Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) First Impressions

Posted on April 20, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Windows 10 with 22 Comments

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) First Impressions

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is consistently among the best Ultrabooks in the market. And it looks like the 2017 rendition is upholding the tradition: This version stuffs the latest technology in a thinner and lighter body and provides a crapware-free Signature PC experience.

I last reviewed the ThinkPad X1 Carbon in 2015, I’m surprised to see: Last year, I reviewed its 2-in-1 sibling, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga, instead. Both were among the best, if not the very best, portable PCs I’ve reviewed over this time period.

Lenovo’s 2017 generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon leaked at the very end of last year, but the firm formally unveiled the new design at CES back in January. Brad and I checked it out briefly at that show, but now that I have one in for review I’ll be able to do a far more thorough evaluation.

What I see so far is very exciting.

As with past X1 designs, the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon retains everything that’s always been wonderful about these devices—especially the build quality and materials—while apparently improving on the design in virtually every way imaginable. I know. It doesn’t seem possible. But check out this list of new features.

Smaller form factor with narrow display bezels.Following in the footsteps of Dell, HP, and others, Lenovo is embracing the thin bezel trend, which allows them, in this case, to retain the 14-inch display size from past X1 PCs, but in a 13-inch form factor. The result is a deliciously thin and light Ultrabook that looks to be a joy to travel with. Yes, I will find out for sure.

More modern components. As you should expect of 2017 flagship PC, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with a 7th generation Intel Core processor, but it also jettisons the elegant but proprietary OneLink+ connector for USB-C/Thunderbolt 3. That’s amazing, and appreciated, but the 2017 X1 Carbon also features anti-fry protection for its USB-C ports, which should ease any concerns about using third party cables and docks.

Precision touchpad. Lenovo’s pointing solutions have always been best-in-breed, but as you may recall, the firm pledged to support Microsoft’s precision touchpad standard, and this support arrives in this device, providing excellent performance, customization, and control. Plus, you still get to use the “nubbin” pointer—my favorite mobile pointing solution of all—if the touchpad isn’t good enough.

Improved fingerprint reader. ThinkPad was a pioneer in PC-based fingerprint readers long before Apple stole the credit. But the version in the 2017 ThinkPad X1 Carbon is improved over previous versions, and no longer requires Lenovo utility software to setup and configure: This Windows Hello-compatible peripheral just works with the controls in Windows 10 Settings.

Signature PC. Last year, Lenovo pledged to deliver Microsoft’s clean Signature PC experience on its PCs. And while ThinkPad has always come with a very clean PC image, this year’s devices are even cleaner, with a minimal set of Lenovo utilities, and no crapware at all. No, not even anti-virus: It utilizes Windows Defender out of the box, as God intended.

Here’s what I can tell you right away: The 2017 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is amazingly light at just 2.49 pounds. That undercuts the 2.89-pound weight of the HP Spectre x360, despite the fact that the X1 packs a bigger display. Credit for that, I think, goes to the Lenovo’s carbon fiber design.

The keyboard is wonderful, and while it’s easy to compliment this part in isolation, what really makes it work is the combination of this near-perfect typing experience with the near-perfect pointing experience, the super-low weight, and the productivity-focused matte screen. It’s not so much the one thing, in other words, as it is the whole. As a writer focused on getting work done, this is an ideal portable setup.

The port selection looks decent—there are two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, one full-sized USB 3 port, one full-sized HDMI port, and a micro-Ethernet port (for a dongle) on the left, plus a second USB 3 port on the right—but I wish Lenovo would split the USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports to each side of the device for a better docking/power choice.

The power options look solid, however. Lenovo claims 16 hours of battery life for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and it can charge to 80 percent capacity in 60 minutes using the Rapid Charge power adapter.

Lenovo will soon offer a new silver body color, though it doesn’t look as attractive or premium as the standard black color to me.

It doesn’t transform, but the X1 Carbon does lay flat

The review unit provides an Intel Core i7-7600 microprocessor, 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB NVMe SSD, and a 14-inch non-touch matte Full HD (1920 x 1080) display. The lack of touch threw me a bit at first, but then I wouldn’t normally touch the screen too much on a standard laptop-type PC. (QuadHD display will be available in a few months, Lenovo says.) This configuration costs almost $2500, but the X1 line starts at a more reasonable $1300 or so.

I am very curious to see how this holds up over time, and the new X1 arrives in a market suddenly crowded with high-quality entries from HP, Dell, and others. But it doesn’t take long for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon to assert its strengths. This is one special computer.

More soon.


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