Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 assessment: ninth time’s the attraction

It makes me really feel very previous to say this, however we’re on the ninth technology of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon. And there have been 9 of those for a purpose. The X1 Carbon has traditionally been top-of-the-line enterprise laptops you may get. And that continues to be the case with its latest iteration. Lenovo has made just a few tweaks, however in any other case, it’s the identical ThinkPad excellence we’ve come to anticipate.

Earlier than we get into the pricing, I must make the same old caveat that Lenovo likes to put absurdly excessive MSRPs on all of its ThinkPads, however they’re often accessible for considerably much less. So the bottom X1 Carbon (the Linux mannequin) has an MSRP of $2,336 however is presently accessible for $1,401.60. That mannequin features a Core i5-1135G7, 8GB of RAM (soldered), 256GB of storage, and a 1920 x 1200, 14-inch, 400-nit, non-touch show. Prebuilt fashions run as much as a Core i7-1185G7, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $3,479 (listed at $2,249.40). You possibly can add an infrared digital camera, in addition to a touchscreen with Lenovo’s Privateness Guard or a UHD+ panel, however these choices are solely accessible with the IR webcam. The IR digital camera can even include human presence detection.

The precise mannequin I examined is presently listed for $1,829.40 if you happen to assemble it on Lenovo’s web site ($3.049 MSRP). As a full package deal, it’s listed for $2,251.99 at CDW however is presently offered on the market. It has a Core i7-1165G7 (a step down from the costliest chip), 16GB of reminiscence, 512GB of storage, a non-touch show, no vPro, and no IR digital camera. It’s verified by means of Evo, which is this system Intel makes use of to certify top-performing fashions.

The ThinkPad’s greatest replace from the X1 Carbon Gen 8 is the brand new 16:10 show, a function Lenovo has been including to X-series ThinkPads throughout the road. It affords noticeably extra vertical display area than you’ll see from the 16:9 Carbon Gen 8, which implies much less scrolling and fewer zooming out whereas multitasking.

Facet ratio apart, the display on this gadget is kind of good. It has a 1920 x 1200 decision and comes with a brand new know-how that’s supposed to scale back blue mild publicity. My unit was barely dim for the class, maxing out at 297 nits (it’s rated for 400), however the matte texture meant I nonetheless noticed little or no glare in vibrant indoor settings and will work comfortably. The show delivered a very good image with vivid colours, excessive distinction, and sharp particulars. The display covers 99 % of the sRGB gamut and 87 % of Adobe RGB, which is sweet (although not akin to what you’ll see on one thing like an OLED panel).

Along with this show, you may get a 400-nit FHD+ touchscreen mannequin or a brighter 500-nit FHD+ touchscreen choice with Lenovo’s Privateness Guard know-how, which makes it tougher for potential snoops to peek at your display from the perimeters. (This feature doesn’t have the blue mild filter.) Then there’s a UHD+ 500-nit non-touch display, which does embrace the blue mild filter and likewise helps Dolby Imaginative and prescient. The FHD+ panel is sweet sufficient that I don’t suppose most individuals ought to want the UHD one until brightess is an isuse.

The ports on the right side of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.

USB-A, lock slot, audio jack on the appropriate.

The ports on the left side of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.

Two USB-C, a USB-A, and an HDMI on the left.

The second factor that’s been upgraded: the hinge. Put the Gen 9 subsequent to earlier ThinkPad X1 Carbon fashions and also you’ll discover that the previous now has a single spherical hinge connecting the show to the keyboard deck. There are communication antennas inside (so it’s no soundbar hinge, but it surely’s one thing). I like this construct a bit extra, and it makes the underside bezel look a bit much less chunky, however of us will probably take their very own views. Talking of that backside bezel, the seen Lenovo and X1 Carbon logos that adorned that of the earlier mannequin at the moment are gone, making a barely extra refined and fewer industrial look.

Third change: touchpad is larger. 10 % wider, particularly. Certain, reviewers felt that the Gen 8’s was a bit small. I’ll say that whereas the additional width is good, it’s nonetheless a bit cramped height-wise (most likely as a result of it must accommodate a set of ThinkPad-signature discrete clickers), and I did discover myself hitting plastic loads once I scrolled. Every part else in regards to the touchpad is nice, although — it has fairly a easy texture and a simple click on. The keyboard can also be snappy, although it’s a bit loud and the backspace key squeaked on my mannequin.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon gen 9 on a table open, angled to the right. The screen displays The Verge homepage. In the background is a bookshelf with potted plants and books.

The keys have a scissor-lift mechanism “to make sure ergonomics and luxury.”
Photograph by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

The X1 Carbon Gen 9 additionally has an improved Dolby Atmos audio system. There are new upward-firing audio system on both sides of the keyboard. The sound was surprisingly good, with significantly forceful percussion and bass. The gadget comes preloaded with Dolby Entry, which you need to use to change between equalizer presets for video games, motion pictures, music, and voice calls, in addition to customized profiles. These did make a noticeable distinction, although I usually discover that I favor to hearken to music on the Films profile for the reason that Music profile makes the vocals stand out a bit greater than I like.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 on a table in front of a bookshelf, facing away from the camera, angled to the right.

There are 4 360-degree far-field microphones as properly.

Lastly, the match-on-chip fingerprint reader is now built-in into the ability button (it was beforehand subsequent to the touchpad). Certain, that’s a barely extra handy place. The sensor didn’t fairly get my fingerprint each time (probably attributable to how tiny it now’s), but it surely usually labored properly.

In the event you’re not a fan of the fingerprint reader, chances are you’ll wish to spring for a mannequin with the IR digital camera, which helps Home windows Hi there facial recognition. Human presence detection permits the pc to mechanically wake while you’re close to it and lock while you transfer away. I didn’t have one in every of these fancy cameras, however the common one on my unit was serviceable sufficient — I appeared grainy on my Zoom calls, however usually correct. There’s a bodily webcam shutter as properly, as is normal for ThinkPads of this caliber.

Elsewhere, the Carbon Gen 9 has a heck of loads in frequent with earlier X1 Carbon fashions. It has the identical stunning black chassis with all the signature ThinkPad options, from the purple TrackPoint to the distinctive keyboard format. (Keep in mind: Fn and Ctrl are reversed on ThinkPads.) It’s unbelievably skinny and lightweight (2.49 kilos, 0.59 inches) whereas nonetheless being fairly sturdy; Lenovo says it’s undergone MILSpec sturdiness testing. The X1 Carbon is totally up there with Dell’s XPS as one of many best-built laptops you should buy.

Inside, the X1 Carbon now consists of eleventh Gen Intel processors with Iris Xe built-in graphics throughout the board. My check mannequin was an important multitasker, with no downside operating Zoom calls on high of Spotify streams on high of heaps of Chrome tabs. Intel’s Core i7-1165G7 delivers a few of the greatest efficiency you’ll discover from a laptop computer of this measurement.

You wouldn’t wish to depend on the Iris Xe GPU for something tremendous graphics-heavy, however it will probably help with every kind of common video playback, multimedia work, and computational duties. I received by means of modifying a batch of pictures simply high-quality. Anybody who plans on doing plenty of gaming has entry to equally priced and equally constructed choices with GPUs, such because the Dell XPS 15.

For some uncooked numbers, the ThinkPad took 10 minutes and 22 seconds to export a five-minute, 33-second 4K video in Adobe Premiere Professional. That’s about 20 seconds sooner than the XPS 13 with the identical processor took to finish the identical job. It was over two minutes slower than the M1 MacBook Professional and took over twice so long as the Dell XPS 15 with a GTX 1650, simply for example how a lot an entry-level GPU can add.

I wasn’t in a position to run the Puget Techniques benchmark for Premiere Professional as a result of it stored freezing. Lenovo is trying into the issue however hasn’t discovered the trigger but. Within the meantime, the X1 Carbon tends to attain mid-200s (248, most not too long ago) on this check. That additionally doesn’t strategy the MacBook Professional, but it surely does beat the XPS 13. General, the ThinkPad’s graphics efficiency doesn’t high the class, but it surely’s solidly within the combine.

I didn’t encounter any bothersome fan noise whereas utilizing the X1 Carbon. I additionally had no downside utilizing the gadget on my lap — it received toasty however by no means uncomfortably so. The touchpad and palm rests have been at all times downright cool, even beneath pretty intense masses. No complaints on that entrance, which is commendable for such a skinny gadget.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 keyboard seen from above.

That trusty TrackPoint stays.

Lastly, the ThinkPad’s battery (whereas operating my dozen-tab-plus workload with frequent YouTube and Spotify within the background round 200 nits of brightness) assorted a bit primarily based on settings. I persistently received over 10 hours of juice once I was on the Battery Saver profile and had Intel’s battery-saving options on, however I might see as little as 5 with a extra highly effective efficiency profile. I noticed an general common of eight hours and 43 minutes, which is respectable — higher than the XPS 15, the place I solely averaged round six hours, however worse than the XPS 13, the place I averaged over 9. I didn’t see any efficiency penalty from the Battery Saver profile, so I’d use that if you happen to want all-day juice. Additionally a profit: The ThinkPad doesn’t ship with McAfee or different crapware that may eat into battery life on shopper fashions.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 closed, seen from above.

Appears to be like like a ThinkPad, runs like a ThinkPad.

Other than the dim display (and the dearth of an choice brighter than 500 nits, when various enterprise fashions now supply 1,000-nit choices), the still-slightly-cramped touchpad, and the squeaky keyboard, I’ve only a few complaints about this X1 Carbon. Its worth is kind of excessive, in fact, so these nitpicks nonetheless do give me some pause.

Lenovo’s new additions — significantly the 16:10 display and the upward-firing audio system — are completely welcome, and so they make the X1 Carbon Gen 9 unquestionably the most effective iteration of this gadget to date. It’s a components Lenovo has perfected to a tee, combining the ThinkPad line’s world-class engineering with precisely the tweaks it wanted to remain wonderful within the trendy market. Whereas the X1 Carbon isn’t the most effective worth for customers, any deep-pocketed enterprise shopper ought to give it a glance.

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