Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a reboot, just like the ones that you often see in movies inspired by comic books.
Lenovo hopes you will forget last year’s model, which had a very different keyboard layout.
Now, the one thing I have learnt from browsing ThinkPad user forums is that you do not mess with the keyboard.
These loyal users are so used to ThinkPad keyboards that they are understandably miffed at having to adapt to a new keyboard layout.
Although Lenovo has often tweaked its laptop keyboards, the 2014 model probably introduced one change too many.
The major change last year was the touch-sensitive adaptive function keys that changed depending on the context. Some users may even have considered this feature innovative. At a minimum, it resulted in a less cluttered keyboard. But it fell short in the implementation, because while the keys were touch sensitive, they were not tactile, which was bad for those who touch type.
In addition, some layout changes did not make sense to users. They had to retrain their “finger memory” when the keys for Backspace and Delete were merged, and Caps Lock was removed.
To ThinkPad loyalists, the biggest crime was likely the integration of the TrackPoint’s physical buttons with the touchpad. The look was cleaner. But the integrated buttons did not respond as well to clicks.
Thankfully, Lenovo appears to be listening to its users. The keyboard on the latest model has reverted to a more conventional design, and the touch-sensitive keys have given way to physical keys. The physical TrackPoint buttons are back.
In fact, the keyboard now looks very much like the one on the 2013 model, with slight modifications.
Amid the chopping and cutting, the one constant is the quality of the backlit keyboard. It is still one of the best on any laptop, comfortable to type on, and with good key travel.
The touchpad supports multitouch gestures with two, three or four fingers. Two-finger scrolling is smooth. But the touchpad is not as tactile as I would have liked.
The X1 Carbon weighs just 1.3kg. Despite its 14-inch display, it is as light as a 13-inch ultrabook, with a comparable footprint.
This is all thanks to a lightweight magnesium alloy chassis. The lid is plastic, but reinforced with carbon fibre and glass fibre.
Lenovo claims the X1 Carbon is tough enough to pass almost a dozen military-grade specifications tests that expose it to extreme weather.
Like last year’s model, the display has very good viewing angles. It is a touchscreen with a 2,560 x 1,440-pixel resolution. At 270 nits, it is not as bright as that of premium ultrabooks such as the Dell XPS 13. Colours also do not look as vibrant.
If you do not need a touchscreen or you intend to downgrade from Windows 8.1 to Windows 7, Lenovo offers an option of a non-touch full-HD screen.
Surprisingly for a business machine, the speakers on the X1 Carbon are really loud and did not distort the sound even at maximum volume. Not being an audiophile, I cannot vouch for the audio fidelity.
Like the previous model, the latest X1 Carbon lacks an SD card slot. But concealed at the back is a micro-SIM card slot for 3G connectivity.
The X1 Carbon has two USB 3.0 ports, though you can increase this with an optional dock. A special Ethernet extension cable is required if you wish to use a LAN cable as the laptop lacks a proper Ethernet port.
A fingerprint reader and a Trusted Platform Module chip for encryption are standard business laptop features which are found on this model.
The review unit came with an Intel Core i7 (Broadwell) chip and 8GB of RAM. It is one of the few laptops equipped with a 512GB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD) from Samsung.
The PCIe interface is faster than the more common Sata interface. In the CrystalDiskMark storage benchmark, this SSD managed a sequential read speed of 1,345MBps. This is more than double that of an average Sata SSD.
With an uptime of 6hr 34min, the X1 Carbon has good battery life. The battery cannot be removed by users, though this disadvantage is somewhat mitigated by Lenovo’s Rapid Charge feature. I managed to charge the battery fully in around 1hr 20min.
Lenovo goes back to basics with the latest X1 Carbon and it pays off. Expect to pay a premium for this top business ultrabook.