Introducing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

It shouldn't be surprising to know that AMD, NVIDIA, and Intel (especially Intel) will seed hardware amongst the tech reviewing industry. Most often it goes along with a product launch, but periodically it will be kit that they feel paints their product in a particularly good light. I don't think it's a secret that Ultrabooks and touchscreens have had a little bit of trouble getting off the ground. You could argue that the whole Ultrabook branding scheme, particularly after Intel expanded the definition, was more a way of renaming and redefining the notebook than anything. That it happens to be trademarked by Intel and thus AMD cannot have an Ultrabook is, I'm sure, just a coincidence.

We've had a lot of good Ultrabooks come through, mostly at the 13.3"-and-below scale. The problem the majority suffer from is a a simple one: Intel's initial definition of the Ultrabook basically aped the MacBook Air, and so that design language essentially became the order of the day. Ironically it was really only Dell and HP that had the audacity to tinker with the specs and color around the edges, but with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Lenovo has produced something that is unique. It's a 14" Ultrabook, but it hopefully heralds more of the kinds of designs we can look forward to in the 14" and up Ultrabook bracket.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-3427U
(2x1.8GHz + HTT, Turbo to 2.8GHz, 22nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel QS77
Memory 2x2GB integrated DDR3L-1333
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1150MHz)
Display 14" LED Glossy 16:9 1600x900 Touchscreen
SHP5108
Hard Drive(s) 180GB Intel SATA 6Gbps SSD
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel Centrino Wireless-N 6205 802.11a/g/n 2x2
Bluetooth 4.0
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Combination mic/headphone jack
Battery 4-Cell, 45Wh (integrated)
Front Side -
Right Side SD card reader
Mic/headphone combo jack
Mini-DisplayPort
USB 3.0
Kensington lock
Left Side AC adaptor
Vent
USB 2.0
Wi-Fi switch
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 8 Pro 64-bit
Dimensions 13.03" x 8.9" x 0.74"
331mm x 226mm x 20.85mm
Weight 3.4 lbs
1.55kg
Extras 720p Webcam
SSD
Bluetooth
Backlit keyboard
Intel vPro
10-finger touch
Fingerprint reader
Warranty 1-year depot/express warranty
Pricing Starts at $1,319
As configured: $1,556

I understand the enterprise sector often lags a little bit behind the consumer sector; new hotness typically needs to be proven reliable before it can get shipped to the more demanding business environment. For the most part the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is as modern as a notebook can be until Haswell arrives, but there are one or two oddballs.

The Intel Core i5-3427U is a respectable CPU and difficult to find fault with, sporting a healthy 1.8GHz nominal clock that typically bumps up to 2GHz under sustained load, yet Lenovo is stingy with the memory. If you want 8GB of memory, you have to buy their top end $1,759 model; it's not even an upgrade option on the lesser models, where you're stuck with 4GB of memory. 4GB of DDR3L-1333, not DDR3L-1600 like Lenovo's competitors are shipping. Thankfully, while Lenovo's site states the X1 Carbon is limited to one DIMM, the memory is operating in dual channel mode.

Given the X1 Carbon's enterprise aspirations, the SSD is Intel kit; the specific model number isn't readily available, but it supports SATA 6Gbps and features the odd 180GB capacity. Most of what's included with the X1 Carbon is as you expect, though the high resolution display is welcome. Note that while it's listed as being glossy, the glossy coating is actually a mild one; it's too glossy to really be called a true matte display, but it's not the nightmare of reflectivity that most glossy displays are.

Finally, thankfully, wireless connectivity includes 5GHz. It still baffles me how in 2013 anyone can ship a notebook without this.

In and Around the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
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  • 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.
    Reply
  • 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
    $1499

    Vs

    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
    $1556
    Reply
  • 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.
    M.
    Reply
  • 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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