Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2015) Review: Back To Basics With Broadwell

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Introduction And Specs

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon has been through a few revisions now and it's easy to see why the product sells so well and why Lenovo continues to invest in the model lineage.  The ThinkPad X1 Carbon combines the sleek profile of a mainstream ultrabook with the durability and utility of Lenovo's classic ThinkPad line of business-class notebooks. With arguably some of the best notebook keyboard and trackpad setups in the market, the ThinkPad line is built for road warriors and demanding professionals first, but the X1 Carbon straddles the line with light-weight composite carbon fiber construction and squeaks in at .73 inches thick and just hair over 3 pounds for touch-enabled models.

Lenovo recently refreshed and revamped the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and in this third generation of the machine, they've adopted Intel's latest 5th generation Core Series Broadwell processors, along with a few other updates. In addition, they've retooled the keyboard and trackpad area as well, returning back to more traditional roots versus the second generation machine, which was met with some criticism, due to its adaptive function key row and over-simplified, buttonless trackpad mouse. 

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Flat
New For 2015 - Lenovo's 14-Inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook

So, in a sense, it's meet the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon, same as the old X1 Carbon, sort of. Not really, actually. But we'll take you around the test track with this new machine and you can decide for yourself if this ThinkPad update brings back the goodness you missed in the previous generation X1 Carbon, along with Intel's latest notebook platform features and horsepower.

First, let's take you on a quick guided tour...

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2015
Specifications & Features
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Memory: 
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Integrated Comms: 
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Keyboard: 
Audio: 
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Weight: 
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Intel Core i5-5300U (3MB Cache - 2.3 - 2.9GHz)
Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
Intel HD Graphics 5500
8GB DDR3L 1600MHz (soldered)
14-inch IPS WQHD (2560X1440) with mutli-touch, 270nits
720p HD camera
256GB SSD Opal2 (Self-Encrypting)
Intel Centrino Wireless-AC 7265 + Bluetooth 4.0
USB 3.0 (x2), mini-HDMI 1.4, Ethernet
Lenovo OneLink
Headphone/mic jack

6-row With Trackpoint Plus, Backlit Keyboard, Spill Resistant
2 x 1 Watt HD Audio Realtek ALC3232, Stereo Speakers, Dual Array Mic
8 Cell 50 Watt-hour
Top: Carbon Fiber Reinforced Plastic
Bottom: Magnesium Aluminum Alloy

Lenovo Companion, Lenovo Support, Lenovo Quick Control
Lenovo ThinkVantage Tools, Lenovo QuickSnip
Microsoft Office Trial
Norton Internet Security

3.1 lbs. (Touch Screen)
Starting at $1299 - $1574 as configured and tested 

The first couple of notable changes from the previous generation are that the new Core i5-5300U Broadwell CPU has a higher base clock and top-end clock (2.3 - 2.9GHz) versus the 4200U chip (1.6 - 2.6GHz) in the 2nd gen model we tested last year. On the flip side, the new X1 Carbon's display offers a few nits less brightness at 270nits versus 300 in last year's model. But finally, looking back on the bright side, for roughly the same MSRP, we're treated to a 256GB SSD now, versus the 128GB SSD in last year's offering. So we've got some appreciable upgrades and a small concession here but we'll dig in more on the pages ahead.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Kit

The bundle you get with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is pretty straight-forward but reasonably well-appointed. In fact, Lenovo includes a wired Ethernet dongle with the machine, on the rare occasion you'd need to tether it down for connectivity. Incidentally, speaking of cables (or the lack there of) Lenovo is specifying a 50 Whr battery with the new X1 Carbon, which is a slight up-size as well, versus last year's model.

Let's drop in with the new 2015 ThinkPad X1 Carbon for a closer look.

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