Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Review: Lenovo's 7th Gen Flagship Impresses

ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th gen: Storage, CPU, General Productivity Benchmarks

As we dig into the benchmarks, there will be some matchups to watch for. Premium systems in thin enclosures have to deal with thermal constraints, especially under sustained workloads. Many of the systems we've tested over the last few months have been a little bigger and a little heavier than Lenovo's latest. It'll be interesting to see if the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Generation can keep up with the similarly-sized Dell XPS 13, and how it fares against thicker, heavier competition from Acer's Swift and Spin family. The X1 Carbon also has similar hardware to Lenovo's own Yoga line, so we'll see how this traditional thin-and-light notebook fares against its more flexible sibling. 

ATTO Disk Benchmark
Peak Sequential Storage Throughput

Running ATTO allows us to gauge the speed of the storage drive in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Lenovo picked a very fast Samsung PM981a NVMe solid state drive. This shuttles data through the PCIe bus for much faster file transfers than what can be achieved on even the speediest SATA-bound SSDs, and makes budget NVMe drives blush in embarrassment.

chart atto storage

Very early on, read speeds eclipse 3GB per second, and write speeds max out at 2.8 GB per second. It seems the Samsung PM981a has lived up to its billing as a fast, premium NVMe drive. If you flip back to our Dell XPS 13 review, you'll see the Samsung drive in the X1 Carbon boasts nearly twice as fast write speeds and slightly higher read speeds when compared to the Dell's Intel Pro 7600p SSD. 

While we're talking about storage performance, we need to point out something very important with a portable machine: boot times. Lenovo's latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon boots from power button press to desktop in eight seconds flat. We timed it with a stopwatch, so there is more than a little margin for error, but needless to say the X1 Carbon boots very quickly. While sub-10 second boot times are not unheard of, it's extremely convenient to boot a PC that fast. You never have to worry about sleep mode eating battery time if you can just shut down the system and have it recover in a handful of seconds. 

Speedometer Web Application Benchmark
Browser Performance

We think it's safe to say that SunSpider has run its course as a viable, informative web performance benchmark. This time around, we moved on to BrowserBench.org's Speedometer test, which looks at web application performance. This test automatically loads and runs several sample webapps from ToDoMVC.com using the most popular web development frameworks around, including React, Angular, Ember.js, and even vanilla JavaScript. This test is a better example of how systems cope with real web applications, as opposed to a pure JavaScript compute test like JetStream. All tests were performed using the latest version of Chrome, which is up to 76 as of the time of this writing. 

chart browserbench speedometer

As you might expect from its fast CPU, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon appears right at the top of the charts. The only system faster than Lenovo's is a Dell's latest XPS 15 with a Core i9-9980HK (review inbound), which is a 45-watt CPU. Even then, the X1 Carbon gave the XPS 15 a run for its money. Most of the other systems basically fall in line based on their clock speeds and core counts. The only exception is last year's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which just couldn't be coaxed to go any faster. Maybe it's being held back by its slower LPDDR3-1867 memory.

Cinebench R15 and R20
3D Rendering Performance

Cinebench R15 is a 3D rendering benchmark that tests both the CPU and GPU engines in the processor. Cinebench is developed by Maxon, which is better known for its Cinema 4D software employed in professional 3D rendering and animation studios. We use both of Cinebench’s integrated tests for CPU and GPU.
chart cinebenchr15

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon turns in the second-fastest CPU score out of our group. Despite the quick CPU result, the OpenGL test was quite a bit slower than contemporary systems. Even the flexible Yoga C930 turned in faster frames-per-second numbers than the X1 Carbon, but running the test multiple times with Intel's latest graphics drivers installed produced the same results, even after the driver tweak mentioned on the previous page.

The latest version of Maxon's rendering benchmark, Cinebench R20, takes longer to complete, so this is a better test of the ThinkPad's cooling system. This release also drops the OpenGL test, making Cinebench a pure CPU test this time. We tested both single-threaded and multi-threaded performance. 
chart cinebenchr20

As the only Core i7-equipped system in this new group, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a larger L3 cache and a substantial maximum clock speed advantage over its competitors. Unsurprisingly, it thumps the Acer Swift 3 and Spin 5s in both the single-core and multi-threaded tests. 

Geekbench 4
Single and Multi-Core Performance

Geekbench 4 is a cross-platform benchmark that simulates real world processing workloads in image processing and particle physics scenarios. We tested the ThinkPad X1 Carbon in Geekbench's single and multi-core test workloads.

chart geekbench 4 64 bit

The X1 Carbon runs neck and neck with the XPS 13, but trails the Matebook 13 by around seven percent. In single-threaded tasks, the results are a complete wash, with only half a percentage point separating the top three spots. When all of the cores are engaged, the Huawei pulls ahead, perhaps thanks to its robust cooling system. Since the discrete MX150 isn't running, the larger heatsink can potentially dissipate more heat generated by the CPU, allowing the Core i7-8565U to stretch its legs. It's not like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon turned in a bad result, either, since it scored within 1% of second place.

PCMark 10
Productivity and System-Level Benchmarking

PCMark 10 uses a mix of real-world applications and simulated workloads to establish how well a given system performs productivity tasks, including image and video editing, web browsing, and OpenOffice document editing.  While these scores appear to be all over the place, the systems are sorted by their overall PCMark score, which is the third (gray) bar in each cluster. 

chart pcmark10

Once again, Lenovo's svelt superstar gets edged out by both the XPS 13 and Matebook 13, and again Huawei takes the crown among the ultrabook contenders. The XPS 13's lead comes from much better performance in the Essentials and Productivity tests. Dell's little laptop posted a 13% victory in productivity and an eight-percent win in the Essentials test. This performance is all relative, of course, but at these prices, every percentage point of performance counts. 

ThinkPad X1 Carbon dolby atmos Intel Core badges

While the X1 Carbon isn't built for gaming first, we should still take a look at whether the laptop would suffice for a little gaming on the go. 

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