Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Lenovo's succeeded in delivering a sexy ultrabook that still retains the traditional ThinkPad design cues. The battery life isn't as good as it could be though, and the SSD upgrade prices are simply ludicrous.


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CNET Rating

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CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


Informed by Lenovo's ThinkPad DNA, the X1 Carbon is a slim, strong and sexy ultrabook. Wrapped in a stealth-black rubberised material, it's a hair under 19mm at its thickest point.

As is befitting of a Lenovo, the base is rigid and stronger than pretty much everything else out there, thanks to a Carbon fibre skeleton, with only Apple's unibody designs offering a similar feeling of solidness. In the name of thinness, the 14-inch screen isn't as re-enforced as Lenovo usually makes it, and while you can pick the laptop up by the monitor, it will result in the LCD bending and light bleed appearing where the pressure points are.

It does flip flat though, ideal for those who want to dock (Lenovo offers a USB 3.0 dock with two DVI ports, one VGA and five USB 3.0 ports) or those who can never find the right viewing angle. It's also 1600x900, matte and has impressive viewing angles, despite being TN-based. Look closely and you'll see faint vertical lines, which may irritate some — a trait we've come to expect on Lenovo laptops. Yellow folders in Explorer also tend to look a little green.

Despite brandishing the Dolby Home Theater v4 badge, sound is weak and completely lacks any bass response. The included Dolby software mitigates things somewhat by allowing you to turn off sound attenuation and adjusting the EQ, but it's nothing spectacular — bring your headphones.

Dedicated buttons are provided above Lenovo's excellent backlit keyboard, supporting mute, volume and microphone mute functions. There's another, unmarked button that loads Lenovo's Solution Center, a full-screen GUI that gives access to your laptop's settings, provides shortcuts to programs and websites and, (surprise) shoehorns in a Lenovo app shop. We appreciate the sentiment, but the app itself is bulky, slow to load, sluggish, an excuse to sell something and will be utterly obsolete with Windows 8.

Since it's a ThinkPad, the X1 Carbon gives you the choice of a TrackStick or clickpad, with physical mouse buttons (including a middle click) above the clickpad only. Lenovo's using a glass Synaptics clickpad, and has omitted the ability to right click using a simultaneous double finger tap from its driver.

Lenovo joins the ranks of the odd, by providing one USB 3.0 port and one USB 2.0 port — why both can't be USB 3.0 is beyond us, but at least the 2.0 supports charging. You've only got DisplayPort out for video, although Lenovo does include a DisplayPort to VGA adapter to deal with ye olde business projectors. The user otherwise gets a headset jack, SD card reader, and a USB 2.0 to Ethernet adapter.

Well, almost it. One of the bigger positives of the X1 is the SIM slot on the back, feeding an Ericsson H5321gw that supports UMTS 850/900/1900/2100 and GSM 850/900/1800/1900, and is rated for 21Mbps down and 5.76Mbps up. It's not the beefiest kid on the block, but it should support all 3G networks in Australia — a nice little positive.

Specs on our customised review model were quite reasonable, although the price can get quickly out of hand when upgrading. Running on Windows 7 Professional 64-bit, our AU$2710 model came with a Core i5 3427U @ 1.8GHz, 8GB RAM, a 256GB SSD, dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and the aforementioned WWAN module. Take that down to 4GB RAM, Windows Home Premium and a 128GB SSD, and the price drops dramatically to AU$1629.

The biggest source of pain is the SSD upgrade, as SanDisk has made a custom X100 module for Lenovo. The 256GB swap-in costs AU$522 when upgrading from the base 128GB — the wholesale price for a standard version is considerably cheaper, and using an off-the-shelf mSATA SSD could have driven down the price even further. Take into account that the price for the 128GB removal should also be subtracted and that the US sells a 256GB model with a Core i7 3667U for US$1849, sans state tax, and we can't shake the feeling of being taken for a ride.

Application performance

Choose a benchmark: Handbrake | iTunes | Photoshop | Multimedia


No surprises here, as the third generation Core i5 processor and SSD do their jobs.

Battery life


Lenovo's battery life could do with a little work. It's still nothing to sneeze at, but there are options out there that will simply last longer.

Conclusion

Lenovo's succeeded in delivering a sexy ultrabook that still retains the traditional ThinkPad design cues. The battery life isn't as good as it could be though, and the SSD upgrade prices are simply ludicrous.



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NitroWare.net posted a comment   
Australia

The stated prices sound like the RRPs. Lenovo's online store price for BTO units and AU IT channel prices for fixed config units are often much cheaper and this was demonstrated at the X1 launch time were various AU media outlets reporting this one way or another


Lack of Ethernet [in a business laptop] is not a problem to CNET Australia? This was skipped. Lenovo want end users to use their mini dock to facilitate the missing ports. This may be the first Thinkpad or at least one of the few sans ethernet. Although supporting vPro, some enterprises or users may need or want a hard wire.

According to Lenovo ANZ, this notebook is not serviceable/upgradeable either. 'Traditional' Thinkpads are field servicable with various major components being able to be removed and replaced in a modular fashion.

With the X1,they do not see field removal of the SSD for recovery purposes as neccessary. Early protoypes of the X1C earlier this year showed a latched bottom cover for easy servicablilty, and this was marketed as such..

The production units removed this and are just screwed togerther. Having said that a service manual for your technican is avalible should the worst case arise.

 

hugh2112 posted a reply   
Australia

To be fair, Lenovo did include a Ethernet-to-USB adapter. And also, if I'm not mistaken, many other ultrabooks are missing the ethernet jack as their chassis is too thin to fit in one.




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