Finding the absolute best productivity laptop has always been a personal mission of mine, and Lenovo’s latest iteration of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon came really, really close to ending my search. It’s an incredible ultraportable, and if it wasn’t for the lack of certain features, I would crown it the best productivity laptop – yet – in a heartbeat.
First, let’s get the specifications of the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon out of the way. It can be packed with a 14-inch 1440p or 1080p display, Intel’s Kaby Lake Core i7-7600U processor paired with up to 16GB of RAM, up to 1TB of fast PCIe SSD, as well as a quoted battery life of up to 15.5 hours. Essentially, the X1 Carbon offers specifications one would expect from a productivity-focused laptop, but it absolutely excels in many other key areas.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s keyboard, for one, is incredible. It has crazy amount of travel for a laptop keyboard, and the keys are firm with great tactile feedback. Really, I have never used a keyboard as impressive as the one on the X1 Carbon, and that’s what really set ThinkPad laptops apart from other offerings. The trackpad of the X1 Carbon is also pleasant to use, thanks to the implementation of Microsoft’s Precision Touchpad.
Another noteworthy aspect of the X1 Carbon is its overall dimensions. According to Lenovo, the X1 Carbon is a 14-inch ultraportable with the footprint of a 13-inch laptop, which I wholeheartedly agree. Thanks to the X1 Carbon’s minimal bezels, it feels a lot more portable than a conventional 14-inch laptop. Of course, it may not be as impressive as the Dell XPS 13‘s almost bezel-less display, but it’s a looker nonetheless.
Dimensions aside, I was pleasantly surprised by how light the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is. Tipping the scales at 1.14kg, this laptop feels even lighter than, say, the Asus ZenBook 3, which actually weighs less at 910g. The thing is, the ZenBook 3 is a 12-inch laptop, while the X1 Carbon is a 14-inch notebook. For a laptop its size, the X1 Carbon feels really light; Lenovo claims it is “the lightest notebook in its class,” after all.
So far, the X1 Carbon has been impressive across the board. It has an incredible keyboard, a portable design, and impressive build quality, which is to be expected of a ThinkPad machine. These are qualities of a great productivity laptop, but the lack of one particular feature held the X1 Carbon from being the absolute best in its class: an SD card slot.
The thing is, the X1 Carbon actually offers a plethora of ports, including two USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports, two full-size USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI output, as well as microSIM and microSD card slots. Even with all these connectivity options, Lenovo didn’t include an SD card reader, which is indispensable for us in the media industry. Sure, an external card reader will do the job just fine, but it doesn’t beat the convenience of having the feature built into the laptop itself.
In retrospect, however, even the previous generation X1 Carbon didn’t have an SD card slot. In fact, many ultraportables released recently don’t have the feature. Moving forward, it won’t be surprising if more manufacturers forego the feature, for better or worse.
Nevertheless, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an incredible ultraportable. If you don’t care for an SD card slot, it really is a compelling productivity laptop. It doesn’t necessarily offer the best value for money – the X1 Carbon has never been an affordable machine – but it’s certainly one of the best premium Windows 10 ultraportables released so far this year.