gavmeister

I don't believe there's a switch to completely disable the battery (nor has there been on any laptop that I've encountered), but the ThinkVantage software makes it possible to limit the maximum charge to a user-defined percentage of its capacity.

I'm no expert in battery tech, but I'd rashly assume that limiting the maximum charge to no more than, say 50%, might be just as beneficial to its lifespan as charging it to 50% and removing it from the laptop completely.

Personally, I always like having the battery there, ready and waiting, just in case the mains fails anyway - it's saved me in the office on more than one occasion.

Part of the reason for the move to sealed batteries, as I understand it, is the move from Lithium Ion to Lithium Ion Polymer cells. As the Li-Poly cells are malleable, in contrast to the rigid, metal-bodied Li-Ion cells, it's possible to squeeze a good deal more capacity into a given space, and be far more creative with how the cells are laid out.

Furthermore, sealing the cells into the chassis means that the batteries don't need their own dedicated protective casing, thus saving on extra material and weight. Admittedly, though, I can't quantify exactly how great these weight savings and capacity benefits actually are - as you suggest, the benefits may be slight in comparison to the obvious physical downsides.

By SashaMuller on 5 Nov 2012

@sasha

thanks for response. taking those first 3 paras in turn:

- true re thinkvantage but any heat is bad for lifespan, and battery power seeps gradually so thinkvantage will be constantly topping it up.

- desktops don't have batteries. a battery is no substitute for autosave/backing up.

- Li-Poly cells may be malleable but you still need to settle on a final shape, and you can't put things on top of or under a battery within chassis because of heat. So however "creatively" you lay out the cells, you should still be able to put a removable case around them.

By gavmeister on 5 Nov 2012

Desktops should have batteries...

All my desktops have batteries in the form of UPS units, I'd not run anything in my office/studio without them. My router, switch, NAS, monitors and everything crucial is run through several APC UPS units, only devices such as speakers etc have a direct mains connection.

By isofa on 6 Nov 2012

... still I agree non-removable batteries are a pain. What about the SSD in the X1 - I hear in older models it is replaceable, with some guides on the Lenovo website, any info Sasha?

By isofa on 6 Nov 2012

SSD replacement

Hi isofa,

Would you believe it, there's a handy guide to replacing the X1 Carbon's SSD on Lenovo's site, here:

http://support.lenovo.com/en_US/product-and-parts/
detail.page?DocID=PD025211

Hope that helps.

By SashaMuller on 7 Nov 2012

UK Availability

Thanks Sasha, at the moment I can't seem to find it available in the UK at all from resellers or direct from Lenovo this morning (8-Nov-12) - their UK shop only shows the specs, rather than "customise and buy" pages, yet their US show has it available. http://shop.lenovo.com/gbweb/gb/en/notebooks/think
pad/x-series/x1carbon

By isofa on 8 Nov 2012

I had been thinking to get this for a while. I ordered mine on the 19th Oct and was told to expect delivery within 2 weeks (I ordered the i5/4GB/256GB option). After 2 weeks I got an email to tell my shipping date had been pushed back. I accepted that and continued to wait. I received a second one pushing it back again. I emailed Lenovo and complained. It was dispatched the next day (possibly coincidentally). It took 4 days to arrive in the UK from China, then 7 days from somewhere in the UK to my house.

It's light, looks and feels great too. The keyboard is a dream. Unfortunately I am absolutely devastated with the extremely rubbish touchpad, which has the same rubbery coating that is all over the laptop, which is awkward to use, especially after coming from a Macbook Pro. The screen is another huge letdown. Extremely low quality, grainy and pixellated. The built in lenovo software is ok but there is an awful lot of it and it intrudes everywhere, god forbid having to do a reinstall at any point. My Mac opened and was on instantly after installing an SSD, so I had high hopes for this. No luck. Takes a good 10 seconds to do anything after I open the lid.

I am really, really disappointed, because I had such high hopes for this. The touchpad and screen let it down tremendously, especially for a £1k plus machine. As soon as the trackpad is smooth I will get another (I can cope with the screen!) but it will be going back to Lenovo (If they ever decide to reply to my third email..)

By briantwigley on 19 Nov 2012

brian - thank you so much for posting your experience, this was on my shortlist, but again now isn't! Sorry you've had such problems, the screen and trackpad info from you have completely put me off - if you don't get a resolution I'd suggest a return and refund. After exhausted several possible PC laptops (all based on "A list"/recommended PC Pro reviews) I have to say, not one has lived up to the reviewers hype. Therefore I've resigned myself to paying a bit more and getting a MacBook Pro, to run both OX X and Windows 7 (then 8 later), I've not found anything that feels as solid/well made, nor with such a great screen - although I'll go for the anit-glare version.

By isofa on 21 Nov 2012

I know this is an old review, but i'm going over it to see what lenovo brings to the table with Haswell. There is one thing that i've noticed: with the photos here, the Enter button is full-sized, which is a huge plus. however on the lenovo site itself, its a half height key.... is there any change the pics were from the previous x1 itself, or does the UK have a different keyboard (entirely possible) than the US release?

By khellan on 8 Jun 2013

Thanks for a great review. I'm interested in buying the Carbon X1, but the only reason I'm hesitant is the screen quality. I've heard it can get grainy and pixelated if you look at it closely. I'm looking for a really high quality, high performance PC system that's thin and light. I do watch a lot of movies so Carbon X1 may be a problem. Are there other options out there now that are better options? I'm looking for a 14" (preferably) or 15" ultrabook with full HD screen (or better than Carbon X1 quality at least) and performance that's similar to Carbon X1. I would really appreciate your recommendation!

By kyky5700_US on 3 Aug 2013

Thanks for a great review. I'm interested in buying the Carbon X1, but the only reason I'm hesitant is the screen quality. I've heard it can get grainy and pixelated if you look at it closely. I'm looking for a really high quality, high performance PC system that's thin and light. I do watch a lot of movies so Carbon X1 may be a problem. Are there other options out there now that are better options? I'm looking for a 14" (preferably) or 15" ultrabook with full HD screen (or better than Carbon X1 quality at least) and performance that's similar to Carbon X1. I would really appreciate your recommendation!

By kyky5700_US on 3 Aug 2013

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