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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
What we like
What we don't like
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Lenovo churns out waves of notebooks every year, ranging from the entry-level IdeaPad line to the powerhouse ThinkPad series. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon sits at the top of the roster where it goes toe-to-toe with the best business laptops in the world. If you need a competitive machine to keep you productive you can’t do much better than the X1 Carbon (7th Gen). This notebook’s strengths abound, and the few weaknesses are hardly worth bringing up.
Find out what these pros and cons are in the Android Authority Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review.
What is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)?
The seventh-generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the company’s premiere work machine. It’s a powerful, durable notebook that is packed with the latest silicon from Intel and others. This year’s edition sees Lenovo refine its winning formula with just the right nips and tucks.
Configurations range in price from about $1,450 to $2,500 depending on a host of processor, memory, and display options. Whatever you choose to put inside the X1 Carbon, the rugged, no-nonsense chassis remains the same.
While the ThinkPad line may come across as understated, don’t mistake the X1 Carbon for any old boring business book.
What are the ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s main features?
You’ll find the seventh-gen X1 Carbon to be a light, thin, and tough-as-nails laptop. At 2.4 pounds and 14.9mm thick, Lenovo claims it’s easier to carry about than the previous generation. I certainly had no complaints toting it around town.
Lenovo takes durability seriously. That’s why it puts the ThinkPad through vigorous testing and certified it MIL-SPEC810G. The company doesn’t spell out just what sort of abuse it can take, but the X1 Carbon is certainly tough enough to survive the daily bumps and jolts we experience when on the go.
There’s no metal. Lenovo relies on heavy-duty plastics to protect its hardware. While the design is nothing to set your heart ablaze, the optional carbon fiber weave finish gives it subtle panache. This is not a showy gaming rig, nor is it dainty, executive jewelry. It’s an in-the-trenches foot soldier.
Similar to the Lenovo Chromebook C340, which we recently reviewed, the front edge has a bit of an angled overbite. I wish the laptop were a bit easier to pry open; a notch of some sort would go a long way here. The bottom surface is angled up near the front corners, which makes the laptop more comfortable to use on your actual lap.
How’s the screen?
In a word, phenomenal. Lenovo sent us the top-spec’d version for review, and it includes a 14-inch 4K display that pushes out 500nits. It puts nearly every other display I’ve seen to shame. My only complaint is that the glossy glass can be too reflective in some settings.
Dolby Vision is aboard and, well, wow. I watched some Dolby Vision Netflix shows and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon delivered a one-two-three punch with resolution, color, and brightness.
Believe it or not, there are four other display options available: Full HD at 300nits, Full HD at 400nits, Full HD at 400nits with Privacy Guard, and WQHD at 300nits. That’s a lot from which to choose.
Lenovo didn’t bother to minimize the bezels around the screen. They aren’t Chromebook C340 bad, but I feel the side and top bezels could have been a hair thinner.
How’s the battery?
In a word, complicated. The laptop ships with a 51Wh four-cell lithium polymer battery. Lenovo claims the X1 Carbon 7th Gen lasts close to 11 hours per charge — but that’s with the 300nit Full HD screen. Since our review unit came with the power-sucking 4K screen, battery life was half that. On days that I tracked battery life, it often reached just 5.5 hours per charge. That’s … not great.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon often reached just 5.5 hours of battery life per charge. That's ... not great.
There’s not much you can do to extend battery life. As always, you can futz with display brightness and other under-the-hood processes to conserve battery. A simple power/performance slider lets you choose if you want the device to run longer or perform better. I found the X1 Carbon still performed admirably when put on the low-performance setting.
The silver lining here is that the laptop recharges rapidly. The included charging brick can deliver an 80% charge in 60 minutes. I’d rather be able to leave the brick at home, but when you have a 4K screen the piper needs to be paid.
How is the keyboard? What about the touchpad?
People often have their own definition of how a laptop’s keyboard should feel. I know I like minimal travel and keys that are thin enough that they don’t get in the way as I move my fingers around the keyboard. (Full-sized mechanical keyboards? Not no way, not no how.)
The keys of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon keyboard have perhaps a little more travel than I like, but not enough to take away from the generally good experience of typing. The bottom edge of each key is rounded just a bit, which helps to reduce the angle your fingers need to sweep over the key to locate it. Feedback from the keys is outstanding, and the layout is good.
I’m not the biggest fan of the secondary set of controls. Lenovo loves its little eraser head nub in the middle of the keyboard. This pointer is speedy and accurate, but it’s not for me. The trackpad is also speedy and accurate, but I don’t care for the finish. I prefer smooth glass and the texture of the X1 Carbon’s trackpad feels sandpaper-y to me. Three buttons above the trackpad allow you to customize right-click actions and such. All three buttons have decent travel and feedback.
This ThinkPad has more ports than many modern laptops.
Lenovo placed a fingerprint reader directly to the right of the trackpad. It’s set fairly deep below the surface of the laptop deck. I found it easy to train, but it wasn’t as consistent as I’d like when used to unlock the laptop.
This ThinkPad has more ports than many modern laptops. On the left, you’ll find USB-C (2 x Thunderbolt 3), ethernet, USB-A (3.1 Gen), HDMI 1.4b, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the right, a second USB-A port and physical power/sleep button are joined by a Kensington lock along. My only complaint is that Lenovo didn’t put a USB-C port on the right side.
How does the X1 Carbon perform?
Similar to the display, a handful of options allow you to tailor the performance experience to suit your budget and needs.
The entry-level model has a 1.6GHz 8th Gen Intel Core i5 processor with clock speeds up to 3,9GHz via TurboBoost. This same model carries 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 256GB of storage, and integrated Intel UHD graphics.
Lenovo lent us the top-tier model, which offers a 1.9GHz 10th Gen Intel Core i7 processor with clock speeds up to 4.8GHz via TurboBoost. It also boasts 16GB of LPDDR3 RAM, 1TB of storage, and integrated Intel UHD 620 graphics. It may not be a full-on gaming machine, but it’s a beast of a workhorse for the mobile professional. I have a 2018 Huawei Matebook X Pro and the Lenovo runs circles around it; like, it’s not even close.
It may not be a full-on gaming machine, but it's a beast of a workhorse for the mobile professional.
The RAM/Core i7 combo is killer for just about every task you set before the X1 Carbon. It didn’t matter how many Chrome tabs I had open, the X1 kept them all running quickly. Word? Excel? Outlook? Lightroom? Slack? How about all of them at the same time. Nothing caused the machine to lose its speed and responsiveness. I can’t speak for the lesser RAM/Core variants, though the 8th Gen Core i5 starting point is still a fine place to be.
What I like about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The speakers. They are excellent. Lenovo positioned two tweeters on top near the hinge and two downward-firing woofers underneath. Together with the Dolby Atmos software you’ve got a pumpin’, portable sound system. Seriously, though, the X1 Carbon did a great job with movie soundtracks and with music. Movies had just the right amount of boom, while music had an even mix that wasn’t too thin. Toss in four far-field microphones and you have a heck of a conferencing tool.
Speaking of which, the 720p HD camera is good enough for Skype or other video calls. Perhaps most importantly, it features Lenovo’s physical privacy shutter. Slide the switch to the left and it covers the camera. You can leave the electrical tape at home.
Say what you will about Windows, but Windows 10 Pro runs beautifully on the X1. The 4K display and top-notch silicon surely help. Moreover, Lenovo’s own Vantage software makes certain aspects of the machine, such as staying on top of security and system updates, a breeze.
What I don’t like about the X1 Carbon
The design. I’ve never cared much for the ThinkPad look, which is conservative to a fault. There’s nothing showy, flashy, or even refined about the black block of plastic. I do appreciate, however, that Lenovo is offering an optional carbon fiber weave on the high-end model. The glowing red notification dot in the ThinkPad logo is a nice touch, too.
The high-end 4K model should have a higher-capacity battery to offset the productivity-sapping power needs of the pixel-rich display. Less than six hours of battery life is a major bummer.
Price. With $1,000 separating the low and high ends of the model range, you’re left with lots of little decisions to make as you build your own. These eventually add up.
See also: Best Chromebooks
Should you buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon?
Everyone’s computing needs differ, but the X1 Carbon (7th Gen) has converted me. As much as I find the exterior less than exciting, the raw power and performance outweigh the simple looks. Never has the adage “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” felt more relevant.
In the plus column, you’ve got a thin-and-light build, gorgeous 4K screen, 10th Gen Intel Core i7, up to 16GB RAM and 1TB storage, and Lenovo’s durable chassis. The X1 Carbon also gets kudos for its fine keyboard, punchy speakers, and multitude of ports.
In the minus column, perhaps the biggest is battery life. The 4K model simply doesn’t deliver enough to get through the day. Opting for one of the less-expensive and less-impressive Full HD displays will net you more battery life. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, it seems.
Direct competitors of the ThinkPad include the Dell XPS 13, HP EliteBook x360 G5, and the Sony Vaio SX14. Specs and price points for these are on par with those of the X1. We haven’t evaluated these machines, but they are worth a quick look if you’re comparing.
Apart from perhaps hardcore gaming, the Lenovo ThinkPad is all the computer anyone will ever need. Were I in need of a new Windows machine right now, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon would be at the top of my list.
What did you think of our Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review? Be sure to let us know in the comments below.