The ThinkPad brand has always danced awkwardly with innovation. Business users and enthusiasts have greater need for cutting-edge technology than most, but they’re also critical — and often resistant to change. They demand the best, but aren’t forgiving to failed experiments.
Lenovo found that out the hard way with last year’s version of the X1 Carbon, which introduced a unique row of touch-sensitive function keys and ditched tactile touchpad buttons. Users protested these alleged advances, forcing the company into retreat.
The new X1 has a more traditional interface.
Keyboard quality is hugely important to every ThinkPad. These are systems built for work, and work often means typing. Lenovo’s 2014 version of the Carbon was knocked for its strange function keys and mediocre keyboard; the new model only rectifies the first issue.
Not the best display — or the worst
While the base Carbon has a 1080p display, our review unit arrived with the upgraded 2,560 × 1,440 touchscreen. It’s a glossy panel, which may cause problems for productivity, especially because the backlight’s maximum brightness of 195 lux is hardly the most vibrant we’ve seen. It’s adequate, though, so long as the system is kept away from windows.
The display’s 1440p resolution, packed into the 14-inch screen, offers 209 pixels per inch, which is almost as dense as a MacBook Pro’s Retina display. Sharpness isn’t an issue, but depth can be, as the contrast ratio only reached as high as 560:1 in our tests. That’s not bad, but Dell’s XPS 13 can offer 690:1, and the admittedly more expensive Asus Zenbook NX500 soars to 760:1. We also noted a gamut that spans 84 percent of sRGB and 62 percent of AdobeRGB, lower figures than many competitors.
Quick processor leads the charge
Like most ultrabooks the ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes in a variety of configurations, with a Core i5-5200U processor as the standard CPU and a Core i7 as the premium model. Our review unit fell between those extremes with its Core i5-5300U, which bumps the base clock from 2.2GHz to 2.3GHz and the Turbo Boost maximum from 2.7GHz to 2.9GHz over the standard model. That increase, though small, had a significant impact on performance.