Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Part 2 of Who are you designing for? Or, thoughts on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Or, trying to buy some more happiness.

So.  I got my Lenovo X1 Carbon 2nd Generation and put hands to it.  I'm going to tell you about it in lists:
  1. design decisions things that I like,
  2. design decisions that are reasonable tradeoffs
  3. design decisions that are horrible, disastrous mistakes that should never have made it into a released product, much less a flagship product from a traditional market leader,
  4. design decisions that favor style over functionality and thus betray ThinkPad brand, which stands for functionality over style—which is not the same thing as stylelessness or bad style, and
Here's what I liked unreservedly about the X1C2 (X1 Carbon 2nd Generation):
  • It's pretty
  • It's light (under 1.3 kg)
  • The screen is big and high-resolution.  2560x1440 in 14" diagonal is a bit over 200 DPI, or "Retina"-equivalent as long as it's at least 40 centimeters from your face.
  • The feel of typing on the keys, while different from traditional ThinkPad keyboard, is at least as good.
  • The keys light up nicely.
  • Performance is adequate to good (with the mid-range CPU option)
Here are the reasonable trade-offs:

Battery life.  There are basically two levels of battery life.  For any product.  Short enough that you are always worried about charging, and long enough that you are a bit surprised when it finally does need charging.  All of my previous ThinkPads have been level two, at least six hours of heavy use.  In exchange, the cost and weight of an expanded battery pack has brought them to 1.4 to 1.5 kg, and that has to be replaced, for $100 or more, after maybe two years, to maintain that performance.  The X1C is lighter, but battery life is right between the two levels, and the built-in battery is going to be harder to replace. In partial compensation, it charges really really fast.

Touch Screen.  I hate fingerprints on the screen, love the TrackPoint, prefer keyboard shortcuts, and won't be using Windows, so I got one without.  It adds weight and cuts brightness.

Brightness.  It's not super-bright.  The X1C3 is a bit better than the X1C2, but still not especially bright.

Now to the horrible mistakes and betrayals of the brand.  The big news about this laptop is the keyboard, so let's get a good look at it before we proceed.

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