Lenovo introduced the X1 Carbon five years ago, and the business-centric laptop returns once again, now in its fifth generation.
Lenovo nailed the formula awhile ago and the Carbon remains highly regarded by business users, so the company isn’t going to screw with a winning design. It’s still a 14-inch notebook, clad in carbon fiber to keep it tough but light, and packed with ports.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The best connectivity and I/O port options in this form factor. Incredibly light, svelte, and durable. Great performance and over-the-top battery life.
Touchpad is a minor disaster. Anemic SSD configuration. Relatively weak screen brightness. No touchscreen option (yet).
Still, Lenovo found room for improvement in the fifth iteration. It shaved the weight from the original’s 3 pounds to a mere 2.5. The company also snipped the edges while maintaining the same screen size, trimming the device’s overall footprint by 8 percent compared to last year’s model. Battery life, long a sore spot with the Carbon line, improves dramatically, surpassing eight hours during my full-tilt video playback test.
I’ve groused about ultralights trimming ports in order to minimize weight and girth, but the Carbon doesn’t disappoint in the slightest. Connectivity includes two USB-C ports (one is dedicated to charging, thankfully eliminating Lenovo’s ridiculous proprietary power connector) and two standard size USB 3.0 ports, all of which even power-user should be able to work with. You also get an HDMI port, a fingerprint reader, and be-dongled Ethernet. Lenovo offers a microSD/microSIM card slot as an add-on, but didn’t provide on on my test unit.
Under the hood specs are largely in line with other current ultrabooks. The screen still carries a 1920 x 1080 resolution (with upgrade options coming), while a seventh-generation Core i5 provides the juice. The 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD in my test unit—$1,610 as configured—don’t exactly inspire excitement, but get the job done. The Carbon’s specs prompted solid benchmarks, with good scores across the board, even on graphics-heavy tests.
Lenovo also redesigned the touchpad, which is now flush with the palmrest and features a revamped clicking mechanism. Touchpads remain a perennial problem on ThinkPads (I complained about the pad on the original Carbon) and once again Lenovo offers one with significant flaws. At first, I found the tracking so poor as to make this Carbon unusable, with double-taps barely registering at all. Extensive fiddling with sensitivity settings and a little retraining more or less worked it out, but only after several days of tweaking. I never did resolve the problem completely. The keyboard, however, is a winner.
I’m willing to accept that I might be dealing with a bum touchpad on an early unit, or that driver updates will fix its ills, because it’d be a shame to dismiss the Carbon for that flaw alone. The remainder of the machine remains quite outstanding, just as it’s always been.