Tools & Technologies

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2016


Whenever I needed a Windows laptop in the early 2000s I always purchased Toshiba. From 2007 my Windows laptop vendor of choice has been Lenovo due to the ThinkPad line, and the strong recommendation towards those that I received from Eric Mack. I’ve liked the build quality and have been pretty content with my Lenovo laptops. The one exception to this was the Lenovo W510 I purchased in August 2010 that got hammered in the Christchurch earthquake … and hasn’t ever really worked properly since then. It’s fitted into a particular role in my workflow, and that’s fine, but as a consequence of a few business changes over the years it hasn’t lived up to the intended purpose I acquired it for; but again, that’s my issue, not the laptop’s issue as such. The most recent Lenovo I purchased was the X230 in mid-2012, and that little workhorse has been a very stable little player in my device range since then. I upgraded to Windows 8 and 8.1, and recently to Windows 10. I switched the disk drive to a larger capability SSD too, and it’s running strong.

On my list of gadgets to buy some day (preferably sooner!) there are two Windows-based devices that vie for first place in the Windows laptop section: the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and the Microsoft Surface Pro. The Surface Pro line got a substantial upgrade a few months ago, and the Surface Pro 4 features the capabilities I was waiting for in the 4th generation (e.g., 16GB of RAM, as well as a better typing experience on the attachable keyboard). And in the past couple of days – right on schedule – Lenovo announced the fourth generation of its ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It too has some tasty morsels on offer. From the press release:

ThinkPad X1 Carbon continues to stand out as the world’s lightest 14-inch business ultrabook. One of the most refined and elegant notebooks available today, the X1 Carbon is thinner, lighter and more powerful than ever. Focused on customer-centric design improvements, we listened to customer feedback and made a number of improvements, including more display options, increased memory and storage capacity, improved connectivity and made the X1 Carbon lighter at just 2.6 pounds.

What really stands out with the X1 Carbon, however, as well as the other two portable devices newly minted into the X1 line, is the WiGig docking station. Writing on ubergizmo, Hubert puts it this way:

… when users get back to the office, they can dock without wires, thanks to WiGig docking. Because WiGig technology can move up to 7Gbps (7 Gigabits per Second), it’s fast enough to transmit heavy loads such as display data or large network loads. Intel has been promoting WiGig for some time but it’s nice to see it getting more traction.

Basically you only have to put your X1 Carbon, X1 Yoga, or X1 Tablet physically close to the docking station and it will connect to all of your attached devices – including a big screen – without plugging anything into the X1 device. When you need to leave, you pick up the device and walk away with it … and you are detached (that’s very cool). It will be interesting to see how Lenovo deals with pairing an X1 device with a WiGig docking station, and specifically whether this is an automatic or manual process. If automatic, I’m “interested” (concerned) to see how contention is handled in an office environment where multiple people have one of these on their desks, or in a meeting room where the docking station is connected to a projector. I didn’t see anything about it in the 4th generation X1 Carbon, but perhaps the 5th generation in 2017 will also support wireless charging allowing you to ditch the power plug on the desk as well.

One of the other interesting capabilities of the earlier X1 Carbon’s was hand gesture control, an idea which looks interesting in demo videos but which I never got to try out in a real presentation. Essentially you could use hand gestures to advance slides (among other use cases), rather than relying on a wireless presenter or the keyboard. For those of us who use hand gestures to complement a speech, however, it remains unclear whether the device was smart enough to differentiate “next slide” from “this point is important.” The specific button on the keyboards of the earlier X1 Carbon’s is missing in action from the 2016 keyboard, so I take that to mean hand gesture control is no longer supported. I guess we will find out when the devices become available in March.

Net-net: being productive requires a good device or two (or three!) to carry out the work you need to do. When it’s time to change my Windows laptop, my choice at this point is either the X1 Carbon or a Surface Pro. What’s on your list?

Categories: Tools & Technologies

2 replies »

  1. I am torn between the new X1 Carbon Touch and the new X1 Yoga. Both support the WiDock (which Lenovo is not the first company to do) . Not only did the X1CT lose the hand gestures – it also lost a touch screen completely. The X1 Yoga has an OLED screen and the built in rechargable stylus seems awesome. I love that both can have PCIe SSD’s and 16 gigs of ram. Also curious that this line does not have USB-C … even the docks don’t have it. I get a new machine every 3 years so I have to buy wisely.

  2. Hi John … yes, there is increased choice (complexity) in the line now with the X1 Yoga and X1 Tablet as separate devices. The Yoga has a lot more inbuilt options and the flexibility to be used in different ways. If you could see yourself making use of those, I’d be inclined the Yoga way.

    In terms of no USB-C, I guess this is one of the areas we could expect to see in the Gen 5 in early January 2017.