Review: Lenovo's Latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon May Be The Business Laptop To Beat


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For the past couple years at the CRN Test Center, we haven't met a ThinkPad X1 device we didn't like. The sixth-generation model of Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, however, is the best yet in the series.

The latest X1 Carbon brings together portability, performance and business-friendly features to create a package that would make most business users envious.

[Related: Review: HP's EliteBook 1040 G4 Goes All-Out On Performance]

Especially worthy of envy is the lightness of the laptop. The X1 Carbon weighs just 2.5 pounds, and we never stopped marveling at how lightweight it is over several weeks of trying it out. Partly, this is surprising because the laptop has a 14-inch display -- making it larger in overall size but also lighter than other high-performance laptops for 2018 (such as the 13.3-inch Dell XPS 13, which weighs 2.7 pounds). The fact that the X1 Carbon is so light while offering the signature durable ThinkPad design is pretty impressive, too.

Speaking of performance, the new X1 Carbon is a pleasure to use for multi-tasking with its eighth-gen Intel Core i7 processor. And for frequent business travelers, the battery life may be even more compelling than the lightness.

We got nine hours of battery life for heavy usage in our tryout (with the brightness set to 75 percent). The battery on this laptop just goes and goes. We haven't seen another lightweight laptop that can match the sixth-gen X1 Carbon -- it may just be the ultimate laptop for travel.

In terms of the display, our tryout model came with an FHD (1,080p) touch screen that looks good and is plenty bright at 300 nits. It's certainly not as stunning as some of the ultra-bright UHD laptop displays that are hitting the market. Users that value primo display quality over battery life may want to opt for one of the higher-end configurations. The two options are for WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution and 300 nits, or WQHD resolution, HDR support and 500 nits.

As mentioned, though, battery life will probably take a noticeable hit. That's probably not a worthwhile trade-off for many business travelers -- and the base-level FHD display is bright and sharp enough, in our view.

Importantly, we love the smooth touchpad responsiveness and the comfortable, quiet keys on the new X1 Carbon. For fans of the Chrome browser, this is the best Windows touchpad we've tried for using Chrome.

New business-friendly additions include USB-C mechanical side docking (for easier docking); improved microphones (that reach a further distance); a fingerprint reader that processes data right in the sensor module (for improved security); and a built-in webcam shutter (removing the need for using a sticky note).

Lenovo also maintains a range of ports with the new X1 Carbon (unlike laptops such as Apple's MacBook Pro and the new Dell XPS 13). The X1 Carbon features two USB-A ports, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, a microSD card reader, HDMI and a docking connector for native Ethernet.

Almost everything is stellar on the new X1 Carbon. Almost. The speakers are the big exception: They are very tinny, and especially unpleasant at high volumes. Users will almost certainly want to use headphones while videoconferencing (or Netflixing) on this laptop.

The price may also be a downside for some buyers -- though of course, you do get what you pay for with the new X1 Carbon. The starting price for a model with a Core i7 processor and touch screen (as on our model) is currently $1,731, and that goes up by $100 if those who want to go from 8 GB of RAM to 16 GB. Thankfully, opting for the higher-end display configurations won't add a ton to the price -- another $50 for the WQHD model and another $100 for the WQHD/HDR/500 nits model.

Even with the price and subpar speakers, we still would recommend the powerful and portable sixth-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon over just about any other business laptop out there.

 
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