Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon was one of the best Ultrabooks when it launched last year. The 14in Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch adds Windows 8 and a touchscreen to the already impressive mix of stylish design, quality build and solid performance. The additions make this ThinkPad thicker and heavier, but it couldn't be described as either bulky or too heavy. Rather the Carbon Touch is now more like other Ultrabooks, unlike its noticeably svelte predecessor. See : What is an Ultrabook?
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: Design and build
Design-wise, we're smitten. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch is one good-looking laptop. It is almost all black, with some red highlights. With lid closed the top of the chassis is a uniform sheet of black with just a Lenovo logo bottom right, and a ThinkPad badge bottom right - the dot of the i in ThinkPad glows red when your laptop is working. Open up and the design is similarly minimalist. The well-sized scrabble-tile keyboard is black out of black - the keys a slightly more shiny black than the carbon body. What trim there is is red, with the ThinkPad TrackPoint button a red dot set into the middle of the keyboard. Indicator lights glow green. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch lid folds back so the laptop sits flat on the desk. See also Group test: what's the best ultrabook laptop?
We really like the keyboard. As with other Lenovo keyboards the bottom of the scrabble tile keys is curved, giving you extra space when typing. And the size is good anyway. Typing is a good experience, with a couple of caveats peculiar to Lenovo. At the extreme bottom left of the Carbon X1 Touch's keyboard is the Function key. If you're used to Control being there, you will make a few mistakes. The trackpad is smooth and responsive, and it's well sized.
Everything feels stylish and premium. The ThinkPad is principally constructed of carbon fibre, the finish feeling strokably smooth to the touch but not picking up fingerprints. It's a sleek design - with the lid folded down the Carbon Touch is almost MacBook Air-like in its slim profile. But that carbon finish gives a feeling of sturdiness: we wouldn't drop test such a beautiful (and expensive) laptop, but we carted it around for days and found not a scratch on it.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch is heavier than the non-touch Windows 7 version. Without the power brick we measured it at 1.54kg, rather than the around 1.36kg of its predecessor. It's noticeable when you hold both devices. The Carbon Touch is not a heavy laptop - I carried it on my daily commute for days without regularly feeling that I was carrying anything more than my usual mix of gym kit, lunch and myriad smartphones and tablets (back off, muggers). But when you compare it to the lighter X1 Carbon you will feel like you are lifting weights.
You won't, however, notice the difference in thickness. We measured the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch at 2.2cm thick at its widest point. It is a smidgeon thicker than the non-touchscreen Carbon, but its a tiny difference.
Connection options include 3G as well as WiFi, although there's no ethernet or display ports there is a USB 3.0 connector. You get an SD card slot and a fingerprint scanner.
One other point to note about the X1 Carbon Touch's build: the charger cable uses a connector the likes of which we haven't seen elsewhere, even on lower-end Lenovo laptops. It's oblong-ended and looks like a big USB connector. Nothing wrong with that, and a gentle tug on the cable doesn't dislodge or damage it. But if you habitually re-use laptop chargers you are out of luck.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: Performance
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch comes with a choice of Intel i5 and i7 processor, and either 4GB or 8 GB of SDRAM. The model we tested had an Intel Core i5-3247U chip running at 1.8GHz with 4GB RAM. There's also a 128GB SSD, although we could see only 111.78GB, and before we even started nearly a third of that was gone to the OS.
Running Windows 8 this makes the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch a zippy performer. General office work, web streaming and movie playing are all perfectly snappy. This was born out by our PCMark7 benchmark score of 4,783. The best-performing Ultrabooks such as the i7-toting Sony Vaio Duo 11 and Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook attained scores of around 4,900 so the X1 Carbon Touch is in good company. It also boots up quickly.
A 4,900 general performance score was also attained by the best gaming laptop we have tested recently - the Alienware M17x. But don't expect the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch to be a gaming rig. It's not. It's a business laptop with integrated Intel graphics, so you could squeek through less-intensive games on their lower settings but that's about it.
One final note on the X1 Carbon Touch's performance: in our tests it ran hot on the underside. Use it on a desk and you'll never notice, but when we tested the Carbon Touch on our lap we soon had hot legs - and not in a good way.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: Battery life
Lenovo makes a couple of big claims on behalf of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch's battery: namely that is lasts for 8.2 hours, and that it goes from zero to 80 percent charged in just 35 minutes. The latter claim we found to be true: this laptop charges quickly, which could prove criticial on the road. The overall battery life was not quite up to the hype, in our experience.
But the good news is that the touchscreen hasn't affected the battery life overmuch. We found the battery life performed much the same as the older, non touch X1 Carbon. We tested that model's measured battery life at 6 hours, 11 minutes. The X1 Carbon Touch is broadly the same: use it for five, even five and a half hours and you should have no problems. And on standby it lasts for days.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch: Display
The Lenovo ThinkPadX1 Carbon touch has a 14in a 1600x900 display. And, glory be, it's a matt display - perfectly usable under bright lights. It's even usable outdoors, at a pinch. Obviously the matt means you lose some of the vibrancy of a glossy screen, but we didn't find the Carbon Touch to be at all washed out. Viewing angles are pretty good - you could defintely gather a few people around this laptop, although it doesn't look great from above.
And it's a touchscreen.
I have to say I wasn't expecting to use the touchscreen. It's a laptop, right? But it turns out Windows 8 and touch do make good bedfellows, even when you have a perfectly good keyboard, trackpad and mouse. It helps that Lenovo has given the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch a 10-finger multitouch panel. It's responsive - to gestures as well as taps.
I've used the X1 Carbon Touch for over a week now, and my experience is this: when selecting things, switching and closing programs, scrolling lists and connecting to a Wi-Fi network I naturally reach out and touch. And that's in the Modern UI and in the Desktop interface. I don't image I'll ever type by touch, but it really does make sense to use a touchscreen this good. And the applications for gaming offer good potential.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch vs 13in MacBook Pro with Retina Display
It's worth comparing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Touch with 13in Apple MacBook Pro with Retina Display. The MacBook is a similar screen size, is in essence as fast (4,596 points), lasts much longer on battery (~9 hours), and this flavour of the the Carbon Touch costs a little more. The Carbon Touch has a touchscreen, which the MacBook doesn't. But Apple's laptop has a much better display.