Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon £1229.99

24th Oct 2012 | 16:28

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

A high end Ultrabook that only scrimps on performance

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Like:

Great battery life; Top performance; Great build quality; Huge SSD drive; Lovely keyboard;

Dislike:

Grainy screen; Lacks basic connections; Some poor software;

Introduction

They haven't yet translated into a huge commercial success, or manifested themselves into the business world, but the allure of the Ultrabook has influenced the design of modern laptops, from budget family machines to high-end business beasts.

Chunky bland laptops are on the way out, and even the most corporate laptops are getting a stylish makeover.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the latest incarnation of Lenovo's flagship business laptop, and the classic black chassis has been given an Ultrabook twist. It's super-slim and measures just 19mm (0.75 inches), easing inside the thickness restrictions governed my Intel for what can be dubbed an Ultrabook.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

The business laptop market is becoming increasingly competitive, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is one of the few dedicated business Ultrabooks to hit the market.

While its competitors, such as the Toshiba Satellite Z930, Sony Vaio T13, HP Folio 13 or even the Apple MacBook Air have delivered long-lasting power and sleek, lightweight builds, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon earns its place at the boardroom table by adding all of the high-end business features you'd expect from a ThinkPad.

Features such as RapidCharge, long battery life, fingerprint readers and data encryption are all typical of business laptops, which is why a consumer-targeted laptop such as the MacBook Air isn't used widely by corporate users.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

This goes some way to explaining the colossal price tag commanded by the Lenovo X1 Carbon, and at £1,229.99/AU$1,989/US$1,499 it needs to perform.

So let's invite the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon into the boardroom, and find out if it's hired or fired.

Specification

While the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a rare dedicated business Ultrabook, on the grand scale of modern laptops, it packs a mediocre spec.

Inside you'll find an Intel Core i5 3427U processor clocked at 1.8GHz - one of the low-power Intel chips that is part of the Ultrabook scheme. It's a mid-range chip in the Intel lineup, which is disappointing at this price tag.

However, while the clock speed might sound low, it can turbo to 2.7GHz when under heavy load, so there's plenty of power on hand.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

To back that up, there's a whopping 8GB of RAM, which helps to keep programs responsive, and a 256GB SSD drive. This is one of the few components included on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon that could be truly described as a bargain. Not only is there enough space for stacks of files, media and programs, the SSD is the secret behind the lightening-quick boot times and responsive feel when using the system.

Of course, all this is available in any consumer Ultrabook, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is built for business, so there are tonnes of specialist features.

The first is the build quality. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gets its name from the built-in carbon fibre 'roll cage' and lid, which keeps the chassis light, yet extremely resilient. At 1.3kg (2.9lbs) it's up there with the lightest laptops, yet doesn't sacrifice any comfort or usability.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

The design is thin and sleek, with a soft textured feel that is luxurious to the touch, which must be a first for a business laptop.

The keyboard is well spaced and makes the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon the most comfortable laptop for long typing sessions since the Apple MacBook Pro.

The only complaint is the position of the PgUp and PgDn keys, which are annoyingly positioned around the tiny arrow buttons, and we often skipped down our document by accident, when trying to make a quick adjustment to the cursor.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The trackpad is huge, accurate, and offers physical buttons above and a touch-sensitive area in the traditional location below, as well as a range of multi-touch options for scrolling and zooming.

The only complaint is that it feels a little loose, and the mouse pointer sometimes jumped as we clicked slightly between the button and trackpad zones by accident.

If there's one black mark in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon's record it's the screen. The 14-inch display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 with a matt finish that does an excellent job in direct sunlight.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

It's also blindingly bright, which again counteracts reflective conditions, but you do run the risk of snow-blindness if you work with it on maximum nit.

However, the high resolution doesn't result in exceptional clarity, and we found the pixels were noticeable, especially at high brightness. This caused a faint shadowing around images and objects, which puts extra strain on the eyes. It doesn't match the likes of the Apple MacBook Air for quality.

Inside there's RapidCharge technology, which meant we could return the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon from dead to 100% in around 45 minutes, which is extremely useful when your only contact with a power socket is while grabbing a coffee in Starbucks.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

Being so thin makes connectivity a mixed bag, and for many business users, this could turn out to be a major concern.

There are two USB 3.0 ports - one of which can be used to charge USB devices while powered off - and a DisplayPort, for connecting to external displays using an adaptor. However, noticeable exceptions are Ethernet - again an adaptor has to be purchased - and standard display connections such as HDMI or VGA.

In terms of security, there's a fingerprint reader for accessing accounts and BIOS level and TPM security, for added peace of mind if your machine was stolen.

What's more, there's an excellent three year warranty offered, which makes the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon a long-term business partner.

Performance

Despite packing a middle-of-the-road Intel Core i5 processor, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon stormed our benchmark tests. The score of 9601 in our Cinebench test puts it on par with many Intel Core i7 laptops we've seen, which shows that Lenovo has chosen the very best chip on offer.

In real terms this means that any modern program is fair game for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and you could multitask even the most demanding software - be it bespoke business packages or classic applications such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

Graphics capability isn't so hot, since the responsibility for 3D is left to the onboard Intel HD 4000 core, which is built into the processor.

Onboard graphics aren't as woeful as they used to be, and there's plenty enough power to keep Windows fast and responsive, and enable picture and video editing, but if you're working professionally with HD video rendering, or looking to play the odd game in your spare time, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon will come up short.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

If there's one triumph of the Lenovo X1 Carbon, it's the excellent power management, which comes via some nifty Lenovo technology. We turned the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon up to maximum performance and looped HD video to kill the battery within a respectable 164 minutes.

However, if you use the built-in software, accessible via the taskbar, you can dynamically alter the power usage to achieve around six hours of use. This is predominantly achieved by dimming the ferociously bright LED display, which makes a huge difference in the Ultrabook's stamina.

Benchmarks
Cinebench: 9601
3D Mark: 5237
Battery Eater: 164 mins

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

Verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a fantastic business Ultrabook, which marries fantastic build quality and lightweight design with top performance and a range of genuinely useful business features, both in the hardware and built into Windows.

The quality of the keyboard and trackpad set a new standard in Windows Ultrabooks, making it one of the most comfortable keyboards we've had the pleasure to use.

Couple this with the excellent trackpad, and you have a laptop that's destined to be a trusty companion for hardened business executives and work-orientated home users alike.

We liked

The brilliant keyboard is a huge plus point, and anyone who spends their time writing long documents will love the comfort of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The build quality all over is a cut above most laptops, and the soft finish offers a luxurious feel that's also resistant to bumps and scratches.

Battery life is a huge triumph, and despite managing 2.5 hours in our stress tests, there's over five hours available here if you use the built-in power settings to manage your usage more stringently.

This makes it one off the most impressive Ultrabooks we've seen for longevity, and when coupled with the frankly frightening RapidCharge technology, you can genuinely achieve all-day usage.

However, the huge SSD drive, super-fast boot times and blistering processor performance make for a superb overall experience.

We disliked

The lack of connectivity options is a negative point, and this will be a bug-bear for people who use the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon for business. There's no Ethernet or display connections without adaptors, which is the least you'd expect on such a business-orientated machine.

The next downside is the screen. The resolution is high, but this doesn't result in equivalently amazing clarity. The colour vibrancy is low, movies look flat, and even text can look grainy, and it's this last symptom of the panel that irritated us the most.

Final verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a boardroom winner that offers great all-round performance and comfort in a lightweight package.

The few niggles with the screen and connections aside, if we chose one Ultrabook to be our business companion, we'd hire the comfortable, high performance and long lasting Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon every time.

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