Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

This business laptop (almost) has it all

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

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With just one look at the ThinkPad X1 Carbon inside and out, it's clear what Lenovo is out to accomplish. This Ultrabook is designed on all fronts to be an everyman's business laptop. From its thin, light and sleek frame to its potent fourth generation Intel chip, this ThinkPad is aimed to please the power-hungry and style-savvy all at once.

Measuring 13.03 x 8.94 x 0.73 inches (W x D x H) and weighing just 3.15 pounds even with its QHD touchscreen, it was tough to notice the X1 Carbon in my backpack. The MacBook Pro 13-inch with Retina display is a bit more dense at 3.46 pounds, but a hair thinner at a mere 0.71 inches. Meanwhile, the HP ZBook 14 tests the limits of Intel's Ultrabook classification at 3.57 pounds and 0.83 inches.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

But these days, "thin and light" is only as good as the components you can cram inside. And given what rivals like Apple and HP have accomplished over the past year, Lenovo has its work cut out for it. So, how do this ThinkPad's guts stack up?

Spec sheet

This is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon configuration sent to TechRadar:

  • CPU: 1.9GHz Intel Core i5-4300U (dual-core, 3MB cache, up to 2.9GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 4400
  • RAM: 4GB DDR3
  • Screen: 14-inch, 2560 x 1440 IPS, IPS display with 10 point multi-touch control
  • Storage: 180GB SSD
  • Ports: 2 USB 3.0, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, Ethernet (via included dongle), headphone/mic combo jack, Lenovo OneLink connector
  • Connectivity: Intel Centrino Advanced-N7260, 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
  • Camera: 720p HD webcam
  • Weight: 3.15 pounds
  • Size: 13.03 x 8.94 x 0.73 inches (W x D x H)

For all of this hardware, most of which does not come standard, you'll have to pony up $1,609 (about £970, AU$1,745). If all you care about is getting smudges all over those adaptive keys, $1,259 (around £759, AU$1,365) is the price of admission. However, that knocks the processor down a peg to a Core i5-4200U, the screen to a non-touch, 1600 x 900 panel, the solid-state drive down to a still-respectable 128GB and drops Windows 8.1 Pro for the standard edition.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

Decking the ThinkPad X1 Carbon to the nines, on the other hand, hikes the asking price up to a whopping $2,309 (about £1,392, AU$2,504). Of course, that nets you a speedy Intel Core i7-4600U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a hefty 512GB SSD. I'd say that the configuration sent to TechRadar hits the sweet spot for what Lenovo is trying to get at here.

But here's the clincher: The Retina MacBook Pro can largely outclass the X1 configuration at hand for $60 less. For $1,599 (around £963, AU$1,734), this Mac offers a slightly sharper 2560 x 1600 display, double the RAM, and a 256GB SSD. Not to mention that its optional dual-core Intel Core i5 chip is clocked at a much higher 2.6GHz and comes packing Intel HD Graphics 5000 as well. All that on top of an SD card reader makes Apple's notorious upfront fees look nominal.

On the other hand, HP's workstation Ultrabook isn't as finely configurable, offering a similar setup for a steeper $1,799 (about £1,084, AU$1,951). For that price, this laptop meets or surpasses the X1 in many ways, namely with the exact same processor, 8GB of RAM and an AMD FirePro M4100 GPU with 1GB of GDDR5 video RAM. And while I'm torn on whether the ZBook's 750GB, 7,200 rpm mechanical hard drive is a one-up on Lenovo's laptop, there's no doubt that its 1600 x 900 panel can't hold a candle to either rival laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

All said, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is in a unique position when it comes to value. The vendor has clearly strived to marry substance, style and savings. While it surprisingly falls short of Apple's MacBook, it looks generally unmatched in the wider enterprise notebook scene. Do this laptop's showings of power and design seal the deal?

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.