Hands-on with Lenovo's new business-oriented ThinkPad X1 family

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Introducing the new ThinkPad X1 devices

Just a couple of days ago, we broke news of Lenovo's new ThinkPad X1 devices. And now that we are here at CES 2016 proper, here's our first-hand impressions of some of these new devices - the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, ThinkPad X1 Yoga, and finally the ThinkPad X1 Tablet.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Lenovo's ThinkPad notebooks are widely regarded as the Mercedes-Benz of business notebooks. If you have handled a ThinkPad notebook before, you'd know I mean. They are built to high standards and are extremely reliable. Amongst the ThinkPad notebook family, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon rules the roost.

Lenovo has updated the ThinkPad X1 Carbon yearly for the past two years, and 2016 is no different. The newest ThinkPad X1 Carbon is even thinner and lighter than last year's already thin and light model.

The latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon is dubbed as the world's lightest 14-inch business Ultrabook and measures just 16.5mm thick and weighs just 1.18kg. In comparison, last year's model was 17.7mm thick and 1.31kg heavy. The weight-savings was achieved thanks to the extensive use of "satellite-grade" carbon fiber.

Despite its featherlight weight and dimensions, the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon is also incredibly tough and resilient. It has been tested to work from -20 degrees Celsius to 60 degrees Celsius and it also passes 12 MiL-SPEC tests.

In terms of design, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon looks very similar to its predecessor. Lenovo joked that one of the reasons for this is to reduce notebook envy in the office. However, the newest model feels noticeably thinner and lighter, yet still retains the same sense of solidity and sturdiness that we have come to expect from Lenovo's flagship business notebook.

Like before, the 14-inch IPS display is offered in Full-HD resolution (1920 x 1080 pixels) as standard, but more discerning users can opt for a higher resolution WQHD display with 2560 x 1440 pixels resolution. Note that there is no option for a touch-enabled display for the latest model.

Inside, the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon is powered by Intel's newest sixth generation Skylake processors and can be configured with up to a Core i7 processor and 16GB of DDR3 RAM. It uses a PCIe-based NVMe SSD can users can spec the notebook with up to 1TB of storage. Thanks to the new processor, battery life is now up to a claimed 11 hours.

As for outputs, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and a Mini-DisplayPort. There's also a proprietary connector that hooks up the ThinkPad OneLink dock that offers Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and more USB ports. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon can also connect wirelessly to the ThinkPad WiGig dock that also offers Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and more USB ports and video outputs. The notebook also supports wireless 802.11ac with speeds of up to 867Mbps and LTE Advanced for wireless cellular connectivity.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon will be available from February with prices starting at US$1299 (S$1,867). Local availability and pricing to be confirmed at a later date.

Thinkpad X1 Yoga

Consumers are perhaps most familiar with Lenovo's Yoga family of products. The Yoga lineup consists of convertible devices, and Lenovo is finally bringing its concept of convertibles to its ThinkPad lineup as well.

Like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga also features a 14-inch touchscreen display and is remarkably thin and light. The ThinkPad X1 Yoga measures just 16.8mm thick and weighs 1.27kg - a tad more than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Again, these impressive figures were achieved thanks to the extensive use of carbon fiber.

However, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga differs in that it has a hinge that allows its screen to be rotated 360 degrees so that it transforms into a tablet. It also has a retractable spill-resistant keyboard, so that when "folded" in tablet mode users don't feel the keys jutting out behind. And like Lenovo's consumer Yoga products, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga can also be used in what Lenovo calls "stand" and "tent" modes.

Also different is the ThinkPad X1 Yoga's display. While the 14-inch IPS display can be configured in either Full-HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) or WQHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolutions, there's an additional OLED option that promises brighter colors and more intense contrast. The OLED display is available only in WQHD resolution and colors on it look snappier, deeper and darker. What's also worth noting is that models with OLED displays will only be available this year.

In terms of connectivity, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga matches the Thinkpad X1 Carbon, it also has three USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port and a Mini-DisplayPort. A proprietary connector lets it hook up to the ThinkPad OneLink Dock for Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and more USB ports; or users can also use WiGig to connect wirelessly to the new ThinkPad WiGig dock. Like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga supports wireless 802.11ac with speeds of up to 867Mbps and also LTE Advanced for wireless cellular connectivity.

Because it's a convertible, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga will cost more with prices beginning at US$1499 and will be available later this month. Local availability and pricing to be confirmed at a later date.

ThinkPad X1 Tablet

Of all the new ThinkPad X1 devices, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet is probably the most interesting and was designed for business users who want something more compact and portable than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Yoga. First of all, it is a 12-inch tablet with 2160 x 1440 pixels resolution IPS display. This also means that it has a 3:2 aspect ratio (just like the Surface Pro 4), which makes it arguably more adapted for running productivity apps. The tablet alone measures 8.4mm thick and weighs 795g, which is also to say that it is very portable and feels quite light in the hands. These numbers are comparable to other large tablets we recently reviewed, namely the Apple iPad Pro and Microsoft Surface Pro 4.

Long-time ThinkPad users will also be happy to know that the ThinkPad X1 Tablet can be paired a keyboard cover that features full-sized ThinkPad keys and even the TrackPoint pointing device. And even with the keyboard attached, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet measures just 13mm and weighs just 1.1kg. Although not confirmed yet, Lenovo did say that they expect the keyboard cover to be sold as a standard bundle with the ThinkPad X1 Tablet.

Like the Surface Pro 4, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet runs Windows 10 and is really a bona fide PC. Inside, users can configured the unit with up to an Intel Core m7 processor - one of Intel's new low power Skylake processors. It can also be spec'd with up to 16GB of RAM and up to a 1TB SSD.

However, what makes the ThinkPad X1 Tablet truly unique and unlike any other tablet in the market is its interchangeable modules. These modules attach themselves to the bottom of the tablet and give added functions and features to the module. The modules can be difficult to attach because there are many connecting pins that need to be aligned and also because it also a clasp release system. Fortunately, users should be able to get the hang of this after a couple of attempts.

There are a couple of modules available at launch and one of them is the Productivity Module, which adds a battery pack that increases battery life by 50 per cent or from 10 hours to 15 hours and also adds additional ports to the tablet. The Presenter Module adds a pico projector to the ThinkPad X1 Tablet and lets it project a 60-inch display from just two meters. Finally, there's a 3D Imaging Module that adds Intel's RealSense cameras to the tablet, giving it the ability to quickly measure, capture and scan its surroundings.

As for connectivity, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet features a single USB 3.0 port and a Mini-DisplayPort for video output. Ports can be expanded using the new ThinkPad WiGig dock that adds Ethernet connectivity and extra USB 3.0 ports. Finally, the ThinkPad X1 Tablet also supports wireless 802.11ac with speeds of up to 867Mbps and also LTE Advanced for wireless cellular connectivity.

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet will be available from February with a starting price of US$899. The modules are optional accessories and will be priced from US$149 onwards.


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