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Review: Lenovo's Seventh-Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gets Even More Portable

The CRN Test Center finds an impressive portability upgrade with the thinner, lighter-weight design in the latest X1 Carbon update.

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon is popular with business users for good reason: It has long occupied the sweet spot of combining major performance, portability and battery life.

At the CRN Test Center, we can report that the seventh-generation model certainly continues that tradition—although there are a few key changes worth knowing about before you buy.

[Related: Review: Lenovo's ThinkBook Offers Appealing Design And Features For The Money]

First, Lenovo has raised the bar on portability with the latest X1 Carbon, reducing the thickness by 6 percent to an impressively thin 0.59 of an inch. And, the new X1 Carbon—which has already been one of the lightest fully powered business notebooks out there—gets even lighter with a starting weight of 2.4 pounds, compared with 2.49 pounds previously.

As with past models, we found the seventh-gen X1 Carbon to be practically negligible in the backpack while we were toting it around on a recent business trip. It's also crazy how light it is to hold and carry with one hand when needed.

It does appear that Lenovo accepted a bit of a trade-off on battery life with the new X1 Carbon to achieve the improved portability. The battery size in the seventh-gen model has been reduced to 51 WHr, down from 57 WHr previously. For the model with an FHD display, that meant we saw eight hours of battery life on a charge, with brightness set to 75 percent. The sixth-gen X1 Carbon had produced a bit more in the way of battery life in our tryout last year—nine hours on a charge. Also, the new X1 Carbon with a 4K/UHD display is far more of a battery hog; our tryout of that model yielded just 5.5 hours of battery life on a charge (the UHD display does look fantastic, though).

To us at least, one issue with the X1 Carbon has been that its black carbon-fiber body, while lightweight and durable, is not nearly as flashy or aesthetically pleasing as many of the metallic notebooks on the market. HP's EliteBook business notebooks have moved to metal, and this year Dell began a push to bring metal into its Latitude business notebook line in place of carbon fiber.

Lenovo has taken a more subtle approach in trying to jazz up its X1 Carbon design. For the UHD model, the notebook features a "carbon-fiber weave" design on the top cover—which provides a nice look without being a big departure from the ThinkPad design that many longtime users are perfectly content with. The FHD model still has the standard black exterior, however.

On performance, the seventh-gen X1 Carbon moves up to Intel's Whiskey Lake eighth-gen Core i processors. Our tryout model—configured with a Whiskey Lake Core i7 and 16 GB of RAM—was more than accommodating of our multitasking work habits.

Key security features on the new X1 Carbon include the addition of an integrated privacy screen option—dubbed "Privacy Guard"—on the FHD model, as well as a built-in webcam shutter. The notebook's fingerprint reader also works faster this time around, according to Lenovo.

Meanwhile, on ports, the new X1 Carbon does not shy away from offering a variety of choices with USB-C, two USB-A and HDMI.

Other new features include a Dolby Atmos four-speaker sound system, a big improvement over the sixth-gen model's tinny speakers, and a quad array of far-field microphones for better voice pickup and group conferencing scenarios.

All in all, we think the latest version of Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon could be a welcome upgrade for many business users, particularly for those who place a high value on portability.

The seventh-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a starting price of $1,253, which gets you an FHD display with a Core i5 processor.

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