Since Windows 8 first made its way into my life it’s fair to say that we haven’t always been on the best of terms. My desktop machine, replete with non-touch controllable screen, felt hampered by the OS and took me back to those grand old times when people would swear loudly at their computers with gay abandon. Even after spending time with the Lenovo Yoga 13, a purpose built machine that literally bent over backwards to make Windows 8 work, I was still left cold by the whole experience. Thus, it seemed, I was destined to leave behind the progeny of Redmond and head back to the safer lands of OSX.
But, well, I’m kind of the stubborn sort. You see although Windows 8 does cause me to gouge my eyes and scream out in wild frustration, I do like some of the things that Microsoft are trying. It’s new for starters, which is always interesting, and as we become more attuned to the idea of touch on a laptop, possibly it will actually click into place. I have to admit that these are more idealistic rather than confident ponderings, but maybe it could just came down to a matter of decent hardware in the end.
The Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Touch carries on the long tradition of utterly dependable, workhorse Thinkpad machines, albeit with styling that looks more like it came from the thoroughbred stables. From the very first moment you set eyes on the matte, rubber-like coating over the carbon shell you know that this is a serious machine. Not in the stuffy, pink shirts with white collars type serious, rather the ‘let’s stop mucking about and get stuff done’ version instead – and that’s something I like. Opening up the case reveals the glorious keyboard, which in short order became probably the favourite surface to type on that I’ve encountered in ages. The keys are spread apart by more than I’m used to on my old MacBook, but they feel chunky and solid under the fingers, almost old school.
One of the Achilles heels of many Windows machines is the trackpad. All too often they drive users to despair with their unresponsive and somewhat random behaviour. Thankfully the generous and smooth offering here just gets on with it, while displaying a good deal of palm cancelling intelligence. The Windows 8 gestures did become a problem though, as far too often I’d move the cursor only to see the Charms bar appear, or the background app leap to the front. Disabling these features in the settings swiftly cured me of these ills, while still retaining two finger scrolling and general pointy duties.
This led me into the previously painful territory of actually having to use the touchscreen. Well, I have to report that the implementation of these features on the X1 is excellent. Navigating via touch felt smooth and far more tempting than anything laptop based that I’d used before. The 14″ screen provided decent sized touch targets, responding quickly and accurately to the majority of hits. Glory be! Finally Windows 8 is beginning to make sense, in no small part due to the X1.
It’s not all roses and unicorns though. The touchpad was very hit and miss when I used the tap function to select anything, usually making me resort to the clickable section of the pad to execute commands, and although the screen is good it’s also not full HD (1600×900 instead), which is something of a surprise when you see the price tag that Lenovo have hung upon the X1.
The model I have here, which boasts an i5 processor, 4GB RAM, and 128GB SSD retails for a wallet trembling £1479 including VAT. That really is quite a price. Compare that with the MacBook Air, which is the dominant player in this part of the market, and for about £100 less you could build a 13″ model to order which would sport an i7 (Haswell chip), 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, and the remarkable 13 hour battery life that has taken the tech world by storm. That’s not an easy comparison to keep.
Maybe the touchscreen does add quite a bit to the cost? Carbon fibre is also certainly an expensive material for construction. At the end of the day though the price is just too much of a hurdle for most of us to get over. The machine itself is absolutely gorgeous, and I think looks far better than the rather boring ‘any colour as long as its grey’ that Apple currently offer. There is a non-touchscreen version of the X1, which retails on the Lenovo site for £1,119, but it would seem a shame to have the machine that finally solved the Windows 8 conundrum revert back to a standard, albeit very lovely, laptop. Of course a Windows 7 version would be a very tempting alternative.
Do I want one? Absolutely. Can I afford one? Absolutely not, at least not the touch version.
Makes sense really. I find the laptop that can make Windows 8 work for me at last, one that has killer styling, a great keyboard, and is a joy to use. Then it gets undercut by Apple. Still, if the Microsoft path is the one you walk then this laptop is about the best there is.