Lenovo: X1 Carbon

I recently made a decision to purchase a System76 Gazelle Professional over either a Lenovo T530 or a Lenovo X1 Carbon. The glowing reviews the X1 Carbon was getting in the media had me wondering about my decision. Today I was lucky enough to get a demo unit of the X1 Carbon and had time to try Ubuntu on it.

LCD
On the surface it would seem the easy part of the decision is do I want power and ports, or slim and sleek. I, however, was torn between the two alternatives. The single most important factor to me in picking a laptop is getting a quality display. The X1 Carbon does not suffer from the terrible 1366×768 displays that plague most laptops, but it is not up to the quality standards in the Gazelle Professional. The colors are slightly muted and I could see visible dots when certain colors were displayed. I did like the fifteen step brightness offered on the X1 Carbon. The Gazelle Professional seems to only allow four steps which makes it tougher to adjust to ‘just the right’ brightness.

Special Buttons
The special function buttons such as the wireless toggle, brightness adjustment, volume, mute, play and pause buttons all worked out of the box. This has been my typical experience with Lenovo Thinpad products.

Other Notes
The keyboard was absolutely wonderful on the X! Carbon, good feedback and excellent feel. I was able to activate two finger scrolling and two finger clicks were equivalent to the right mouse button. Idle temperatures were in the 34C range, but when I started using the computer to do work the temperatures were between 44C and 52C. The unit I had to test used the Intel Core i5-3427U which is a dual core process with hyper threading. The unit did not automatically mount my SD card nor my USB flash drive, but I was able to mount them both manually.

In the end the laptop was a very solid and compelling ultrabook. If you are a person who values slim and sultry in your laptops this would be an excellent choice for an Ubuntu user. While it will not measure up to a performance unit like the Gazelle Professional, it is much better than most of the other ultrabooks on the market and the hardware was supported out of the box for Ubuntu. I ran System Testing and submitted the results so hopefully the results will show up on the web soon.

X1 Carbon Running Ubuntu – Front View

 

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21 Responses to Lenovo: X1 Carbon

  1. Steven Harms says:

    Awesome looking laptop, was looking at this myself. The 1366×768 displays are horrible, so I am glad Lenovo spent the extra money to get a decent display.

  2. Lenovo Fan says:

    Could you please tell something about the fan noice? Is it a silent laptop?

    • Charles Profitt says:

      It was quiet while the fan was not on, but when the fan kicked in it made noise that was audible in a room with two children talking and laughing. Not loud, but not silent. My other two laptops make more noise due to the hard drive.

      • nauni says:

        Hello, does the x1 carbon support the acpi fan control? Does /proc/acpi/ibm/fan (or something like this) exists? If this exists, did you try to control the fan? If you have questions about configure that, please ask … I can tell you. But use such a feature is your own risk. ;-) TIA, Oli

  3. Roger says:

    The Lenovo T430s is also worthy of consideration (note the ‘s’ suffix). The weight is slightly more than the X1, but you can get a beefier CPU and can put in 16GB of memory. It has space for a 7.5mm height drive (I’m using a 500GB drive) as well as mSata for the OS. The screen and keyboard are the same as the X1.

    Lenovo have messed up the default colour calibration of their 1600×900 screens. I used a ColorHug to get the correct profile – https://plus.google.com/110166527124367568225/posts/bLg18FtS8KZ

    • Charles Profitt says:

      Do you run Ubuntu on the T430s? If so how does it run on the mSata?

      • Roger says:

        All my systems are 64 bit Ubuntu and have been for years. I have the mSata stick with two partitions – a small /boot and an encrypted root+home. The hard drive has a small Windows partition and the remaining space is encrypted swap and encrypted additional space for Linux.

        I use dmcrypt/LUKS for encryption which means every byte of the partition is encrypted. (Contrast with ecryptfs where only some data is encrypted.) The mSata stick has a Sandforce controller which tries to compress written data (it doesn’t give more space, just results in less wear). However encrypted data can’t be compressed so this results in a performance hit as it pointlessly fails to compress data. It often ends up slower than the hard drive for write activity! I’m going to replace it soon with the Crucial m4 mSata stick whose controller doesn’t do this nonsense. (The m4 only just became available for purchase in the US.)

        One gotcha to worry about is that kernel 3.2 (as in Ubuntu 12.04) has some stability issues with Ivy Bridge based laptops (from any manufacturer). I’ve been running vanilla 3.4 kernel from the Ubuntu kernel team ppa which has been fine instead. (They may have backported the fixes to 3.2 – haven’t tried since switching to 3.4.)

        I also recently switched to btrfs on all my systems. Its functionality beats the raw performance of ext4 for me. That includes data integrity (everything is checksummed), ability to check integrity while mounted, subvolumes, snapshots (I have hourly, daily, weekly and monthly snapshots of everything), compression and RAID management.

        I don’t think you can do an encrypted install using the Ubuntu desktop CD stuff. I’ve had a PXE (network) based setup for years and is what I use. It has a text mode installer which does have encryption and btrfs support.

  4. Aki says:

    How is battery life?

  5. Roger says:

    I should also mention that if you want to go the Lenovo route (I recommend it) then there are two sites of interest. The first is the Notebookreview forum at http://forum.notebookreview.com/lenovo-ibm/ – especially look at the sticky which has lots of useful information. You’ll also find mentions of new deals (Lenovo has many running at once).

    The other is http://www.thinkwiki.org which is mostly useful for older models as with current models everything just works. However you may still find useful tips and hints.

    One thing I do is replace the BIOS splash screen with a picture of me as well as my contact details. Makes it easy to show I own the laptop and get it returned. The BIOS itself, the drives (ATA level), the partitions (dmcrypt/LUKS) and accounts are all password protected so that initial splash screen is about the only thing you can see!

  6. ndrake says:

    How is the power management on the X1 with Linux? Can you reliably close the lid to sleep it and then wake it up without issues?

  7. Tharna says:

    Now that you have experience with both X1 carbon and Gazelle pro which one would you choose (or recommend)?

    • Charles Profitt says:

      They are really two different machines. The Gazelle Pro is a desktop replacement machine that you can deck out with 16 GB of ram. The X1 Carbon is a sleek machine that can have no more than 8GB of ram and will cost significantly more than the Gazelle. The Gazelle’s weak points are the heat issue with the left palm area and a weak battery (I got around 2 hours). The X1 Carbon’s weak points are a U processor versus the full mobile processor choices, only being able to have 8GB of ram, LCD panel is only 1600×900 and not 95% gamut. The Carbon has better battery life than the Gazelle, but it is still not in the range of the X230, T430 or T530. It will provide roughly 4 hours of battery.

  8. Mike Burns says:

    How was the wifi?

  9. If you are a person who values slim and sultry in your laptops this would be an excellent choice for an Ubuntu user. While it will not measure up to a performance unit like the Gazelle Professional, it is much better than most of the other ultrabooks on the market and the hardware was supported out of the box for Ubuntu. I ran System Testing and submitted the results so hopefully the results will show up on the web soon.

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