I’m back with a special treat for you all. Today, we’re going to be responding to a review published on Gizmodo called “I Freaking Love This ThinkPad” – which you can read here, if you wanna put yourself through the torture of reading it. This is supposed to be a review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 5 (which I will be referring to as the X1C5), but there are times were this review becomes more of a smear piece towards the X1C5 rather than a review. So, how bad is this review? Lets dive in and find out!
The review started on a positive note but it didn’t take long for it to turn negative, when the author, Alex Cranz, called the X1C5 a “chunky black machine.” Alex, what exactly do you mean by “chunky”. Last time I checked, the X1 Carbon isn’t chunky. Its actually pretty damn thin, certainly much thinner than my ThinkPad T500. By today’s standards, even though its fairly thin for a laptop of its size, my T500 would be considered “chunky”.
So after beginning the review with a somewhat questionable (but overall positive) tone, she then went on talk about the pricing of the X1C5 – which, I would have to say, was also a bit mixed:
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has never been a cheap machine, and this year’s model is no different: It starts at $1329 with an i5 Kaby Lake processor, and I reviewed the $2200 i7 variation. That’s unusually high for a Windows-based laptop.
Well, what do you expect from a name like ThinkPad, and in particular, the X1 brand? May I remind you that this is a premium product – a product that has been built with some of the best materials out there and with plenty of R&D to back it up. So yeah, of course its going to be expensive. That’s what you would expect from a high-end product.
This next line is actually kinda funny, as Alex then went on to call Windows – not Windows PCs themselves – as an affordable alternative to Apple’s products:
These days, we largely see Windows as an affordable alternative to Apple’s pricey objects of beauty.
I think you mean “we largely see Windows PCs as an affordable alternative to Apple’s pricey objects of beauty”. You might wanna phrase things better next time. Also, are you implying that only Apple products can be “objects of beauty.” Ever heard of the Lenovo Yoga 910? (Just to give one example.) You know, I’m getting really sick and tired of people saying that only Apple products look great and there are no Windows PCs that look great as well. Especially now a days, this notion is completely false. The problem is, you’re just not looking in the right places.
Even though she thinks that the price point for the X1C5 is a bit excessive, Alex does go on to say that its actually warranted!:
But the ThinkPad X1 Carbon feels luxurious enough to warrant the price, and crucially, it’s luxurious in all the ways an Apple laptop is not.
Well Alex, I’ll give you huge props for saying that. At least we’re now on the right track.
This next line is also pretty okay. In fact, Alex goes on to say that doesn’t have to look like an Apple product and goes on to praise the X1C5 for forging its own path:
But the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is festooned in soft touch black plastic, the display is matte, and the device is not striving to be the thinnest laptop around, just the nicest. It’s a refreshing reminder that a premium device doesn’t have to look like it was designed in Cupertino.
I’ll give you more props for saying that last bit, Alex. As for the material the X1 Carbon is built on, its a combination of CFRP/GFRP material for the display cover and a magnesium alloy hybrid kind of material for the bottom cover (this is according to Lenovo’s own PSREF site). The reason I say this is because when you say plastic, you seem to be implying that its built out of regular, inexpensive, ABS plastic – which, of course, its not (just thought I’d mention this in case there’s any confusion around this). May I also remind you that ThinkPads are about functionality in an elegant design (function over form).
After she acknowledged that a premium device doesn’t have to look like an Apple clone, she then went back to calling the X1C5 “chunky”, while at the same time, acknowledging that that same thickness she dislikes so much is actually beneficial. This is about the point where it starts to get bad:
The chunkiness means it can fit in a nice speedy Kaby Lake processor and up to a 1TB solid state drive, without getting so scorching hot you need to pull it away from your legs.
Yes, that’s the whole point. I hope you now realize that having a very thin device can be very detrimental, as you risk overheating – particularly when you have more powerful CPU and/or GPU. Having a thicker design facilitates better cooling. In fact, ThinkPads are very well known for their excellent cooling, while MacBooks are notorious for overheating due to their poor cooling systems (or so I’ve heard). Thinner is not always better and how light something is really depends on the materials used to make it. Its not all about thinness.
But wait, it gets even better (and by better I mean worse – prepare to cringe):
There’s a big unsightly vent on the side to keep things cool, and normally I’d want to cry over that ugliness, but I have to admit that with summer on the horizon, a laptop that stays cool even when I’m running a game is an appealing proposition.
Seriously? You’re going to bitch and moan about a fucking cooling vent? I couldn’t help but laugh and cringe at this absurdity. I seriously don’t know what else to say about this except to laugh and cringe at the same time over this. Its not “ugly”, it just smart design – which is the reason you won’t have to deal with overheating in the summer.
The good news, however, is that she redeems herself a bit with this line:
The thickness also affords the laptop plenty of space for ports so you’re not a prisoner of dongles as you need to be with more minimal USB-C only laptops.
Great that you’re starting to see the light, Alex.
And she builds upon that momentum with this following line:
Part of that sturdiness is psychological. It’s got a really good balance to it, even when laid out flat like a frisbee, and soft touch plastic just naturally makes things feel more durable than they might be. Yet this thing is also constructed with durability in mind. There’s no glass to shatter or metal to chip. If this laptop accidentally fell on the floor my heart wouldn’t jump into my throat.
Well Alex, all I can tell you is, that’s ThinkPad design for you – and smart, functional design for that matter. The very thing that made ThinkPad such an icon and so long-lasting.
She then goes on to praise the ThinkPad keyboard afterwards (which is not surprising, considering that ThinkPads are very well known and praised for their excellent, legendary keyboards), while also mentioning and praising its spill-resistant design. After talking about the keyboard, she then went on to talk about the battery life – which she was very impressed by, and then went on to talk about the display. But then she had this to say about the display:
It’s stunning at first glance, but after a while it’s frustrating that it’s 1080p only. If there’s a place Lenovo missed the premium ball, it’s on that display.
First of all, I believe Lenovo also has the option of a higher resolution WQHD screen, if that’s more of your thing (but this is something you’ll have to wait a while because, according to Lenovo, it won’t be available until June). Second of all, 1080p is actually a pretty decent screen size for a 14″ laptop, especially when you consider the fact that when you go to a higher resolution you will most likely run into scaling issues. I will say, however, that ThinkPad screens have typically been mediocre and that’s something that Lenovo can and should improve upon (it also happens to be something that ThinkPad users have demanded for years now), but that’s another topic for another day.
By this point, Alex had redeemed herself after initially making an ass out of herself by writing so stupidly about the X1 Carbon Gen 5. But unfortunately, the good times were about to come to an end with the next last few paragraphs, which are even cringier than the comment about the vents. Prepare yourselves because the level of retardation is about to be turned up to the red zone:
The only other real notable “issue” with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is its mouse solution. There’s a trackpad in the usual place and a dorky red trackball at the center of the keyboard. Lenovo insists it maintains the trackball because the ThinkPad’s fans love it. Good for those fans, but it’s a questionable decision all the same as presumably those fans are retirement age and can’t have that many laptop purchases in their future.
Excuse me? Dorky red trackball? Retirement age? First of all, that “trackball” is called the TrackPoint and its not dorky. Second of all, here’s a current pic of me. Does this look like I’m of retirement age? If you ever get the chance to see me in person, you’ll see that I barely look like I’m legal – even though I am! (I turn 27 at the end of May, believe it or not.) That’s one of the leading reasons why I want a full beard and a bodybuilder type of body. In fact, I started using ThinkPads not long after I entered adolescence. My first laptop was a ThinkPad, and the first laptop I ever used was a ThinkPad. I have a lot of friends who are ThinkPad fans and guess what? A lot of them are young and they love the TrackPoint – so much that they can’t see themselves using anything else because its far more superior to a trackpad. So what the fuck are you talking about when you say that ThinkPad fans who love the TrackPoint are of retirement age? What the fuck is up with this assumption that ThinkPad fans are primarily old people? As a young ThinkPad fan, I find it insulting. Its clear that you were too lazy to do your own research into what the ThinkPad fan base consists of.
But, it doesn’t end there. In fact, it gets worse:
Trackballs are a product of a bygone era.
No they’re not. They’re only a product of a bigone era to people who only care about trends, making a fashion statement with their tech products, and being “hip”, as opposed to having something utilitarian.
…And gets even worse from there:
They were, once upon a time, super common on laptops. Most trackpads were terrible, and the nubbin, while not especially nimble, was at least consistent.
I’ve got news for you: most trackpads to this day are STILL terrible. I’m typing this from a Lenovo Yoga 910 and even though it has the best trackpad I’ve ever used, its still a trackpad. Meaning, it still feels rigid, constraining, and inefficient. That’s why I use an external mouse with it (if I don’t have a TrackPoint, then I use the next best thing which is an external mouse). The TrackPoint, on the other hand, is far more convenient and usuable (and yes, its still consistent to this day). It means that I don’t have to move my hands away from the keyboard when I type and need to move my cursor. It also comes in handy whenever I’m using Photoshop or making music on my Digital Audio Workstation (DAW), since it means that I get to make quick, efficient adjustments.
Then she goes on to talk about some of the difficulties she had with her X1C5’s trackpad. Supposedly, she found out that the “Edge Tap Filtering” feature was enabled and that that’s what was causing her to have issues with her trackpad. But then, she had this to say about the feature:
The setting is built for people still stuck in a time when touchpads included buttons. It’s meant to make dead zones. I’m not sure why the elderly love this setting, but I can confirm that when it’s enabled you will want to murder your laptop by flinging it into the sun.
And there she goes to, once again, insult the intelligence of the ThinkPad userbase by yapping about how “the elderly” love this setting. Yeah, because it is only the elderly care about practicality and usability. Nevermind the fact that having physical buttons (particularly on the TrackPoint) is more efficient and practical (especially when we’re talking about certain tasks – usually professional-related tasks). If you prefer practicality, usability, and efficiency over flashiness, you must be an old geezer apparently. What a joke.
Then she goes on to claim that because she had the issue with her X1C5’s trackpad resolved, that she didn’t “need” the “trackball” anymore – because fuck usability, comfort, and efficiency, am I right?:
Once that issue was resolved, I had zero use for the trackball.
Yeah, because its not “cool” or “trendy” in your eyes. Yeah, fuck usability! I’m just gonna go by whatever is “in style”, despite the fact that what’s in style right now is not very efficient.
If you thought that that was the end of that debacle, think again! Prepare yourselves because the level of cringe and retardation is about to go into the red zone:
Because trackballs are no longer a “thing.” Lenovo’s bright red one feels a little outdated. It makes an otherwise cool new laptop look like something out of 1998.
Arghhhhh! Stop! Just. Fucking. Stop. You know how you sound like right now, Alex? You sound just like the professional car reviewers who have reviewed recent models of the Ford Econoline (also known as the E-Series) and constantly bashed on it because of its simplicity and no-nonsense, classic design, not realizing the niche demographic it was targeted towards (sound familiar?). What they say does not reflect what real, everyday drivers of these vans have experienced. There’s a reason why the Econoline
is was the best selling van in America (the Transit is now the best selling van in America – and the world), is one of the most sought-after used cars, and lasted for 50+ years until eventually getting replaced by the Transit (the more “hip” and, dare I say it, ‘modern’ version of the E-Series) in 2014 (at least when we’re talking about the cargo van and wagon models). But even with the E-Series getting replaced with the Transit, people still love them (there are even some people refusing to get Transits). In fact, when Ford decided to retire the cargo van and wagon versions (that’s the passenger van version of the E-Series, for those of you who aren’t aware), the Econoline was STILL the best-selling van in America with a loyal following (don’t believe me? Then go into the comments section of this video and this video and see for yourself – make sure to also read the description of the second video, its quite interesting). Its user base does not care about trends and being “cool” and “hip”, because that’s not what their needs are and that’s not the purpose of this van. What these users need is something functional to get the job done, not something flashy or extravagant (plus, the Econoline already looks elegant with its clean, minimalistic design). Kind of like, oh I don’t know, ThinkPad users! It seems like the author of this review doesn’t care much about functionality, but rather cares more about being “hip” and “trendy”, and having the latest technology just for the sake of it. If something is rarely used then its automatically obsolete, in her mind. Technology seems to be all about making a fashion statement these days – and ONLY a fashion statement.
…And it doesn’t stop there:
In a world of flimsy, shiny laptops the ThinkPad X1 Carbon sets itself apart with its 90s look. Retro isn’t necessarily in, but its also not the end of the world.
First of all, a lot of people seem to be into that retro look these days (its hard not to see why – its pretty cool and gives you that feeling of nostalgia). I mean, just look into some of the stuff coming out of the graphic design world. Second of all, what’s with this assumption from some people who think the ThinkPad is stuck in the 90s just because of the way it looks? Just because a manufacturer chooses not to give a product a radical design update doesn’t mean its outdated, it just means its classic (something that requires more of an evolutionary type of design). I’ve never really understood why some people choose to be such snobs about products like these and the people who use them. Are you really that superficial and blind? Do you really care that much about what others think about you?
The good news is that things start to calm down somewhat, although things are still cringey:
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is so well built that I don’t mind it’s fashion faux pas.
See what I mean when I say that these days technology is all about making a fashion statement? She’s basically saying that the X1C5 is very well built but that she wishes it were “flashier”. Also, may I remind you Alex (and anyone else out there that thinks like her), beauty and art are subjective. Not everyone is going to have the same taste in fashion, art, design, etc. as you. Some of us prefer something that’s a little more pleasant to look at – something that’s easier on the eyes. ThinkPad design isn’t “old” or “ugly” or whatever other derogatory name you dumb, mindless, hipster fucks want to call it. It is classic, functional, timeless, and elegant. If you’re going to say that about ThinkPads, then you might as well say that about Ford Econolines, Jeep Wranglers, military vehicles and trucks. What ThinkPad and all the vehicles that I just mentioned have in common is that they focus on functional design, while having an elegant, no-nonsense type of design at the same time. Their primary function isn’t to make a fashion statement, but rather, it is to help their userbase get the job done as quickly and efficiently as possible. I personally absolutely love how the ThinkPad (and the vehicles that I mentioned) looks and is my preferred type of look.
As terrible as that last line was, at least she concludes the review with this:
If you’re a typist with cash to burn, or you need a big display and a lot of power in a package that’s super light, then the ThinkPad X1 Carbon should be one of your top choices for a laptop.
Great job, Alex! At least you (somewhat) get it.
And to wrap things up, Alex then provides a “readme” (or a review) of the things she said in the review – stuff she thought were the most important points. This list of things left me rather annoyed. Just read for yourself and you’ll see what I mean:
⦁ Crazy light and sturdy feeling
⦁ Retro aesthetics will either leave you annoyed or in love
⦁ Fantastic keyboard for such a thin and light laptop
⦁ Trackpad had some system breaking software enabled out of the box. That’s bad.
⦁ The trackball still works. Cool?
⦁ Soft touch plastic makes this thing feel great, but boy does it attract fingerprints.
Clearly, there were some positives, as well as a legitimate concern, but they seemed to be overshadowed by the negatives. In fact, there seemed to be more negatives than positives. This leads me to believe that she doesn’t really like this ThinkPad (hence the title of this post).
Unsurprisingly, she gets absolutely destroyed in the comments section, and rightfully so. She made a complete fool out of herself. If you take a peek into the comments of this video, you’ll see a lot of people defending the ThinkPad and calling the author out on her nonsense. (If you want more, you can take a look into this Reddit discussion.)
Overall, this review seemed to be all over the place and poorly written. It was going from praising the X1C5 to downright smearing it. I don’t even know if the reviewer actually liked the X1C5, or if she hated it. To be honest with you all, the title feels a little clickbait-y when you take all of this into consideration. You could also sense the laziness that went into making this review – with all the ThinkPad and TrackPoint bashing, as well as the downright degradation of the ThinkPad user/fanbase. It was poorly researched and poorly crafted. If Alex Cranz really liked this ThinkPad, then she would’ve had worked on giving this article a better tone. If I had to give this review a rating of 1 out of 5 stars, I think I would have to give it 2.5 stars.
My advice to you, Alex? Do a better job researching the product(s) you’re reviewing, next time. Actually take the time to look into its user/fanbase and see why they use/love a particular product and go from there. Don’t just make assumptions about what they must be like or why they like a particular product. Actually take the time to know them. My second suggestion is to take the time to look into the design philosophy of whatever product you’re reviewing, and why that manufacturer choose to stick with that philosophy. Not every product is built to make a fashion statement (which, may I remind you, come and go). Some of them are built with the purpose of being useful, and that means not making a grand fashion statement but instead being more stealthy with their appearance – which means it can come across as ‘unattractive’ to outsiders who only care about being hip. Sure, products like the MacBook Pro look very nice but the problem with products like these is that they often sacrifice function for form, making the product not very useful or long-lasting (just look at the current lineup of MacBooks if you wanna see this in action). Products like ThinkPad, on the other hand, focus a little more on function, therefore increasing their longevity and usefulness significantly (as a testament to this, my ThinkPad T60 has been running for 10 straight years now). Not everything that isn’t trendy is “obsolete”. Also, work on the tone of your articles and titles.
Thank you all for bearing along with me going over this, at times, terrible steaming pile of shit. Feel free to share this post if you enjoyed it, comment, etc. I’ll see you all again soon!