Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2019) First Impressions

Posted on August 13, 2019 by Paul Thurrott in Hardware, Mobile, Windows 10 with 17 Comments

The 7th generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers the thinnest and lightest design yet, an optional UHD HDR400 display with Dolby Vision capabilities, and an improved Dolby Atmos speaker system. In a first, I’ll be reviewing two versions of this year’s X1 Carbon: One with that incredible 500-nit UHD HDR400 display and one with a Full HD display.

From a high level, little has changed from last year—the 2018 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon was, of course, a stunner—but that’s to be expected for the cornerstone of Lenovo’s premium PC family. It’s just hard to improve a product that is already so close to perfection.

What we do get for 2019 is a bigger range of display options and several improvements and refinements. So let’s start with the displays.

In 2018, Lenovo offered three X1 Carbon display choices, all in 14-inches: Full HD, WQHD (2560 x 1440) and WQHD with HDR/Dolby Vision. This year, there are five choices: Full HD (300 nits), Full HD (400 nits, new), Full HD (400 nits with ThinkPad Privacy Guard, new), WQHD (300 nits), and UHD HDR400 (500 nits with Dolby Vision, new).

As noted, I’m reviewing two different models, which feature the Full HD (400 nits) and UHD HDR400 units, respectively.

It’s impossible to convey the differences in the displays this way

Both displays are excellent. But the differences are clear when viewed side-by-side: Where the Full HD display has an almost matte-like quality to it, the UHD display is brighter, crisper, and more glossy. There’s little doubt that the UHD display is superior overall, but I suspect the battery life tradeoffs will dampen my enthusiasm a bit over time. Regardless, I’m looking forwarding to testing some Dolby Vision content on it to see what that’s like.

(UHD versions of the 2019 X1 can also be had with an optional carbon fiber weave finish on the outside of the display lid. My review unit does not feature this finish, but as you can see, it is reminiscent of OnePlus carbon fiber smartphone cases.)

Beyond the displays, the two review units are identical, with an 8th-generation (quad-core) Intel Core i7-8665U processor, Intel UHD 620 graphics, 16 GB of RAM, and 512 GB of NVMe-based SSD storage. Expansion is unchanged from 2018, with two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (one of which can be combined with an Ethernet extension port to accommodate Lenovo’s side-mounted docking solutions), two full-sized USB 3.1 ports, one full-sized HDMI port for video out, and a combo microphone/headphone jack.

The form factor is basically unchanged as well, but Lenovo has somehow shaved the thinness by 6 percent and the Full HD version of the device weighs just 2.4 pounds, making it 3 percent lighter than the 2018 model. It is incredibly, almost magically, light to hold and carry. It seems to weigh less than is possible given its size.

The webcam’s ThinkShutter privacy shield is now standard on all models.

And the fingerprint reader is faster and now incorporates the Synaptics PurePrint anti-spoofing technology.

The speaker system is noticeably improved this year with quad-speaker Dolby Atmos sound with top firing tweeters and bottom firing woofers. It’s … amazing. And I found myself getting lost in the recent Avengers movie because the sound field was so immersive. (The movie itself is nonsense.)

Lenovo also improved the far field microphones that it introduced last year. Now, we get four new top-facing, 360-degree far field microphones with a range of up to 12 feet; last year, there were two that worked from up to 10 feet away. And they’re now optimized for Skype and other voice conferencing scenarios in addition to Cortana.

As with previous X1 Carbons, the 2019 entry is built of durable carbon fiber (top) and magnesium alloy (bottom) and has been tested against 12 military-grade certification tests and 22 MIL-SPEC procedures. It features anti-fry technology in its USB-C ports and can quick-charge to 80 percent in just 60 minutes via its USB-C-based 65-watt power supply.

As a flagship PC, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is, of course, expensive: It starts at about $1300 for a model with a Core i5, 8 GB of RAM, 256 GB of M.2 PCIe-NVMe Opal SSD storage, and a 400 nit Full HD display, and you could spend over $2200 for a fully loaded version with a Core i7, 16 GB of RAM, 1 TB of SSD storage, and that incredible UHD display. (Lenovo also sells the previous two generations of X1 Carbon if you’re looking to save several hundred dollars.)

More soon.

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