Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 2018 6th gen review: elegant performance, ultimate portability
The devices in Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 lineup have always been at the top of their class and perfect for businesses and consumers alike. That’s why for 2018, Lenovo makes the Thinkpad X1 Carbon 6th gen slightly more perfect on the inside. As announced at CES, the 6th gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon keeps to a classic ultra-portable design but boasts beautiful performance and battery life thanks to the 8th generation Intel quad-core chip.
- Best in class bright and vivid display.
- A familiar design and build that is comfortable, thinner, lighter and makes the device easy to travel with.
- Lots of ports, including HDMI, Thunderbolt USB C, USB 3.0.
- Elegant and buttery smooth performance thanks to Intel’s 8th gen chip.
- Comfortable, soft feeling keyboard and an excellent trackpad.
- Excellent security and privacy features, including the new ThinkShutter which covers camera when not in use.
- New voice capabilities which make talking to Cortana even easier.
- All-day battery life.
Specs good for the rest
The unit which Lenovo sent us for review packs the 8th generation Intel Core i7-8550U processor clocked at 1.8 GHz. It comes with Windows 10 Pro, and a total of 8GB of LPDDR3 RAM. Like we discuss later, these specs make for elegant performance, more than enough to get the job done for the average business person or the consumer. Other notable specs are listed below.
- Graphics: Intel UHD 620
- Display: 14.0″ FHD Touch (1920 x 1080)
- Storage: 256GB NVMe v1.1.0 SSD
- Connectivity: WLAN & Bluetooth Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 8265 + Bluetooth 4.2
- Ports: (2) Thunderbolt 3, Type-C (2) USB 3.0 Type-A (1) HDMI (1) Microphone / Headphone Combo Jack (1) Micro-SD Card Reader + Micro-SIM Card Slot
- Camera: HD 720p, ThinkShutter camera privacy Fixed Focus
- Audio: 2 x 1 Watt Speakers, Dolby Audio Premium
- Security: dTPM 2.0 Touch Fingerprint Reader (Match-in-Sensor)
- Battery: 4-cell 57 watt-hour
- Build: Carbon Fiber Super Magnesium Alloy
- Weight and Dimensions: 12.74” x 8.55” x 0.63” (323.5 mm x 217.1 mm x 15.95 mm) Starting at 2.49lbs (1.13 kg)
Familiar design and build
Last year’s Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon was a truly portable device, and the 2018 installment to the lineup is more of the same. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen keeps to the classic carbon fiber and super magnesium alloy design, but with a key refinement.
Coming in at just 2.49 pounds in weight and 0.63 mm in thickness, this year’s Carbon X1 feela thinner and lighter than the past. It is so thin that I was quickly able to throw the device in a bag and carry it around just holding it between two fingers. This is something that is much harder to do with a MacBook Pro which comes in at 3 pounds in weight.
As a plus, the central parts of the device features a soft rubbery texture, both on the inside of keyboard, and on the outer shell. I loved the feeling of the material, and it made for good grips whenever I was in an intense typing session. This material does not flex at all and it is fantastic to see that the X1 Carbon can stay so well built without sacrificing design quality.
Other elements new to the design this year is a new X1 branding. Lenovo tells me they created a distinct visual ID for the X1 family with a new Red and Gray X1 Logo now on the device. The hinges are also color coded, black for the black unit, and silver for the grey unit. Lenovo also holds that the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen has been tested against 12 military-grade certification tests. It passes 200 in-house durability tests before rolling out to store shelves, so despite being so thin and light, this device is bound to last in even the toughest situations.
Bright and stunning display
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen comes with one of the best Matte-type displays I’ve seen on a laptop in this class, and it even has touch support. As you may recall, I loved the 4K display on the Yoga 920 and was especially keen on display onboard the ThinkPad T470s. If one were to blend these displays, the result would be what is seen on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen.
Lenovo also offers a WQHD model with an HDR display, but my review unit is equipped with a standard FHD 1920×1080 display that still very much impresses. Coming with added touch capabilities and measuring 14 inches, the display can get bright and vivid, almost comparable to the 4K display on the Yoga 920.
Going up to 293 nits of brightness, colors in videos and images pop right out on this display, even on mid to medium intensity. The default wallpaper provides a good look at this beauty since the reds in the X1 Logo were deep, and the blues in the sky were bright.
There is also no noticeable glare because Lenovo includes an anti-reflective coating on the display. It works well since the screen can be viewed from any angle, even 90 degrees at the side. Quite surprising for a display which is matte and not glossy or glass.
I must also say the display has an edge to edge feel, mainly because the bezels on this device are relatively thin. This made the 14-inch display fell plenty spacious and ready for multi-tasking. I do however recommend changing the display scaling settings down to 100% from 175% for more room for multi-tasking.
I liked having the touchscreen model, which is something you might want to consider when choosing between the FHD and WQHD options. Keep in mind only the FHD model has the touch option, and only the WQHD model has HDR. On my FHD model, Lenovo uses a unique technology where the touch panel is built right onto the LCD structure and removes the need for a protective layer on the screen. I found this appealing since it makes the touch screen smooth and easy to navigate.
Lots of ports
This device was released in 2018, so it is nice to see that Lenovo is embracing USB C and making their laptops ever so more future proof. Indeed, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen packs USB C, USB 3.0, and all the ports you may need in your life—including HDMI.
On the right side of the device is a Thunderbolt USB C port, followed by the ThinkPad Side-Dock (which is essentially a USB C port,) a USB 3.0 Port, and an HDMI port. It is excellent to see the HDMI port included standard because it eliminates the need for a dongle. This is great for businesses which use HDMI displays in conference rooms, and also consumers who may not want to run out and buy adapters just to use their display on a brand new laptop.
For further connectivity, you can opt for the new ThinkPad Side Dock which connects to the right side of the Carbon X1. Lenovo says this provides a driver free way of connection to accessories and displays while also keeping rapid charging. The Docking Station is sold separately and supports PXE book, wake on LAN, and other features.
Anyway, the left side of the device is slightly dull, primarily due to the lack of a dedicated full-sized Ethernet port. Here we have an Audio Jack, a USB 3.0 port, and the Kensington Lock. I appreciated having two full-size USB 3.0 ports, as it removes the need for USB docks. I was able to use both keyboard and mouse at once when plugging the device into a monitor and using it in clamshell mode.
Interestingly, Lenovo also included a Micro-SD Card Reader and Micro SIM Card Slot on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen. It’s rather strange for this port to be on the back of the device, as it is not exactly convenient location. Also odd is the fact that all the devices feature the Micro-SIM port, even though my review unit is not listed as supporting LTE (it only supports Intel Dual Band AC 8265.) Anyway, the Micro-SD support is appreciated, since it helps you double up on the included storage.
I’ve used the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen in my blogging life for the past two weeks, and the performance is king. Of all the Lenovo devices I’ve reviewed, I’ve never seen a laptop that runs this buttery smooth. The 8th gen Intel chip packs plenty of power (Lenovo says up to 35% more performance) and is more than enough to tackle anything the average consumer and business user throw at the device. You can see this with the Geekbench 4 scoring, where higher numbers mean better performance. Feel free to click the links below for a more detailed look at the specs before making your purchasing decision.
These scores are about the same as the Yoga 920, which is the last device we reviewed with Intel’s 8th gen chip. That device received a 4847 Single-Core Score, 4885 Multi-Core Score and 22591 Open CL Score. Though the Yoga 920 is more for consumers, and the X1 Carbon more businesses, performance is buttery smooth thanks to Intel’s 8th gen quad-core chip.
At the end of the day, I was easily able to multi-task in Edge with 8+ tabs open without any lag or noticeable slowdown in the CPU. Apps opened up quickly, I did some slight video editing and short 3-minute videos rendered relatively fast thanks to the 8GB RAM and the speedy fast SSD. I also was able to play Super Lucky’s Tale on the device, though it was on the lowest setting and not the best experience. Keep in mind, though, this is not a gaming laptop.
The only real issue I had with the performance was with the heat and fans. The system gets hot fairly quickly, and the fans will kick in whenever the system is under high load. This is a good thing as it is what prevents slow down and system-wide failure, but it was only just slightly annoying. Fans will eventually turn off, and heat will eventually dissipate.
Top in class keyboard and trackpad
I may sound like a broken record, but Lenovo knows how to get a keyboard and trackpad right. I’ve always been a fan of Lenovo’s keyboards, and the option in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen is no different. It is one of the best in class, and one that is hard to complain about.
The backlit keyboard comes with 1.8 mm of travel space and doesn’t require a lot of force when pressing keys. The curved keys have a soft, glossy feel to them, and easily go down into the chassis without making too much noise. I never experienced any bottoming out, and was easily able to type at a rate of almost 100 words per minute. Simply put, typing was a pleasure with this device.
Since this is a Thinkpad device, you’ll also find the red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard. I was never a fan of the TrackPoint system, but I found that it helps for more precision navigation, especially when wanting to click on the “X” in my RSS feeds on Feedly.
Finally, there is the 3.9 x 2.2-inch touchpad. Again, it is one of the best you can find on any Lenovo device, and it never once stuck or caused me any issues. It did feel a bit small, but my fingers eventually got used to it. Keep in mind the touchpad is Microsoft Precision certified, so you can use multitouch gestures in Windows 10.
New voice capabilities
Fresh to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen are some new voice capabilities. The device includes two far-field microphones which currently will work with Cortana on Windows 10. I was able to take advantage of these microphones and keep the Carbon on my desk, but summon Cortana while standing across the room. It proved pretty useful when I was asking about the weather while getting ready in the morning.
Setting up Cortana is easy and you merely need to head to Settings to enable the digital assistant. Once it is activated, you can say “Hey Cortana” while standing up to 4 meters away from the Carbon X1 to ask questions, set reminders, make lists, and more.
The microphones will also work with Alexa on Windows 10 when it becomes available. Unfortunately, my review unit did not come with Alexa pre-installed. Lenovo tells me that Alexa will be coming later in April with a software update. We’ll be looking forward to trying it out then.
Security and camera
ThinkPads are associated with both security and business, so it is no surprise to see Lenovo adding in more security-focused features on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen. New this year is the ThinkShutter camera and an advanced Match-in-Sensor fingerprint reader.
With the ThinkShutter Camera, you’ll no longer need to use sticky notes or stickers to cover the camera from the government or other prying eyes. It is a cool feat of engineering and the sliding mechanism moves over the camera to block it and disable it in all software whenever you feel the need. The mechanism has a groove for your fingernail, allowing you to slide it to the right to cover the camera, or the left to show the camera. I never had issues sliding the mechanism, and I must say it is pretty cool for those people who are paranoid.
Finally, there is the Match-in Sensor fingerprint Reader which can be used for Windows Hello login. Lenovo says this sensor makes for a more secure method of analyzing fingerprint data than previous Match-on-Host implementations. With the new fingerprint reader, the fingerprint data is stored on a SOC chip which isolates it within the actual fingerprint sensor module.
Though the fingerprint reader works well for logins and it is speedy and fast, I do wish Lenovo had included a Windows Hello IR Camera. I’m assuming it probably wouldn’t have worked with the ThinkShutter technology, but most modern devices now have Windows Hello IR cameras, which makes for must more instantaneous logins. Maybe next year, Lenovo.
Finally, there is the battery life. As with most modern devices, Lenovo is now opting for USB C for charging, rather than a proprietary charging plug. The company also supports Rapid Charge tech on the 6th Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon and says you can charge the device from 0-80% in just 60 minutes.
From my experience, I got the battery to charge to 80% after an hour and 10 minutes, just a few minutes more than Lenovo’s promise. It’s not that big of a deal, as the battery holds up long on the 6th Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon. With my web browsing and blogging work, I was able to get about 8-10 hours of battery life set to “best performance.” This is mainly due to the 8th gen Intel chips, which takes 15-watts of power and are much more efficient.
Hurrah, you won’t need to worry about the battery on the 6th Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It’ll be enough to get you through a workday, and the standard FHD model is likely to be more power efficient than the other models.
Conclusion and pricing
At the end of the day, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th gen is a solid option for most businesses or a consumer looking for a new laptop. The latest 8th Gen Intel chip packs plenty of performance into this device, as well as excellent battery life. Lenovo also made slight improvements to the design but also included new security options like the ThinkShutter camera and an improved fingerprint sensor. The dual Microphones are also a cool feature and it is something that will be exciting once Alexa comes to Windows 10 later this year. Prices on our base unit start at $1,519, and the most expensive options go up to $2,579. You can view all configurations of the Thinkpad X1 Carbon 6th Gen on Lenovo.com and have the device ship to your door within 5-7 business days.Further reading: Lenovo, ThinkPad, ThinkPad X1 Carbon, Windows 10 Devices