Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) Review: Optimized Mobility

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Design And User Experience

We mentioned that the new 5th generation Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon was optimized in a number of ways, but the majority of those optimizations relate to pure mechanical and industrial design. And when it comes to optimizing notebook ergonomics, Lenovo has best of breed design chops. 

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Display 1
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Keyboard

A fabulous keyboard and trackpad... 

Those design chops shine brightest with Lenovo's keyboard. You just can't go wrong with a ThinkPad keyboard if you're looking to get any kind of real work done on a laptop. The new X1 Carbon has a more flat, matte finish to the whole keyboard area and key caps that resist smudging a bit better. The key caps are about the same size and contour, but they are packed in a little tighter. The deck and palm rest area feels more rigid and solid too. The track pad with Lenovo's excellent three button control is slightly larger now as well with less wasted space around it. It is also based on Microsoft's Precision Touchpad technology that standardizes touch pad experiences across Windows 10 machines and allows the OS to continually update drivers automatically with new gestures and optimizations as MSFT rolls them out. 

Finally, the fingerprint sensor is now based on new "match-in-sensor" technology that isolates fingerprint enrollment, storage and match processing on the sensor module itself. This is reportedly more secure than "match-in-host" implementations that process fingerprints on the host system processor. Kudos for keeping our digits less hackable, Lenovo.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Top Left
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Top Right
On the right side of the machine are its two Thunderbolt equipped USB Type-C ports, and HDMI, USB3 and Micro Ethernet ports. Those USB-C ports, incidentally, come equipped with "Anti-Fry" protection, according to Lenovo. So if you plug in a third party charger that sends improper voltage levels, it shouldn't damage the machine. Since USB-C offers a universal power delivery interface, it's assumed that you can actually charge the machine over these ports (the included brick has a USB-C cable end), with a third party charger of some sort. 

ThinkPad X1 micro SD sim card slot removed
Then there's the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon's combo SIM and microSD card slot. Thankfully you do get a bit of storage expansion here, with the ability to drop in microSD cards from cameras and the like for easy access. Unfortunately, this slot is every bit as terribly inconvenient as the rear slot on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga. You have to have the display completely closed to gain access to this panel door and even then it's kind of a bear to get into. It functions and gets the job done but we'd gladly sacrifice a little side edge real estate to get this important expansion feature located more conveniently. 

2017 Thinkpad X1 Carbon Display

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Display Frogs

The IPS display of the 2017 ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a solid panel with decent color accuracy and uniformity. Image reproduction is also pretty crisp and does feel like a happy balance of resolution in most apps with 1080p on a 14-inch display. The display offers 100 percent plus of the sRGB color gamut, but lacks a bit of brightness punch comparatively to the likes of Dell's XPS 13 or the Asus ZenBook 3. Brightness levels aren't too much of a drawback here, though you may find yourself reaching for the brightness up button a bit more often depending on the environment. Fortunately, as you'll see in our following battery tests, this doesn't hold back battery life much, if at all. Finally, viewing angles are solid with the panel, but again it all depends on brightness levels. 

Think Pad X1 Carbon Audio

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Bottom

In terms of audio fidelity, the bottom, front-firing speakers of the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon aren't anything to write home about, as is the case with most thin and light machines. They do offer surprisingly good spatialization and when Dolby audio is enabled though, and music and movie tracks offer good mids and highs, but as expected lack some low-end presence. The Settings control panel also offers specific Dolby Audio presets for Music, Movies, and Voice. Regardless, loudness of the system in general is adequate and overall we'd say the audio solution here is fairly competitive to other machines in the X1 Carbon's class. 

Of OS And Bloat, Or Lack Thereof

ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2017 Desktop

Lastly, Lenovo does an admirable job of minimizing bloat and cruft. In fact, in their marketing materials they're priding themselves on it. We would not disagree that this is as bone stock an Windows 10 Pro installation as we've seen, and that's a thing of beauty. You do get the basic Lenovo Companion maintenance utilities for keeping the machine updated to the latest firmware etc., along with Lenovo Settings for managing Dolby audio settings, the webcam, and display setup, but other than Microsoft's standard Office 365 downloader, that's really about it.

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