June 28, 2013

529 words 3 mins read

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

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Last week I got my hands on a brand new, top of the line, Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon “Ultrabook”. At 14” it’s a little larger than most ultrabooks, but it does provide more screen real estate and a higher resolution. The X1 Carbon was released in late 2012 meaning that it isn’t the newest kid on the block, however the system specs look solid. While it is a solid overall machine, the downfall is (as is typical these days) the battery.

System Specs

  • Intel Core i5-3427U @ 1.80 ghz
  • 8GB RAM
  • USB 3.0
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Intel HD4000
  • 128GB SSD
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Out of the box, the machine looks nice with a mostly matte black finish (like all Lenovo). It feels a little more rubbery than their past machines, which I like since it means the machine is less slippery. However the outside seems to pick up finger grease fairly easily. Exterior design aesthetic aside, it feels like a solidly built laptop. It isn’t weight that gives it that solid feel, but its lack of flex. In fact the MacBook Air is a little more “squishy”.

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However, if you’re been buying Lenovo (and previously IBM) for years, you know that their one “key” feature was the keyboard (yes, I had to pun it up). The X230 (the last Lenovo I had) moved away from that wonderful keyboard and now the X1 has taken it a step further. I’m not sure what exactly it is about the keyboard that I don’t like, but I’m not a fan. I think the springs are a little stiffer than similar keyboards (like the Air) which makes typing more of a chore.

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As far as system performance goes. The specs say it all. They’re good, but not great. The model is 6 months old, or so, which means there are a lot of options to have come out between now and then (including the 2013 MacBook Air). I’m really annoyed that the SSD maxes out at a mere 180 GB instead of 256 GB or more — I know that’s a power user problem — but they could have done better. At the end of the day, the limiting factor is the battery. I had to fight to get 3 hours of battery out of the X1 when I wasn’t doing anything that intensive. For me, that means I can’t even go the evening at home without charging.

At the very end of the day, my reaction to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is “meh”. It’s not a bad machine, it’s not a great machine. Normally I get all excited about new toys and have no trouble playing with them for a week solid… but when the X1 came in I was just underwhelmed. While it’s a slightly unfair comparison, the price is also not what you’d expect of a PC. The retail for this model is $1849 (an equivalent 2013 MBA is $1349), though Lenovo always seems to have a discount of some sort running (as of writing it was $220 off for a total of $1627). So if you have to Lenovo it up, the X1 is nice, but if you’ve got options… go elsewhere.