The ThinkPad has seen six generations now and we had one for review in 2015.
It may sound strange, but that laptop back then made us fall in love with our work and we just loved typing on it. And unfortunately this one seems to be having the same effect. So, we’ve put our PlayStations and gaming PCs away for a bit and gotten straight to business.
If it aint broke, update it
Not much has changed externally except a few practical additions and improvements to the aesthetic and of course, the weight, which is a feathery 1.13Kgs. You still get that similar confidence when you pick the laptop up. This thing is built to perfection, it just feels so premium to hold and feel. We’ve never molested a business laptop as much as we did this one.
Yes, we are offenders and you could jail us for touching this laptop inappropriately. But what can one do? We can’t help it. With a chassis constructed of four layers of reinforced carbon fiber and a magnesium alloy roll-cage for added strength, it is really difficult to not lay hands on it. Lenovo was kind enough to send this baby before its launch and even though it might not seem like it, but at Rs. 1,21,000, the Carbon X1 totally feels worth it.
Times they are changing
The major update that the X1 gets is on the inside of the laptop. But there are a few changes that we absolutely love that are on the outside. The fingerprint sensor is now improved and rests beside the touchpad, the bezel is slimmer, the ThinkPad logo matches the dark theme of the laptop, the hinges have been reworked and add that additional sense of stability and of course the most important bit is the USB Type-C charging abilities. Lenovo has also worked hard on the display and you have four options to choose from.
Art of seduction
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — the charm of this ultrabook lies in its keyboard. We are so glad Lenovo didn’t change much here. It still mesmerises your fingers and you just want to type and type and type away. It brings this silly joy, which we can’t really explain in words. Add to that the very handy function keys and the two-step backlighting and this keyboard is almost the benchmark for us when it comes to true business laptops. If you’re a writer, this keyboard should be your pen.
The red TrackPoint remains but we’ve never gotten used to it because Lenovo takes away the units before we’re done satisfying our typing predilection. But jokes apart, what we absolutely loved and admired was how easy it is to just shift from your old laptop that you’ve been using for seven odd years (journalists are poor) to the Lenovo and type away to glory without needing to get used to the layout or any of that. It’s just intuitive and surprisingly what you type out is free of errors as well. Those smiling keys sure put a smile on our face.
Four, seven, eight
The Intel Core i7-8650U 8th-gen vPro processor has a total four cores. Now, that’s two additional cores compared to the previous generation. Then there’s the 16GB of LPDDR3 memory and then there’s the 512GB PCIe-NVME SSD OPAL2.0. Smiling already? We are too. The X1 boots up in the blink of an eye. This thing is ninja-fast.
We performed some benchmark tests and the results are quite impressive, obviously. In the PC Mark 8 Work Conventional test, the X1 scored a staggering 3487 and Crystal Disk Mark saw write speeds of 1932MB/s and read speeds of 3413MB/s. Hell, even Windows updates install fast and when a laptop can turn something as annoying as Windows Updates into a joyful experience, it really is special. But in all sobriety, this made us wonder what the 9th-gen processors are capable of. Phew.
Still, we didn’t just settle on benchmark scores alone, we never do. So, we installed Adobe Photoshop, InDesign and Lightroom. We had them all going, which took nearly 8 seconds and had Google Chrome open in the background with multiple tabs with Netflix playing a movie and YouTube playing a few videos (yes we are weird).
But what’s not weird is the X1. It didn’t sweat for a second and handled it like a boss, just calmly destroying whatever we threw at it. We even started up Microsoft Excel to make it a little more difficult, but this one won’t budge. The fluidity with which the applications run and the lag-free multi-tasking is just a little glimpse of what the future holds.
The display on our review unit is a matte 14in 1080p affair with 300 nits of brightness, but you get a model that has an HDR WQHD display with Dolby Vision that goes upto 500 nits and will be a first in the PC world. However, coming back to the model in front of us, we definitely feel it could do with a tad more brightness as it struggles a bit when you’re working outdoors. Apart from that, the colours are pretty accurate and text appears razor-sharp. After all, Lenovo says it’s a 100% colour gamut but haven’t exactly specified the spectrum. But whatever it is, is much better than before.
Watching movies is also fun, but we really don’t get the point of adding a touchscreen to a laptop that isn’t a convertible and can’t actually be used as a tablet. When we asked Lenovo representatives about this, they came up with a counter question - what if you’re holding a cup of coffee and want to scroll the webpage you’re browsing? Yup, really, we aren’t joking around. But we think it’s more to do with just having it as an option rather than your morning cup of java.
But then again, there is a whole different laptop for those who like to prod at their display. It’s got similar specs and is from Lenovo itself - the Lenovo X1 Yoga. Yup. Now that actually justifies and more importantly so actually finds use of that touchscreen. So, unless you can’t scroll on your laptop through the regular trackpad while you’re sipping coffee, there’s actually no need to get the touchscreen option. Save your money. For the rest, check out the X1 Yoga.
And now that we’re done with our morning brew, let’s talk about the view. The viewing angles are great and there’s no noticeable loss of colour accuracy when viewed from the sides or the top and bottom. It is a great improvement from what we have seen before. And if this 1080p version is anything to go by, we wonder how amazing the 2K HDR panel looks like. Overall, good job Lenovo.
Lenovo gives you two dongles that welcome you with open ports. You get an ethernet connector that slots into the proprietary connection on the laptop and the other is a more 1970’s USB C to VGA connector. There’s two USB 3 ports along with a USB Type-C and a headphone jack. Around the back - yes, around the back - you get a SIM/microSD card slot for those who want to dedicate a SIM to the X1. There’s also a proper HDMI connection too, but that’s about it.
Curb your insecurities
Security has always been serious business for Lenovo even before Facebook came into existence. And that’s exactly why the fingerprint scanner has a special hardware module below it that stores your fingerprint data and doesn’t allow any other software to penetrate through. In some of the models, you also get an actual camera cover that’s basically a slider that you push to completely cover the lens.
There’s an IR option too that tracks your eyes and when you move away from your laptop, locks the laptop so that pesky work buddies don’t go through your stuff. It even unlocks the laptop for you once you’re back and staring at it and it works rather well. A few hiccups here and there are fine, but overall the system works quite well. Oh, there’s a Kensington lock too. Go ahead cuff your hand and your laptop together. Send us pictures if you actually do.
When we test the webcams on most laptops, we end up saying chee instead of cheeeeeez, but this one isn’t bad at all. The Lenovo Vantage software gives you an option to tweak the exposure, contrast and the brightness of the camera and also adjust the microphone levels. The quality on the whole is much, much better than the rest of the regular laptops we’ve seen and thank you Lenovo for keeping that camera on top and not at the bottom.
Another interesting addition is Amazon Alexa compatibility. But it still isn’t out yet, however Lenovo has some really impressive far-field microphones put into the X1 that can hear you whisper from a distance of 4 meters. Okay, not whisper, but ya you need to talk slightly loud for Cortana to respond, but it finally works fine.
End of play
Another impressive bit about the Carbon X1 is its 15 hour battery life. In our tests, we got 14 hours and a few minutes which is pretty close to the claimed number. However the WQHD models might get a lower number because of that sharper display and HDR capabilities.
The only negative we found on the Carbon X1 is the abysmal audio quality that you get from the speakers. Although front-firing, these are designed to bounce the sound off the surface you put the laptop on. The sound however is quite thin and lacks definition. It almost feels like a species of Rattus trying to sing you a lullaby. Okay, it’s not that bad. But yeah, you’ll be fine thanks to the headphone jack on the side.
It had us before and it’s done it all over again. The X1 Carbon manages to retain its old-school ThinkPad charm, improve on its predecessors and give us a dollop of power with the latest 8th-gen processors. The changes that have been made, are made in all the right places. The display looks great, USB type-C is included, it’s got the fastest SSDs available in the market and it is thinner and lighter all while withholding its true old-school business characteristics. It also has a battery that lasts all day. Sure, it isn’t fault-free, the audio could be better, but we’re nitpicking now. This might just be the best iteration of the best business laptop that’s been around since man invented the wheel.