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CES: Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch hands-on review

Haswell powered ultrabook
Thu Jan 09 2014, 08:09

LAS VEGAS: CHINESE HARDWARE OUTFIT Lenovo released the original Thinkpad X1 Carbon in 2012 and it was one of a select few unashamedly business focused ultrabooks.

But despite being lightweight and ultra powerful, the first Thinkpad X1 Carbon's enterprise appeal was hampered by a few issues, primarily its lack of an Ethernet port and slightly poor non-removable battery. Two years on Lenovo has addressed these flaws by releasing another, Intel Haswell powered version of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon.

Design and build
At first glance the Thinkpad X1 Carbon 2014 model looks all but identical to its 2012 predecessor, featuring the same sleek black carbon fibre chassis. It's only when you get closer to the device that you realise it's slightly thinner than the 2012 Thinkpad X1 Carbon, measuring 331x226x18.5mm. By comparison the 2012 model was 331x226x18.8mm.Lenovo X1 Carbon 2014

The Thinkpad X1 Carbon for 2014 also features a slightly more impressive array of ports, with two USB 3.0 port as well as a single full-size HDMI port, a Onelink docking port, mDP port and an Ethernet port. Opening up the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) we also noticed the newly added Adaptive Keyboard.

The Adaptive Keyboard is a capacitive strip that lies on the top of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon's keyboard dock. It is designed to provide users with a choice of touch shortcut keys that dynamically update depending on which application is open.

The feature was fairly useful and responsive. While playing a video file on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon the bar offered basic stop, start, fast forward and rewind keys, but switched to offer home, forward, back and refresh keys when we opened Internet Explorer.

The Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) is available in touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions. The demo unit we tried boasted a 14in, 10-point multitouch, 2560x1440 resolution in-plane switching (IPS) display.

As well as being nicely responsive to the touch, the new Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen was also fairly pleasant to look at. Using the Thinkpad X1 Carbon in the brightly lit showroom floor the ultrabook's display proved suitably bright and remained legible even when hit with stray light. We were also impressed with its viewing angles, with text remaining crisp and legible even when viewing the screen from the side.

Colours were also suitably vibrant and, while not as crisp as the Retina displays seen on Apple Macbooks, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon's screen was far better than those seen on most competing Windows 8 ultrabooks.

Operating system
The Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) comes with Windows 8.1 Pro preinstalled, so it's running the latest version of Windows. While some businesses are choosing to sit on the fence with Windows 8, upgrading their systems to the more familiar desktop focused Windows 7, we're big fans of the latest version of Microsoft's operating system (OS).

Lenovo X1 Carbon side

As well as featuring full legacy software support, Microsoft has also fixed a number of minor glitches in Windows 8.1, reinstating a Start button on the Desktop menu user interface and improving its search capability to let users search the internet as well local menus using the built-in Search setting.

Our demo unit had a fourth generation Intel Core i7 Haswell processor and boasted 8GB of RAM. The combination meant that for productivity purposes the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) was more than powerful enough, and it opened web pages and applications seamlessly.

Sadly we didn't get a chance to benchmark the laptop or see how the Thinkpad X1 Carbon dealt with more demanding tasks such as 3D gaming or design during our hands-on. But considering its integrated Intel HD graphics we're guessing it will struggle to play most demanding PC games, meaning that its bring your own device appeal could be limited for some users.

As a final enterprise feature, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) also features Intel vPro technology. VPro is a custom technology from Intel designed to protect devices from cyber attacks at a hardware level. Considering the growing number of criminals looking to target corporations, it might be worthwhile.

Battery and storage
Beyond its performance boosting powers, the real benefit of Intel's new Haswell chip architecture is its ability to boost ultrabooks' battery lives. Intel claims that thanks to its more energy efficient design, Haswell chips are able to offer third generation Core processor level performance coupled with Atom length battery lives. For this reason it's unsurprising that Lenovo lists the Thinkpad X1 Carbon as being able to last for nine hours of regular use from one charge.

Lenovo X1 Carbon closed

We didn't get a chance to battery burn the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) to check this, but considering the fact that its battery is non-removable it will be a serious pain for business users on the move if it doesn't live up to Lenovo's claims.

Lenovo has configured the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) with a generous 512GB of internal storage, which should prove to be more than enough for most regular users.

First impressions
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2014) will ship later in January, priced from $1,299. While we're disappointed at the lack of a removable battery, our opening impressions of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) are positive. Featuring a powerful and efficient Haswell processor, vPro technology and the latest version of Windows, the Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2014) could be one of the most enterprise friendly laptops available this year. µ


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