Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon (2017) Review

How long have I longed for a ThinkPad? Every time in my life that I’ve considered buying a laptop, the latest ThinkPad models have inevitably figured high on my các mục of desired computers. They once bore the IBM logo, now Lenovo, but they’ve always been that paradigm of no-nonsense work machine that you know you can rely on. Sturdy, hardy, và covered in deep matte black, ThinkPads are iconic.

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But the reason I haven’t owned a series of ThinkPads over the past two decades is twofold: one part is that Apple’s MacBooks have been superior in battery life and user experience, while the other is that the proper ThinkPads have generally been out of reach financially. Lenovo has mostly been a good guardian of the ThinkPad brand, but it did misapply the label on its plasticky ThinkPad Edge laptops. I owned one of those & it definitely didn’t live up to the storied reputation of this portable PC.

These considerations have been turned on their head in 2017 with Lenovo’s fifth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which seems lớn be the beneficiary of a perfect confluence of events. Hãng apple has made its macbook line worse, not better; Lenovo has lowered the entry price to lớn its legit ThinkPad range; và I’m once again on the hunt for a new laptop. With prices starting at just over $1,100, the X1 Carbon is a 14-inch no-nonsense work computer that’s easy khổng lồ fall in love with, whether you’re coming from the Mac or Windows camp.


The model I’m reviewing is priced at $1,275 & comes with an Intel bộ vi xử lý core i5-7300U CPU, 8GB of RAM, and a worthwhile nâng cấp over the base X1 Carbon: a 256GB NVMe SSD. That storage drive is double the form size and substantially faster than on the entry-level model, working over the PCI Express bus rather than the more typical SATA. For another $50 you can tăng cấp the 1080p display khổng lồ 1440p, for $111 more you can double the memory, or for $120 you can double the storage again khổng lồ 512GB. These are all reasonably priced upsells from Lenovo, subject khổng lồ the company’s arcane “instant savings” mathematics, and I can see the attraction in all of them. But for my needs & preferences, the reviews unit was ample.

The thing that doesn’t change with any of the X1 Carbon variants is the build quality. I love it. There is no creaking to be heard or keyboard flex to lớn be felt. The brutally minimalist black surfaces (this laptop’s also available in silver, but that’s a sacrilegious color for a ThinkPad) have a soft-touch finish that resists fingerprints và other blemishes admirably well. The hinges are a thing of metal beauty: they mở cửa out lớn a full 180 degrees và feel strong enough to hang a door on. The first laptop I ever bought was a Samsung X10, but its right hinge broke a month after the warranty expired. I still regret not getting the ThinkPad X series I was eyeing back then.


Also universal across X1 Carbon models is the keyboard. I love that, too. Each key is a vast island of loveliness, perfectly shaped and positioned to lớn give me the best typing experience. For such a thin máy vi tính as this ThinkPad is (15.95mm / 0.6 inches), the key travel is cavernously deep, which compares very favorably to Apple’s almost-flat MacBook và MacBook Pro keyboards và practically everything else in the same category. If I had lớn give you my reasons for why I continue khổng lồ favor laptops over 2-in-1 hybrids, I’d point to this keyboard first and the X1 Carbon’s hinges second.

The traditional ThinkPad TrackPoint — the red nub in the middle — is present on the X1 Carbon and it works well. It’s a very alien experience for anyone habituated to lớn the swiping và gesture controls of a touchpad or screen, but it will please old-school types, và it doesn’t get in the way of my millennial ways of using a PC either. It adds a couple of hard mouse buttons above the laptop’s trackpad, which I often use in combination with the trackpad. The trackpad itself is reliable and accurate, giving me no cause for complaint.



At 1.13kg / 2.49lbs, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon weighs exactly as much as the 2017 HP Spectre x2 with its keyboard attached. Which is to lớn say that this ThinkPad is the same weight as the thin paper pad it resembles. I’ve only known the LG Gram khổng lồ be a lighter computer with a 14-inch screen, but that was a flimsy plastic affair whereas this ThinkPad is perfectly rigid & reinforced with carbon fiber. Lenovo has protected the screen very well, too, và its newly trimmed-down bezels make the X1 Carbon’s footprint much more compact than before. I can envision no scenarios, other than an especially minimal bag or backpack, where a 12-inch or 13-inch máy tính would present a meaningful advantage over this 14-inch Lenovo PC.


The one thing I miss from the Surface Pro, Spectre x2, and my trusty Chromebook pixel is the 3:2 aspect ratio. With their squarer screens, those computers are more useful as work machines, displaying more of any given webpage or document without forcing me lớn scroll. Lenovo’s choice of 16:9 with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is not controversial, but I vì chưng find it suboptimal. It would have made more sense on a computer designed lớn consume truyền thông and entertainment rather than one for composing spreadsheets & PowerPoint slides.

Some might also take issue with the X1 Carbon’s 1080p resolution, but I’m not among them. It’s perfectly adequate khổng lồ give me a sharp picture, và I like that it’s more forgiving on the battery than the current trend for high-res displays everywhere. HP’s Spectre x2 might give you 6 megapixels of resolution, but it doesn’t last beyond six hours. This ThinkPad X1 Carbon gets me a solid eight hours of active use and is one of the rare new laptops (or laptop-replacement hybrids) this year that I can comfortably use for a whole day on a single charge. If I’m just writing & browsing the web, as I’m doing for this review, it stretches past the 10-hour mark. Lenovo’s charger is conveniently small, và it’s USB-C, so it charges my phone, too.

I have lớn return to lớn the display, though, lớn commend Lenovo on being one of the rare few companies lớn still sell matte screens. I can use this laptop in a brightly lit environment without having glare, my reflection, or little speckles of dust distracting me. No, it’s not the most saturated or contrasty viewing experience you’ll ever get on a sản phẩm điện thoại computer, but then neither is a táo macbook pro or Surface Book when used for its intended purpose as a smartphone computer. Those laptops get blighted by even the hint of any sunlight over your shoulder, whereas the ThinkPad maintains its legibility in unfavorable environments.

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So the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is thin, light, reasonably affordable, built khổng lồ last, & has a battery that actually lasts. It sounds almost perfect, right? It would be, if Windows was perfect. Back in April, I wrote about my three favorite apps that re-created basic macOS functionality in Windows. I still lượt thích them, but I no longer use them, because they turned out to be rather buggy & unreliable. The fact remains that macOS gives you a smoother user experience, even if it doesn’t last as long now that apple has kneecapped the battery life of its máy vi tính line. In macOS, I don’t have to lớn uninstall Candy Crush Saga, reject the injection of ads into my Start menu, or ward off Cortana’s pushiness.

Basic things like compatibility with external audio gear (digital-to-analog converters or USB sound cards) are seamless with macOS, but require driver downloads và debugging on Windows. In Chrome on Windows, I can’t vị a two-finger swipe gesture khổng lồ move between pages. That’s debilitating to me và the way I work, and MacBooks in general make much better use of multitouch input than their Windows counterparts. I also never know what sort of sleep mode this ThinkPad will go into, with it often entering a deep hibernation that takes multiple seconds khổng lồ exit.

I miss the ease và fluidity of operation of macOS (and even the banal simplicity of being able khổng lồ type out an em dash instead of copying & pasting it every time), và for that reason I can’t endorse the ThinkPad X1 Carbon as the best máy vi tính user experience available today. Though it comes very close.

Compared to lớn other Windows laptops, I feel no sense of loss for lacking a touchscreen, a stylus, or a high-resolution display that covers 120 percent of three different RGB color spaces. Hardware specs are not a shortcoming for this laptop, and its performance over the months I’ve tested it has been satisfyingly quick & responsive. I have done some casual work in Photoshop without feeling in any way slowed by the vi xử lý core i5 processor, & I’d credit the fast storage for helping khổng lồ keep everything moving. I can’t even recall what this laptop’s tín đồ sounds like, because it almost never has khổng lồ kick in — & if you don’t try lớn edit 4K đoạn phim or a batch of 50MB RAW files in Lightroom, you might never hear it either — which wasn’t always the case, so I’m guessing Lenovo has improved its software over time.

The X1 Carbon has a few other niceties, including a fingerprint sensor for Windows Hello authentication. It’s a little slow, but Lenovo tells me it’s extremely secure because it employs match-in-sensor verification that fully encapsulates the ID process & information, insulating them from any potential hacking of the máy vi tính itself. It’s a good business-friendly touch, & so is the inclusion of two classic USB-A ports alongside the two USB-C / Thunderbolt 3 / charging jacks & one full-size HDMI port.

I’d love khổng lồ see Lenovo go all the way with user-friendly features & include an SD thẻ slot, but the company compromises with microSD instead. Can’t complain about this anymore, however, as the SD thẻ slot has gone the way of the dodo and the DVD drive this year. Another thing that would have made this máy tính xách tay more enjoyable for me is better tai nghe audio hardware: the sound coming out of the X1 Carbon’s speakers is perfectly fine for its class, but the headphone output is horribly dull và unimpressive.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is Lenovo’s version of a crossover SUV. It’s got the larger screen, durable build, and spartan looks of a business machine. But it’s also slim, light, and, in some beholders’ eyes, handsome. This is a computer designed khổng lồ serve almost all laptop purposes, & the surprising thing about it is how well & how often it succeeds. Lenovo’s design choices are overwhelmingly correct, and what I see with this PC is the refinement and approaching perfection of the clamshell computer.

To satisfy your mobile computing needs, you can now pick among iPads, Chromebooks, and 2-in-1 Windows devices next to the traditional macOS và Windows laptops. That’s a choice you’ll have khổng lồ weigh before considering Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon. For me, the delights of this laptop’s keyboard và the absolute peace of mind that comes with its hardy construction are an unbeatable combination. With good battery life and an enduring commitment khổng lồ austere matte surfaces, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the sort of no-nonsense ThinkPad I’ve always wanted.

8.5Verge Score

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017)

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The Good

Rigid, sturdy design & materialsWonderful keyboardGreat battery life for such a thin PCSolid performanceMatte screen with thin bezels
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The Bad

Widescreen aspect ratio is suboptimal for a work computerPoor tai nghe audio qualityCharging ports would have been more convenient if not next to one another
$1403.10 at Lenovo$1769.00 at B&H Photo Video$1362.98 at Jet
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