Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Ultrabook Review
With the advent of Intelís efficient Ivy Bridge processors, manufacturers have been able to push the Ultrabook design to the next level without sacrificing performance. Thereís no better example of this than Lenovoís new X1 Carbon which is not only incredibly thin but also boasts one of the most rigid, durable chassis on the market.
Unlike other Ultrabooks we have reviewed in the past, with a starting price of over $1,200, the X1 Carbon is considered a ďpremiumĒ product. With that being said, Lenovo is targeting professionals who want the ultimate in portability but arenít willing to push aside any other aspects of business computing. Dell tried this with the short-lived, budget friendly but excellent Vostro V131. Its back-to-basics approach made a perfect fit for students and everyday consumers as well. Granted, Lenovoís entry may be too expensive for anyone on a shoestring credit card limit but it should go above and beyond the expectations for standard mass market products.
While $1249 will currently grant access to the X1ís basic layout, Lenovo allows for configuration options that will quickly run its cost to just below the $1800 mark. In a market thatís struggling to define itself against tablets, thatís a lot of cash but my $1530 sample had slightly less lofty expectations and wonít burn quite so large a hole in your wallet.
The most important addition to this generation of Ultrabooks is Intelís aforementioned Ivy Bridge processors, which grace every X1 Carbon configuration. All of these come from the Ultra Low Voltage line which means clock speed reductions when compared against their fully enabled siblings but power consumption and heat output remain extremely low. My setup came with an i5-3427U which typically runs at 1.8GHz but has the ability to boost up to 2.8GHz when TDP constraints allow and 4GB of memory. There is an 8GB option but Lenovo has removed this possibility on every lower-end X1 by making it accessible on the upper echelon $1499 model. Go figure.
Storage and battery options are severely constrained as well. All X1 Carbons come with a 128GB SSD while 256GB of storage is available for an eye-watering $280 premium. Due to space constraints, Lenovo seems to have sacrificed in the battery department. The lone option is a 4 cell pack with a mere 44Whr capacity and no, it isnít user replaceable.
One thing we like about Lenovo is their well positioned warranty upgrades. At the time of writing, the X1 Carbon comes standard with a single year of coverage but two years of onsite warranty support can be purchased for only $70. Thatís a great deal for anyone seeking peace of mind. It should also be mentioned that Lenovo does ship Window 8 with all of their notebooks but they allow for a free Windows 7 Pro installation should you wish to avoid a Metro-inspired mess.
Opinions about Lenovoís styling choices run the gamut from derision to respect but Iíve always reserved a place in my heart for their understated good looks. Instead of heading down the look-at-me styling paths taken by the likes of Apple, ASUS and HP, the X1 Carbon takes a subtle approach with an all-black chassis.
Just because we canít see brushed aluminum or some other supposedly high end material doesnít mean competitors have Lenovo beat on the quality front. There isnít a hint of plastic on this thing. Every surface is made from sculpted carbon fiber thatís been coated in a durable soft-touch finish, preventing scratches while also providing a surprising amount of grip. With the addition of a carbon fiber internal roll cage, the X1 Carbon is able to pass eight of the stringent tests necessary for Mil-Spec certification. This is actually one of the best-built notebooks weíve ever come across.
The addition of carbon fiber has also allowed Lenovo to drastically cut down on the X1ís overall weight and thickness. Weighing in at just under 3 lbs and about ĺĒ high, it sets a new benchmark for Ultrabooks without sacrificing construction quality. With that being said, it certainly won't win any beauty contests.
Due to the limited amount of space along the chassisí outer edges, Lenovo has included a number of well placed LEDs which indicate charging and sleep status.
Meanwhile, on the inner palmrest has fingerprint reader for additional security should the Windows password be insufficient for your line of work. Due to the X1ís diminutive stature, anyone with larger hands will likely engage it by mistake but there is an option to shut down the fingerprint recognition software once the notebook is unlocked. Just be prepared for some frustration if the reader is left engaged.
As with most other Ultrabooks, the connectivity options on Lenovoís X1 Carbon are somewhat limited in their reach but all of the necessary bases are covered. There certainly isnít enough space for a disk drive but the left edge receives a USB 2.0 port (which pulls double duty as a LAN jack with the included adapter), a wireless on/off switch and a flat shaped power connector which is used for the unique RapidCharge feature.
By using RapidCharge technology, the X1 can complete a full battery charge in less than 40 minutes while topping up the battery for a mere 15 minutes can allow for an additional 2 hours of running time. For on-the-go professionals that may only get a few minutes of charging access in an airport, this could be invaluable.
A single USB 3.0 port along with a combo headphone / mic jack, 4 in 1 card reader, mini DisplayPort and Kensington lock are all located on the right side.
Say hello to a tease for Canadians. While our neighbors to the south receive mobile broadband (3G) compatibility via a discrete SIM card port, this option isnít available for us. Ironically, all of the hardware is accounted for but it doesnít work with Canadian telecom carriers.
There really isnít much to see on the X1 Carbonís underside other than plenty of ventilation areas, a quartet of rubberized feet and a continuation of the soft-touch finish. As with most other Ultrabooks, upgrades arenít possible since it uses a single-piece backplate which ensures maximum rigidity.
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