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Review: Lenovo's New ThinkPad X1 Carbon Is A Highly Portable Workhorse

The CRN Test Center finds a lot to like with the latest update to Lenovo's popular business laptop.

Not everyone needs a laptop with a touchscreen that can fold every which way. But portability, horsepower and battery life are items on most buyer's wish lists.

And that's what Lenovo delivers with its latest, fifth-generation update to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It's a worthy update to Lenovo's popular business-friendly laptop, with well-chosen upgrades over the previous version. Overall, we found the fifth-gen X1 Carbon to be a pleasure to use while trying it out in the CRN Test Center (and we found little to complain about).

[Related: Intel Inside Laptops: Here Are The Top 6 Kaby Lake Notebook Brands In 2017 Q1]

A first big upgrade to mention is that the bezel around the display is almost non-existent, which means this is a 14-inch laptop display on roughly the size of a typical 13-inch laptop. That helps to make the X1 Carbon a small-feeling laptop that still has plenty of screen space to work on.

This is the approach that Dell has taken with the XPS 13, and we think Lenovo has been just as successful with it. It's a welcome improvement.

Lenovo has also placed the webcam above the display where you'd expect it, in contrast to the Dell's awkward placement of the webcam below the display in the corner.

Lenovo has also made the new X1 Carbon 6 percent lighter than the previous model, at 2.5 pounds. That makes it one of the lightest business laptops we've tried out, and it's also pretty thin at 0.63-inch thick. The portability one of our favorite features of the fifth-gen X1 Carbon.

And despite the thin-and-light form factor, the laptop still features the sturdy build that is expected of ThinkPads. The body is reinforced with carbon fiber and magnesium alloy, and the laptop passed a series of military-standard and in-house durability tests, Lenovo said.

Our tryout model included a seventh-gen Intel Core i5 processor and 8GB of RAM, and we were impressed with the speed of the laptop even though it doesn't use the top-level processor. Web pages and video loaded ultra-fast and multi-tasking was no cause for sluggishness on the laptop.


Another big advancement touted by Lenovo for the new X1 Carbon is around the battery life. We were pleased to get 8.5 hours of battery life on a charge (at 75 percent brightness). That's second only to the XPS 13 among laptops we've tested over the past year.

We were happy with keyboard and touchpad, too. Both offered a good experience, though we had to make an adjustment in Google's Chrome settings to get the two-finger scrolling to work perfectly smoothly in that browser. But scrolling in Microsoft's Edge browser was smooth right out of the box.

The display is not as high-res as many of the premium laptops hitting the market, at 1,920 x 1,080. But we don't consider that a deal-breaker, especially considering that this is meant to be a laptop for work usage rather than Netflix binging or gaming.

For security, Lenovo is offering an optional IR camera with facial recognition to support Windows Hello log-in, and has also added an advanced fingerprint sensor that the company says is more secure.

The new X1 Carbon has two Thunderbolt 3 ports (which have come to the laptop for the first time), as well as two USB-A ports, HDMI and a slot for Micro SD and Micro SIM.

Also worth noting: along with the classic black color, Lenovo is adding a silver option for the new X1 Carbon (though our tryout model was black, so we won't be able to weigh in on our color preference).

The model configuration we tried out is priced at $1,359, which strikes us as fair – reasonable, actually – for everything the new X1 Carbon has to offer.

All-around, we think Lenovo's new X1 Carbon is worth strong consideration as a work device that's equal parts powerful and portable, without the fanciness and expense of many of the latest premium laptops.

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