back to article Lenovo ThinkPad Carbon X1 Gen 8: No boundaries were pushed in the making of this laptop – and that's OK

Last month, Lenovo sent El Reg a loaner of its latest ThinkPad Carbon X1 ultrabook. This series is now in its eighth generation, showing that "innovation" doesn't always mean better. There's value in tried-and-tested designs, and this machine faithfully treads the steps of its forebears. Lenovo got the fundamentals right with …

  1. cyberdemon Silver badge
    Facepalm

    built like a brick house

    This is El Reg, not the BBC.

    The phrase is "Built like a brick shithouse"!

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: built like a brick house

      Heh. You've never seen the BBC Designs Department built modules from the seventies and eighties... them you could use as wrecking balls to knock down any number of brick shit houses. Hell, the standing instruction on how to design cases probably weighed a couple of pounds.

  2. prismatics

    AMD Options?

    It would have been interesting to know if an AMD option is planned or something.

    1. MrMerrymaker

      Re: AMD Options?

      I have their T14s in AMD and I can strongly recommend it, check out some comparisons with the Intel model - it's the way to go, surely Lenovo

    2. The Man Who Fell To Earth Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: AMD Options?

      I am doing due diligence for my next laptop purchase and if it doesn't have at least 10 cores, forget it. I don't give a sh*t in the least how thin the damn thing is even though I need to take it places & so a desktop isn't an option. I want some computational power. I also don't care about battery life as even on planes you have a plug these days. I want cores, a GPU I can use for computation and at least 64GB of RAM

      1. katrinab Silver badge
        Unhappy

        Re: AMD Options?

        Are there any laptop chips with 10 cores? The fastest from Intel is the 10980HK which has 8 cores. I have the previous generation 9980HK, and it is pretty fast.

        AMD fastest offering appears to be the 4900HS, which is faster in multi-core but slower in single thread, and has a lower TDP. but still only 8 cores.

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: AMD Options?

          "Are there any laptop chips with 10 cores?"

          No.

          Desktop CPU powered DTR laptops have been available all the time. The fastest models have the i9-10900K (Intel 10 cores) or Ryzen 3950X (AMD 16 cores). They sip power like there's no tomorrow and just the power supplies are probably bigger and heavier than the Carbon X1 reviewed here.

    3. Roland6 Silver badge

      Re: AMD Options?

      Well if I wanted to downgrade from my Thinkpad L15 (Ryzen 7 PRO 4750U ) and pay significantly more, I might consider the Carbon X1 Gen 8...

    4. Annihilator Silver badge

      Re: AMD Options?

      Yep, I'm not sure why you'd spec anything but AMD at this point. My last 2 purchases have been Ryzen-based, both laptop and desktop.

  3. MrMerrymaker

    Cheaper alternative Thinkpad

    The T14s is almost as thin, has all the ports, has a 14" screen and best of all now comes with an AMD chip making it less expensive as you're not paying the Intel tax

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Cheaper alternative Thinkpad

      I have an X1 having come from a T and before that an X. The big selling point of the X1s is they weigh next to nothing.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cheaper alternative Thinkpad

        The T14s AMD weighs 1.28kg versus the 1.09gb in the X1. That's a difference of only 0.19kb and the T14s is still lighter than the Macbook Air. The difference would only be noticeable if you are holding both in each hand. I doubt you would notice it otherwise. But the T14s is *significantly* faster and has twice the cores.

        The X1 Carbon does have a slightly more premium feel with the use of the glass trackpad and I think the battery life is very slightly better. It also has Thunderbolt which the AMD laptops lack. But realistically there isn't much that Thunderbolt can do which you can't do with USBC apart from an eGPU. Lenovo's AMD laptops are also quite hard to get in Europe because as soon as they are restocked they sell out again. I'm not sure whether that's a supply issue or huge demand. It's probably a little bit of both but the Intel versions never seem to run out so I suspect there is a big demand for AMD.

        The T14s is much faster and cheaper than the X1 Carbon. It's the sensible choice.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Cheaper alternative Thinkpad

          Except, as you say it's over 17% heavier and takes up less space.

          My main PC at home is a self built desktop PC with a Ryzen CPU and 32 GB of RAM. I use my laptop for web browsing, writing docs etc and occasionally building a bit of code.

          If I needed to give the CPU and RAM a regular workout I'd probably have to get something different but the X1 is easily powerful enough for my needs. It's also very small and light, which is a big deal if you travel with work as I do. If I'm flying somewhere for a meeting and only need to stay for a night or two my spare clothes go into my laptop bag. Every cubic centimetre and every gram counts.

          People have different needs which is why different options exist. Most of my colleagues use Macs which cost twice as much, because for some reason they feel they need one.

  4. stiine Silver badge
    Unhappy

    try it vs coffee

    It will work for a week, but then...nothing.

    1. MrMerrymaker

      Re: try it vs coffee

      Another reason why the Carbon line doesn't measure up to the main Thinkpad line..

    2. ElNumbre
      Flame

      Re: try it vs coffee

      We had the X1 Carbon tablets in our fleet for 18 months. I think they've ALL broken, at least once. All with mainboard issues. Quite high failure rates across the rest of our Lenovo laptops too, compared to the HPs we also have.

  5. gerryg

    Northern line reference

    you missed "...in 2019" as at the mo' the tube is mostly empty.

  6. carl0s

    I'm really pleased to see that touch is an option again, on a 400 nit IPS display too. a 1080p screen. I think 1080p is probably good for a 14" display.

    I'm still on my gen 3 with an i5-5200u. This has a 2.5k touch display (2560 × 1440 or thereabouts), which is nice and dandy in Windows, but has caused me all sorts of hi-dpi grief in Gnome, and similarly in many win32 gkt based apps (inkscape, gimp.. although both much better in recent releases).

    I have avoided newer models of the X1 Carbon, partly due to not feeling like spunking such dosh, but mostly because I really like the touch screen, and they have not included the option in recent models. I find mixing touch + keyboard + trackpoint to be very good. Just the odd webpage scroll and touch of a button or icon here and there. You can also do some rapid "touch-keypress, touch-keypress, touch-keypress" working through lists and stuff that you just couldn't otherwise do, to workaround UX deficiencies in some programs/systems.

    Also the non-touch doesn't have a stuck-on bezel to collect dust. Same with the XPS 13 - I much prefer the touch models and hate the dust collection of the bezel edge on the non-touch models.

    el reg: I think you have the model name wrong though. It's an X1 Carbon, not a Carbon X1, AFAIK.

    1. fuzzie

      I similarly have the Gen 3, but the 1440p non-touch matte screen. It's been a real trooper and the newer models just haven't been that much of a huge jump to convince me to upgrade. Its 8GB is getting long in the tooth. It's picked up a freeze-up and non-booting issue recently. I hope it's just thermal paste.

      For my work machine I got a T490 last year. Marginally larger/heavier, slighty beefier CPU and discrete GPU, wired Ethernet, even more ports, and, more importantly, user-upgradable RAM. Like yourself, I've had to navigate some HiDPI issues. It's a real solid workhorse machine. Highly recommended if you want something a bit beefier and more expandable than the X1 Carbon.

      1. carl0s

        I think I am waiting for an AMD based thing that's similar to the X1 Carbon. I do like the light weight. I used to always have a T series, had most of the T4x series up until the T43, then I had an X301 or two, prior to the X1 Carbon. I recommended the X1 to a customer, a gen 1 I think, then I was on a train with her a year or so later and used it and realised I had to get one. Thankfully skipped the gen2 and its keyboard.

        The 8gb is still enough for me, and I changed out the SSD for a 512gb one a little while back. Battery's getting tired now though!

        I've supplied/recommended a lot of the E580/585 and E590/595 and now the E15 to customers. While quite a bit chunkier than a T series ThinkPad, they're still very good. Just about to recommend a couple of Ryzen 4500U E15s to someone actually..

        I do like the ThinkPads!

  7. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

    The styling looks weirdly archaic to me – like it's from 2005 or something. Still, I guess if people like a design, why change it? And what's with the clit mouse? Does anyone actually use those things?

    1. David1
      Happy

      Yes, I still use it happily

    2. David1
      Thumb Up

      Yes, I use it happily!

    3. HildyJ Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      It's more of a nipple mouse.

      For productivity it can't be beat. You can type and accurately position the cursor without moving your fingers from the home keys. I liked it so much when I first tried it (back when IBM made ThinkPads) that I've bought a keyboard with the nipple for my PC.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I always choose a laptop with the TrackPoint and I can't understand why anyone would use one of those atrocious touchpad things. With the TrackPoint, I can move the pointer almost instantly to any point on the screen with just the right amount of pressure in the right direction, without having to remove either hand from the keyboard.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        I use both, depending on what I'm trying to do. Pinch zoom doesn't work with a nipple pointer, but the nipple pointer is easier for accurate positioning. Likewise, I find click'n'drag a pain with a touchpad.

    5. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

      Trackpoint

      Does anyone actually use those things?

      Yes. Never got on with Touchpads - causes an odd sensation on my fingertips, and the first thing I disable as accidental finger touches cause the pointer to move in unexpected ways.

      If Lenovo gave the option to order without the Touchpad...

    6. John Sager

      I use the Trackpoint and have done ever since I had a HP laptop at work with one. I can't get along with trackpads - I've had so much trouble with hovering & the thing thinks I want a click. I have a E595 and the only thing I use the pad for is vertical scrolling.

    7. Ozzard

      Another "yes" here - I still can't get used to a touchpad, especially one that takes input from my palms while I'm typing. Awful things.

    8. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

      Wow, that's quite a downvote tally I got there. From what I gather, it seems to be people who "properly" touch type that like it. I never got on with them myself, but then I guess I'm a two-finger poker (albeit a fast one), and it's each to his own...

      1. MrMerrymaker

        So you're having a go at us for being able to type properly?

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          Gosh, is that what you took from that? I'm not sure which part of "each to his own" sounds like having go. No, I was merely observing from the replies that touch-typing seems to be the factor that divides those who like them from those who don't!

          1. Uffish

            "the factor"

            Nope. It's because it works (for me) much better than the other solutions.

            I never felt the need to move up from two finger typing because most of the stuff I have typed has been text composed in my head and two finger typing is plenty fast enough for that.

          2. MrMerrymaker

            It was you couching the word "properly", it reads really odd.

            Like, Oh, if you "properly" type then that explains it!

            It's weird. Like you're reaching into some reason, some explanation. And here you are, instead of reasoning other, professional people who have used the device think it is superior, you're merely writing all that off to take it down some weird corridor of "ohh, pfft, I only got down votes because I type differently!"

            It's nonsense. You're allowed to like the clitmouse or not. You don't like it, and questioned it's worth, and got - rightly, IMO - down voted for being wrong.

            Oh but it's those "proper" typers!

            1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

              O...kay. Yes, I was looking for an explanation for why some people seem to like them when personally I find them unusable. I'm curious. I like to understand things. The downvotes are data indicating that people have a different opinion from me. The people that like it seemed to be people who were implying they touch type, therefore a correlation was observed, which I considered may imply a causation,* so I presented a hypothesis. This is how the understanding of the world progresses. My latest hypothesis is that you have a fear of "scare quotes".

              *Yes, I know this ain't necessarily so (see: mean sea temperature vs no. of pirates).

              PS: Ironically, the phrase "reads really odd" reads really odd to me.

      2. heyrick Silver badge

        I'm a heavy touchpad user, to the point where I feel I can do more, quicker, with a touchpad than a regular mouse. It does need setting up correctly though.

        Never got on with the nipple, the pointer seemed to go everywhere except where I actually wanted it to.

        I have a friend that hates all of that and uses a roller ball.

        I guess pointing devices are like pens. Different types to suit different people. As long as the nipple/touchpad can be disabled as appropriate, then at least here you have a choice...

    9. AgentOrange

      Yes, the "clit mouse" has kept me from getting carpal tunnel problems after years of mouse usage and I type faster since my hands never leave the keyboard. I turn the trackpads off, I can't stand them. I even have ThinkPad Trackpad external keyboards for my desktop boxes. That said, they are an acquired taste. Several other laptop manufacturers used to use them in their business laptop lines but they seem to be going the way of manual transmissions in cars (i.e. disappearing rapidly).

      1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

        I have to say that it's probably only in the US that manual transmissions (we call them "gearboxes") are disappearing (see, for example, this [admittedly four-year-old] article). Here in the UK (and most of the rest of Europe*) they're still all the rage.

        *Yes, we are still a part of Europe. Geography has not changed.

        1. Hubert Cumberdale Silver badge

          *(At least three Brexit voters are not fans of geography.)

        2. tcmonkey

          The automatic is the transmission of choice in the land down under too, much to my chagrin.

    10. T. F. M. Reader Silver badge

      what's with the clit mouse

      The touchpoint (for that is what it's called) is simply the most essential thing for a laptop[*] after the keyboard itself. For my personal machines it is an absolute must - so it's ThinkPads, basically, just for the keyboard and for that, although they are pretty nice otherwise, too - see the review. The touchpoint is by far the best way to manipulate the mouse cursor without taking your hand off the keyboard.

      On the other hand, touchpads are worth than useless (they sit, uselessly, between you and the keyboard) and are ruthlessly disabled if present. Sue me.

      [*] Or, indeed, for any keyboard, but you are out of luck there. IBM used to have a standalone TP keyboard that you couldn't buy but you could get if you bought a rack full of servers.

      1. seven of five

        Unicomp sells them. With or witout buckling springs.

    11. Stuart Castle Silver badge

      Not sure the design of the Thinkpad has changed much since IBM designed them in the 90s.

      But, (I am told, never having used one myself), they are generally well designed.

      While I personally am not in the market for a new laptop (my current 2015 MacBook Pro fits my needs well enough), generally in both laptop and tablet/phone design, I'd like to see a little less focus on size and thickness, and a little more focus on usability, expandability and battery size.

      If I am stuck in the middle of nowhere with no battery life left in my phone, tablet or laptop, the device is useless to me regardless of how big it is, or how much it weighs.

      Regarding size/weight, I probably wouldn't notice the extra few pounds of weight added by a larger battery, or grams for a mobile/tablet battery when walking or standing around, and if need to travel anywhere, I generally walk, use public transport, or get in a car. In any case, the extra weight would not bother me as much as losing the use of the device due to bad battery life.

      Then there is expandability. I needed a Macbook when I bought mine. I could only afford one with 8 Gig of RAM, which is generally fine, but from time to time I really need more RAM, so it's annoying that I can't expand the RAM in the laptop.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        I use both. There are some things that are better for one and other things that are better for the other. It's odd- you just get used to it. I must admit I always get ThinkPads, partly because of this, but also because they still include the utterly essential home and end keys. Why other manufacturers make you use a fn combo is beyond me. I made that mistake once; never again.

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I quite like the styling. But the trackpoint (clit mouse as you call it) is a big selling point for me. It's a great tool.

  8. This post has been deleted by its author

  9. oiseau Silver badge
    WTF?

    Nothing? Surely you jest.

    There's literally nothing frustrating about this machine.

    Yes, there is.

    More so if you consider the £1,820.00 you have to spend to get one it.

    1. RAM soldered to the logic board

    2. Proprietary Ethernet adaptor

    3. No Ethernet port

    4. No SD / MicroSD slots

    And then the unforgivable unknowns:

    1. User replaceable storage?

    2. User upgradeable WiFi card?

    3. User replaceable battery?

    Sorry, but I'll pass.

    Have a great New Year's Eve and a 2021 that is (at least) better than what 2020 has been.

    Just couldn't be worse.

    O.

    1. Shadow Systems Silver badge

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      Thank you! I was going to post the same thing but you beat me to it. Enjoy a pint with my gratitude.

      DDR3 RAM? In a 2020 machine? How is that even tolerable in a time where they're talking about DDR6 VRAM?

      The RAM is soldered on? I know it's the nature of thin & lights to make it impossible to get at anything, but when has that been considered NOT a quibble-worthy thing? If I buy it with X, want to upgrade it to Y, and can't because they've prevented me from improving it after the fact, how is THAT not something to growl & shake an angry fist over?

      No proper ethernet jack on a business machine? That's just "assinine" taken to new heights.

      A *proprietary* ethernet dongle port? That's the very DEFINITION of something to complain about. How much does the dongle cost? How durable is it? How likely to get lost? How difficult to replace? Are there third party alternatives to the Lenovo branded ones, or are we locked in to whatever price they pull out of their ass?

      I'll stop there before I get so disgusted with the reviewer that I throw my pint at his head. Nothing to quibble over indeed.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

        Agree with a lot of that: but I think I'd just get a generic USB-C to ethernet port rather than anything specific. Still unhappy not to have an actual RJ45 though.

      2. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

        Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

        I'll stop there before I get so disgusted with the reviewer that I throw my pint at his head. Nothing to quibble over indeed.

        I have to agree with you. On the other hand, Lenovo did loan them a machine - and they would be keen to not repeat the case with Apple, who probably wouldn't give the time of day to a reporter from The Register

      3. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Linux

        Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

        You missed one - can you replace the OS with something that might be more to your taste, or do the UEFI games prevent it?

        That might not matter to many people, but it's the first question I ask - I've been bitten before.

        1. fuzzie

          Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

          Just UEFI boot your favourite distro and it installs without issues. You can even, as of recently, order the machines from Lenovo with Ubuntu pre-installed. Additionally, all firmware, i.e. BIOS etc updates come through Software centre and/or "fwupdmgr". I believe they, and Dell, promised fingerprint reader support in 2021.

        2. oiseau Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

          You missed one - can you replace the OS ...

          You're right.

          This being a Thinkpad, I took to be a given.

          Should have known better.

          I stand corrected. 8^D

          O.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

        while I agree with all the "fail!" points listed above, it'd be really helpful if people looked further than their own nose / usage. The x-line is not a workhorse, not a workstation, it's just a new version (on and on and on) of an exec shiny-shiny, and this breed doesn't give a fuck about upgrading ram, battery or plugging an ethernet cable. Thin / light / yet means Business (you get it, I use REAL computers, aka lenovo, not this apple coffee-table toy junk!), and, naturally, CARBON (oh, I feel TOUGH & stiff already!). The specs tick all the boxes for the particular clientele, including the omissions, so it's like complaining that a 2-seater can't fit a family of five...

    2. A.P. Veening Silver badge
      Alert

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      Just couldn't be worse.

      Thanks, you just jinxed it.

    3. J. Cook Silver badge

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      Well, if it's like other ThinkPads, there will be a service manual for it from their web site, which has instructions to replace the storage, wifi card, and battery if you are moderately handy with tiny screwdrivers, a spudger, and the usual shenanigans with working inside a laptop. They are built to be serviced and have field replaceable parts like the three unknowns you mentioned. Unlike the Fruity competition, they aren't glued together and designed/built in such a way that makes them damn near impossible to service.

      1. Snake Silver badge

        Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

        Re: service

        Our reviewer notes

        "That said, previous ThinkPad machines have been straightforward to service so it'd be surprising if Lenovo diverged here."

        Now I certainly wouldn't go *that* far: I need to dive into my P71 Xeon again to refresh the thermal paste. To do so requires the entire chassis be disassembled - the motherboard is at the BOTTOM of the chassis with all other subassemblies added on top. Even the display must come off.

        Figure 40 minutes each way, in and out, the first time, about 25 minutes each way after some experience. And I've got plenty now, this will be the 4th time.

    4. Brad Ackerman
      Thumb Down

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      My camera takes CFexpress and my phone doesn't take removable media at all, so while the SD card reader was useful five years ago it's much less so today.

      On the gripping hand, not having a 16:10 or 3:2 display is a much bigger deal.

    5. tzed

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      FYI in the gen 7 which I have the storage is very easily replaceable. Just be sure to get a single sided SSD.

      The battery is also presumably user replaceable as it is held in with screws. Of course you would have to source the proper part.

      And for the price, I have always been able to get Lenovo laptops for roughly 50% of the sticker price due to huge sales always occurring. So take the retail price as more of a guideline the gospel.

    6. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      Exactly - the cheap little EeePC range managed to fit in both Ethernet and an SD reader. Hell, the RaspberryPi has both. What's the excuse here?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

        Lenovo also do the X series which has all those things that you need, although they did get rid of Ethernet a couple of years back. That was what made me go from an X to a T. But when I changed jobs I realised that I had never used the damn Ethernet, so I went for an X1. It's smaller which means you can use it more easily on trains and planes (not that I do that much more).

        The Ethernet dongle is just an extended btw, not an adapter. The adapter is built in, which contrasts with some laptops where you get a USB Ethernet adapter.

    7. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nothing? Surely you jest.

      While I agree with most of your points, the storage can be user upgraded (just take the bottom off and swap it - it's not soldered), and the battery can be replaced in a similar way. If you're referring to being able to hot swap an external battery like the T480 then it's not needed nowadays due to being able to charge it from a USBC powerbank.

  10. John H Woods

    Discrete GPU

    Not entirely out of the question if you have a thunderbolt interface, surely ;-)

  11. six_tymes

    If it had a Core i7 11th Gen chip with LPDDR4 memory i'd seriously be interested.

  12. nousername
    FAIL

    Wrong aspect ratio

    If this is a work-machine not a movie-watching machine, why 16:9? Really?

    1. Dave K

      Re: Wrong aspect ratio

      Agreed. I have an older X1 Carbon as a personal machine. It's quite a nice laptop, but the 16:9 screen aspect ratio is a pity and leaves it feeling quite cramped compared with modern 3:2 laptops I've used. There's a thicker top and bottom bezel, so no reason a 16:10 screen can't fit without having to redesign the chassis.

  13. archie99

    When reviewing a laptop in this COVID-19 era of Zoom, Teams, Hangouts etc. some review of the camera performance and specification would be helpful. Happy new year to all at TR.

    1. Roland6 Silver badge

      Unfortunately, its still only a 720p...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The one in my Gen7 is a 720P and it's also a terrible camera. It's good enough for video calls but the lack of quality is noticeable. But then again, you're not going to take photos with it.

        It's also usable in low light conditions, which is a plus.

  14. K

    Awesome machines

    That is... Until the end-user team, deploy an image with so many endpoint agents that they run like an Atom!

  15. Will code

    Gen 7 cooling issues

    Was surprised to see cooling reported as really good for the gen 8. We’ve had a bunch of cooling issues with the gen 7, caused enough throttling to make dev work quite frustrating. First bit of load is fine, anything even slightly sustained and it seems to have trouble dissipating the heat

    Not a huge surprise for an ultra portable, just not something that I’ve seen reported by others much.

  16. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    maxes out at 16GB, and cannot be upgraded

    What I don't like about X1s is the keyboard. It's plastic welded to the top cover so the item most likely to need replacing is the most difficult to replace, ie an almost total strip down to replace a keyboard that would take 5 minutes on most of the L or T models because the keyboard is, in effect, part of the top cover, which is in turn the primary chassis.

    I just looked at the service manual for this X1. No RAM expansion, but SSD and battery are easily replaceable (the battery connector is one of those fiddly ones though). The WiFi card is part of the system board but the WWAN card can be replaced. On a brighter note, in keeping with previous X1 models, the aerial wiring is all in the base unit so replacing a screen is dead easy, the unit separating from the base without having to feed aerial leads through hinge assembles. (and despite what the manual says, the bezel can be re-used if you are careful and patient with the removal)

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For anything it's worth, my thoughts regarding extended use of a 2018 (Gen 6) follow. Although from what I read, which may more same than different, at least in the aspects which I'll talk about.

    I've found the build quality to be resilient enough, with exceptions.

    The matt top case surface of the palm rest is resilient, but can be marked or even just 'smoothed' over time, where palms rest. This won't show quickly, but it's not aluminium.

    The most concerning thing I've found, In normal use, with clean hands - inexplicable smudging onto the trackpad, anytime I touched it. It even seemed to accumulate, and peel - this can be cleaned safely with IPA (after some consternation this may in fact, ruin the trackpad) - but always came back. This was bemusing - my best idea being it's like the pad itself soaked oil from fingers. With any other laptop trackpad, even terrible ones (i.e most of them) - I've never known this to occur before. An aliexpress plastic cover more or less mitigated this and day to day I forget it - but is not perfect.

    Although I like the keyboard, and if being reductionist, is probably the main feature - there are many good keyboards now, though here it's perfectly uninnnovative with respect to layout (unlike the Gen 3). In particular, however, the keys aren't completely reliable - the down cursor can physically stick, in part of the mechanism. This will probably cover under warranty - but I don't think I'll get a single key to replace by myself, only a whole top case and a 2 week service. (* key replacements can be bought third party).

    The Lenovo ethernet adapter is a bit of a confounder - a generic USB 3 -> RJ45 I speed tested, actually ran faster than the custom jack one, though - the lenovo ethernet can boot from it with bios support (which, if i'm to presume, just rewires rj45,into a smaller connector).

    What's more perplexing - is that the Lenovo RJ45 cannot be physically fit into the connector _at the same time as almost any USB C connector_. Though it's not pictured, it's a dock connector, so I can't imagine it's changed. Count on not using both of those slots.

    As far as internals replacing the NVME was practically a joy, compared to every other laptop on which I've done so.

    Finally, in more esoteric minutiae -

    On the Gen 6 - fingerprint scanner hasn't worked under Linux though progress has been made, and Gen 8 - according to https://wiki.archlinux.org/index.php/Lenovo_ThinkPad_X1_Carbon_(Gen_8) appears to exist now (YMMV). Linux support has been more seriously taken by Lenovo than most.

    As far as the Gen 6 goes, WWAN doesn't work in Linux, but is on a card. Even if the Gen 8 also is on card (i'd be surprised if not), the cards are on the much maligned vendor white lists, so good luck replacing it with something that doesn't block in BIOS and refuse to boot.

    The battery is disappointing, less in life as such, but more in 78% health - after 2y. Yes, they degrade. I've had better. It's user replaceable in the same sense as the NVME. I guess that's next.

    I'm mostly happy, and maybe should have higher expectations but a reasonable outcome, for a device like this /is/ to have no major shortcoming. They're not always clear, from the outside.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "The battery is disappointing...It's user replaceable...I guess that's next."

      If you've not seen the battery connector used before, I'd strongly recommend watching a video on how to disconnect and reconnect that battery. It's a strange lockable connector that most people will not have seen before and if not careful can result in broken lugs on either or both of the battery end and/or the motherboard end of the connectors, especially when trying to plug it in. The static drawing in the service manual doesn't really tell the whole story of how to remove/replace.

      On the other hand, it's a robust connector with about zero percent chance of it working loose during use, so that's probably when they spent a few extra pennies there. It's high end kit after all :--)

  18. Richard Lloyd

    Linux...

    A bit surprised that the article failed to mention that in the US, this model can come pre-installed with Fedora or Ubuntu Linux. Lenovo have said they are planning a worldwide rollout of Linux laptops, so the option may appear on the UK Lenovo site sometime in 2021. This is pretty big news because up until now, the well-hidden-on-their-site Dell XPS 13 has been the only major international OEM laptop to pre-install Linux. Example URL:

    https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/thinkpad-x1/X1-Carbon-Gen-8-/p/20U9CTO1WWENUS2/customize

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Linux...

      Thing is, do they charge any less for it? I use my laptop for work and occasionally need to go into Windows - usually for a spreadsheet that won't work on anything other than the desktop version of Word (we use one such spreadsheet in my current job).

      As a result I get laptops with a Windows licence. First thing I do is trash the SSD (and the crapware), install a clean Windows and Manjaro. Doesn't take too long to set everything up, plus I enjoy it :-)

  19. Jason Hindle

    Nice, but

    It has a small problem common to all high end intel ultrabooks at the moment: The late 2020 MacBook Air. It make these expensive laptops look, erm, expensive.

    That said, the Carbon is not without its own advantages and, bearing in mind power consumption, Lenovo have managed impressive battery life (and I still slightly prefer the typing experience of my 2015 Carbon to that of the much improved Apple keyboard). Oh, and per the comment above, well done Lenovo for supporting Linux! It's going to make this laptop very desirable for developers looking for something light to carry.

  20. Russ Tarbox

    Another one for the fans

    - Formidable specs? Bang average if you ask me.

    - Dated design - but some like it so why change it, I agree. But those bezels don’t look “ultra thin” to me.

    - Nipple mouse - some comments here slating track pads - clearly never used a good one. Palm rejection is essential but some companies have nailed it. Nipple mouse can be slow and lack precision.

    - 16:9 is tough for productivity

    Ultimately it’s clear the reviewer is a ThinkPad fan. That’s perfectly fine, I know they exist in droves and I’ve used them in the past and enjoyed the experience in a “they’re reliable in business settings” kind of way. But sometimes I sense those fans haven’t tried another premium laptop in some time and don’t know what they’re missing. This is a lot of money to drop on a machine and some solid research would be advised before just going the “same but upgraded” path.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Another one for the fans

      Every time I am replacing my laptop I check out the competition. I always end up with a ThinkPad though.

      I've mentioned my reasons in the other comments but I'll summarise and add to them:

      - Trackpoint and touch pad. I use both and like using both. There are three distinct buttons, which are left, middle and right mouse buttons. If you're a *nix user and are used to the two clipboards, as I am, it's essential to have a middle mouse. The touchpad is also a good size and not too big. I never find my palms resting on it.

      - Dedicated home and end keys. Some other manufacturers also do this but Lenovo do this on their smallest laptops, like the X1. I rarely use the mouse to select text as it's many times faster to use the keyboard. Not being able to use shift-end or ctrl-shift-end etc. without having to add in a function key makes a laptop not worth having. It's a simple productivity thing.

      - Backlit keyboard. I'm pretty quick at typing but I can't touch type so I do need to look at the keyboard occasionally, unfortunately. I've had laptops without backlit keys and it's done my head in. Of course, these aren't uncommon but there are manufacturers / models without so they get ruled out.

      - Power cable. No longer relevant fortunately as everything's USB-C now, but this was a thing in the past, as my wife gets ThinkPads from work and we have a collection of the old power supplies, which are unused now of course......

      As for the 16:9 screen, yeah I'd prefer it if the screen went a bit lower down (the top bezel has the camera). I use a 16:10 screen at home and prefer it, but it's not a dealbreaker.

      I got my X1 a few months back and went for the previous generation. The specs were a bit lower in general but they did offer a 2560x1440 screen which I wanted. With the latest you could only get 1080 or a power munching 4K. I don't like touchscreens on laptops.

      The only thing that annoys me about the X1 is the lack of an SD card reader, which would be nice to have.

      But there you have it. I can't say I'm a fan, as their support is utterly appalling. I'd rather get something else. But they come up with the goods.

    2. mike2020

      Re: Another one for the fans

      Genuine question - which premium laptops are you thinking of?

      I've only had experience with Dell XPS, Thinkpads and some of the early Acers and VAIOs.

      Thinkpads have been way better than the alternatives in my opinion although I did love the Sony VAIO in it's time.

      It's always been difficult to get hands on experience with laptops even more so now.

      I must admit I've always avoided Apple but they're the only other one that seems to garner more praise than Thinkpads. I guess HP might be an option but they always seemed more style than substance?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Another one for the fans

        The XPS was a contender. I had a look at HP and a couple of the others but moved on quickly. Don't like Macs.

  21. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Pricey!

    Looked great until I got to the price. I can't see plunking down like $2000 on a computer. Oh well.

    1. suburbazine

      Re: Pricey!

      It's only $1500 USD as reviewed...except with a 1yr premiere warranty instead of base. Granted, that's with a $1400 discount code...

      If you wanted to save even more, go with the cheapest SSD and swap it to a 1TB Samsung drive for 50% the price. No warranties voided.

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'll be definitely interested!

    when the price drops to about 130 quid. So... around 2030, if I live that long.... Well, no matter, I can wait, my x220s should last me another 5 - 7 years easily, then I'll start looking for possible replacements.

    1. a pressbutton

      Re: I'll be definitely interested!

      +1 the last 'thinkpad' that a proper keyboard. Still miss it.

      I now have a dell that is ... ok but mostly by virtue of being attached to a docking station with proper KVM.

      Of course after 9 months of being plugged into the mains 24/7 the battery is not what it was. And it is not removable without disassembly.

      I expect this will be a common issue. And this is why no user-replaceable battery should be an automatic deal-breaker for any business.

  23. m-k

    Support for SD and MicroSD would have also been nice

    sd/micro sd slot has been, in my view, one of the most useful laptop add-ons, and while I don't use it as much as keyboard, and screen, I use it regularly. Which means, this machine is useless to me. Yeah, I can use a usb port for a card reader, sure, but that' not the f... polint. So, what next, remove line-in jack?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It comes with proper HDMI and USB-A ports, meaning you don't have to

    but you DO have to - for ethernet and micro sd

  25. bob_paxton

    Going at it wrong

    I'm typing this on a Gen 8 X1 right now, having picked one up in November with a mid-range i5 CPU, 1080i non-touchscreen, and 16GB of RAM for only $1000. And it is an absolutely brilliant and lovely machine to monkey around with in your living room -- for not much money at all. My heavy lifting happens on the big box upstairs, and I'm getting the same ridiculously-good build quality for dirt cheap -- with the best battery life of any laptop I've ever owned.

    Yeah you can go broke buying the very highest specs Lenovo has to offer...but as a second computer this is just the best.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Going at it wrong

      My old T480 had much better battery life, but I'm still happy with my X1.

  26. Lusty

    Nope!

    Until they sort out the function and control key positions it's still a no from me. Hopefully they've sorted out the screen vs laptop weight too as the previous gen one I had was extremely top heavy and felt like they'd used double glazing on the screen. I am a fan of most of what they do with these, but there are a couple of niggles that really make them unusable for me. Thankfully these days there are other good options for Windows laptops!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Nope!

      Having had plenty of ThinkPads over the years I was used to them being the other way round and I never had a problem switching to a desktop keyboard. Then I got an Asus laptop as a personal laptop which had them the normal way around. As that one couldn't be configured I swapped the buttons in the ThinkPad as I didn't find it so easy swapping between the laptops.

      It's very easy to do in the bios and it probably shouldn't be something to stop you getting one.

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