If Lenovo's X1 Carbon Ultrabook is any indication, professionals are in no hurry to move to Windows 8. Small wonder this new iteration of the ThinkPad ships with Windows 7 Professional instead. It eschews a touchscreen and a tablet form factor in favor of design elements and preloaded ingredients that appeal to both business-class users and business-class IT support folks.
At 13.03 by 8.9 inches, the Carbon X1 is about the largest Ultrabook you could want, and at only 3 pounds and 0.74 inch thick (0.31 inch at its thinnest edge), it certainly qualifies as thin and light. As its name implies, the Carbon is clad in the matte carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic common to the ThinkPad line, instead of the brushed metal that swaddles so many other Ultrabooks.
It feels rugged, not cheap. The 14-inch, 1,600-by-900 screen is appealingly bright, although with a bluish cast. My review unit came outfitted with an Intel Core i5-3427U processor (1.8GHz), 4GB of RAM, and a 256GB SSD.
All of the other good features we've come to associate with the ThinkPad line are here, too. Included are both nub mouse and trackpad, in case you prefer one over the other, and an excellent backlit keyboard, with its separated keys for greater typing accuracy and comfort.
I wasn't crazy about the proprietary power connector, although it apparently takes a cue from the iPhone 5 and doesn't need to be inserted with a particular end up (a nice touch). In keeping with the business flavor of the machine, TPM, Intel AT (antitheft) technology, and a fingerprint reader module are all included, although there's no smart card slot.
The battery management functions also expand greatly on Windows' native power-control features. You can set different power profiles to take effect at different times of day, and the Battery Stretch feature lets you disable absolutely everything that you don't need to wring a few extra minutes of power out of the system. With the Energy Saver power plan (one of five preconfigured by Lenovo), albeit with display dimming disabled, I was able to get 3 hours, 2 minutes of continuous Netflix playback out of the system.
Less impressive is the host of support software crammed into the system. Lenovo's ThinkVantage-branded package of apps controls everything from the sophisticated power-management and battery-conservation functions to the software updating for ThinkVantage itself.
The SimpleTap application places a conspicuously large status icon in the Taskbar; when tapped, it brings you to a full-screen Lenovo Solution Center menu with status information about system backups, software updates, virus protection, and many other things you may or may not want to know about. Be prepared to spend your first day with the Carbon X1 swatting away one nagging reminder after another.
Some of the third-party stuff is genuinely useful. I liked the network access manager tool, which lets you create multiple location profiles and define default network connections (Wi-Fi, mobile broadband, WiMax), browser home pages, network security settings, and even default printers for each of them. There's even a built-in mobile hotspot feature, which allows you to share your ThinkPad's Internet connection with other devices and users.
Among the other third-party preloads are a trial edition of Norton Internet Security 2012, a Lenovo-branded SugarSync cloud storage account, and a trial of Absolute Software's Absolute Data Protect -- a data-security system that allows remote wipe and device tracking. BYODers and road warriors will appreciate many of these add-ons if they don't already have equivalents.
The Lenovo X1 Carbon is a slender and well-built business-class Ultrabook that wasn't designed to hop on board the Windows 8 bandwagon. The X1 Carbon might annoy some people with its choice of on-board software, but the hardware is nearly beyond reproach.