We often get asked, “Which is the best device for a workaholic?” and without batting an eyelid, we calmly say, “Get a PS4 or an XBox One”. But now that the X1 Carbon is here, will we be able to add some variation to our stock answer? Let’s see if the X1 in its new avatar is convincing enough.
The previous Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon was a pretty impressive machine and this new X1 improves on its predecessor. The changes are subtle in nature, but practical nonetheless. The X1 weighs a measly 1.392kg, which makes it extremely portable even for those with a weak backbone. How does it manage to be that light? The high-carb diet is the answer. And by carb, we mean carbonfibre.
Lugging around the X1 is easy and doesn’t cause a lot of fatigue - something MacBook Air users might be used to. The X1 weighs the same as the MacBook Air but offers larger screen estate and a resolution that beats the Air like Hulk beats Loki in The Avengers. But then again, there is a huge difference in price.
All that extra money you pay is put to good use, though. The all-black X1 Carbon is made of carbonfibre and glass-fibre reinforced plastic. The bottom half is made of magnesium and aluminium that just blends with the rest of the bits like chocolate and more chocolate. Oh, and for those overly conscious about ingredients, it doesn’t contain any lead (at least we think it doesn’t, we won’t endorse anything, though).
The toughened hinges on the X1 also receive the carbonfibre reinforcement treatment and are more flexible than you’d think. They allow the display to be tilted completely flat for weird presentation purposes and sharing stuff in meetings. However, we don’t think it’s required, but it does shock unexpected spectators.
Other design elements include the blinking (literally) red light over the title of ‘i’ in ThinkPad, the red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard and the stylised buttons that go with it. Overall, the design may not impress like some of the other rivals’, so let’s just agree that you want people to concentrate on your presentation and not on your laptop.
That keyboard is a wonderland
The charm of this ultrabook lies in its keyboard. It is an absolute delight to type on and makes other keyboards you’ve used feel like typewriters. Even the loblolly Mac fans in the office agree on this. It feels similar to the one on the Dell XPS 13, but is better and makes you want to type and type and type and type and type away.
It also has a backlight that can be set to two levels of brightness intensity, one is lower and the other is the brightest, after which it goes off. The major change from the previous version of the X1 is the addition of more traditional function keys. These work better than the capacitive touch keys that used to be frustrating to use earlier.
The pressure-sensitive TrackPoint is red in colour - it stands out and adds a dash of style. But it’s not just a pretty face; it proves useful when you want to select long stretches of text or multiple documents, but it takes time to get used to. Overall, it proves to be a more efficient way of moving about the cursor, provided your finger spends ample time fiddling with it.
Full network here
The Carbon comes with a decent amount of connectivity options. A proper HDMI out, mini display port, two USB 3.0, Audio / Mic out, OneLink Dock connection, ethernet extension port and a stealthy SIM slot at the back. There’s also Bluetooth 4.0 which is extremely fast and a doddle to use with any regular Bluetooth device. There’s no SD card slot, which is sad.
The most interesting bit here is the OneLink Dock connection. Covered by a rubber seal, this little connector is the port that would allow you to connect to Lenovo’s OneLink Dock. The dock has additional USB ports and other connections that can prove useful if you think the ones on the X1 itself are unsubstantial. Obviously, it costs extra but provides desktop advantages.
Nits and what-nots
Lenovo sent us the top-of-the-line version of the ThinkPad X1. It sports a 2560 x 1440 WQHD touch display with a claimed brightness of 270 nits, the lower variants have 300 nits and are generally a bit thinner overall, but only by a small margin. The display has 10-point multi-touch support, but we were afraid to prod at it, lest our fingers got cut by the sharp resolution.
To be honest, we didn’t find the need to use the touchscreen that often and even you wouldn’t, especially with the inclusion of the TrackPoint and the lovely trackpad, unless you’re absolutely addicted to touching displays that should otherwise stay clean of nasty fingerprints. Pay less heed to our exhortation, however; do as you please, prod away.
But not all is dandy in the display department. Our WQHD version seems to be on the warmer side of the spectrum, with the only way to change this available through the Intel Graphics Control Panel. Now, while winter hasn’t come yet for this display, it’s not one bit harsh on the eye and doesn’t cause fatigue even after extended typing sessions like that of this review. Text on documents and spreadsheets along with that on web pages appears sharp and crisp.
Some Photoshop junkies might find the colour palette a bit unsatisfying as well, and the comparatively low brightness of the display doesn’t help the case. Darker scenes in some movies and games can appear to be muddy and unappealing to the eye, but this is less apparent while gaming, and you get used to it oddly fast (we assume it’s faster if you’ve paid for the laptop yourself).
Our touch version had the Intel Core i7-5600U Broadwell Processor. Now, we all know that the Broadwell processors focus more on the efficiency than absolute Popeye-on-spinach power, but despite that, it performed wonderfully. The X1 started to impress us with, well, its start-up time. We clocked an average of about 7-8 seconds, which is brilliant.
The Lenovo scored 691 on the 3DMark Fire Strike test and SunSpider returned a value of 208ms. On the Geekbench 3 (32-bit), it scored a healthy 6070, which is very good in terms of ultrabook benchmarks and is an improvement from previous versions of the ultrabook. It didn’t even heat up much during the testing and temperatures stayed well under the comfort zone.
Any business ultrabook worth its salt has a dependable and fast SSD that handles all the data. The Carbon X1 gets a Samsung SSD that is lightning quick. Transferring 5GBs takes a mere minute and sometimes it’s quicker. It still doesn’t match the faster Dell XPS 13’s speeds, but what’s a second here and there between bytes.
The Intel HD 5500 is employed to take care of the graphics business. Obviously, it’s no gaming laptop and the HD 5500 is almost as powerful as some of the early laptop graphics cards. Entry level at best, the X1 barely scrapes through games. You can forget about playing the more popular titles and stick to older games like World of Warcraft and Serious Sam.
Video and image editing is not off the charts as such, but we would advise you to stay away from it unless you get the model with more RAM. Basic video editing software like GoPro Studio and others work well, with satisfying results. Even Photoshop and InDesign performance is not that bad, but the lack of a dedicated graphics card and a warm screen might affect your final outcome.
Rest of the thinking
The fingerprint scanner remains, but it has been relocated to the right side, just where the keyboard ends. It has a groove on the top of it to guide your finger at night. You use Lenovo’s Fingerprint Manager Pro to register your claws for the first time and it’s just clawing away from there on. It works like it should, but if you have hands that can put Hulk to shame, you’ll have to try twice sometimes.
The webcam is a 720p affair and is pretty good for video calls, even low-light video quality is above expectation. Video done with, but what about the audio? Well, the audio gets Dolby treatment and you use the Dolby Digital Plus software to tweak settings. The two speakers on the bottom of either side of the laptop are by far the loudest we’ve heard on an ultrabook.
For those of you who like bloatware, there is a fair bunch of it. Software like the Lenovo Messenger, Maxthon Cloud Browser, Lenovo Reach and Lenovo PC Experience are surely going to satisfy the bloatware bug in you, but make the rest of us cringe. For an ultrabook of such calibre, it’s odd of Lenovo to pump it with such bloatware.
The ThinkVantage tools like the Lenovo QuickControl and Lenovo Fingerprint Manager Pro are the actual useful ones. The quick control works like a charm and is pretty useful if you use it the right way. Other software included is the Lenovo Solution Center, User Guide and SHAREit, which are pretty self explanatory.
But with all this power performance, you might think that the Lenovo might get a tad noisy when pushed hard. Surprisingly, that’s not the case. You can work it to the max without waking Tommy from his deep canine slumber. It is extremely quiet even when you run heavy software. But does it heat up in the heat of the moment? Well, just a tiny bit and it’s no thigh scorcher.
Lenovo claims a battery life of up to 10.9 hours. We managed to squeeze out about 8 hours of a full day’s use at work with brightness at 60% and light browsing with a couple of other apps running. Disgruntled workaholics might get a lower number if they use heavy apps and higher brightness or watch a lot of videos. Our continuous video running test rendered a result of a healthy 6 hours. We wouldn’t mind more though.
To le or not to le
The Carbon X1 might just be the one to beat when it comes to ultraportables, but with a price that excites Felix Baumgartner (₹1,75,000 for the version we tested), you can’t help but think it’s a tad too steep. The Dell XPS 13 is a worthy competitor and though it offers slightly less in terms of security features and display choices, it provides very good value for money.
But if money grows on trees or comes out of the company’s pocket for you, the X1 is unbeatable. So, ultimately, in the world ultrabook championship, the X1 clearly is on the top. Let’s just say while the Carbon X1 might be the Floyd Mayweather of the ultrabook world, the XPS 13 is Manny Pacquiao.