Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) First Impressions

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.

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday — and get free copies of Paul Thurrott's Windows 11 and Windows 10 Field Guides (normally $9.99) as a special welcome gift!

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

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.


Tagged with

Share post

Please check our Community Guidelines before commenting

Conversation 22 comments

  • RobertJasiek

    21 April, 2017 - 12:34 am

    <p>Matte displays are great (for productivity and consumption, indoors and outdoors). Therefore, Lenovo (and everybody else) should also offer tablets and 2-in-1s with matte displays. Especially because there has been a decade-long market gap of (Windows Pro, of course) tablets and 2-in-1s with matte 4:3 or at least 3:2 displays. Lenovo offers a broad range of mobile devices but also fails to fill this market gap. (And I am afraid that Microsoft will fail again with the Surface Pro 5 with glare display options only.)</p>

    • RobM

      24 April, 2017 - 1:02 am

      <blockquote><a href="#99292"><em>In reply to RobertJasiek:</em></a><em> I agree, matte displays are fantastic. I think HP ProBooks have them?</em></blockquote><p><br></p>

  • Daishi

    Premium Member
    21 April, 2017 - 4:34 am

    <p>Oh good. Another machine that starts north of $1300…</p>

    • wright_is

      Premium Member
      21 April, 2017 - 6:08 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#99312">In reply to Daishi:</a></em></blockquote><p>You get what you pay for… I have a 700€ Fujitsu Lifebook (Core i5-7200U, 8GB, 250GB SSD, FullHD 15" TF-panel) as my work notebook and an HP Spectre x360 (Core i5-6200U, 8GB, 250GB SSD UHD 13" touch IPS-display) as my private device. The latter cost around 1400€.</p><p>You know what? It is worth every penny, compared to the Fujitsu. Yes, the Fujitsu is as fast, but the display isn't anywhere near as good, the case is thin, creaky plastic and it is big and heavy, compared to the svelte Spectre, which has a beautiful, aluminium case, is quieter (the fan doesn't spin up as often), generally feels well put together and is a delight to use.</p><p>There is nothing wrong with the Fujitsu, but it is certainly in a different class to the HP and you can see where the money went in the HP.</p><p>I looked long and hard, when I bought the Spectre and the price was offputting, although it is still among the cheapest laptops I've ever bought – it is cheaper than the Acer I bought in 2004, for example, which was cheap and plasticy and that was the discount price point at that time, so I've ended up spending about the same every time, but the quality of the laptops has improved… And compared to the first Toshiba I got (cost north of $3000), the HP is a powerhouse bargain – the Tosh has a monochrome screen, weighed around 10lbs, was slow and loud and chunky – well, it needed to be, to have a 3.5" floppy drive… The company I worked for back then also had an original Compaq luggable, with a 12" CRT display and dual 5.25" floppy drives, now that thing was heavy and expensive! ;-)</p><p>To sum it up, I am glad the option is there to buy a laptop with a decent build quality, I am also happy that there are bargain basement machines out there, that are less than half the price, even if the quality does suffer.</p>

  • Steve78

    21 April, 2017 - 4:41 am

    <p>"crowded with high-quality entries from HP, Dell, and others"</p><p><br></p><p>Are you sure about that? I can't think of a single high-end machine that is without serious flaws &amp; niggles. It's the reason the X1 Carbon stood out so much as aside from a few minor problems, it was almost perfect.</p>

  • RickEveleigh

    Premium Member
    21 April, 2017 - 8:53 am

    <p>Only one niggle I can see from your photo. I have a Lenovo (Y50-70) and in the bottom left the keys are Ctrl then Fn. On this (and other Lenovo laptops) it's Fn then Ctrl. Would be nice if they could be consistent across their range!</p>

    • ibmthink

      21 April, 2017 - 10:04 am

      <blockquote><em><a href="#99340">In reply to RickEveleigh:</a></em></blockquote><p>Its always been like that on ThinkPad. But it can be changed in BIOS if you are used to the Ctrl on the left.</p>

      • John Dunagan

        Premium Member
        05 May, 2017 - 2:16 pm

        <blockquote><a href="#99353"><em>In reply to ibmthink:</em></a></blockquote><p>I have mine changed like that in BIOS (T450) and now I have a smaller, letter-size Ctrl key and a giant Fn key that's great for illuminating my keyboard at night, and not much else. If I could swap the actual keys so that Ctrl is on the outside at 1 1/2 width, and Fn is on the inside letter-sized, that'd be great…</p>

  • NarcoSleepy

    21 April, 2017 - 9:00 am

    <p>Thankfully they have gotten rid of their proprietary power/docking connector. It works fine when docked, but the smaller portable power connector actually can break the little L shaped piece inside the laptop. I have had to replace 2 Carbons due to this issue.</p>

  • cheetahdriver

    Premium Member
    21 April, 2017 - 9:06 am

    <p>After being a longtime Thinkpad user (remember the Butterfly 701c?), I left the fold right after the 730, when the legendary keyboard turned into mush. After going through a couple of versions of Surface Pros, and after the disaster that was the SP4, I returned (influenced quite a bit by Paul's review) to the X1 Yoga. The Yoga is a pleasure to type on in the field, I have used it for 9 months and only once brought out the mechanical keyboard I carry with me for heavy typing duties. On that occasion it worked just fine, switching it into "display mode" and using the keyboard and a second screen for a full fledged office experience on the road. </p><p><br></p><p>My company needs higher end force multipliers, we have limited employee numbers and we need all to work at their top potential. The SP4 debacle means we will not just be jumping in the water in the future, and much as I would like for all of us to be on the same machine, that may not always be the case. But the X1 Yoga is an amazing machine, as I am sure the X1 Carbon is as well. We will be getting more of them, and (as always) Paul's well reasoned advice and reviews are a large part of the reason. I have looked at the HP offerings, and while they are nice, they lack the trackpoint, and that is a dealbreaker for me. </p><p><br></p><p>Paul has committed to reviewing some of the lower cost units as well, and I applaud him for that, not everyone can afford (or needs) the highest end equipment. For those who do though, reviews like this are great aids to decisionmaking.</p>

  • mjw149

    21 April, 2017 - 9:16 am

    <p>Looks so much better with that display built that way. And I agree, the silver look is straight trash. Worse, it undermines their brand equity.</p>

  • zorb56

    Premium Member
    21 April, 2017 - 1:17 pm

    <p>I love the x1 carbons! Now… If only I could afford one :P.</p><p><br></p><p>I think my next laptop will be another Thinkpad T-series. I have a T530 but it is getting QUITE dated. I love the elegance of the x1 carbon but I do need something with an Ethernet port (not a dongle). The new T series machines are a perfect compromise for me.</p>

    • ibmthink

      21 April, 2017 - 3:17 pm

      <blockquote><em><a href="#99413">In reply to zorb56:</a></em></blockquote><p>Take a look at the T570. I have one here as a review unit right now and its great. 4K display, GeForce 940MX (not great, but better than Intel graphics), 512 GB NVMe SSD. It also has much smaller bezels than older 15" T-Series.</p>

    • johnbaxter

      21 April, 2017 - 5:07 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#99413"><em>In reply to zorb56:</em></a></blockquote><p>Think of your Ethernet needs like this: you're going to plug a long skinny flexible dongle into the full size port you want. ;-)</p>

  • RobM

    22 April, 2017 - 4:25 am

    <p>Less frequently used FN key in the bottom left instead of Ctrl. Oh well … as expected. 🙁 (Bios swap notwithstanding).</p>

    • cawoodstock

      23 April, 2017 - 7:24 pm

      <blockquote><a href="#99510"><em>In reply to RobM:</em></a></blockquote><p>I use the current x1, and hate the fn key at the bottom left. Should always be ctrl. </p>

      • agizmo

        24 April, 2017 - 10:21 am

        <blockquote><a href="#99662"><em>In reply to cawoodstock:</em></a></blockquote><p>I wish manufacturers would all standardize on modifier key placement. I always press the wrong key when jumping between Surface devices, ThinkPads, and Macs.</p>

  • xbliss

    24 April, 2017 - 3:34 am

    <p>I love the Thinkpad look. Wish they had HiDPI in 14 inch </p>

  • mark_rasmussen

    27 April, 2017 - 2:34 pm

    <p>The Thinkvision T2364t 23" touchscreen monitors for $240 make a great addition to the X1. They squish down like the MS studio display but more importantly (for me) their support collapse flat meaning you can transport them easily – like 3 or 4 in a medium pelican case along with cables, mice, and a couple of spare NOCs.</p><p><br></p><p>At home a couple of the Thinkvision P27 (non-touch) monitors is the preferred setup.</p>

  • Chris Blair

    27 May, 2017 - 7:03 pm

    <p>Does anyone know whether the planned QuadHD display will support touch?</p>

Windows Intelligence In Your Inbox

Sign up for our new free newsletter to get three time-saving tips each Friday

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Thurrott © 2023 Thurrott LLC