Screen & Audio Quality
At first glance, the Carbon X1’s 1600 x900 screen provides everything someone could possibly want from a viewing experience. It uses a matte coating, neatly eliminating the horrible reflections evident on most other Ultrabooks and uses one of the better TN panels we’ve seen. The relatively high resolution also places it on par with other premium notebooks and the additional real estate will come in handy for professionals and home users alike.
Unfortunately, that’s where the fun stops. A matte screen coating may be a godsend for anyone looking for a respite from the headache inducing glossy coatings that permeate the notebook market but lackluster backlight intensity sinks this ship. Even with the screen set to maximum brightness, it is nearly impossible to see outdoors or in other brightly lit environments. Lenovo certainly isn’t making a convincing argument for matte screens with this one.
The screen also exhibited the dreaded “screen door” effect where adjacent pixels seem too widely spaced, creating dark striations which are mostly evident in lightly colored areas. It becomes a readily apparent when using a word processing or chart creation program, creating a major misstep for a notebook targeting the professional market. According to Lenovo, this is perfectly normal for the X1 but I disagree wholeheartedly. When playing in the same price point as the 13” MacBook Pros, Sony Vaio Zs of this world, you need to bring your best to the table and that certainly isn’t being done here.
Switching over to non-work related tasks like gaming or movie watching allowed the X1 Carbon to flex some of its display muscles. Colors were typically deep and rich with good contrast in even the darkest scenes and the foibles mentioned previous were nearly rendered null and void.
Viewing angles are adequate but on both the horizontal and vertical axis, moving to extremes will cause significant color and contrast degradations. This is to be expected with a TN panel but the effect certainly isn’t as dramatic as other notebooks we’ve reviewed.
With a Dolby Home Theater v4 backbone, the Lenovo X1 Carbon’s external speaker performance is certainly decent, if not surprisingly good for a notebook this thin. Will it fill a room with crystal clear music? Absolutely not. Even with Dolby’s software helping things along, bass is literally non-existent and the output can become severely distorted at higher octaves. There isn’t any headphone-centric hardware to speak of either, which is disappointing since this Ultrabook is intended to be a portable powerhouse and savvy professionals won’t use the main speakers during their world-trekking travels.
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