Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ultrabook review: strong, lightweight and elite

Lenovo's latest ultrabook offers fast performance in a stylish carbon-fiber case.

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The X1 Carbon has a black keyboard with deeply scalloped keys. The 19.4mm keys are comfortable and responsive with 1.6mm of depth. The system's backlit keyboard should appeal to night owls, but the X1 Carbon doesn't have the overhead light that's on the ThinkPad X230.

The system has both a TrackPoint nub in the middle of the keyboard and a large glass touchpad at the bottom that can work with multi-finger gestures. It's security conscious as well, with a fingerprint scanner, Trusted Platform Module (TPM) and BIOS encryption.

Testing performance

This is a screamer that should satisfy even the most power-hungry travelers. When tested with PassMark Software's PerformanceTest 7.0, it rated a score of 1,618.7 -- 15% higher than the Lifebook U772 (which has the same CPU). On Maxon's CineBench performance test suite, the X1 Carbon scored a 2.58 on the processor test, slightly behind the Lifebook; however, it bettered the Lifebook on the graphics test, scoring 14.49 frames per second. During its performance testing, its case never heated up beyond being warm.

With the system set not to dim the screen, the X1 Carbon's 2,800mAh battery played six videos continuously in sequence from a USB drive for 4 hours and 5 minutes -- 38 minutes shorter than the run time of the Lifebook. This should, however, translate into a full workday of stop-and-go computing. As with many ultrabooks, you can't swap the X1 Carbon's battery for a fresh one.

At a Glance

ThinkPad X1 Carbon

LenovoPrice: $1,349Pros: Lightweight, thin, excellent performance, backlit keyboard, fast charge, 3-year warranty availableCons: Expensive, wired LAN requires USB adapter, no VGA or HDMI ports, can't swap battery

The X1 Carbon has a secret weapon for those who never seem to have enough time to charge their computers. Lenovo's new Rapid Charge technology was, with the system turned off, able get the battery to a 50% charge in 22 minutes, an 84% charge in 35 minutes and a full charge in 50 minutes. When I turned the system on, the X1 Carbon required 62 minutes to get to a full charge.

With a pair of speakers underneath and Dolby Home Theater 4 software, the X1 Carbon sounds surprisingly rich and loud for such a small system. It has a rocker switch for adjusting the volume and mute buttons for the speakers, along with a dual-microphone array.

The X1 Carbon comes with 5GB of free cloud storage and a slew of ThinkPad utilities. Lenovo includes the standard one-year warranty; a three-year warranty is available for $150 more.

Bottom line

At $1,349, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon is one of the lightest, most powerful and road-ready laptops available today -- as long as you don't mind a slightly higher price tag.

Brian Nadel is a frequent contributor to Computerworld and the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

Read more about ultrabooks in Computerworld's Ultrabooks Topic Center.

This story, "Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon ultrabook review: strong, lightweight and elite" was originally published by Computerworld.

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