Lenovo has a well-deserved reputation for providing the best keyboards to grace laptops bar none, and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon doesn’t break that tradition. Though the ThinkPad line has transitioned to isolation/Chiclet style keys, they’re large and slightly concave, which fits them to your fingers just right.
Layout is generally superb, though Lenovo is one of the few manufacturers clinging to having the function key to the outside of Ctrl, making classic shortcuts like Cut/Copy/Paste more fiddly. Key feedback is also excellent, with more travel than most slim Ultrabooks (heck, most laptops for that matter) manage and a nicely defined click. Basically, typing on this X1 is a genuine pleasure and if word processing is your bread and butter, there are no slim laptops we’d rather do it on.
As the Carbon is a premium ThinkPad, the keyboard is also fully backlit and here the backlighting is even adjustable. The keyboard is spill-resistant too, meaning you can upend your cuppa over it without any dire consequences.
Of course, no ThinkPad would be complete without its TrackPoint, a little red rubber pointing stick nestled between the G and H keys which you can use to move the mouse cursor without moving your hands from the typing position. After a short learning curve this can essentially replace the touchpad, though they’re best used together, with each offering strengths in different usage scenarios.
As with TrackPoints that went before, the one here has its own set of dedicated buttons located between the keyboard’s bottom edge and the touchpad’s upper one. They’re ergonomically shaped to accommodate your fingers while remaining clearly differentiated, and sport lovely crisp action too.
The touchpad is actually one of the biggest areas of change from many previous ThinkPads. For one thing, it’s absolutely massive. For another, its surface is now glass and its buttons are integrated, just like most other premium Ultrabooks.
As this was the one area where ThinkPads lagged noticeably behind the competition, we’re glad to report that this latest touchpad iteration works beautifully. The pad’s smooth surface is a pleasure to run your finger across, it’s nicely responsive, and its buttons offer a defined click though this is not as crisp as the action found on some rivals.
Considering Lenovo was one of the pioneers of high-quality IPS screens in laptops like its ThinkPad X220 long before other manufacturers were offering them on anything but high-end workstations, it’s disappointing to find that the X1 still uses a TN-panel display. Mind you, as these go the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is top of its class, if not quite as good as last year’s Samsung Series 9 900X3A.
First off, it’s worth pointing out that the 14-inch X1 Carbon comes with two different display resolutions, depending on which model you go for. The cheaper Carbons offer a standard 1,366 x 768 resolution, while the high-end variants – like our review sample – come with a much nicer 1,600 x 900 pixel count (you can upgrade from the regular resolution to Premium HD Plus for £62 when buying direct from Lenovo). Either way you get a great matt finish, avoiding the annoying reflections of glossy screens – though it does also make pixel structure a little more visible, but that’s a small price to pay.
Viewing angles are also very good by TN standards. Horizontally they’re almost flawless, with only a slight bit of contrast shift betraying that we’re not dealing with IPS here. Vertically there’s less leeway, but you can still tilt the display with a little more freedom than most. And as with every premium ThinkPad, you can fold the screen back to 180 degrees.
Combined with good maximum brightness, excellent dark detailing, decent contrast, punchy colours, and no signs of backlight bleed or other undesirable artefacts, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers a pleasant visual experience - not just for work but entertainment too.