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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype: Current model was initially planned with a 3:2 display and as a MacBook-competitor

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype: Current model was planned with 3:2 display and as MacBook-competitor (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype: Current model was planned with 3:2 display and as MacBook-competitor (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Getting an inside view into the notebook industry is a rare thing and seeing actual prototypes even rarer still. A few days ago, Lenovo showcased such a prototype to Japanese journalists – the prototype of its current ThinkPad X1 Carbon. This two year old prototype looks very different from the production model.

Sometimes the notebook-industry seems like a blackbox, especially from a Western perspective. After all, most development happens in Asia these days. Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops for example have always been developed in Japan, giving technology-journalists there an advantage over us, their Western counterparts. They simply have a better, more direct access to informations and special events.

Lenovo held such an event a few days ago, revealing some interesting details about the in-house development of the ThinkPad line. The company also showcased an example of the development process by showing an actual prototype or rather, a "proof-of-concept". The shown prototype stems from the development process of the current ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which means that this prototype is already around two years old. Its not for a future-device, rather, its a discarded idea.

The pictures taken by the Japanese press show a ThinkPad with a very different design from the finished product. The most important difference: The screen is smaller, measuring just 12 instead of 14 inches. Also, Lenovo radically removed ports on this prototype, as the showcased "proof-of-concept" ThinkPad only has a single USB C port. Based on these specs, the positioning of this device was clear: It was meant as a competitor to the 12 inch MacBook.

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ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2017 (left) and ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype (right) (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2017 (left) and ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype (right) (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
X1 Carbon prototype: Only a single USB C port (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
X1 Carbon prototype: Only a single USB C port (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)

Of course, this wouldn't be just a clone of the MacBook, as Lenovo planned to give it a unique ThinkPad-spin. This included an innovative idea to enable the user to add more ports via a bottom-connector similar to the one used on the Moto Z smartphones. For this connector Lenovo would have offered a special accessory kit that would have added essential ports like HDMI, Ethernet or USB A.

Important connectors: Only available through an expansion kit... (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Important connectors: Only available through an expansion kit... (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
...that connects to the bottom of the machine... (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
...that connects to the bottom of the machine... (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
...and puts the laptop at an angle (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
...and puts the laptop at an angle (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)

In terms of the outside design, the prototype is instantly recognizable as a ThinkPad with its black chassis, smile-shaped keys and the red TrackPoint. But Lenovo would have modified the design to include a Carbon-fiber material on the outside of the bottom. and top-cover, similar to the material used on the palmrest of Dell's XPS 13. Also, the keyboard is slightly less wide compared with the X1 Carbon that Lenovo actually released and the speakers are positioned in the palmrest area.

Carbon-fiber on the outside (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Carbon-fiber on the outside (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Smaller keyboard and speakers in the palmrest (picture-source: japanese.engadget.com)
Smaller keyboard and speakers in the palmrest (picture-source: japanese.engadget.com)
X1 Carbon: Originally planned with a 3:2 display (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
X1 Carbon: Originally planned with a 3:2 display (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Webcam: Alternative design with the webcam placed in the keyboard-bezel (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)
Webcam: Alternative design with the webcam placed in the keyboard-bezel (picture-source: pc.watch.impress.co.jp)

Additionally to this prototype, Lenovo showed two slides that reveal more details about the development. For example, in the early ideation process, Lenovo planned the new X1 Carbon with a display in the 3:2 aspect ratio. Another idea was to integrate the webcam in the keyboard-bezel above keyboard, an idea similar to the design of the Huawei MateBook X Pro.

In the end, Lenovo decided to choose a different, less experimental design. By increasing the screen size from 12 to 14 inch and adding plenty of legacy ports, Lenovo created a safer, but also a very successful ThinkPad – after all, the current Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has received a lot of praise from us and others.

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > News > News Archive > Newsarchive 2018 06 > Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon prototype: Current model was initially planned with a 3:2 display and as a MacBook-competitor
Benjamin Herzig, 2018-06-21 (Update: 2019-04-30)
Benjamin Herzig
Benjamin Herzig - Editor