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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review: Finally, A Great Ultrabook Keyboard

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Lenovo

Performance - Processor, Application, Hard Drive

Performance

My Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review unit arrived with a Core i7-3667U processor. This is the first time I’ve witnessed this processor in action, and it looks beefy on paper – boasting a base clock of 2 GHz. The Carbon was has four gigabytes of RAM and Intel HD 4000 graphics along with a 128GB solid state hard drive; all of which is standard for an ultrabook at this price.

For competition I will be using the Lenovo ThinkPad X230, the HP Envy Spectre 14 and the ASUS Zenbook Prime UX31A. This is a good selection of competitive ultrabooks and ultraportables that are priced (or can be priced with options) in the same budget.

Let’s jump into processor performance and see what the raw numbers indicate.

Performance – Processor

As always, we’ll kick of our performance comparison with SiSoft Sandra.

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The only product that loses out here is the HP Envy 14 Spectre. We reviewed it awhile back with a Sandy Bridge low-voltage processor. It’s incredible to see just how much quicker the new Ivy Bridge low-voltage processors are. Third-gen parts don’t outperform second-gen parts like this in any other category, but when it comes to low-voltage, they are proving to be a huge improvement.

Of course, the standard Ivy Bridge Core i5 does take the day, but the Core i7-3667U in the Carbon closes the already meager gap.

Next up is 7-Zip and Peacekeeper.

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In 7-Zip the ASUS Zenbook Prime, with its slightly slower third-gen Core i7, outperforms the Carbon by a small margin. The reason is unclear but the results are consistent. The second-gen powered HP Envy 14 Spectre once again trails the competition.

The Carbon retakes its performance advantage over the ASUS Zenbook in Peacekeeper by a small margin. Lenovo’s X230, with its Core i5, manages to outrun both.

Performance – Application

Next up we have two application benchmarks, each of which serves to test the processor in a more realistic scenario. Consider it a double-check of the processor’s performance. First up we have Windows Live Movie Maker. I test by encoding an approximately 5-minute video clip to a 1080p .WMV file.

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In this test, all of the laptops offer approximately the same result. Windows Live Movie Maker will take off if you put it on a quad-core system, but on these dual-cores it runs the same despite the fact that two of them are low-voltage and one is not.

This is likely a result of the standard Core i5 in the X230 reaching a Turbo Boost ceiling that’s not meaningfully quicker than the low-voltage parts. Its Turbo boost max is higher on paper, but that doesn’t mean it’s always higher in real life.

Next we have SunlitGreen BatchBlitz, a simple, free batch photo editing app.

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Once again there’s not much difference between the processors and the standard-voltage Core i5 actually comes up behind the low-voltage parts. Not by a significant margin, but the fact it is losing instead of winning must be noted. The Carbon beats the Zenbook Prime by just four seconds.

Performance – Hard Drive

Lenovo shipped the Carbon review unit with a 128GB solid state drive from SanDisk. The company has had some great drives in the past, but is up against stiff competition. Let’s see what ATTO has to say.

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The performance profiles of each hard drive differs. The Spectre’s drive is weakest overall, and is particularly weak with 4KB read/write. The Zenbook Prime’s drive is best overall, but also has trouble with the smaller read/writes. The Carbon, on the other hand, performs relatively well in that test but finds itself struggling to keep up in the 4MB read/write.

These results are strong, but the Carbon’s SSD isn’t looking like the fastest we’ve test. Let’s see what HD Tune has to say.

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It turns out that HD Tune is just fine with the way the Carbon’s SSD performs and bestows it with a slightly higher average transfer rate than the drive in the Zenbook Prime. I also noted that the performance curve of the Carbon was mostly level. Some drives will perform much better early and then start to lose steam as a transfer drags on, but the Carbon showed no such issue.

September 7, 2012 | 01:39 PM - Posted by Annoyingmouse (not verified)

If it meant we could have quiet cooling, RAM slots, and perhaps a low end discreet graphics card, I'd be happy to let the manufacturers have a few more mm of thickness.

September 7, 2012 | 03:20 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

How fast can it backup to NAS!

September 7, 2012 | 05:05 PM - Posted by genomad (not verified)

I want this laptop. But its kinda sad that thinkpads haven't had killer screens since 15" sxga+ ips "Flexview" line from the t4x and t6x series.

I actually still use my t42 frequently because i love the keyboard and is awesome IPS screen.

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