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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
They haven't yet translated into a huge commercial success, or manifested themselves into the business world, but the allure of the Ultrabook has influenced the design of modern laptops, from budget family machines to high-end business beasts.
Chunky bland laptops are on the way out, and even the most corporate laptops are getting a stylish makeover.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the latest incarnation of Lenovo's flagship business laptop, and the classic black chassis has been given an Ultrabook twist. It's super-slim and measures just 19mm (0.75 inches), easing inside the thickness restrictions governed my Intel for what can be dubbed an Ultrabook.
The business laptop market is becoming increasingly competitive, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is one of the few dedicated business Ultrabooks to hit the market.
While its competitors, such as the Toshiba Satellite Z930, Sony Vaio T13, HP Folio 13 or even the Apple MacBook Air have delivered long-lasting power and sleek, lightweight builds, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon earns its place at the boardroom table by adding all of the high-end business features you'd expect from a ThinkPad.
Features such as RapidCharge, long battery life, fingerprint readers and data encryption are all typical of business laptops, which is why a consumer-targeted laptop such as the MacBook Air isn't used widely by corporate users.
This goes some way to explaining the colossal price tag commanded by the Lenovo X1 Carbon, and at £1,229.99/AU$1,989/US$1,499 it needs to perform.
So let's invite the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon into the boardroom, and find out if it's hired or fired.
While the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a rare dedicated business Ultrabook, on the grand scale of modern laptops, it packs a mediocre spec.
Inside you'll find an Intel Core i5 3427U processor clocked at 1.8GHz - one of the low-power Intel chips that is part of the Ultrabook scheme. It's a mid-range chip in the Intel lineup, which is disappointing at this price tag.
However, while the clock speed might sound low, it can turbo to 2.7GHz when under heavy load, so there's plenty of power on hand.
To back that up, there's a whopping 8GB of RAM, which helps to keep programs responsive, and a 256GB SSD drive. This is one of the few components included on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon that could be truly described as a bargain. Not only is there enough space for stacks of files, media and programs, the SSD is the secret behind the lightening-quick boot times and responsive feel when using the system.
Of course, all this is available in any consumer Ultrabook, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is built for business, so there are tonnes of specialist features.
The first is the build quality. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gets its name from the built-in carbon fibre 'roll cage' and lid, which keeps the chassis light, yet extremely resilient. At 1.3kg (2.9lbs) it's up there with the lightest laptops, yet doesn't sacrifice any comfort or usability.
The design is thin and sleek, with a soft textured feel that is luxurious to the touch, which must be a first for a business laptop.
The keyboard is well spaced and makes the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon the most comfortable laptop for long typing sessions since the Apple MacBook Pro.
The only complaint is the position of the PgUp and PgDn keys, which are annoyingly positioned around the tiny arrow buttons, and we often skipped down our document by accident, when trying to make a quick adjustment to the cursor.
The trackpad is huge, accurate, and offers physical buttons above and a touch-sensitive area in the traditional location below, as well as a range of multi-touch options for scrolling and zooming.
The only complaint is that it feels a little loose, and the mouse pointer sometimes jumped as we clicked slightly between the button and trackpad zones by accident.
If there's one black mark in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon's record it's the screen. The 14-inch display has a resolution of 1600 x 900 with a matt finish that does an excellent job in direct sunlight.
It's also blindingly bright, which again counteracts reflective conditions, but you do run the risk of snow-blindness if you work with it on maximum nit.
However, the high resolution doesn't result in exceptional clarity, and we found the pixels were noticeable, especially at high brightness. This caused a faint shadowing around images and objects, which puts extra strain on the eyes. It doesn't match the likes of the Apple MacBook Air for quality.
Inside there's RapidCharge technology, which meant we could return the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon from dead to 100% in around 45 minutes, which is extremely useful when your only contact with a power socket is while grabbing a coffee in Starbucks.
Being so thin makes connectivity a mixed bag, and for many business users, this could turn out to be a major concern.
There are two USB 3.0 ports - one of which can be used to charge USB devices while powered off - and a DisplayPort, for connecting to external displays using an adaptor. However, noticeable exceptions are Ethernet - again an adaptor has to be purchased - and standard display connections such as HDMI or VGA.
In terms of security, there's a fingerprint reader for accessing accounts and BIOS level and TPM security, for added peace of mind if your machine was stolen.
What's more, there's an excellent three year warranty offered, which makes the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon a long-term business partner.
Despite packing a middle-of-the-road Intel Core i5 processor, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon stormed our benchmark tests. The score of 9601 in our Cinebench test puts it on par with many Intel Core i7 laptops we've seen, which shows that Lenovo has chosen the very best chip on offer.
In real terms this means that any modern program is fair game for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and you could multitask even the most demanding software - be it bespoke business packages or classic applications such as Photoshop or Microsoft Office.
Graphics capability isn't so hot, since the responsibility for 3D is left to the onboard Intel HD 4000 core, which is built into the processor.
Onboard graphics aren't as woeful as they used to be, and there's plenty enough power to keep Windows fast and responsive, and enable picture and video editing, but if you're working professionally with HD video rendering, or looking to play the odd game in your spare time, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon will come up short.
If there's one triumph of the Lenovo X1 Carbon, it's the excellent power management, which comes via some nifty Lenovo technology. We turned the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon up to maximum performance and looped HD video to kill the battery within a respectable 164 minutes.
However, if you use the built-in software, accessible via the taskbar, you can dynamically alter the power usage to achieve around six hours of use. This is predominantly achieved by dimming the ferociously bright LED display, which makes a huge difference in the Ultrabook's stamina.
3D Mark: 5237
Battery Eater: 164 mins
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a fantastic business Ultrabook, which marries fantastic build quality and lightweight design with top performance and a range of genuinely useful business features, both in the hardware and built into Windows.
The quality of the keyboard and trackpad set a new standard in Windows Ultrabooks, making it one of the most comfortable keyboards we've had the pleasure to use.
Couple this with the excellent trackpad, and you have a laptop that's destined to be a trusty companion for hardened business executives and work-orientated home users alike.
The brilliant keyboard is a huge plus point, and anyone who spends their time writing long documents will love the comfort of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The build quality all over is a cut above most laptops, and the soft finish offers a luxurious feel that's also resistant to bumps and scratches.
Battery life is a huge triumph, and despite managing 2.5 hours in our stress tests, there's over five hours available here if you use the built-in power settings to manage your usage more stringently.
This makes it one off the most impressive Ultrabooks we've seen for longevity, and when coupled with the frankly frightening RapidCharge technology, you can genuinely achieve all-day usage.
However, the huge SSD drive, super-fast boot times and blistering processor performance make for a superb overall experience.
The lack of connectivity options is a negative point, and this will be a bug-bear for people who use the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon for business. There's no Ethernet or display connections without adaptors, which is the least you'd expect on such a business-orientated machine.
The next downside is the screen. The resolution is high, but this doesn't result in equivalently amazing clarity. The colour vibrancy is low, movies look flat, and even text can look grainy, and it's this last symptom of the panel that irritated us the most.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a boardroom winner that offers great all-round performance and comfort in a lightweight package.
The few niggles with the screen and connections aside, if we chose one Ultrabook to be our business companion, we'd hire the comfortable, high performance and long lasting Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon every time.
Review: iPod touch 5th Generation
In an age where your phone can hold all the music you own you may be wondering why you might still need an iPod touch 5th Generation.
The answer is that the iPod touch is not just an iPod anymore. While Apple still sells the old fashioned iPod Classic, the iPod touch has taken over as the champion of the iPod brand – it's essentially a media player par excellence that has morphed into a handheld gaming console thanks to the sheer number of excellent, and very cheap, games available via the App Store.
It's this gaming and app angle that really gives the touch its raison d'être. If you can't afford the premium tariffs that the iPhone attracts and you still want to take advantage of the thousands apps that Apple's App Store holds then the iPod touch is your cheapest route to entry.
The latest iPod touch 5th Generation takes the best features of the iPhone 5, like the taller 640x1136 pixel, 4-inch screen and the iOS 6 software update with Siri, and adds a few little quirks of its own, like a choice of coloured backs (black, grey, pink, yellow, blue and a sixth Product Red) and a new strap called an 'iPod touch loop'.
Along the way the camera has been upgraded to an iSight camera with a built-in flash that's capable of 1080p video recording and the processor has been upped to a duel-core A5 chip, giving it twice the processing power of the previous single-core A4 chip. Both the screen size and the faster processor are important for gaming, but more of that later.
Memory configurations have been simplified. The new 5th gen is available only in 32GB or 16GB versions.
Finally, the new iPod touch runs iOS 6, the latest version of Apple's mobile operating system in all its glory, which means that both Panorama – a new mode for taking panoramic photos, and Siri, Apple's intelligent voice-activated personal assistant, are available here.
Note: neither of these two features work on a iPod touch 4th Generation running iOS 6.
The coloured new iPod touch 5th generation is a very different looking beast to the previous model, which had a metallic silver back with tapered edges. While the metallic back initially looked nice it was a magnet for smudges and fingerprints.
The aluminium back of the new touch is the only part that's coloured (the front is always white no matter what colour back you choose) and seems to be extremely fingerprint resistant – the only parts that attract smudges on the back are the small Apple logo and the word 'iPod', which are both made of glass.
There's a little rubberised pad at the top right of the back, which covers the Wi-Fi antenna, since the aluminium covering would impede signal reception.
The flat back on the 5th generation model has genuine advantages over the previous tapered-edge design – now the sleep/wake and volume buttons are on a flat edge your fingers can find them more easily and it's possible to change volume using just one hand when the touch is lying flat on a desktop.
LEFT TO RIGHT: iPod touch 4th Gen, 5th Gen, iPhone 5
The iPod loop strap (whose colour matches the back) feels like it's made of leather and snags onto a little button on the back of the touch that protrudes from the surface when pressed. It fits snugly enough and we didn't have problems with it becoming detached. It's a good idea if you're using your touch as a camera because it gives you that extra level of security against dropping it.
The new 5th Gen is a millimetre thinner than its predecessor, and 12mm taller. The larger screen means it can fit an extra line of icons on your Home screen and you can see more of web pages and apps that are designed to take advantage of the new screen size.
We found that we had to change the way we held the new iPod touch in portrait mode if we wanted to reach the top left corner with our thumb though. While so far we've been used to resting the iPod touch on our little finger, you now have to grip the sides with all four fingers if you want to get your thumb all the way to the top corner of the screen (which is where a lot of 'back' buttons are located in apps, like Mail for example).
It takes a little bit of getting used to but you can still use the touch with one hand, at least in theory. In practice we found ourselves resorting to using two hands more often than we used to relieve some discomfort on our thumb.
As with the iPhone 5, the touch's 3.5mm headphone jack is located at the bottom of the device (which is where it was in the last generation model, too) and the 30-pin Dock connector has been replaced by a new more versatile Lightning connector.
While the new smaller connector has enabled some great improvements in terms of the size and thickness of the device it means that all your existing iPod accessories won't work with your new device, unless you buy the £25 'Lightning to 30-pin adaptor'.
It also means that you'll initially only have one charging lead that will work with your new device. Like most iPod touch owners we found we'd acquired a few iPhone cables over the years and suddenly going back to only having one cable that worked was a shock to the system, and we had to keep remembering to take it around with us everywhere we went.
With the iPhone 5 you get a wall charging plug in the box with your Lightning to USB cable, but no such luck with the iPod touch 5th Generation, so just bear that in mind.
Inside the box you'll find some of the new Apple EarPods earphones – while still not comparable with noise-isolating in-ear solutions these new earbuds are still a huge improvement over the previous Apple earphones, with much better bass frequencies.
The iPod touch 5th Generation feels nippy to use, and this responsiveness is one of its big advantages over the many different flavours of Android devices. But it's the App Store that's the real differentiator – apps in iOS just seems to look a little bit better, and the quality and range of apps is fantastic.
For apps that aren't designed for the new larger 4-inch screen, Apple drops in black bars over the unused portions of the screen. In practice you hardly notice, and you have the added advantage that games that are properly formatted now look better than ever.
There are some useful built-in apps, like Calendar, Reminders and Notes but the iPod touch really comes into its own once you connect it up to a Wi-Fi connection.
In Apple's world everything is filtered through the iCloud, which is no bad thing. One Apple ID and password gives you access to everything from the App Store to Email, notifications, video chat using FaceTime and messages using iMessage.
With your free account you also get 5GB of storage space online and any photos you've taken are automatically uploaded once you're in range of a Wi-Fi connection thanks to PhotoStream. It's all terribly convenient and all terribly Apple. Of course, things don't run so smoothly if you want to step outside of Apple's walled garden, but when it all works this well why would you want to?
The new screen size has the 16:9 aspect ratio that widescreen videos use, which makes it perfect for viewing movies. The iTunes Store (available on the iPod touch) is conveniently stuffed full of HD movies to rent or buy. You can of course watch movies you've acquired from elsewhere on your iPod touch by connecting it to your computer and using iTunes to transfer the movies across.
Annoyingly, iTunes will only play certain video formats, but software for encoding movies in a format that iTunes will play is plentiful and free, but it's still an annoying hoop that Apple makes you jump through. It would be so much easier if Apple eased up on the restrictions on the file types that iTunes can handle.
Slip further under Apple's hypnotic spell and get yourself an Apple TV and it's a breeze to mirror your iPod touch's display on your HD TV for big-screen entertainment.
It's worth noting just how versatile an iPod touch is – there's so much you can do with it, from playing music and movies to FaceTime video chat (thanks to a second front facing 1.2 megapixel, 720p, camera).
The 4th gen had a poor 5 mega-pixel rear-facing camera capable of only 720p video recording and 960 x 720 still photos with no flash.
The new iPod touch features a much improved iSight camera – it's still 5 mega-pixels, but with a better 5 element lens capable of much better still shots and 1080p video recording and a flash.
Low light test:
iPod touch 4th Generation...
iPod touch 5th Generation...
iPod touch 4th Generation...
iPod touch 5th Generation...
iPod touch 4th Generation...
iPod touch 5th Generation...
As you can see from our tests, the iPod touch 5th Generation's camera performed a lot better than the 4th generation, but it's still slightly behind the 8-mega pixel iPhone camera. In terms of video it was hard to separate the iPod touch video quality from that of the iPhone 5, both at 1080p.
There's no doubt that Apple has done the right thing by upping the display to 4-inches, the new iPod touch still feels like a modern, desirable device, but the question remains, with so many other full and medium-sized tablets, including the new 7.9-inch iPad mini on the market, is a 4-inch device still relevant?
The new iPod touch colours are fun, the bigger 4-inch screen is a real improvement and the Retina display looks as gorgeous as ever. There's no compromise here – this is the exact same display that you get on an iPhone 5. We also prefer the flatter back to the device, and the new iSight camera is a huge improvement.
The camera is good enough to use as your primary camera and 1080p video recording is a great addition. The new strap is actually pretty handy to have as well. In terms of ease of use, iOS still has the edge over Android, especially once you start using the iCloud facilities.
We didn't like:
Using the new iPod touch one handed in portrait orientation can be hard on your thumb. The new Lightning connector looks better than the old 30-pin Dock Connector, and doesn't mind which way up you put your cable in, but it renders all your existing accessories useless, unless you buy the £25 adaptor.
And of course, you still have to use the bloated iTunes to transfer media across from your computer.
We'd say the iPod touch 5th Generation makes a pretty convincing argument for small form factor devices, especially for kids who might find larger devices cumbersome to hold. Even for adults, 7-inch and larger tablets are too big to pop into your pocket, so the touch has a purpose. It's small enough to take anywhere with you and discrete enough that you can use one without drawing unnecessary attention to yourself. It's safer than flashing a larger tablet about on the Tube, for example.
Of course, a price tag of £250 still makes the touch an expensive purchase, and puts it right up next to the iPad mini at £270, and given the choice we'd rather put the money towards an iPad mini.
So, assuming you have an aversion to an iPad mini, the question is can the touch compete with other handheld gaming devices?
Well, there are certainly enough serious gamers' games of the car racing/extreme sports/high-octane-blood-soaked-monster-mashing variety on the App Store to make the iPod touch valid as a gaming platform on its own, but the sheer volume of fun casual games and games for younger children that are available mean the iPod touch can appeal to a much younger demographic than the PlayStations of this world.
And once you're in 'Apple World' you can be sure that your little one won't get into too much trouble or view inappropriate content on the device – there are parental controls aplenty and troublesome features like in-app purchases can be turned off by the parent.
With its bigger screen and new iSight camera the iPod touch 5th Generation is certainly the best iPod touch ever, and a big step up; it's a much bigger jump from the iPod touch 4th Generation to this than it is from the iPhone 4S to the iPhone 5, for example. If only Apple hadn't just released the brand new iPad mini we'd be rushing to buy the new iPod touch. Now we're thinking it's looking a bit late to the party.
LG Nexus 4 leaks in official press shot
Yet another picture of the LG Nexus 4 has leaked, and this one looks like an official press shot.
The device looks like it's changed since we saw it last as well, with some new Nexus branding on the back.
Otherwise it's the same as we've seen previously, with the familiar three icons below the screen.
The image comes courtesy of the Twitter account @evleaks.
LG's first Nexus-branded smartphone is turning out to be the worst-kept secret in tech. One of LG's own execs has reportedly even told reporters the handset will be unveiled at Monday's event.
Amit Gujral, LG's head of mobile product planning in India, told IBNLive that the LG Nexus 4 will launch at Google's Android event on October 29. Though an LG spokesperson later said Gujral had been misquoted.
We've also seen a slew of leaked snaps over the last few weeks.
The LG Nexus 4 is expected to have a 4.7-inch screen. Inside we're looking at a 1.5GHz quad-core chip, and it'll have the latest version of Android. That's Jelly Bean 4.2.
Other reports also said the Nexus 4 would come in two versions, one with an 8-megapixel camera, the other a 13-megapixel. It should have 2GB of memory, either 8GB or 16GB storage, and the screen resolution is predicted to be 1,280x768 pixels.
Google is also expected to open up the Nexus family at Monday's event. That'll mean anyone can make Nexus-branded devices, so long as they meet Google minimum spec requirements.
Nintendo reports first-half loss for 2012
In the first half of this year, Nintendo's net sales decreased almost 7 percent compared to the same period last year. That's according to stats from the Japanese gaming giant.
Sales were down 6.8 percent, while net income is on the way down as well. It fell by 27,996 million yen, which is around £220 million.
This continues the trend we saw at the end of the last financial year, which saw Nintendo post its first ever loss. It lost more than $530 million (£331 million) on $8 billion (£5 billion) in revenue.
So it's an improvement on last year, but still a loss.
As a result of this continuing loss, Nintendo has slashed its profit forecast for the year by a third. It expects annual profits of 20 billion yen (£158 million), down from its July forecast of 35 billion yen.
You can read the full report here.
Up to last month, Nintendo has sold more than 22 million 3DS consoles (that's 3 million more than since the last quarter). The Wii has sold just short of 100 million units in its lifetime, racking up 97.2 million sales.
Nintendo has a lot riding on its next console, the Wii U. It made its debut back at E3 last year, then Nintendo showed it off again this year, this time with a redesigned controller. It's had a bit of a cool reception so far though, so it'll be crunch time for Nintendo when it launches.