Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 review: 9th time is the charm

It makes me feel very old to say this, but we are in the ninth generation of Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon. And there have been nine of these for a reason. The X1 Carbon has historically been one of the best business laptops you can get. And that’s still the case with its most recent version. Lenovo has made a few tweaks, but otherwise it’s the same ThinkPad excellence we’ve come to expect.

Before we get into pricing, I must make the usual caveat that Lenovo loves to put absurdly high MSRPs on all of its ThinkPads, but they are generally available for much less. So the base X1 Carbon (the Linux model) has an MSRP of $ 2,336, but is currently available for $ 1,401.60. That model packs a Core i5-1135G7, 8GB of RAM (soldered on), 256GB of storage, and a 1920 x 1200, 14-inch, 400-nit non-touch screen. Prebuilt models run up to a Core i7-1185G7, 32GB of RAM, and 512GB of storage for $ 3,479 (listed at $ 2,249.40). You can add an infrared camera, as well as a touchscreen with Lenovo Privacy Guard or a UHD + panel, but those options are only available with the IR webcam. The infrared camera can also come with human presence detection.

The specific model I tested is currently listed for $ 1,829.40 if build it on Lenovo site ($ 3,049 MSRP). As a complete package, it is included for $ 2,251.99 at CDW but it is currently sold out there. It has a Core i7-1165G7 (a step down from the more expensive chip), 16GB of memory, 512GB of storage, a non-touch screen, no vPro, and no infrared camera. It is verified through Evo, which is the program that Intel uses to certify high-performance models.

The biggest ThinkPad update of the X1 Carbon Gen 8 it’s the new 16:10 display, a feature Lenovo has been adding to the X-series ThinkPads across the line. It offers noticeably more vertical screen space than you’ll see on the 16: 9 Carbon Gen 8, which means less scrolling and less zoom out while multitasking.

Aspect ratio aside, the display on this device is quite good. It has a resolution of 1920 x 1200 and comes with a new technology that is supposed to reduce exposure to blue light. My unit was a bit dim for the category, maxing out at 297 nits (it’s rated at 400), but the matte texture meant it still saw very little glare in bright indoor environments and could work comfortably. The display offered a good image with vivid colors, high contrast, and sharp details. The display covers 99 percent of the sRGB gamut and 87 percent of Adobe RGB, which is good (though not comparable to what you’ll see in something like an OLED panel).

In addition to this display, you can get a 400-nit FHD + touchscreen model or a brighter 500-nit FHD + touchscreen option with Lenovo’s Privacy Guard technology, making it difficult for would-be snoopers to peek at your screen from above. sides. (This option does not have the blue light filter.) Then there’s a 500-nits UHD + non-touch screen, which does it includes the blue light filter and is also compatible with Dolby Vision. The FHD + panel is good enough that I don’t think most people need the UHD unless brightness is a use.

The ports on the right side of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.

USB-A, lock slot, audio jack on the right.

The ports on the left side of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9.

Two USB-C, one USB-A, and one HDMI on the left.

The second thing that has been updated: the hinge. Place the Gen 9 next to the previous ThinkPad X1 Carbon models and you’ll notice that the former now has a single round hinge that connects the display to the keyboard deck. There are communication antennas inside (so it is not soundbar hinge, but it is something). I like this build a bit more and it makes the bottom bezel look a little less thick, but people are likely to take their own opinions. Speaking of that bottom bezel, the visible Lenovo and X1 Carbon logos that graced the one on the previous model are now gone, creating a slightly more refined and less commercial look.

Third change: the touchpad is bigger. 10 percent wider, specifically. Sure, the reviewers felt that the Gen 8 was a bit small. I’ll say that while the extra width is good, it’s still a bit narrow in height (probably because it needs to accommodate a ThinkPad-exclusive set of discrete clicks), and I found myself hitting the plastic a lot when scrolling. Everything else about the touchpad is great though – it has a fairly smooth texture and an effortless click. The keyboard is snappy too, though it’s a bit loud and the backspace key squeaked on my model.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 on a table in front of a shelf, open, slightly tilted to the right.  The screen shows a Verge article.

The keys have a scissor lift mechanism “to ensure ergonomics and comfort.”

The X1 Carbon Gen 9 also has an improved Dolby Atmos audio system. There are new upward-firing speakers on either side of the keyboard. The sound was surprisingly good, with particularly punchy percussion and bass. The device comes preloaded with Dolby Access, which you can use to switch between equalizer presets for games, movies, music, and voice calls, as well as custom profiles. These made a noticeable difference, although I often find that I prefer to listen to music on the Movies profile, as the Music profile makes voices stand out a bit more than I like.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 on a table in front of a bookshelf, with its back to the camera, angled to the right.

There are also four 360-degree far-field microphones.

Finally, the Match-on-Chip fingerprint reader is now integrated into the power button (previously it was next to the touchpad). Sure, that’s a slightly more convenient position. The sensor wasn’t getting my fingerprint every time (possibly due to how small it is now), but overall it worked fine.

If you are not a fan of the fingerprint reader, you may want to choose a model with an infrared camera, which supports Windows Hello facial recognition. Human presence detection allows the computer to automatically wake up when you are nearby and lock up when you move away. I didn’t have one of these fancy cameras, but the normal one in my unit was useful enough; I looked grainy on my Zoom calls, but overall accurate. There is also a physical shutter for the webcam, as is standard for ThinkPads of this caliber.

Elsewhere, the Carbon Gen 9 has a lot in common with previous X1 Carbon models. It has the same beautiful black chassis with all the exclusive ThinkPad features, from the red TrackPoint to the unique keyboard layout. (Remember: Fn and Ctrl are reversed on ThinkPads.) It’s incredibly thin and light (2.49 pounds, 0.59 inches) while still being fairly durable; Lenovo says it has undergone MILSpec durability testing. The X1 Carbon is absolutely up to the task Dell XPS as one of the best built laptops you can buy.

Inside, the X1 Carbon now packs 11th Gen Intel processors with integrated Iris Xe graphics across the board. My test model was a great multitasker, with no issues running Zoom calls on top of Spotify streams over a bunch of Chrome tabs. Intel’s Core i7-1165G7 offers the best performance you’ll find in a laptop of this size.

You don’t want to rely on the graphics-heavy Iris Xe GPU at all, but it can help with all kinds of general video playback, multimedia work, and computational tasks. I finished editing a batch of photos with no problems. Anyone planning to play a lot of games has access to similarly priced and similarly built GPU options such as the Dell XPS 15.

For some raw numbers, the ThinkPad took 10 minutes and 22 seconds to export a 4K video of five minutes and 33 seconds in Adobe Premiere Pro. That’s about 20 seconds faster than the XPS 13 with the same processor that took to complete the same. task. It was more than two minutes slower than the MacBook Pro M1 and it took twice as long as the Dell XPS 15 with a GTX 1650, just to illustrate how much an entry-level GPU can add.

I was unable to run the Puget Systems benchmark for Premiere Pro because it kept freezing. Lenovo is investigating the problem, but has not yet discovered the cause. Meanwhile, the X1 Carbon tends to score in the mid-200s (248, the most recent) in this test. That also doesn’t come close to Macbook Pro, but beats the XPS 13. Overall, the ThinkPad’s graphics performance doesn’t top the category, but it’s solidly in the mix.

I didn’t find any annoying fan noise while using the X1 Carbon. I also had no problem using the device on my lap – it got hot, but it was never this uncomfortable. The touchpad and palm rests were always downright cold, even under fairly heavy loads. I have no complaints on that front, which is commendable for such a slim device.

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 keyboard viewed from above.

That trusted TrackPoint remains.

Finally, the ThinkPad’s battery (while running my dozen-plus-tab workload with YouTube and Spotify frequent in the background around 200 nits of brightness) ranged a bit based on settings. I consistently got more than 10 hours of power when I was in the Battery Saver profile and had Intel’s Battery Saver features turned on, but I could see as little as five with a more powerful performance profile. I saw an overall average of eight hours 43 minutes, which is respectable – better than the XPS 15, where I only averaged around six hours, but worse than the XPS 13, where I averaged more than nine. I didn’t see any performance penalties from the Battery Saver profile, so I would use it if you need power throughout the day. It’s also a benefit: The ThinkPad doesn’t ship with McAfee or other junk software that can reduce battery life on consumer models.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 closed, seen from above.

It looks like a ThinkPad, it works like a ThinkPad.

Aside from the dim display (and the lack of a brighter than 500 nit option, when various commercial models now offer 1,000 nit options), the still a bit narrow touchpad, and the squeaky keyboard, I have very few complaints about this X1 Carbon. . Its price is quite high, of course, so those picky eaters still give me a little pause.

Lenovo’s new additions, particularly the 16:10 screen and upward-firing speakers, are absolutely welcome and make the X1 Carbon Gen 9, hands down, the best version of this device yet. It’s a formula Lenovo has perfected to perfection, combining the world-class engineering of the ThinkPad line with exactly the settings it needed to stay great in the modern marketplace. While the X1 Carbon isn’t the best value for consumers, any business buyer with a lot of money should take a look at it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *