Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

This business laptop (almost) has it all

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon review

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On the whole, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon does a fantastic job of straddling the line between function and form. An improvement on the previous X1 Carbon in every way, it's the details that might turn veterans away and lure in new fans.

For example, the super sharp touchscreen might please the more vain viewers, but only if they were able to see what's displayed. And the adaptive row of keys might make refugees from the Apple camp feel more at home, but put off curmudgeonly ThinkPad veterans.

Lenovo has been testing the limits of the ThinkPad old guard for some time, introducing new features and removing more antiquated ones at a slow, steady clip. The new X1 Carbon is a much more drastic move toward the new era of computing.

We liked

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has one of the most attractive design IDs I've ever seen on a business laptop. Save for omitting an SD card reader, Lenovo has made very few compromises in crafting a sleek, light laptop. From its soft touch carbon fiber frame to its fingerprint sensor squeezed onto the right of the keyboard deck and its power-packed internals, you won't be wanting for much more out of this machine.

The adaptive row of keys takes some getting used to. But this high-tech keyboard expertly merges the popular media and function-first keys found on MacBooks with the necessary function keys of the business world. Was it entirely necessary? Probably not, given how much it dictated rejiggering the rest of the key layout. Is it interesting in a way that most other business laptops aren't? Absolutely.

What else about the new X1 that is easy to admire: the selection of ports for its slim profile, including HDMI, DisplayPort and Ethernet (via an included dongle). Also, despite the layout change, the typing and tracking experience is nearly bar none on this laptop, much like most Lenovo systems.

We disliked

Getting right to it, I wasn't particularly blown away by the screen. It produces some gorgeous visuals through video, images and web pages thanks to its 2560 x 1440 resolution and IPS technology. However, it's also rather dim, picking up tons of glare regardless of what kind of content is on display.

Besides, the business benefits of such a sharp screen don't extend far beyond better image fidelity in Photoshop and other media editing software. Plus, I've yet to find any seriously compelling use cases for touch in the office. Lenovo would have been better served putting out an FHD panel that was a bit brighter and forgetting about touch control altogether.

And likely thanks in part to this QHD touchscreen, the X1 didn't come close to Lenovo's claim of up to 9 hours of battery life in my testing. But also consider that I was forced to max out the screen brightness in my anecdotal testing for the sake of seeing my work, and it lasted about as long as most Haswell machines I've tested.

Final verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a business laptop that straddles the line between form and function more than ever after this update. For those with a penchant for aesthetics, here's a brand new design with some fantastic new features. And to keep the no-nonsense business user happy, this is a plenty powerful piece of hardware.

If it weren't for that glaring display and missing SD card reader, I would heartily recommend the X1 Carbon without question. What this laptop offers through its super slim design profile alone is impressive. And the adaptive keys, while divisive, add a ton of function in a limited amount of space and an attractive presentation.

More intense business users would be better served by the HP ZBook 14's dedicated GPU and easy IT access. But look out, MacBook Pro, you're no longer the only thin and light business option on the block.

Joe Osborne

Joe Osborne is the Senior Technology Editor at Insider Inc. His role is to leads the technology coverage team for the Business Insider Shopping team, facilitating expert reviews, comprehensive buying guides, snap deals news and more. Previously, Joe was TechRadar's US computing editor, leading reviews of everything from gaming PCs to internal components and accessories. In his spare time, Joe is a renowned Dungeons and Dragons dungeon master – and arguably the nicest man in tech.