Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review (2014): 4 Reasons it’s Incredible

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 is an impressive notebook from Lenovo that offers fast battery charging, a keyboard that changes based on what you are doing and is powerful enough to handle the needs of most business users. In addition to these features the Carbon X1 delivers the best notebook keyboard I’ve used and a display that is insanely good.

While I marveled at the adaptive keyboard earlier this year thanks to a top row that changes based on what program you are in, this notebook is about much more than a change to the keyboard function row.

I spent a month using the Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 alongside a MacBook Pro Retina, and while I still gravitate towards the video editing software on my MacBook Pro Retina, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon keyboard and display are clearly better. While typists won’t get the same feel as a ThinkPad X240, the Carbon X1 keyboard is impressive.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon display is not matte, but next to a MacBook Pro Retina it may as well be. I don’t see the distracting reflections that normally glare off my computer and Lenovo adds in a touch screen that simplifies using some Windows 8 apps.

If you are looking for the best Windows notebook on the market, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2014 is at the top of the list. Here is why this is my favorite Windows notebook and what exactly buyers get for just under $1,300. The Carbon X1 starts at $1,133 without a touch screen or WQHD display.

From a performance standpoint the ThinkPad Carbon X1 with an Intel Core i5 4th generation processor and 4GB of RAM handled a variety of office tasks with ease including Microsoft Office, the Internet and email. The integrated GPU is sufficient to do some video work and mild photo editing, but if you are working with HD files day-in-and-day-out you will likely want something with more power, and certainly more storage than 128GB.

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The short video above offers an overview of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2014 model, with a look at the design, keyboard and the great-looking display.

Incredible Design

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is made of carbon fiber, which is where the device earns the Carbon name. Lenovo boasts that this is satellite grade carbon fiber. This is impressive sounding, but all you’ll care about is the fact that this finish looks and feels nice with good resistance to scratches. The top cover will catch some fingerprints, but overall the finish and materials look just as good as it did when I unboxed the Carbon X1 in March.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon design is resilient and light.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon design is resilient and light.

In addition to carbon fiber, the ThinkPad X1 carbon is rated to handle dust, vibration, heat, cold, altitude, water, and humidity at MILSPEC ratings, so the thin and sharp-looking design should also help keep your notebook and your data safe.

Thanks to smart material choices, the Carbon X1 2014 weighs in at 2.83 pounds to start and is 0.7-inch thick. The display hinges allow the screen to open and fold out flat so you can use the screen to share a presentation while at a table.

Beautiful Display

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 review unit that I used for the past month and a half include a WQHD display with a touch screen. This means the resolution is 2560 x 1440 and i can touch the display with all of my fingers at the same time and touches will register.

This display looks wonderful, almost as if it is a printed page or a poster instead of a screen. While this is not a matte display it is as close as I’ve seen on a touch screen notebook. While using this in my office I don’t see the reflections from overhead lights like on a glossy display. This display looks best indoors, but will work outside with the brightness cranked up.

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 display with touch and a 2560 x 1440 resolution with low glare is wonderful.

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 display with touch and a 2,560 x 1,440 resolution with low glare is wonderful.

I don’t use touch on a notebook as much as on a tablet, but with Windows 8 there are many apps that are simply better with a touch screen. I find myself tapping around on the display frequently and I prefer to use the touch screen gestures over those on the touchpad.

Amazing Keyboard

You’ll first notice the adaptive keyboard row on the top which replaces a typical function row of keys with keys that change based on the application you are using. While this is nice, and it works well, the keyboard is about much more than one row.

I’ve used hundreds of notebook keyboards in the last several years and the ThinkPad Carbon X1 is one of the best. This is a shift away from the older style of ThinkPad keyboards, but the keys are still curved slightly and deliver enough travel to make long periods of typing comfortable.

The key placement is good overall, but the position of the backspace and delete keys may throw off some users. The backspace is not the right-most key, instead delete takes its place. Lenovo also removed the caps lock key, with a split Home/End button in its place. I normally turn caps lock off so this is not an issue for me. Users can activate caps lock with a double tap of the shift key.

I like the ThinkPad X1 keyboard more than other mobile keyboards, but it is a big change from older Thinkpad keyboards.

I like the ThinkPad X1 keyboard more than other mobile keyboards, but it is a big change from older Thinkpad keyboards.

The touchpad is an improvement from previous ThinkPads, as it is better able to pick out a left tap or click nearly anywhere on the touchpad. There is also a TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard that is easy to use, but not my preferred way to mouse on a notebook. The buttons that typically sit between the keyboard and the touchpad are now touch areas, which will be a big change for some long time Thinkpad users, but overall this is a better touchpad than on previous models.

Fast Charging, Long Lasting Battery Life

With a new Intel Haswell processor inside the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is able to deliver better battery life than previous models. The touch screen version I tested lasted just over seven hours in a battery life test that simulates web surfing over WiFi with the screen at 40% brightness.

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 2014 notebook offers good battery life and a manageable size power brick.

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 2014 notebook offers good battery life and a manageable size power brick.

With a dimmer display the battery life should last longer, closer to the 9 hours of battery life that Lenovo quotes. One feature that helps the 7 hour battery life stand out is Rapid Charge. One hour of time charging can push the battery up to 80% battery life. This means a brief stop for lunch, a meeting or at a layover can be enough to gain about 5 hours of additional life.

  

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