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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

Ardjuna Seghers

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Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Summary

Our Score:

9

User Score:

Pros

  • Stylish, light and sleek
  • Superb backlit, spill-proof keyboard
  • Durable soft-touch finish
  • Powerful specs
  • Good high-res screen

Cons

  • No Ethernet port
  • Screen panel still TN

Key Features

  • 14in 1600 x 900 matt TN screen
  • Part carbon-fibre chassis with soft-touch finish
  • Spill-proof, backlit keyboard
  • Up to Core i7, 8GB RAM, 240GB SSD
  • TPM, Optional 3G, Fingerprint scanner
  • Manufacturer: Lenovo
  • Review Price: £1,252.00

Introduction

You may remember the original Lenovo ThinkPad X1. It was Lenovo’s first attempt at bringing a super-slim, streamlined aesthetic to its famous ThinkPad line, and it wasn’t quite a success. Despite being sleek and offering high-end features, the laptop wasn’t actually all that slim or light, its battery life was poor, its glass screen reflective, and its connectivity slightly awkward. With the X1 Carbon, Lenovo is looking to fix all that, and finally provide lovers of MacBook Air-like Ultrabooks a worthy ThinkPad entrant.

If you’re unfamiliar with the ThinkPad line, they’re basically some of the nicest-feeling and most rugged devices around. Thanks in large part to their IBM heritage, ThinkPad laptops offer the best mobile typing experience around and are stuffed with powerful features and extensive connectivity. Their soft-touch yet hard-wearing finish generally makes them a pleasure to handle and carry around, while their edgy black looks give them a great ‘Executive’ vibe.

Unlike its 13-inch X1 predecessor, the X1 Carbon is a 14inch laptop, yet it manages to be considerably slimmer and lighter, at 1.4kg. That’s no mean achievement, especially given its powerful innards of up to a Core i7 processor with 8GB of RAM, but it’s mainly thanks to a carbon-fibre chassis (hence the name) and the lack of glass. The all-new, large touchpad is a welcome improvement, but the ergonomics and extras we know and love from the ThinkPad line are all present too, including a fantastic backlit keyboard, fingerprint scanner, TPM, optional 3G, V-Pro, matt high-resolution display, TrackPoint and more.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon - Design and Build

Frankly, the Carbon makes its X1 predecessor look fat. It’s only 19mm thin at its thickest point, which compares favourably with the original X1’s 21mm and the likewise 14-inch HP Envy 14 Spectre Ultrabook, which is 20mm across without tapering. The Carbon tapers quite aggressively, however, and to very nice effect.

As with every other ThinkPad, the X1 Carbon comes in black with subtle red highlights. However – just like with the X1 - the somewhat discordant blue that was also used on older models has been left by the wayside to give this Ultrabook a more coherent design. Prominent branding aside, this Ultrabook is almost on a level with the likes of the Samsung Series 9 900X3B when it comes to looks.

But the Carbon doesn’t just look great, it feels great too. Except for its screen bezel, the laptop’s entirety is coated in a soft-touch finish that makes it a pleasure to touch and carry while providing a secure grip. As proven by many previous ThinkPads with this same finish, it’s also very durable, and doesn’t pick up scratches or marks easily.

Build quality is another area where ThinkPads have a well-deserved excellent reputation. Obviously a carbon-fibre chassis is never going to feel as solid as a unibody aluminium one, but that doesn’t necessarily make it less rugged. In fact, Lenovo claims its composite chassis is just as tough, and you only need to check out the Panasonic Toughbook CF-19 if you’re not convinced that plastic can be far more durable than metal.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Connectivity

Inevitably connectivity has been a little compromised due to the slimness of this ThinkPad Ultrabook, with the most notable casualty being a Gigabit Ethernet jack. Though this can of course be added using a USB adapter (and Lenovo will include one for £12), we would have liked to see one in the box.

On the left we start off with a completely redesigned, slim power port that looks a lot like a USB port. This is followed by an play-and-charge USB 2.0 port, and wireless switch. On the right there’s a full-size SDXC card slot, headphone/microphone jack, mini DisplayPort with audio and USB 3.0 port. Wireless options include Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth 4.0 and 3g/wireless broadband, the latter of which is still a rarity on laptops.

For video chatting there’s a 720p webcam with decent quality footage and dual array microphones for clear audio all housed in the screen’s bezel.

Repelsteeltje

December 4, 2012, 8:02 am

A lot of people seem to complain about a "screen door effect" in the display used for the Carbon X1, and some have returned it because of that.

As I haven't seen the Carbon anywhere yet to check for myself, do you notice this "screen door" or anything abnormal about the pixel spacing – especially with light backgrounds?

TechVegan

December 4, 2012, 11:24 pm

Thanks for your comment. Yes I did notice it, which is why I mention "visible pixel structure" in the review.
TBH this is something you'll see on many laptops and is easy enough to live with. Try checking out other laptops that suffer from the same effect in a store if you want to see it in the 'flesh'.

pgchamberlin

December 13, 2012, 2:46 pm

It seems screens are the only downside to Lenovo machines these days. I've got a U300s which is gorgeous except for its less than perfect display. Sounds like the same is true of the Carbon X1. It's not a deal breaker for me though, I'd love one of these!

Rob

January 23, 2013, 7:15 am

What's the story with the battery when it reaches the end of its service life? Can it be replaced or does the whole laptop get discarded (or returned to the manufacturer for a whole laptop replacement - like the Mac?).

Dom Jolly

February 22, 2013, 2:00 pm

The complaint about the Fn and Ctrl keys being the "wrong" way round isn't really applicable with a ThinkPad - you can map them the "right" way in the BIOS. Obviously the labels will still be wrong, but it's not as big of an issue as with other laptops where that's not an option.

royan naimi

April 12, 2013, 9:09 am

mantap gan, nice info...

Booo

November 7, 2013, 8:29 pm

Really nice laptop aesthetically BUT the sound doesn't work randomly for like no reason and even the IT guys at work can't figure it out - it's a common problem apparently with other machines at work too. Also, I use a USB wireless keyboard and mouse that always worked just fine with my old T41 but now with the x1 carbon the mouse jiggles about like it's running out of battery and when typing, the keyboard misses out letters... Very annoying! The battery isn't running low btw and I've tried changing USB ports etc - it's a commonly reported problem at work too with these laptops. Such a shame as I was expecting so much!

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