Sometimes an excellent operating system can be made even better
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon with touchscreen
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon remains one of the best Ultrabooks on the market, and the touchscreen option isn't bad either
- Excellent keyboard
- Screen isn't overly reflective
- Feels solidy built and isn't too heavy
- Touchpad a little too sensitive
- Screen angles aren't great
- Pro version of Windows 8 isn't standard
The addition of a touchscreen gives the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon more versatility when you're using Windows 8. It remains one of the best Ultrabooks on the market due to its overall build quality and an excellent keyboard.
Price$ 2,505.00 (AUD)
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The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has been around for a while, but this is the first chance we’ve had to see it with a touchscreen. It’s still as good as we remember it, and even though our review unit did the rounds extensively as a show model, it still performed as expected and looked no worse for wear during our tests.
Much like the first time we saw this laptop, its most impressive aspects are how thin it is and how solid it feels. It's a notebook that's designed to be durable, featuring carbon fibre in its lid and in the chassis, it has a spill resistant keyboard, and it has only one moving part, which is its cooling fan. For a 14in model with a touchscreen, its weight of 1.52kg is also impressive (though the non-touch version we saw was around 1.4kg), and it's a well balanced notebook that feels good to use on your lap.
You can use the touchscreen effectively as part of a 'type and swipe' experience, which is mostly useful within the Windows 8 Start screen rather than the Desktop. You can definitely use it on the Desktop, but the 1600x900-pixel resolution might make things a little too small to tap on, especially if you have thick fingers. The hinges hold the screen firmly at any angle you choose to use, but if you tap on the screen while it's in an upright position, it will wobble back and forth a little. It will depend on how much force you use to tap, and the wobble will mostly be noticeable when the laptop is seated on a table.
If you have the space for it, you can rest the screen flat on a table (it tilts all the way back) and use the touchscreen more like a tablet. An accelerometer isn't built in to the laptop, which means if you want to rotate the screen you will have to do it manually from Windows' display driver settings. We found the touch responsiveness of the screen to be quick and mostly accurate. We also like the fact that it's not a very reflective screen; it's not nearly as reflective as other touchscreen Ultrabooks that we've seen, and you won't get many annoying reflections off it if you use it in an office.
The lack of a Full HD resolution might be a hindrance to some users, but we didn't have any issues using the 1600-pixel wide resolution to line up two windows side by side, though we did have to endure some horizontal scrolling. The viewing angles on the screen aren't the best, which could mean having to adjust the tilt of the screen when viewing photos, but they should be wide enough for most typical office applications.
Battery life and overall performance
On the inside, the Carbon X1 features a potent configuration that should be able to handle the majority of office tasks that you throw at it. We tested the version with the Core i7-3667U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB solid state drive (SSD), which costs just over $2500 (at the time of writing), but there is also a Core i5-3427U version with 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD for $1700. At this point, it’s worth noting that the next upgrade to the ThinkPad Carbon X1, in which it gets a fourth-generation Intel Core CPU (codenamed Haswell), isn’t due until January 2014. If you can't hold off until then, the current Carbon X1 is still a good choice, but the next model should offer better battery life and more efficient all-round performance.
In our battery life tests, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the Carbon X1 lasted 3hr 25min. This is a typical time for an Ultrabook with a third-generation Intel Core CPU (and a little under what a 13.3in model gets), but it might not be enough for most power users. You can get over four hours out of it depending on the tasks you run and if you use a lower screen brightness, but there isn't a way to extend the battery life beyond being more efficient in how you use the machine — the price for portability and sturdiness is a battery that's sealed and not hot-swappable. If battery life in a portable unit is of paramount important, you might want to consider the ThinkPad T440s instead, which will feature a dual battery system, including an easily swappable battery.
Our benchmark tests showed that the Carbon X1 is zippy, and it was also responsive during our everyday use (for Web browsing, typing, watching videos, and editing photos). Our Blender 3D rendering test finished in 39sec, our iTunes MP3 encoding test finished in 47sec, and our HandBrake DVD-to-MP4 conversion test finished in 21min 50sec. All are expected results, which indicate that there's nothing with the running of this laptop.
The solid state drive also put up a good showing, recording a read rate of 464.4 megabytes per second (MBps) in CrystalDiskMark, and a write rate of 242.6MBps. It's not the fastest we've seen from an Ultrabook in this benchmark (the Sony VAIO Pro 13 has that title, recording 1050MBps when reading and 426MBps when writing), but it's definitely not a slouch. Cold booting took 11sec to get to the Windows login screen, and resuming from sleep mode took the usual 2sec that we're used to seeing from other Ultrabooks.
Graphics are handled by the Intel CPU, and they are fine for everyday tasks and even for a tiny bit of gaming — mostly, they will handle simple games downloaded from the Windows Store, for example, or older desktop games. In the latest 3DMark, the Carbon X1 recorded 35507 in Ice Storm, 3919 in Cloud Gate, and 519 in Fire Strike. In the older 3DMark06, a mark of 5535 was attained, which is a good result for this class of graphics.
But the crowning glory of the ThinkPad Carbon X1 is its keyboard. It has a keyboard that's among the best, if not the best in the business. The keys feel crisp and they have a noticeable travel distance that’s impressive for a laptop with such a thin chassis (17mm including the rubber feet). It’s definitely a pleasure to type on, and it’s a model that we can recommend to any typist who is currently looking for an Ultrabook.
A backlight illuminates the keys beautifully and makes it a joy to type at night, and there are two intensity levels to choose from. You don't get an ambient light sensor, but from our experience with other Ultrabooks, in which brightness changes can sometimes be a little too regular, its omission is not something that makes us mad.
One other thing worth noting as far as user comfort is concerned is the slightly bigger than usual 14in footprint for an Ultrabook. The extra width and depth makes the Carbon X1 feel luxurious to use and provides plenty of space to rest your palms. The touchpad is a large one (101x61mm), and a TrackPoint with physical left- and right-click buttons is installed, too.
The touchpad was a little bit too jumpy at times, but it mostly performed well during our tests. It's one of the smoothest touchpads we've used, which perhaps had something to do with our pointer sometimes missing the mark. The good thing is, you can switch to the TrackPoint if you find the touchpad to be a bit of a pain. We think the TrackPoint comes in very useful if you don't want to move your hands too far from the keyboard, or when you're just using the Ultrabook in a cramped space and on your lap.
One other thing we'll note about the touchpad is that we found tapping to be unresponsive when we first started using the Ultrabook. We had to go into its settings and disable the 'edge tap filtering' feature, which meant that only taps outside of the filtered zone were registered as taps.
Around the edges, the Carbon X1 features two USB ports (one on either side, and one is USB 3.0), you get a mini DisplayPort, a combination headphone/microphone port, and a physical Wi-Fi switch. The Wi-Fi chip is dual band (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205, you also get Bluetooth, and there is a built-in mobile broadband module. An SD card reader resides on the right side, and with a fast card such as a SanDisk Extreme microSDHC, it can supply transfer speeds up to 44MBps. Adapters for VGA and Ethernet are supplied in the box. It's stereo speakers aren't too shabby either, though they can get muffled when you rest the laptop on your lap while listening.
We think the Carbon X1 remains one of the best Ultrabooks on the market due to its build quality and excellent keyboard, and we can happily recommended it to anyone, but especially to those of you who are writers or who generally need to make use of the keyboard for long periods of time. It could use a slightly better touchpad, though, and a higher quality screen.
Related Windows 8 laptop reviews:
• Sony VAIO Fit 15E touchscreen notebook
• Acer Aspire S7-392 Ultrabook
• Apple MacBook Air (2013)
• LG Z360 Full HD Ultrabook
• ASUS N750JV 17.3in notebook
• Acer Aspire V7 ultra-thin notebook
• Toshiba Satellite P50t-A013 touchscreen notebook
• Panasonic Toughbook CF-AX2 convertible Ultrabook
• Acer Aspire R7 convertible notebook
• HP Envy 17 notebook
• LG Tab-Book Z160 hybrid tablet
• Sony VAIO Pro 13 Ultrabook
• Sony VAIO S Series notebook
• Toshiba KIRA Ultrabook
• Gigabyte U2442F Extreme Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite P870 notebook
• Medion Akoya E6232 (MD 99222) notebook
• Dell Inspiron 17R notebook
• Acer Aspire V5 touchscreen laptop
• Toshiba Satellite P840 touchscreen notebook
• MSI GT70 Dragon Edition gaming notebook
• ASUS VivoBook S400C touchscreen Ultrabook
• Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T hybrid tablet
• Venom Blackbook Windows 8 gaming notebook
• Sony VAIO Duo 11 Windows 8 tablet
• ASUS VivoTab 810 Windows 8 tablet
• Lenovo ThinkPad Twist (3347-3EM)
• Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A02AU)
• HP Envy X2 hybrid PC
• HP Envy Touchsmart 4 Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite L850 Windows 8 laptop
• ASUS Taichi 21 Windows 8 hybrid Ultrabook
• Medion Akoya S4216 (MD 99081) Windows 8 Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite U920T hybrid Ultrabook
• Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook
• ASUS Vivo Book F202 touchscreen notebook
• Acer Aspire S7 touchscreen Ultrabook
Alternative Windows tablet product reviews
• Toshiba Portege Z10t hybrid Ultrabook
• Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
• Dell Latitude 10 tablet
• HP ElitePad 900 G1 tablet
• Lenovo ThinkPad Helix convertible Ultrabook
• Microsoft Surface Pro tablet
• ASUS Vivo Tab RT Windows Tablet
• Microsoft Surface RT
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