Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook (hands-on preview)

ThinkPad X1 Carbon: a business Ultrabook with a rugged design, professional management and security features

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook (hands-on preview)

Pros

  • Very thin and light for a 14in Ultrabook
  • Excellent keyboard

Cons

  • Only one port is USB 3.0
  • Ethernet is via a USB dongle

Bottom Line

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an Ultrabook with a robust, carbon fibre-based body that's designed for business users. It's 14 inches, but it's still very thin and light and it felt great to use in our brief hands-on session.

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Lenovo's X1 Carbon is named after the material from which it is constructed. It's a super-thin, 14in Ultrabook that employs carbon fibre both in its base and its lid, and it has been designed to stand up to the demands (and clumsiness) of business use. It's an Ultrabook that conforms to military specs; it's drop-resistant (to a certain extent), the keyboard is spill-resistant, and the unit as a whole can withstand a fair bit of pressure when the notebook is closed and weight is spread evenly across the lid (the Lenovo rep stood on it for his demonstration and our amusement).

As far as 14in Ultrabooks go, the X1 Carbon is comparatively tiny. It is 18mm at its thickest point and it weighs just under 1.4kg — it feels easily mobile. The 14in screen fits into a chassis that is actually smaller than last year's 13in ThinkPad X1 ultraportable notebook. Placed on top of the X1, the X1 Carbon is noticeably narrower and shorter. Despite the shrunken size, it still has large keys and the touchpad has 30 per cent more surface area than the one on the X1.

In terms of aesthetics, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon employs a metallic black colour that looks fantastic. The texture of the finish is rubbery, which Lenovo says is by design so that the Ultrabook can not slip out of your hands accidentally. You can easily dangle this unit from two fingers and it won't get away from you — but if it does, hey, it's drop resistant.

Along the edges, the X1 Carbon has few ports, which is a sacrifice that has had to be made in order for the chassis to be so slim and solid. You don't get a built-in Ethernet port (this is via a USB dongle), and there are only two USB ports: one which is USB 2.0 and one which is USB 3.0. You get an SD card slot, a combination headphone and microphone port, and a mini DisplayPort. If you require more ports, then you have to consider Lenovo's compact USB 3.0 dock, which offers five USB 3.0 ports, two DVI ports and Gigabit Ethernet.

The left side includes the air vent, USB 2.0, and the physical Wi-Fi toggle.
The left side includes the air vent, USB 2.0, and the physical Wi-Fi toggle.

The right side has an SD card slot, a combination headphone and microphone port, Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, and a cable lock facility.
The right side has an SD card slot, a combination headphone and microphone port, Mini DisplayPort, USB 3.0, and a cable lock facility.

A non-slip surface and a light weight means you can hold the Ultrabook with two fingers, if you so choose.
A non-slip surface and a light weight means you can hold the Ultrabook with two fingers, if you so choose.

An anti-glare screen has been installed in the Carbon X1, and it has a native resolution of 1600x900. It's a panel that has, from what we could tell in our brief hands-on session, acceptably wide viewing angles. Just like many ThinkPads before it, the Carbon X1's hinges allow the screen to be tilted all the way back, which can be convenient when giving presentations, for example. The screen isn't as rigid as the base; the carbon fibre in the lid has been weaved, according to Lenovo, which allows for a little bit of movement to counter accidental knocks. Lenovo says that an extra screen is also available (for $179) so that you can get a two-screen user experience even while you're away from the office — the screen is 14 inches, powered by USB and slim enough to fit into the same laptop bag as the X1 Carbon.

The screen tilted all the way back.
The screen tilted all the way back.

The keyboard has Lenovo's new-style keys, which feature a curved shape that aims to reduce miss-hits, and it has a backlight that can illuminate the keys in four intensity levels. A spill-resistant design allows liquids to pass through the keyboard without affecting the components beneath; the liquid will go through channels to escape via two slits on both sides of the base. The centre of the keyboard still includes the famous TrackPoint pointing device.

Glass has been used for the touchpad, which means that it's now much smoother than the touchpad on previous ThinkPads, which employed a textured finish that we found annoying. It supports multi-finger gestures and it's comfortably large to use.

A sealed chassis design means that the battery is internal and can't easily be removed and replaced. Lenovo claims that it can last for 6.5 hours and that it has a rapid charge feature. Charging for 30min will allow the battery to reach about 80 per cent of its capacity. Lenovo says that this feature won't degrade the battery's lifespan in terms of how many charge cycles and how much life per cycle it can provide, and it backs the battery with the same warranty as the laptop itself — three years.

None

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon will be available with up to 8GB of RAM, up to a third generation Intel Core i7 CPU, as well as integrated Intel HD graphics and a solid state drive. Wireless networking is handled by a dual-band Intel Centrino adapter, you get built-in Bluetooth, and there is also an option for integrated 3G. Management is aided by the inclusion of a vPro chipset, and security is handled by a fingerprint reader that has its own processor and hardware encryption. Computrace is also supported.

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Dell Inspiron 15R 5520 Ivy Bridge notebook
Medion Akoya P6635 Ivy Bridge notebook
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NitroWare.net

1

Before release, Lenovo indicated that because this was a business oriented product, servicing would be acheived by a latched bottom cover where the whole cover would come off and upgrades performed as well as the Windows CD KEY being accessed.

This preview says the unit that was demoed was sealed. A feature of Thinkpads is their field serviceablilty so this is an interesting development.

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