ThinkPad Carbon X1 Review
Lenovo’s ThinkPad line has always focused on balancing tradition with modernity. It contains the legacy of the flagship brand of IBM laptops, but the company must also make sure to keep up with the competition. That’s truer than ever with the new ThinkPad Carbon X1, Lenovo’s ultraportable flagship, which includes the latest Intel chips and some clever updates. It does not have a folding screen, and it can not be turned into a blackboard like the X1 Yoga and the tablet. It’s just a laptop, but it’s polished enough to compete with the likes of the Dell XPS 13 and the Apple MacBook Air.
- Durable construction quality
- Slim and light design
- The best keyboard of its kind
- Fast and reliable performance
- More expensive than standard ultraportables
- The HDR screen costs extra
- No major design changes since last year
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon has everything we want in an ultraportable business. It is robust, fast and light. You’ll have to pay a little more to get the best screen and the latest features.
ThinkPad Carbon X1 Specs
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Presently in its 6th gen, the X1 Carbon retains everything that has made the line an ideal productivity machine in recent years. It starts at only 2.5 pounds and measures 16 millimeters thick. It’s noticeably lighter than the 2.7 pound XPS 13, so much so that it’s hard to say that it’s a little thicker. The sturdy carbon fiber shell of the X1 Carbon comes back, as does the soft-touch lining, which makes it feel surprisingly luxurious, especially on your wrists.
Apart from some brand adjustments, nothing has changed regarding design. You can say it’s a Thinkpad from the other side of the room. For some users, however, that is more of a feature than a commitment. Something is comforting about the clean lines of the traditional ThinkPad. Lenovo has modernized the carbon line over the years, of course, the frames on the screen have thinned, for example, but not so much as to hide their heritage.
Lenovo also brought the touch screen option on the Carbon 14-inch screen, which was not found in the last gen. It’s a beautiful thing to have, especially when browsing the web, but the matte finish of the laptop makes the touch experience a little rough compared to mobile glass screens. Our review unit comes with a standard 1080p screen, but you can also upgrade to a higher resolution model of 1440p that includes Dolby Vision HDR.
Despite the lower resolution, the screen looks great when you browse the web and watch movies. But if you plan to watch many movies, or just want the latest technology, it’s worth using the HDR option, which will offer more intense blacks and brighter lights. The slight jump beyond 1080p will also make the text and photos a bit sharper.
If you are aware of privacy, you will appreciate the physical shutter that can be used to lock the webcam. It is a better option than the tape, but it would have been good if it were easier to turn it on and off. It requires a decent amount of force to move, and you can lose a little bit of the nail in the process.
Unfortunately, there is no support for Windows Hello on the webcam unless you upgrade to the higher resolution monitor. It is not clear why this is so, but it could be due to the size of the 1080p panel. At least the fingerprint reader is safer than before. The sensor can authenticate its identity on its own, without sharing data with the computer. The laptop also has two remote field array microphones, which can be useful when you are shouting commands on Cortana from the other side of the room.
Regarding connectivity, the ThinkPad Carbon X1 2018 has two USB-C ports compatible with Thunderbolt 3, which can as well charge the laptop, as well as 2 USB connections type A and an HDMI port. There are also slots for micro-SIM cards and micro-SD hidden in the back.
Performance and battery life
The ThinkPad Carbon X1 is not exactly a surprising machine: it is an ultralight and rock-solid business laptop. It has the same killer keyboard found on all Lenovo professional machines, with liberal 1.8-millimeter travel. Writing about it felt better than many desktop keyboards I’ve used, and it certainly outweighs Apple’s disastrous flat MacBook options. The touchpad is smooth and precise, and I have to give Lenovo credit for continuing with the iconic red ThinkPad button. It takes a while to get used to, but it’s an excellent way to maneuver through Windows in small environments.
The Thinkpad Carbon X1 is very powerful to handle most productivity tasks, thanks to the 8th generation Intel processors. Since there are no dedicated graphics, it is not a great option to play or render in 3D, but that will not matter to business users. For the most part, what struck me about the ThinkPad Carbon X1 was how much it felt like those old ThinkPads that I used to love in the Windows XP era. Of course, it is much lighter and thinner, but it felt just as reliable and empowering. It restarted quickly, released everything I needed without losing a second and, most importantly, never left me wanting more power.
In our battery test, which involves the loop of an HD video, the laptop lasted 15 and a half hours. It is one of the best we have seen on ultraportables. While using it a little more realistically throughout the day, it usually lasted eight hours.
ThinkPad Carbon X1 (2018) -15:30
Dell XPS 13 (2018) 9:50
Book of surface 2 of 15 inches 20:50
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016) 16:15
Surface laptop 14:49
Surface Pro 13:40
ASUS ROG Zephyrus 1:50
Surface Book with Performance Base (2016) 16:15
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13 inches, without touch bar) 11:42
Apple MacBook Pro with Retina display (13 inches, 2015) 11:23
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (15 inches) 11:00
HP Specter x360 15t 10:17
Apple MacBook Pro 2016 (13 inches, Touch Bar) 9:55
ASUS ZenBook 3 9:45
Apple MacBook (2016) 8:45
Samsung notebook 9 8:16
Alienware 13 7:32
HP Specter 13 7:07
Razer Blade Stealth (Spring 2016) 5:48
Razer Blade Stealth (autumn 2016) 5:36
Razer Blade Pro (2016) 3:48
ASUS ROG Strix GL502VS 3:03
Prices and competition
The lenovo x1 carbon price $ 1,519 with an 8th generation Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 256GB M.2 SSD. Personally, I would spend $ 180 extra to add the HDR 1440p screen. As usual, you can customize almost all the components of the machine on the Lenovo website, so that you not only keep preconfigured systems that can include features you do not want.
It is not surprising that, being an enterprise-class machine, it is more expensive than typical ultraportables. The XPS 13 starts at $ 999, and you can even get a cheaper MacBook Pro than the ThinkPad Carbon X1 with similar specifications and an older seventh generation Intel CPU. You are not buying a ThinkPad if you are trying to save money.
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While the ThinkPad Carbon X1 is not a big evolution concerning last year’s model, Lenovo presented enough improvements to keep the line up to date with modern ultraportables. Unfortunately, you will have to go beyond the entry-level model to see the best new features, such as the HDR screen. Maybe next year we will see an important design leap for the carbon line, but, knowing the ThinkPad fans out there, Lenovo will have to be careful. The new brave ideas are for what are the X1 Yoga and Tablet models. The Carbon, meanwhile, is still the most refined business laptop.