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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (2017) review

I love carbon fiber — I’ll put that right out there. The feel yes, but most importantly the way it makes everything so lightweight. And, sadly, more expensive as well. Lenovo’s 2017 ThinkPad X1 Carbon, dubbed its “5th gen” model, recommends itself as the perfect traveler’s laptop with its lightweight body, relatively speedy performance and exceptional 11.8-hour battery life. But you’ll pay for the privilege of toting it around.

The current X1 Carbon starts at $1,330, £1,839 or AU$2,099. The only significant hardware configuration options are the processor — a choice of seventh-generation Core i5 or i7 models — 8 or 16GB memory or SSD storage options between 128GB and 1TB. With the hardware maxxed out and Windows 10 Pro, you can spend up to $2,750 on it. (There’s also Snapdragon X7 LTE-A WWAN and a vPro version of the wireless and Bluetooth chipset options for no extra cost.)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 5th Gen (2017)

If you’re more concerned with budget than performance, you’d probably be served well enough with a Core i5-7200U, 8GB, 512GB configuration which comes in at under $1,900. Also, keep in mind that Lenovo offers preferred pricing to some of its retailers, so you can get significantly lower price from sites such as CDW — which charges $2,123 compared to Lenovo’s $2,520 for our evaluation configuration, for instance.

There are slightly different options in the UK. For instance, the price difference between the i5 and the i7 is trivial, so you might as well get the i7, and there’s no choice for memory or 128GB SSD option. So the budget UK configuration is about £1,839. In Australia, my suggested configuration comes to just under AU$2,000.

In June 2017 Lenovo plans to ship a models with a Quad HD (2,560×1,440-pixel) display. Unless it ships with a more powerful battery — which it probably won’t — it won’t have the same battery life as the HD model we tested. That’s a lot of pixels to cram into such a small 14-inch display. I think a touchscreen model would make more sense. And it’s priced similarly to the slightly smaller HP EliteBook x360 — you’re paying a premium for the security and management features on both — but without the two-in-one flexiblity.

Hi-ho, the battery — Oh!

The X1 Carbon has one of the longest-lived batteries we’ve ever tested: It lasted just under 12 hours in our streaming video test. In fact, we’ve only seen 2 laptops with 14-inch class screens break the 11-hour barrier — this and the Microsoft Surface Book
. (The latter case is more of a feat given that it has a much higher-resolution screen.) The rest are slightly smaller 13-inch models.

Of course, your mileage may vary. On a WebEx conference over Wi-Fi, audio over headphones
and the screen brightness down to around 50 percent, the battery level dropped over 10 percent in 40 minutes. But once the call ended and I just sat and typed (with Wi-Fi still active), the depletion slowed significantly. It also lasts days in sleep mode if you’re one of those people who don’t use their computer daily.

The rest of its performance is less stellar but in line with the rest of its class. Lenovo uses slower 1,866MHz memory than many other systems’ 2,133MHz, which delivers lower scores on the memory and CPU-intensive tests, but in this class of laptop I don’t think you’ll notice any difference in performance. And I think it contributes to the better battery life.

Unobtrusive design

Aside from its 2.5 lb (1.1 kg) light-but-strong body, the rest is typical of its class. It has a 14-inch display in a 13-inch-class body at 12.7 inches (324 mm) wide. This makes sense, given that the width of the display is 12.2 inches (31 cm). The display is bright, nonreflective and quite readable, with an embedded webcam on the top bezel. I wasn’t really impressed with the color quality or exposure for the webcam, so if you want to impress a client you’ll need to surround yourself with flattering light.

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