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X1C3 review by former X61S user

X1/X1-Carbon series specific matters only
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pgoelz
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X1C3 review by former X61S user

#1 Post by pgoelz » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:44 am

As a long time X61S user, I thought it might be useful to others in my position if I jotted down first impressions getting to know a like-new X1C3 I just bought on Ebay. I have used the X41 and then the X61S for a VERY long time and held off upgrading as long as I could. I loved the size and shape of the X61S itself as well as its "old fashioned" 4:3 screen. That form factor is still in my opinion the best for everything except viewing HD videos. The keyboard and the Trackpoint felt great and I was very happy. But the X61S (even the 1.8GHz model I ended up with) just wasn't QUITE cutting it for streaming videos (95% CPU use on a good day) so I reluctantly started looking for a more up to date replacement.

I didn't like the cost and fiddly nature of the X62 boards so that wasn't an option for me. I really liked the looks and ergonomics of the little Dell XPS13 but A) no trackpoint and B) no full size USB ports. So my search ended up at the X1 Carbon. I settled on the X1C3 as the best compromise between cost and function and found a like new X1C3 with 256GB SSD and 8GB RAM, with a WQHD touch screen and an i7 CPU.

Display:
I wasn't sure about the WQHD touch screen but when it arrived I was pleasantly surprised that for me at least, the brightness was quite acceptable and any "twinkling" from the A/R film is very minor and does not detract from the sharpness. It has a nice matte surface and reflections are no more of an issue than they were in the X61S. It is VERY crisp and sharp and I'm glad I have it. My wallpaper is a 19MP sot of my cat and I can get lost in her fur. One of my concerns was scaling in Windows 10 but everything looks completely normal at the default 200% scaling setting. Touch works fine although I guess I don't see the point on a laptop?

Trackpoint:
The Trackpoint took some getting used to... as received it seemed heavy compared to the X61S, even at maximum sensitivity and mouse movement settings. As an experiment, I replaced the stock wide and flat Trackpoint button with the more domed small "pencil eraser" button (I have a bunch I bought as spares) and the Trackpoint feels MUCH better. I even had to decrease the sensitivity a tad. I am still getting used to the buttons.... they I think are a bit farther away from the Trackpoint and fall under my thumb differently. I occasionally hit the center button when I am aiming for the left button.

Touchpad:
Initially I hated it..... always producing spurious movement when typing or using the Trackpoint. I initially disabled it but then found I missed it in some situations. On my lap, I use the Trackpoint, but I also leave it on the arm of the couch and in that situation, the touchpad is very convenient. So I started working with the settings and found that if I restrict the click and scroll areas to the left side of the touchpad and have the palm detection all the way up, it works out fairly well. I will occasionally see a bit of unintended mouse movement but it is pretty usable.

Keyboard:
I was very aprehensive about switching from the X61S keyboard to a "chicklet" style keyboard but the reviews were all VERY positive so I took the chance. I have to say that I may even prefer the X1C3 keyboard over the X61S! It has great "feel" but also feels more.... precise? They keys have good travel but less than the X61S and that seems to be the reason it feels very crisp and precise. I also find I have not had a single instance (so far) of accidentally hitting the adjacent key enough to produce a typo. That happened a lot on the X61S. I found myself hitting the caps lock instead of the "A" and I'm adjusting to the (I assume) slightly different key spacing. I also like the fact that the function keys default to the system functions instead of just function keys.

Ergonomics:
I dislike the fact that the power plug is on the left..... just my particular preference, but since I sit on the right side of the couch having the power plug and cord on the right like it is on the X61S is much preferred. Yes, I can double it back under the laptop but it is just.... messy ;) I find that the front edge of the bottom half of the machine tends to be uncomfortable on my wrist in some positions. I wish it had a slight radius or slant to it. I REALLY MISS THE HD ACTIVITY LIGHT. With an SSD, there is no other way to determine if the system is stuck or just busy. I found a nice little system tray application that gives me CPU and HD activity but if you are in the middle of an update or trying to boot, there is NO HD activity indication. Too bad they didn't do something creative like multiplex HD activity onto the power LED. And finally I have to say that as much as I like the X1C, I wish it was a bit smaller. Remember I came from the X61S, I have good eyesight and I like things small.

Speed and performance:
No issues here. The thing is blazingly fast and boots in maybe 10 seconds.

Fan:
In normal use, the machine on the "balanced" power profile stays dead cold and the fan normally doesn't run. And when it does run, it is very quiet. It makes a gente air hissing but there is no whine at all.

Battery:
I am not overly concerned with battery life since I normally use the machine plugged in. But a very informal test showed 4-5 hours of mixed internet browsing plus more CPU intensive program installation and setup plus a maintenance cycle.

Linux compatibility:
I'm no Linux guru but I do like to have Linux Mint 18 on my laptops just to play around with. Mint installed on the X1C with no issues at all save screen scaling. And there is a scaling setting which when set to 200% (same as Windows) seems just right on my WQHD screen. The touchpad and Trackpoint actually work well in Linux and the Trackpoint is decently sensitive (it was not on the X61S) but there is no ability to limit clicks and scrolls to only a portion of the touchpad so operation isn't as trouble free as it in in Windows. I installed Linux with the boot loader on the Linux partition and use EasyBCD from Neosmart to dual boot. Dead easy to set up and works 100%.

Windows:
The machine I bought came with a supposedly fresh install of Windows 8.1 but the admin user was named "Bob" and I was never able to figure out how to change the login username so I wanted to end up with a fresh install of Windows 10. The Windows 8.1 license key was in the BIOS and I was pretty sure it would not be acceptable for clean Windows 10 install. Since the free upgrade period for Windows 10 has expired, I used the "assistive devices" path (Google it) to upgrade it for free to Windows 10, trying to get to the point where it was running an activated copy of W10. The first try stalled at 99% complete so after about six hours I rebooted which stopped the update attempt. At that point, Windows Update popped up and said I had 188 updates so I decided to do them and then try the upgrade again. The 188 updates went way faster than I expected (I'm used to a C2Duo 1.8GHz) and when they completed I re-started the W10 upgrade. It proceeded normally this time and about 30 minutes later I was up and running with a licensed and activated copy of Windows 10. At that point, I used the media creation tool to make a Windows 10 USB stick and used it to format the Windows partition (to eradicate anything that should not have been there) and install a clean copy of Windows 10 since I was not 100% certain about the original W8.1 and where it had been. That worked perfectly. Interestingly, the media creation tool on the MS web site served up the soon to be released Creators Update (or something close to it) since I am now running build 15063.13.

That's about all I can think of. Hope this helps someone.

Paul
Last edited by pgoelz on Sun Apr 09, 2017 7:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#2 Post by agarza » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:46 pm

Nice Review Paul!

What program are you using in the systray to get the HD activity?
Current
T440p:
Core i7-4710MQ|16GB RAM|Intel 200GB SSD| 14.1" AUO IPS FHD|Win 7 Pro|T450 Trackpad|Backlit keyboard|2nd Caddy

T460p:
Core i5-6300HQ|16GB RAM|lPNY 256GB SSD| 14.1" Panasonic IPS WQHD|Win 7 Pro
Past: T420 HD+, X61s XGA, T61 14" SXGA+, T42p 14.1 SXGA+, T30, A22e

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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#3 Post by pgoelz » Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:54 pm

agarza wrote:Nice Review Paul!

What program are you using in the systray to get the HD activity?
It is called Compact CPU Meter.

http://dennisbabkin.com/ctm/

It initially installs as a CPU monitor and you can add RAM and HD monitors (and delete the CPU monitor if all you want is HD). The display is numerical and I would prefer a bargraph for visibility, but other than that it works great and can be set to start during boot.

Paul
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#4 Post by shawross » Sun Apr 09, 2017 4:02 pm

Yes nice review Paul and good observations as coming from a X61

I find the X1C3 and interesting machine but I don't use touchpads and I like the 7 row keyboard with the extra indicator lights.

The chicklet style buttons seem good by all reports but the massive touchpad just gets in the way IMO. Sigh........
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#5 Post by pgoelz » Sun Apr 09, 2017 6:38 pm

shawross wrote:The chicklet style buttons seem good by all reports but the massive touchpad just gets in the way IMO. Sigh........
When properly tuned to not produce spurious touches, the touchpad isn't in the way at all. For me, at least. And you can always disable it in a couple clicks. I too like the Trackpoint but I do find I use the touchpad on occasion so I leave it enabled. Or are you saying that you would prefer indicator lights in lieu of the space required for the touchpad? I get that.

I thought my X61s with SSD was fast (the difference from a HD was startling) but the X1C3 runs rings around it.

Paul
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#6 Post by shawross » Mon Apr 10, 2017 5:36 am

Yes my feeling is that Lenovo are trying to make the newer Thinkpads look like Mac's.

The offshoot of this new design the keyboard has been compromised because the size of the touchpad. The indicator lights I would use more than a touchpad. If you use the touchpad that is acceptable but for me it isn't. Maybe I could adapt to the new keyboard but at this stage I don't need to and I will keep my money until I find something acceptable. YMMV
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#7 Post by pgoelz » Mon Apr 10, 2017 7:24 am

shawross wrote:Yes my feeling is that Lenovo are trying to make the newer Thinkpads look like Mac's.

The offshoot of this new design the keyboard has been compromised because the size of the touchpad. The indicator lights I would use more than a touchpad. If you use the touchpad that is acceptable but for me it isn't. Maybe I could adapt to the new keyboard but at this stage I don't need to and I will keep my money until I find something acceptable. YMMV
That is the way I felt. But I decided that if I "kept my money and waited" it would be an infinitely long wait ;) So I decided to give the new keyboard a try. And I find it perfectly acceptable as long as you don't require it to be exactly the same as the "golden age" Thinkpads.

As for the indicator lights..... it has a couple. There is a MUTE indicator in the MUTE/F1 and MIC/F4 keys and there is an LED in the FN key (I assume to indicate the sticky function key feature is active). They could easily use that methodology to provide at least a HD light. They could also multiplex it into the power LED as a second color. THAT might happen one day.

Paul
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#8 Post by w0qj » Mon Apr 10, 2017 9:55 am

Hey pgoelz, a BIG welcome to the modern Thinkpads!

We like ours so much that we have 5-year warranty on most of ours ;)
Daily Driver: X1 Carbon 4th Gen (X1C4): i7-6600U 2.6GHz; 16GB DDR3 1866 MHz; 1TB PCIe-NVMe SSD; 14" WQHD 2560x1440; LTE EM7455 Mobile Broadband; Win7 Pro 64bit
Current Thinkpads: X1C4 | X1C3 | X250 | X230 | T410
Retired Thinkpads: T42 | 560 (circa 1996)
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#9 Post by pgoelz » Mon Apr 10, 2017 1:09 pm

w0qj wrote:Hey pgoelz, a BIG welcome to the modern Thinkpads!

We like ours so much that we have 5-year warranty on most of ours ;)
I like it but I'm curious to see if I end up outgrowing it. Right now I don't see how that could happen with an i7. But who knows.... if 3D stuff becomes the norm I guess we'll need even more horsepower. I tried viewing a 3D object on a web site and the CPU really woke up and started blowing hot air ;) Normally the fan is off and the case is dead cold.

So.... even with a modern machine, the forum is pretty sleepy these days?

Paul
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#10 Post by w0qj » Mon Apr 10, 2017 2:27 pm

This Forum caters to the more traditional Thinkpad users (hint: look for the "Post-Classic Lenovo Hardware" and where X1/X1C fits into this).
This website also service the older out-of-warranty Thinkpad Models.

We would like to think that this Thinkpads.com Forum is a more tight knit community, more willing to share our experiences with each other ;)
And perhaps this Forum has more IT management expertise per capita than elsewhere; just look at other Forum posters' postings...

- - - - - -
We have also posted there regarding our (valid) concern for X1C3 post-warranty SSD upgrade on Lenovo Forums:
[Hint: X1C3 users are stuck with ACHI SSD; no NVMe support]:
http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-X- ... 840#M64756
http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-X- ... 881#M67995
http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/ThinkPad-X- ... 721#M69708
Daily Driver: X1 Carbon 4th Gen (X1C4): i7-6600U 2.6GHz; 16GB DDR3 1866 MHz; 1TB PCIe-NVMe SSD; 14" WQHD 2560x1440; LTE EM7455 Mobile Broadband; Win7 Pro 64bit
Current Thinkpads: X1C4 | X1C3 | X250 | X230 | T410
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#11 Post by Saucey » Tue Apr 11, 2017 9:47 pm

Having owned a Pixel 1 and Pixel 2, my main dislike on the X1C3 was that it felt too 'flexy' due to its thinness.

Wonderful review, though not an X61s user, I was an X61T for a long time. I pretty much agree with your review,
The X1C3 was a blast, I think I installed Mint or Xubuntu when I had it.
Didn't have any problems installing Wine and Photoshop CC on Linux, I don't believe it updated but thats fine.
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#12 Post by agarza » Mon May 08, 2017 5:56 pm

pgoelz wrote:
Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:54 pm
agarza wrote:Nice Review Paul!

What program are you using in the systray to get the HD activity?
It is called Compact CPU Meter.

http://dennisbabkin.com/ctm/

It initially installs as a CPU monitor and you can add RAM and HD monitors (and delete the CPU monitor if all you want is HD). The display is numerical and I would prefer a bargraph for visibility, but other than that it works great and can be set to start during boot.

Paul
Thanks for the tip :o
Current
T440p:
Core i7-4710MQ|16GB RAM|Intel 200GB SSD| 14.1" AUO IPS FHD|Win 7 Pro|T450 Trackpad|Backlit keyboard|2nd Caddy

T460p:
Core i5-6300HQ|16GB RAM|lPNY 256GB SSD| 14.1" Panasonic IPS WQHD|Win 7 Pro
Past: T420 HD+, X61s XGA, T61 14" SXGA+, T42p 14.1 SXGA+, T30, A22e

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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#13 Post by jaspen-meyer » Tue May 09, 2017 12:20 am

pgoelz wrote:
Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:44 am
But the X61S (even the 1.8GHz model I ended up with) just wasn't QUITE cutting it for streaming videos (95% CPU use on a good day)
My x60s (L2400) reports 25% CPU usage while streaming a very busy 720p video. What is the CPU usage while streaming on your x1c3?
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#14 Post by pgoelz » Tue May 09, 2017 4:51 am

jaspen-meyer wrote:
Tue May 09, 2017 12:20 am
pgoelz wrote:
Sat Apr 08, 2017 10:44 am
But the X61S (even the 1.8GHz model I ended up with) just wasn't QUITE cutting it for streaming videos (95% CPU use on a good day)
My x60s (L2400) reports 25% CPU usage while streaming a very busy 720p video. What is the CPU usage while streaming on your x1c3?
My X1C3 (i7-5600U 2.6GHz) reports about 20% CPU streaming 1080p.

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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#15 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue May 09, 2017 10:45 am

95% CPU utilization is normal for 1080p video on the X61s, especially with the additional overhead from the web browser.

The only video decode acceleration option (Broadcom CrystalHD BCM970015) doesn't have software support in Chrome (and probably other browsers as well).
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#16 Post by jaspen-meyer » Tue May 09, 2017 11:46 am

axur-delmeria wrote:
Tue May 09, 2017 10:45 am
95% CPU utilization is normal for 1080p video on the X61s, especially with the additional overhead from the web browser.
15-21% CPU for streaming 1080p using mplayer on an X61s L7500. I must be doing something wrong!
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Re: X1C3 review by former X61S user

#17 Post by axur-delmeria » Tue May 09, 2017 12:11 pm

Mplayer doesn't do extraneous stuff like javascript unlike a web browser, so it's much lighter on resources. Also, CPU utilization depends on the bitrate and other encoding settings in addition to the picture size/resolution (720p vs 1080p).

I've been testing video files of varying bitrates and resolutions with mpv (on Linux and Windows) and MPC-HC (Windows only). I have a low-bitrate 1080p that's playable (with a little stuttering) even on a dual-core Atom 330, and a high-bitrate one that will cause stuttering on Core 2 Duos below 2GHz in a specific scene. Your streaming video sounds like the former.

The OS also adds its own overhead, and Windows 10 has that automatic update mechanism that the user has absolutely no way of turning off, effectively crippling anything less than a quad-core when it starts up. :evil:
Daily driver: X220 4291-C91 i7-2620M

Backup: X220 4291-P79 i5-2520M
Toy: X60/s Frankenpad Core Solo U1300
In pieces: two retired but working X61Ts
RIP: 760XD 9546-U9E, X61 T7500
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