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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review: Slightly overdone, but plenty tasty

Michael Brown | April 3, 2014
Lenovo took its sweet time cooking up Haswell versions of its flagship business Ultrabook line. While there are signs the 2014 ThinkPad X1 Carbon spent too much time in the test kitchen, it's still the best notebook I've laid hands on.

Lenovo took its sweet time cooking up Haswell versions of its flagship business Ultrabook line. While there are signs the 2014 ThinkPad X1 Carbon spent too much time in the test kitchen, it's still the best notebook I've laid hands on.

This new X1 Carbon is thinner and lighter than the original, which was first introduced in 2012 and updated (with a touchscreen) in early 2013. Yet it has a higher-resolution display, more I/O ports, an improved docking-station option, and an entirely new "adaptive function key" row. Lenovo's cooks should have served it up that way, instead of going on to mess with its keyboard layout and lard it with half-baked voice- and gesture-control features.

Let's go over the new machine's many positive attributes first, starting with its display. Lenovo sent an eval unit equipped with an Intel Core i5-4300U processor, 4GB of low-power DDR3/1600 memory, and a skimpy 180GB SSD. Its 14-inch IPS touchscreen is delightful, boasting a resolution of 2560 by 1440 pixels. Pixel density is 210 pixels per inch (PPI), just shy of Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display (which has a resolution of 2560 by 1800 and a pixel density of 220 PPI).

The screen is very bright, responsive to touch, and it delivers excellent contrast in all lighting situations. As with the previous model, its hinges allow for 180 degrees of rotation. Lenovo also offers less-expensive non-touch configurations and models with 1600-by-900-pixel displays.

Robust, but lightweight

The top half of the X1 Carbon is fabricated from carbon fiber, hence its name, and the lower half of the chassis is made from a magnesium alloy. The new touchscreen configuration is thinner than the old non-touch model (0.72 inches, compared to .074 inches) and it weighs only a bit more (3.15 pounds compared to 2.99 pounds). The chassis is once again wrapped in a charcoal-gray non-slip finish.

More importantly, Lenovo managed to cram more I/O ports into the new design. The old model had just two USB ports (only one of which was USB 3.0), a mini DisplayPort, and an SD card reader. Since it had no hard-wired ethernet, you had to use a USB dongle or a docking station, either of which would consume one of its USB ports.

The 2014 model sacrifices the SD card slot, but it has two USB 3.0 ports, both a mini DisplayPort and a full-size HDMI, and a proprietary gigabit ethernet port (a dongle adapter is provided). The new X1 Carbon also supports 802.11ac Wi-Fi by way of Intel's Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 adapter. You'll find a fingerprint reader on the margin of the right side of the deck, next to the right arrow key.

 

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