ThinkPad X1 Carbon: Lenovo’s business class laptop exceeds expectations

by Haadi Bakar
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While I’m all for laptop innovation, a part of me feels that the conventional clamshell laptops are still practical today and shouldn’t go extinct. There have been countless times when I was doing work on my iPad and wished I had a regular laptop – no missing legacy ports, no useless gimmicks, no tablet mode, just a good working laptop.

So when I got to test out an actual ThinkPad last month, it really felt like I haven’t been using a good laptop in a while. The last good laptop I’ve used was an 11-inch MacBook Air, and that was five years ago. Things really turned south for Apple’s Macbooks in recent times.

Amidst the sea of ultrathins and convertibles, I’ve always been intrigued by Lenovo’s line of ThinkPad laptops. Sure, they may not scream exciting when put side-by-side the Yogas and the Miix, but the ThinkPad line has a pretty solid reputation for reliability and avoiding the “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it” approach.

Works like a dream, if you can stomach the price

The ThinkPad model I tested was an X1 Carbon. This is Lenovo’s top-of-the-line ThinkPad with a hefty price tag to boot. We’re talking $2,999 here. But what you get for that price is well worth your paycheck. 

Unlike Macbooks which Apple charge exorbitantly for outdated or underpowered specs, the X1 Carbon gives you what you pay your hard-earned money for – a highly durable, well-specced laptop that runs like a dream. 

Forged from carbon fibre

Whether you move from one meetings to another, or use it in an airplane, this laptop will not bog you down. The X1 Carbon is light and slim, weighing just 1 kilogrammes.

I love my laptops in black, and that’s probably why I was immediately drawn to the X1 Carbon. The black definitely looks sleek and gives the impression that it’s a serious, no nonsense business laptop.

The black chassis has a rubberised finish top and bottom, which makes it less slippery than smooth plastic or aluminium, while carbon fibre keeps the chassis solid and durable. It’s a tough laptop that can handle the everyday knocks and bumps in the workplace so you can carry it around without a protective sleeve (which I preferably do).

Ultrasharp screen

The 14-inch WQHD (2560 x 1440) HDR (high dynamic range) screen is really good. Everything looks sharp and detailed, just like on modern smartphone and tablet screens we’ve grown accustomed at.

The one I’m using isn’t a touchscreen, and that’s okay because I’ll only be using the excellent keyboard and wonderful Trackpoint (more on this later) 100% of the time. Also, I’m not a fan of “gorilla arms”.

Comfortable to type on

As a writer, I’m very particular with keyboards. I’m not fond of butterfly keypads or touchscreens, and I prefer a lot of travel with the keys than feeling cramped.

The X1 Carbon carries Lenovo’s signature keyboards which I personally think are one of the best in the industry. They’re extremely comfortable to use even after long periods. Oh and did I mention the keyboard on the X1 Carbon is spill proof? 

The red nipple

The trackpad is large enough for my fingers to travel and they work flawlessly in my day-to-day use, but I’m more excited with the TrackPoint for this review. It’s the red “nipple” that resides between the G, H and B keys.

As a xennial, I’ve always had fond memories with this pointing stick, which is a precursor to the modern trackpad. For those who have no idea how it works, it’s a bit like using a manual car’s stick shift, whereas the modern trackpad is like automatic transmission.

With the TrackPoint, my hands don’t have to leave the keyboard to move the cursor. Since I do a lot of typing, switching from a trackpad to the TrackPoint is pure bliss – I could type and move the cursor simultaneously without having to shift my hand between the keyboard and a trackpad.

Also, the TrackPoint measures pressure so my fingers don’t have to move a lot like moving a joystick. Some people might not get it, but for those like me who have experienced the joy of using TrackPoints, we absolulely love it.

A nice addition is the two physical buttons and a scroll button sitting beneath the space bar, which gives me more control when using the TrackPoint. Really, I could be stuck on an island with the X1 Carbon and not worry about bringing a mouse.

The TrackPoint has been a signature feature on the ThinkPad laptops, and Lenovo is the only company that refuse to let it die in the touchscreen age.

Firing on all cylinders

Using the X1 Carbon is like driving a Ferarri, running on the new 8th generation Intel Quad Core CPUs combined with 16GB of RAM. The model I was testing out was a Core i7. In terms of overall performance, it was buttery smooth through the days of use.

If you’re a data hoarder, the X1 Carbon also has ample storage with its 512GB SSD.

But don’t expect to buy a business laptop to play intense games, because the X1 Carbon doesn’t have a discrete graphics card. Yet the integrated Intel UHD 620 GPU can handle low-end game titles and PC classics. 

For Photoshop and video editing at least, the X1 Carbon does the job quite well, though I would recommend a laptop with a dedicated GPU for optimum performance in that department. For the most part, you’d be doing work, making conference calls, create slides and spreadsheets, browsing the web, watching videos, writing and email on this machine.

A laptop built for road warriors

As with all ultrabooks, the X1 Carbon does an excellent job in power management. I was able to get through the day of writing, streaming and surfing and I still get 50% of juice by nightfall, but that’s me juggling between laptop to smartphone.

Lenovo claims up to 15 hours for its 57Wh Li-polymer battery, and that is impressive. Anything above 10 hours is a huge win for me. Of course, your usage may vary; if you’re a power user (e.g. graphic-intensive tasks), expect your battery life to plummet.

In addition, the X1 Carbon also has RapidCharge support, so you’ll be able to charge the battery to 80% capacity in an hour with the supplied power brick. This is definitely the laptop for the road warriors.

Enough ports to survive on the road

Most laptops this thin often sacrifices connectivity for slimness and just shove “go wireless” down your throat. 

Not with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which has a strong port selection despite being an ultrabook. It’s got two USB 3.0 ports, a full-size HDMI connector, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and a microSD card slot. Productivity uncompromised, even when you’re far away from your workdesk.

Robust security

For business users who put high priority in data security, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers robust security features out of the box.

For starters, the match-on-chip fingerprint reader with anti-spoofing technology helps safeguard data while providing secure authentication and log-in. And then there’s ThinkShutter, which essentially covers the front-facing HD webcam when not in use, so you no longer have to stick tape on it everytime.

Who is the X1 Carbon really for?

The ThinkPads have always been targeted for the business and corporate consumers, and the X1 Carbon is no exception. It’s a business laptop through and through, and it’s the best productivity system money can buy.

The X1 Carbon is obviously not for gamers, creatives, or people who work in a high risk environment. The X1 Carbon is for the CEOs, the travelling entrepreneurs, the high ranking government officials, and people with deep pockets.

If you’re willing to save up for this luxury, I’d say go for it.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is available at Pressplay Enterprise in Kiulap for B$2,999.

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