Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen Review
Lenovo released its 6th Gen flagship business ultraportable, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon to stay ahead of competition from the Apple MacBook Pro 13, Dell XPS 13 and new players like Microsoft’s brilliant Surface Laptop. Has Lenovo done enough to upgrade the X1 to Intel 8th Gen processors and new display panels? Let’s find out.
When you pick up the X1 Carbon, your fingers grip the luxurious soft-touch lid, this follows through on the wrist deck making for a comfortable ergonomic typing experience. More on the keyboard later.
The X1 tips the scales at 1.12 kg or 2.46 pounds, thanks to the four layers of carbon fibre reinforced around a magnesium alloy roll-cage. In other words, solid, light and totally sturdy. Built to MIL-STD-810G ruggedized tests. It’s slightly thicker than the XPS 13, but the X1 has full-size USB 3.0 connectors. What do you guys prefer, slimness or more ports?
The sturdy hinges bend smoothly to 180 degree, allowing the X1 Carbon to lie down flat for group collaboration work.
As with its predecessor, the X1 Carbon’s bottom case can be easily removed with a small crosshead screwdriver. The M.2-2280 SSD, Wi-Fi module, battery and fan are the only components that can be individually removed as everything else is soldered to the motherboard. Yes, that’s right the memory is soldered on. The WWAN module can also be removed in models where it is included.
The 14 inch Quad HD anti-glare IPS panel on this review model is sharp and colours are vivid. Brightness is rated at 300 nits, not as bright as the 1080P 400 nits panel. The non-touchscreen X1 has a matte surface that can be used outdoors. But if you intend to use the X1 outdoors a lot, we would recommend the brighter 1080P display.
With an IPS panel, you get great 170 degree viewing angles and no sign of backlight bleeding. sRGB is rated at 99% so laptop photo editing is possible on this model.
On the right there are two USB 3.1 Type C Thunderbolt 3 ports, one of the Thunderbolt 3 ports is integrated into a side docking connector. The docking port replaces the Mini-Ethernet port of the previous model and a corresponding adapter is in the box. One USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A, and a HDMI 1.4b.
On the left we have a combo audio / microphone jack, one USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A sleep and charge and a Kensington lock. Around the rear we have a Micro SD card reader and 4G LTE Micro SIM tray. Slot a data SIM into the X1 and you have a powerful Internet ready business laptop, useful where you don’t have wireless coverage, for example on a construction site.
The X1 Carbon has an Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265 2×2 AC with Bluetooth Version 4.1. It’s not the latest WiFi 6 card however wireless signal was good through a big open office into a couple of rooms where the access point was during testing.
The optional ThinkPad Pro Dock allows you to dock the X1 Carbon to increase the port count and connect additional external monitors for productivity gains. The USB-C side mechanical dock easily connects with two male Type-C ports that snap into and automatically level your device. Once docked, your ThinkPad stays securely in place and sits at a slightly tilted angle for comfort.
Keyboard & Touchpad
When you talk about a ThinkPad keyboard like the X1, you simply run out of superlatives. You get the typical chiclet keyboard with slightly concave keys. There’s two levels of backlighting to keep you going in dark surroundings. For a slim ultrabook, the engineers have done a superb job to give users a gorgeous typing experience with long key travel. The X1 still sets the benchmark for others to copy.
The touchpad with its glass surface did not change, either from the previous gen. The gliding capabilities are very good, but the surface is not very big at 10 x 5.8 cm resulting in cramped finger gesture usage. This is a result of the additional mouse buttons for the TrackPoint, which sits between the keys B, G, and H. Both methods allow precise control of the cursor.
Audio & Webcam
The two 1W speakers located in the front section of the bottom panel are quite loud, up to 83 dB(A), but the sound just lacks power and dynamic range. The modules work well for typical office tasks including video conferences like Zoom or Skype, but we recommend headphones or external speakers during music or video playback.
The 720P webcam with integrated 360-degree far field microphones, does its job for video conferences but that’s about it. It’s ok as laptop webcams go. The new privacy ThinkShutter, allows you to cover the webcam when not needed. No more NSA or GCHQ watching you type in your underpants.
Our review model is powered by a Kaby Lake R Intel Core i7-8550U chip with 16GB of soldered on DDR3 RAM and an integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU. For storage, we’re looking at a 256GB M.2 NVMe SSD.
The i7-8550U has two more cores than the previous 7th gen CPU. The base clock of 1.8Ghz can turbo boost up to 4.0Ghz. Temperature limits allow the CPU to boost for 28 seconds at 29 Watts. After this time, or once the laptop has reached 90 °C, the processor drops to 23 W and throttles down to 2.8 GHz across all cores. The downside of this is after an hour’s stress testing the keyboard and underside gets warm between 57 and 50 degrees celsius. If you are constantly taxing the X1, I wouldn’t recommend working with it on your lap and to ensure the X1 gets good airflow too.
Fan noise is kept to a minimum especially if you only use it with office work. When stressed the fans come on but noise is not overbearing.
The X1 packs enough arsenal to cover most usage scenarios. For example, opening multiple Chrome tabs, using Office programs, and editing a 4K video in Adobe Premiere Pro.
The Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620 performs well for office tasks that this laptop is aimed at. It executes really well in multimedia scenarios and even high-resolution videos are no problem for the integrated decoder.
Gaming wise, the UHD 620 is OK for the occasional basic game found in the Microsoft Store. Roblox, LoL and even Fortnite in low/medium settings will play on the X1 Carbon, especially handy after a long day in the office or on the road.
If you need more graphical firepower, there is the optional Thunderbolt 3 Graphics Dock. It powers the X1, can drive up to three different displays, and you can attach multiple USB devices. The highlight is the GTX 1050 graphics allowing you to handle modern games in medium to high settings as well as a spot of CAD work.
Battery life on the X1 is around 8 and a half to 9 hours general use thanks to the 3 cell 57Wh battery. Under load and maximum brightness the battery life came in under two hours. The good news is the X1 has rapid charging. We managed to add 50% in 40 minutes charging from the USB-C 45W AC Adapter.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has basic security tools included. There’s a TPM 2.0 chip and you can set several passwords (BIOS, hard drive, boot). A fingerprint scanner to log into Windows and the webcam privacy ThinkShutter. Some models are equipped with an infrared webcam, which supports facial recognition in combination with Windows Hello.
3 Pros and Cons before buying the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen
Sensational Keyboard – The ThinkPad has one selling point above the competition, its excellent keyboard. For someone who spends a lot of time typing it’s a complete joy to use and one gets spoiled when going back to the X1’s main competitors.
All round Performance – The specs and conservative temperature limit erk out more performance for the X1 Carbon. It handles most business productivity tasks with ease. Leaving you to concentrate on getting that PowerPoint sales pitch right rather than waiting for it to move to the next slide.
Lightweight and Well Built – You pick up the X1 Carbon with one hand and you know straight away it is well built. But at the same time it is lightweight and slim. Easily moving it from the office to the conference room to the client site, knowing it will take a knock or two.
Limited Upgradability – Beware when you order the X1 Carbon that you get the maximum memory possible as it is soldered on, there’s no option to order this at a later date. Also there’s no secondary M.2 slot for additional storage but understandable due to the X1 dimensions.
Weak speakers – The X1 Carbon speakers are disappointing and tinny when you consider the competition can still fit decent audio in their variants. If you need to present on the X1 get a decent portable Bluetooth speaker instead.
High temperatures – The Lenovo engineers left more headroom for the CPU temperature limit squeezing more performance but at the detriment of higher surface temperatures under sustained workloads. The top of the keyboard becomes a little warm and underneath where the ventilation slot is located gets hot. Definitely not a laptop to lean on your lap for long periods.
So if you are considering the X1 Carbon, what are the alternatives out there? In long particular order, here’s a list to consider.
- Dell XPS 13
- Razer Blade Stealth
- Apple MacBook Pro 13
- Microsoft Surface Laptop 3
- HP Spectre x360 13
- HP Elite Dragonfly
- Huawei MateBook X Pro
The 6th Gen version of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon takes a winning combination of sleek, minimalist design, high-end performance and business-friendly features. Adds effective 8th Gen CPUs and better displays than the previous models.
The X1 stands out with its amazingly comfortable to type keyboard, all day battery life and useful ports. OK it’s not the most beautiful ultrabook out there and yes battery life could be better but the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen is a phenomenal business laptop in an increasingly competitive category.
We are Lenovo Partners, call us for more information on purchasing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop. Tel: 01335 81 80 81 or email: email@example.com
Review model – UK SKU: 20KH006KUK
£1,392 + VAT (£1670.40p inc.)