ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 2 Review

This review is written from a programmer’s point of view. This means I might be a little more critical of the keyboard layout.

The second ThinkPad X1 Carbon goes by many names:

  • ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 2
  • ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2nd gen
  • New ThinkPad X1 Carbon
  • ThinkPad X1C2

But what you should know is that the first generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon has as model number 34xx (Where xx is a subtype number), and the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon has either 20A7 or 20A8 as model number. The complete model number of the second generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon can be as long as 10 characters, in this case: 20A7005PMH

Specifications

MTM 20A7005PMH
CPU Intel Core i7-4550U (1.5 GHz – Up to 3.0 GHz) – Soldered
Graphics Intel HD Graphics HD5000 (40 cores – 1.1 GHz)
RAM 8GB of 1600MHz DDR3L RAM (Dual Channel) – Soldered
Storage 256GB M.2 2280 SSD
Display 2560×1440 IPS 14.1 inches widescreen
Keyboard US layout with backlit
WLAN Intel Wireless-AC 7260  (Up to 300/867 Mb/s)
Operating System Windows 8.1 Pro

Connectivity

The WLAN card is a Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 and promises speeds up to 300Mb/s on 802.11 abgn and up to 867Mb/s on 802.11 ac networks. The wireless card also have a bluetooth 4.0 functionality built in.

Model Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260
Antenna configuration 2×2
Bands 2.4 GHz & 5 GHz
Intel Wireless Display Yes
Supported under vPro Yes
Intel Smart Connect Technology Yes
Bluetooth 4.0

There is no ethernet port on the X1 Carbon, but it is shipped with a low power gigabit ethernet adapter, the Intel Ethernet Connection I218-V.

Model Intel Ethernet Connection I218-V
TDP 0.5W
Data rate per port 1 Gbps
Jumbo frames supportes Yes
1000Base-T Yes
IEEE 1588 Yes
Supported under vPro No

The WWAN card of my model is a Sierra Wireless EM7345 4G LTE. The signal quality should by slightly better than your high-end smartphone at this moment, due to the bigger set of antennas.

Model Sierra Wireless EM7345 4G
Operating systems Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Linux, Android
Form factor PCI Express M.2
Supported operating systems Windows 7, Windows 8, Windows 8.1, Linux
LTE (UE) Category Cat. 3
LTE Maximum speed
  • 100 Mbps downlink
  • 50 Mbps uplink
HSPA+ Maximum speed
  • 42 Mbps downlink
  • 5.76 Mbps uplink
LTE Channels / Frequency bands (See also) B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B7, B8, B13, B17, B18, B19, B20
UMTS/HSPA+ (3G) Channels / Frequency bands (See also) B1, B2, B4, B5, B8
GSM/GPRS/Edge (2G) Quad band
Location Standalone GPS, A-GPS, Glonass
Control options AT Commands

On the left side of the X1 Carbon you will find the power port and OneLink connector (it is covered by a port protector).

The HDMI port is HDMI 1.4 and supports a maximum resolution of 4096×2304@24 Hz, 3840×2160@30 Hz (tested on ThinkVision Pro2840m).

The mini-DisplayPort version 1.2 and supports a maximum resolution of 3200×2000 @60Hz and 3840×2160@30 Hz (3840×2160@60 Hz with Intel HD5000).

USB 3.0 port

Combo Audio jack which makes use of Realtek High Definition Audio.

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Left side of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon

On the right side we find a proprietary port for the ethernet adapter and another USB3.0 port. So we have two USB3.0 ports in total.

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Right side of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Ethernet adapter
Ethernet Adapter
Ethernet adapter in action!
Ethernet adapter in action!

The NFC feature is on the TrackPad (optional feature). Notice the NFC icon on the TrackPad.

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At the right side on the palm rest we find the fingerprint reader which you can use to logon when you swipe your finger over it. The Generation 2 ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2014) does not have the one swipe power on like the old ThinkPad X1 Carbon with AuthenTec Fingerprint Reader.

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Fingerprint reader is located next to the arrow keys.

 

Two microphones and the front camera
Two microphones and the front camera

Camera & Microphone

At the top of the display we find the 1.3 Megapixel integrated camera capable of recording at a resolution of 1280×720 with 14fps frame rate. The webcam is pretty good with good picture quality under normal lighting condition (it isn’t good as the Macbook Pro/Retina camera under low light conditions), it performs best under fluorescent lighting condition like in office environment.

I also turned the screen around 360-degrees in the video to show how much direct light would affect the camera quality. The integrated camera adapts quite well to the changing lighting condition without affecting the picture quality.

There is a pair of arrayed microphone next to the integrated camera, which helps to reduce background noise. The arrayed microphone setup is especially useful for conferencing in a noisy room, and it allows the people at the other end to better pick up what you are saying. Also, the microphone is setup to record voices at a neutral tone, the lack of bass also helps to make your voice easier to hear, and reduces background noises becoming intrusive.

All of this makes the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 2 a great machine for executives whom do lot of video conferencing.

 

Display

The display of the X1 Carbon Gen 2 is a 2560 x 1440 IPS display (made by LG-Philips: LP140QH1-SPA2) with multi-touch functionality (10 fingers touch). The display angles are very good, as you would expect for an IPS display, almost 178 degrees of vertical and 178 degrees of horizontal viewable angles.

Due to the matte protective cover on the touch screen, the screen appears slightly dimmer than the non touch version. Also, the matte protective cover cuts down lot of unwanted reflections under strong lighting condition. There is also the cheaper TN 1600×900 screen option, if you can’t handle the QHD LCD resolution, but the screen quality is average at best.

Do not hesitate to watch some FHD or 3K video’s on YouTube if you get the chance, you will be blown away by the video quality.

Battery Life

The battery life could be better, but you can easily squeeze 4 hours out of it on a balanced power plan with maximum brightness. If we start controlling power consumption we can extend the battery life to about 7-8 hours without much trouble.

It takes about 2 hours to fully charge the X1 Carbon’s battery. I haven’t been able to use RapidCharge yet. RapidCharge allows you to charge the battery from 0 to 80% in one hour!

Keyboard

A lot of changes have been made to the keyboard of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2nd generation). The question is if you will be able to live with these changes?

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Dedicated Caps Lock button is gone. The caps lock key is instead replaced by a Home-key and End-key. To use caps lock you now have to press the Shift-button twice. This is similar to the on-screen keyboard of tablets and smartphones. I had no issues adapting to this change and I hardly ever use caps lock. So I wasn’t really bothered by the fact that it was gone.

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The Delete-key has been crammed next to the Backspace-key at the top right. I still find myself pressing the Delete-key many times accidentally. If Lenovo had put the Delete-key on the left of the Backspace-key then i would have more easily adapted to the layout change. When under pressure, you can mistakenly press the Delete key instead of the backspace key, which can cause unwanted typing mistakes. Also, if you have many different laptops with different keyboard layout, then the likelihood of typing mistake would increase when you use the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 2. WP_20141209_09_46_02_Pro__highres

The dynamic keyboard row is a little bit useless, even if it looks stylish and the concept behind it is nice. In terms of functionality you might find yourself hitting wrong keys all the time when you try to touch type. Also i would have preferred that Lenovo used a physical Fn key in place of the touch sensitive Fn key, which reduces the chance of you switching the Fn key row by accident. Another problem that may come up is the fact that if the Fn key row dies (which occurred in another reviewer’s machine), you won’t able to access any of the higher function option on the keyboard, not even your keyboard backlit control.

Another problem that i had with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 2, is that the Ctrl key is too long (as it is taking the space that was reserved for the Fn key). When compared to the ThinkPad Helix and I noticed the distance between the Control-key and C-key for example is 1cm-2cm longer. This means if you want to use Control+C you might find yourself pressing Control+X instead because of the increased distance that you didn’t account for. Overall, while the keyboard tactility is great on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the weird layout style really takes sometime to get use to, especially if you own and use several different laptops.

ClickPad & TrackPoint

The ClickPad in the X1 Carbon is the best I have used in the new Haswell generation of ThinkPads. While the touchpad’s finger tracking is smooth and precise, and the frosted glass surface of the TrackPad area is also a joy to use. I can’t really say i like the integrated TrackPoint buttons, the click action or the precision is nowhere near as great as the one found on X1 Carbon Gen 1.

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Sound

The X1 Carbon Gen 2 uses a Realtek High Definition ALC3232 integrated soundcard and ships with Dolby Advanced Audio Home Theater installed, which delivers some great sound quality on both the integrated speakers or the combo audio jack. You can hook up your audiophile grade headphones without having to use a dedicated DAC or headphone amp.

I am truly surprised by the remarkable audio quality from such a thin laptop. I watched Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the X1 Carbon Gen 2, and the sound that came out of the integrated speakers were immersive, clear and loud.

The speakers are located at the bottom front of the X1 Carbon.

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Storage

The X1 Carbon ships with a 256GB Samsung PM841 SSD and uses 3-bit MLC (Multi Level Cell). The quality of this SSD is comparable to a Samsung 840 Pro, which is Samsung’s high-end line of SSDs.

Thermals

The ventilation is located at the bottom back right of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. A notebook cooler may improve airflow greatly because the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is so close to the surface below. But you should not worry as the X1 Carbon runs very cool most of the time.

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Idle temperatures didn’t raise above 56C in my testing after 3-4 months of use. You can expect idle temperatures to sit between 45-56C most of the time.

Load temperatures were did not raise above 65C if we stressed the X1 Carbon with Prime95 (Small FTU). Which is very very good for a long lifespan of the CPU. You can also see in the screenshot where the CPU is under maximum load that the maximum TDP was reached while we were testing, indicating the CPU was working as hard as it possibly could.

Idle temperatures
Idle temperatures
Load temperatures
Load temperatures

Build Quality

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon uses magnesium/aluminum alloy for the base and palmrest, and it feels really solid no matter how you are holding the machine.

CFRP (carbon fiber reinforced plastics) and GFRP (glass fiber reinforced plastics) screen casing is really stiff, there is minimal flexing or bending when you hold it, which reassures you that this is a premium quality machine.

I found no weak point when picking up the X1 Carbon at the edges or corners. But i haven’t attempted to pick the entire laptop up by holding just the display.

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Benchmarks

Cinebench R15 – OpenGL 18.08 FPS
Cinebench R15 – CPU 228 cb

Storage

Crystal Mark – Crystal Disk Mark – Seq
  • Read: 521.6 MB/s
  • Write: 248.3 MB/s
Crystal Mark – Crystal Disk Mark – 512k
  • Read: 454.5 MB/s
  • Write: 230.1 MB/s
Crystal Mark – Crystal Disk Mark – 4k
  • Read: 30.80 MB/s
  • Write: 93.53 MB/s

Verdict

Pro Con
  • Weight
  • Included ethernet adapter
  • Gorgeous 3K IPS display
  • Camera quality
  • Microphone quality
  • Build quality
  • Thermals
  • Speakers
  • Keyboard
  • Dynamic keyboard row
If cats love it, so will you!
If cats love it, so will you!

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