When we tested last year's Gen 9 version, we said it was just as well Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon didn't offer an OLED screen option—if it did, we'd be tempted to shut down our review department and say business laptop technology had hit an unsurpassable peak. The company apparently reads our reviews: Guess what option it added to this year's ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10?
As it turns out, we're keeping PC Labs open for now, but Lenovo's Gen 10 ultraportable (starts at $1,439; $2,249 as tested) effortlessly repeats its perennial Editors' Choice win and takes the ultra-rare step from a 4.5-star to a perfect 5-star review. The Carbon's only negatives are its premium price and lack of an SD card slot, and it retains the handy HDMI and USB Type-A ports not found on what we've called its sole rival as the planet's premiere laptop, Dell's XPS 13. If you can afford one, we envy you.
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The Definitive Executive Notebook
The 10th generation is not a major upgrade for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Besides such tweaks as squared keycaps and a slightly larger glass touchpad, it embraces the third edition of the Intel Evo spec for thin-and-light laptops, which mandates 12th Generation Core processors, improved videoconferencing with a 1080p rather than 720p webcam, dynamic background noise suppression, and Wi-Fi 6E.
(Credit: Molly Flores)
The $1,439 base model combines a Core i5-1240P CPU with 8GB of memory, a 256GB PCIe solid-state drive, and a 14-inch IPS display with 16:10 aspect ratio and 1,920-by-1,200-pixel resolution. There are no fewer than seven screen choices: non-touch, touch, and privacy-filter versions of the 1,920-by-1,200-pixel panel; an IPS screen with slightly higher 2,240-by-1,400-pixel resolution; a 2,880-by-1,800 OLED panel for users who want the blackest blacks, punchiest colors, and highest contrast; and non-touch and touch versions of a 3,840-by-2,400 IPS display with 500 nits of brightness and HDR400 Dolby Vision support. Most include Eyesafe anti-blue-light technology.
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Our $2,249 test unit (model 21CB000CUS) has the base-resolution, 400-nit touch screen, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, and a 28-watt Core i7-1260P chip (four Performance cores, eight Efficient cores, 16 threads) with Intel's vPro IT manageability and security tech. It also comes with Windows 11 Pro and a fingerprint reader built into the power button, which is kind of small for that job. Its webcam lacks Windows Hello face recognition, but both plain (infrared) and fancy (MIPI interface with computer vision module) face-recognition cameras are available if you want them. So is 4G LTE mobile broadband; the spec sheet lists 5G as an option, but I didn't see it yet in Lenovo's online configurator.
(Credit: Molly Flores)
As before, the flagship ThinkPad combines a carbon-fiber lid and a magnesium alloy base, and it has passed MIL-STD 810H tests for travel hazards like shock, vibration, and temperature extremes. There's virtually no flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck. The Carbon measures 0.6 by 12.4 by 8.8 inches, more or less matching the 14-inch HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8 (0.7 by 12.7 by 8.5 inches), and weighs 2.48 pounds—fractionally lighter than the smaller-screened XPS 13 and MacBook Air.
(Credit: Molly Flores)
Speaking of the Dell and Apple, they rely on USB-C Thunderbolt 4 ports, obliging you to reach for an adapter to plug in an external monitor or USB Type-A storage device or other peripheral. The Lenovo has two Thunderbolt 4 ports on its left flank, but they're accompanied by a USB 3.2 Type-A port and an HDMI video output. A second USB-A port joins an audio jack (also absent from the Dell), a nano SIM slot, and a security lock slot on the right.
(Credit: Molly Flores)
Snappy Typing, and a Wall of Sound
The key layout leaves no room for a numeric keypad, but the backlit keyboard lives up to ThinkPads' stellar reputation, with a snappy, responsive typing feel. It has real Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys instead of Fn-key-and-cursor-arrow combinations (albeit in the usual ThinkPad arrangement with the first two on the top row and latter two at bottom right), with top-row shortcuts for brightness, volume, and placing and ending conference calls.
The Fn and Control keys are in each other's place at bottom left, but you can swap them virtually using the provided Lenovo Commercial Vantage software. Both the TrackPoint mini joystick (with three large buttons below the space bar) and the rectangular touchpad work smoothly and securely. The pad takes just the right amount of pressure for a quiet click.
(Credit: Molly Flores)
A minuscule bump or ridge in the top bezel not only makes it slightly easier to open the lid, but also houses the 1080p webcam. It has a sliding privacy shutter and quad-array microphones. Dolby Voice software suppresses non-speech noises from both sides of a video call and optimizes the mics for speakers around a conference table or for just the person sitting in front of the laptop. The webcam slightly blurred a painting in the background but captured a well-lit, crisp, and colorful view of my face and my loudest Hawaiian shirt.
Two upward- and two downward-firing speakers produce startlingly loud and clear audio; I had to do my MP3 listening tests at 80% instead of the usual 100% volume. There's only a bit of bass, but highs and midtones sound great, and it's easy to make out overlapping tracks. A Dolby Atmos utility provides several presets, including Dynamic (a bit tinny), as well as ones for music, movies, games, and voice. There's also an equalizer for detailed sound adjustments.
(Credit: Molly Flores)
The screen looks sharp, with wide viewing angles and good contrast. You do have to tilt the screen back a ways to make white backgrounds look purely white, but that's not a problem since the display opens 180 degrees. There's ample brightness; colors don't quite pop like poster paints (blame IPS instead of OLED technology), but are rich and well saturated. Fine details are clean, with no pixelation around the edges of letters.
Besides changing keyboard defaults, the Lenovo Commercial Vantage app handles software updates and audio, power, and cooling settings. A Lenovo View utility enhances webcam images, while Clean Your Device disables all input for a few minutes while you apply a cleaning wipe to the keyboard and screen. Base models of the X1 Carbon carry only a one-year warranty, which strikes us as thin for a business laptop, though our review unit's price includes three years of next-business-day on-site service. (You can buy up to five years.)
Testing the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10: A Premium Business Battle
For our benchmark charts, we compared the latest X1 Carbon to four other 14-inch business slimlines whose specs appear in the table below. The HP EliteBook 840 Aero G8 and VAIO SX14 are clamshells we tested in late 2021. Two more recent models, the Asus ExpertBook B7 Flip and Lenovo's own ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 7, are 2-in-1 convertibles.
The main benchmark of UL's PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10's Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop's storage.
Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).
Our final productivity test is Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The Carbon excelled in our CPU tests and easily cleared the 4,000-point line in PCMark 10 that indicates excellent productivity for everyday applications. It's not up for crunching mainframe-class datasets, but it's a peppy office PC.
We test Windows PCs' graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL's 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).
We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
Low scores abound here. No one will ever mistake the ThinkPad's Intel Iris Xe or any other integrated graphics for the dedicated GPU of a gaming laptop, or for that matter the professional GPU of a computer-aided design or CGI rendering workstation. But it's fine for casual gaming and streaming media.
Battery and Display Tests
We test laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
Bringing up the rear in our battery rundown is bad news, but lasting 12 hours is good news for anyone hoping to get through a full day of work or school plus an evening of Netflix or YouTube. The Carbon's base display falls short of OLED and deluxe IPS panels, but is plenty bright and colorful enough for productivity and moderate creative work.
A No-Brainer Buying Decision
In the battle of ultimate ultraportables, the XPS 13 seems to get a few more media outlets' votes as El Laptop Supremo than the X1 Carbon does. We beg to differ: The Dell is fantastic and less expensive, but the Lenovo's screen is half an inch bigger; it weighs a few grams less despite its MIL-STD 810H construction; and it has six ports instead of two. Unless you're looking for an ultra-performance gaming rig or workstation, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is the best notebook you can buy.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 (2022)
See It$1,164.50 at Lenovo
Starts at $1,439.00
Sleek, sturdy, and ultralight
USB-A and HDMI as well as Thunderbolt 4 ports
Top-quality screen choices including OLED and 4K
Solid productivity performance and battery life
No SD or microSD card slot
5G option not yet available
The Bottom Line
A 12th Gen Intel CPU, a sharper webcam, and more display options cement the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon's place as the finest laptop for business—and likely the finest laptop, period.
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