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The X1 Carbon (Check on Amazon.com) is the latest evolution of the Lenovo brand. Lenovo’s focus with the X1-Carbon has always been clear: create the definitive 14 inch ultraportable of the business segment. The last two iterations had yielded a very different result. The version equipped with a touch screen didn’t have an exceptional battery life, while the keyboard of the previous-gen model wasn’t on par with the ThinkPad series. With this third-generation model, Lenovo has made numerous improvements, and now the device provides both excellent autonomy and a comfortable keyboard as expected from the best ultrabook out there.
The new X1 Carbon is as you’d expect: it is slim, robust and with the classic beauty that has always distinguished it, with a black coloration and a base covered in alloys of aluminum and magnesium. The lid is made out of carbon fibers and reinforced glass fibers mixed with plastic; to connect it to the base the hinges are reinforced with carbon fibers also.
Lenovo explains that the use of carbon fiber is a must since it is a material as sturdy as Aluminum but with one-third of the weight. In addition, Lenovo also makes sure that the carbon fibers that uses here has been through eight of the MIL-StD 810G test for resistance to particularly high and low temperatures, humidity, sand and shock. Lenovo also carries out tests for drop, bend and liquid spill.
The design is not flashy, but it is cared for and we like the fact that it doesn’t attract fingerprints stains when you use it. There is also the distinctive feature of the ThinkPad, which is the red dot on ThinkPad’s “i” that glows when the computer is turned on. The only other color accent is the trackpoint installed between the G, H and B keys, which is red.
The X1 is one of the lightest 14-inch notebook we’ve ever tested: it weighs only 1.39 kilos (3 pounds) with the dimensions being 33×22.6×1.85cm (13×8.9×0.7 inches).
Keyboard and touchpad
With this model Lenovo has made two important changes compared to previous editions: it has abandoned the innovative but less practical Adaptive Function Row strip (touch keys that worked both as function keys and for secondary functions), and returned to the use of the standard row of function keys. The result is less flashy but more practical.
The company added the trackpoint keys above the touchpad, a solution that is often found in dual-tracking devices. Both these changes improve ergonomy and user experience.
The X1’s back-light keys have a travel distance of 1,86mm (0.07in) and an actuation force of 58 grams (0.12lb). A longer travel distance results in typing more like using a desktop keyboard and that’s why it’s important.
Typing is good albeit not as fast. With the KeyHero typing test, we have scored a speed of 65 words per minute with a precision of 98,2% while our average is 71 words per minute with a 97 percent accuracy.
We are happy for the dedicated trackpoint buttons since they push you to use more this tracking system that is more accurate and faster than the touchpad, once you get used to its sensitivity. Thanks to the new keys it also becomes more comfortable.
The touchpad’s sensitive surface measures 8.1×5.58cm (3.2×2.2in), allows for precise cursor movements, and seamlessly transmits Windows multitouch gestures.
The X1 offers all the connections you need when you work on the move. On the left side we find the power button, the HDMI video out and a small display port, a USB 3 connector and the combined microphone and headphone jack. On the right there is another USB 3 port and an Ethernet Extender (requires an adapter for the Ethernet port) that connects to the cable networks. The only thing lacking is an SD card reader, which can be a hassle for those who have to download photos from a dedicated camera and have to use an adapter to transfer them.
In the center of the upper frame of the display is an integrated 720p webcam that does its job well even in low light conditions.
Fingerprint scanner and security
Since the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is designed for professionals, there is no shortage of security features. A fingerprint reader to the right bundled with Lenovo Fingerprint Manager Pro software allows you to configure it to use with websites and Windows logins.
Among the other security solutions we have to list the support for the vPro technology and the presence of the Trusted Platform Module (TPM) chip.
The X1’s IPS touch display is not the brightest we have seen, but color precision is quite good. At the native resolution of 2560×1440 pixels we enjoyed a particularly detailed snowy panorama using the “10 Incredible 4K Videos” on YouTube (at 1440p quality).
We measured the peak brightness at 243 nits, slightly lower than the category’s average, which is 252 nits. Watching the trailer for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, the outdoor scenes were good, while the darker ones were a little off.
The X1 Carbon screen reproduces 85.5 percent of the sRGB color gamut. The color reproduction is quite accurate, as the average of the DeltaE is just 1.7 (0 is the best value).
It is of interest that the hinges on this notebook let you tilt the screen till it’s flat on your desk, which can be used to give a presentation to a small Group of people.
Heat dissipation and battery life
The X1 is a notebook that remains quite cool during use. After viewing a 15 minute HD video streamed from Hulu, we measured 25.8 °C (78 °F) on the touchpad, and 28.6 °C (83 °F) in the middle of the keyboard, between the G and H keys. The temperature rises to the bottom of the base, where we measured 34.7 °C (94 °F); a slightly higher value but that doesn’t cause any discomfort. All temperatures stay below the comfort threshold of 35 °C (95 °F).
As for battery life, with our web browsing test using Wi-Fi and the screen set to 100 nits, we measured an autonomy of 8 hours, which is higher than the average for ultra-portable devices of 7 hours and 27 minutes. Note that if you opt for a non touch screen, your autonomy will rise even higher.
The X1 Carbon we reviewed came with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-5300U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. We didn’t experience any issues working with several tabs open in Chrome while doing a deep antivirus scan and streaming a high-quality video from Hulu in the background.
The X1 Carbon should be able to deal with most of your business tasks without any hitches. Let’s move on to benchmarks. The X1 Carbon scored 6,110 points in Geekbench 3, which measures overall performance. A value that wipes the floor with the modest 3,184 points of the EliteBook Folio 1020 (equipped with a Core M CPU and 8GB of RAM), and also exceeds the Dell XPS 13’s (Core i5-5200U, 8GB RAM) performance that stopped at 5,653 points. The average for the other ultrabooks is 4,082 points.
The SSD speed (which we measure by copying 4.97GB of mixed media files from one hard drive to the other) is 124.1MBps (41 seconds). The value is above the average rating of 99.4MBps), but also lower than those of the XPS 13 (154MBps), the EliteBook (182MBps), and the MacBook Air (190,3MBps).
The fact that the X1 is a business notebook does not mean that you can’t play any games. Obviously from the Intel HD 5000 graphic chip you can’t expect any miracles, but we did manage to play Beach Buggy Racing without any slowdowns even when there were many players on screen. We also tried running World of Warcraft but we didn’t manage to achieve a playable framerate with the screen’s native resolution. In order to reach 32.5 FPS, we had to scale it down to 1080p.
At the moment the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is available for (Check on Amazon.com).
The ThinkPad is again one of the best ultra-portable professional devices on the market. The price is not cheap, but it offers everything you need in a laptop: extended autonomy, comfortable keyboard, good overall performance.
The design isn’t something to write home about, but it is light and when you use it, you can see that it is sturdy and well made. Among the negative aspects, we found only the absence of an SD card reader really lacking (for those who need to transfer big files of photos and video from a camera) and the 14-inch display that is not particularly bright.
Among its competitors, the EliteBook 1020 with a 12.5-inch screen boasts a brighter display but has a 1.5 hour shorter battery life and a Core M CPU that is less powerful. The Dell XPS 13 is the best option for those looking to blend performance and price, with a sharper, brighter screen, comparable performance and is cheaper to boot. However, it does not provide the security features of the Lenovo product. That’s why we think that overall the X1 Carbon is a high-quality notebook destined for business applications with which you can work anywhere.