ThinkPad X1 Carbon 9th Gen Review – The laptop I have been waiting for!
It tonight we’re going to be doing the full review of the lenovo x1 carbon gen 9.. Now i bought this laptop in for myself after seeing it announced quite a while ago, and this has been on order for absolutely ages now, we’ve done a brief, unboxing and first impressions, but i want to just quickly discuss why i particularly wanted to get this laptop In for a review and why i might be keeping it for myself now. Firstly, we had the nanowin recently and we’ve done a review on that and it was a lovely laptop. But the biggest thing for myself was the ports. It’S moved to two thunderbolt 4 ports to make it a slimmer and lighter chassis, that’s great. If you don’t plug things into your laptop now, i use my laptop quite heavily and i’m, always plugging things in and out, and i don’t like living the dongle life i’ve. Had the macbook pros, i’ve had the nano tested that and we’ve also had the xps 9500 in and as lovely as those laptops are, i still can’t get by with just thunderbolt 4 ports or usb c ports. I hate them to throw dongles in the bag. So when i saw lenovo announced the x1 carbon generation 9 and it has usbc and it has an actual hdmi port, i was instantly interested the reason that i didn’t, particularly like the previous generation x1 carbon was the 16×9 screen and the side firing vents now lenovo Fixed both of those faults for me now the vents come up through the screen and we’ve also got a 16 by 10 screen.
Now, when you’re working with a laptop day in day out having that 16 by 10 or even 3×2, is absolutely amazing. Having that extra screen vertical real estate is brilliant for, like day to day, real use 16×9 is great for watching movies, but in all honesty, when you’re on a laptop working that’s, probably the last thing you’re going to be doing so now. Let’S, take a quick look around this laptop and see why it’s so special okay. So here we are, this is the i7 tiger lake model, with 16 gigabytes of ram. It came with a 256 gigabyte ssd, which you can upgrade yourself and just quickly. Look at the ports. We’Ve got two thunderbolt 4 ports. On the left hand, side followed by a usb 3 port and an hdmi 2 port i’m, going to whizz it around and we’ll. Take a look on the other side: we’ve got a headset jack and we’ve got another usb 3 port and i’ll see a lock slot. Now you can configure this with lte, but in the uk at the moment we aren’t able to it’s a real disappointment for me, because i particularly wanted lte on this model. They’Ve not even included the nano sim tray on this model without lte. So i can’t even upgrade it myself that’s one thing that has disappointed me a little bit on the front. All you can see is the noise cancelling microphones on the rear, absolutely nothing now on the top, as well as obviously the soft touch finish.
We’Ve got the lenovo logo down the left hand side at the bottom right. We’Ve got the thinkpad x1 logo with a little sort of light up dot. That shows you it’s in sleep mode now this may seem like a city little thing, but i find this really handy still because if you know, if you had a mac, the old macs were great they’d, obviously flash when they were in sleep, but these new macs. Obviously, everything’s been sort of stripped out of them and you never know whether they’re sleeping this will actually tell you, which is quite handy. I find right so i’ve stolen my wife’s scales to measure this actual laptop. I hope she doesn’t mind too much. I’Ve got it in kilograms first, so 1.16 kilograms or 2 pound 8.9 ounces, now i’m, going to also add the power supply so with the power supply, you’re, talking 1.37 kilograms or 3 pounds and 0.3 of an ounce so i’m going to open it up. No problems with a one finger lift now straight away. You can see it’s trying to log me in with the uh facial recognition, but as well as that, we do also have a fingerprint reader and that’s really nice, because with these lenovo’s you can actually disable the webcam. But if you’ve disabled, the webcam, you obviously can’t use facial recognition to log yourself in so having the actual power button as well, also double as a fingerprint reader, it’s, really quite handy and the best thing about this one.
Is it actually can do it on a pre boot? So if the machine’s completely shut off you’ve set it up, you can turn it on with one of your fingers that you’ve set up already in the fingerprint reader and it will automatically boot the laptop and log. You straight into windows: again, you’re only saving yourself a second of time. It is quite a nice little feature, so working all the way up to the actual laptop itself, the trackpad on this new x1 gen9. This feels like a glass trackpad, i’ve used it solidly now for a week and i’m, absolutely loving it. It glides really well the gestures, work brilliantly and it’s very responsive, really enjoyed this i’ve had a couple of the t series laptops previously and the trackpads were average at best. This has been brilliant at first, i thought it’s a little bit narrow because obviously you’ve got the buttons for the think points at the top, but having used it for a little while it’s been great, so that does take me up to these buttons right above. This is for the the buttons for the think points again, quite handy little feature. So if you’re typing, you can actually still, you know, move your actual cursor around on the screen. I’M, not a big user of this, because i’ve always just naturally used the touchpad. But i know so many people that love the thinkpads absolutely love this little thing point here now the extra palm rest itself it’s got the nice soft touch finish to it.
It will attract fingerprints, so you will be constantly cleaning it, but it does feel great when you’re resting your hands on the laptop in the center we’ve got the usual thinkpad keyboard. It is a fantastic keyboard. As usual, they have reduced the travel against the x1 gen 8, but i’ve been typing with this slide pretty solidly for a week now i instantly i feel at home on this keyboard, though i didn’t move from the old one to the new one. I’Ve gone from. Obviously other laptops with pretty average keyboards to this, so that is a big step up it’s, definitely better than the macbook pro keyboard, it’s, probably one of the best keyboards on the actual windows laptops at the moment, other than obviously the previous gen 8 keyboard. Or you know the previous thinkpad keyboards, with a slightly deeper travel also, the layout is still great if you’re used to thinkpads you’ll already know this, but if you’re not used to thinkpads the function and the control is the wrong way around compared to most other laptops. This is a standard thinkpad thing you can change this in bios or in the vantage software, if you prefer to switch them around, but obviously the logos won’t correspond, you’ve got white backlight by function and spacebar, which just gives you a nice deal of ambient backlight it’s. Not too in your face, but it is quite handy when it’s dark, the actual layout of the keyboard is particularly good.
The cursor keys are separated out from the keyboard, unlike some other manufacturers like razer. So when you are typing you’re not going to be mishitting, because your keys are all crunched up together and at the top, you’ve obviously got your dedicated function, keys and the multimedia keys above it’ll default to the multimedia keys. But you can again change that. In the vantage software, if you prefer default to the function keys so either side of the keyboard, you can see you’ve got upward firing speakers and that also is complemented by two downward firing. Speakers, which gives this really nice audio and then just above the keyboard itself. We talked about this very quickly earlier. This is the actual power button, with a little light beside, so you can see that you’re on and that does have the fingerprint sensor in it that we talked about. The fingerprint sensor has been responsive and i’ve enjoyed using it over the past week and also got the facial recognition and that has been incredibly responsive as well. I’Ve had a couple of razor blades where the actual facial recognition hasn’t been brilliant, certainly not up to the surface standard, but this has been really accurate logging in pretty much every time so we’re now going to quickly test the speakers. I’Ve got some royalty free music at 40 volume and i’m gon na stop talking and put my microphone near the speakers. Here we go Music, so they can hear it’s pretty loud and it’s, quite full sounding.
I think, with these four speakers really impressed from this. Like lenovo business class, laptop beats any other lenovo t series and x1 carbon i’ve had previously and then lastly, one of the most important things to myself, the 16×10 1200p matte screen. This is one of the biggest selling points for me. Firstly, i love a matte screen. I hate glossy screens because you know when it’s glare sort of bouncing off it and reflecting in your eyes. No, but how bright the screen is. It does give me a bit of a headache after a while, i don’t find it comfortable to use, whereas i can be in a bright room with the screen, which is 400 nits and it’s actually comfortable on my eyes to be actually working on this laptop and That’S something that’s so important, as i said: there’s 400 nits of brightness it’s, always plenty bright enough and because it’s only 1200 p, which is still great on. In my opinion, on a 14 inch screen, we’re going to be getting great battery life. There is a 4k model, but the 4k model will eat into your battery life. By doing so now, out of the box, it comes with 150 dpi scaling. I thought that was a bit too much i’m currently running 125, and this is perfect for me. If i wanted something like a spreadsheet with a lot of columns, i could switch it down to 100 to have that extra real estate, but for day to day use i’ve been sort of sticking at 125 scaling level and just lastly, while we’re at the top we’ve Got the webcam lock slot here, so you can just see if i slide that across we get a little red logo over the actual webcam just shows that we’re actually blocked off and then obviously we can just flick it back out and we’re working again.
So, whilst we’re up here, let’s just test the webcam and microphone quality, so this is the test of the webcam in a dark room and here’s the webcam in a slightly brighter room. Now, with regards to the microphones uh lenovo touted that they were going to have studio quality mics in this gen 9 range, because obviously everyone is working from home, but unfortunately they still don’t sound great. Now that we’ve had a look around this ultrabook let’s. Take a quick look at the performance now, first, one discuss with thinkpads how you actually control the performance of the machine. Now, obviously, with a lot of laptops, you have built in software that you can change the performance profile with lenovo, they build it into the actual battery saver option by changing the performance mode can actually improve or decrease the performance and the actual noise of the laptop. Now, obviously, this is quite an early release of this laptop, and i think this so the bios may change this behavior a little bit because at the moment i’ve only got two options. When i change this in the actual performance settings, normally you’ll get three options with the lenovo you’ll have the high performance modes you’ll have like the sort of the middle sort of setting and you’ll have a power saver setting at the moment, both the middle setting and The best performance setting are both giving you full performance on this laptop. So i think this is something that lenovo will change with the bios update.
It’S, not a problem, but usually you’ll have like three options to choose from we’ve only got two so either of those will give you maximum performance when you’re using this laptop now the far left hand side, which is the better battery mode. When you click on this, you get a maximum output on the cpu of between 7.5 and 10 watts, so you’re only going to want to use this mode when you want a quiet laptop now, i’ve found, if i’m just using day to day web browsing watching videos Or doing anything where i don’t hear any fan noise by clicking it on this left hand section, although the performance has been like, you know, decreased massively it’s still fine for day to day work, and you never hear the fan it’s so inaudible, even when it’s, like You’Re using cinebench you’re still not really hearing the fan, but now when we move it to the the middle slider that’s, when, obviously the fans will start spinning up and it will allow an initial boost of about 40 watts and then dropping you down to about 30 Watts after a few seconds – and this has given us really good performance for this tiger – lake quad, core cpu – so a cinebench on this sort of performance mode, you’re going to be getting about a score of just over 2 000 points, which is pretty much in line For a sort of a high wattage, i7 tiger lake processor, now into the geekbench 5 benchmark on the cpu scores you can see, we have got a single core score of 1536 and a multi core score of 5228.
So now that multi core score isn’t amazing, especially compared to the new ryzen 15 watt processors, but the single core score is particularly good at 1, 536 that’s, really quite an impressive score. Now, moving on to the opencl score of the geekbench 5, the intel xc graphics, scored 18 263, which is quite an impressive score for an actual integrated gpu and certainly capable of some 3d rendering or a little bit like gaming. So, whilst we’re talking about the gpu created a time spy on the performance mode, which gave us a score of 1718 and a graphic score of 1 545 again, this isn’t a gaming laptop, but these aren’t bad scores for a thin and light ultrabook. So fire strike scored 4744 with a graphic score of 5198. I then completed a benchmark run on warhammer total war. This was at 1200 p medium settings and i got a score of 76.8 frames per second now. As i say, this is nothing compared to a gaming laptop, but if you want to just play a couple of like games on this machine, it’s gon na be more than adequate and these xc graphics aren’t bad. Now the drivers are starting to improve so that’s good news, obviously, for this tiger lake processor, you know you can certainly use this and it would cut through all your daily tasks on it. Obviously, as i say, it’s not a gaming machine, but you can play some nice light, esports or older titles on there.
But when you unplug the machine from the mains it’s good news, unlike a lot of laptops that throttle the cpu down massively when you’re on battery, this still gives a good performance. If you put it on the best performance on battery, although obviously you will eat through the battery faster we’re, still getting good cpu scores, and you can see that here on geekbench 5 again with a 1200 single core and a 4446 multi core score. Now, yes, it’s a little bit slower than being on mains, but these are still respectable results and you’ll still be able to cut through most of your work whilst on battery. So the battery score on the opencl part of geekbench 5 to test the intel xe is getting 17910, which is almost identical to the main score. So again, if you’re, using the graphics on battery you’re going to be getting good results. So now that we’ve looked at the performance, i want to quickly talk about battery life. Now i’ve been using this quite heavily on battery all this week, i’m pleased to say that, obviously, with this 1200p screen, it’s getting really impressive battery life if i’m just streaming music over wi fi with the screen brightness up to about 80 percent uh speakers on about 50 i’m, getting a good 10 hours battery life just saw that light, sort of task, which is really quite impressive, and i even sort of threw up a little bit of dota 2 on there to sort of test it sort of quite heavily and see how the Battery held up and i actually managed to get almost two hours of battery life, putting this laptop under quite heavy use so certainly worth getting, in my opinion, the 1200 panel and getting that great battery life with this machine.
Now, obviously, the battery is great, but if you’re going to be using the laptop heavily you’re going to need to take the power adapter with you, good thing is obviously, with these laptops nowadays being usb c, you’ve got a really tiny compact, usb c charger, which you Can throw in your bag and you can also pretty much use any usb c device to actually charge it, whether it be a pd power bank or a monitor with usb c power delivery. You can put it straight into this laptop and keep yourself going so that’s. One of the great advantages to these modern laptops, so we’re going to export a project in davinci resolve. This could be a 1080p 60 frames per second project that we’ll use for youtube now for a good five minutes or so of the export it’ll stay at about 30 watts, which is really quite good for a little ultrabook like this, then after about the 5 minute Mark it does slowly start dropping down right down to about 15 watts until the end of the project. The fans also did come down and the temperatures also came down with that wattage decrease. So this is definitely performing better than the previous xps 9310 that we reviewed with the same processor, so not bad for a nice little thin, ultrabook, okay, so we’ve been uh rendering for a while. Now, when we hit our maximum fans, we’re going to use a desperate meter just to see how loud it actually is so that’s 47 death spells on maximum fans and it actually doesn’t sound too bad at all.
It’S, just a nice whoosh of sound, so there’s, no sort of whining or anything so it’s quite pleasant. Okay. So, on to the conclusion, i’ve gone through an awful lot of ultrabooks lately, looking for a decent work machine for myself, i’ve tried, macbooks i’ve tried rageblade stealth. I’Ve tried the xps line, i’ve gone through a lot of laptops and one of the biggest thing i’ve realized through this journey is, i still love ports and, i think it’s not until you sort of move to a laptop where you’re stuck with usbc ports and you’re Out on a customer’s site – or you know, you’re out in the library or something you want, a usb stick or you want to plug into something, and you realize you’ve forgotten your dongles that you suddenly realize how much the dongle life is a pain in the backside. So i still want ports on my machine, but i do want a light compact, great battery machine with a good display and a great keyboard. I think that is where this thinkpad x1 carbon gen 9 excels. You’Ve got the option of having it run very quietly by putting it into the power saver mode or having great performance by whacking it into the the high power mode, by putting it into the power mode you’re going to get able to cut through pretty much any Workload on this machine now, obviously it’s, not a hulking 17 inch desktop replacement. This is a 14 inch ultrabook, so you know when you’re doing a sort of a 3d render or export, or you know some heavy duty sort of rendering that cpu is going to throttle down but for a day to day work machine.
Most of us aren’t really putting our machines through that kind of workload. It’S going to be, you know running through some excel, maybe using a bit of unity, maybe some programming and this laptop is absolutely brilliant for those sort of applications. The speakers are also excellent and that’s something that’s really quite surprising, especially on a business class machine it’s nice that you’ve got the upward firing, plus the two downward firing speakers to give you some good sounds gone are the days that, if you’re using a business class Machine you’re gon na need a pair of headphones because the speakers really suck. I also love the fact that obviously we’ve got this great battery life in this model, so i can literally take it out without even worrying about the power adapter. I know i could probably get through the majority of my day with this machine without even having a power adapter now, of course, there’s negatives with every single machine. The biggest negatives i’ve found with this so far is. Firstly, obviously it has got lots of ports, but there’s always room for more. I would have liked an sd card reader and i would have loved it if they had taken one of the usbc or the thunderbolt ports and popped it on the other side. So you could plug in from either side again this isn’t the end of the world, but there’s. You know these are ways that they could make this machine slightly better.
And secondly, i think this will be fixed in a bios, but there was a little bit too much throttling, especially in 3d applications. Now lenovo lets this machine boost up past 30 watts so 40 to 35 watts, and so, if you’re like you, did a bit of light gaming it’s, hammering this machine right up to 100 degrees and then you’re getting a few dips of dealer, throttling i’m sure this Would be fixed in a bios and i’m sure they’ll bring the sort of clocks down gradually to improve the temperatures, because at the moment, you’re getting a few hard spikes which i think they’re going to smooth out that’s. Unfortunately, the joys of when you get a machine when they’re first released, but that aside, everything else, i’ve really enjoyed about this laptop and i’m, really really i’m pleased with it, and i could certainly enjoy this, as my main laptop for my day to day work.