ThinkPad X1 Carbon Design

There is no mistaking the ThinkPad X1 Carbon for what it is. It is a ThinkPad. If you have never been a fan of the look of a ThinkPad, you likely will not like this one either, but for those that prefer the understated look, they will be happy to see the traditional look and feel. There is no flashy lights or bright colors available. Just matte black. The only “bling” at all is the red LED used as the dot on the “I” of ThinkPad, and it glows red when the device is on and flashes softly when it is sleeping. The rest of the device is very understated. Clearly that design philosophy has done well for the ThinkPad line, since they have built over one hundred million of them now.

The matte texture is great to hold on to, and you never feel like you are going to have it slip out of your hand. It actually has a tiny bit of metal flecks in the finish though so up close it looks really good. This same finish is everywhere on the device, and it seems fairly resistant to fingerprints, however when you do get fingerprints on it, they do not come off as easy as something with a gloss coating would.

The body of the X1 Carbon is not quite the thinnest out there, but it is close. At just 17.7 mm thick, it is the thinnest ThinkPad made. The build quality is top notch, with no creaks or gaps. That is not exactly true though, since there is one gap. The rear of the device has a gap between the display and chassis. The beveled edge on the display allows the display to open up all the way to 180° without binding on the chassis, or without the display lifting the rear of the laptop up. On the underside, there is also a beveled edge on all of the sides which are for airflow and act as a spot for the speakers.

On the left side we find the majority of the ports, with the power and docking station port at the display end, the HDMI and mini DisplayPort next, a USB 3.0 port, and the headset jack closest to the front. On the right side the ports are a lot more sparse, with just a USB 3.0 port and an Ethernet extender port. Like most Ultrabooks, the X1 Carbon is not thick enough for a full Ethernet port, so Lenovo has a handy adapter cable to do this duty. I appreciate the integrated Ethernet adapter capability, but this could have likely been easily supplanted with a third USB port. For those that need a more dedicated Ethernet solution for the office, the optional docking connectors would likely be a better option. On the back of the X1 Carbon is the slot for the optional SIM card, for those that opt for the LTE version. If you will notice, I did not mention a SD card slot on this laptop, which is something that I use quite a bit to transfer images from a camera, so the lack of it was missed on this notebook.

Opening up the device we get a look at the display, and in the unit shipped it is the 2560x1440 model with touch. I will get into the display characteristics later on, but the bezels are nicely proportioned, and the glass cover continues on almost right to the edge. Looking at the deck of the X1 Carbon we see a couple of things that are not on every device. First is the integrated fingerprint reader, which makes the process of logging in so simple that you wish all devices had one. It can also be used to authenticate at boot time, and with the advent of Windows Hello, this laptop should be well suited for Windows 10. The other noticeable change is the TrackPoint which is front and center (literally) and in bright red it can’t be missed.

So let’s talk about the TrackPoint, and the keyboard overall. Last year, Lenovo made some big changes to the keyboard and TrackPoint. They replaced the Function keys with a row of Adaptive keys, which could be changed depending on what was being used, and the TrackPoint buttons were integrated into the trackpad. Luckily for Lenovo, the lead time for notebook design is not as long as something like a car, or even a CPU. They made some pretty major changes to the keyboard and TrackPoint last year, and although I did not use one, feedback I have heard was not positive. Lenovo clearly heard that as well, so for 2015 the TrackPoint dedicated buttons are back, as is the function keys at the top. The other oddities with the 2014 keyboard have also been reversed, so the Home and End key are now in the function row rather than replacing the Caps Lock key. The Fn key is back in order to operate the various options on the function row too. The keyboard layout is very traditional again, and although I appreciate new ideas, the move back to the normal keyboard is even more appreciated.

And what a keyboard it is. ThinkPads have long been known to have great keyboards, and the X1 Carbon is no exception. All of the keys are slightly dished on top, and the amount of resistance when typing is good. Considering how thin these Ultrabooks are, it is always impressive when they can get the keyboard right. Lenovo has also sent me the ThinkPad T450s, and that is a thicker more traditional business notebook, and I would say that the keyboard on the T450s is better than the X1 Carbon, but the Carbon is still very good. I took the X1 Carbon to Microsoft’s Build conference, and it was easily up to the challenge of live blogs and pipeline posts.

The other thing I love on the ThinkPads is the TrackPoint. I have already mentioned how the physical buttons are back this year, and it works so well. For those that have not had a chance to use a TrackPoint (other companies also offer these pointing sticks too) it is a great mouse interface for a notebook. Some people prefer trackpads, but I prefer the accuracy and convenience of having the pointing device right where my hands are when typing. It also requires a lot less movement to get around the screen. Scrolling is very easy since you can just hold the center button and scroll at any speed you want.

For those that prefer a trackpad, the X1 Carbon has a good one of those as well. Some of the space is taken up by the TrackPoint buttons, but it is still a reasonable size. The top of it is glass, so sliding your fingers around is no issue. It is driven by Synaptics drivers, so you have full settings on one to four finger gestures. The main one I use is the two finger scrolling and it was nice and responsive. I still prefer the TrackPoint, but for those that prefer a trackpad, they should not be disappointed.

The X1 Carbon is thin, light, and very portable. It is very much a ThinkPad, but that is not a bad thing if you like the muted design. The build quality is great, and the choice of materials should make it very durable.

Introduction System Performance
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  • Systemsplanet - Wednesday, November 18, 2015 - link

    +1 on HP.
    -2 Dell
    I previously bought Dells until two XPS 18's with flaky USB3 drivers that ran at USB2 speeds no matter what perpheral/cable you used. Dell blamed Microsoft. Who knows. Premium Dell price means it should be integrated. With USB2 or wireless backup the machine was worthless to me. Luckily my wife cracked the display while mopping the floor. Never been so happy.

    Bought the HP Zbook 17 last December in a minimal config. Installed a Samsung pcie boot disk xp941 which gets 800/700 MB/ss. Pulled out the DVD and it now hosts a total of 4 1TB SSD drives in a laptop form factor. Love the BIOS. Never had such a problem free experience tricking out a new computer.

    Reviewed here on amazon:

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R20OURYM...

    Also, 20Gb/s Thunderbolt 2 rocks for backup and high resolution display on a single bus.
    Reply
  • mooninite - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    Lenovos are a joke. People associate them with "business" and "reliability" and unfortunately put their dollars in an inappropriate place.

    The ASUS Zenbook line far exceeds what you get from Lenovo. The current Haswell UX301LAA is a marvelous piece of technology. HiDPI screen. i7. Iris graphics. 8GB ram, 512GB SSD. The new Broadwell version is coming out soon and will blow any other laptop - sans discrete cards - out of the water in every category (cpu, graphics, IO, battery life).

    It's time for people to wake up and stop drinking the Lenovo / ThinkPad coolaid. They're not the prized, derived from the Gods, piece of hardware any longer.
    Reply
  • alexdi - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    This review is missing a conclusion. The basic question is: given everything else out there, would you buy the thing with your own money? If not, what would you buy instead and why? The initial tone of the review is almost an advertisement, but then slides down after the CPU charts. What's your verdict? Reply
  • BGADK - Thursday, May 21, 2015 - link

    The X1 was one of the ultrabook PC's for business users I evaluated, but in the end I choose the Fujitsu U904. Lighter, and with better specs, even if it still does not have a Broadwell CPU.
    I hope Anandtech take a look at the U904, which for me is the best ultrabook in the market.
    Reply
  • Laststop311 - Friday, May 22, 2015 - link

    if this had the i7-5650u with 6000 graphics and double the eu's at 48 I would of probably bought it. Would of preferred the 1920x1080 screen being ips. If you game at 1920x1080 its going to look better on a native 1920x1080 screen. Also less pixels means larger pixels that let more light through increasing battery life as well as less pixels to process. Also wouldn't mind if they made it a little thicker and heavier and bumped the battery up to 75wh 50% more than the 50wh battery.

    If only I could have that laptop changed to those specs I'd be a buyer 100%
    Reply
  • coder111 - Friday, May 22, 2015 - link

    Are they still shipping their computers with malware/spyware rootkits installed?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superfish
    Reply
  • flabber - Friday, May 22, 2015 - link

    I have found ThinkPads to be my preferred laptops for two reasons : full maintenance documentation available online, the keyboard/trackpoint.
    I still have a T41p kicking around, a X61 Tablet and a T61p. Only the T61p had given me a problem with the nVidia graphics adapter. Lenovo had made a recall, but it failed 3 after it had expired.
    Great machines - no need to replace my X61 Tablet, so I am sticking with that for now.
    Reply
  • Scipio Africanus - Friday, May 22, 2015 - link

    HP Elitebook/Zbooks will have the same documentation and also has a pretty good keyboard and trackpoint. Their service has been exemplary as well giving me fast turnaround for a simple loose power connector. Reply
  • seanleeforever - Tuesday, June 9, 2015 - link

    Scipio
    I have yet to find a track pointer implementation that's come close to thinkpads. and I have used 4 elitebook/zbooks including the very last generation of them, and number of dell workstations. my work always has HP/Dell but my personal purchase is always thinkpad just for the track pointer. the fact that you even mentioned "trackpoint" in Zbooks means you don't use the track pointer at all.

    truth to be told. I desperately want another manufacture to come up with a decent trackpointer so I can dump thinkpad line.
    Reply
  • just2btecky - Friday, May 22, 2015 - link

    What OS was this laptop tested on, or can The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon miraculously run sans OS? Just curious! Reply

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