A fantastic ultra-light and ultra-durable business computer

Highs

  • Amazingly lightweight
  • High-end performance
  • Proven durability
  • Extensive configurability

Lows

  • Not the most compact
  • Speaker quality could be better

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 9/10

Like clockwork, Lenovo announced its 2018 X1 Carbon Gen6 laptop at CES 2018. It’s been on the market for a couple of months now, so it’s an excellent time for a review of the “tip of the spear” of the Lenovo X series, which Lenovo describes as the “Ultraportable Productivity Tools.” Designed for business, the X1 Carbon promises extreme portability and durability, two concepts that rarely mix, yet the five previous X1 Carbon models have proven that it is possible. How good is this 6th Generation of X1 Carbon? Read on…

Configuration as tested

We are testing the X1 Carbon Gen6 equipped with the Intel Core i7-8550 CPU (1.8 – 1.99 GHz), 8GB of RAM and 256 GB of SSD storage (Samsung PM961 256GB, model MZVLW256HEHP-000L2). The display version is the IPS LCD 1080p anti-glare, with touch support.

Configuration options

Lenovo covers a relatively high number of CPU options. While many OEMs are happily providing two options, Lenovo has a total of four, as listed below. The Core i5-8250U version can only get 8GB of RAM, but all the others can be ordered with 16GB at purchase time.

  • Intel Core i5-8250U Processor + Windows 10 Home 64
  • Intel Core i5-8350U Processor + Windows 10 Home 64 (+$95)
  • Intel Core i7-8550U Processor + Windows 10 Pro 64 (+$235)
  • Intel Core i7-8650U Processor + Windows 10 Pro 64 (+$195)

The PCIe-NVME SSD options are solid, and although you cannot get a 2TB version, you can upgrade it yourself since the back cover can be easily removed.

  • 256GB Solid State Drive PCIe-NVME OPAL2.0 M.2
  • 512GB Solid State Drive PCIe-NVME OPAL2.0 M.2 (+$233)
  • 1TB Solid State Drive PCIe-NVMe M.2 OPAL 2.0 (+$520)

What’s new?

Since the 2017 Edition of the X1 Carbon which we also reviewed, the X1 line has had incremental changes, and the two most impactful is the switch to the Intel Core 8th generation processors (quad-core), and the optional Dolby Vision HDR Display. At the top of the display, the webcam has Think Shutter, a Lenovo physical webcam privacy shutter – no more tape needed.

Industrial Design

The X1 Carbon design is very recognizable, and the 2018 Edition sticks to a formula that has worked very well. From time to time, Lenovo has small design updates, but it’s fair to say that the 2018 edition looks very much like the 2017 one. In fact, from a few yards away, it could be difficult to tell them apart.

The industrial’s goal is to be visually agreable of course, but more importantly, the whole idea is to have a robust and carefree laptop for business professionals. As such, the Lenovo X1 Carbon 2018/Gen6 has a “soft paint” that is quite resistant to fingerprint marks. The surface feels dry and much less slippery than aluminum counterparts. Aluminum gets scratched very easily too…

With 323.5 x 217.1 x 15.95 mm dimensions for a weight of 1130g (~2.49lbs), the X1 Carbon 2018 is exceptionally light although it is not extremely compact. This is a direct result of using a Carbon chassis (more in a minute). The uber-compact Dell XPS 13 (9370) weighs 7% more at 1210g, the HP Spectre X360t weighs 11% more, and the Huawei Matebook X Pro weighs nearly 18% more, despite all of them being smaller than the X1 Carbon.

Durability

Underneath, the body is made of a Carbon hybrid material that makes it both light and extremely durable. We don’t know the exact composition of this Carbon material, but in general, Carbon is 2-5 times more rigid than aluminum and steel, at the same weight.

"DROPS AND SPILLS WON'T STOP THIS COMPUTER"

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon passes 12 military MIL-810-G certifications for drops and shocks. These tests are designed to make sure that military hardware can survive the vibrations and shocks during transport in the field. That’s an excellent proxy for civilian travel. Drops and spills won’t stop this computer.

In my opinion, this standard is much more meaningful for laptops than it is for phones in my opinion. Laptops screen are well protected from shocks (when closed), and their mass is high enough that internal components could be damaged by the impact force. Many other laptops would probably not pass this endurance tests, so it is one objective metric we can use for durability.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The Keyboard, Trackpad, and Trackpoints are areas that the ThinkPad team think of as sacred. A significant portion of the ThinkPad user base keeps buying because of these elements which have proven to be comfortable.

The spill-proof keyboard is backlit (monochrome light), and the key-travel is ~1.8mm which is relatively long for a laptop. The ~3.2mm distance between keys seems a little bit smaller than on the X1 YOGA 2018/Gen3 (~3.6mm), although it feels nearly identical. Interestingly enough, we measured the X1 Carbon curved key size at 16x16mm (256 sqmm), which is just a tad bigger than the 15x15mm we saw on the YOGA X1.

"GENUINELY UNIQUE INPUT PERIPHERALS"

There is a matter of personal preferences here, so we encourage you to try these if you can, but if you cannot, we’re giving high praises to the typing and pointing quality experience of this computer. There are other excellent Trackpads out there – but the Keyboard, Physical “mouse” buttons and the Trackpoint are genuinely unique input peripherals.

The trackpad surface is made of glass, which is the smoothest and best material for this purpose. This is typical in this price range, but more affordable laptops can have various trackpad materials to reduce the cost.

With a surface of ~8.84 square inches, the trackpad is comfortable, but a bit smaller than on the X1 YOGA (~9.9 sq inch). The difference is mainly in the height of the trackpad, and that might slightly decrease the comfort for common gestures such as vertical scrolling. There are much larger trackpads on the market, even in the ultra-thin category.

It is because this is a computer with a 16/9 display, and given how compact it is, there isn’t much room left anyway. If Lenovo wanted to have a higher Trackpad, the physical mouse buttons would need to go. In my opinion, ThinkPad aficionados would rather have a slightly smaller Trackpad.

Ports

  • Left
    • 1x USB-C (charging+data)
    • 1x Native Ethernet requires RJ45 Adapter
    • 1x Full-size USB-A
    • 1x Full-size HDMI
  • Right
    • 1x Full-size USB-A
    • 1x 3.5mm audio
    • Anti-theft lock
  • Rear
    • 1x SIM
    • 1x MicroSD (400GB max.)

Users who frequently use USB-A or HDMI are probably those who would gain the most when compared to laptops that focus on USB-C ports. Having to carry a dongle for the HDMI connection often leads to not having one just when you need it the most…

The microSD slot lets you add slower-performance storage at a low-cost. You can get 128GB for ~$36 or 200GB for ~$65, with a monster 400GB microSD card going for ~$200. You could use it as a backup or store media files.

Speakers

The Lenovo X1 Carbon has two speaker grills, but I noticed that most of the sound power seem to be coming from the left one. The speakers audio quality is not that great, but it is fine if you are sitting in front of your computer or use it in bed.

If you want to sit back a little and use your computer “as a TV,” a laptop like the Huawei Matebook X Pro offers much better sound, both in volume and body. After all, the X1 Carbon is a work computer, but it should have enough body size to accommodate a better sound experience.

Overall product rating: 9/10

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