Phone, Smartphone, Notebook and Gadget Reviews and buyers guide
Phone Notebooks & Tablets Gaming Gadgets iPhone & iPad Shop Forum


Home > Ultrabook Reviews & Notebook Reviews > Product Title


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Editor's rating (1-5): rating starrating starrating starrating star
Discuss this product
Where to Buy

What's hot: Lovely design, 3 lb. weight, high res display, superb keyboard.

What's not: No dock or battery slice options, battery life just average.


Reviewed August 26, 2012 by , Editor in Chief (twitter: @lisagade)

Update, March 2015: read our review of the 3rd gen Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon that replaces this and the 2nd gen model.

There are laptops, and then there are ThinkPads. Robust notebooks with a soft touch raven black finish and the best keyboard in the business. So when Lenovo releases a ThinkPad Ultrabook, we take notice. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is Lenovo's first official ThinkPad Ultrabook. Yes, they released the original ThinkPad X1 in May of 2011, but it weighed nearly 4 pounds, had full mobile rather than ULV CPUs and didn't go by the then nonexistent Ultrabook handle.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is both thoroughly Ultrabook and ThinkPad. It has the unmistakable look of a ThinkPad and that mil spec solidness that says "go ahead, drop me a few times". It runs on Intel Ivy Bridge ULV CPUs (your choice of Core i5 and Core i7) with Intel HD 4000 graphics and it weighs just 3 pounds. Unlike the small but powerful 12.5" Lenovo ThinkPad X230, the X1 Carbon is one of the thinner machines on the planet at 0.31-0.71 inches. It has dual band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, a 3G SIM card slot and a 720p webcam.

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 starts at $1,399 for the base 1.7 GHz Core i5-3317U with a 128 gig SSD. The Core i7 2.0GHz with VPro and a 256 gig SSD is $1,849. There are a few configurations in between, and all start with 4 gigs of DDR3 RAM (8 gigs is max). But don't lose heart: Lenovo often has aggressive sales that save you 10 percent or more.

Hello High Res Display

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a 14" laptop with a 13.3" footprint. It has a 1600 x 900 display with wide viewing angles and 300 nits of brightness. And it's a matte display, goodbye glare! Lenovo addresses two complaints with the outgoing X1: no high res option and no matte option since it was clad in durable but mirror-like Gorilla Glass. Though the X1 Carbon's display can't compete with Asus Zenbook Prime 1080p IPS matte displays, it's one of the better non-IPS displays found on notebooks. It has fairly wide viewing angles, a very large horizontal sweet spot for optimal viewing and good (though not great) colors. The display has a slight blue tint and warmer tones like oranges and reds don't pop as they do on the IPS version of the X230. Still, we'd opt for the 14" X1 Carbon vs. 12.5" X230 display for both size and resolution.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Design and Ports

The X1 Carbon has a carbon rather than magnesium alloy roll cage inside (hence the name) and it's passed 8 Mil-Spec tests for cold, heat, dust, humidity, altitude and vibration. The shell is also carbon fiber, and as we've learned from high end Sony Vaio notebooks, this allows for a much lighter product. The X1 Carbon has one USB 2.0 port and one USB 3.0 port. It has a mini DisplayPort and a 3.5mm audio jack. Lenovo, like Asus, included a USB 10/100 Ethernet adapter in the box. We're honestly surprised Lenovo didn't fit a few more ports in this 14" chassis.

There's no HDMI port, but you can buy a mini Display Port to HDMI adapter for $20 to $30. Likewise there are VGA adapters on the market for those who use legacy projectors and older monitors. Thus the DisplayPort is very versatile and it can drive very high resolution displays that exceed 1920 x 1200, unlike many HDMI-equipped laptops. The notebook has small stereo speakers and Dolby Home Theater v4 audio that produces good volume but somewhat harsh and thin sound through the built-in speakers. Headphone audio is much more pleasing and full.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

There are two camps of people: ThinkPad people and those who think that ThinkPads look dull and chunky. Even if you're in the latter category, you'll likely think this is one cool looking notebook. It's murderously thin and not deadly dull. It's no Mac clone and it stands out from the horde of silver Ultrabooks. It's sleek yet sturdy looking and the surface is a pleasure to touch. It also cleans easily: a damp cloth removes fingerprint oils from the matte surface. It's also the most rugged Ultrabook on the market (excluding products from companies that specialize in rugged products for verticals and the military). Like all ThinkPads, drops and bumps rarely result in damage.

With the X1 to X1 Carbon size reduction, we lost the dock connector and battery sheet option. Both are common Lenovo ThinkPad features, and I know some of you are disappointed and might even have to pass on this otherwise lovely machine because there's no way to extend runtimes in the field with a sheet battery and the main battery is sealed inside.


Deals and Shopping:


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Video Review

Keyboard and UltraNav

Like the Lenovo ThinkPad X230, the X1 Carbon has Lenovo's recently revised 6 row keyboard design, and we like it. Ancient keys like SysRq have been banished, and the PrtSc (print screen) key is now at the lower right rather than at the top row. The delete key is at the top right corner where it belongs, just above the oversized backspace key. The roomy Chiclet style keyboard has oversized enter, shift and left control keys. Key travel and tactile feel are superb for such a thin machine. Sculpted keys that aren't too slick or too sticky round out an excellent typing experience. The X1 Carbon and Dell XPS 13 have the best keyboards among Ultrabooks, and we put the ThinkPad at the top.

The keyboard has backlighting: press the Fn and spacebar to toggle two levels of white backlight. Sorry, there's no ThinkLight LED lamp above the display to shine down on the keyboard. Typical of Lenovo, There are dedicated mute and volume buttons above the keyboard along with the ThinkVantage button for assistance and system recovery. The illuminated power button lives at the upper right just above the Fn row and a wireless indicator is beside it. The X1 Carbon has a wireless control slider on the left side.

The UltraNav combined trackpad and TrackPoint is made by Synaptics and they work very well. The trackpad is roomy (37% larger than the original X1's) and responsive for multi-touch, and is optimized for Windows 8 according to Lenovo. The TrackPoint, for those who grew up with IBM's eraser stick pointer, is there in all its glory. The TrackPoint has traditional buttons while the trackpad is the trendy buttonless glass affair. The trackpad gives a pleasing audible and tactile click when you left and right click.


Unlike the first X1 that employed full mobile CPUs, this is through and through an Ultrabook with ULV (ultra low voltage) CPUs that use less power and generate less heat than full mobile CPUs. Something has to give, and that's performance. While ULV Core i5 and i7 CPUs are more than adequate for productivity and streaming media playback, don't expect them to handle 1080p video production or 4,000 rows of Excel spreadsheet computation like their full mobile brethren.

But for those of us who use ultraportables to get everyday work done on the road, video chat on Skype, social network and kill time watching YouTube and Netflix, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is all that. With third generation Intel Ivy Bridge CPUs and Intel HD 4000 graphics, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is your productivity buddy. Lenovo sent us their fastest configuration with a 2.0GHz dual core Intel i7-3667U (Turbo Boost to 3.2 GHz) 4 gigs of DDR3 1333MHz RAM and a SanDisk X100 SSD drive. Our machine benchmarked at the top of the Ultrabook heap on PCMark Vantage, thanks to Lenovo's solid internals and the faster than usual CPU (most Ultrabooks ship with either a 1.7 GHz Core i5 or a 1.9 GHz Core i7). In 3DMark Vantage, the score was average among Ultrabooks with Intel HD 4000 graphics. Since this is a business oriented machine, Lenovo didn't squeeze out extra 3D performance as Toshiba did with their widescreen Toshiba Satellite U845W that's oriented toward multimedia and light gaming.

You can order the machine with 4 or 8 gigs of RAM (soldered on the motherboard, there's no RAM slot) and a 128 or 256 gig SSD. The SanDisk X100 is a very fast MLC NAND SATA3 SSD drive with an mSATA connector. The base model uses the same 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U as nearly all Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks, and Lenovo offers a 1.8GHz Core i5 and the 2.0 GHz Core i7 for more money. The faster Core i5 and the i7 have Intel vPro for secure remote management (important to your IT folks but not the average consumer).


PCMark Vantage: 12,339
Memories: 6973
TV and Movies: 5176
Gaming: 7494
Music: 15,796
Communications: 12,348
Productivity: 17,371
HDD: 38,071

Windows Experience Index:

Processor: 7.1
RAM: 5.9
Graphics (for Aero): 5.9
Gaming Graphics: 6.4
HDD: 7.9

Benchmark Comparison Table

PCMark Vantage
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 12,339
Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A (Core i5) 12,272
Sony Vaio Z (quad core i7 Sandy Bridge) 17,003
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 (Core i5 Ivy Bridge) 8152
Sony Vaio S 13.3 (Core i5, NVidia GT640M LE) 7575

Wireless Options

The machine ships with Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 dual band WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n with vPro. It supports WiFi Direct connections but there's no WiDi software for wireless display. The notebook has ThinkPad (Broadcom) Bluetooth 4.0 and an unlocked Ericsson H5321 GSM 3G SIM card slot (3G on the 850/900/1900/2100MHz bands, ideal for AT&T in the US and any GSM carrier overseas). The laptop can act as a mobile hotspot and rebroadcast its WiFi or 3G connection over WiFi to serve your smartphone, other notebook or tablet.

Battery Life

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a 45Wh Lithium Ion battery that's sealed inside. As mentioned, there's no external battery slice option to extend runtimes. As a consolation, the machine uses Lenovo's RapidCharge that can charge to 80% in 35 minutes. A full charge takes 1.5 hours and a 90% charge just 45 minutes. Excellent. Lenovo claims up to 6.3 hours on a charge, and in our tests over the course of a week, we averaged 5.4 hours with display brightness set to 50% and WiFi turned on in a mix of productivity and light multimedia tasks. That's at the low end of average for Ultrabooks.

You know that standard Lenovo charger with a barrel tip? Toss it in the trash or sell it on Craigslist. The X1 Carbon uses a new rectangular connector. The charger isn't among the smallest and lightest we've seen with Ultrabooks, but the high output 90w, 20v brick does charge the laptop extremely quickly.


I admit it, the moment I saw the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon I had a serious crush. That's not wildly unusual for this technologist, but those first crushes often turn to indifference once I put a machine through its paces. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon doesn't disappoint; it's got performance, build quality and a very good high resolution display befitting its sexy design (imagine, "sexy" and "ThinkPad" in the same sentence!). The keyboard is unparalleled among Ultrabooks, and the RapidCharge feature offsets the lack of a battery slice option. Among business ultraportables and Ultrabooks, it's hard to beat the X1 Carbon. Its only serious competitors are Lenovo's own ThinkPad X230 and the Sony Vaio S 13.3 and Vaio Z (all with more powerful CPUs). For those considering a consumer oriented machine, the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A with its 1080p IPS display is hard to beat, but the Lenovo wins for build and quality components.

List Price: Starting at $1,399



Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon



Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon



Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

To access the internals, you'll need to remove 7 small Phillips head screws from the bottom, the open up the notebook and lift up the keyboard deck.


blog comments powered by Disqus


Display: 14", 1600 x 900 LED backlit anti-glare display, 300 nits brightness. Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics. Mini DisplayPort.

Battery: 45Wh Lithium Ion rechargeable. Has Lenovo RapidCharge for extremely fast charging.

Performance: Available with third generation ULV Intel CPUs: 1.7 GHz Intel Core i5-3317U, 1.8 GHz Intel Core i5-3427U or 2.0 GHz Intel Core i7-3667U CPUs. 1333MHz FSB, 4 or 8 gigs of DDR3L 1333MHz RAM (soldered on motherboard, 1.35v). 128 or 256 gig SSD drive with mSATA interface.

Size: 13.03 x 8.9 x 0.74 inches. Weight: 2.99 pounds.

Camera: 720p webcam with mic.

Audio: Built in stereo speakers, mic and 3.5mm stereo headphone/mic combo jack. Dolby Home Theater v4 audio.

Networking: Intel Centrino Advanced-N 62055 dual band WiFi (vPro), Bluetooth (Broadcom) 4.0 and Ericsson 3G GSM/HSPA 3G WWAN.

Software: Windows 7 Home Premium or Windows 7 Professional 64 bit.

Expansion and Ports: 1 USB 3.0 port, 1 USB 2.0 port, mini DisplayPort, 3.5mm audio, 1 SD card slot.



All Phone Reviews
Smartphone Reviews
Android Phone Reviews
Windows Phone Reviews
HTC Phone Reviews
LG Phone Reviews
Motorola Phone Reviews
Nokia Phone Reviews
Samsung Phone Reviews
Sony Phone Reviews
AT&T Phone Reviews
Sprint Phone Reviews
T-Mobile Phone Reviews
Verizon Phone Reviews
Unlocked GSM Phone Reviews


All Tablet Reviews
Android Tablet Reviews
Tablet Comparisons
Android Tablet Comparisons



Laptop Reviews
Ultrabook Reviews
Laptop Comparisons
Best Ultrabooks



Bluetooth Headsets
iPhone and iPad Accessories
eBook Readers

iPhone Game Reviews
iPad Game Reviews

iPhone Case Reviews
iPad Case Reviews


RSS News Feed

About Us

Contact Us


Site Map