Lenovo ThinkPad X1-Carbon 14" Ultrabook
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Remember: The second-generation X1 Carbon has a… controversial keyboard layout.
So…assuming this computer sucks for Photoshop…could someone point me to a good one for it? Like a pro photographer or someone that isn’t just going to scream mac
As far as the current options for “budget” laptops and chromebooks go, this is a pretty decent pick, potentially… I picked up a few, back when they were new (both this and the prior generation), as an IT purchase for execs at my company. Here are a few of my notes, which might prove helpful, though with the caveat that I no longer have one at my disposal to use for immediate testing, and the products offered today are refurbs, which may not have the exact battery capacity, or may have some other shortcoming:
** - CPU:** Decidedly a bit older, from the 4th gen (Haswell) Intel Core processors. However, the 15W part can handle 4 threads on the 2 cores, which is easily good enough to run Adobe software well, alongside some other multi-tasking.
** - Graphics:** Definitely the weakest part. Intel HD 4400 is roughly the equivalent of the now decade-old (older actually, but whatever) Nvidia 7800 GTX. Don’t expect to game much on this, except at significantly decreased settings, especially resolution. If you cut to 1280 x 720 HD (1/4 of the resolution, hence calling the doubled scale QHD, or quad-hi-def), it should be able to eek out some titles. Even then, stick to casual stuff, to be safe.
** - Screen:** WQHD 2560 x 1440 is my personal favourite resolution for use, and despite being on a 14" screen, should scale decently for Win10, while still granting clarity. And the touchscreen is a bonus, though not especially useful in the traditional clamshell laptop form factor.
** - Size/Form Factor:** 14" is a terrific compromise, giving you full reign over a real keyboard (which Lenovo does a decent job with, as well as the trackpad/touchpad combo), but not getting too awkward to carry. It’s also very thin, and light, which makes it an easy carry, even compared to iPads, though with the much increased productivity options. Battery life should prove fairly impressive, considering battery size and the U-series (Ultra-low voltage) CPU. It does have some minor flex, due to the extremely thin body, but isn’t so fragile as to make one too worried.
** - RAM and SSD:** Don’t expect to be able to upgrade your RAM on this one, as it’s soldered to the board. However, it’s decent stuff, and the 8GB should prove sufficient for most mobile users.
The SSD is actually one of the more impressive components, IMHO; I don’t have the benchmarks anymore, but they were definitely good enough. The most important thing (for weight, and performance) is that it’s not a physical HDD, and beyond that, the speed differences between most good SSDs then becomes arguing about your BMW versus a Porsche, in comparison to the old Corolla that you ditched (for the record, I drive a Corolla - very reliable, but not a sports car). The point is that this is pretty good on both memory and storage, if a bit light on the latter. But with external and cloud options, most should find it adequate for an ultraportable like this.
** - Ports/Connectivity:** The 802.11ac Wi-Fi and BlueTooth are very convenient, if a bit more than most may need. At least it’s current, and somewhat future-ready.
With a mini-DisplayPort (v1.2), HDMI (1.4, but not capable of full 4K), and a couple of USB 3.0 connectors, you should be in a good situation for ports. And if you plan to expand beyond that, Lenovo has the ability to dock this one, which is admittedly very convenient, but not commonly used outside of large businesses due to scarcity and price of the dock.
** - Miscellaneous/Conclusion:** I honestly find a lot to like in this model. The adaptive row of keys was mostly a useless gimmick. However, the Lenovo brand, and ThinkPad line, in particular, have a pretty strong reputation for durability and reliability. This model was no exception - I never had to deal with any hardware faults with those issued in my company over the past couple of years; The only issues were software, and user-related. My only real complaint about it was that the keyboard had slightly more flex than I cared for, but considering the thinness of the tray, and limited key travel, it is well within acceptable engineering limits.
I am not overly-thrilled with the idea of getting one refurbished, especially not knowing if the battery has been replaced, since that type of quick-charge LiPo battery has a limited number of effective charges before the durability becomes a factor.
However, all other things considered, it should be a very capable machine, both for its size/weight class, and in general applications. Just don’t buy it for gaming, and you should be alright!
I’m an amateur photographer (primary camera: Nikon D750, Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8), and while this is not a powerhouse machine, it does run Photoshop alright. It won’t do wonders to your battery life to do so, and don’t expect it to hold up to a much heavier duty MacBook Pro (which I generally don’t recommend), or similarly higher-spec’d machine.
If you’re very serious about running imaging software (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.), you would be best served by a desktop, which would not have the thermal limits of a mobile CPU (this i5 is only rated for 15W, whereas a desktop i5/i7 will run closer to 80W+, which means a lot more room to run hotter, and for longer periods of time before slowing down.
However, if you are insistent upon a mobile machine, like a laptop, I’d look at some of the MSI or Asus gaming-class laptops, which will likely cost you closer to the $1000+ range, but grant you faster CPUs, more RAM, and a discrete GPU, which could help accelerate your image editor’s performance.
Hope that helps.
Very good analysis.
Fantastic price for one of the top laptops in recent times (the other being the Dell 13 XPS), IMO. Great specs, designed for WORK, and still sexy. I had to jump at it.
This laptop is well within the specs of being a kick ass machine for Photoshop, especially with that display. With the price, I would absolutely highly recommend it.
In fact, I just bought an ultrabook today that I plan on using Photoshop and Lightroom on, but had I waited 12 hours, and saw this one, I would have jumped all over it.
Lost me at “no caps lock.” Huh?
Otherwise I would have pulled the trigger.
You activate it by double clicking the shift key I believe.
Got excited for a moment there. Saw 2nd gen and wind knocked immediately out of the sails. No physical track point buttons and unpractical keyboard.
Pro photographer here. I only use my laptop out on sites to dump my photos too, MAYBE do one or two previews.
Something else to consider on top of them just not being able to handle high horsepower tasks (like photo processing), the screen. Most laptops (even the macs) aren’t that great for true color photos. On top of this desktop you would rather have, you will want a decent monitor (high res, I use a 27" 1440p monitor) and color calibrate it. All of this is actually not very expensive to do, you can still do it all on a budget.
Keep in mind two things about Adobe products for photographers:
Photoshop - Uses CPU and RAM bigtime, but also does a lot of rendering using the GPU. Most laptops don’t have a very good GPU, thus they are junk for photo editing, even the “must have for photos mac”. I would not use a mac for this either (unless it was one of the super high end ones with an actual separate GPU in it).
Lightroom - Doesn’t use the GPU, it’s VERY heavy on CPU, RAM and storage speed. The faster you can get those items, (and more ram) the better. Many of your laptop options are limited in RAM for thin and light (its all soldered on, in fact Macs are mostly all 8GB, unless you opt for the extremely expensive 16gb models for thousands). You could have had a killer desktop and monitor combo, with enough left over to get this X1 or something similar for travel, dumping photos to, etc.
That’s been my experience. I’ve had MANY laptops over the years (I manage an IT department, I do all the buying, get lots of test models, and put all my personal stuff on them too, such as my photo software to play with on the weekends). Each time I get a better laptop to try out… it still comes down to… its still a mobile CPU (can’t handle the heat, power requirements Adobe software needs) and then the general lack of power in the GPU’s, an the the screen itself.
Lets talk about the screen too. As a pro photographer, (and this may just be my personal opinion) 1080p is not enough, especially when working on a tiny screen. You miss too much, or have to work around it too much (zoom here, zoom there). It’s just easier and better to have a nice big high res screen. You could plug one of these screens into one of these laptops, but again, you’re then still limited by it’s CPU power.
and i5 is not and i5, they are not all equal. (as with i7, same thing). There’s server class, desktop class and mobile class. You’ll want desktop class or better if you’re a serious photographer/editor. Nothing else will cut it.
hope that further helps.
This is the only 14" ultrabook I’ve seen that is under 3 lbs (and at that weight to include a touchscreen is amazing). But that CPU…and that keyboard layout - it does away with what is IMO the worst sin of most new Lenovo keyboards, which is to put the Fn key where the CTRL key belongs, but then putting the home/end keys on the left (I don’t care much about the Caps Lock key) is just bizarre.
(tried to edit, got error)
Yes, I know Apple does the same thing. That’s no excuse (plus you don’t use the CTRL much in OSX except for the terminal).
Excellent review Post Arosiriak.
I agree with everything you wrote in the review.
I have used X series and T-series Thinkpads for years. Their origins were IBM BUSINESS based and then sold to Lenovo. Lenovo has kept the design paradigm.They are super reliable; …and as a result I am several generations behind current models. They can make for good used computers.
All my Thinkpads have poor quality screens for color rendering.
This really shows up when I run dual monitor. The screens are fine for business workings: spreadsheet and web browsing etc. I would not waste time doing pro quality color adjustments in Photoshop with these screens. Maybe the newer ones are better. The old ones were not designed for graphics and visual screen quality competition with the MACs and Sonys; Maybe the new ones are better, but probably not.
This is also probably why they have mostly weak graphical processors.
The Audio for thinkpads is very weak also.
Lastly Note, the X-series Thinkpads were designed to be super mobile;
…To be super light and thin, thus most have NO Optical Drives as a design-cost tradeoff.
If you want to be happy with a Thinkpad, know what you are buying.
They are designed for business not multimedia and graphic artists; …i.e. think Spreadsheets, not Star Wars type multimedia.
Stay away from this model from Lenovo. It was made during a short time when they got rid of all the real buttons in favor of using trackpad clicks, ala apple machines. There is absolutely no middle button capability. Terrible design. They shortly put back the actual buttons on newer models released just for that purpose. Look at the W540 and W541 for an example. Worst design choice lenovo ever made.
The perfect size screen.
Anyone know how well this works with linux? Concerned about the keyboard.