In and Around the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

People familiar with Lenovo's industrial design aren't going to be too terribly surprised with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon: black goes with everything. The body is built primarily out of carbon fiber, and the now oddly "traditional" ThinkPad chiclet keyboard is present, as is the trackpoint. Build quality all around is generally excellent; lid flex is minimal, body flex just plain doesn't exist, and there's precious little keyboard flex. Also, the dot on the "i" in ThinkPad on the lid glows red when the notebook is in use and strobes when it's asleep, so that's neat.

It's hard to find too much fault with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon taken on its own, but in a broader perspective and especially a historical perspective, the Lenovo acquisition of IBM's ThinkPad line still smarts. The X1 Carbon is further evidence of the consumerization of the ThinkPad line; the chiclet keyboard may be the best you can find, but it's still a chiclet keyboard. The touchpad has actually been replaced by a clickpad that has a wonderful surface but absolutely terrible clicking action and doesn't have dedicated buttons; thankfully, the trackpoint's dedicated buttons work just fine in a pinch.

That consumerization also betrays the X1 Carbon's loftier ambitions as an enterprise-class notebook. Those of you with good memories will remember a period of time where enterprise was all about ThinkPads and that was it, but are you noticing more HP EliteBooks and Dell Latitudes and Precisions running around than you used to? So it is with the X1 Carbon, where the 1-year default warranty, aforementioned chiclet keyboard, and complete lack of serviceability undermine the enterprise dream. Former models of the X1 also supported external slice batteries, but the X1 Carbon forces you to rely solely on its middling 45Wh battery, and that battery is not user-replaceable.

Keeping in mind that this review unit was sent to me by Intel, I'm keen to point out the curious way it highlights the odd dichotomy of Windows 8's user interface. This is a ten-point touch display, yet it's also 1600x900, and the notebook actually shipped to me with Stardock's Start8 installed, thus completely bypassing Modern UI. The traditional Windows desktop has always been absolutely dire for touch, only more so with a decently high dpi on the display, but it's vastly superior for productivity. In a way, the touchscreen in the X1 Carbon has been reduced to a sort of novelty.

Nearest I can tell, Intel added Start8, as it's not an immediately available option when configuring your own X1 Carbon. Keeping Windows 8 in mind, though, it's worth noting that you can't order the X1 Carbon with Windows 7 as an option unless you forego the touch display.

It must seem like I'm being too harsh on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Truth be told it's actually a very enjoyable Ultrabook to use; keyboard action is excellent, the 1600x900 display is attractive, and it's not too difficult to get used to using the mouse buttons above the clickpad. It's light, it's sturdy, and Intel's inclusion of Start8 is both the best and worst endorsement of Windows 8 on the planet. The problem is that despite the carbon fiber build and inclusion of vPro, this is not an enterprise Ultrabook. It's still priced like one, but it's not.

Introducing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon System Performance


View All Comments

  • EzioAs - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Unless they charge it $200+ less, I don't see much value in this ultrabook. The specs aren't bad, but price is a total deal breaker. Reply
  • darckhart - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    while i agree the specs aren't great, one key thing about the carbon x1 is that it offers all this at 3.4 lbs. i haven't found any others with comparable specs at this weight. dell's xps 14 is nearly 1.25 lbs more. so there's going to be some tradeoffs. Reply
  • Nightdrake - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    The carbon x1 may not be heavy, but it still is a big 14" device. Most people needing light weight for traveling also need small size. Reply
  • lxgoldsmith - Friday, May 17, 2013 - link

    actually, it's the 13.3 inch size with less bezel and more screen Reply
  • Mohjo - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Actually, this device does not compute, mainly due to its price. Its instructive to compare it against its most likely competitor in this field at that price which is not the Macbook Air, but the 13.3" retina pro:

    Macbook Pro 13-inch: 2.5GHz Core i5 Vs Lenovo Carbon X1
    with Retina display
    2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 1.8GHz dual-core Core i5
    Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz Turbo Boost up to 2.1GHz
    8GB 1600MHz DDR3L-1333 4GB 1333MHz DDR3L-1333
    128GB SSD 180GB SSD
    Intel HD Graphics 4000 Intel HD 4000 Graphics
    13.3 LED-backlit IPS @ 2560-by-1600 14" LED-backlit @ 1600x900
    multi-touch trackpad multi-touch display
    2xUSB3 + 2x Thunderbolt (mini DP) + HDMI 1xUSB2,1xUSB3 + Mini DP
    3.57 lbs 3.44 lbs
    Aluminium Unibody chassis Carbon fibre/plastic chassis
    $1499 $1556

    While it comes down to personal preference between OS X and Windows 8, the jury is still out on whether a vertical touchscreen on a laptop is the way to go.

    I think its way overpriced considering that in most specs, the Mac beats it (flogs it in display) and costs less. And I still don't get why PC makers have separate USB2 and 3 rails, surely if Apple can afford 2 USB3 ports, then so can Lenovo.

    It maybe just me, but while I like the design, I agree the OP, this should be at least $200 less.
  • Mohjo - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Sorry about the above table mess, didn't realise formatting wouldn't keep. Here it is more readable:

    retina Macbook Pro 13-inch
    2.5GHz dual-core Intel Core i5 Turbo Boost up to 3.1GHz
    8GB 1600MHz DDR3L
    128GB SSD
    Intel HD Graphics 4000
    13.3 LED-backlit IPS @ 2560-by-1600
    multi-touch trackpad
    2xUSB3 + 2x Thunderbolt (mini DP) + HDMI
    3.57 lbs
    Aluminium Unibody chassis


    Lenovo Carbon X1
    1.8GHz dual-core Core i5 Turbo Boost up to 2.1GHz
    4GB 1333MHz DDR3L-1333
    180GB SSD
    Intel HD 4000 Graphics
    14" LED-backlit @ 1600x900
    multi-touch display
    1xUSB2,1xUSB3 + Mini DP
    3.44 lbs
    Carbon fibre/plastic chassis
  • w_km - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Yes indeed., the MBP destroys lenovo in this example, though I'd take off $200 from lenovo's MSRP as I've never payed full price for a ThinkPad. Also, when mentioning the touch verison, you should write "X1 Carbon Touch". There is a significant difference in the touch vs nontouch usability and vs. the MBP. Nonetheless, Apple's offerings will dominate that thin and light market so long as lenovo fails to use high-quality carbon fiber in their chassis. We're already seeing high quality-"feeling" phones such as the HTC One gain mass consideration simply due to build quality, laptops are next. Reply
  • FATCamaro - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    This. And Lenovo's upgrades are more expensive than Apple's. Of course, Windows8 on the MBPr isn't quite as good as it is in on native PC laptops but still. Reply
  • mschira - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Yes the comparison to the MacBook retina is devastating.
    Unless one considers that the 13" retina is a bit of a flawed piece by itself, annoyingly obviously lacking the power to support its awesome display.
  • KoolAidMan1 - Wednesday, May 22, 2013 - link

    The Ivy Bridge IGP can totally support that 13" rMBP display on the desktop. Haswell will be even better given that its IGP performance is around double that of Ivy Bridge's Reply

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