Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch Review

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The Lenovo ThinkPad X Carbon Touch is the ultrabook your executive users will want.

(4 out of 5)

Pros

  • Slim
  • Speedy SSD
  • 1,600 by 900 resolution screen
  • Great keyboard
  • Dual pointing devices
  • Comes with QuickLaunch Start Menu replacement

Cons

  • Mid-pack battery life
  • Limited I/O ports
  • Ethernet requires dongle
  • Sealed battery

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch ($1,648) is an executive’s ultrabook. It’s slim, has a lovely carbon fiber construction, and is powerful enough to view and edit large spreadsheets. It’s light enough to be carried around the corridors of your office building and from building to building. It has a rugged solid-state drive (SSD) for storage, so you won’t have to worry about losing your data if you jostle the system while it’s in use. Plus, it’s a corporate manageable system, so your execs won’t have to bring in their own ultrabooks and make a mess of your IT security setup. It’s a corporate ultrabook that can service the most demanding executive.

Design and Features
The X1 Carbon Touch outwardly resembles its brother, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ($1,499). It’s just about as thin, measuring 0.74 by 13 by 9 inches (HWD) and weighing in at 3.25 pounds. This is imperceptibly heavier than the 2.93-pound non-touch model, and likewise just a bit lighter than the 3.91-pound Editors’ Choice for business ultrabooks, the Dell Latitude 6430u ($1,328).

Like the previous model, the X1 Carbon Touch uses carbon fiber to replace magnesium and plastic in some of its construction to give strength to the chassis and to save weight. Though it comes with a 14-inch screen, its compact size means that it will fit in most travel bags and will be easy to carry from meeting to meeting, whether that meeting is across the hallway or across the country. The height of the system means that you may be able to get away with using the system on an airline tray table without having the top of the seat in front of you push the screen back too much. Then again, the system seems tailor made for executives travelling in business or first class.

That screen has a larger than usual 1,600-by-900 resolution, while most mid-tier ultrabooks come with a 1,366 by 768 resolution screen. This means that more columns and rows will show up on the spreadsheets you view, no matter if you view them at 75% or at 150%. The screen has a matte finish, so it can handle glare from the windows in your office. Be warned that it does so at the expense of come color fidelity, like on all matte screens. Videos and graphics looked fine on the system.

The X1 Carbon Touch has an excellent backlit keyboard, with scalloped keys that help you touch type once you’re used to them. The keyboard has excellent key travel and feel, something that can be lacking in ultrathin ultrabooks. The X1 Carbon Touch has dual pointing devices: There’s a glass touchpad below the keyboard, along with a TrackPoint pointing stick in the middle of the keyboard. Business systems like the X1 Carbon Touch and HP EliteBook 2170p ($1,099) come with pointing sticks to accommodate business users who have been using them for years. You can switch either pointing device off to prevent inadvertent cursor movement.

The X1 Carbon Touch has a limited port selection as a result of its compact chassis. It only has room for a pair of USB ports (one USB 2.0, one USB 3.0). The ports are the same black color, so make sure you plug into the correct side if you’re connecting a hard drive (the faster USB 30 port is on the right). Also on the right are the system’s mini-DisplayPort, headset jack, Kensington lock port, and SD card reader. The power port is on the left. The X1 Carbon Touch has a SIM card slot on the back for systems equipped with the optional WWAN modem. Though your IT techs should be able to get into the chassis to replace the system’s battery, run of the mill users and execs won’t be able to access the sealed battery. This may be an issue if you have a user that prefers to use spare batteries to extend his computing sessions while away from his desk. The system comes with a USB to Ethernet dongle, which your user will have to remember to take with him if he travels as well.

Though you can have your IT folk send Lenovo a list of programs to install or leave off of the system, this review model came with a few pre-installed apps. These include Lenovo Companion, Skitch Touch, Evernote Touch, Accuweather.com, Kindle, Norton Internet Secutiry, rara.com, Skype, Intel AppUp, and an ad for Microsoft Office. One notable pre-installed program is Lenovo’s QuickLaunch. It sits on the desktop taskbar, and replicates many of the main launcher and search functions of the Start button in Windows 7. This can help your users transition to Windows 8, though it’s not a complete Start button replacement (it won’t let you boot into the desktop mode, for example. The X1 Carbon Touch comes with a fingerprint reader, TPM, and Windows 8 Pro, so it can support your company’s security mandates. The system comes with a three-year standard warranty (one year on the battery).

Performance

The X1 Carbon Touch we reviewed came with an Intel Core i5-3472U processor, 4GB of memory, Intel HD Graphics 4000, and a 180GB SSD. These components combined to give the X1 Carbon Touch very good performance, in lock step with the Editors’ Choice Dell Latitude 6430U on most of the performance tests, including PCMark7 (day-to-day operations), 3DMark11 (3D rendering performance), CineBench (3D software performance), Handbrake (video transcoding), and Photoshop CS6 (photo editing).

About the only area where the X1 Carbon Touch fell short was its five and a half hour battery life. This is mid mark, very close to the 5:36 returned by the HP Elitebook Folio 9470m ($1,349). The grand winner on the battery rundown test is the Latitdue 6430U, which lasted hours longer at 7:40.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch is an executive’s dream laptop. It is made with the same carbon fiber that makes his golf club shafts so light and strong. It’s nice to look at and is comfortable to use. It’s got the power to do real work, from shredding through large spreadsheets to proofing webpages. However, it falls short of the I/O port count and battery life set by the more economical Dell Latitude 6430U, so that system holds on to the Editors’ Choice. But if you have the extra bucks to shell out for the X1 Carbon Touch, you’ll find it to be a good companion on your day-to-day business dealings, particularly if you’re meeting with another company you’re looking to acquire.

COMPARISON TABLE
Compare the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch with several other laptops side by side.

By Joel Santo Domingo, PCMag

Specifications

    • Type: Business, Ultrabook
    • Processor Name: Intel Core i5-3427u
    • Processor Speed: 1.8 GHz
    • Operating System: Microsoft Windows 8 Professional
    • RAM: 4 GB
    • Weight: 3.25 lb
    • Screen Size: 14 inches
    • Screen Type: Widescreen
    • Touchscreen: Yes
    • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000
    • Storage Capacity (as Tested): 180 GB
    • Networking Options: 802.11n


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