Lenovo ThinkPad X1 review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Connections and configurations
This is a business laptop, at least on paper, so some consumer-friendly features, such as the HDMI port, get jettisoned. Somewhat surprisingly, Ethernet gets downgraded to a USB dongle as well. While nearly every other current laptop offers two or more USB 3.0 ports, the X1 has one USB 3.0 and one USB 2.0. A handy "airplane mode" switch on the left edge turns off all the system's radios if needed.

There are four X1 Carbon configurations available from Lenovo. The least expensive, at $1,399, includes an Intel Core i5-3317U and 128GB SSD. The $1,499 model we reviewed has a slight processor bump to a Core i5-3427U, and adds a 3G mobile broadband antenna. For $1,649, the same model adds a 256GB SSD, and the most high-end model, at $1,849, pairs that 256GB SSD with a Core i7-3667U CPU.

These are all on the expensive side, especially considering that all use Intel's integrated HD 4000 graphics. Another point worth noting, on our review model with its 128GB SSD, the system only had about 50GB of free space left, after accounting for the operating system, Lenovo's custom apps, and a backup partition.

Matched up against other 13- and 14-inch ultrabooks with low-voltage Intel processors, the X1 Carbon performed as expected, falling behind slim systems with slightly faster Core i7 CPUs. Acer's Core i5 M5 14-inch ultrabook was a close comparison, although that system costs significantly less. ThinkPads sometimes take a small performance hit from having Lenovo's custom setup and security apps running the background, but in anecdotal use, the system felt quick and responsive when surfing the Web, playing HD video streams, and working on office documents. A current-gen Intel Core i5, even the low-voltage version, is more than enough computing power for all but the most demanding of users.

If you're thinking of kicking back and playing some PC games during your next meeting, the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics aren't going to be much help. There are no discrete GPU options in the X1 Carbon, but I have seen a couple of ultrabooks that offer that, including the Asus Zenbook UX32VD (but it's still the exception to the rule). Still, HD 4000 will work in a pinch for older games, or some current games (Portal 2, for example), if you turn the resolution and quality settings down.

Juice box
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Average watts per hour
Off (60 percent) 0.27
Sleep (10 percent) 0.55
Idle (25 percent) 5.27
Load (5 percent) 27.84
Raw kWh 25.64
Annual energy cost $2.91

Travel-oriented business laptops, and ThinkPads in particular, typically emphasize long battery life, as do ultrabook laptops. The performance here fell short of the hype, and the X1 Carbon ran for 5 hours and 9 minutes on our video playback battery drain test. That's not exactly unacceptable, but it's not quite enough for all-day computing. Lenovo includes its own battery and power management app that can help extend that time by tweaking various internal settings. But, the ultrathin bar has been set very high by Apple and others, so I expected more from the out-of-the-box experience. This laptop includes Lenovo's Rapid Charge feature, which can charge a battery up to 80 percent in about half an hour.

Service and support is especially important for mission-critical business laptops. Lenovo goes beyond the standard one-year mail-in warranty you get with most consumer laptops, offering diagnostic and recovery tools in its built-in ThinkVantage software, and priority phone support. The X1 Carbon is not available to order or customize on Lenovo's Web site yet, but prerelease spec sheets provided by the company indicate that a three-year warranty is standard. We'll update the details when the exact warranty and extension details are available.

At first glance, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks a lot like other ThinkPads, but in the hand it stands out as very light and portable. The excellent keyboard shows up other ultrabooks, and the rugged build quality is reassuring. With a slightly boosted battery and maybe a lower starting price, this could be a serious contender for my all-around favorite thin laptop.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Annual energy consumption cost

System configurations

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Windows 7 Professional (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3427U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB SanDisk SSD

Apple MacBook Air 13.3-inch (Summer 2012)
OS X 10.7.4 Lion; 1.8GHz Intel Core i5; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 384MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Apple SSD

Dell XPS 14
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M / 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Vizio Thin and Light CT14-A2
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Toshiba SSD

Acer Aspire TimelineU M5-481TG-6814
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE / 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5400rpm

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Lenovo ThinkPad X130e Intel Core i3-2367M (3M Cache, 1.40GHz)

Part Number: 23382AU
MSRP: $679.00 Low Price: $699.98 See all prices

Quick Specifications See All

  • Operating System Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit Edition
  • Installed Size 4 GB
  • Color matte black
  • Weight 3.9 lbs
  • Graphics Processor Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • CPU Intel Core i3 (2nd Gen) 2367M / 1.4 GHz
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