The Lenovo X1 Carbon provides one of those all-too-rare wow moments, where a product truly amazes on sight. Why? Because Lenovo sidestepped its usual boxy design path, creating something truly ultra-slim and light that still captures the matte-black business feel that the brand is so well known for.
The body is carbon fibre and plastic with a rubberised finish that provides excellent grip when holding the laptop or using it on your lap. Build quality appears exceptional, and the X1 Carbon weighs in at just 1.4kg.
The 14-inch, 1600 x 900 resolution screen is matte, fairly sharp at 131ppi, and bright. The touchpad is smooth gesture-friendly glass with invisible buttons rather than Lenovo’s usual textured pad. The iconic TrackPoint stick is still there with its own discrete buttons above the touchpad. The keyboard is a pleasure to use – with one minor exception. The left control key is bumped right from its usual spot by the function key, which is aggravating for frequent shortcut users and requires some odd finger-contortion for combinations such as Control+Shift.
The X1 is powered by an Intel Core i5-3427U dual-core CPU, with a 1.8–2.8GHz clock speed. Our model had 4GB of RAM, and a 128GB SSD as storage. All X1 Carbon models use Intel’s on-CPU HD Graphics 4000 – the compact build allows little room for a discrete GPU.
Performance was good across our standard benchmark suite. In CPU-based tests, the X1 Carbon was comparable to similarly weighted and sized Ultrabooks. In graphics intensive tests, it was comparable to other Ultrabooks using the same Intel integrated graphics.
It’s no surprise that the X1 can’t pull off double-duty as a gaming machine: it’s very much designed for business. It handles business-oriented tasks such as a data compression, encryption and multitasking with aplomb. You’ll even find a fingerprint reader for secure login and website access, which is rare on consumer models.
Given that it’s designed for business, the connectivity options – or more accurately, the lack of them – is surprising. The X1 Carbon has just two USB ports (one 2.0 and one 3.0), mini DisplayPort, a headphone socket and an SD card reader. There’s no VGA output for older projectors, and no HDMI or DVI – though the dual-mode DisplayPort allows for the latter two, via adapters. Most shockingly, there’s no Ethernet port. If you need one, you’ll need a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, which takes up one of your two valuable USB ports.
For wireless connectivity there’s the standard 802.11agn and Bluetooth 4.0. More excitingly, the X1 Carbon has 3G mobile internet support: pop in a SIM card and you’re ready to go. That might almost excuse the lack of Ethernet, except that it means you need a working data SIM wherever you travel – preferably local, as data roaming rates can be monumental.
Battery life was good, reaching 4 hours 3 minutes while running our demanding ‘productivity’ battery test.
The X1 Carbon we tested shipped with Windows 7. While this Ultrabook lacks a touchscreen, its gesture-friendly touchpad does mean it plays nice with Windows 8, which it now ships with from the factory.
Overall, the X1 Carbon is an exceptionally sturdy yet portable PC, with great business performance. It’s a real pity that the brutally cut-down wired connectivity can limit your networking and peripheral options.