- Lenovo’s 7th-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptops are lighter than Apple’s MacBook Air, have bigger screens, run on better processors, and don’t cost much more.
- They also have a classic, stealthy design, the best keyboards on any laptop, and importantly, they have a good choice of ports, including regular USB-A ports, USB-C, and HDMI.
- If you opt for the X1 Carbon with the 4K UHD screen, you should know that battery life will take a hit. If you value battery life, you’ll do better with the WQHD or FHD screen options.
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Lenovo laptops should certainly rank high up on any laptop shopper’s list, but there’s one line of Lenovo laptops that a lot of people likely overlook, just because they’re “business” laptops.
Lenovo ThinkPads are often associated with business uses, and they’re often issued by companies to their employees for that reason: work. But you’d be missing out if you dismiss Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptops while shopping around for a new laptop.
Indeed, there are some things about the X1 Carbon that are only really useful for businesses, like Intel’s “vPro” technology designed to make life easier for corporate IT teams. That “vPro” stuff is expensive, but it’s only an option.
You, me, and anyone else who wants an awesome laptop can get an X1 Carbon that doesn’t come with the business stuff. And they’re priced and specced competitively against regular, non-business laptops.
Lenovo’s X1 Carbon start at $1,253 for a four-core Intel Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of storage, and a 14-inch FHD 1080p display. If you want a Core i7 and 16 GB of RAM, it’ll cost $1,453, which in an incredible price tag for those specs.
Everyone looking for a new laptop should be looking at Lenovo’s 7th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
Check out what makes it such an awesome laptop:
Within seconds of picking up the ThinkPad X1 carbon, its stock had already risen beyond other laptops I’ve tried.
This thing is exceptionally light at 2.4 pounds — lighter than a 2.75-pound MacBook Air.
In fact, it’s thinner at 0.58 inches than the MacBook Air’s thickest point of 0.61 inches, but it doesn’t taper down like the MacBook Air does, so it’s still thicker overall.
Light weight and portability weren’t always priorities for me. But once you try something as light as the X1 Carbon, it can easily flip your priorities.
The other thing that immediately gave bonus points to the X1 Carbon was the ports.
You get one HDMI, two USB 3.1 ports, two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports for docks and charging, an odd-looking ethernet expansion port, and a headphone jack.
If you still use, or want to use, your USB-A accessories without depending on a USB-C docking station or adapter, the X1 Carbon will make it easy for you compared to laptops that only come with USB-C ports, like Apple’s laptops and the Dell XPS 13.
With things like cloud storage and wireless accessories, it’s actually pretty easy to come to terms with a USB-C-only laptop. You might not often need an old-fashioned USB-A port. But for those few times you might need one, the X1 Carbon has your back. Meanwhile, Apple’s laptops and other Windows 10 laptops that are USB-C-only leave you stranded unless you have an adapter with you.
The X1 Carbon has a classic, stealth look that leans towards the utilitarian rather than the beautiful — and I love it.
The rubbery plastic exterior and interior feels premium and somewhat unique in a sea of metal-laden laptops. It’s an updated classic IBM/Lenovo design that’s aged extremely well.
Open the X1 Carbon, and you’re greeted with the signature IBM/Lenovo red nubbin mouse nestled in the keyboard. I’m sure some people out there still use the nubbin, but for me, it’s more of a nostalgic detail. It’s like the Blackberry keyboard of laptops — it’s a throwback feature that’s made redundant with newer, better technology. For Blackberry phones, that tech was the touch screen. For the IBM/Lenovo nubbin, it’s the touchpad.
The nubbin never posed any issues, but I wish the three buttons below the keyboard/above the touchpad weren’t there, as to give more space for the touchpad itself.
Lenovo laptops have the best keyboards in the business.
If you’ve ever used an IBM/Lenovo keyboard, you’ll be glad to see the signature keyboard, too. I’m not going to pretend that I’ve tried every laptop keyboard in the world, but I’m convinced this is the absolute best keyboard on any laptop. The keys have deep, comfortable travel, supreme responsiveness, and typing is a true, satisfying joy on this thing.
The Carbon X1 works as well as other laptops with similar specs, and it’s incredibly quiet, too.
I’ve been using the X1 Carbon mostly for work, which largely involves using a web browser with lots and lots of open tabs, writing emails, researching, and the occasional Photoshopping. When I’m off the clock, I used the X1 Carbon to stream videos and browse the web.
I get great performance from the Intel 8th-generation Core i7 8665U coupled with 16 GB of RAM. For my workflow and expectations from a laptop, these are the specs I’d go for. You can get less powerful configurations of the X1 Carbon with Intel’s Core i5 and 8 GB of RAM, too, which should suit users looking for performance on more of a budget. At the end of the day, both the Core i5 and Core i7 chips from Intel offer four cores, which is key for multitasking — it’s just that the Core i7 might do things a little faster.
The X1 Carbon review unit I’m using has Intel’s “vPro” technology I mentioned earlier, which adds a few hundred dollars to the price tag, but that’s only for business uses. The X1 Carbon is available with Intel chips that don’t come with vPro, and cost hundreds less than those with vPro.
The Carbon X1 is also extremely quiet; I can’t say I’ve ever heard the fans spinning. With that said, it can get a little hot on your right thigh — where the chip resides inside — if you have the X1 Carbon on your lap, at least when you’re doing more intensive tasks.
Nothing comes close to Apple’s touchpads, but the X1 Carbon’s touchpad gets the job done.
The X1 Carbon’s touchpad has a similar rubbery, plastic texture as the X1 Carbon’s body, but smoother. It works pretty well, but a glass touchpad, like you’d find on an Apple laptop, would have been better for smoother and more accurate finger motions.
My only major complaint with the touchpad is that I wish it was bigger, and there’s plenty of space where it could be expanded. Right above the touchpad are three mouse buttons that are designed to be used with the red IBM/Lenovo nubbin, and as I mentioned earlier, I wish those buttons made way for a larger touchpad.
If 13-inch screens are too small, and 15-inch screens are too large, the X1 Carbon’s 14-inch screen is just right.
For a while, it was 15-inch or nothing for me. But that often meant larger, less portable laptops. The X1 Carbon’s 14-inch screen is the perfect compromise, especially as the X1 Carbon feels as compact and portable as a 13-inch laptop.
The bezels aren’t as thin as those on the Dell XPS 13 and XPS 15, but they’re not overwhelming, and the X1 Carbon still looks sleek and modern.
The model I’m using now has a 4K UHD display, and it’s sharp and bright. Colors are great, too. Windows 10 and apps look great on this thing.
The 4K UHD screen option does a number on the X1 Carbon’s battery life.
Lenovo claims the X1 Carbon has an 18-hour battery life, and I’m certainly not getting that on the model with the 4K UHD screen.
Battery life on the X1 Carbon configured with the 4K UHD screen isn’t superb — it gives you just over six hours when doing something simple like writing up a document. If you prize battery life, you’ll likely do better with the WQHD 1440p or FHD 1080p screen options.
Other bits and pieces.
The webcam has a physical switch that covers up the lens, which should appeal to anyone concerned about privacy.
The X1 Carbon with the FHD multi-touch, WQHD, or 4K UHD screen options can be fitted with an IR camera that’s compatible with Microsoft’s Windows Hello facial recognition. All support fingerprint recognition. The fingerprint scanner is just to the right of the touchpad, which hasn’t posed a problem.
The speakers on the X1 Carbon are surprisingly pretty good, but Apple’s laptop speakers still have yet to be beaten.
Should you buy this thing?
It took under a minute for the X1 Carbon to make an impression on me. And it became apparent after about a day with the Lenovo X1 Carbon that it would likely become the next laptop I’ll buy.
It has shifted my priorities to prize light weight and portability. It has strengthened my belief that laptops shouldn’t be USB-C or nothing. It has convinced me that I can work on a laptop with a screen smaller than 15 inches. This thing has made an impact.
The only compromise is the battery life, which is affected by the 4K UHD screen. Had I configured the Lenovo X1 Carbon myself, I would have replaced the 4K UHD screen with a WQHD 1440p display for a little extra battery life. And that’s something you can do when buying an X1 Carbon: It’s highly customizable.
Apart from a larger, smoother touchpad, I wouldn’t change a thing. It’s a near-perfect, well-priced, premium laptop.