Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch Review

For a tech blogger, there could be no more intense week than CES. And that is exactly where we decided to put the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch to the test. The new Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch Ultrabook has been highly anticipated by ThinkPad enthusiasts, particularly because it takes their beloved X1 Carbon and ups the ante by adding a touchscreen for Windows 8.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch marries the premium carbon fiber build quality of the X1 Carbon with a touchscreen display that has been optimized for Windows 8. Unfortunately, with the addition of the touchscreen, comes a bit more heft. Specifically, it adds about half a pound of weight to the system. That said, the X1 Carbon Touch still manages to be a real lightweight – weighing just 3.4lbs with a 14″ LCD. Also, the touchscreen does unfortunately make the lid a bit thicker than the standard X1 Carbon.

Speaking of the touchscreen, the Carbon Touch packs in a 10-point capacitive HD+ widescreen display with a very healthy 1600×900 resolution. 1600×900 is really the perfect resolution for a 14″ form factor. The touchscreen is also a matte display that offers pretty good colors that help show off Windows 8. However the colors here aren’t as vibrant as the colors that can be found on some of Lenovo’s other Ultrabooks, such as the Ideapad Yoga 13. And while it may not offer the same vibrant glossy display as the Yoga does, the display on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch does offer great viewing angles. The display is also able to fold all the way back flat to 180 degrees. This is a convenient trick to have in its form factor, even if you won’t use it all that often. Its matte display also means that it holds up better in bright light.

Performance wise our test system is running on an Intel Core i5-3427U 1.80 GHz processor complimented by Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The system has proven to be very capable, handling all of our multitasking and basic Photoshop needs on the go. During the course of the show, we used the X1 Carbon Touch to write, live blog, and edit photos, and watch HD videos that we had filmed. The system handled all of these tasks with aplomb. Startup time is quite quick at about 18 seconds to boot into Windows. But most of all, we were impressed with how fast the system wakes from hibernation, thanks to its InstantResume feature. Resume time is about 1 second, which is pretty instantaneous. Because when you’re running around from press conference to press conference, every second counts when you open that lid to resume writing!

The battery life on the Carbon Touch is solid. Solid enough to insure that it lasted through our flight from New York to Vegas. On average, we experienced about 5.5 hours of battery life with moderate use. But what we especially appreciated about the X1′s battery life, is the Lenovo RapidCharge system which lets you get five hours’ battery life on a 35-minute charge. This proved to be very useful when running around on the show floor – this way we were able to stop by an outlet, and charge the battery back up quickly.



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Because two laptop displays are better than one…

The ThinkPad series of laptops is famous for its great tactile keyboards, and that remains true on the X1 Carbon Touch. Unlike most other laptop nowadays that sport a chicklet style keypad, the ThinkPad X1 features larger, more comfortable island-style keys, with a slight convex curve, that will remind you of days of yore. This is one of the best keyboards you can find on an ultraportable. The keyboard is also backlit, which is a great feature to have when you’re up trying to blog late at night in a dark room near sleeping colleagues. Of-course, the classic ThinkPad track point is also there. But this time around, Lenovo has included a large glass track pad, which is ideal for using multitouch gestures in Windows 8. Unfortunately, the touchpad proved to be a bit finicky for us, and we often found ourselves accidentally accessing some Windows 8 features.

Other standard specs for the X1 Carbon touch include USB 3.0 port, an always-on USB 2.0 port, a Mini DisplayPort with audio, a 4-in-1 SD Card reader, a Fingerprint reader, and an advanced face-tracking 720p HD webcam that sports a dual-array microphone and keyboard noise suppression. The system can also be configured with 3G connectivity.



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Verdict

After spending some time with the ThinkPad, we have come away understanding why ThinkPad users are such loyalists. The combination of its rugged yet lightweight Carbon Fiber form-factor, plus its capable performance, solid battery life, great tactile keyboard, and its perks like RapidCharge, all make it a serious business-oriented Ultrabook to contend with. The inclusion of the touchscreen on this latest X1 is also really a must, because the truth is, Windows 8 just isn’t the same without one. Fortunately, the X1 Carbon Touch is rocking the Windows 8 touchscreen experience, especially with its ability to stretch completely flat at 180 degrees. But if you’re looking for an even more untraditional form factor, and you still must have the ThinkPad heritage, then it’s worth checking out the ThinkPad Helix that was announced during CES. Pricing for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch Ultrabook begins at $1499 for the Core i5 model.

The Good: Tough carbon fiber construction with the ThinkPad styling, excellent roomy keyboard with great tactile feedback and backlighting, responsive touchscreen, just 3.4lbs with a 14″ display, 1600×900 resolution is just right, RapidCharge, capable performance thanks to a Core i5 processor and SSD.

The Bad: Display colors are not very vibrant, it’s a bit heavier than the X1 model which lacks a touchscreen, the glass touchpad is a bit finicky, only 2 USB ports.