In January of this year, I walked into the Lenovo booth at CES and almost immediately to the right there was a large display case set up, and inside was Eve. Eve looked great in the case all dressed in black, and was well attended to by her hosts. Eve is the one hundred millionth ThinkPad to be created, and I remarked at the time that it was likely not an accident that Eve is a ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Eve, the 100,000,000th ThinkPad

The X1 Carbon has been Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad since it was launched, and it brings the world of the ThinkPad business class notebook down into a much thinner and lighter form factor. Today we have the third generation of the X1 Carbon, and although the competition for the best Ultrabook keeps increasing, Lenovo brings a lot to the table with the X1 Carbon.

Lenovo keeps the ThinkPad lineup outfitted with features that the average consumer does not need, and the price is higher accordingly. But if you are someone who travels a lot, and needs a full featured notebook with all of the goodies, you can find it in this X1 Carbon. While the Ultrabook initiative started out with smaller devices, it gradually worked its way up to include larger notebooks as well, and the X1 Carbon certainly fits the bill for an Ultrabook despite the larger than average 14 inch display.

Despite the somewhat larger chassis, the X1 Carbon keeps the weight in check partially through the use of its namesake – carbon fiber. The display cover is created with carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and glass fiber reinforced plastic. This lets the display be lighter, thinner, and stronger than one made of aluminum or plastic alone. And it is strong. You can certainly flex the display, but it never feels like you are going to bend it by accident. The bottom of the X1 Carbon is made of aluminum and magnesium, so it is plenty strong as well. Lenovo even points out that the X1 Carbon has passed eight MilSpecs with fifteen individual tests, including shock, vibration, temperature, humidity, and silica dust exposure.

For many devices, 2015 is the year of the spec bump to Broadwell based processors, and Lenovo is not immune to this. Luckily that is a good thing though, and the new X1 Carbon is now powered by the latest Broadwell-U based processors from Intel. Buyers get a choice of the i5-5200U, i5-5300U, or the i7-5600U processor. None of these are slow, but luckily Lenovo has sent us the i7 model so we can get a feel for how it competes against some of the other Broadwell devices we have seen this year. Let’s take a look at the full specifications below.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2015)
  As Tested, Core i7-5600U, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, 2560x1440 IPS display with Touch
Processor Intel Core i5-5200U (2C/4T, 2.2-2.7GHz, 3MB L3, 14nm, 15w)

Intel Core i5-5300U (2C/4T, 2.3-2.9GHz, 3MB L3, 14nm, 15w)

Intel Core i7-5600U (2C/4T, 2.6-3.2GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 15w)
Memory 4GB or 8GB DDR3L-1600Mhz
Graphics Intel HD 5500 (24 EU, 300-900 MHz on i5, 300-950 Mhz on i7)
Display 14.0" 1920x1080 TN

Optional 2560x1440 IPS
Optional Mult-touch
Storage 128GB SATA SSD
180GB or 256GB SATA SSD with Opal 2 Support
512GB PCIe SSD Samsung SM951
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 (802.11ac, 2x2:2, 866Mpbs Max, 2.4 and 5GHz)
Audio HD Audio, Realtek ALC3232 codec
Stereo Speakers (downfiring) 1 watt x 2
dual array microphone
Battery 50 Wh Battery
45 Watt charger
Right Side USB 3.0
Ethernet Extender
Left Side USB 3.0 Ports
Headset Jack
Mini-DisplayPort
HDMI
Power and OneLink Connector
Dimensions 331 x 227 x 18.5mm (13.03 x 8.94 x 0.73 inches)
Weight 1.27-1.45 kg (2.8-3.2 lbs)
Extras 720p Webcam
Backlit Spill-Resistant Keyboard
Pricing $1088-$2300 USD (As Tested: $2100)

Since this device falls into the ThinkPad line, you get a lot of customization options when purchasing that Lenovo does not do for their consumer models, and that is very welcome because on a lot of devices if you want feature X you have to also buy features Y and Z, which can really bump up the costs. However a few things need to be called out on the X1 Carbon. This is a premium Ultrabook, so it is a bit sad that in 2015 the base model is still offered with just 4 GB of memory, and because this is soldered on (like all of these very thin devices) it would be money well spent to just add the extra $75 Lenovo charges for the 8 GB model. Luckily even though Lenovo calls it 1x8 GB in the guide, it is in fact dual-channel memory. The other big complaint is the 1080p model is offered with a TN panel. That is not really acceptable in a $1000+ device in 2015 any longer. Moving to the QHD version of the panel for $150 would be money well spent since that will bring you an IPS panel.

There are also a lot of options for storage, and the base model comes with just a scant 128 GB of SSD space available, but for not too much more you can bump that up to 180 or 256 GB. For those that need even more storage space and speed, Lenovo offers the SM951 equipped 512 GB PCIe based Samsung SSD. When the X1 first launched, it was a hefty $700 upgrade, but now it is a mere $425 over the base 128 GB offering.

The X1 Carbon is even offered with optional LTE connectivity, via the Sierra EM7345, for those that need mobile data connectivity without tethering.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Design
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  • Chloiber - Monday, May 25, 2015 - link

    Sounds to me like a layer 8 issue right there. Reply
  • drwho9437 - Sunday, May 31, 2015 - link

    So I have owned a T60, an X200, an X220 and an X230.

    I sold the T60 to get the X200 because I wanted something smaller. No issues with it until sale. I still have the X200 only failure is a small crack in the bezel that I caused by picking it up pinching the right hand side of the screen for years and years.

    I got my mother a T61 which did seem to develop a firmware issue after 2 years (it was already 10 years old; I had gotten it used). I replaced it with a T400 which is working well.

    My X220 was working fine when I sold it. It had always run a little hot for my taste so I replaced it with the X230 as I had a chance to use the new style keyboard and found it not completely unacceptable.

    Friend of mine has an X201t no issues. I got an X300 off ebay for next to nothing, it does run hotter than I would have thought for so low a power CPU but the fan is tiny. One mouse button didn't work so I got a new set for few dollars.

    All in all some failures to be sure but I have yet to have a single failure in year 1, that said I always buy them refurbished from the outlet or used. Perhaps those get more testing. They cost about 75% of new too, with a longer 3 year warranty in most cases. I just wait until what I want shows up on the outlet and then get it. The need for the newest computer available is long over.
    Reply
  • carbonx1_is-the-worst - Friday, May 22, 2015 - link

    Battery broke completely within 18 months for no apparent reason - one day my laptop simply said 'no battery'. Replacement part order took forever - had to call IBM that handles parts for lenovo. part cost over $160 with shipment; installation cost $50 by geeksquad. Once installed, new battery runtime = 4h which is 50% of IBM-tech-support-promised capacity for the new part which was supopsed to be exactly the same OEM as in the brand new laptop. Now, dealing with faulty part replacement - which is another ordeal -- first you call IBM "supplies" number recommended on the packlist; then IBM send you an email with instruction to forward that email to 'returns' - etc. I think they dropped a ball here - the process could have been much more COMPLICATED so no one ever bothers with replacement requests. For instance, IBM could have gently recommended to write a letter by hand with special golden-sparkle-inc explaining the reasons for exchange order, then pack the letter in the eggshell colored in black, then put the eggshell in the treasure box of size 10x10cm, then put that in the oversized envelop with sufficient amount of cushioning, and at last, courier-deliver that to a special location in PA and give a secret knock on IBM/Lenovo door: knock-knock --- triple knock. Reply
  • protomech - Saturday, May 23, 2015 - link

    Wat? You went back to a 2010 laptop over a new 2015 because it offers better battery life?

    That's.. surprising.
    Reply
  • lilmoe - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    Really, battery life is a bummer for an otherwise great, expensive machine. But ultrabooks aren't for people like me anyway (also a developer; VS2013/15). I wouldn't mind the extra thickness, performance and weight of the T450s with its hot swappable battery. Reply
  • sorten - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    I guess it depends what you're developing. For me personally, performance has always been more important than battery life because my laptop is docked and attached to two monitors for 95% of my dev time. The only time battery life is a concern is when I'm stuck in all day planning sessions. If I'm undocked and programming on the couch or in some open space at the office then I'm concerned with heat and, to a lesser extent, noise. Reply
  • mmrezaie - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    I have a decent Xeon workstation and some other clusters. I need something with decent performance that I can take where ever I go and also with best class battery. Something that thinkpad was. Actually some of my colleagues chose x250, but somehow I prefer the macbook pros. Reply
  • mmrezaie - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    which is not remotely as durable as I would like. You should have it for a year to see what happens to it. Reply
  • lilmoe - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    Having both would be great (and I really love the ability to hot swap batteries). I'm a freelance developer and I have my own LoB software. I use lots of rich controls, so Visual Studio could use all the oomph it can get. WPF can be harsh at design time, even WinForms can with lots of nested table layout panels. I was shopping around last year for a new Haswell MQ/HQ laptop around the time when Lenovo kind of MESSED UP the trackpad among other things.....

    I don't like U-series CPUs so I opted for a 4702MQ HP ProBook and it's been great. I installed decent quality 16GB RAM modules and a Samsung 850 Pro to help. I'm getting 3-4 hours of heavy usage and, now after Windows 10, up to 8 hours of light use and browsing on Edge (used to be less than 7). But I seriously HATE the TN panel, and I've been shopping around for an IPS replacement part (still waiting on the HP agent in my country) since none of the models I've seen had IPS.

    I really LOVE Thinkpads, but Lenovo just has to mess something up. I can live with a not-so-great screen and so-so battery life if performance was great, but a trackpad with no physical buttons and good travel (on the bottom of the pad)?? Heck no. Not even the clicky type buttons. I hope they get those back next gen.

    I have my eyes on the T550 since I need the numpad, hope the next gen will have hot swap batteries like the T550s. Anandtech really need to do some comprehensive testing of the T-series, and not only U-series alone.
    Reply
  • close - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    I would get over the battery life if the screen wasn't so junk on entire batches. So on a batch of 2000 2nd gen X1 all of them have image retention issues. 5 minutes displaying an image and it's burnt in. Ok, it fades after another few minutes but that's totally unacceptable from a device in that price range. Reply

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