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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9) Sees Improved Battery Life, Display, Security: Review

The CRN Test Center finds that the popular business laptop is even more capable of enabling productivity and collaboration with the X1 Carbon’s ninth-gen redesign.

With its redesign of the popular ThinkPad X1 Carbon for the ninth generation, Lenovo has added a number of business-friendly enhancements and addressed the biggest issue found in the previous model.

That issue, in our view, was the battery life. As we noted with last year’s model, the X1 Carbon’s reduced battery size had contributed to the notebook ceasing to be the battery life juggernaut that it once was. But when it comes to battery life, with the Gen 9 update, the X1 Carbon is back.

For the ninth-gen model, Lenovo has restored the notebook’s 57 WHr battery capacity, up from 51 WHr battery used in the seventh- and eighth-gen X1 Carbon editions.

[Related: Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Nano Sets The Standard On Portable Business Laptops: Review]

In our tryout, we were able to get a very strong result on battery life--with nine hours of heavy usage (on the “better battery” setting in Windows 10 and the display set to 75 percent). That’s up from 7.5 hours of battery life on last year’s model.

And, that’s even with a touch screen display, which came configured on our tryout model. Users that want to maximize their battery life even further can opt for the non-touch model of the latest X1 Carbon.

Speaking of the display, one of the other key updates for the ninth-gen model is the switch to a taller, 16:10 aspect ratio for the 14-inch screen. We agree that this is a better display layout for using the productivity and collaboration applications that typical X1 Carbon users rely on.

The display itself is sharp and bright, with FHD+ resolution and a better-than-average 500 nits of available brightness (matching the brightness of Apple’s MacBook Pro, for instance).

The Gen 9 X1 Carbon display also includes the Privacy Guard integrated privacy display, which can be triggered in public settings to enhance security by obscuring the screen’s contents from onlookers (at least from side angles). We found that the privacy screen works effectively, with the display contents completely invisible from a sharp angle.

Other security updates include a fingerprint reader that is integrated on the power button and a human presence detection sensor that locks the X1 Carbon when you walk away. The laptop then automatically logs you back in (via Windows Hello facial recognition) when you return--a boost both for security and your own convenience and productivity.

The other signature elements of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon--the portable design, excellent keyboard, strong performance and durability--those are all maintained with the ninth-gen model. On performance, our model came configured with an 11th-gen Intel Core i7 chip (the i7-1185G7), the fastest available processor with the notebook, and 16 GB of RAM. And the performance on the X1 Carbon did not disappoint, with the notebook able to speedily handle multi-tasking while switching between applications and browser windows.

On portability, the ninth-gen X1 Carbon continues to be one of the lightest business notebooks out there with its weight of 2.49 pounds. That’s a full half-pound lighter than the latest MacBook Pro, though other Lenovo ThinkPads have now outdone the X1 Carbon in that regard--such as the 2-pound ThinkPad X1 Nano.

Business users will appreciate that the X1 Carbon continues to offer a variety of ports, with two USB-A ports, two USB-C ports, HDMI and nano-SIM.

For enabling collaboration, the X1 Carbon now offers a 720p webcam (with a built-in privacy shutter), four far-field mics and Dolby Atmos speakers. Meanwhile, the notebook adds support for Dolby Voice, which optimizes the performance of the notebook’s mics and speakers. Dolby Voice features include dynamic levelling, which automatically adapts to voices that are quieter or far away and provides noise suppression to limit background noises and echo.

With laptops expected to continue to be an essential collaboration tool, these are very welcome additions in our view.

All in all, we think ninth-gen X1 Carbon, with its array of worthy updates, represents an improvement over prior models while maintaining many of the things that have long made it a go-to business notebook for many users. The bottom line: this is another great ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9) currently has a starting price of $1,457, and is priced at $2,135 as configured in this review (with Privacy Guard / touch screen, Core i7-1185G7, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage).

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