The Good The better-than-HD touch display on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks great, the new row of adaptive function keys is clever, and the keyboard and touch pad remain best-in-class examples.
The Bad Even dropping the higher-resolution touch display doesn't bring the price down, and the otherwise excellent keyboard has a couple of head-scratching, and typo-inducing, changes to the standard layout.
The Bottom Line The third version of Lenovo's ultralight 14-inch laptop, the X1 Carbon, gets nearly all the basics right while adding a few new twists, including a function key row that changes app by app.
Better-than-HD ultrabook gets smart function keys
Every once in a while, an example of technological design jumps out as substantially better than the competition. That's the feeling I got when I started using the keyboard on the latest version of Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The hefty, well-spaced keys feel great to use and avoid the shallowness of so many ultrabook-style laptop keyboards.
It's not a new keyboard, and I've used similar ones on many other recent ThinkPads, but after using and reviewing so many other laptops, it was a welcome change of pace to put my fingers on the keys and feel an immediate difference. However, there's a flip side. (Not literally.) A couple of jarring changes in the standard keyboard layout might drive you crazy, as described below.
There are a lot of premium (read: expensive) features packed into the new X1. The 14-inch display is a touch screen with a very high 2,560x1,440-pixel resolution (a less expensive 1,600x900 screen is also available, but for $1,299 and up it seems like a bad deal). Prices and configurations on the Lenovo Web site have changed more than once just while I was writing this review, with starting prices jumping from $1,299 to $1,499, and dropping back down to $1,299. As of right now, the 1,600x900-pixel-display version starts at $1,299, while the 2,560x1,440 version starts at $1,399. Our specific system starts with the higher-res touch screen, combining it with a Core i5 CPU, 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), and 8GB RAM for $1,679 -- according to Lenovo, although this exact configuration does not seem to be available on the Lenovo Web site right now.