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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.

Wave your hands in the air!

Gesture controls, meanwhile, rely on your camera to recognize your hand gestures. This works only with some programs (including PowerPoint, Adobe Acrobat and Reader, Windows Media Player and iTunes, and Microsoft Photo Viewer) and a few Metro games (including Cut the Rope, Fruit Ninja, and Angry Birds Star Wars). Swiping your hand in front of the camera (palm facing out) from right to left is supposed to trigger the next slide in your presentation or slideshow, or advance to the next page in your document. Swiping from left to right displays the previous slide or page.

If you're controlling a media player, these gesticulations move you back and forth through the tracks in your playlist. Making a tapping motion — moving your hand toward and then away from the camera — starts and pauses the player, moving your fist up and down in front of the camera adjusts the volume, and putting your index finger to your lips is supposed to toggle mute. Getting the system to recognize my hand gestures was a hit-or-miss affair, and I couldn't get the system to recognize the mute gesture at all. I definitely wouldn't rely on this technology if I were in front of an audience making a presentation.

Where's the @#*&! CapsLock?

A number of legacy keys have been relegated to key combinations, which might or might not bother you. Toggling Scroll Lock requires holding down the Fn and K keys; you must hold down the Fn and 4 keys to put the computer to sleep; and there are similar key combinations for Break, Pause, SysRq, and Insert mode. This last combo is the only one that remotely bugs me, but the other changes Lenovo made to the standard keyboard layout are much more troublesome.

On the old X1 Carbon model, you'd turn on the keyboard backlight by holding down the Fn key and tapping the spacebar. That's been moved to a dedicated key on the adaptive function key row, but it appears on only the last of the four displays (though you can rearrange the sequence in which these rows appear). What's more troubling is that Lenovo decided that nobody uses the CapsLock key, so it's been replaced entirely by two half-size Home and End keys. If you do  happen to use the Home and End keys a lot, you'll be irritated to find them on the opposite side of the X1 Carbon's keyboard. 

You can toggle CapsLock on and off by double-tapping the Shift key. Lenovo wisely added an LED to that key to indicate its status (lit when CapsLock is engaged, dark when it's not). That's in addition to the symbols that appear on the screen itself, assuming you haven't disabled that feature. The oversized Backspace key on the earlier model has been reduced by about a third, and the Delete key has been moved to the right of it (it's on the top row of the older model's keyboard). The only other change to the keyboard map is the relocation of the tilde/single-quotation-mark key from the numbers row to where the PrtSc key was on the old model.


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