October 7, 2022

For years, Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon has been a leader in business laptops, offering a thin, light machine that still has all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a system in this class. This year’s model, known as Gen 10, is almost a continuation, but with the latest 12th generation Intel Core (Alder Lake) processors and an upgraded webcam.

As usual, the X1 Carbon looks like a ThinkPad, with a carbon fiber and magnesium alloy body and the traditional matte black paint. With a 14-inch screen, it measures 0.6 by 12.4 by 8.8 inches, almost the same as last year’s model, with relatively small bezels. Visually, the biggest difference is a slight lip above the screen, which contains the new webcam module. At 2.48 pounds by itself and 3.25 pounds with the included 65-watt charger, it’s still very light for a 14-inch machine. (Lenovo offers the ThinkPad X1 Nano series for those who want an even lighter laptop.)

On the left side are two USB-C/Thunderbolt 4 ports (which can be used for charging), a USB-A port and an HDMI port. The right side has a lock slot, another USB-A port, and a headphone/microphone jack. That’s a good amount of ports for a lightweight machine, although it would be more convenient if the charging ports were on both sides.

As usual, it features the ThinkPad keyboard, with a red TrackPoint pointing stick in the middle, along with a medium-sized trackpad. I continue to think that ThinkPad keyboards are the best among lightweight laptops. While the trackpad has gotten bigger in recent years – it’s now 110mm wide – it’s a bit smaller than that on some competitors, but it’s still quite adequate.

ThinkPad trackpad

(Credit: Molly Flores)

One notable change is the inclusion of a 1080p webcam. It is also available with an option that offers features such as user presence detection. Without this option, I couldn’t use the camera for Windows Hello, although a fingerprint reader built into the power key worked well.

Unlike the Thinkpad X1 Yoga I recently tested, this machine doesn’t come with Lenovo View software (although you can download it). You can, however, adjust brightness, contrast and an automatic exposure setting in the Lenovo Commercial Vantage software. The camera’s video quality was a bit darker and a bit softer than I’d like — it’s adequate but not great.

For audio, it continues to feature two up-firing speakers on either side of the keyboard and two down-firing functions with Dolby Atmos, along with a quad-array microphone system. Dolby Voice lets you suppress extraneous sounds from a video call and gives you some good options. Overall, I thought the sound quality was pretty good for a business laptop, but not as strong as I’ve seen on Lenovo’s consumer Yoga 9i.

The model I used had a 14-inch 1920 x 1200 IPS touchscreen, in the modern 16:10 ratio now used in most laptops, with Eyesafe anti-blue light certification. I generally really like touch screens on laptops, I find them great for things like pressing mute or unmute buttons in a video conference (where you might not have your fingers on the keyboard). The screen looked really nice. However, Lenovo offers a variety of upgrades with privacy guards or higher resolutions, including 2240-by-1400 and 3840-by-2400 IPS displays, and a 2880-by-1800 OLED model. All of these options are great for people who want higher-quality displays.

Performance-wise, the unit I tested had an Intel Core i7-1260P (Alder Lake) processor with 16GB of memory and a 512GB Samsung SSD, almost identical to the X1 Yoga Gen 7 I recently tested. The processor has four “power” cores (each with hyper-threading, offering two threads each) and eight “efficiency” cores, so 12 physical cores and 16 threads. It has a basic power of 28 Watts, with 18MB cache, a basic frequency of 2.1GHz, with a turbo in the power cores reaching 4.7GHz. It features Intel Xe graphics and supports vPro for enterprise management.

My benchmark numbers were like what I saw with the X1 Yoga. In general, I’ve found that Alder Lake offers a good performance in the Core 11th Generation family, but that it depends on the applications. The X1 Carbon showed a slight improvement in things like PCMark, with a bigger gain in multi-threaded applications like Cinebench R23. Gaming scores showed a nice gain over 11th gen Core systems, although if I were a gamer I’d still want discrete graphics, not integrated Xe graphics.

In more real-world testing, the results were mixed but interesting. A very large Excel model I’ve been using for years completed in 41 minutes, about the same as last year’s model. Excel doesn’t seem to take much advantage of the extra cores. But a large MatLab portfolio simulation test completed in 38 minutes, compared to over 47 minutes last year, a huge improvement.

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In some other tests, the results were quite impressive. Doing a very large video transcoding with Handbrake took 1 hour 55 minutes, compared to 2 hours 38 minutes last year. (I got a much faster time on the X1 Yoga initially, when I retest I sometimes get a very fast time and sometimes a similar time to the X1 Carbon). In other words, if you’re running something that can really benefit from multithreading, this year’s X1 Carbon is a big step up.

Battery life seemed pretty good. It lasted more than 12 hours for me, and PCMag’s video playback test showed just over 12 hours, good but not quite up to the X1 Yoga Gen 7.

As I write this, Lenovo’s website shows prices for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 starting at $1,319 with a model similar to the review unit costing around $1,900. (Interestingly, better screens don’t seem to be available on the site right now, but it’s possible that businesses have the configurations they want.)

Overall, this year’s model of the X1 Carbon offers better performance on what remains a very solid machine, with good sound, a great keyboard, a very solid build and plenty of options, including nice new display options. I’d love to see a better webcam, but overall, the X1 Carbon remains perhaps the best 14-inch business laptop around.

Here’s PCMag’s full review.

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