The Lenovo ThinkPad series is already well-known for its business appeal. For the sixth-gen 2018 model the company has ramped up design to look even more suave and sophisticated standards, while cramming in features that many other laptops can only dream about.
Principal among these features is an ultra-bright High Dynamic Range (HDR) screen with Dolby Vision optimisation. So not only can you look good on the job, you can enjoy premium content during downtime too.
Thing is, with that HDR screen configured, the 2018 X1 Carbon is a pricey slice of laptop, pushing a penny shy of £1,880 (it8217;s just over $2,000 in the US, yowch). That8217;s around £600/$1000 more than many obvious high-end competitors, so does the latest ThinkPad proposition stack up?
- 2x USB 3, 1x Thunderbolt 3, 1x 3.5mm jack, 1x HDMI, 1x docking connector
- Dimensions and weight: 324 x 217 x 15.95mm; 1.13kgs
- Black or silver finishes, new blacked-out ThinkPad logo
- ThinkShutter camera slide for added privacy
- Embedded fingerprint reader
The design manual for stylish and slim laptops was written years ago and has become a bit of a bible from which only the bold stray. It says: 8220;maketh your laptops slim, maketh them out of aluminium and maketh sure everyone8217;s going to know it8217;s aluminium when they look at or touch it8221;.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon tears up the manual, instead showing off its carbon construction in a different, subtle, yet standout way. It probably goes without saying that the X1 Carbon is, indeed, constructed from a carbon shell (carbon fibre reinforced magnesium alloy, as it happens). In practical terms this build makes for a lightweight laptop that8217;s soft to the touch, not cold or sharp like metal.
You might not know it8217;s carbon, though, as there8217;s no carbon fibre-like flecks to be seen anywhere, instead the whole laptop looks coated in a sort-of plasticky like finish. This also likes to attract fingerprints, while that black/grey finish (there8217;s a silver one too) is a bit of a dust magnet. But if you8217;re going to spend two grand on a laptop then you8217;d best have the feather duster to hand to keep it looking ship shape.
To say it8217;s not slim would be unfair, though, as just like the 2017 model the X1 Carbon has shaved a few millimetres off the older designs, with smaller screen bezels being on area of space saving. At just under 16mm thick, however, it won8217;t outsmart an Acer Swift 7 8211; but then the ThinkPad is the quieter, better cooled and longer-lasting option, so it8217;s a case of practical rather than overly show-offish.
It8217;s a very ThinkPad design, though, perhaps more than ever: there8217;s no Lenovo logo on the exterior for the sixth-gen outing (only a small one to the base of the monitor on the inside), with the lid showing off a new blacker-than-before sunken ThinkPad logo and etched-on X1 to the opposite corner. Subtle is name of the game.
Even the front-facing camera has a switch, called ThinkShutter, to hide the lens away from view to assure privacy. If you8217;re hacker phobic or hiding from Skype then this is an elegant way to avoid Post-it Notes being stuck on the front!
On the connections front, the ThinkPad remains fully connected for worlds present, past and (sort-of) future: two USB-C ports live to the side, while one full-size USB can be found on the other. There8217;s an Ethernet adaptor which can utilise one of those C-type ports, while the charger will also need to occupy one of the pair when plugged in (but there8217;s fast charging, so that8217;s great).
The rear has a flap for a microSD card slot or nano SIM, as 4G/LTE connectivity can be specified for on-the-go use. Indeed, the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon means business, and not just in the sense that it8217;s ready to take on a load of boring business meetings.
And so on to the X1 Carbon8217;s headline feature: its HDR (high dynamic range) screen. This option is designed to be brighter so it can deliver HDR content, which caters for brighter whites and deeper blacks, with more data for greater colours. Not what you8217;ll need for spreadsheets or presentations, but with more Netflix and Amazon titles offering such content, that8217;s the play here.
If anything it8217;s slightly odd that Lenovo has chosen the ThinkPad series to introduce HDR into its laptops. Being the first, we8217;d have thought a more consumer-targeted laptop range might have been the better place for that. Still, at this kind of price point it8217;s going to be a rarely purchased option, we suspect. After all, a 55-inch 4K HDR TV can be had for around the same price.
Anyway, onto the detail: the ultra-bright screen can output 500 nits of brightness for extra pop, while the screen8217;s matte coating isn8217;t especially reflective, so content will look clear even when viewed outside. Again, it8217;s good for on-the-go use.
However, in dim conditions it8217;s possible to catch some light bleed, which is particularly notable to towards the four corners. We had first identified this at CES 2018, citing it as not comparable to a top-end HDR TV (with full LED-based back-side illumination or an OLED panel).
On the plus side that added brightness is lovely. You8217;ll need to push it to the full 100 per cent marker, but the clean image looks around 20 per cent more potent than our go-to Macbook Air by comparison. It makes reading that much more comfortable in bright conditions, colours are great, and the IPS panel ensures wide viewing angles. Not the mention the WQHD (2560 x 1440) resolution makes for very crisp images indeed.
If the HDR panel and its mega-resolution sound like overkill for your needs then there is a Full HD (1920 x 1080) panel instead. It8217;s not HDR (it8217;s 300nits max) but at this 14-inch scale should deliver everything you need. However, with prices starting from only £380 less, we8217;d be tempted to push the boat out and get the best of best with the HDR panel.
- Classic ThinkPad 8216;nipple8217; mouse to centre of keyboard (plus trio of separate keys)
- Backlit keys with long travel for easy typing
- Trackpad with embedded left/right click
In addition to the HDR option, the other trend-bucking top feature of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon is its keyboard. A deliberate antidote to the continued slimming-down of keyboards elsewhere, the key action here is chunky, well-defined and about as deep as is physically possible in a laptop this thin.
Not everyone seems to understand why people get miffed at companies like Apple and Asus making keyboards with keys that barely depress when you tap them. But it makes a difference if you type thousands of words a day. None of this 8216;butterfly keys8217; nonsense; we8217;ve found typing on the X1 Carbon to be a great experience. The keys even sound dampened 8211; there8217;s not a monstrous click with each keypress, which will be a saving grace for your colleagues8217; ears (and your own).
Lenovo has kept another ThinkPad staple in the Thinkpad X1 Carbon: a 8220;nipple8221; mouse (no sniggering at the back). It8217;s the tiny joystick found between the G, H and B keys. Yep, that bright red one 8211; you really can8217;t miss it. Some find this as embarrassing as it sounds, and while it8217;s a bit of a relic, it does let you control the mouse cursor while barely changing your hands from their normal typing position.
It8217;s also why the X1 Carbon8217;s mouse buttons are above the trackpad rather than below it: they8217;re for the nipple, not the pad. And if there8217;s a part of the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon that doesn8217;t look that great no matter how you try to sell it, it8217;s this. However, they do work and have a high-quality click just like the keyboard8217;s keys. That middle button acts as a scroll wheel, if you8217;re wondering.
For those not game for nipple-flicking, there8217;s a standard touchpad below, one with its own physical click. While relatively small and a bit too left-side positioned for us (more central would be better), its surface is lovely, with an ultra-smooth textured glass finish that8217;s so fine it feels almost soft.
Next to the pad there8217;s a fingerprint scanner. These were found in business laptops years ago, but they are much more in fashion these days. You just have to place a finger on the recessed pad to get it working via Windows Hello for rapid login. We don8217;t like the position of it much, but it does work.
- Up to 8th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM, Intel UHD Graphics 620
- Up to 1TB SSD PCIe storage, microSD slot (to the rear)
- Dual Band Wireless-AC (2 x 2)
- Integrated 4G/LTE (if specified)
- Dolby Premium Audio
Unlike its predecessor, the sixth-gen Thinkpad X1 Carbon bolsters its performance with the 8th Gen Intel Core i7-U CPU. That8217;s a quad core chip, upping the power over its dual core 2017 predecessor. In the HDR option you8217;ll also gain 16GB RAM (not 8GB), making that extra £380 investment all the more worthwhile.
The X1 Carbon has the guts to cope with moderate to fairly heavyweight tasks without breaking a sweat. The fan to one side is great for cooling, but this doesn8217;t kick in when doing normal tasks like browsing, mailing and building various Office-based work tasks (other slimmer Lenovo laptops start barking far quicker, we8217;ve found).
No surprise, however, that the X1 Carbon doesn8217;t have any particular gaming skills. You get the Intel HD 620 graphics chipset, which is just basic integrated graphics. These days that8217;s enough to make some games that are a few years old run acceptably at 720p with all the bonus visual effects turned off. But that8217;s your lot.
That extra power, screen resolution and brightness does take its toll on battery life though. And by a whole lot. The 1080p 2017 model lasted for over 12 hours per charge for us; this 2018 HDR model can only score about eight-and-a-half hours (and that8217;s not with all settings and brightness constantly at max).