A luxury laptop with a high-quality finish and high-quality components, but we’d drop down to a Full HD screen
- Great quality screen
- Impressive security features
- Ultraportable design
- Poor battery life
Lenovo is in new laptop mode at the moment, refreshing its X1 Carbon along with the X1 Yoga and the ThinkPad T390S. ThinkPad purists will surely be most excited by this, its flagship laptop. Quite aside from being a flag of pride among ThinkPad aficionados – right down to the black-on-black “X1 Carbon” imprint beneath the screen – this is surely the best ThinkPad you can buy.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review: Performance
I should qualify the word “best”, however. It isn’t the fastest: despite having the same quad-core Intel Core i7-8565U processor as the ThinkPad T390S, its tighter chassis creates cooling challenges that mean the X1 Carbon can’t sustain the super-high boost speeds of its brother. Also note it uses slower LPDDR3 memory, not DDR4. It’s still fast, with a score of 103 whipping the similarly specified X1 Yoga, but the T390S’ processor kept a steady boost speed of around 3GHz while the X1 was more comfortable at around 2.4GHz.
The payback is an incredibly compact chassis, especially when you consider that it contains a 14in screen. I weighed the X1 Carbon at 1.1kg, and with a depth of 15mm and footprint only a couple of centimetres wider than an A4 sheet of paper, you’ll barely notice this laptop in your bag.
Lenovo is rightly proud of the Ultra HD screen it provided in our review sample. It both looks beautiful to the naked eye and romped through our tests. It hit a peak brightness of 516cd/m2, covered 98.8% of the sRGB gamut (and 83.5% of Adobe RGB and 87.1% of DCI-P3) and has an outstanding average Delta E of 0.52. Truly, this is as good as laptop screens get. But its downside is power draw: the X1 Carbon only lasted 5hrs 14mins in our battery rundown test, which is extremely low by modern standards. The T490S kept going for over 11 hours. Fortunately, you can buy the X1 Carbon 7th Gen with a Full HD or 1440p panel, and unless you have a particular need for 4K resolutions that’s what we suggest you do.
The drawback of dropping down to the Full HD screen is that it isn’t as bright, but a peak of 400cd/m2 is still excellent and you may well prefer its anti-glare finish to the Ultra HD’s gloss effect. Switching down shaves off £137, but I recommend sticking with the infrared webcam (£17) and its support for Windows Hello. This produces soft-looking photos and videos, but it’s fine for Skype.
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review: Design
Whichever configuration you choose, you can be assured of the best keyboard and touchpad combo on an ultraportable. Even typing up a dull report will be a joy, with a quietness and responsiveness that other manufacturers can only dream about. Note the huge Enter and right-Shift keys, too. Some people don’t like the Fn and Ctrl keys being in that order on the left-hand side, but that’s easy to change via Lenovo’s comprehensive Vantage software. I’ll also give a special mention to the glass-topped touchpad, which makes gliding around Windows simplicity itself.
Considering how light and compact this laptop is, Lenovo packs it with ports. The left-hand side offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports (also used for charging), a USB port, a combo mic/ headphone jack and a full-size HDMI output. There’s a docking station connector, too. There’s less space on the right-hand side due to a large air vent, but a handy second USB port is kept company by the power button and a Kensington lock slot.
That brings us to security, where Lenovo has you well covered. There’s a fingerprint reader, while a combination of vPro Intel processor and Windows 10 Pro means it should slot easily into a managed fleet of laptops. If you don’t need Windows 10 Pro, you can downgrade to Home for a whopping saving of £172. Note the three-year C&R warranty as standard too, with “premier” on-site support available for £184. Even with some downgrades, we can’t get away from Lenovo’s high asking price for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and here I’d suggest you get on the phone and negotiate. During September, it slashed prices by 15%, showing there’s plenty of room for savings from the list price.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review: Verdict
That high cost, along with the poor battery life, means the ThinkPad X1 Carbon narrowly misses out on a Recommended award. But, if you can find the right configuration for your needs at the right price, this will be a laptop you’ll love using for years to come.