Audio is remarkably good for a business ultra-slim. The X1 Carbon’s speakers go pretty loud without too much distortion and manage a reasonable mid-range, though bass is noticeable only by its absence. We probably wouldn’t watch an epic movie on this Ultrabook without headphones, but for lighter fare it’s adequate. Volume, mute and mic mute can be controlled using dedicated buttons above the keyboard.
High-end ThinkPads have rarely compromised on power, and the X1 Carbon certainly gives you enough to run even the most intensive (non-3D) software. The £1,190 config sports the common Core i5 backed by 4GB of RAM and a 128GB hard drive, while £1,700 will get you a Core i7, 8GB of RAM and a 240GB SSD. Make sure you have enough RAM for your needs as, unlike most ThinkPads (but like many Ultrabooks) you can’t upgrade the amount on the Carbon afterwards.
Our review sample ran a dual-core Intel ‘Ivy Bridge’ Core i5-3427U that hums along at 1.8GHz but can Turbo Clock up to 2.8GHz and offers Hyper-Threading for virtual quad-core support. It was backed by 8GB of DDR3 RAM and the 240GB SSD, which is a speedy Samsung model – an excellent choice for performance and reliability.
TrackMania Nations Forever (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Call of Pripyat (average fps, 720p, Medium Detail)
This system happily ripped through most of our benchmarks, with only 3D gaming a relative weak spot thanks to Intel’s integrated HD 4000. With a 26.4fps average at medium settings in Stalker, which is hardly a demanding title by modern standards, only casual gamers need apply – but that goes for most Ultrabooks and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is, after all, a business machine.
It’s worth noting that the Carbon stays quiet and only slightly warm even when under load, due to some excellent engineering on Lenovo’s part. These are major plus points as many slim Ultrabooks can be both noisy and rather hot when pushed.
The X1 Carbon comes with Windows 8 by default, but you can switch to Windows 7 Professional for a mere 95 pence. As the Carbon doesn’t come with a touchscreen yet, the older version of Microsoft’s operating system probably makes more sense right now. If you do want touch, to go with Windows 8’s ‘Metro’ style interface and apps like Angry Birds, Lenovo has revealed it will soon be offering a touch screen option on its premium business Ultrabook.
Where other software is concerned, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with a host of Lenovo-specific ThinkVantage bits for wireless and battery management, security, maintenance and the like. Unlike similar apps from some rivals, these are not only slick and user-friendly, but genuinely enhance Windows’ core functionality.