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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  • gobaers - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Lenovo needs to fork their Thinkpad line into two, one for enterprise (what "Thinkpad" used to be) and one for consumer/prosumer. I thought the "Thinkpad Edge" branding would have been good for this. Taken as such, this should be called the "Thinkpad Edge X1."

    If they want to keep using "Thinkpad" the way they have been the past few years, why not separate out a line called "Thinkpad Pro" for diehards like me? Give us an X series, a couple T series, and a workstation replacement W series. Give us the keyboard back, magnesium rollcage design, IPS displays, charge $1800 for it. Roll back the numbers a bit; I want mine to be called Thinkpad Pro T30s. It has Haswell.

    A guy can dream...
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Dustin, I have a suggestion.
    Anandtech is a general hardware site, so you don't have to review all laptops. How about just making it a rule that you unless special circumstances are in place simply won't review laptops with 1366x768 or lower resolution?
    Reply
  • JFish222 - Wednesday, May 15, 2013 - link

    Stay Away!

    I purchased 2 of these for my company (about 3 months apart.)
    Normally I would never buy a non-upgradable & difficult to service laptop for the company, but what management wants . . .

    The newer of the two laptops had its battery stop holding a charge after about 6 months of use. The older unit's battery stopped holding a charge 5 days after the 1yr warranty expired. Lenovo will not replace it and referred us to a local 3rd party service center (who wants ~$600).

    I can't speak on the newer unit, but the older unit that just crapped out shows 84 cycles on the battery. The only good thing out of the whole mess: Management will stop arguing with me when I say no (for now at least). A T430S is close in weight and size, and lacks the repair / mid-cycle upgrade headaches that are sure to happen in any environment.

    How they every marketed this to businesses is beyond me!

    PS: Only good thing about Lenovo (besides the T series) is they document the hell out of everything. Replacing the batt. will be a headache, but is doable. Anyone who's repaired a laptop shouldn't have to much difficulty, and the service manual tells you exactly what components to remove to get to it.
    Reply
  • some_guy - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - link

    This is the kind of info I was looking for. Thanks.

    I am still waiting for something that is closer to my T60 notebooks with the 4:3 SXGA+, nice keyboard, TrackPoint, and runs Linux, though some compromise seems necessary. Perhaps the next version of the Chromebook Pixel.
    Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    Nobody is making 4:3 screens. 16:10 was fine... but now its 16:9... it sucks. And when I'm ready for the next monitor upgrade... it will be 16:9 ugh... but it will be at least 2560x1400 res (I'd like for it to be 2560x1600 thou)... and be only 27" to get the higher dot pitch. Reply
  • jmsb - Saturday, May 18, 2013 - link

    "stopped holding a charge 5 days after the 1yr warranty expired"

    The x1 carbon has only been out since August 2012 - 9 months at best.
    Reply
  • Belard - Sunday, May 19, 2013 - link

    There are other Carbon series notebooks. Reply
  • eviljav - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - link

    The keyboard layout is terrible. The should put page up and page down back in the top right corner, in a block with delete, home, & end. Reply
  • CrazyElf - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - link

    Yeah, it's really the price that kills this laptop. It's not a bad laptop per se, but for the money ... it's really hard to justify.

    One huge advantage I suppose of getting this over the Mac is that laptops like these are more durable - Lenovo Thinkpads in general are well built (although their cooling solutions could be better). I think they do pass MIL-SPEC 810F (not 100% on this one).

    Battery is just so, so. And for the price they ask, I expect a better LCD panel.
    Reply
  • CrazyElf - Thursday, May 16, 2013 - link

    I wonder if they cheaped out on the battery - not able to hold a charge after only a handful of cycles. This is an example of saving a few dollars here and there for a laptop that costs over a thousand dollars. Reply

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