Lenovo X1 Carbon (5th Gen) Review

Light and long lasting

Lenovo is back with a refresh of their ThinkPad X1 Carbon series of laptops. The new and improved ThinkPad X1 Carbon is now lighter, thinner, and packs even more features than before. All of this doesn’t come cheap, but when you want quality you have to pay for it.

Body

The body of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is made of a pleasing soft-touch carbon fiber material. If you’re used to aluminum unibody laptops you might think it feels a little flimsy. Don’t worry though, as it’s been through 12 military grade certification tests and over 200 in house durability tests.

Thanks to this carbon fiber body the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is super light coming in at just under 2.5lbs. This makes it perfect for someone who is always on the go. A nice subtle touch is the blinking “i” in the ThinkPad logo when in standby.



Screen

The 14-inch screen comes with super thin bezels around the top and sides. Thanks to these thinner bezels Lenovo was able to squeeze a 14-inch display into a 13-inch body, all while still providing a webcam at the top. For me, this is important because other laptops put the webcam at the bottom to keep the bezels thin, almost like some afterthought. That’s just a terrible place for a webcam.

The screen itself is a 1080p display and looks good with nice contrast but the colors were a little desaturated. The glare-free matte screen makes viewing the screen outdoors easier. The screen isn’t overly bright but I was able to view it in daylight. Thanks to how dim the screen gets it was less blinding to use while working at night.

Ports

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with plenty of ports and thankfully embraces the new USB-C standard. The left side features two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C connectors, a standard USB 3.0 port, HDMI port, and micro-ethernet port. On the right side there is another full sized USB 3.0 port, microphone/headphone jack, and a Kensington lock.

Unfortunately, there is no SD card slot which is very disappointing if you do a lot of photography or video work like I do. Considering this is a business based laptop that might not be an issue for most. The back does have a microSD/micro SIM slot, but it will require a SIM ejector tool to access it.

Keyboard

ThinkPads are notorious for their keyboards and I must admit this is the first time I’ve used one. The keys offered a lot of travel for such a thin laptop and felt mushy to me. Overall I didn’t really like it and wasn’t able to get used to the feel. Perhaps I’m more accustom to solid, more tactile keys with shorter travel from my previous laptops.

A couple of annoyances I had with the keyboard was the fact that Lenovo switched the Ctrl and Fn keys. This was so frustrating to use for the first couple of days until I found the setting to swap the keys. Muscle memory is too hard to break after years of typing and I use the Ctrl key far too often.

My other qualm with the keyboard is the backlight. Every time the laptop goes to sleep the backlit keyboard is disabled. If you’re often in a darker environment like myself then it’s a bit difficult to re-enable this. The orange light on the mute button also irritated me as I often leave my laptop muted. There is no reason to hear all of those auto play videos and ads while surfing online.

Trackpad

Due to the placement of the physical buttons at the top, I never had an issue with my palm touching the trackpad. Which makes typing much more enjoyable. There is nothing more annoying than when you’re typing away and the cursor moves when your palm or thumb gently grazes the trackpad. Although I did have issues with getting the X1 Carbon to scroll with two fingers. It seemed much more picky about how I placed my fingers than any of the other laptops I’ve used.

Fingerprint Scanner

Most people these days especially ones in this price range have become accustomed to unlocking their laptop with some sort of biometrics. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon also gives you this fast, secure, and convenient way of unlocking your laptop with a built-in fingerprint scanner. I’m a huge fan of this on phones and having it on a laptop is just as fantastic and conveient, and the sensor itself is quite good.

Webcam

The webcam was pretty impressive. Even in low light, I found the picture to be fairly clear and detailed. Thanks to the center placement at the top I didn’t have to move the display and make it look up at me awkwardly and from the side. This is a lesson many others making laptops with thin bezels should take from Lenovo. It’s OK to make the bezel up top slightly thicker for better webcam placement.

Tech Specs

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is running the latest 7th gen Intel processors. This particular unit has the Core i5-7300U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, and Intel HD 620 graphics. This is not a workhorse of a machine and I often noticed some lag under heavy load, such as when loading 10-15 websites at a time. Granted I might be a little more of a power user than most. For most business users, though, these specs should hold up just fine.

Performance

That’s not to say it’s a sluggish laptop, only that I’m a demanding user who is used to a little more speed than the U series of CPUs offer. To their credit, the U series is known more for low heat management and sipping battery than raw power.

Thanks to the SSD start up and opening apps is super fast. The use of the U series of CPUs also helps keep it nice and cool. This was a nice break from my regular laptop that in comparison can feel like a space heater in my lap at times. This also makes the X1 Carbon super quiet. The fan rarely spins up and when it does it is whisper quiet. This is something I really appreciated coming from a louder laptop. Compared to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon my laptop sounds like a plane trying to take off.

Software

This is a signature edition laptop meaning there is no bloat pre-installed. There is nothing worse than having your laptop bug you about trials for apps, except maybe watching your system tray get cluttered with useless apps after startup. Thankfully the ThinkPad X1 Carbon only comes with what you need and doesn’t try to bombard you other bundled apps. Most of the time, these additional apps are no better than pop-up ads, so it’s really great to see a clean version of Windows out of the box.

Battery life

Battery life is where the X1 Carbon truly shines. Lenovo was able to not only make the 2017 ThinkPad X1 Carbon model thinner and lighter but also include a larger battery. While it fell short of the 15 hours that is listed on Lenovo’s site. I was still able to easily get 9 hours of heavy usage most days. I’m not a light user and the fact this laptop was able to last me an entire day was very impressive. This was mostly indoors with low brightness though. If you’re outdoors or using the display at higher brightness levels you can expect shorter times.

What is even more impressive than the already stellar battery life is how fast the ThinkPad X1 Carbon charges. Thanks to quick charging the battery will achieve 80% capacity within an hour. That’s right with only one hour of charging you can basically get a day’s worth of power. For anyone on the go, this is extremely important.

Conclusion

If you’re a power hungry user or do a lot of media work this laptop is probably not for you. However, that’s not really the target market for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. While I found it lacking a little in horsepower there is plenty to make up for that. Having a light laptop that stays quiet, cool, and offers long lasting battery life with quick charging is fantastic. For business users who stay mobile and work long hours, I’d say look no further as long as you can afford it.

Thinkpad X1 Carbon at Lenovo