In 2015, Lenovo managed to create a new ThinkPad that was again usable, namely the X1 Carbon (aka 3rd gen). After the last iteration of the Carbon was pretty terrible they went back to a more proven formula, for the better.
I needed a laptop for work, so I decided I give this device a spin. I got a BTO model with an i7-5500U (Broadwell, 2.4 GHz), the 256 GB PCIe SSD and the WQHD screen (2560x1440) along with the US keyboard with Euro key.
Generally, I am quite satisfied. Compared with my T41 and T42p it is much faster, compared to my T420 it is much thinner. The keyboard is, unlike on the T420 an island-style keyboard but works pretty well in general. The layout is pretty sensible. I never use the keyboard backlight, just like I never used the ThinkLight, so whatever. The screen is pretty good, the frame is much thinner than my other devices. The touchpad is quite nice, although it is sometimes tricky to right-click — but I’ve always been a TrackPoint kind of guy. This is where the device has the biggest flaw: the trackpoint is set slightly below the keyboard and requires surprisingly much force to use. I’ve ended up getting an external mouse.
The SSD is ridiculously fast, but my workflows are rarely disk-bound.
If there is one word to describe the hardware it would be “slick”.
Having read some pretty sobering experiences I can now offer a counterpoint: the hardware support in Fedora 22 (Kernel 4.0.4) is pretty solid. The installer of the Workstation edition works without issues, no problems with graphics whatsoever, did not encounter any problems with WiFi (using it since two weeks). Suspend works, the cursor works and sound is no problem.
I’ve also tried DisplayPort to HDMI which worked only with a 1080p resolution (which is supposedly the fault of the Dell 27” screen I’ve been using), but when using DisplayPort to DisplayPort natively, the external screen lights up with 2560x1440 just fine. I’ve also tried the VGA adapter, this also worked out of the box. I did not try Bluetooth (my mouse uses Logitech Unifying dongle) or mobile data (since I haven’t ordered any mobile data cards).
Battery time seems quite decent, six hours or so. I’ve never discharged the device that much, since most of the time I’m sitting at my desk with the charger plugged it. Unfortunately, they changed the charger again, so now I have a third generation of chargers for ThinkPads. Honestly, I liked the round plug of the T420 the most.
In normal use, the device is absolutely silent. Whee. When I start some more complicated processes, it gets a bit louder, but it still isn’t anywhere bad.
Overall: pretty good! Fedora also did a good job packaging it together.
The bad parts
This is something that I cannot blame on Lenovo. The HiDPI mode on Linux sucks. GTK+ only supports integer scaling factors, so I can choose between 2560x1440 or 1280x720. The latter is of course completely ridiculous on such a pretty device, the former is ok but quite small. Coupling a HiDPI device (X1 Carbon) with a non-HiDPI device (external screen) isn’t supported, so either you use both HiDPI or both unscaled. A 27” screen in 1280x720 is just hilariously terrible. Maybe Wayland will solve this issue, since i don’t think this is an overly exotic problem.
Firefox fortunately does support scaling by any factor, which is nice. So when working I have my terminals on my external screen and Firefox on the laptop. I’ve set the scaling manually to something like 1.6x, which does not make everything look huge but is still legible. While this sounds awesome, I of course ran into another bug, where context menus are displayed on the wrong screen when using a scaling factor that is not 1 or 2. So, everytime I open the context menu, it just opens on my other screen :-(
Hardware works really well with Linux, Linux software has issues with HiDPI, maybe solvable through Wayland in the next couple of decades. Would recommend the device.