A bit of history: I’ve been a long time Dell user until I got tired of dealing with the quality problems and decided to switch to a Lenovo ThinkPad. It came highly recommended but the fact that Fn key was the left-most key was a showstopper for me (I am very much into shortcuts and really like consistency when working in docked mode and undocked) . Luckily Lenovo made it possible to swap Fn and Ctrl key mappings to match regular keyboards.
It was a good move – everything that long time ThinkPad users were promising was true: solid build, solid drivers, no crashes, great keyboard, etc. Paired with a great Lenovo System Update utility that allows one to easily update all the drivers it was a great experience. Keeping Dell’s drivers updated was a project in itself…
In early 2010 I purchased T420 with SSD and Windows 7 – had no problems and didn’t have to reinstall the OS since then (where Dells and Windows XP would be on 6 mo re-install cycle). It worked and continues to work great but I was ready for a new toy:
- The promise of light ultrabooks with long battery life was very appealing
- Windows 8 was released with pretty good reviews (including my personal experience with consumer preview)
- USB 3.0 and Bluetooth 4
- Posibility to have a touch screen on a laptop was interesting
After doing a bit of research (my thought process matches this post pretty well), I decided to purchase Lenovo X1 Carbon Touch. It is a popular option these days so took a bit of time to get it. Here is are my findings:
Things I liked:
- Light weight but well built
- 14 inch screen (1600×900)
- Large touchpad
- Nice matte finish that doesn’t feel plasticy
Things I didn’t like
- The biggest issue is a need to use USB Docking Station if you want to connect multiple monitors. I plan to do a separate post but the issue is that it is notebook CPU that is responsible for handling this, instead of hardware. It is powered by DisplayLink and the performance wasn’t great: it constantly takes up anywhere from 10 to 30% of CPU depending on what is happening and quality of output is not great at times – I saw pixelation and at the amount of time I spend in front of monitors I want my eyes not to strain any more. I am also using Microsoft wireless keyboard and mouse and with receiver plugged into the Dock it didn’t work very well – as if USB interface was being overloaded by video signal. Once plugged directly into notebook the issues went away
- According to reviews, touch screen consumes quite a bit of power, with battery lasting more than an hour less than non-touch version (X1 Carbon)
- Screen has a type of protector that makes it a bit unclear – it was so distracting that I even considered trying to remove it (and I am not the only one). What’s interesting none of the reviews I’ve read mention this
- Maybe I need to play with settings but I didn’t like the touchpad – mouse moved seemingly randomly sometimes, right click wouldn’t register consistently, drag-and-drop was difficult
- Hard drive is custom (common in Ultrabooks) and is not user-upgradable. You are stuck with either 128 or 256GB which is not much.
- While matte finish is nice it is much easier to leave oily thumb/finger prints all over
Next steps: I am specing out T430s to replace my X1 Carbon Touch. As much as I enjoyed my T420, I am pretty sure I will be happy with T430s – USB 3.0, Bluetooth 4, faster CPU, more memory, Windows 8.
Separate post on my experience with Windows 8 is coming up