In January of this year, I walked into the Lenovo booth at CES and almost immediately to the right there was a large display case set up, and inside was Eve. Eve looked great in the case all dressed in black, and was well attended to by her hosts. Eve is the one hundred millionth ThinkPad to be created, and I remarked at the time that it was likely not an accident that Eve is a ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

Eve, the 100,000,000th ThinkPad

The X1 Carbon has been Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad since it was launched, and it brings the world of the ThinkPad business class notebook down into a much thinner and lighter form factor. Today we have the third generation of the X1 Carbon, and although the competition for the best Ultrabook keeps increasing, Lenovo brings a lot to the table with the X1 Carbon.

Lenovo keeps the ThinkPad lineup outfitted with features that the average consumer does not need, and the price is higher accordingly. But if you are someone who travels a lot, and needs a full featured notebook with all of the goodies, you can find it in this X1 Carbon. While the Ultrabook initiative started out with smaller devices, it gradually worked its way up to include larger notebooks as well, and the X1 Carbon certainly fits the bill for an Ultrabook despite the larger than average 14 inch display.

Despite the somewhat larger chassis, the X1 Carbon keeps the weight in check partially through the use of its namesake – carbon fiber. The display cover is created with carbon fiber reinforced plastic, and glass fiber reinforced plastic. This lets the display be lighter, thinner, and stronger than one made of aluminum or plastic alone. And it is strong. You can certainly flex the display, but it never feels like you are going to bend it by accident. The bottom of the X1 Carbon is made of aluminum and magnesium, so it is plenty strong as well. Lenovo even points out that the X1 Carbon has passed eight MilSpecs with fifteen individual tests, including shock, vibration, temperature, humidity, and silica dust exposure.

For many devices, 2015 is the year of the spec bump to Broadwell based processors, and Lenovo is not immune to this. Luckily that is a good thing though, and the new X1 Carbon is now powered by the latest Broadwell-U based processors from Intel. Buyers get a choice of the i5-5200U, i5-5300U, or the i7-5600U processor. None of these are slow, but luckily Lenovo has sent us the i7 model so we can get a feel for how it competes against some of the other Broadwell devices we have seen this year. Let’s take a look at the full specifications below.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2015)
  As Tested, Core i7-5600U, 8 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, 2560x1440 IPS display with Touch
Processor Intel Core i5-5200U (2C/4T, 2.2-2.7GHz, 3MB L3, 14nm, 15w)

Intel Core i5-5300U (2C/4T, 2.3-2.9GHz, 3MB L3, 14nm, 15w)

Intel Core i7-5600U (2C/4T, 2.6-3.2GHz, 4MB L3, 14nm, 15w)
Memory 4GB or 8GB DDR3L-1600Mhz
Graphics Intel HD 5500 (24 EU, 300-900 MHz on i5, 300-950 Mhz on i7)
Display 14.0" 1920x1080 TN

Optional 2560x1440 IPS
Optional Mult-touch
Storage 128GB SATA SSD
180GB or 256GB SATA SSD with Opal 2 Support
512GB PCIe SSD Samsung SM951
Networking Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 (802.11ac, 2x2:2, 866Mpbs Max, 2.4 and 5GHz)
Audio HD Audio, Realtek ALC3232 codec
Stereo Speakers (downfiring) 1 watt x 2
dual array microphone
Battery 50 Wh Battery
45 Watt charger
Right Side USB 3.0
Ethernet Extender
Left Side USB 3.0 Ports
Headset Jack
Mini-DisplayPort
HDMI
Power and OneLink Connector
Dimensions 331 x 227 x 18.5mm (13.03 x 8.94 x 0.73 inches)
Weight 1.27-1.45 kg (2.8-3.2 lbs)
Extras 720p Webcam
Backlit Spill-Resistant Keyboard
Pricing $1088-$2300 USD (As Tested: $2100)

Since this device falls into the ThinkPad line, you get a lot of customization options when purchasing that Lenovo does not do for their consumer models, and that is very welcome because on a lot of devices if you want feature X you have to also buy features Y and Z, which can really bump up the costs. However a few things need to be called out on the X1 Carbon. This is a premium Ultrabook, so it is a bit sad that in 2015 the base model is still offered with just 4 GB of memory, and because this is soldered on (like all of these very thin devices) it would be money well spent to just add the extra $75 Lenovo charges for the 8 GB model. Luckily even though Lenovo calls it 1x8 GB in the guide, it is in fact dual-channel memory. The other big complaint is the 1080p model is offered with a TN panel. That is not really acceptable in a $1000+ device in 2015 any longer. Moving to the QHD version of the panel for $150 would be money well spent since that will bring you an IPS panel.

There are also a lot of options for storage, and the base model comes with just a scant 128 GB of SSD space available, but for not too much more you can bump that up to 180 or 256 GB. For those that need even more storage space and speed, Lenovo offers the SM951 equipped 512 GB PCIe based Samsung SSD. When the X1 first launched, it was a hefty $700 upgrade, but now it is a mere $425 over the base 128 GB offering.

The X1 Carbon is even offered with optional LTE connectivity, via the Sierra EM7345, for those that need mobile data connectivity without tethering.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Design
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  • Shan Barns - Monday, October 19, 2015 - link

    Beware the so-called extended warranty
    (tl;dr -- warranted computer, gone for over 6 weeks so far, dismissive and poor service, want replacement if they can't repair)

    I own an X1 carbon (2 years old) which over the last year has started to spike in temperature. The fan software no longer works, so I've installed TPFancontrol and Speedfan (one the first time I reformatted and reinstalled Widows, the other the second time) to manually control the fans. I updated BIOS and drivers, reinstalled Windows, etc. I did the normal blowing out of the vent and so on, but the computer would go up to 90+ degrees Celsius and crash. The wireless stopped working as well--intermittently and irrespective of location/modem/time of day.

    I sent the computer in for repair, under my 3 year warranty. The first "repair" did nothing. Within 15 minutes, the computer reached 92 degrees Celsius and crashed 3 times. I sent it back for further repair. (By the way, they didn't return it with all parts of the power cord, even though they insisted I send it, and I marked all the parts on the shipping form). Obviously there is no quality control on their so-called repairs.

    I have now been without a functioning computer for over 6 weeks. Lenovo doesn't have the correct parts and cannot find them. Parts for a popular computer that is only 2 years old. Now, as a doctoral student, it's pretty hard to write a dissertation without a computer, but as a consultant, I am losing money, since I cannot consult until I have a computer. Moreover my doctoral program is only funded for so long--every month of waiting equals a month in which I will have to pay out of pocket to be a student. Being without a computer for over 6 weeks has already cost me at least $4000.

    But when I contact Lenovo to demand they deal with this issue , they reluctantly promise to add 2 months to my warranty--that's it! An acknowledgement that I've lost 2 months of computer use, and a further tacit acknowledgement that they think it will break again. This is after the problem "escalated." Mind you, they don't actually contact you after you "escalate" even though they insist they will.

    Other computer companies will replace a defective computer under warranty if they cannot fix it. This happened with my old Asus, and with my kids' HP also. What is wrong with Lenovo's warranty? I feel that if they cannot fix a 2 year old computer, then this warranty is a fraudulent service they are selling.

    And I also feel that anyone considering buying a Lenovo should be aware of how poor their customer service is. They do not call back, though they say they will. They issue "part hold final" emails insinuating that this is the last time they will await a part, but then re-start the part ordering process. They do not know who your case has gone to when it is "escalated" and are entirely confused by their own computer system when you ask about your repair status. The "escalation" people are dismissive and condescending when you do finally get a hold of a person. They do not stand by their product.
    Reply
  • chris_of_sd - Friday, October 30, 2015 - link

    I bought this laptop last May after a thorough search. I've been using T410 at work for years, thus the bias. Also I was aware with the quality reduction when Lenovo took over.

    I chose this laptop for a few reasons
    1. Keyboard layout - meaning Enter button and navigation arrows are at the edge; and the trackpad is aligned with the space button.
    2. High resolution display available
    3. Style/ weight

    My experience with it has been quite bad actually.

    The WiFi adapter is the worst I've seen. Well, I haven't seen that many, except my old t410 and the usual mix of apple idevices. Eventually I was able to figure out some obscure setting that was disabling the wifi adapter to save power. Still is very slow to connect. With some old router the wifi was not able to identify the encryption method ( in contrast to all other devices ).

    As build there are highs and lows. My laptop has a loose screw on the bottom ...

    The display is quite annoying. I chose to have touch screen and the look I got is sort of the look that you get when you have a privacy screen on top. Not nice.

    The sound from this laptop is absolutely terrible. And this is not about the speakers, is about the sound that comes from the headphones. It makes is pretty much impossible to watch youtube.

    There are a few issues with cooling too.
    The laptop gets quite hot to hold on lap; let's say that this is expected. However, a second problem is that the air vent is on the right hand side, meaning if I place a mouse there or if I use my right hand for the touch screen I can feel the hot air. My old laptop had it on the left which was much better.
    Reply
  • mistera1 - Friday, February 12, 2016 - link

    I got a new X1 this week and was disappointed to find the Trackpoint and Keyboard Backlight not working. I called support and upgraded everything, still no go. Lenovo wanted me to send back for repair but I told them I wanted a full refund, and they said OK to that with no fuss. I have an X200 and looking for something faster and with a better display. At this point I will probably buy a used X220. Reply

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