Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2018) review: business in the front, business in the back

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There are few more consistent things in the world of technology than ThinkPad laptops. For more than 25 years, IBM and Lenovo have been developing utilitarian workhorses that prioritize business needs. Although ThinkPads have adopted new technologies and features over the years, they have had more constants: a conservative and compact design; a keyboard made for typing; That nubbin just above the B key – that changes, and you can draw a direct line from the first ThinkPad laptop to those you can buy today.
Therefore, it is not surprising that the new sixth generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a business machine from start to finish. It has all the usual ThinkPad features: comfortable and spacious keyboard; rugged exterior and rubber; optional dock; and reliable performance and battery life. Also, of course, you have the red TrackPoint cloud eraser in the center of your keyboard for cursor and mouse control.
Compared to the extravagant ideas of Microsoft, Apple or Google, who seem intent on redefining what we consider a computer, ThinkPads are conservative and consistent. They know what they are and they are not here to convince you of anything new. As the flagship of the line, the X1 Carbon is perhaps the most ThinkPad of all ThinkPads. It's the peak of ThinkPad.

There are many modern updates in this 2018 model: a Core i5 or i7 eighth generation processor; Windows precision trackpad; USB-C charging; Far field microphones for voice commands; and an optional touch screen or HDR screen (but unfortunately, not both at the same time). Put all that together in the 2.5-pound, 16-mm-thick frame of the X1 and you have the characteristics of a very attractive laptop to get the job done.
However, that combination will cost you. The Carbon X1 starts with just under $ 1,400, but thanks to a dizzying variety of options and improvements, it can be equipped to more than $ 2,500.
Some of the options can also be frustrating. If you want a touch screen, you have to stick with the 1080p panel, which comes with a standard webcam. If you want a Windows Hello compatible camera, you must leave the touch screen and update to the 1440p screen. But if you want the brilliant and beautiful HDR screen with Dolby Vision capability, you must give up the touch function and the Windows Hello compatible camera and cope with the not very good fingerprint scanner. The HDR screen also eliminates the anti-glare function of the other display options, despite being the most expensive option.
The dizzying variety of configurations can be confusing and frustrating
In any case, the model that I have been testing during the last weeks has a Core i5 processor of eighth generation; 8GB of RAM; a 14-inch, 1080p touch screen; 512 GB of SSD storage; and a standard web camera. It's the soft-touch black model, which looks so tough (Lenovo boasts having passed a dozen military-grade certification tests, along with 200 internal tests, and the keyboard is spill-resistant), but it also collects my fingerprints fingerprints and peels oils easily.
Along each side of the laptop there are some ports: two USB type C, a docking port, a USB type A and an HDMI on the left; a headphone jack and another USB-A port on the right. On the back there is a slot for a microSD card and where you would place the SIM card for the optional integrated LTE modem.
In total, the unit I'm testing sells for $ 1,867 depending on the configuration, which feels like a pretty high price for this set of specifications. You can get a better specified machine from HP or Dell for less, but one of the other hallmarks of ThinkPad is that they are not cheap, so the price is not a big surprise. You can also save a bit by taking advantage of sales: at the time of publication, this model sells for $ 1,680.30 directly from Lenovo.

That configuration works quite well for productivity needs. The screen is accurate in color and bright, and its matte finish is excellent for removing the brightness that plagues the bright screens of many other laptops. It has embellishments and the webcam is in the right place on the screen. I would like it to offer an aspect ratio of 3: 2, which is much more useful for productivity than the 16: 9 screen, but most people will not have problems with this.
The eighth generation Intel processor is enough to manage several programs at once, open countless tabs in the browser or stack a huge Excel spreadsheet. Although the processor is strong enough to handle any productivity task, the X1 Carbon does not work silently: the fans frequently turn on and they are noticed, releasing their exhaust fumes on the right side of the laptop.
The X1 does all the productivity work you expect as a champion
I've been averaging 7 hours of battery life between loads with my daily workflow (lots of web browsing, email, Slack, writing in Word, video conferencing and watching on YouTube with a brightness of around 50%), that is not the best battery life, but likely enough for the average office drone that one of these will be issued for work. I could probably get a little more life out of the battery by working with the Windows 10 power management configuration, but for my tests, I used it in the default state. Lenovo's USB-C charger also causes the battery to quickly drop off and recharge it up to 80 percent in just 60 minutes.
The backlit keyboard of the X1 Carbon is wide and has a large scroll of the key, which makes it quite comfortable to write. The keys are also silent, although some can be found on the soft side. My problem is more with the keyboard design: Lenovo changed the location of the Ctrl and Fn keys on the left side, which I have not been able to acclimatize, even after weeks of use. On the right side, there is a Print Screen button stuck between the Alt and Ctrl keys, which is a minor problem and just a strange place to put a Print Screen button.

Between the touch screen, the touch panel and the Lenovo signature indicator, there is no shortage of ways to interact with Windows 10 in this X1. I never used the nub, but it did not get in my way and the people who want it will know that it is there. The touchpad is not as big as you would find on a MacBook Pro or other consumer-focused laptops, but it works well and uses Microsoft's Precision drivers for precise tracking and multitasking gestures.
As I explained earlier, this version of the X1 Carbon does not have a webcam compatible with Windows Hello, so it adapts to a fingerprint scanner located to the right of the touch panel. The scanner is not excellent, it is slow to recognize my fingerprints and completely failed on more than one occasion. The webcam is a typical 720p issue, but it has a mechanical shutter, which allows you to turn off the camera and microphone altogether, instead of resorting to sticking tape for extra privacy. However, the change may be difficult to move and, personally, I would prefer to have a Windows Hello camera there to easily log in with facial recognition.

If consistency is the name of the game when it comes to ThinkPad, then the X1 Carbon is perhaps the perfect ThinkPad. It is resistant, but light; fast, but efficient; modern, but familiar. It's Lenovo playing all the ThinkPad's strengths, without really ramifications much beyond that. I would not recommend it for the average consumer, student, creative professional or road warrior; It's too expensive, there are too many configurations and the battery life is not good enough for those needs. But for someone who only cares about using it for productivity work, and perhaps has an employer paying the bill, it's hard to think of a better computer for the job.

8

Verge Score

Good material
Lightweight and durable design
Comfortable keyboard, good touch screen
Adequate supply of ports
The matte display option is a delight
Fast performance

Bad things
Average battery life
Questionable keyboard design options
A dizzying variety of configurations that require too many commitments
Sucky fingerprint scanner
Active fans, sometimes noisy

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