Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Assessment

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Roundup image We can’t attempt to hold you in suspense: After we reviewed final yr’s mannequin, we referred to as the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon the very best laptop computer on the planet—although we later determined it shared that title with the Dell XPS 13 OLED—and it hasn’t carried out something in its newest revision to vary that state of affairs. The X1 Carbon Gen 9 (begins at $1,475; $2,197 as examined) catches up with the Dell and different elite ultraportables by shifting to an eleventh Technology Intel “Tiger Lake” Core processor and a barely taller 16:10 reasonably than 16:9 display side ratio. Its premium value and lack of an SD card slot nonetheless knock half a star off what would else be an ideal five-star score, however it effortlessly collects one more Editors’ Alternative award as probably the most fascinating govt pocket book on Earth.

A Matte-Black Traditional 

Companies that purchase in bulk get reductions, however single-purchase pricing for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is all around the map. Lenovo lists a base Core i5 mannequin at $1,475. In the meantime, $2,197 is the second-lowest value we discovered on-line for our take a look at unit (mannequin 20XW004DUS) with a Core i7-1165G7 processor, 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB NVMe solid-state drive, however different retailers have it for $2,500 and up, and once we tried configuring one prefer it at Lenovo.com it got here to $3,169 with a short lived coupon chopping it to $1,901. While you look, the scenario will seemingly be totally different nonetheless.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) right angle

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Lenovo offers you 4 display decisions, all with IPS as a substitute of unique OLED expertise and backed by Intel’s Iris Xe built-in graphics. Three have 1,920-by-1,200-pixel decision: our overview unit’s 400-nit non-touch panel, a contact display with the identical brightness, and a 500-nit contact show with a PrivacyGuard filter (meant to maintain airline seatmates from snooping). The fourth is a 500-nit shiny panel with 3,840-by-2,400-pixel decision. Lenovo says all however the PrivacyGuard display function decreased blue-light emission to ease eyestrain. 

A barely greater battery makes the Gen 9 Carbon an oz or two heavier than its predecessor at 2.49 kilos. Its matte-black carbon-fiber and magnesium-alloy chassis (the high-res display has a carbon-fiber weave lid) has handed MIL-STD 810G torture assessments for shock, vibration, and environmental extremes and measures 0.59 by 12.4 by 8.7 inches. That’s fairly trim for a 14-inch laptop computer. The Dell Latitude 7420 is 0.68 by 12.7 by 8.2 inches and a couple of.7 kilos, although it is potential to get trimmer at this display dimension; the Asus ExpertBook B9450CEA is lighter at 0.59 by 12.6 by 8 inches and a couple of.2 kilos.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) left ports

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Some ultraportables just like the XPS 13 and Apple MacBook Air M1 have solely Thunderbolt 3 or 4 ports, obliging you to make use of an adapter or dongle to plug in an exterior monitor or USB Sort-A drive. The ThinkPad places them to disgrace: There are two Thunderbolt 4 ports on the left aspect, however HDMI and USB-A 3.2 ports as properly, and a second USB-A port joins an audio jack and safety lock slot on the best. Additionally not like the XPS 13, the Carbon provides elective 4G ($164) or 5G ($462) LTE for connectivity when there is no hotspot for its Wi-Fi 6.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) right ports

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Show and Keyboard: Treats for Eyes and Fingers

The newest X1 Carbon retains its justly well-known backlit keyboard, with handy Residence, Finish, Web page Up, and Web page Down keys and top-row command keys, together with two to position and finish calls in Microsoft Groups and Skype for Enterprise. The Fn and Management keys are in one another’s place at backside left, however if you cannot alter you may swap them with the offered Lenovo Vantage software program. (Dubbed “Business Vantage” in enterprise methods, it centralizes varied {hardware} settings, system updates, and Wi-Fi safety.)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) keyboard

(Picture: Molly Flores)

The keyboard has a quick, barely noisy typing really feel. Cursor jockeys can use both the TrackPoint mini joystick on the intersection of the G, H, and B keys or the touchpad (a bit wider than Gen 8’s), which has three comfy buttons south of the area bar. 

Is the 1,920-by-1,200-pixel display the best we have laid eyes on? No, as a result of we have seen high-resolution OLED laptop computer shows and HP DreamColor workstations, however it’s very good. Brightness is ample, and distinction is excessive; white backgrounds are Clorox-fresh, and colours are vivid and properly saturated. Positive particulars and the perimeters of letters are pleasingly sharp, and viewing angles are vast. The 16:10 side ratio matches a bit extra content material with out letterboxing movies as 3:2 shows do. An antiglare coating does a very good job of combating reflections.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) front view

(Picture: Molly Flores)

The 720p webcam captures fairly well-lit and colourful pictures with barely delicate focus however virtually no noise or static. Our take a look at unit lacked the elective face-recognition webcam, which provides zero-touch logins through a proximity sensor, however there is a Home windows Hey fingerprint reader built-in with the ability button above the keyboard. 

Lenovo says the brand new Carbon has higher sound because of audio system flanking the keyboard plus two down-firing woofers and Dolby Entry software program that mixes audio (with dynamic, music, film, and recreation presets), show, and voice enhancements. It is loud sufficient to fill a convention room, with a little bit of growth or echo when turned up. Bass is subdued however noticeable, and you may make out overlapping tracks. The Home windows 10 Professional system is freed from bloatware; the one add-on I have not talked about is Lenovo Fast Clear, which briefly locks the keyboard and touchpad whilst you apply a sanitizing wipe.

Testing the Gen 9 Carbon: Conflict of the Core i7s 

For our benchmark charts, I in contrast the ThinkPad X1 Carbon to 2 abovementioned 14-inch enterprise laptops (the Asus ExpertBook B9450CEA and the Dell Latitude 7420), plus two 13.4-inch ultraportables, the Dell XPS 13 and the Razer Blade 13. All besides the Asus are Editors’ Alternative award winners, and all have Intel’s freshest “Tiger Lake” Core i7 CPUs. You may see their fundamental specs within the desk under. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) comparison chart

Productiveness and Media Checks 

PCMark 10 and eight are holistic efficiency suites developed by the PC benchmark specialists at UL (previously Futuremark). The PCMark 10 take a look at we run simulates totally different real-world productiveness and content-creation workflows. We use it to evaluate general system efficiency for office-centric duties corresponding to phrase processing, spreadsheeting, internet shopping, and videoconferencing. PCMark 8, in the meantime, has a storage subtest that we use to evaluate the velocity of the system’s boot drive. Each yield a proprietary numeric rating; greater numbers are higher. (See extra about how we take a look at laptops.) 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) PCMark

All 5 laptops simply cleared the 4,000 factors that present wonderful productiveness in PCMark 10, however the Carbon led the best way; it is a excellent Microsoft Workplace or Google Workspace accomplice. The Lenovo was narrowly final in PCMark 8’s storage measurement, however you may ignore that—the benchmark predates at the moment’s speedy SSDs. 

Subsequent is Maxon’s CPU-crunching Cinebench R15 take a look at, which is totally threaded to utilize all accessible processor cores and threads. Cinebench stresses the CPU reasonably than the GPU to render a fancy picture. The result’s a proprietary rating indicating a PC’s suitability for processor-intensive workloads. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Cinebench

Cinebench is commonly a very good predictor of our Handbrake video enhancing benchmark, wherein we put a stopwatch on methods as they transcode a quick film from 4K decision all the way down to 1080p. It, too, is a troublesome take a look at for multi-core, multi-threaded CPUs; decrease instances are higher. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Handbrake

Regardless of having a nominally slower processor than the Dells and Asus, the ThinkPad was the category of the sector. It is no Core i9 or Xeon CAD or 3D rendering powerhouse, however it’s obtained greater than sufficient number-crunching cred in your hardest spreadsheets. 

We additionally run a customized Adobe Photoshop image-editing benchmark. Utilizing an early 2018 launch of the Artistic Cloud model of Photoshop, we apply a collection of 10 advanced filters and results to an ordinary JPEG take a look at picture. We time every operation and add up the whole (decrease instances are higher). The Photoshop take a look at stresses the CPU, storage subsystem, and RAM, however it will possibly additionally reap the benefits of most GPUs to hurry up the method of making use of filters. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Photoshop

Photoshop yielded a photograph end—a five-way tie. Imaging professionals would in all probability choose the XPS 13’s 3.5K OLED display, however any of those methods can capably handle a photograph assortment. 

Graphics Checks 

3DMark measures relative graphics muscle by rendering sequences of extremely detailed, gaming-style 3D graphics that emphasize particles and lighting. We run two totally different 3DMark subtests, Sky Diver and Hearth Strike. Each are DirectX 11 benchmarks, however Sky Diver is extra suited to laptops and midrange PCs, whereas Hearth Strike is extra demanding and lets high-end PCs and gaming rigs strut their stuff. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) 3DMark

Subsequent up is one other artificial graphics take a look at, this time from Unigine Corp. Like 3DMark, the Superposition take a look at renders and pans by way of an in depth 3D scene, this one rendered within the eponymous Unigine engine for a second opinion on the machine’s graphical prowess. We current two Superposition outcomes, run on the 720p Low and 1080p Excessive presets and reported in frames per second (fps), indicating how clean the scene seems in movement. For lower-end methods, sustaining at the very least 30fps is the life like goal, whereas extra highly effective computer systems ought to ideally attain at the very least 60fps on the take a look at decision. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) Superposition

The Razer was barely faster than the others, however none of those integrated-graphics slimlines is in the identical ZIP code as a real gaming laptop computer with a discrete GPU. They’re productiveness machines, appropriate for informal gaming and streaming media reasonably than fast-twitch shooters and esports titles. (See far more about gaming efficiency with built-in CPU graphics in our deep-dive testing function.)

Battery Rundown Take a look at 

After totally recharging the laptop computer, we arrange the machine in power-save mode (versus balanced or high-performance mode) the place accessible and make just a few different battery-conserving tweaks in preparation for our unplugged video rundown take a look at. (We additionally flip Wi-Fi off, placing the laptop computer into airplane mode.) On this take a look at, we loop a video—a regionally saved 720p file of the Blender Basis quick movie Tears of Metal(Opens in a brand new window)—with display brightness set at 50% and quantity at 100% till the system quits. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) battery life

The Dell ultraportable’s high-res OLED show takes a toll on its battery life, although it nonetheless reveals respectable stamina. The others are higher but, with the Lenovo outlasting the Latitude by two hours to say the crown. You will not want to achieve for its USB-C energy adapter even after an extended day at work or a transcontinental airplane trip.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021) rear view

(Picture: Molly Flores)

Verdict: Good (for) Work, If You Can Get It 

If the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 had an OLED display, we might be tempted to close down PCMag.com’s laptop-review efforts for some time and say laptop computer expertise had hit an unsurpassable peak. It is that good, a superlative aspirational system for anybody who can afford it. It leaves room for gaming notebooks and content-creation workstations to outperform it, however it nearly defines what a productiveness PC or enterprise ultraportable must be. This should be our least shocking Editors’ Alternative choose ever.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 (2021)


  • Flawless design and engineering

  • World-class keyboard

  • HDMI and USB-A ports, in addition to Thunderbolt 4

  • Out there 4G or 5G cellular broadband

  • Intelligent, sanitizing-friendly Fast Clear perform

  • Wonderful battery life

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The Backside Line

There’s one ultraportable we admire as a lot (the Dell XPS 13 OLED), however there is no enterprise laptop computer we admire greater than Lenovo’s newest ThinkPad X1 Carbon.

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