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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen) review: Fantastic business laptop for frequent flyers and coffee-shop denizens

Lenovo's flagship ThinkPad ultraportable delivers a great combination of premium laptop look and feel with business-grade privacy and security options.

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Joshua Goldman
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Joshua Goldman Managing Editor / Advice

Josh Goldman helps people find the best laptop at the best price -- from simple Chromebooks to high-end gaming laptops. He's been writing about and reviewing consumer technology and software for more than two decades.

5 min read

No one wants to lug around a laptop with them for work. It's why manufacturers continue to create laptops that focus on keeping your productivity up while cutting down on size and weight. The seventh-gen Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a perfect example: a 14-inch business laptop that is thinner and lighter than last year's model while also increasing battery life and without sacrificing performance.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)

The Good

Lenovo's seventh-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon improves on its predecessor with a thinner, lighter body and potentially longer battery life. It also offers the company's latest privacy and security options.

The Bad

Only one of the five display options has Lenovo's screen privacy feature, and battery life is predictably shorter with the UHD-resolution display.

The Bottom Line

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a best-in-class ultraportable that combines premium design appeal with business-grade privacy and security features.

At 2.4 pounds (1.1 kg), you'd never use the word "lug" when commuting or traveling with the X1 Carbon. It's only 14.9mm thick (0.6 in.), too, so you can slip it in and out of your bag flying in a middle seat in coach without elbowing your neighbors. And despite having a larger display than many ultraportables, it's still tray-table size. You can even get the X1 Carbon with one of Lenovo's PrivacyGuard displays to help block out what's on your screen when viewed from the sides.

Prices currently start at just less than $1,300 and quickly ratchet up from there -- this is Lenovo's flagship business ultraportable, after all. My review laptop sells for $2,499, but it's nearly maxed out on components including an ultra-HD-resolution display with HDR400 support and has a new carbon-fiber design on its lid. Basically, it has all the appeal (and price!) of a premium ultraportable for consumers as well as Lenovo's latest privacy and security features for business, easily making it one of the best in its class.

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The seventh-gen X1 Carbon is seriously slim.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)


Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)
Price as reviewed $2,499
Display size/resolution 14-inch 3,820 x 2,160 HDR400 display
CPU 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8665U with vPro
PC Memory 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz
Graphics Inte UHD Graphics 620
Storage 1TB M.2 PCIe NVMe Opal2 SSD
Networking 802.11ac Wi-Fi Bluetooth 5.0
Operating system Windows 10 Pro (64-bit)

The X1 Carbon is a traditional clamshell and doesn't have the dual 360-degree hinges and the active pen of its X1 Yoga linemate. The screen does open 180 degrees, which gives you plenty of positioning flexibility and makes it easier to share your display with others at the table.

Lenovo offers five display options on this model, three of which are 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution. There are also a WQHD (2,560x1,440 pixel) and the UHD display (3,820x2,160 pixel) I tested, although the latter doesn't seem to be an option when buying direct from Lenovo. The UHD display is nice to have, especially for entertainment, but you'll likely need to calibrate when you get it. Mine was a little pink out of the box.

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The X1 Carbon has a great keyboard for as thin as it is.

Sarah Tew/CNET

Regardless of your choice, the webcam squeezed into the frame above it is fitted with a physical shutter that slides to block the camera. The laptops mics can also be cut for greater privacy. Lenovo also offers two newer privacy features on this model: PrivacyGuard and PrivacyAlert. The former makes it difficult for people to the sides of your display to see what you're looking at it from head on. The latter will actually pop up a notification on your screen if someone is shoulder surfing while you're working. PrivacyGuard is unfortunately only available on one of the four display options and PrivacyAlert requires an optional IR camera in the laptop.

A fingerprint reader comes standard and it stores and processes your print on its own system-on-a-chip (SoC) for better protection of your system and print from hacks or malware. Other security features include self-encrypting SSDs and Intel vPro processors, discrete TPM 2.0 and FIDO authentication

lenovo-thinkpad-x1-carbon-yoga-still
Watch this: Lenovo updates the crown jewels of its ultraportable portfolio at CES 2019

Light, but still tough

For better or worse, business laptops still have a reputation for being black slabs of boring. While the X1 Carbon doesn't shout "look at me" like HP's Spectre x360, it's certainly stylish and durable, too. Lenovo says it meets 12 military-grade requirements and goes through more than 200 quality checks.

The keyboard is spill-resistant and is without a doubt one of the most comfortable keyboards you'll find on a laptop this thin and you likely won't have to adjust to using it. It has a two-level backlight as well. Tucked in between the G, H and B keys you'll find Lenovo's TrackPoint pointing stick, and the left, right and scroll mouse buttons below the space bar. Although many will likely end up using the laptop's reliable Windows Precision Touchpad, I find the TrackPoint comes in handy in cramped plane, train or bus seats.

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Sarah Tew/CNET

The X1 Carbon  has two Thunderbolt 3 USB-C ports, two USB 3.1 (gen 1) ports and a full-size HDMI 1.4 output. Sitting directly next to one of the USB-C ports is a connector for Ethernet using an included dongle, but also an optional side mechanical dock. There's a combo headphone/mic jack, too. Also, if you need to stay connected wherever you are, you can get LTE-A mobile access with the X1 Carbon.

For the longest battery life, skip UHD

Performance on my X1 Carbon was excellent, which isn't much of a surprise given its maxed-out configuration: 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8665U vPro processor, 16GB of 2,133MHz RAM and a 1TB PCIe NVMe SSD. For day-to-day office chores like email and word processing, though, you'll be fine with the entry-level config running a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8265U. If your days usually have you handling more intensive tasks -- such as working in large databases or spreadsheets or creating multimedia presentations -- or you just want more headroom for the future, go ahead and get the i7.

Battery life, though, is a bit disappointing. Lenovo claims up to 18 hours, but that's not for the more powerful configuration I tested with the UHD-resolution display which ran for 6 hours, 21 minutes in our streaming video test. With power and screen brightness adjustments, you can get more work time out of it, but basically, if you want the best battery life, skip the UHD HDR display. If you aren't too concerned about the battery life, you can at least take comfort in the laptop's quick-charge capability that brings it up to 80 percent in only an hour -- perfect for recharging on those airport layovers -- or you can run the X1 Yoga off an external battery pack.

25 best battery life laptops

See all photos

Ready for the airline lounge

The seventh-gen Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a best-in-class ultraportable that combines premium design appeal with business-grade privacy and security features. The extra durability is certainly nice to have on something so thin and light. You'll just have to pay attention to what configuration you go with to get the best battery life possible. The same goes for its privacy features -- PrivacyGuard and PrivacyAlert -- which are optional. 

Geekbench 4 (multicore)

Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) 16,949Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 14,921Dell XPS 13 (2019) 13,833Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga 12,213Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 11,983
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Cinebench R15 CPU (multicore)

Dell XPS 13 (2019) 738Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 661Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) 647Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 589Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga 531
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (Streaming)

Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 671Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) 632Dell XPS 13 (2019) 509Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 381Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga 367
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance (in minutes)

System configurations

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8665U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 128MB (dedicated); Intel UHD Graphics 620; 1TB SSD
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Microsoft Windows 10 Pro (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8665U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2133MHz; 128MB (dedicated); Intel UHD Graphics 620; 1TB SSD
Dell XPS 13 (2019) Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i7-8565U; 16GB DDR4 SDRAM 2,133MHz; 128MB (dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 620; 512GB SSD
Microsoft Surface Laptop 2 Microsoft Windows 10 Home (64-bit); 1.6GHz Intel Core i5-8250U; 8GB DDR4 SDRAM 1,866MHz; 128MB dedicated Intel UHD Graphics 620; 256GB
Apple MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2019) Apple macOS Mojave 10.14.5; 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-8257; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 2133MHz; 1536MB Intel Iris Graphics 645; 256GB SSD
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (7th Gen)

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 8
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