Lenovo Labor Day 2012 IdeaPad Blowout, $100 Gift Card and Employee Pricing

Lenovo has some incredible deals on their IdeaPad Y and Z series this weekend.  The offers last for the next 4-days, August 31 – September 3, here are the details for each offer below:

Lenovo also has aggressive Employee Pricing this Labor Day Weekend.  Here are some examples of the pricing you can get on popular models:

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This is definitely the cheapest I’ve ever seen the Y580.  The IdeaPad Y580 is a great gaming laptop, at $739 after rebate it comes with an Intel Core i5-3210M processor, Nvidia GeForce GTX660M graphics, 15.6” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution, 6GB of memory and a 500GB fast 7200RPM hard drive.  We reviewed the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 earlier this year and had the following to say about it:

The Y580 is more than enough to like. Let’s start with the little things: four USB 3.0 “Superspeed” ports, great-sounding JBL speakers, and a classy aluminum-clad design. Then there’s the 4.5+ hour battery life, great full-size backlit keyboard and phenomenal performance thanks to the third-gen Intel quad-core processor and Nvidia GTX 660M graphics card.

At just around $1,000 the Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 is easy to recommend to gamers and multimedia enthusiasts alike; just make sure you get that 1920×1080 screen upgrade.

Get this deal now while it lasts: Lenovo Labor Day 2012 Blowout Sale and $100 Rebate Offer

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Lenovo Unveils IdeaPad Z400 and Z500 Laptops

Lenovo has also unveiled the latest IdeaPad Z Series–slim yet powerful–laptop models at the IFA consumer electronics show.  The Z400 and Z500 are 25 percent slimmer than standard laptops, but that won’t stop Lenovo from compromising on processor or graphic performance as can be equipped with third generation standard voltage Intel Core i7 processors unlike ultraportable notebooks, which use of the low-voltage processors instead.

Lenovo Z500

Some of the key features of the Z400 and Z500 laptos include:

  • Softtouch exterior
  • 14-inch (Z400) or 15.6-inch (Z500) LED display backlit HD widescreen
  • Latest NVIDIA GeForce GT 645M graphics technology
  • Smart features like Intelligent Touchpad and access to Lenovo Cloud
  • Available in a variety of colors, including coral blue, dark chocolate, peony pink, and enamel white

The IdeaPad Z400 will be available in November of 2012 starting at US$549 while the Z500 is slated for a September 2012 release with a starting price of US$549.  Starting in October both models will come configured with the Windows 8 OS operating system.

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Lenovo IdeaPad Y400 and Y500 Windows 8 Gaming Laptops Unveiled

Lenovo was present at the IFA consumer electronics show today and they certainly didn’t go unnoticed by unveiling a variety of new products including updates to its Idea-branded consumer laptops. Part of these updates included new models in its popular IdeaPad Y Series of gaming laptops.

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500

The IdeaPad Y400 and Y500, powered by third generation Intel Core i7 processors are high performance mobile gaming and multimedia desktop replacements featuring the unique UltraBay.  UltraBay is an interchangeable bay that can instantly swap out for dual graphics capability, increased storage space, or an additional fan for cooling.

The 14-inch IdeaPad Y400 will have the following features and specs:

  • Processor: up to Intel Core i7 3rd generation
  • OS: Windows 8 Pro
  • Screen: 14” widescreen display with 1366 x 768 resolution
  • Memory: up to 16GB
  • Storage: up to 1TB Hard Drive, 16GB SSD cache
  • Optical Drive: Swappable DVD burner, Blu-Ray using Ultra Bay
  • Ports: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, 6-in-1 media card reader, headphone jack, microphone input jack, HDMI out
  • Weight: 5.51lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.77” x 9.64” x 1.29”

Meanwhile the larger sized 15” Y500 has the following specs

  • Processor: up to Intel Core i7 3rd generation
  • OS: Windows 8 Pro
  • Screen: 15.6” widescreen display with up to 1920 x 1080 Full HD
  • Graphics: Nvidia 650M or Nvidia 655m
  • Memory: up to 16GB DDR3 memory
  • Storage: up to 1TB of HDD storage
  • Ports: two USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, 6-in-1 media card reader, headphone jack, microphone input jack, HDMI out
  • Weight: 6.39lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.77 “ x 9.64” x 1.29”

Lenovo IdeaPad Y500

Both the Y400 and Y500 will have an oversized touchpad specially designed to work in conjunction with the new multi-touch gestures Windows 8 offers.  Each will also have a backlit keyboard.  The IdeaPad Y400 and Y500 is slated for an October 2012 release that will coincide with the Windows 8 release and will start at $649.

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Lenovo IdeaPad S300, S400 and S405 Thin and Light Laptops Announced

Lenovo has announced the expansion of its ultraportable IdeaPad laptop line with the new S300, S400, and S405 models. These new IdeaPads focus on a balance between portability and performance and are ideal for consumers looking for something more powerful than a netbook but with a longer battery life than a traditional laptop; all at a pretty reasonable price.

Lenovo IdeaPad S400

As far as performance goes, the Lenovo IdeaPad S300 and S400 laptops are equipped with Intel’s 3rd generation Core i3 or i5 processors, while the S405 is available with AMD A8 quad core processors.  The S300 has a 13” screen with 1366 x 768 resolution while the S400 has a 14” screen with the same resolution.

Here is the low-down of S Series’ key features:

  • Measure in at only 21.9mm thin and weigh 1.8kg (less than four lbs)
  • Metallic exterior finish in a variety of colors including crimson red, silver grey and cotton-candy pink.
  • HD widescreen display (up to a 14-inches)
  • HDMI output
  • Stereo speakers with Dolby Advanced Audio v2 certification
  • Up to 500GB hard disk storage capacity (up to 1TB HDD in the S405) with an optional 32GB solid state drive on the S400 and S405
  • Intelligent energy management features up to 5 hours of battery life
  • Lenovo Quick Start “instant on” functionality to get online in seconds
  • Lenovo’s OneKey data protection

IdeaPad S400 open
Additionally, all of the new S Series laptops offer Microsoft Windows 7 Home Professional, which would make them eligible for the Microsoft Windows 8 upgrade program.

The Lenovo IdeaPad S300, S400, and S405 will be available in the US this month at Lenovo.com starting at $499 USD.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 CarbonNot since the ThinkPad X300 has there been a ThinkPad that’s garnered as much attention as the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon has before it’s release. Internet forum users have been dissecting the minute details of the X1 Carbon for months in anticipation of its release. The X1 Carbon is a new 14” Ultrabook from Lenovo’s ThinkPad line, the company’s first business class Ultrabook. It’s easy to why ThinkPadders are excited. The X1 Carbon is extremely thin, under 3/4” at its thickest point. It’s light too, coming in just below three pounds. Those should imbue the X1 with the portability that few other notebooks can match. Being this is a ThinkPad you should get durability, top-notch service and a good keyboard, right? The X1 is shaping up to be perhaps the first bona-fide contender to seriously challenge the MacBook Air, the reigning top-dog of the Ultrabook segment. Admit it, we know you’ve been lusting for the MacBook Air, but need a Windows machine. Does the X1 have what it takes to take on the Air or other Ultrabooks? Read on to find out…

Specs

Here are the specifications of the X1 Carbon model under review:

  • Model: 3444-23U
  • Operating System: Windows Seven Professional x64
  • CPU: Intel 1.8GHz i5-3427U(2.3GHz w/Turbo Boost) 17w
  • Memory: 4GB(Soldered)
  • Hard Drives: Sandisk 128GB SD55G2128G1052E
  • Screen: 14.0” LG 1600×900 Matte LED TN LCD
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000 Integrated
  • Network: Intel 6205 WiFi Card, Bluetooth, WWAN Upgradeable
  • Inputs: Six Row 84 Key Island Style Keyboard, Pointstick with Buttons and Clickpad
  • Buttons: Power, ThinkVantage, Volume Up and Down, Mute, Microphone Off and WiFi On/Off
  • Ports: Two USB – One USB 3.0 and One USB 2.0 (Powered), Mini DisplayPort, Combo Headphone/Microphone Jack
  • Slots: SD Card Reader
  • Battery: 45.8Whr Four-Cell
  • Dimensions: Width 13.0”, Depth 8.9” and Height .31”(Front)/.74”(Rear)
  • Weight: 2.99 Pounds
  • Warranty: One Year

Price and Competition

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon probably doesn’t have a direct competitor in the form of a business class Ultrabook from Dell or HP, at least not yet, but as the lines between business and consumer class notebooks continue to blur, other Ultrabooks will be competing with the X1 for your dollars. The Apple Macbook Air, Asus Zenbook UX31A and 13” Samsung Series 9 are the Ultrabooks that are the closest to the X1 in design. The X1 was released with a MSRP of $1,399 for the base model with the i5 and 128GB SSD, but as is often the case when purchasing a new ThinkPad from Lenovo, those willing and able to wait for coupons, can do significantly better price wise. Lenovo was selling the base X1 for $999 with coupons the day it was released. At that price point, the X1 offers considerable value as it costs less considerably than the MacBook Air or the Samsung and beats the Asus on price too, though not by as much.

Design and Build

ThinkPad Carbon X1 front view

If Lenovo pegged the MacBook Air as the target for what the size of the X1 should be, they came pretty darned close. The X1 is slightly wider, due to the larger screen, but the depth and height are just about the same. Lenovo managed to keep the X1 narrow by using very slim LCD bezels, which is more attractive. The X1 is a little fatter at the front, but it’s not very noticeable unless you’re looking for it. The rest of the X1 design is ThinkPad through and through. It’s black, it’s a ThinkPad after all, with a simple and uncluttered look. You get a couple of small logos on the lid, but it is otherwise undecorated. It’s classy look is aimed at professionals types that would look at home in the boardroom or the basement. The X1 also matches the MacBook Air in weight as well, which is impressive because the X1 uses a larger screen. Both tip the scales just under three pounds. The X1 is in fact, the lightest 14” notebook you can buy.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon lid

The aptly named X1 feels very stout. The X1 top lid is actually made from carbon fiber while magnesium alloy is used to make the bottom casing. The X1 is very rigid and there’s little give to it anywhere. It’s so thin, where would it give anyway? You can hold it on the sides and try to twist it, but it doesn’t bend. Pushing on the lid can produce ripples on the screen, but the screen seems well protected. The screen uses a latchless design, but the screen is very stiff. I think it’s unlikely that it would ever open unexpectedly. When using the screen, it does not move at all. Necessitated by the need to get slim, the X1 uses a different hinge design. It’s looks like underneath, the hinges are metal, but are covered in plastic. After having used so many ThinkPads over the years with steel hinges, it’s odd not to see them on the X1. I don’t think it effects the quality of the hinges, but it’s strange not to have them there. Fit and finish on the X1 is tiptop. Nothing is out of place.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon weight

Display

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a 14” LED LCD. It’s an LG manufactured TN panel. The screen is matte, which means there are no annoying reflections. It has 16 brightness levels, which range from very dim to you’d better wear shades. One of the biggest letdowns of buying a ThinkPad over the years, with a few exceptions, has been the screens. This has been particularly true of the 14” ThinkPads. You spend your money on a new ThinkPad and get an exquisitely engineered notebook, but get the pleasure of staring at a mediocre screen. The reasons behind it aren’t difficult to figure out. The large institutional buyers, who purchase ThinkPads by the 1,000s and drive the design behind them, don’t care much about screen quality. Knowing why doesn’t make it any easier to accept because the result is dim, low contrast screens. I’m happy to report the X1 takes a big step in the right direction where screen quality is concerned. The panel is plenty bright at 300 nits and it offers a high contrast ratio of 400:1. The ThinkPad T430 we reviewed last month doesn’t look that much worse on paper with its 200 nits of brightness and 300:1 contrast ratio, but in person, the difference is quite apparent. Colors on the X1 are vivid and rich. There’s a bit of a bluish caste to the screen, but that’s easily toned down with calibration. Movies and photos are pleasing to view. While you won’t get IPS like angles on the X1, it offers a pretty big sweet spot. You have to be at an angle that people do not usually use their notebooks before colors begin to shift. The X1 also bumps up the resolution up 1600×900, which makes it convenient to view documents side by side, and you get more vertical resolution. More vertical resolution means less scrolling. It’s not a huge bump, only 132 pixels, but we’ll take it and are ecstatic to finally have a decent screen on a 14” ThinkPad.

To get an idea of how the screen compares to the IPS screen of the ThinkPad X230 we have some pictures below of the X1 Carbon on the left and X230 on the right with the screens tilted at various viewing angles:

Straight on view

ThinkPad X1 on the left, X230 on the right

Screens tilted back view

ThinkPad X1 on the left, X230 on the right

Screens tilted forward view

ThinkPad X1 on the left, X230 on the right

Horizontal angle view

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To see more coverage on how the ThinkPad X1 Carbon screen stacks up, see our comparison to the Apple MacBook Air and comparison to ThinkPad T430s article.

Audio

The X1 Carbon has two speakers. You don’t get anything fancy like a subwoofer, but where would you put it anyway? The speakers are located on the bottom of the X1, but are on the sides with small slits for openings. The X1 doesn’t sound as good as the Dell XPS 13, the best smaller notebook I’ve heard of late, but it was better than I had expected going in. The sound is clear and loud, if a bit distorted at higher volume levels. There’s not much bass and it’s a bit tinny, but it works fine for music and/or videos.

CPU, Performance and Storage

The emphasis for the ThinkPad Carbon X1, like all Ultrabooks, is battery life before performance. Because of this you get an Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) processor. ULV CPUs drain the battery at a slower rate. Our unit had the Intel Core i5 ULV, but a Core i7 is an option if you’re willing to open your wallet a little wider. The ULV CPUs are fine for typical usage, but anything where processing power is essential, it’ll lag behind. This is not the notebook to encode your Blu-ray collection on. Our review unit has 4GB of memory, but you can upgrade to 8GB if necessary. It’s an expensive upgrade since only the top model offers 8GB right now. You can’t do it later either as the memory is not upgradeable. Consider that before spending your money. Despite the slower CPU, the X1 is an adept performer for most uses. I managed to surf, run some benchmarks and listen to music without any problems. The SSD helps keep the X1 peppy. To see how the X1 stacks up against other Ultrabooks, we ran PCMark Vantage on it. As you can see from the numbers, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon holds up well against the competition. The X1 is mostly going to be a portable web and media notebook. For those uses, the ULV CPU is not a deal breaker, but if you need more processing power, a notebook with a full voltage CPU like the X230 might merit consideration.

PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results – Higher scores indicate better performance

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Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Intel Core i5-3427 2.3GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 11,696 PCMarks
Dell XPS 13 (Intel Core i5-2476M 1.60GHz, Intel HD 3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) 9,826 PCMarks
HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD) 9,026 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad U310 – Intel Core i5-3317U ULV 1.7GHz, 4GB RAM, Intel HD 4000, 540RPM HD 6,433 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core  i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 7,603 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core  i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 5,764 PCMarks
SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 7,007 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 6,056 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM 3,204 PCMarks

 

For those concerned about 3D graphics performance, the X1 Carbon isn’t exactly a gaming machine so you don’t expect much, but with the Intel HD 4000 graphics on board it can still be used to play some modern games on low to medium settings.

3DMark Vantage – Measures 3D graphics performance, higher scores are better

Laptop 3DMark Vantage
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Intel Core i5-3427 2.3GHz, Intel HD 4000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD 2,755 3DMarks
HP ENVY 4t-1000 – Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5400RPM HD, Intel HD 3000 1,320
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 3,165
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 1,611
Dell XPS 15 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia GT 525M 1GB RAM, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 4,211
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD 6,970
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM) 4,747
HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM 1,845

The X1 uses a SSD for storage which helps to keep the X1 slim and trim. The base option has 128GB of capacity, but there’s a 256GB option for those who need more space. Like the memory, the SSD is not upgradeable after purchase. Boot times on the X1 were surprisingly slow, coming in just under a minute. I suspect this is due to all ThinkVantage software and other bloatware that is installed on the X1. Once logged into Windows, the X1 SSD seems pretty normal with quick application launches. My biggest gripe about storage on the X1 is that the factory install is huge. The recovery partition takes up about 20GB of space on the drive, which leaves you with 100GB of space. The factory install was 62GB. 38GB of usable space is left for everything else. That’s a wee bit small for most users. If this were my notebook, I’d be taking a Windows disc to it in short order to free up space. A clean install of Windows should be less than 20GB.

The X1 has the Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics card. The HD 4000 is a big step up from last years HD 3000, offering twice the performance, but it’s still an integrated graphics solution. The HD 4000 should allow for some newer games, depending on the game, at lower settings and FPS. Older games should fair a bit better, but if gaming is your thing, there are better solutions out there.

Keyboard, Pointing Stick and TouchPad

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon keyboard

The Carbon X1 like all new ThinkPads has switched to using an island style keyboard. The keyboard remains spill-resistant. The keyboard is fused to the case on the X1, which means it is not replaceable. The X1 presents Lenovo with a unique challenge. ThinkPads have long been known for their good keyboards. How do you make a notebook this thin, but leave enough space to allow for some key depth, which is an important element of what makes for a good keyboard? It’s a case of an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. The short answer is, you can’t. I can say it’s the best Ultrabook keyboard I’ve used to date. Lenovo does do a pretty good job of making it the best they can within the given limitations, but the X1 keyboard just isn’t up to the standard set by ThinkPad X230 and T430 we reviewed earlier this year. The keyboard is firm given there’s little underneath it and the X1 gives you a couple of big palm rests to place your hands on, that makes for a comfortable typing position. When typing on the X1 and you strike a key, the bottom comes up sooner than it does on the T430 or X230. The X230 and T430 have a near perfect depth. On those machines your finger naturally starts to retreat as your finger hits the bottom of the stroke, but the bottom comes up much more abruptly on the X1. The X1 keyboard is still pretty good. It’s just not quite up to the high standards set by preceding ThinkPads.

Compared to the X230 or even the T430, the touch pad on the X1 is huge, measuring 4” across and 2.5” top to bottom. It’s a clickpad and does not have separate mouse buttons for the touch pad. Anywhere you push on the touch pad will register as a left click, except the lower right corner, which is the right click. Like most clickpads I’ve sampled, the top third or so is stiffer than the rest of the clickpad. You have to push harder to make the click register. The touch pad has a glass surface and it makes the touch pad on the X1 one of the smoothest I’ve ever used. Using the touch pad is effortless. There’s no hesitation or lag between what your finger does and what happens on the screen. The touch pad has all the gestures notebook users have come to expect like pinch to zoom, tap to click and two finger scrolling. They all worked smoothly and I had no trouble getting any of them to work the first time. It’s the best PC touch pad I’ve used.

Touchpad and pointing stick

In some ways I’m probably not the best person to review a touch pad as I’m a pointing stick user all the way and rarely use touch pads or their gestures. Give me the stick or give me death! OK, not death, but you get the idea. While the Carbon X1 is very thin, thankfully, Lenovo left enough room to include the stick. The pointstick is the best notebook mousing tool in my opinion, though certainly a large contingent will disagree. Your hands never stray far from the keyboard and you never hit an edge using the stick. The best part is Lenovo included both a good touch pad and pointstick, which means everyone can be happy.

Battery

The X1 has a 45w four-cell battery. It’s not a traditional ThinkPad battery. The battery is not swappable. It’s locked up inside the case. That means when you run out of battery power, you have to plug in or shut down. You’ll also have to send the X1 to Lenovo to get the battery replaced. While Lenovo is usually pretty good about getting repairs turned around, you will be without your X1 for at least a few days when it’s time for a battery replacement. To test the battery on the X1 I charged it fully, set the CPU to low power and the screen to half brightness, and turned WiFi on. I just did every day stuff like work on the review, listened to music, a few hands of solitaire and surfed the web. Using those settings, I was able to get 5:46 minutes of battery life. That’s a few minutes short of the MacBook Air, but the X1 has a bigger screen too. It’s also close to the X230 in battery life, which uses a much larger wattage battery. Given the smaller battery and larger screen, the battery life is impressive and most users won’t hit six hours anyway.

IMG_0066 power jack

The X1 uses a 90w AC adapter and can’t use any of the other ThinkPad adapters because they’ve changed the connector on the adapter. The adapter is a bit larger and heavier than the 65w adapter found on most other ThinkPads. The X1 plus charger is only about an ounce lighter than the X230 plus charger. Lenovo uses the new adapter to enable quick charge. Quick charge, as the name implies, allows users to charge the battery quickly. Lenovo claims you can charge the battery from 0% to 80% in 30 minutes. When I was using the X1, I did watch the battery go from a 15% charge to 95% charge in about 30 minutes. It was pretty amazing, but it’s a disappointment you can’t use the old adapters. Reusing old adapters on new ThinkPads has always been an advantage to getting a new ThinkPad. That’s the price of progress I guess.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon underside

Heat & Noise

The ThinkPad Carbon X1 has vents on the side and bottom to help it cool. For the most part when you’re not pushing the CPU, it’s very quiet. From time to time the fan becomes audible for a minute or a few, but then goes back to being quiet. The X1 does get warm when just doing normal stuff, but that’s normal for most notebooks I’ve used. When you’re pushing the CPU the temps do climb up the thermometer. I wouldn’t describe it as uncomfortable, but you definitely feel it when it’s in your lap. When the heat rises so does the fan noise level. It can get fairly loud. It’s not as bad as the MacBook Air, but there’s no getting around it since you can hear the fan over music at times. I think for most users who won’t push the CPU much, the X1 will be a cool customer, but if you’re going to stress the CPU, the heat and noise levels will ramp up.

Ports and Networking

Being that the ThinkPad X1 is so thin, port selection is as a result limited. You’ll get the most used ports, but nothing extra. The left side of the X1 has a powered USB port, which is nice for charging the phone or MP3 player, a WiFi on/switch and the power connector.

ThinkPad X1 left

The right side of the X1 has a card reader, combo headphone/microphone jack, mini-Displayport and a USB 3.0 port.

ThinkPad X1 right side

The rear of X1 has a SIM card holder that sits behind a flap.

SIM flap

One noticeable omission, at least for a ThinkPad, is the lack of docking port. Lenovo does have a USB 3.0 dock coming for the X1, but it remains to be seen if that is as useful as the traditional docks.

The X1 comes with an Intel 6205 b/g/n WiFi card. Like every other card I’ve seen of late, it worked fine wherever I took it, which included work and home. The X1 comes with a USB dongle for Ethernet, which is not as nice as having it built-in because they’re easily left behind. Bluetooth 4.0 is included on all X1 models. I was able to quickly pair my phone and mouse via Bluetooth with no trouble on the X1. The biggest news for networking on the X1 is the option to equip all it with WWAN, which is a first for an Ultrabook. You’ll of course have to bring your own data plan and SIM card, but the ability to add WWAN should make corporate customers happy.

Conclusion

Ultimately, the X1 Carbon has left me a bit conflicted. Don’t get me wrong, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a terrific Ultrabook. It’s a worthy challenger to the Apple MacBook Air, which has been the Prince of the Ultrabook realm until now. It’s incredibly thin and light which makes it a good companion for those who need portability. It’s well built and durable. It offers an above average LCD that I’m sure ThinkPad T430 users would cut off a finger to get, has plenty of performance for most users, a good expansive touch pad, a keyboard that’s as good as an Ultrabook can be and long battery life. There are a few minor niggles about the X1 like the shallow keyboard, over-sized factory install, and noise and heat when it’s pushed, but Lenovo gets the important things right.

If the X1 is so great, then what’s the rub you ask? The X1 Carbon wears a ThinkPad badge. ThinkPads have long been synonymous with innovation in the notebook industry. I ask where’s the innovation? Apple came out with this notebook almost two years ago. You would think in two years time they could have come up with something, anything to put the X1 a notch above other Ultrabooks, but I don’t see anything like that. A docking port, a swappable battery, upgradeable SSD or memory, would have shown Lenovo customers they’re pushing the envelope. While WWAN in an Ultrabook is nifty, it’s not particularly exciting. If you just want to compare the X1 against the competition, it’s as good as any other and if you can get one for the $999 price, it offers tremendous value, but for us long time ThinkPadders, something to make the X1 stand out would have a sign that the X1 continues the tradition of ThinkPad innovation.

Pros

  • Best Ultrabook Keyboard
  • Very Portable
  • Classy Look
  • Good Screen
  • Well Built
  • Long Battery Life
  • First-rate Touch Pad
  • WWAN

Cons

  • Keyboard Too Shallow relative to other ThinkPads
  • Noisy Fan and Gets Warm When Pushed
  • No Upgrades for Battery, Memory or Hard Drive
  • Oversized Factory Install
  • USB Ethernet Dongle
  • Nothing Particularly Original

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Product Page

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon at Lenovo.com

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New HP Laptop Coupons for Labor Day 2012, up to $450 Off

HP has released some new coupons for the Labor Day 2012 weekend in addition to the already live coupon codes.  Here’s a listing of the new codes available:

  • Use coupon code HP100LDS to get an extra $100 off any HP laptop or desktop priced $999 or more.  The only exclusions from this coupon are the Pavilion dv6t Select and dv7t Select.  The coupon is good today through 9/5/2012, it does stack with instant off offers!  Limited usage of up to 1,800 times.
  • Use coupon code HP150LDS to get an extra $150 off any laptop or desktop priced $1,299 or more.  No exclusions, works on anything and is stackable with instant off offers for savings of up to $450.  Coupon is good today through 9/5/2012 and is limited to 1,800 uses.

There are also several other coupons available issued earlier this week that will work over the Labor Day Weekend:

  • Use coupon code NB2481 to get $430 off the HP Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition or ENVY 15 laptop. Coupon works through September 5, 2012 and can be used up to 1,200 times.
  • Use coupon code NB1756 to get $450 off the dv7t-7000 Quad Edition or ENVY 17 laptops. Coupon works through September 5, 2012 and can be used up to 1,600 times.
  • Use coupon code NB3265 to get $30 off the HP Pavilion dv6z, dm1z, dv4t or dv6t laptops. Coupon good for 750 uses, expires on 8/28/2012.

The dv6t-7000 Quad Edition can be configured with high end specs of an Nvidia 630m 1GB card, 8GB RAM, Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 1366 x 768 15.6” display and 640GB 5400RPM storage for $699.99 after using the NB2481 $430 off coupon, here’s a screenshot of my cart after using that coupon:

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The dv7t-7000 Quad Edition with a configuration of Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, Nvidia 630m graphics, 1600 x 900 17” display, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive is $799.99 after the NB1756 coupon code for $50 off:

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If you had your heart set on the Envy 15t-3200, you can get a nice configuration with a Core i5-3210QM, AMD 7750M graphics and 1366 x 768 resolution display for $919.99 after the $430 off coupon

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These are great deals for the base level configuration of each laptop, of course you benefit more with the % off coupons if you wanted a higher priced configuration, but for those looking to get the cheapest price possible on the base level configuration (which is still very good!) the $450 and $430 off coupon works well.

The other notable coupon currently available via HP is the Free XBox 360 with the purchase of any HP PC that’s priced $699 or more, here are the details on that coupons:

  • Get a Free XBox 360 when you select any HP laptop or desktop priced $699 or more. Use this link and then at check apply coupon code XBOX360 at http://shopping.hp.com/FreeXbox360 to get the deal. Expires on 9/8/2012. If you don’t need the free XBox you can always sell it on Amazon or eBay for around $160 and treat it like a discount!
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HP Envy 6t-1000 Ultrabook Review

The HP Envy 6t-1000 is a 15.6” size thin and light laptop that HP is calling an Ultrabook, though it may not quite fit some of the expectations you’d have for that Ultrabook nomenclature.  At a weight of 4.75lbs it’s not exactly a MacBook Air, but then again it has a large 15” screen and is half the cost.  With a thinness of 0.78” it does impress when compared with other 15” PC laptops that are usually more than 1.2” thick.  What might impress you even more is the price of $749.99 that the Envy 6t starts at, but is the low price worth it or are there some major trade offs?  Read on to find out!

HP Envy 6t-1000

The Envy 6t-1000 comes equipped with a low voltage Intel Core i3 or i5 processor, meanwhile the Envy 6z that HP also sells comes with an AMD processor and graphics.  Other than the processor difference the Envy 6z and 6t are the same build, design and form factor.  The Envy 6t under review has the following specs:

Specs

  • Model: Envy 6t-1000
  • Operating System: Windows Seven Home Premium 64 –bit
  • CPU: Intel 1.6GHz Core i5-2467M
  • Memory: 4GB DDR 1600MHz(16GB Max)
  • Hard Drive: 500GB Hitachi 5K500 5400RPM Hard Drive, 32GB mSSD Hard Drive Acceleration
  • Screen: 15.6” Matte HD (1366×768) TN LED LCD
  • Graphics: Intel HD3000 Integrated Graphics
  • Network: Broadcom 4313GN Wi-Fi Card and Realtek Ethernet Card
  • Inputs: Backlit Keyboard and Touchpad with Mouse Buttons
  • Buttons: Power Button
  • Ports: Three USB – Two USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, Headphone and Microphone Jacks
  • Slots: Media Card Reader
  • Battery: Four-Cell , up to 8 hours 15 minutes battery life
  • Dimensions: 14.72 x 9.95 x 0.78 in
  • Weight: 4.75 Pounds
  • Warranty: One Year
  • MSRP: $749

Design and Build

HP Envy 6t-1000

The Envy 6t has an all brush metal finish and is the same midnight black color as the popular Pavilion dv6t-7000 and dv7t-7000 series, there is also a natural silver color option that costs an extra $25.  On the lid you’ll find an HP logo, it’s not backlit and just a badge.  The metal finish of the Envy is attractive but it does tend to gather fingerprints more than you’d like so keeping a rag on hand is recommended.  One cool design feature of the Envy 6t-1000 is the soft grip on the bottom that has a red color finish, it makes it easy to hold the laptop and looks great – only problem is no one will really see there!

IMG_0709

The Envy 6t is slim for a 15.6” laptop which helps to make it look sleek compared to other notebooks.  The weight of 4.75lbs is also significantly less than the average, though not as light as the MacBook Pro with Retina Display that weighs 4.5lbs.  The laptop feels very solid and dense, likely because so many components have been crammed into the slim design.  One downside to the fact the Envy 6t is an Ultrabook is that  it’s almost impossible to upgrade, the bottom is tightly clipped down and messing with anything internally will void the warranty, that includes attempting to change the battery.

The case of the Envy 6t-1000 is all metal, which makes for an overall very rigid body that has little give to it when pushed.  The lid closes down and is held in place using a latchless design, when closed the lid stays tightly down and when open there isn’t any wobble to the screen while typing.  The overall build quality and design of this laptop is very good, especially given the price of $749 at which we’ve seen some pretty shoddily put together laptops.  That’s not the case here.

Display and Audio

The Envy 6t comes with a 15.6” display with a resolution of 1366 x 768 and glossy finish.   The display on the whole is pretty average, it does not match up to the higher resolution and better quality displays on the HP ENVY 15.  The colors are good when viewed straight on and the glossy screen does help to make colors pop, but tilt the screen back and they will distort rather quickly, this is not an iPad like display that looks the same when viewed from any angle.  It would be nice if HP offered a higher resolution matte screen display for the Envy 6t, but for those that aren’t picky then you’ll be perfectly happy with what you see here.  Screen snobs should look elsewhere for a better option such as an HP ProBook.

straight on view Tilted back view
Tilted forward view Side view

Audio

The ENVY 6t-1000 comes equipped with Beats Edition audio which means you get two speakers and a subwoofer which provides a well above average listening experience for the Ultrabook category.   The speakers are located at the top of the keyboard and angled toward the user, this is great as some Ultrabooks have speakers in odd locations such as on the bottom.  This is still a laptop of course so it’s not going to be a theater like experience, to get better audio simply plugin in your headphones.

Performance

While the Envy 6t-1000 is available with an Intel Core i5 3rd generation processor, ours is just the 2nd generation from last year.   For most people this will still offer enough performance.  The specific model of the processor we have is the Core i5-2467m.  The RAM is configured as 4GB, which is just about enough, the problem is that if you decide you need more down the road there’s no ability to upgrade, so get as much as you need at the time of purchase (up to 8GB).  You can get up a 500GB HD that spins at 5400RPM, which is fairly slow, but the bonus is that you can get a 32GB mini-SSD (mSSD) that uses Intel’s Smart Response Technology to help speed up boot up and application load times.  Our review unit was able to boot from a cold start in about 25 seconds, which is very impressive relative to hard drive boot up times of up to a minute.

With the Intel Core i5 2nd generation you’ll have plenty of power for doing normal everyday tasks such as surfing the web with several browsers open, running Office applications, watch HD movies all at the same time.  If you had your heart set on doing some gaming you may want to upgrade to the Core i5 3rd generation processor that comes with either an Intel HD 4000 graphics or AMD 7670M as both are more powerful graphics solutions than the HD 3000 our review unit has.   With the AMD 7670M GPU you should actually be able to get a decent medium settings gaming experience on modern games.

To measure performance of the Envy 6t-1000 configuration we have we used PCMark Vantage that measures overall system performance:

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Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
HP Envy 6t-1000 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD 3000, 4GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 6,212 PCMarks
HP Pavilion dv4t-5100 (Intel Core i5-3210M, Nvidia GT 650M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD) 7,304 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y580 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GTX 660M, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 9,256 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y570 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia 555M 1GB, 8GB RAM,5400RPM HD) 8,771 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 8,634 PCMarks
Lenovo IdeaPad Y470p (Intel Core i5-2450m, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 5400RPM HD) 6,727 PCMarks

 
The score of over 6,212 indicates this is a capable performer, while it can’t keep up with more fully fledged Core i5 or i7 equipped gaming rigs you should be set for seamless performance with the typical tasks an average user would perform.

Keyboard and Touch Pad

The Envy 6t uses a six row chiclet or island style keyboard and comes equipped with a backlit keyboard if you’re willing to pay the $20 extra HP charges for that.  It’s well worth it, having a backlit keyboard in a dimly lit room just makes finding the right keys so much easier.  The feel of Envy 6t keyboard leaves something to be desired, the travel distance for the keys is very shallow so it’s not going to give a satisfying tactile feedback you get with higher quality keyboards seen on the likes of ThinkPad notebooks.  The shallow keys just make it hard to get in a rhythm so if you’re picky with keyboards you may want to look somewhere else.

Envy 6t keyboard

The Envy 6t touchpad is generously sized and uses Synaptics drivers.  It’s a clickpad, this means you can click down anywhere to register a left click.  To register a right click you need to click on the lower right side.  The click mechanism is a little stiff, it doesn’t feel as nice as the Apple MacBook touchpad.  Like the MacBook it offers multi-touch gestures such as two finger scrolling and pinch to zoom.  Overall the touchpad is very good and a better implementation than the keyboard.

Battery

The Envy 6t battery is sealed inside just as every other Ultrabook on the market, while this is a downside that makes it impossible to easily replace the battery down the road, it is designed to last at least 3-years of staying close to its original capacity.  HP quotes the Envy 6t-1000 battery life as 8 hours and 15 minutes.  That’s pretty optimistic, but I was able to get 7 hours out of the laptop when screen brightness was set to 1/3, wireless on and simply setting a browser to refresh every 60 seconds on the home page of CNN.com.  Under a usage scenario in which the screen brightness is full and you’re watching video the battery would probably provide around 4.5 hours of life.

Heat & Noise

The Envy 6t runs nice and cool under just about any usage, except for maybe when gaming for several hours in a warm room.  HP has come a long way over the past couple of years improving cooling on their laptops.  The fan is on quite a bit under normal usage, but it’s not overly loud, you won’t here it a room with ambient noise.  When you’re doing more demanding tasks the fan does rev up and get louder, but that’s to be expected and there’s no annoying whine which is more than can be said of other Ultrabooks.

Ports and Networking

The Envy 6t provides all the major ports users look for even with its slim profile.  The left side of the Envy 6t has an Ethernet port, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports and a card reader. The Ethernet port has a cover on it that hinges open to be able to put the jack in.

Left side ports for Envy 6t-1000

The right side of the 6t has a headphone and microphone jack, a USB 2.0 port and the power jack

Right side

If you’re looking for where the optical drive is, don’t bother, like every other Ultrabook one thing you sacrifice is having a DVD drive in order to keep the thickness down.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a lighter than average 15” screen laptop but don’t have the $2,000 to spend on a MacBook Pro with Retina Display then the $749 Envy 6t could be a decent half priced substitute.  The design is appealing, the midnight black color is professional while the red trim gives it a sporty look.  The audio quality is above average for both 15” laptops and Ultrabooks and the number of ports you get is also great.  Performance varies depending on which processor and graphics card you select, but even the base level Core i5 will be enough to zip through standard usage patterns such as browsing the web with multiple tabs, watching HD video streamed from the web, office applications or some Photoshop work.  With the Intel HD 4000 or AMD 7670M graphics you could even do a little gaming running the latest games.  The big negatives for the Envy 6t are the screen that really should be higher resolution than 1366 x 768 given its size, plus the keyboard is simply lackluster.  The battery is non-replaceable and you can’t make any after purchase upgrades, which is a con, but one you get with any Ultrabook.  For the price you can’t go too far wrong with the Envy 6t-1000, it’s a great alternative to the more powerful but far more beefy sized Pavilion dv6t-7000 we reviewed if you simply want something that’s as thin and light as possible in a 15” form factor.

Where to Buy

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New HP Coupons, up to $450 Off HP Pavilion Quad and ENVY Laptops!

HP has released some new coupons for the back to school 2012 season, you can get up to $430 off the dv6t Quad Edition and ENVY 15 or $450 off the dv7t Quad Edition and Envy 17.  Here are the details for these newly released coupons, good 8/24 – 9/5 2012:

  • Use coupon code NB2481 to get $430 off the HP Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition or ENVY 15 laptop. Coupon works through September 5, 2012 and can be used up to 1,200 times.
  • Use coupon code NB1756 to get $450 off the dv7t-7000 Quad Edition or ENVY 17 laptops. Coupon works through September 5, 2012 and can be used up to 1,600 times.
  • Use coupon code NB3265 to get $30 off the HP Pavilion dv6z, dm1z, dv4t or dv6t laptops.  Coupon good for 750 uses, expires on 8/28/2012.

The dv6t-7000 Quad Edition can be configured with high end specs of an Nvidia 630m 1GB card, 8GB RAM, Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, 1366 x 768 15.6” display and 640GB 5400RPM storage for $699.99 after using the NB2481 $430 off coupon, here’s a screenshot of my cart after using that coupon:

image

The dv7t-7000 Quad Edition with a configuration of Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, Nvidia 630m graphics, 1600 x 900 17” display, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB 5400RPM hard drive is $799.99 after the NB1756 coupon code for $50 off:

image

If you had your heart set on the Envy 15t-3200, you can get a nice configuration with a Core i5-3210QM, AMD 7750M graphics and 1366 x 768 resolution display for $919.99 after the $430 off coupon

image

These are great deals for the base level configuration of each laptop, of course you benefit more with the % off coupons if you wanted a higher priced configuration, but for those looking to get the cheapest price possible on the base level configuration (which is still very good!) the $450 and $430 off coupon works well.

The other notable coupon currently available via HP is the Free XBox 360 with the purchase of any HP PC that’s priced $699 or more, here are the details on that coupons:

  • Get a Free XBox 360 when you select any HP laptop or desktop priced $699 or more. Use this link and then at check apply coupon code XBOX360 at http://shopping.hp.com/FreeXbox360 to get the deal. Expires on 9/8/2012. If you don’t need the free XBox you can always sell it on Amazon or eBay for around $160 and treat it like a discount!
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Asus Zenbook UX31E Ultrabook with Free XBox 360 for $799 (Students)

Here’s another great deal via the Microsoft Store for an Asus UX31E Ultrabook + Free Box 360 if you’re a student – or just anyone with a .edu email address as that’s all they require, so alums or faculty with that type of email are in luck too!

Asus Zenbook UX31

Here’s how to get the deal, sign up for the free XBox 360 promotion at the Microsoft Store and then here’s the link to the Asus Zenbook UX31E-ESL8 that’s on sale for $799.99 and comes with a Free XBox 360.  After you have signed up for the XBox 360 promotion at the Microsoft Store they will email you a coupon code that you can apply at checkout to and the XBox will be added to your cart, you don’t have to add it  yourself.  If you don’t need the XBox you can sell it on Amazon or eBay for around $160 right now.

The Asus UX31E-ESL8 is an Ultrabook that features an amazingly light weight of 2.9lbs and is only 0.70-inches thick.  It has a 13.3” screen with 1600 x 900 resolution, which is higher than the standard 1366 x 768 you typically get.  While ports are somewhat limited (this is an Ultrabook) you do get one USB 3.0 port, one USB 2.0, a Micro HDMI port, headphone output and one mini-VGA port for which there’s an adapter to regular VGA.  Battery life is solid at 6.5 hours so the UX31E is a great on the go laptop for those that need something thin, light and lots of battery life.  Oh, and did I mention this thing is made of metal so it’s going to hold up well no matter how rough your road is, which is especially good to know if you’re a student that’s going to be hauling this in and out of a backpack and stomping all over campus!

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Mac OS X Mountain Lion Gets Patched to Version 10.8.1

imageThe newest Mac OS X already has its first upgrade!  Apple has just released the 10.8.1 update for early adopters of the Mountain Lion version of OS X.

This update includes general operating system fixes that improve the stability and compatibility of Mountain Lion. Though Apple has not confirmed reports that 10.8.1 improves battery life, there are various other issues that seem to be fixed:

  • Resolve an issue that may cause Migration Assistant to unexpectedly quit
  • Improve compatibility when connecting to a Microsoft Exchange server in Mail
  • Address an issue playing audio through a Thunderbolt display
  • Resolve an issue that could prevent iMessages from being sent
  • Address an issue that could cause the system to become unresponsive when using Pinyin input
  • Resolve an issue when connecting to SMB servers with long names
  • Address a issue that may prevent Safari from launching when using a Proxy Automatic Configuration (PAC) file
  • Improve 802.1X authentication with Active Directory credentials

To update from your Mac OS X Mountain Lion machine simply choose the Apple menu > Software Update.

OS X Mountain Lion was released last month on July 25, 2012, with new features such as Notes and Reminders as applications separate from Mail and Calendar. Additionally, Mountain Lion replaces iChat with iMessages, allowing users to send unlimited messages to other Macs (using 10.8 or later), iPhones, iPads and iPod Touches (using iOS 5 or later). Apple’s new OS X also uses Safari 6.

Source: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5418

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