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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) review

Lenovo’s ThinkPad stable is crowned by its X1 series, which includes the X1 Carbon, X1 2-in-1, and X1 Fold. The X1 Carbon is the real workhorse of the three, appealing to professionals who have some extra money to spend on a feature-laden and portable laptop. In my ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11) review, I noted that “after using the [laptop] steadily for about a week, I found it hard to discover any faults.” That statement largely holds true here. Lenovo is still finding ways to improve the laptop in meaningful ways.

The new speaker setup is better than before, the laptop has an even smaller footprint than the last generation, port selection remains generous, and the new Intel Core Ultra CPUs provide improved performance. Did I mention a full workday of battery life? The X1 Carbon (Gen 12) is the best business laptop you can buy today, but it doesn’t come cheap. Let’s examine whether it has the right stuff to be your next business partner.

About this review: Lenovo supplied XDA with a review unit of its ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12). It had no input on the content of this article.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12

Best business laptop

Still making notable changes to a near-perfect PC

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon received its most significant update in recent memory for the twelfth generation, and it remains the best business laptop on the market for anyone with deep pockets.

Pros

  • Beautiful 2.8K OLED display at 120Hz
  • Strong Intel Core Ultra performance, long battery life
  • Best-in-class keyboard, outstanding speakers
  • Durable, thin, and lightweight design
Cons

  • Camera resolution should be upgraded to better compete with other laptops
  • No 4K display option (but 2.8K OLED is great)
  • Very expensive, especially when not discounted

ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12): Pricing, availability, and specs

Lenovo’s twelfth-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon is now available to buy after a limited launch in December 2023. For now there’s only one Intel Core Ultra 7 155H CPU option, but an expansion to U-series chips is expected March 2023.

The best place to buy the X1 Carbon (Gen 12) remains Lenovo’s storefront. At the time of writing, there are no configurable models (only pre-built configs), but that is expected to change in the near future.

Lenovo’s pricing is always moving up and down due to “estimated value” and the actual sale price, but you can expect to pay about $2,336 for a model with Intel Core Ultra 7 155H CPU, integrated Intel Arc graphics, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, and 14-inch non-touch display with 2.8K resolution and OLED panel. It’s expected that it will branch out to third-party retailers in the future.

Here’s a rundown of the specs available in the X1 Carbon (Gen 12).

Specifications
Operating System
Windows 11
CPU
Intel Core Ultra 7 (155H)
GPU
Intel Arc (integrated)
RAM
Up to 32GB LPDDR5x
Storage
Up to 1TB M.2 PCIe 4.0 NVMe SSD
Battery
57Wh
Display (Size, Resolution)
14 inches, 16:10, 2.8K, 400 nits, 120Hz, OLED, touch, HDR500 True Black, Dolby Vision, 100% DCI-P3, PrivacyGuard
Camera
Up to 8MP MIPI Computer Vision, privacy shutter
Speakers
Dual speakers, Dolby Atmos
Colors
Black
Ports
Two Thunderbolt 4, two USB-A 3.2, HDMI 2.1, 3.5mm audio
Network
Wi-Fi 6E or Wi-Fi 7, Bluetooth 5.3, 5G/4G LTE (optional)
Dimensions
12.31 x 8.45 x 0.59 inches (312.8mm x 214.75mm x 14.96mm)
Weight
From 2.42 pounds (1.09kg)

Design and features

New speaker design and communications bar

Lenovo’s X1 Carbon remained mostly the same for a few previous generations, but its design has been changed in a few meaningful ways for the twelfth generation. While it’s not really any thinner or lighter than the eleventh-gen model (it’s 2.42 pounds instead of 2.48 pounds), its body is about 0.12 inches narrower and about 0.31 inches shallower. These might not seem like huge changes, but the laptop was already, what I thought, about as small as possible.

The body is still a blend of a carbon fiber lid and aluminum base, but Lenovo has focused on increasing the amount of recycled materials that go into the laptop. Even the packaging lacks any sort of plastic.

Lenovo has focused on increasing the amount of recycled materials that go into the laptop.

Altogether, the laptop feels as solid and durable as ever. Lenovo’s ThinkPads undergo numerous MIL-STD-810H durability certifications, and close attention to detail shines through everywhere you look. There aren’t any noticeable gaps between chassis pieces, the base doesn’t creak or groan when twisted, and it’s considerably lighter than the company-issued MacBook Air M2 that I often use. As we’ve mentioned in previous X1 Carbon reviews, it’s hard to find areas compromised to shave weight.

Source

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The left side of the body is home to a single USB-A 3.2 (Gen 1) port that’s always on for charging accessories; it’s joined by dual Thunderbolt 4 ports and a pop-out cradle for a Nano-SIM card. Yes, the laptop features optional 5G connectivity to go along with the stock Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3 wireless capabilities.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) lid finish

The right side adds HDMI 2.1, USB-A 3.2 (Gen 1), a 3.5mm audio jack, and Kensington Nano lock slot. This is also where the small power button lives, freeing up space on the keyboard deck for other, more useful keys. Considering how thin the body is, I’m impressed that Lenovo is still able to offer so many native ports. Power users will still likely want to add a proper Thunderbolt 4 dock to their workflow. Most users will be able to get by with the ports that come standard.

Most users will be able to get by with the ports that come standard.

Audio was overhauled for this generation, and those keeping up with generational changes might have noticed that there are no longer speaker grilles flanking the keyboard. This no doubt helped narrow the body. It looks like Lenovo cut the speakers back to two — the eleventh-gen model had two tweeters and two woofers — but I can’t tell the difference. In fact, audio seems better than ever thanks to the new positioning.

Lenovo engineers somehow managed to move the speakers below the keyboard while maintaining spill resistance and while improving airflow below the keycaps. It’s hard to pinpoint where exactly audio is coming from, and to be honest, it just seems like sound is coming straight out of the screen. This holds true whether you’re listening to music or listening to colleagues talk in a work meeting.

X1 Carbon (Gen 12) communications bar

Dolby Atmos tuning is available, allowing users to swap between preset profiles or create their own balancing. I used the laptop for a couple of weeks before touching anything; I didn’t really feel the need to make any changes. Dolby Voice is also included to help the dual microphones (built into the front edge of the lid) deliver your voice in the best possible way. You’ll come through clearly even if you’re working in a busy office or café.

A redesigned comms bar akin to what we first saw on the ThinkPad Z series has also made it to the X1 Carbon. The wide oval stands out on the outside of the lid, making it easier to open the laptop. On the inside, it blends seamlessly with the rest of the display bezel. The camera’s FHD resolution provides a crisp picture with additional Windows Studio Effects, and an IR sensor allows for facial recognition through Windows Hello.

With other laptop makers, namely HP, pushing its cameras to ever-higher resolutions even on consumer laptops — the HP Spectre x360 14 we reviewed has a 9MP camera — I’m hoping that Lenovo will soon also make a push to elevate its camera hardware.

Source

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Keyboard and touchpad

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) touchpad

The X1 Carbon (Gen 12)’s keyboard is easily one of the best (if not the best) on the market. It retains 1.5mm key travel, something that’s not too common on laptops this thin. HP and Dell are both producing some great keyboards, as we’ve seen in reviews of the Dragonfly G4 and Latitude 9440, but there’s just something about a ThinkPad that I love.

Source

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HP’s Dragonfly G4 isn’t just a great business laptop. It’s great for everybody

And instead of relying on reputation and not making any changes, Lenovo added tactile markings to some important keys to aid the visually impaired. Ctrl and Fn keys, which were for a very long time reversed compared to most Windows laptops, have now been swapped to have the former key on the far left of the deck. You could always make the switch on the software side, but this makes a lot more sense. Navigation keys all still have their own dedicated keys, and the fingerprint reader is now next to the arrow keys for a more convenient approach.

Overall, the keyboard should be a great fit for anyone who types a lot of words on a regular basis.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) keyboard

I spoke in my X1 Carbon (Gen 11) review about how the touchpad wasn’t very deep. This remains true on the latest model, with part of the available space below the keyboard eaten up by physical TrackPoint buttons. I’m hoping that Lenovo will make the change to a haptic touchpad at some point, freeing up some extra space for pointing. The ThinkPad Z16 has the more modern ForcePad, and it’s surely going to be coming to other ThinkPads in the future.

Lenovo did add the TrackPoint Quick Menu here. Even if you don’t use the red pointing nub for, well, pointing, you can set it up to open a useful menu when double-tapped. Just another way that Lenovo is still adding features to a laptop that really doesn’t need many changes.

Source

Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 (Gen 2) review: Futuristic ThinkPad falls behind in some notable areas

The ThinkPad Z16 (Gen 2) primarily received a performance upgrade; is it enough to keep it relevant in 2024?

Display

2.8K OLED is a winner

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) display

Lenovo narrowed its display options down to just one OLED screen for this generation, though there could be some FHD+ options coming in the future. As it stands at the time of writing, you’re getting a 14-inch non-touch display with 2880×1800 (2.8K) resolution, 16:10 aspect ratio, variable 120Hz refresh rate, HDR True Black 500, and Dolby Vision.

The specs are stacked, and the screen is finished with an anti-reflective and anti-smudge coating. Along with a maximum 425 nits brightness as tested, I had no problems using the laptop even in a bright room with sunlight streaming in. It’s a display that’s easy on the eyes in more ways than one.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) datacolor display results

I tested color with my SpyderX Pro colorimeter, getting back 100% sRGB, 98% AdobeRGB, and 100% DCI-P3 color coverage. These are all outstanding results, and you should have no problems with photo editing or other color-sensitive tasks. I don’t mind the lack of a 4K resolution option, especially at this size. But some will want more pixels. On the other hand, some users will also want to stick with FHD+ for better battery life (and to lower the overall cost just a bit). I’m hoping that Lenovo adds some extra options in the future.

Performance and battery

Lots of power and a full workday of battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) hinge

The move to Intel’s Core Ultra CPUs brings a notable change to performance, especially on the side of the new integrated Intel Arc graphics. These chips are better than ever at offering casual gaming and creation performance, and the included Neural Processing Unit (NPU) is a huge deal for AI-related work. Windows Studio Effects are smooth, and there’s plenty of headroom for whatever Microsoft is cooking up next.

Two small fans handle the laptop’s cooling, and they seem to be up to the task. If you’re charging the laptop while putting it under a heavy load you will notice the bottom heat up, but it never became too much to use on my lap. Fan noise is sometimes noticeable, but it’s nothing egregious.

I ran a number of benchmarks to see how the new Core Ultra 7 155H CPU compares to the Core i7-1355U CPU in the X1 Carbon (Gen 11), as well as the chips in some other laptops we’ve recently reviewed.

Benchmark (Higher is better)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12), Core Ultra 7 155H

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11), Core i7-1355U

Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 (Gen 2), Ryzen Pro 7840U

HP Spectre x360 14 (2024), Core Ultra 7 155H

Asus Zenbook 14 OLED (2024), Core Ultra 7 155H

PCMark 10

6,610

5,768

6,728

6,844

6,555

Geekbench 6 (Single/Multi)

2,292 / 12,037

2,370 / 8,687

2,376 / 11,768

2,417 / 12,852

2,355 / 12,202

Geekbench 5 (Single/Multi)

1,555 / 11,143

1,796 / 8,071

N/A

N/A

N/A

Cinebench R23

1,719 / 12,691

1,634 / 6,779

1,696 / 12,340

1,760 / 12,737

1,749 / 10,468

Cinebench 2024

100 / 658

N/A

N/A

100 / 745

101 / 547

CrossMark (Overall)

1,677

1,593

N/A

N/A

N/A

3DMark Time Spy

3,778

N/A

2,636

3,727

3,601

The performance boost compared to 13th Gen U-series chips is noticeable, as it should be. Multi-core scores are particularly impressive, and even Time Spy saw a good result. This isn’t a gaming laptop, but it could certainly power some games at 1080p.

I experienced no hiccups or slowdowns during my time with the X1 Carbon (Gen 12), and I was also impressed with battery life. I was regularly using the laptop for a full day of work without needing to plug in, and performance remained snappy on DC power. Testing with PCMark 10’s Modern Office rundown test, the X1 Carbon (Gen 12) managed nearly nine hours with Windows 11’s Best Performance power profile, as well as just more than 11 hours with the Balanced power profile. This was with screen brightness set to 50%, which comes out to about 200 nits.

Should you buy the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12)?

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) sitting open

You should buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) if:

  • You want a thin and light business laptop packed with high-end features.
  • You can make use of quality audio and voice hardware, as well as a high-res OLED display.
  • You have a bigger average budget to spend on a new PC.

You should NOT buy the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) if:

  • You don’t have thousands to spend on a new laptop.
  • You don’t need business features, or you’re a PC gamer.
  • You’d like a convertible design with a lid that can fold around 360 degrees.

Lenovo has arrived at a point with its ThinkPad X1 Carbon where I struggle to find areas where it can improve. It really is one of the best laptops on the market today.

The webcam, with its 1080p resolution, should see an upgrade in the next generation to keep up with competition, and the touchpad could be better if it returns as a haptic-enabled ForcePad without the physical TrackPoint buttons (but still with the extra inputs to go with the red pointer). That’s … about it.

The laptop is more compact than ever, partly thanks to the speakers no longer taking up space on the keyboard’s flanks. The speakers now live beneath the keys, resulting in audio that seems like it’s coming straight out of the display. The typing experience is best-in-class, and Lenovo even managed to maintain spill resistance.

Lenovo has arrived at a point with its ThinkPad X1 Carbon where I struggle to find areas where it can improve.

The OLED screen is stunning (though I hope an FHD+ IPS version becomes available), there’s a great selection of ports without having to add a hub or dock, and optional 5G connectivity will come in handy for plenty of professionals who need to remain connected outside of Wi-Fi range. And with Intel’s new Core Ultra CPUs with built-in NPU, you’re getting a capable processor with dedicated hardware for AI tasks. Battery life? It’s fantastic, lasting as long as the X1 Carbon (Gen 11) with 15W Core i7-1355U (compared to the 28W Core Ultra 7 155H in the Gen 12 model) in PCMark 10’s Modern Office benchmark.

You’re going to need a big budget to land the X1 Carbon (Gen 12), which is really the main pain point when recommending it to professionals. But as Lenovo adds extra configuration options, the high starting price at the time of writing this review should come down.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 render
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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12

Best business laptop

Still finding ways to improve

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 12) comes with Intel’s new Core Ultra CPUs, redesigned audio setup, standout communications bar, and a more compact chassis. It’s expensive, but it’s the best business laptop on the market today.

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