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A worthy Ultrabook appears: the ThinkPad X1 Carbon reviewed (arstechnica.com)
159 points by Cieplak on Aug 24, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 196 comments



Depending on who you ask, the "stiff hinges"--common to all ThinkPads--are a feature, not a bug. The hinges will still be in great shape several years down the road when other laptops will be floppy or unable to stay open. I can hold my hefty W530 by the screen bezel, open, and walk around with it without the base moving at all or stressing the case.

This is a case of being built to last rather than being built to feel buttery in the showroom.


The laptops that I've so far had (acer, asus, fujitsu) could all be opened and a screw on each side could be tightened when they got too loose. So that's a tip you can use.


Amen. This is why I'll never buy another inexpensive Dell laptop.

Stupid things like hinges or fans will fail and the way these laptops are contructed, it's more trouble than it's worth to try to repair them, even when you know te rest of the components are doing fine.

Disposable Computers.

Fail.

In the end, I'd rather have an older ThinkPad, say a T61, than a new Dell.

There's one great thing about older computers: there are fewer problems with non-Windows drivers. Lots of non-Windows OS's will run great on, say, a T61.


Spot on.

T61 user here. eBay is a veritable goldmine of bits for T61's. There's not a single bit you can't replace for trivial amounts of money. I've spent about 150GBP on this T61 since I got in a couple of years ago (and that included the purchase price!). All I did was chuck more RAM in it, buy a genuine mains adapter (after the shitty clone one zapped me) and a new key scissor after I bounced the TV remote off it by accident.

I'd also say that the T61 works better with Windows than some of the new machines as well. It has proper hardware and no corner cuts like shitty network interfaces, "odd" graphics devices and b-rate media devices.

Also screw mag-safe - this thing just bounces if the kids trip over the cable (much better engineering IMHO).


Mag safe is the only thing I miss after moving from a macbook pro to a thinkpad.

It really makes me mad that apple was granted a patent when magnetic power adapters were invented by UL in the 90s for deep fryers.


> It really makes me mad that apple was granted a patent

Is that why no one else has implemented this feature?


Actually a company I worked for had prior art on that and had working implementations in the field but as it was the defense industry, they aren't that fussed.


Same with Lenovo Ideapads. One hinge broke in mine 2 months after I got it. It got fixed under warranty, they replaced the whole section of the laptop, both hinges. Now 1.5 years later the other hinge broke, I will have to either live with it or eat the costs. The engineering is absolute garbage, and it's too bad, because the specs/price ratio for Ideapads is pretty much the best.


Exactly.

Specs/price is one thing. Dell was a clear winner in that department. But when something like a hinge breaks, or a fan starts wailing, or some other structural part of the system fails, the "specs/price" ratio suddenly does not mean much. Because it's non-trivial to salvage the parts that still work, the ones for which you got a good deal.

With Dell or Lenovo, one might say we're not paying for the hinges and such. But that stuff has to work too or what's the point? You can't take those parts you were paying for out and move them around easily.

Someday maybe we'll be able to build our own laptops or "ultrabooks" like one can build a mini-ITX.

This is what I hope comes by way of 3D printing.


Here is the engadget review. It has comparisions to many more ultrabook models than the Ars Technica review does.

http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/14/lenovo-thinkpad-x1-carbon...

There are definitely some compelling Ultrabooks besides this Lenovo. What about the similarly priced Samsung Series 9, or if you have a tighter budger and can accept lower specs, the Toshiba Portege Z935?

http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/06/samsung-series-9-review-1...

http://www.engadget.com/2012/06/05/toshiba-portege-z935-z835...


Don't overlook the 2nd gen Zenbook Primes from ASUS, 1920x1080 IPS screens on both 11.6" and 13" models.

http://www.anandtech.com/show/5843/asus-zenbook-prime-ux21a-...


do you know of any issues with backlight bleeding? The Amazon reviews got me worried


Im using the UX31A daily since ca. 1 month... ive red the complaints about backlight bleeding and the 1mm higher cassis on the left while opened - laughable in my view. I am absolutely satisfied so far, great Performance, great Keyboard and an amazing high resolution ips screen which is also great for working outside...

Definately prefer it to any current MBA.


UX31A here. I have no qualms in recommending this as the best 13" ultrabook.


just got the UX32-DB71. Took out the HD, put in a 256GB SSD, and 10 GB RAM (CL-11).

Discrete graphics. 1080p screen.

In my opinion, this is the best ultrabook on the market right now.


Looks nice, but you would give me one I'd refuse it.

They removed the single feature that made me buy my current X200s : the full keyboard. A real keyboard, with real touch and real keys : http://bit.ly/P3NmYd A keyboard with Ins Hom PgUp Del End PgDn.


Meh. This complaint is widely overblown IMO. I came from a T61 and an R61 and recently switched to a W530 which has the same keyboard layout as the Carbon. I contemplated the upgrade for an extremely long time and finally jumped.

After a little more than a month of use:

For one, the "real keys" v. chiclet style keys issue is a non-issue for me at this point. They have the same keypress feel for me and there's part of me that prefers this keyboard more.

The Home-PgUp-Del-End-PgDn key issue is going to differ per person is a tricky one for me to elaborate. I hated this keyboard at first since the PgUp and PgDown replaced the forward and backward keys that I used HEAVILY. After cooling down my hatred, I'm completely fine with those keys and the top row of Home-End-Insert-Delete.

After getting used to those my only long-standing complaint is the god damned print screen button. Why in the hell it's next to Alt and Ctrl is beyond me. It's absolutely horrible positioning and I don't think I'd ever forgive Lenovo for this decision.


I also have been using a W530 for the past couple of months. I find the keyboard preferable to the T60 keyboard that was my previous ThinkPad baseline. Perhaps because I am a Linux/vim user, I rarely touch the top-row keys and don't miss them at all.

What many people griping about the changed layout miss is the improvements to the keyboard. The key switches have a better feel to them. While still not as good as the Topre switches on my HHKB, there is a definite improvement from the T60 to the W530. I also like the gently curved keys. It's hard to describe objectively, but my fingers "rest well" on the key caps.

If you're not a hardcore Windows IDE user (or whoever it is who uses Home-PgUp-Del-End-PgDn all the time...) then please ignore the Lenovo-bashing. Lenovo is doing great work putting out top-notch laptops for professionals.


I really hope they have a "Pause" and "Scroll Lock" button on there, too, because...what the hell is a Print Screen button doing on a laptop keyboard in the first place?


Screenshots? Weird to have a dedicated screenshot key, but that's what Windows has done with it for nearly eternity and I'd imagine a few people expect it.

As for the positioning; only logical reason I can fathom is they ran out of room and you can't split up Home/End, etc. (Then again, Microsoft drops Insert on some of it's full keyboards, why not Lenovo?)


That Windows needs a dedicated key for screenshots but usually has two perpetually useless Windows keys that few people ever use still baffles me.

Windows is a museum of bad design decisions that have become so entrenched it's impossible to eliminate even the most obscure ones.


For the last couple years they've been using an optimized "big Delete key" keyboard layout on ThinkPads. They increased the size of common function keys like Delete and Escape for better usability.

I'm not a huge fan of the chiclet keyboard, but I can live with it. But I don't understand why they got rid of the awesome big Delete key changes.


I love the big Esc & Del keys on the X220. I also have last years X1 with the chiclet keyboard and I very much prefer the keyboard on the X220.


I know I shouldn't feed the troll - but if you look, you'll see that insert, home, end, page-up, page-down, and delete are all still there.

Also, from what I've read the underlying key mechanism is the same. The caps have been made larger and they're curved and thoughtfully shaped.

I played with the new ThinkPad keyboard at a retailer and I think its better.


The biggest loss (and it's a biggie) is the double-high escape key. The rest is a smaller set of biases from a better-designed keyboard over 7 rows to a less well designed one in 6.

I've got a W520 (old keyboard) and my wife's got an X1 (not carbon). There's enough of a difference in the keyboards that I'm hoping they bring back the old one as an option. The keyswitches in both are pretty good, but the layout's actually a big deal for me.


The double-high Delete key is the one I'll really miss.


unfortunately, the most used key on my keyboard as well.


A real keyboard, with real touch and real keys

I normally would agree with this, but in reality, when I'm at home or in the office (ie most of my computer use time), I use a DAS keyboard anyway and even the "real key" laptop keyboards just don't compare to mechanical cherry-mx keys anyway, so for the times I use my laptops when I'm away, I don't think it really matters to me if the keyboard has real keys or if its a chiclet keyboard or whatnot.


Ha! I use a laptop keyboard at my desktop. Hands never leave home row. I loves me some nipple mouse!

http://shop.lenovo.com/us/itemdetails/55Y9003/460/60AC6A0372...


I do like the nipple mouse, but on the other hand, I do my work in a keyboard-centric linux environment (tiling window manager, vim, keyboard-centric browser).


Yep. I never use the laptop's keyboard. Always use a USB keyboard and have never had any problems (e.g. drivers).

Doing real typing on a tiny little laptop keyboard is for masochists. No shortage of them though. How many people are struggling with a touchscreen at this very moment? Suckers.

I have not used a mouse in over a decade. And I'm not about to start tapping and pinching a tiny little screen because Apple spends a few hundred million on marketing. The sacrafice (speed, ease of use, productivity, etc) is not worth it.


How long have they been doing the mac-style fn-ctrl-meta-alt layout (rather than BIGctrl-fn-meta-alt like most other keyboards I've had, i.e. ctrl in lower left under shift)? This was one of my main issues with my brand new T530, along with the prn scn button BETWEEN the right ctrl & alt... I'd like to meet the genius who met this (who, presumably, takes in excess of 100 screen captures daily). Those complaints are followed by weight, general flimsiness, & ultra-shitty speakers. I know it's not a media center but they could have picked some speakers that are not subaudible and tinny. I planned to return the thing but Lenovo made clear that they were not cooperating and I gave up. Ubuntu runs pretty well & with Bumblebee the Nvidia doesn't eat up the battery so shrug

Anyway I'm glad to see someone's at least trying to make a decent PC laptop.


You can switch the Fn and Ctrl keys in the BIOS: http://www.geek.com/articles/chips/how-to-swap-the-fn-and-ct... (The only problem then is remembering to use the right key on the rare occasions when you actually look at the keyboard labels.)

Don't know of a nice solution for Print Screen, though.


There are stickers you can buy. Search amazon.com for "keyboard key stickers".

with that said, I'm not sure I would use them - slight change in texture of the key would bother me.


> How long have they been doing the mac-style fn-ctrl-meta-alt layout?

Approximately forever. My X21, released around 2001, predates the spread of the meta key and has a fn-ctrl-alt layout.

No idea who came up with the ridiculous print screen key location though. And at the expense of a menu key, too! That's approaching Toshiba consumer laptop circa 2004 bad.


Lenovo messed up on the default calibration of that panel. You have the same problem with the t430s which I own. I used a ColorHug to get the correct ICC profile at which point it looks a lot better. More details and the profile from G+ https://plus.google.com/110166527124367568225/posts/bLg18FtS...

(Lenovo do ship an ICC profile with Windows, but it was made in 2010 and is simply for a 60% gamut screen of that resolution and doesn't take into account the actual panel used.)

Screens have been the major area where Lenovo have been taking backwards steps, while everything else have been (sometimes debated) improvements. We now have low resolution and 16:9 instead of 16:10 losing vertical resolution. My laptop has over 5cm of wasted vertical space (just plastic) that would be better served by being pixels.


It's worse than you suggest, and the trend has been going on for years. Highest resolution available in a Thinkpad, by year:

2005: 2048x1536

2010: 1920x1200

2012: 1920x1080

And the old ones were IPS. I like the old keyboard lights better than the new backlit keyboards too. This is not arbitrary; they're useful for reading things other than the letters on the keyboard.


It's even worse that the worse you suggest from my worse suggestion! Viewing angles on the new screens are pitiful, with very rapid colour representation as you move out of the small sweet spot. The only thing I have found any improvement on is that my 2012 screen is brighter than my 2007 screen - sufficiently bright that I can actually use it ourdoors.

The new keyboards are more subjective - unlike the screens which I can't imagine anyone defending. I got the backlit keyboard on my new system and am happy with it - the old thinklight is still present so I switch between the modes as suits my whims but mainly use the backlit mode. When you press Fn-Space it cycles between keyboard backlight low, high, then thinklight (with keyboard off) and finally all off.

On the 6 versus 7 rows, I am okay with the changes. But then I'm not that big of a Thinkpad keyboard snob.


That's because the old high-end screens are IPS. That generally implies better viewing angles, contrast ratios and color reproduction.


I'm comparing my 2007 vintage T61 screen which wasn't IPS - just a regular LCD panel to a 2012 vintage T430s screen. The viewing angle on the new screen is really small (both horizontally and vertically).


That's interesting. I rate the 4:3 T61 screen as not very good, but I'm comparing it to my UXGA Flexview so that may be a little unfair. I have to wonder if Lenovo thinks people just don't care about viewing angles.


I have the 1680x1050 (IIRC) 16:10 T61. That was the upgraded screen not the standard at the time. It was perfectly acceptable, and has decent viewing angles, but not comparable to the IPS panels of previous generations.

On the Lenovo blogs almost any post will have comments complaining about the screens. Lenovo's response has been that they could only get better screens if they had large orders and that doesn't happen (apparently it would take tens of thousands of orders to get a screen manufacturer to change tooling for a 16:10 run). But somehow Lenovo charge $1,000 to have 16GB of RAM in a laptop (the most expensive place I have found for buying the RAM as a component is $200), yet don't offer better screens for any money.

I am very grateful for Apple making screens an issue that can no longer be ignored on decent laptops. I'm very happy with all other aspects of the Thinkpad, but the screen made me seriously consider an Apple product instead. Lenovo are just lucky that some of the non-screen aspects of the Apple products are sufficiently annoying to this Linux user that I didn't switch.


Apple is well known for being able to get what its wants from suppliers, but I'm sure Lenovo sells enough laptops that if it cared enough to make screens a big issue with suppliers and a selling point for customers, it could get good screens too. When IBM wanted good screens, it created a new company (IDTech, since sold to Sony) as a joint venture.


The new models still have the thinklight.


The "real" thinkpads / T-series have the Thinklight still. This X1 Carbon seems to have a backlight keyboard.


My t430s has both.


This could be my new machine if Apple continues destroying OS X for me.


That's what I'm thinking too. For the past year or so, I've been wanting to swap my MacBook Pro for an Air, but I'm becoming more hesitant now. I just feel like OS X is going down the road of iOS, and their lawsuits as of late are rubbing me the wrong way.

Maybe I'll give Linux on the laptop an honest try. I know for sure it won't be Windows.


> Maybe I'll give Linux on the laptop an honest try. I know for sure it won't be Windows.

Just install Ubuntu, it works very well with ThinkPads and it's made to be easy to use for end-users.


All my responses on using Ubuntu on a Lenovo were summed up nicely on http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3964530 (Ubuntu visits Google.)

For my developers getting new machines, I tell them to split the HD into 3 partitions: Windows, Ubuntu and Mint - give each a one-week shot and then stick with what feels best.


I'm loving Ubuntu 12.04 w/ cinnamon instead of unity on my x201t.


Is battery life still shit pure shit?


Usually Lenovo laptops have a very good support for Linux. I have a x201 and everything works perfect under Debian/testing. I encourage you to give it a chance.


Out of curiosity, does "everything" include seamless external monitor support, sleep on lid-close and working wi-fi?

I am not being flippant at all, however the above constitute the reasons I moved away from a Linux laptop 3 years ago (and, conversely, will not move back until their resolution).

Thus far OSX works for my needs, but it would be great to have an alternative.


My expirience (x201 Lenovo laptop) with external monitors is excellent. I use 'grandr' for setting up the VGA display and I'm used to work with the maximum resolution supported by the laptop (2048x1536) and works smoothly and fine.

Sleep mode and WiFi works natively too. I have had some problems with hibernate mode but I'm not using anyway. The only think you cannot use under Linux is the fingerprint reader. Everything else works like a charm.


External monitors are still annoying in my experience, and the only problem I had with sleep was the VirtualBox kernel module causing issues (though you can, if you're willing to edit config files, unload it upon suspend, avoiding any issues). Apart from that, I've not had much in the way of issues with my T410 over the past two years.


Joining the chorus of positive feedback, everything (including all things you specified) work out of the box in 12.04 on x61s.

To be fair, there is a known bug in resume from sleep/hibernation, but it is not particular to ThinkPads but to Intel GPUs.


Oh god, you just reminded me of one of my biggest OS X gripes (before the iOS assimilation and lawsuits).... clam shell mode. What a PITA trying to invoke that was.


All of those things work great on my x220.


Yes, all those work on my new T430s. Just be sure not to get a model with NVidia graphics.


All of those things work out of the box on my T420s


haven't tried external monitor, but yes to the other two.


The latest 10.8.1 update was a step in the right direction, for a change. I posted a review of this laptop last week, but no one cared. :(


Upgraded to OS X 10.8. I'm not sure what's been destroyed about it?


Since Snow Leopard there has been a steady decline in the quality of OS X in terms of usability. Mission Control is an absolute piece of crap.


Asus Zenbook Primes seem to be a very high quality Ultrabook series as well (be wary of the differences between 32VD/32A and 31 models)

Also, the Zenbook Primes mostly have 1920x1080 resolutions. While the X1 Carbon was upgraded from a pitiful 1366x768 to a 1600x900 resolution, it's a shame they are still a bit backwards on that. I'm wondering what people think on the 1600x900 vs. 1920x1080 issue and how much of a difference it makes.


I don't have a true Ultrabook but I do have a Sony Vaio Z with a 13.3" 1920x1080 screen in it. I run it full resolution in Windows 7, with everything scaled down to standard size. Is everything very small? Yes. But when I'm sitting in front of it it's not much different than being a couple feet from a monitor and it truly gives me usable space. It's my travel machine as I am on the road a lot, and since I've had it coding in a hotel room is finally productive for me.


Why do you say to be wary of the 32VD? I was literally just about to buy one.


[deleted]


My understanding is that the thickness comes from the fact that the body isn't a single piece of metal, so you can swap out the RAM and HDD (unlike the 31A and 21A). Also, apparently you can repartition the SSD that's used as an OS cache into a separate drive reasonably easily.

As much as I'd prefer the formfactor of the 21A, the ability to upgrade to 8GB of RAM is too big of a selling point to pass up on the 32VD.


Yeah, it's just the difference isn't clear from the model name.


The 32VD is bigger/thicker than the 31 models and has a hybrid HD(24GB flash) rather than full SSD. It's got a dedicated graphics so I guess it's just targeted towards a different market.


Same! I'm curious too


I have Ubuntu with my X1 (less than a year old but not carbon). While it works great from a drivers standpoint, the trackpad is extremely messed up. My only dislike for the laptop is the poor trackpad. Other than that it's solid.


Can you be more specific than "messed up"? I'm actually looking at this very device as my next Linux laptop. Do you mean it performs badly? That the hardware is bad? That the drivers don't support something you want to do?


I have a Thinkpad X220. First thing I did when I got the machine was load Ubuntu onto it. There were a number of annoyances: the machine got really hot, the fan stayed on constantly, the battery drained way quicker than in Windows.

But the most annoying problem was definitely the damn trackpad. The main problem is that it's horribly jumpy and unpredictable. No matter how I tweaked the options for the device, it would hop erratically. Most annoyingly, the act of lifting my finger away from the trackpad would cause the cursor to move. So, for example, I would move the cursor over a 'close window' icon, lift my finger to do something else (e.g. press a button/whatever) and the cursor would no longer be over the icon. I'd then have to reposition the cursor. So frustrating that I just gave up on the trackpad for a while and started using the trackpoint (which, I tend to call "the nipple").

Eventually, due to all of the problems taken together, I just started using Windows 7 (which, to my surprise, I actually like) with Ubuntu running in VirtualBox. All problems seem to be gone. Trackpad is totally fine in the VM.


Are you running ubuntu with all the graphical niceties ? And is the laptop heating up more when you are running a vm ? Are fans louder when running ubuntu in a VIM ?


> Are you running ubuntu with all the graphical niceties ?

Yes.

> And is the laptop heating up more when you are running a vm ?

Not really but I honestly haven't hammered on the VM yet. I gave the VM 1024mb

> Are fans louder when running ubuntu in a VIM ?

Nope. I've heard stories about loud fans on the x220. My fan is dead silent. I actually have to put my ear close to the machine to know it's running.


Thank you. I am looking for a quiet laptop (currently using a VAIO) to run linux and I came to the conclusion that I better run it in a VM if I want to minimize fan noise.


His device is the X1. The X1 Carbon has a drastically better trackpad.

That said, you should try to use the TrackPoint, since it's a much more efficient pointing device once you get used to it.


Used a trackpoint for a long time. Big glass touchpad is way more efficient. You move your fingers more, but because you have more control over the larger range of movement than you do over the smaller range of movement, you can jack up the tracking speed a lot higher.


> you can jack up the tracking speed a lot higher

I just increased the sensitivity of the TrackPoint. When I use a MacBook (supposedly the pinnacle of trackpad technology), I feel like the cursor is moving in slow motion.


That's what I thought. Though the TrackPoint on my T410 has worn out after a couple of years and is almost unusable now. Ought to get a replacement for it…


Doesn't the trackpad differ between the original X1 and the Carbon? From his wording, it sounds like the drivers work well, but the physical trackpad is the limitation. I am also looking for a Linux laptop with a good trackpad.


The main reason to buy a ThinkPad is to use the TrackPoint!


After using a T410 for a couple of years, I don't know if I would ever buy another laptop without a trackpoint.


In fact I can't (don't wanna) use desktop without pointing nipple. I have two (home/work) of these

http://shop.lenovo.com/us/itemdetails/55Y9003/460/60AC6A0372...


How on earth did I go so long without knowing of that beauty?

Between that and this [1] I might be done until the brain scanners arrive.

1: http://www.logitech.com/en-us/mice-pointers/trackballs/wirel...


Dude, we must have been separated at birth. I have that exact trackball on my desk. It's upside down (trying to unlearn muscle memory of going to track ball vs using nipple) but for some extended "mousing" it's the bees knees.


Been using a unicomp (buckling spring) keyboard with trackpoint for a while... Sadly (and obviously) the bs keys outlast the trackpoint keys...


The Unicomp EnduraPro, I'm guessing? Can you compare its pointing stick to the Lenovo TrackPoint? I heard that it wasn't nearly as good.


Precisely. But controlling the trackpoint's responsiveness on the X1 (Ubuntu 12.04) is a little tricky.


What's wrong with it? I haven't used an X1, but I have a T400 and T410, both running Linux, and there are no issues with TrackPoint responsiveness.


The GUI tools provided only allow a small amount of adjustment for sensitivity and acceleration. To make large adjustments requires writing to something in a non-obvious part of /sys. It's not really tricky, but it's not very discoverable.


The trackpad on the X1 Carbon works phenomenally well on my unit running 12.04.


How well does multitouch work? Does two finger scrolling work properly? I have my mac set up to have a three finger swipe go back/forward in the browser history - would that sort of thing work properly?

I'm trying to keep in touch with the ultrabook scene, as I'd quite like my next computer to run linux. The trackpad not working super-well has been one of the things holding me back, as that's one of my favourite features on the mac.


Two-finger scrolling works great, but I've never had any success configuring three-finger gestures under X11 (on this laptop or any other). I used to be an aggressive user of those same gestures when I used OSX, but frankly around the Lion timeframe they started getting in my way more often than not.


Yeah, I'm still holding out on snow leopard. I don't really have a replacement option that I'd be completely comfortable with yet, although the linux ultrabooks seem to be getting pretty close these days.


My wife's got a Lenovo (can't remember the model) and this is her one complaint too.

The thing feels unbelievably cheap (which, given the fact that her previous machine was a bargain basement eMachine that had a far better trackpad), is far too touch-sensitive and the texture on it makes it uncomfortable to drag stuff around.


Have you used a thinkpad trackpad before? I am asking because I'd like to know if your comment is compared to other thinkpads or a general comment on the thinkpad trackpad.


> My only dislike for the laptop is the poor trackpad.

The X1 Carbon's trackpad has been getting rave reviews.


damn, If the Carbon has the same trackpad problems then I'll be sorely disappointed. I've been researching potential ultrabooks for a Linux/Windows setup and so far nothing really stands out.


I've said this before in another thread but I think it bears repeating here: You'll be happy to hear that the X1 Carbon has a new trackpad, which has been described by Notebookreview as "Oh my! Best touchpad surface ... ever!". The gizmodo reviewer: "Using the trackpad, was the first time I've ever done multitouch gestures on Windows and liked it." As both a Linux and Mac user, I'm happy a PC manufacturer finally seems to be getting it right.


Would MacBook Air help you? I'm really happy with how well windows runs and integrates on my MacBook Pro. Might be an option for you as they're nice machines.


Perhaps, but unlikely. From what I gather, Linux doesn't yet play nice on the MBA, which is a shame. If that story changes significantly in the near future I would certainly consider getting one. (My current machine is a white C2D Macbook, triple-booting OSX, Windows and Ubuntu) EDIT: actually, checking the documentation here: https://help.ubuntu.com/community/MacBookAir4-2 paints a much more rosy picture than I remember, maybe it would be a viable option.


I'm running Ubuntu 11.10 on a MacBook Air [1] right now - much to the consternation of my IT department - and it works mostly-fine. The install was a bit fiddly and installing kernel updates breaks it, but both of those are due to needing to patch the kernel, which apparently is no longer needed for Ubuntu 12.04.

Day to day, the battery life isn't as good as it is in OSX, but other than that, it pretty much just works.

[1] (4,2 I think, but I can't remember how to check.)


Nice, thanks for the input. This has changed the playing field for me quite a bit.


It was kind of a pain to install Ubuntu on a MBA, but I found everything except the trackpad drivers worked pretty well. And this was a year ago -- I'd assume the situation has improved.


how's the battery life on ubuntu with your x1?


This is all fine and dandy, but I would have much preferred them to put the effort into producing a decent X* tablet again. Since the X201T, every upgrade they did, starting with the switch to an even flatter and wider resolution and most recently switching from having one of the few decent keyboards remaining in the market to yet another clone of that hybrid style between TV remote buttons and the metal anti-vandalism keys found on airport internet café terminals that Apple popularised, has been feeling like more of a downgrade.


I bought an original Thinkpad X1 at the start of the year and after using it since then I have to say the biggest problem it has is the battery. It's more like a large capacitor than a battery, something to keep itself powered while your run between power outlets. It is actually quite disappointing when the sole reason you buy an ultra-thin "ultraboook" is for mobility and portability, but you have to stay tethered to a power outlet.

It's great to see that they have addressed this issue in the X1 Carbon. Engadget suggests a 3:30 battery life for the original X1 which seems about right, so I trust their measured battery life of 5:07 to be pretty close. I presume real world usage will be even better than the extra 1:07 from the original X1, as moving to the matte screen should mean a lower display brightness, since you're not fighting the reflectiveness of the corning gorilla glass.

The second biggest issue I have had is one of quality. My first X1 was RMA'd for faulty mouse buttons and wireless antenna right after I opened the box, and the second one I received reported incorrect battery capacity, had dead pixels centre screen and some other hardware faults which escape me. Thankfully I was able to salvage a completely working X1 out of the two (original and replacement), returning to Lenovo a very broken, but brand new Thinkpad.

Despite the carbon fixing my number one issue of battery life, I'm still not sure if I would upgrade to it, given then chance. I originally bought this Thinkpad X1 because it was supposed to be a Thinkpad, something that was nearly bulletproof and would withstand the abuse of travel and the outdoors. Lenovo has lost my trust in Thinkpads for now, but hopefully this X1 Carbon is better than the original.


Somewhat annoyed that their three comparison computers are all Macbook Airs. Ignoring the fact that you're comparing different OS and most people will choose based on that alone, there are several decent Windows-based ultra-portable computers out there. The Samsung Series 9 was the first 'Macbook Air killer' and is still solid. There's also the Asus Zenbooks (as mentioned already) and the Toshiba Porteges (Z set), among others.


I'm not entirely convinced that being a "Macbook Air killer" is even that important of a goal. It proves that you can do it & there's a bit of a halo effect but I've not seen enough people using MBAs to think that it's really a major market segment to chase.


The keyboard looks a bit strange. The massively wide right-hand set of keys (Backspace, \, Return, Shift) could be made a bit narrower, surely, and the navigation keys squeezed in next to them.

Judging by the keyboard layout, somebody reckons people still use PrtSc a lot! Well, with my suggestion, you could put PrtSc in this extra column, give us a right-hand Windows key where PrtSc is, AND you'd still have space left over for not just Pause/Break but also the vital Scroll Lock.

This would also make it difficult to put an inverted-L return key in, because it would be ridiculously thin. So they'd pretty much have to do the non-US version with the same layout for that section. So if you lived in a 102-key country you could finally get all the extra keys you know and love, AND a proper Return key. I would buy that.

But as it stands: meh. Odd keyboard, HD4000, max 8GB. Looks nice though...


broken record: just bought a t530 and the prtsc key makes me crazy. Who thought this was a good idea?? That and switching the left ctrl & fn (so it's like a mac). I suppose these things are just not for programmers/power users; anyway it's a big PITA to switch from ctrl under shift bottom left (every other PC keyboard) to "ctrl somewhere else, you just dimmed the screen."

EDIT: Thank you for BIOS keyswap tip. It's still not as good as a properly placed, properly sized ctrl key but this helps!


I thought everyone remapped caps lock to control anyway, but maybe I'm in a vocal minority here? I can't stand it any other way, and it feels much more ergonomical. Do yourself the favor of trying it for a while.


Or Escape if you're a Vimmer (theory, I'm an emacser, so it's Ctrl for me).


Agreed - Option "XkbOptions" "ctrl:nocaps" is your friend


You can switch the ctrl and fn keys in the bios.


... and this is why I LOVE lenovo.


So this is a standard Thinkpad thing, then?? How bizarre...

Still, at least it has 2 Ctrl keys. The Macbooks only have the one. Makes some sense for OS X (until you run emacs, anyway), but it's a real pain on Windows.


You could remap the right option key with keyboardremap4macbook, it also allows you to change it only for specific applications like Terminal.


Am I missing it, or does that review fail to discuss if the screen is matte (usable) or glossy (I'll never buy another)?

Also, I look forward to the day when 1600x900 is no longer considered high resolution. That should be entry-level for a 13" screen.

It looks nice otherwise.


From the Engadget review (http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/14/lenovo-thinkpad-x1-carbon...):

"Maximum brightness here is 300 nits, a figure that's a bit underwhelming. It's a fair bit dimmer than the Samsung Series 9, for example, which clocks in at 400, and outdoor visibility in bright sunlight is virtually impossible here. But, Lenovo kindly opted for a matte display, ditching the glossy Gorilla Glass found in the prior X1."


' Display (Premium) 13.3" (338mm) HD (1366x768) TFT color, anti-glare display with glossy infinity Corning® Gorilla® Glass LED backlight, 350 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 300:1 contrast ratio

http://www.lenovo.com/shop/americas/content/pdf/system_data/...


That's the original X1, the X1 carbon I believe switched to matt.


Ah, thanks. I was needlessly disappointed.


I've read some comments on this machine at http://forum.thinkpads.com. The complaint I see a lot of there is that the screen is terrible. It's bright, and has what passes for a high resolution these days, but the color reproduction, contrast ratios and light leakage have all produced complaints.

Disclaimer: this is a forum where people hack together T61/T60 hybrids so they can have 8gb of RAM and a UXGA IPS panel, so they make have higher standards for their screens than most people.


My Lenovo Brick... uh oh I mean T410S is still sitting on my desk. Within 2 months of getting it, the screen started having large white lines in it. Within 4 months the plastic started cracking, and within 7 months I got a fan error. I just won't trust a lenovo again.


You were very unlucky. I rarely see so many issues. I don't have recent models, but own a dozen from 2002 and 2009 which are all still in great working condition. I hope they serviced your warranty promptly though.


I've been a Thinkpad fan for about a decade now. I bought a W500 to replace a stolen T60p a couple years ago. Aside from having a better GPU, it was not an upgrade.

* There's less metal in the frame, I assume to make it lighter. It also makes it less sturdy.

* The screen is 150px shorter, but only 80px wider. Net loss.

* The screen is much lower quality: TN vs IPS, lots of light leakage from the backlight, poor contrast.

* The keyboard is worse; it flexes more.

* The plastics aren't as durable.

* The audio ports are on the front. That means no sitting in a semi-reclined position with headphones plugged in. It's enough to make me wonder if the people who designed the thing have ever used a laptop away from a desk.

After about 18 months, I started having problems. First the keyboard died. Then the hinges started getting loose, and eventually broke entirely. The plastics cracked in several places. The internal screen stopped displaying video (not just the backlight - there's nothing). My girlfriend has a T400 and also had problems with plastics cracking.

Now I have another T60p, but with a T61p motherboard in it so I can have 8gb of RAM. It's the best laptop I've ever used.


Sadly the control shift to Lenovo full time was indeed a regression. IIRC IBM ThinkPad engineering division in Japan is part of Lenovo, they're probably tied to stupid constraints and market decisions. I thought it was fixed by now...

The <60 era had a lot of great features in terms of human interface, if I could retrofit a x200 mobo in a x40 shell I would. I'm not demanding in terms of speed but consumption, heat, virtualisation .. hard to ignore.

About LCD panels, it sks hard, so hard sometimes I use my crap sony tv as a monitor to have decent contrast/color. Anything is better than the default panel.

I've said that before but there's a little market for pre-lenovo quality laptops. Everybody complains about laptops nowadays, if someone release a single good model he'll get a lot of silver.


My coworkers had the same issues.


I guess it's an enterprise contract, machines being from the same batch and unfortunately will all have the same failing components and symptoms. Did Lenovo give you new ones ? if so how are they doing now ?


I am currently using a Lenovo T60p... a laptop from 2005. Lenovo is known to be a reliable business laptop.


The T60p's were absolutely fantastic machines. I used mine (got it early in 2007) fulltime until a couple of months ago when the fan died (for the second time. Made very loud grinding noises whenever it tried to spin up.) I still use it on occasion without the fan, making sure to suspend to ram as soon as I see the temperature go past 75C or so. I didn't bother fixing it this time since the price of a new fan/heatsink assembly and a new battery would have been more than the cheapest eeepc I could find on newegg, but I've wanted to get another thinkpad ever since.


Heatsink/fan assemblies are under $10 on ebay, and these laptops are straightforward to disassemble. The official hardware maintenance manual will tell you step by step. It should take less than an hour to replace.


Ah, they were around 30-50USD on ebay last time I looked; thanks for the tip.


If you haven't yet, you may want to try opening the case and cleaning the fan with compressed air. I fixed the infamous "Fan Error" on my 3yo x61s this way.


Yeah, I tried cleaning it extensively. I think a bearing went in it though.


Some people in my office still have their T60's. Lenovo used to make some great products. I just had a really bad experience with them. My entire team got screwed with these T410s's and their support (despite having paid extra for better support) has been bad. They replaced my bosses screen 3 times. 2 months later, the LCD goes again.


I have a Lenovo Y 410 from 2007. Runs/works very well even in 2012 :)


I find it funny that you got downvoted by giving your consumer feedback. Fanboys everywhere.


I downvoted because the OP is drawing conclusion from a ridiculously small sample size (1). This is equivalent to saying you're never buying a Seagate hard drive again, because once, one failed 5 years ago.

Disclaimer: I own, use and like my Macbook Air, no Lenovo "fanboy" here.


small sample size (1) Wrong, my entire team had the same model. My sample size is currently 10. Still not huge, but significant enough. Each and every one of us had the EXACT same issues.


Nevertheless, the conclusion that you'll "never trust Lenovo again" is a classic bit of idiocy from people talking about laptops. To infer that current laptops are going to have problems because you god a bad batch of laptops several years ago, instead of looking at overall figures, just results in incessant brand-hopping, going from Dell to HP to Lenovo to Apple to Panasonic, swearing off more and more manufacturers and narrowing the set of options more and more without any reference to the possibility that individual products were poorly designed, or a supplier which they don't use any more used bad components sent by another supplier they don't use any more either. In particular, if you all got the same problem, from a set of laptops at one company, it's likely they came from the same batch, and had some temporary problem from one supplier. To simply discount their laptops in general is to ignore the fact that all laptops have failure rates. Granted, there's a reason the list stopped at Panasonic.


3 of 5 here.


One person's consumer feedback doesn't really add much to the dicussion.


"One person's consumer feedback doesn't really add much to the dicussion."

I read the comments sections on sites to know about individual's opinions. Don't you?


i can haz ubuntu?


exactly what i was thinking. we linux users need a good laptop that looks good, perform well, and something that isn't apple!


And for the record, Linux and the Retina MBPs don't get along.

http://www.linuxinsider.com/story/Linux-and-Apple-Which-Is-t...

(FYI: the Phoronix post has an overlay ad)


I really like how those guys think it's somehow Apple's fault. Fonts are too small because Linux doesn't have resolution independence? Apple sucks for building a laptop with too many pixels.


Wow, the original Phoronix article was much more reasonable. http://www.phoronix.com/scan.php?page=article&item=apple...


This isn't entirely true. A Fedora developer was able to have much more sauccess then the Phoronix tester. I can't find the post on the internet, but it was linked on HN a while back.


I might be in the minority here but looks good is probably the last thing I'm looking for in a machine.


Can anybody of your guys test with Ubuntu. The X1 is not out yet in Germany. The windows 7 version should work quite well with Ubuntu, since it's no dedicated graphics card there should not be any problems with Ubuntu.


I've got an X1 Carbon running 12.04 without any significant hardware issues besides battery life. I only get 3-4 hours on a charge, but I've also not done any intense tuning as of yet.


You know TLP and Jupiter?


The Verge has a nice video review of this unit: http://www.theverge.com/2012/8/13/3232132/lenovo-thinkpad-x1...


I don't understand why two-finger scrolling works in some applications but not in every application...

Isn't two-finger scrolling basically a hw emulated wheel scrolling as far as the OS is concerned ?


I think the issue is with discrete (line-at-a-time) vs. smooth (pixel-at-a-time) scrolling. Two-finger scrolling typically sends the latter type of event, which is not yet widely supported in Windows and Linux software (although I have it working on my thinkpad X121e with the latest gtk3).


I thought the "smoothing" was done entirely in software because my old genius mouse wheel behaviour changes according to firefox "smooth scrolling" setting.

It still seems weird to me that if the smooth (pixel-at-a-time) event is sent two-fingers scrolling fails while a mouse doesn't. The OS or the application is accepting pixel-at-a-time event and fails or succeeds regardless of the originating device (mouse, touchpad, wacom, etc.).


How is the noise profile? My 4 year old t400 (upgraded to 8gbyte ram and a SSD) is still dead silent except when playing hd video.


Too bad it's limited to 8GB of RAM.


Eh, I think 8GB RAM for a laptop is pretty damn good. It's an ultrabook, not a server replacement!



I have 16GB in my laptop (Lenovo T430s). The chipset can support 32GB.


Is the RAM user upgradable? Otherwise it's an unconscionable $250 to go from 4GB to 8GB and no option to go higher.


Apparently the ram is soldered on the motherboard, so no.


I would have a hard time going backwards from 16 on my workstation :|

Sometimes heap dumps can exceed 8GB.


No RJ45, No VGA? There is a lot of old hardware / circumstances requiring this in a professional setting. An adapter is not an option because I am going to loose it all the time.


Then you're not in the market these machines serve. I have been rocking the MBA since it came out, and the latest rev is I think the best computer ever made for me. When they go Retina (and use a discrete graphics card) I will be in hog heaven.

People occasionally ask me what laptop to buy, and I always admit that I know nothing about the Windows laptop market. Is Thinkpad still the only game in town?


I also know nothing about the Windows laptop market. But in Linux land Thinkpad is just working perfect.


More accurate I guess would have been "the ~OSX laptop market." Precision in language!


VGA ports are too tall to fit in ultra-slim laptops. RJ45 is a bit smaller, but must also be sacrificed for slimness.


Some old PCMCIA cards used to have pop-out RJ45 connectors where the cable plugged vertically into a square open-ended socket. While making this design durable seems difficult, I'd still appreciate having an Ultrabook that didn't require a dongle.


Similarly, the latest model of Vaio Z has an ethernet port taller than the body, with a plastic cover that folds open to accept the full height of connector.


Get the T430s. One pound heavier, a little bigger, ethernet and vga ports. And full voltage processor.


Ouch. They still make notebooks with the "nipple" mouse? I actually thought it was a Thinkpad from the 90's on the first pic.

BTW, who invented the term "ultrabook"? It's cheesy as hell. Reminds me of the "laser disc" days.


I love the nipple mouse. I find it much less irritating on my wrists than a trackpad. Plus, it allows for a rapid transition between keyboard and mouse.


I agree and I have disabled the trackpads in the bios settings for both of my Lenovo laptops. I just wish they could solve the slight movement drift you experience sometimes when using the ThinkPoint.


I'm a fan of turning the entire trackpad into one giant scrollwheel (and cranking the palm-detection up). Might as well use it for something I figure.


Oh. You echo my very pet peeve with the trackpoint. I hate the slight drift.

I have a script that disables the trackpad. I will figure out how to do it in the bios.


I've found that pressing directly down very hard on the stick will sometimes kill the drift.


The trackpoint always auto-calibrates itself when you let go of it. If you begin to get a drift, let go for a few seconds and it'll fix itself.


The drift I see is when your finger is off the stick and the cursor keeps moving. And it goes more than a few seconds.


Yeah, it'll do that because it's used to your finger being on the stick and thinks that's the neutral position. It's supposed to stop and recalibrate itself eventually, especially when it reaches the edge of the screen. I've never had that take more than a dozen seconds on my Thinkpads (X31, T60) but of course YMMV, yours might be actually buggy.


They never stopped making laptops with the trackpoint and frankly, I don't know why they would ever consider stopping. I have never met somebody who had a thinkpad and did not like it; the only people it seems to annoy are people who have not had one.


I'd be glad to pay extra to get rid of it.unfortunately they don't offer that. The only time when I use it is when I push it by accident along with one of the keys.


You could just disable it.

Interestingly though, on some thinkpads you have the option to pay less and only have the trackpoint. I've seen a few cheaper R-model thinkpads without trackpads. You are right though, the opposite doesn't seem to be an option. My guess is they think it is too much of a signature touch to be excluded.

Edit: Apparently the reason is that they don't want to alienate all the thinkpad users who have been using it for years: http://www.techradar.com/us/news/mobile-computing/laptops/th...

Honestly I think it is exactly that sort of attitude that has secured their place as a corporate laptop supplier.


Ouch. They still make notebooks with the "nipple" mouse? I actually thought it was a Thinkpad from the 90's on the first pic.

I don't get it - I quite like the "nipple" mouse - I find it much quicker to use than the touchpad, both in the "I don't need to reach away from the home row" sense and the fact that its pretty sensitive so I can move the mouse really quickly.


Well, setting aside that laser discs actually were optical disks read by a laser, "Ultrabook" is an Intel coinage for parts assembling OEMs to use so that they don't have to fess up to the existence of the Macbook Air.


I second the love for the "nipple" that others professed. In fact, I keep the touchpad on my Thinkpad disabled entirely...

But even if you don't use it personally, why does that make it "ouch"? Isn't it good to have the choice?


Intel. And the nipple is awesome. Much faster than swiping a finger across a trackpad.


Ultrabook is easier to say then "Mac Book Air competitor".


My Dell E6500 has one. I love it. You can still buy them on some of their higher-end machines.




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