Lenovo Creates Sleek, but Rugged ThinkPad X1 Carbon Business Ultrabook

REVIEW: Lenovo’s latest entry into the X line of business ultrabooks brings back the touch screen and improves performance as it moves to its sixth generation.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 ultrabook

Lenovo’s new ThinkPad X1 Carbon feels good in your hand. This is the 6th generation of this slim but powerful business ultrabook computer, and it brings back the touch screen that had been removed as an option in the 5th generation of this device. 

This new generation of the X1 series includes the new faster 8th generation Kaby Lake R Intel processor that draws only 15 Watts. It has a new camera with a built-in security shutter, and a new fingerprint sensor that embeds the recognition technology into the sensor itself. On the left side of the computer is a connector for Lenovo’s new side docking mechanism. 

Side docking provides a base that elevates the rear of the computer for easier typing and it connects to the USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports on the left for data and power connections. Without the dock, the power supply connects to the rear-most USB-C connector. The X1 Carbon is designed to work with any USB-C power supply, and it includes what Lenovo calls their Anti-Fry technology to protect against damage to the computer from poorly engineered power supplies. 

The unit that was provided for our testing included a full multi-touch HD display, 8 gigabytes of memory and a 256 gigabyte solid state drive. The drive can be upgraded to 1 terabyte, the memory to 16 gigabytes and a higher resolution screen that supports 2560 x 1440 resolution is available, but that screen does not support touch. 

Lenovo’s ThinkShutter is new on this year’s ThinkPads. It’s a built-in slide that blocks the camera that’s in the top bezel of the screen. When it’s shut it prevents malware that might activate the camera from seeing anything. The ThinkShutter also turns off the microphone to prevent eavesdropping. 

The fingerprint reader that appears on the top surface of the computer to the right of the touchpad looks like previous versions of Lenovo’s fingerprint reader, but in this one the recognition intelligence is built into the sensor itself. This is more secure than having the recognition processor elsewhere on the computer. 

The keyboard on the X1 Carbon is easy to type on and it’s a nice size with dished key tops and enough tactile feedback to know you’re hitting a key. There’s a trackpad in front of the keyboard with a clickable surface. 

As is the case with other ThinkPads, there’s also a TrackPoint device. That’s the red button that looks like a pencil eraser in the center of the keyboard. If you’re not using the touch screen, the trackpad is faster at moving the pointer, but the TrackPoint is more precise. 

However, the touch screen almost makes the other two pointing devices redundant. The new X1 touch-screen uses what Lenovo calls “In-Cell Touch” technology. This essentially embeds the touch sensor into the LCD itself, eliminating the need for a glass layer over the LCD. This makes the screen thinner and lighter than it would be otherwise. 

The X1 has four data ports, two are USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, and the other two are USB 3.0 ports. There’s also an HDMI port on the left side of the computer and a sound jack on the right side. The limited number of data ports is part of the price for having such a thin laptop, but you can get them back with the docking station which can support an RJ-45 connector for Gigabit Ethernet and up to three 4K UHD monitors. 

The X1 Carbon is easy to use. Lenovo’s expertise with keyboards is apparent with the way it makes typing easy and relatively fast. However, unlike keyboards on the ThinkPad Yoga which rise out of the base for easy typing, the keys on the X1 are fixed at the level of the chassis. This makes typing on the keys slightly less precise and not quite as fast as the design of some other laptops that present the keys at a higher level. 

The full HD screen is bright and clear, and the touch screen works so well that using it quickly becomes second nature. The 10-point multitouch screen works smoothly with images, allowing you to expand and rotate them quickly and easily. 

The X1 Carbon is a rugged laptop, despite its thin construction. It meets or exceeds the requirements of MIL-STD 810G, and according to Lenovo, it passes another 200 durability tests. The magnesium and carbon fiber construction of this laptop help ensure its ruggedness while allowing it to remain thin and light. 

As you would expect, the X1 Carbon isn’t a cheap laptop. Configured as tested this computer costs about $1,600. But if you configure it with all of the performance and other goodies available, you can spend nearly $2400. All that thinness comes at a price. 

But even at the higher price this ultrabook lacks certain components, such as Ethernet connectors and there are no monitor connectors other than the one HDMI connector. The price of thinness also includes speakers that aren’t particularly loud. While you can use them to listen to music or TV shows, you’re not going to be able to use this laptop to entertain a crowd. 

Overall the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a very nice laptop and if you really need a thin and light model, you’ll find it here. The laptop is about the same size as an iPad Pro, it weighs 2.5 pounds and it works very well. But for serious work, you’ll need the docking station when you’re in the office. 

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...