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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon arrives in an inoffensive brown box with some company branding on the side panels.

Inside, the X1 is protected between two plastic green side panels and two foam supports.

The bundle is spartan, no unnecessary gimmicks for the business user, just a leaflet on the product covering the main features and key commands, and the 100-240V power supply.

The new ThinkPad X1 is a super slim ultraportable machine, wafer thin and very light. It weighs around 1.34 kg and the company class it as the ‘World’s thinnest and lightest 14″ Ultrabook’ machine. Dimensions of the X1 Carbon are 331 mm x 226 mm x 18.8 mm (WxDxH).

The reason for the lightness is simple – much of the laptop is constructed using Carbon Fibre materials. The Carbon Fibre roll cage is designed to increase durability and strength.

The machine can support up to 8GB of memory, and the company offer SSD options to increase boot and operating speed. The 14 inch screen is a HD+ wide display with anti glare and a resolution of 1600×900 pixels. This is an increase over the previous ThinkPad X1 which I still use today. 1600×900 is actually a very good compromise as the resolution is high enough to offer a large deskspace without being too much of an eye strain, like many 1920×1080 panels under 17 inch dimensions.

My first impressions of the machine were very positive. It is both light, but rigid and feels as if it could take a reasonable amount of abuse on the move. This is a key prerequisite for a business man as working in less than perfect environmental conditions is commonplace.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon ships with a finger print reader. I have been using this on the previous ThinkPad X1 and it has worked flawlessly for a year now. It is a fantastic option to give additional security on the move, without having to constantly remember (and key in) complex passwords. It only takes a couple of minutes to set up.

Lenovo have included a new, larger glass touchpad on the X1 Carbon and it tracks exceptionally well. I still prefer a quality mouse for serious duties, but for working on the move, it is more than adequate. Both buttons offer great feedback and the central button can be used with the famous red ‘pointer’ which is placed above the ‘B’ key on the board. I actually have used this joypad interface more than the trackpad with my own X1.

At the top left of the keyboard is a mute, volume, microphone and ThinkPad button. At the right is a simple power button. Lenovo have engraved the ‘X1 Carbon’ name into the screen surround, bottom right. Lenovo include activity lights along  the top of the keyboard.

While there are many impressive features, the X1 crowning jewel is the fantastic keyboard which is as good as the model on the original X1. This is without doubt the best laptop keyboard on the market today and puts those by their rivals to shame.

The spacing is perfect and the curved edges ensure the ultimate typing experience. I still prefer my Razer BlackWidow Ultimate, but for on the move, it is in a class of its own. The company also include a double height return key which is very important to maintain the fastest typing speeds. There is no numpad, however we wouldn’t expect one on a 14 inch laptop.

I was concerned that Lenovo may have to remove the backlighting option, but it is still available, with two intensity settings (fn + spacebar). Bonus points for ensuring this was not omitted.

Lenovo are using an excellent matte coating on the screen which stops reflections and ensures that the laptop can be used with a strong light behind the user.

The onboard sound system is slightly disappointing, although it is no worse than the original X1. It can output a reasonable level without distortion, but for serious use we recommend either headphones or external speakers. There are two lights on the lid, battery charge and hibernation.

In the central top position of the main screen panel section is a 720p HD webcam which will be useful for business meetings and chatting with friends.

Lenovo offer two panels for this machine, a 1366×768 200 NIT HD version and a more expensive 1600×900 300 NITS HD+ version. The 1600×900 screen is a dramatic improvement on last years ThinkPad X1. The text is sharper, the colours are more accurately rendered and the viewing angles are much wider.

This was one of the few areas of the original machine that I wasn’t that happy with, so it is good to see Lenovo improving the design.

The left side of the laptop has a 4-in-1 card reader, headphone jack, Mini Displayport and USB 3.0 port. The other side of the machine has a single USB 2.0 port and a wireless switch. Not the most loaded range of I/O ports, I would have ideally liked to have see one more USB port on the right side of the X1 Carbon. There are no ports on the rear of the machine.

The original X1 could be opened to 180 degrees and the new X1 Carbon has maintained this useful feature.

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