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Lenovo refreshes its ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook with 'adaptive' keyboard, 2,560 x 1,440 screen option

Dana Wollman, @danawollman
January 5, 2014
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Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon was once our favorite business Ultrabook -- actually, make that one of our favorite Ultrabooks, period. Still, it's been a long time since we've been able to recommend it: A year and a half after it first went on sale, it's still saddled with a 1,600 x 900 screen and a 2012-era Ivy Bridge processor. Thankfully, Lenovo has finally unveiled a refreshed model, and it brings almost everything you'd expect from a modern machine, including a 2,560 x 1,440 screen option, Haswell processors and longer battery life (up to nine hours, according to Lenovo). If nine hours isn't enough, the X1 Carbon makes use of Lenovo's Rapid Charge tech, which promises an 80 percent charge in under an hour.

Oddly, Lenovo dared to mess with the keyboard -- the main reason some folks have remained loyal to the ThinkPad brand. Here, there's an "adaptive" panel up top, with context-specific controls that only light up when needed. Thankfully, the layout otherwise hasn't changed much, and the red TrackPoint is still there (so is the large buttonless trackpad, but you should be used to that by now). We also got to spend some time on the new keyboard and aside from that top row of adaptive keys, it feels almost identical to the chiclet layout used on its predecessor. In fact, the redesigned keyboard looks cleaner and more modern than ThinkPads past. The fingerprint scanner now sits flush with the keyboard lines, while the touchpad is now a flat plane, more in line with other Ultrabooks and simply more modern.

Elsewhere on the machine, Lenovo added NFC, voice commands (via pre-installed Dragon software) and gesture control, allowing you to swipe through presentation slides and the like by waving your hand.

Gallery: Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 (2014) | 12 Photos

Gallery: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon hands-on (2014) | 14 Photos

On the performance front, this uses IT-friendly vPro Haswell processors, going all the way up to Core i7. Other configuration options include up to 8GB of RAM, up to 512GB of solid-state storage and built-in 4G. Given that it's a business machine, you can also expect TPM security, along with a fingerprint reader. Additionally, Lenovo says the fan is 13 percent thinner -- dust-resistant, even -- though it's unclear what impact, if any, this will have on operating noise.

As for the display, the X1 Carbon still comes standard with a 14-inch, non-touch 1,600 x 900 screen, though there is that 2,560 x 1,440 panel, assuming you have the money to upgrade beyond the $1,299 starting price. And hey, if you choose the higher resolution, you can also upgrade to a touchscreen, with a minor drop in brightness (300 nits down to 270). We handled the brighter model and, yes, that did indeed look basically identical to the 2013 model. Adding a touch panel will naturally increase the weight as well. With no touchscreen, the thing comes in at 2.8 pounds -- similar to the last model, but still very impressive for a 14-inch laptop. Go with a touch model and you'll surely pass the three-pound mark, but somehow, we think you'll be able to deal. The X1 Carbon ships later this month, but for now, enjoy the gallery of beauty shots and a quick hands-on tour embedded above.

Mat Smith and Richard Lai contributed to this report.

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