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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen review: The 4K display is a splendid liability


Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen takes a small step down from the nearly perfect ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen that preceded it. Lenovo’s latest generation of this corporate stalwart packs an utterly gorgeous 14-inch 4K HDR screen inside its ultralight chassis, along with its superb keyboard and powerful Vantage utility software. The shortcoming? Battery life, a rather serious shortfall for a premium business notebook. Lenovo tries hard to make up for it in other areas. 

This review is part of our ongoing roundup of the best laptops. Go there for information on competing products and how we tested them. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen basic features

The specific model of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon that we were sent for review is sold for $2,299 at B&H or $2,352 at CDW. Lenovo offers a similar version of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen with the Carbon Weave on its own ThinkPad site, for $2,195.40 (after e-coupon), differing only in that it includes a larger 1TB SSD. That clearly delivers more for your money.

  • 14-inch display: As tested: UHD (3840×2160) IPS, with HDR400 and Dolby Vision, non-touch. Other options: WQHD (2560×1440) IPS, 300 nits’ brightness; FHD (1920×1080) IPS, 300 nits, touch; FHD IPS 400 nits; FHD IPS 400 nits with ThinkPad Privacy Guard
  • Processor: 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-8665U (as tested); Core i5-8265U, Core i5-8365U, Core i7-8665U 
  • Graphics: UHD 620
  • Memory: 8GB or 16GB (2133MHz) LPDDR3 (16GB as tested)
  • Storage: 256GB, 512GB, 1TB M.2 NVMe PCIe (512GB as tested)
  • Ports: 2 USB-A (USB 3.2 Gen 1), 2 USB-C (Thunderbolt 3, DisplayPort), HDMI 1.4, 3.5mm jack, custom ethernet port
  • Camera: 720p (user-facing)
  • Battery: 51Wh (rated) 51.9Wh (as tested)
  • Wireless: Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac MU-MIMO 2×2), Bluetooth 5.0
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro
  • Dimensions (inches): 12.72 x 8.54 x 0.59 inches (14.9mm)
  • Weight: 2.38 pounds, 2.98 with AC adapter
  • Colors: Carbon Weave (black)
  • Price: $2,299 (B&H), $2,352 (CDW)

It’s noteworthy that the X1 Carbon 7th Gen includes a Thunderbolt port in addition to the mix of USB-A, USB-C, HDMI, and a custom Ethernet port. That enables support for a pair of 4K displays, though you’ll need a Thunderbolt-equipped dock to take advantage of it. 

Unexpectedly light and sturdy

Years and years of the ThinkPad’s traditional “bento box” architecture have instilled in me the expectation that picking it up will be a clumsy, leaden affair. Not so with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 7th Gen, whose 2.38-pound weight pleasingly startles you. Thank its trademark carbon-fiber lid for that, although the magnesium-alloy chassis helps, too. Unfortunately the battery-chewing 4K HDR display may force you to tote the AC adapter, bringing the total weight up to about 3 pounds.

Our review model’s lid sported a special “Carbon Weave” pattern. It looks textured (though it’s really not), with just a bit of a rubbery feel that makes it easy to grip. As with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen, the 7th-Gen model earns a MIL-810G certification, meaning that it’s highly resistant to drops, spills, and dust.

At 14mm, this latest model is 6 percent thinner than the previous generation. But Lenovo has apparently sacrificed nothing in terms of stability: I detected no keyboard flex, and the display stubbornly refused to flop. I was able to warp the lid by grasping the top corners and wiggling them back and forth, but that’s taking it further than normal people would. 

lenovo thinkpad x1 Carbon 7th Gen thinkshutter Mark Hachman / IDG

The ThinkShutter (next to the depth camera’s LED) can be physically slid shut. A painted red circle visually notifies you that the camera is off.

The 4K display option, paired with HDR400 and Dolby Vision, is simply spectacular. I indulged myself one Friday afternoon by not using the ThinkPad, preferring instead to revel at the Windows lock screen’s shot of the Oregon coast bathed in afternoon light. Such clarity and color balance is rare.

There was only one odd note: Though the display puts out 464 nits according to our light meter, sufficient for some outside work, the brightness settings are coarse at the high end of the scale. A teeny increment’s movement in the slider causes a big drop in brightness at the top end, becoming more gradual at the low end. Lenovo says that’s normal behavior. The display is also glossy, which could create glare in daylight or brightly lit offices.

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