Hear me out before you scoff at my headline to this review. I’ve been reviewing and using Lenovo and ThinkPad laptops for the better part of 5-years. Year-after-year it’s the ThinkPad line of laptops that just continually impresses me. The Gen7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon is just the latest generation that just keeps getting better.
I know, ThinkPads aren’t very cheap, but that’s exactly the point here. The Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon is not cheap at all. What I mean is, this laptop has a high price tag, but with that high price tag you get extreme quality, durability, and amazing performance. Read on for the full review of the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon and find out why I think it is simply beautiful and almost perfect.
The Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon sent to us has the following features and specifications:
- CPU: Intel Core i7-8565U (1.80GHz, up to 4.60GHz with Turbo Boost, 4 Cores, 8MB Cache)
- GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620
- RAM: 16GB LPDDR3 2133MHz
- SSD: 512GB Solid State Drive M.2 PCIe-NVMe, Opal
- Display: 14.0″ 4K with Dolby Vision (3840 x 2160) 500 nits
- Audio: Top-mounted speakers with Dolby Atmos
- Battery: 4 Cell Li-Polymer, 51Wh (up to 18.3 hours)
- Keyboard: Backlit
- Wireless: Intel 9560 802.11AC (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 5.0
- Model #: ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7
- HDMI 1.4
- 2 x USB 3.1 (Gen 1) (1 always on)
- 2 x USB 3.1 (Gen 2) Type-C / Intel Thunderbolt 3 (DisplayPort, Data transfer)
- Network extension for Ethernet/side mechanical docking
- Headphone/Mic combo jack
- WWAN slot is optional
- Height: 0.58″
- Width: 12.71″
- Depth: 8.54″
- Weight: Starting at 2.40 lbs
What’s In The Box
- Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon
- 65W AC adapter
- 4 cell, 80Wh internal battery
- Quick start guide
- Documentation and warranty info
I’ve always loved the design and look of this lineup of Lenovo laptops. The Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon does not stray from that design and look. It proudly toes the line and does it in spectacular fashion. With an amazing carbon fiber lid that’s just gorgeous, the ThinkPad logo is blacked out, giving it a wonderful stealthy look. The trademark red glowing LED hovers the “I” in ThinkPad and a subtle X1 brand is also on the lid.
There’s not much to see on the bottom other than some vents and screws. Removing the bottom of the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon is fairly easy and can be done with a PH1 bit like that found in the Pro Series 54 driver kit on Amazon. It’s just a matter of loosening the 5 screws and taking care of the tabs on the front lip. Once inside, you are able to upgrade the PCIe SSD to something different if you like. Everything else is pretty much untouchable.
Along the right side of the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you’ll find the power button, one USB-A 3.1 (Gen1/Always On) port, one ventilation port, and the Kensington lock slot. Along the left side of the X1 Carbon, you’ll find the headphone/mic jack, HDMI 1.4 port, USB-A 3.1 (Gen1) port, network extension for Ethernet/side mechanical docking, and 2 USB-C Thunderbolt 3 ports.
Opening up the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon reveals what I believe is currently the best keyboard on a laptop. I will make no bones about it, I am a huge fan of ThinkPad keyboards. After Apple ruined their MacBook Pro keyboards, the ThinkPad keyboards became king, in my eyes anyway. The keyboard provides just the right amount of travel and is very comfortable to type on. It’s also backlit and just feels very natural to use.
The trackpad is also very nice. It’s probably one of the best on any Windows laptop. The responsiveness is spot on. It doesn’t suffer from drag like many other laptops. The TrackPoint, that little red nub in the center of the keyboard, is also here. TrackPoint is popular with many but not so much with me. It doesn’t get in the way, though, so it’s not a big deal.
On the palm rest, you’ll find that same blacked-out ThinkPad logo, which looks great. Moving up to the display you’ll find the 720p webcam at the top, where it should be, and a nice addition of a privacy shutter. The bezels on the left and right are really slim. The top bezel is not as slim but still looks great. The bottom bezel is a bit thicker but manages to be smaller than previous generations. There are other laptops on the market that beat the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon in the bezels war as well as footprint war, but that does not mean this laptop isn’t slim and good looking. It 100% is and it competes at the same level.
Finally, the Dolby Atmos speakers are located at the top of the keyboard, and this is something we love to see. Every laptop should have its speakers at the top. Even if the speakers aren’t the best, just locating them at the top makes a world of difference. Good choice by Lenovo to place them here.
Overall, I don’t have a lot of bad things to say about the design. Sure, the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon is slightly larger than some of the competition but not by much. This laptop is slick looking, well built, has an amazing keyboard, great trackpad, and a premium build.
There are a variety of displays to choose from on the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon. You have two 1920 x 1080 FHD options, one at 300 nits and the other at 400 nits. You also have a 2560 x 1440 WQHD 300 nit option. The final option, which is the option we have, is a 500 nit 3840 x 2160 4K Dolby Vision panel that is absolutely stunning. It is important to note that the higher 500 nit display is going to knock a good portion of battery life off. If the battery is important to you then we’d recommend the lower 300 or 400 nit displays.
That all being said, the 4K Dolby Vision 500 nit display is an absolute stunner. The clarity and color on this display are fabulous. Keep in mind, you most likely will be setting the display to 150-200% in display settings. This is due to 4K being so pixel-dense that text becomes very small and hard to read, at least for people with eyesight like mine.
The blacks on this panel are deep and inky, the whites are clear and bright, and the colors are punchy without too much oversaturation. The brightness is exactly what I prefer. 500 nits or more is what I like, but it is not necessary for most people. I think most users would be served just fine with the FHD 300 nit display. If you’re not familiar with nits, that is the measurement for brightness for displays. The higher the number the brighter the panel will be. But again, more brightness means more impact on battery life. The upside of a higher nit display is better viewing in sunlight and brightly lit areas as well as better viewing angles.
The bezels are fairly slim to the left and right, and the top bezel is slightly larger but not by much. The bottom bezel is a bit thicker than I’d like, but at least it’s not ugly. There are other laptops that have slimmer bezels, which give them a slightly smaller footprint. But that doesn’t make the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon bulky. Viewing angles on this panel are outstanding, and that is helped by the 500-nit capability. This panel does really well in bright sunlight and bright conditions, which is exactly why I prefer higher nit displays.
Overall, the 4K Dolby Vision display on the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon is an amazing panel. If you’re looking to save some money and save some battery, we’d recommend you go for the 300 nit FHD display instead. If you need a bit more brightness, then go with the 400 nit FHD display. If you need a bit more resolution but don’t want 4K, then the 300 nit WQHD display is your best option. We loved the 4K display and are okay with losing a bit of battery life for better visibility in bright sunlight conditions.
The Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon is running Windows 10, which most of us are familiar with already. Windows 10 runs smoothly on this machine, thanks to the hardware and power inside the X1 Carbon. Lenovo usually doesn’t include too many extra nonsense software bundles with these higher-end ThinkPad systems, and our review unit was pretty clean with some placeholders in the Windows menu for games and other software you can purchase on the Windows Store.
Those placeholders are simply links to the software, meaning the software is not installed on the computer but they are only suggesting it on the menu. It’s always nice to have the least amount of bloatware you can on a brand-new PC. I would expect nothing less from a system this expensive.
Overall, there’s nothing much to add about Windows 10. If you were expecting something other than Windows 10, well, you’ll be disappointed. Though I guess you could always install some version of Linux if you wanted to dual boot.
Our Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon is rocking an Intel Core i7-8565U CPU alongside an Intel UHD Graphics 620 GPU. There are a variety of ways to configure the X1 Carbon. You can build and price your own on Lenovo’s website. Our specifications are top of the line, and because of that performance is smooth.
While we prefer a dedicated GPU for more intensive programs like Adobe Premiere Pro, the reality is, you sacrifice some things for thin, slim, and light. That doesn’t mean the 620 GPU and Core i7 are lacking. Not at all. I can still run Photoshop on this system without much of an issue. Adobe Premiere Pro can be run as well, just be prepared for some fans to kick in while you work as the GPU works to keep up.
I’d say the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon isn’t really a system for content creators but better suited for intensive business use. The business user will have zero problems having multiple documents open and switching between windows without any lag. This is all helped by the 16GB of DDR3 RAM onboard as well as the M.2 SSD. Scrolling and webpage rendering is lightning fast, we experienced zero issues with any sort of lock-up or lag on this system.
As we mentioned before, the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon SSD is upgradeable if you want to swap out to a higher capacity M.2 in the future.
Overall, the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon performs amazingly well. I admit I am a bit bias here as I’ve been using ThinkPads as my main laptops for the better part of 3 years. This is due to my working in the review business and having access to the newest models each year. I’ve used other brands, of which there are several that can match and even beat the ThinkPad, but I usually find myself back with the ThinkPad as a main laptop.
Laptop speakers are generally crappy. But Lenovo has been learning, perhaps from my own and other reviews, that they can make it better. The best way to make a laptop sound better is by mounting the speakers on the top instead of the bottom. We have been seeing Lenovo adopt that idea for the past year, and it’s been a great addition.
These speakers sound great. I can’t say they’re amazing, but they are improved given they have Dolby Atmos as well as being top-mounted. These speakers are actually really good for watching a movie and taking in some low-volume music. They’re certainly not going to give you the same immersive sound as a good pair of headphones, but they are better than average.
Overall, the speakers on the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon are better than you’ll find on most average laptops. If you’re looking for amazing sound, you’ll have to use a pair of external speakers or headphones.
Like almost every other laptop on the market, even lower-priced ones, the Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon has an average 720p webcam mounted at the top of the display. Not much to say about this as it works well with no issues. Lenovo does include a webcam cover for privacy, in case you’re worried about someone using your webcam to spy on you. It’s a simple flick of your finger to close the shade over the webcam. Once it’s closed, you’ll see a red dot over the webcam indicating the webcam is covered. Overall, this is your average webcam, it will work great for what you need it to do, video conferencing, Skype, all the normal things one does with a webcam.
The Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon battery life, at least on this model, isn’t the best. Take note though, Lenovo did warn us that the 500-nit 4K Dolby Vision display would impact battery life significantly and it does. But I am guessing that most users won’t see the value in upgrading to this display given that the battery life on the 300-nit and 400-nit models is better.
You can expect to see battery life double if you get the lower nit FHD display. As for this 500-nit display, running the laptop at max brightness for most of the time I was able to get 5-6 hours of battery life under a normal workload. Obviously, the more work you throw at it, the less battery life you will get.
I think the higher nit display is worth the extreme trade-off of battery life. But this is mostly due to my working in outdoor conditions and brightly lit conditions. For the most part, I think most users will prefer the lower nit screens and longer battery life. This doesn’t make the 4K version bad, it’s just a trade-off you will have to decide is worth it or not.
Overall, the battery life was as expected for a 500-nit 4K panel, not horrible but certainly less than the FHD display. If the battery matters to you, then go for the lower nit display.
The Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon starts at US$1,462.30 and goes up in price from there. These are premium machines that command a premium price, and they have a lot of value. I would say there’s more value for most in upgrading the processor and RAM over the display. While the 4K display is nice and I love that 500-nit brightness, it’s not necessary for most.
The Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon is yet another amazing laptop in the ThinkPad series of laptops. It delivers in pretty much every area of importance for laptop users on the go. It’s slim, lightweight, and easy to carry as well as powerful, easy to use with an amazing display even if you’re getting the non-4K version.
There are contenders in the market that compete with this laptop which is exactly why Lenovo has continued to improve and maintain the quality and performance of its ThinkPad Carbon line. The Gen 7 14” ThinkPad X1 Carbon is one of the top three laptops I would recommend to anyone who needs power, performance, portability, and great user experience.
*We received a review unit of the Gen 7 14″ ThinkPad X1 Carbon for the purposes of this review.
Last Updated on February 3, 2021.