Lenovo X1 Carbon review – You’ll struggle to find a better ultrabook – EFTM

Lenovo X1 Carbon review – You’ll struggle to find a better ultrabook

Laptops are laptops, aside from how you spec them out with different processors and hard drives it really is hard to set one apart from another.  In a world...

Laptops are laptops, aside from how you spec them out with different processors and hard drives it really is hard to set one apart from another.  In a world where so many are playing copy-car, Lenovo just seem to keep making it work with the X1 series, and the X1 Carbon is proof of that – in every inch.

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Lenovo X1 Carbon

I’ve had and used the original Lenovo X1 since its launch.  This was a laptop that you could stand on, pour water on and generally beat around with hard work – and it would perform every time.

The X1 Carbon is nothing short of stunning when it sits alongside its older sibling.  Where the entire chassis is no bigger, you’re getting a bigger screen – much bigger.  Where the old version was “thick” the X1 Carbon is super thin.

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Lenovo X1 Carbon

However there are some layout differences on the keyboard which might surprise and even upset, plus require a bit of adjustment for the user over time.

One of the key and most innovative features of the X1 Carbon is the adaptive keyboard – what you would normally see as a row of “Function” keys (F1-F12) is now a long touch-screen.. Several new functions or macro like buttons as well as other features like volume and keyboard lighting. What makes this really unique is the fact it is customised to the program you are in.  That row of keys knows if you’re in a word processor or in Internet Explorer and will customise the buttons available to suit.

Lenovo X1 Carbon - Adaptive keyboard

Lenovo X1 Carbon – Adaptive keyboard

Again it’s had to get used to, but proves its weight in gold after just a short time.

Lenovo X1 Carbon - Fingerprint scanner

Lenovo X1 Carbon – Fingerprint scanner

Like the original X1 you’ve got a rapid charge – achieving 80% of battery charge in just under an hour of charging, plus it has an extended battery life – over 9 hours.  In normal day-to-day use with no adjustments to screen and constant online usage you’ll struggle to get that, but it’s still a high number which will please.

Throw in fingerprint scanning technology for high security and combine that with the satellite-grade carbon fibre construction this is – according to Lenovo “the toughest ThinkPad ever made”.  Lenovo say they’ve tested it with Dust, vibrations, heat, cold, altitude, water and humidity – so it’s going to last. (that said, little kids fingers at home might claim keys from the keyboard – something my original X1 has suffered from – not the kind of thing tested in “Military specification tests”.

Design

Weighing less than 1.3kg, and under 2cm in thickness this is sleek, easy to carry.  The weight is possible due to the use of Carbon Fibre in the chassis itself.  Simple things like the dot above the i in Thinkpad on the outside cover illuminates when charging or in standby.  The slightly rounded edges give it a more subtle feel than the sharp edge X1 original.

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Performance

As with any good ultrabook the full Intel Core range of processors is available in the X1 Carbon – so if you want performance, up the spec to the i7 and you’ll reap the benefits.

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Unfortunately Windows 8.1 seems to hate the idea of external applications like Google Chrome, making the resolution look poor when in fact the machine can handle it perfectly (in the native browser) so lets hope some more work is done on Windows to bring it back to its best.

With the Intel Core i7 processor on-board and the integrated graphics you’ll be doing video and HD with no problems at all.

Not so great

Windows is the biggest let-down for the X1.  While a “touch” version is available, it comes at an additional price.  Windows 8 is by no means impossible, but certainly harder to use without a touch-screen than it should be.

That said, you’ll learn to live with that.  On Lenovo’s part I am not sure why such a radical change to the keyboard was necessary.  The Backspace key is replaced by a smaller Backspace key AND the Delete key.  Above them is that adaptive touch keyboard.

Lenovo X1 Carbon (bottom) underneath the original X1 - note the trackpad changes

Lenovo X1 Carbon (bottom) underneath the original X1 – note the trackpad changes

Additionally the touchpad has been changed to be one single clickable surface.  The original X1 had excellent “left and right” mouse buttons and a touchpad, perhaps it just takes a lot of getting used to, but I found that hard to deal with.

Those are all issues which you will learn to live with after a few weeks of solid use as your main machine.

Overall

Lenovo X1 Carbon

Lenovo X1 Carbon

This is a fantastic piece of work.  Nothing “same same” about it when compared to other ultrabooks, the lay flat screen, the bright colours, the lightweight feel and sleek design all combine to make this the best Ultrabook on the market today.

It’s not about one thing, it’s not just about looks, but when you’re spending between $1500 and $2500 or more depending on specifications you want the whole package.  The X1 Carbon is the whole package.

Lenovo X1 Carbon
Date Published: 03/22/2014
A stunning design, great performance and a thin and lightweight form factor make this a leader among its peers
5 / 5 stars
Categories
Tech

Trevor produces two of the most popular technology podcasts in Australia, Your Tech Life and Two Blokes Talking Tech. He has a weekly radio show on 2UE, as well as appearances across the country and regularly provides Technology Commentary to Channel 9’s Today Show and A Current Affair. Father of three, he is often found down in his Man Cave. Like this post? Buy Trev a drink!
One Comment
  • Heart Muscle
    28 March 2014 at 12:16 am
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    After my T400S got a hair line crack (within 2 weeks of purchase) due to flimsy screen frame and overly stiff screen joints; which I couldn’t get repaired under warranty, I vowed not to purchase another Lenovo again. Let’s hope the Carbon X1 doesn’t have the same design flaws. Sony also came out with a carbon chassid ultra book as well, I was tempted but decided to go Mac as Windows 8 was a put off. I’m now on my 2nd week using a Macbook Pro 15″, i5, 8GB RAM, 256GB HDD. I’ve got Fusion 6 and Win 7 Ultimate running on it for the Win only stuff – I have noticed that the battery life wasn’t as good when Win 7 was running, but I guess there’s an extra load on the machine when running two OS’ at the same time. The only issue is that the functionality in Office for Mac 2011 is not always the same as Office for Windows – which is a little frustrating, especially when you’re used to some short cuts – like F2 for editing a cell in Excel, instead the Mac version works as Ctrl X. I have to say I’m starting to like the Mac glide pad over most of the Win based ones – just so much easier to use, even to the point I’ve stopped using a mouse. The transition wasn’t so bad, which was my greatest fear – given that I’ve been a Windows user for over 15 years, but I bought my wife an iMac in 2010 and started to get a better idea of how Macs work (even though it took me 3 years!).

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