Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (3rd Gen) Review

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“An excellent ultrabook for business users”

Lenovo’s X1 Carbon has always been the company’s attempt to make the best 14-inch business-oriented Ultrabook. Nevertheless, the first two versions can’t really be considered a success. The original 2013 edition had a very short battery life and the second generation used a touch-sensitive keyboard which wasn’t well received. While the 3rd Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook hasn’t changed much in terms of design, Lenovo has made a few changes which make the 2015 edition a compelling device.

With prices starting at $1,079, the X1 is by no means a cheap device. But, it does look great and according to Lenovo, has undergone numerous tests to make sure that it is resistant to heat, cold, vibration, altitude, humidity, fungus, solar radiation, etc. but there is no mention of official compliance with the MIL STD 810G standards.

Because it is an extremely slim device, connectivity is a bit limited. There is a mini DisplayPort, HDMI and 2xUSB 3.0 ports along with a headphone/mic jack. The lack of an SD card reader could be an issue for some. It supports both Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11ac as well. For security, the X1 comes with a Kensington Lock and a Fingerprint Scanner.

Design

The ThinkPad X1 carbon is a svelte and good-looking all-black device which has been made using a combination of reinforced plastic and carbon fiber. While the design isn’t flamboyant, it looks professional and does a great job of protecting against fingerprints and smudges.

It has a thickness of 0.73 inches and weighs 3.07 pounds. It is the lightest 14 inch Ultrabook we’ve seen so far. The low weight can be attributed to the extensive use of carbon fiber which is lighter than the commonly used aluminum.

Display

At 243 nits, the display in the X1 isn’t the brightest around. But, the 2560×1440 IPS touchscreen (a higher-end model comes with a qHD+ screen) does manage to show a good amount of detail in videos and images. But, because of the low brightness, everything looks a bit dull.

The display shows 85.5% of the sRGB color range which is better than the MacBook Air, but lower than the HP EliteBook Folio and the Dell XPS 15. But, colors are fairly accurate as reflected by the Delta-E score of 1.7. An interesting feature is that the hinges allow you to lay the display flat, which could come in handy.

Keyboard and Trackpad

Lenovo has made two key changes to the 3rd Gen X1 Carbon – the traditional Function row has been reintroduced along with dedicated mouse buttons for the TrackPoint. Both these changes make the new X1 easier to use than the 2nd Gen.

The keyboard is backlit and has a good amount of travel (1.86mm). Otherwise, the keyboard is exactly what you would expect from a Lenovo notebook. Keys are well-spaced and manage to provide a desktop-like feel. However, I did get the impression that they were a bit spongy. Personally, I would’ve liked slightly better feedback.

The large touchpad is accurate and smooth. I experienced no problems even with multi-touch gestures. But, the trackpad’s buttons sometimes right-clicked instead of left-clicking – but not often enough for it to be a problem. The ThinkPad also has the iconic TrackPoint. The pointing stick is extremely precise and once you get used to it, can help you move the cursor faster than with the touchpad.

Performance

The review unit has a 5th Gen 2.3GHz Intel Core i5 5300U CPU, a 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM and produces smooth performance. The Geekbench 3 score of 6,110 is better than both the i5-powered XPS 13 and the EliteBook. Scores of our productivity test were high as well.

Storage is handled by a 256GB SSD from Samsung which is pretty quick. But, while the file transfer rate of 124.1MBps was better than the category average (99.4MBps), it was still lower than its competition.

Because it is a business laptop, the X1 Carbon doesn’t have a dedicated GPU which rules out playing most modern games. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun. The integrated Intel HD 5000 graphics chip can run Windows 8 games like Beach Buggy Racing very well. If you want to play more mainstream titles like World of Warcraft, you may be able to get playable framerates if you turn the resolution and graphics settings down.

Battery Life

The Lenovo X1 Carbon has enough juice to last an average workday. The 8-cell 50Wh Li-Po battery lasted for around 8 hours of web browsing at half-brightness. This is better than both the XPS 13 (7:24) and the HP EliteBook (6:29). However, the MacBook Air is still the king of endurance at 12:20. The non-touchscreen version of the X1 may be able to last longer.

Final Thoughts

PROS:
  • Decent performance
  • Great battery life
  • Solid design
  • Comfortable keyboard and touchpad
CONS:
  • Screen could be brighter
  • No SD slot

Even though it is on the expensive side, the Lenovo X1 Carbon Ultrabook is one of the best business laptops you can buy. It has everything a corporate user would want – excellent battery life, great overall performance, a comfortable typing experience and additional security measures. While the design doesn’t scream style, it is light and can handle being knocked about a bit.

9 Total Score
Excellent!

Design
8.5
Display
9.5
Preformance
9
Battery Life
10
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