Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 Review

I’ve been using the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 for the past week. I’ve been really liking it, but there are a couple of things that I wanted to see improvements from the Gen 10 to really improve in Gen 11. One of the things, of course, is going to be battery life, thermals, and performance.

Now, the big difference here this time around is that we have the U-series processor, a 15-watt 13th Gen processor from Intel, specifically the Core i7 1355U. You can’t get this in a 4K Plus IPS display, but the good news is you can now get it back in an OLED display, 2.8K to be specific. We’re going to get into the metrics and everything in this Lenovo ThinkPadd X1 Carbon Gen 11 review.

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Design and Build

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 Design

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 comes in a basic black color option. However, opting for the 2.8K resolution version adds an attractive carbon fiber weave finish. It boasts a sleek design, but its glossy surface tends to attract fingerprints easily, requiring frequent cleaning. Constructed with a blend of carbon fiber and magnesium materials, with possible incorporation of recycled materials, it strikes a balance between durability and environmental consciousness. The laptop weighs 1.166 kilograms, increasing slightly to 1.472 kilograms when factoring in travel weight.

Ports

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 Ports

On the left side, you’ll find two USB Type-C ports that support Thunderbolt 4, allowing for data transfer, charging, and connecting to displays. There’s also a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port and an HDMI 2.0 B port. Moving to the right side, there’s a 3.5-millimeter combo jack for both microphone and headphones, another USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port, and a Kensington Lockport.

However, it’s important to note that there’s no microSD card slot or regular-sized SD card reader, which might be a downside for some users.

Display

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen11 Display

There are several display options available for X1 Carbon Gen 11 laptop. However, the new addition this year is a 14-inch 2.8K OLED display option. It can reach a brightness of up to 400 nits and is 100 DCI-P3 color gamut certified. It features an anti-glare and anti-reflective coating, making it their premium display option.

The UHD Plus or 4K Plus IPS display is no longer available, and you will have to choose the 2.8K OLED for the highest resolution. Another option is the 2.2K display, but I don’t have that one for review. The option I have here is the same as last year, which is the Full HD Plus touchscreen display with a low blue light filter and anti-glare coating.

Thinkpad X1 Carbon is an excellent display. For most people who don’t require a high resolution, this display is recommended because it not only offers a nice viewing experience but also provides better battery life. The display delivers deep blacks, vibrant colors, and high contrast, although it may not be as good as the 2.8K OLED option. However, it offers more efficiency.

If you’re a content creator, I would suggest considering the OLED display for its higher resolution and better color accuracy and coverage of the color gamut. But overall, the Full HD Plus IPS display is really good, offering excellent visuals. It’s just not on pair with the OLED option. Alternatively, you could choose the 2.2K IPS option, but it won’t offer as good battery life as this one.

When it comes to watching movies and consuming media, such as Netflix, Amazon, and YouTube, the Full HD Plus IPS display has been great. The touchscreen is responsive, allowing smooth navigation through the operating system, pinch-to-zoom gestures, and more. It’s important to note that the display has a 60Hz refresh rate, and there is no option for a higher refresh rate on any of the models, including the 2-in-1 variant.

These laptops are primarily designed for business and commercial use, and the target audience prioritizes productivity and long battery life rather than high refresh rates. I appreciate that this is a matte display, which reduces unnecessary glare and reflections compared to glossy displays with Gorilla Glass. Having a touch display layer on a matte display is not something we commonly see, and I appreciate the effort put into making it happen.

Speakers

When it comes to the audio, I’m genuinely impressed with what the X1 Carbon Gen 11 brings. It features Dolby Atmos speakers, which significantly enhance the spatial audio experience. The volume output is good, the midrange sounds are clear, and there is even some bass presence, which is quite remarkable for a business-focused laptop. This is not something we typically see in this category.

You may like this: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 6 Review

Keyboards and TouchPad

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 Hinge and Keyboard

Now, for those who are wondering, you can open the lid with just one finger, and the screen can tilt back up to 180 degrees. This feature provides the option for achieving the perfect viewing angle every time, which is definitely a convenient feature.

While some people have criticized the keyboard in recent generations, claiming that it is not as good as previous iterations, I have to disagree. Personally, I really enjoy typing on Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 11 keyboard, especially when it comes to writing long documents or emails. The keys have a satisfying tactile feel, and the feedback is excellent. There’s something about ThinkPad keyboards that sets them apart from those of other laptop brands. In my opinion, they are still the best.

It’s worth noting that this keyboard is spill-resistant, which is a great feature to have. Additionally, it offers a multi-level, multi-stage backlight that allows you to work in dark or dimly lit environments without any issues.

Regarding the hinge, I didn’t experience much screen wobble while typing on this keyboard, which can sometimes be annoying with other laptops. So, Lenovo for the solid hinge design.

The touchpad also works well, with smooth two-finger scrolling and reliable gesture support. And, of course, we can’t forget about the iconic TrackPoint, which is a fundamental part of the ThinkPad’s DNA. It functions flawlessly, as expected.

Webcam and Fingerprint Reader

The camera on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 for 2023 is a 1080p camera capable of capturing 30 frames per second. It is suitable for Zoom calls and meets the needs of working from home or hybrid work setups. Additionally, it features an IR camera, allowing you to log in using face recognition with Windows Hello. There is also a fingerprint scanner integrated into the power button, providing an alternative login option.

Regarding Studio Effects, the camera offers auto framing, which is visible in the video. It also includes an eye contact feature, although some may find it a bit creepy. Additionally, there is a background blur effect available. These features align with what we have been seeing in many laptops released in 2023.

User Upgradeability

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 11 Internals and User upgradeability

Lenovo makes easy to access the internals of the laptop. All you need to do is loosen the captive Phillips head screws, pry off the bottom plate, and you’re in. Here we have the two fans for cooling, and we’ll discuss thermal performance later in this review. You’ll also notice the 57 watt-hour battery, Regarding user-upgradable components, the SSD is user-upgradable, and the PCIe Gen 4 SSD speeds are excellent for both read and write operations, which is great to see in 2023.

However, when it comes to RAM, unfortunately, it is soldered onto the motherboard and not upgradable by the user. They are using LP DDR5 RAM running in dual-channel mode. The good news is, according to the press materials, you can now configure it with up to 64 gigabytes of RAM, compared to the maximum of 32 gigabytes last year. So, that’s a significant improvement for those who require additional RAM. Although I haven’t seen the option yet, it should be available according to the press materials.

As for the the wireless connectivity. We have a Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth combo card, which is soldered onto the motherboard and not upgradable by the user. Both Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.1 are working flawlessly without any issues.

As for mobile broadband, there are two options available. You can choose the 4G LTE Cat 16 modem or the 5G Sub-6 Cat 20 modem. Both options support eSIM and physical nano SIM cards. Having mobile broadband is particularly useful for those who need a reliable, always-on, secure connection while on the go.

Personally, I find it to be a game-changer, as it eliminates the need to rely on my phone as a mobile hotspot or to connect to potentially unsecure Wi-Fi hotspots in airports or cafes. With mobile broadband, I have the peace of mind of a secure connection whenever I need it.

Performance, Benchmarks and Gaming

BenchmarksScore
PCMARK 105,676
GEEKBENCH 6 (Single-Core)2,369
GEEKBENCH 6 (Multi-Core)8,515
CINBENCH R202,778
CINEBENCH R151,098 CB | 111.95 FPS
CINEBENCH R231,588 Single-Core / 5,466 Multi-Core
3DMARK Fire Strike4,510
DMARK Time Spy1,564
Intel Core i7-1355U (Iris Graphics) Benchmarks

As mentioned earlier, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen11 is equipped with the Intel Core i7 1355u, a 13th generation processor. It features 10 cores, eight efficient cores, and two performance cores. Looking at the numbers from the benchmarks, it’s clear that this laptop is definitely capable when it comes to productivity tasks such as Microsoft Office, email, and web browsing. Everyday tests performed well. However, it’s worth noting that there isn’t a significant increase in single and multi-core performance. In fact, there’s some thermal throttling, as I’ll demonstrate shortly.

Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8
Core i7-1360P
1,805
Samsung Galaxy Book 3 Pro
Core i7-1360P
1,683
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11
Core i7-1355U
1,588
HP DragonFly Pro
Ryzen 7 7736U
1,538
CINBENCH R23 Single-Core Performance

In terms of heavy sustained workloads, the laptop scored just 5466 in the Cinebench R23 benchmark, which takes into account thermal throttling. This places it at the lower end of the spectrum. When compared to the previous generation, which had a P series processor instead of the U series, we see that some benchmarks aren’t as impressive. This is expected, considering the switch to a 15-watt CPU from a 28-watt one in this particular review unit.

The integrated Iris XE Graphics is worth mentioning as well. It’s not designed for playing AAA titles on the highest settings, so it’s important to manage your expectations. However, the laptop does have two Thunderbolt 4 ports, which allow you to connect an external GPU. By lowering some of the settings, you can achieve playable frame rates during leisure time. Nevertheless, it’s important to note that the laptop is primarily built for productivity purposes and is meant to be taken on the road.

Surface Temps and Fan Noise

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 11 Surface Temperature

As mentioned earlier, Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 11 laptop will experience thermal throttling when subjected to heavy loads. The Time Spy stress test score of 77.1 indicates that it did indeed undergo thermal throttling to lower temperatures and prevent overheating. You will definitely notice thermal throttling on this laptop. However, thanks to the thermal throttling, it never reached excessive heat levels and wasn’t too hot to touch. While there were a couple of hot spots here and there, it didn’t become uncomfortably hot to the point where you couldn’t use it on your lap or where your fingers would burn while typing. The thermal throttling I mentioned earlier ensures that it maintains manageable temperatures.

When it comes to fan noise under heavy load, it never exceeded 43-44 decibels, which is actually quite good compared to other laptop options. The fan noise wasn’t overly bothersome, and when using the laptop in productivity or balanced mode for everyday tasks, the fans weren’t a significant issue.

Battery Performance

LaptopPCMARK 10 Modern OfficePCMARK 10 Video Playback
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11
57Wh, Core i7-1355U
11 hours 41 Minutes14 hours 4 minute
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10
57Wh, Core i7-1260P
10 hours 49 minute9 hours 14 minute
Battery Comparison

When it comes to battery life, we are definitely seeing a significant improvement with the Gen 11 model compared to the Gen 10 model from last year. In my comparison between the two, both equipped with the same full HD Plus touch display, the Gen 11 with the core i7 1355u processor outperformed the Gen 10 with the core i7 1260p processor. During the PC Mark 10 Modern Office battery test, the Gen 11 lasted for 11 hours and 41 minutes, while the Gen 10 lasted for 10 hours and 49 minutes. This translates to an approximately one-hour increase in battery life for that particular test.

The real standout difference, however, was observed during the PC Mark 10 Video Playback test. The Gen 11 lasted an impressive 14 hours and four minutes, which was significantly longer than the Gen 10’s 9 hours and 14 minutes on the same test. Overall, my assessment is that there has been a notable year-over-year improvement in battery life, especially when it comes to video playback.

Conclusion

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11

There are several things to appreciate about the X1 Carbon Gen11, starting with the option for a 2.8k OLED display, which offers stunning visuals. The improved battery life is definitely a plus, as well as the fact that it runs cooler compared to previous models. The keyboard continues to be excellent, delivering a satisfying typing experience. Having the option for 4G LTE or 5G for mobile broadband is also a great feature.

On the downside, there are a few negatives to consider. Firstly, there is no 4K Plus option available this time around, which may disappoint some users looking for the highest resolution. Additionally, there is no higher refresh rate option, which may not be a concern for the target audience. Under heavy load, the laptop experiences throttling, as indicated by the performance numbers. It’s worth noting that the X1 Carbon has been known to collect fingerprints easily, which can require regular cleaning. Lastly, the RAM is soldered and cannot be upgraded by the user, so it’s important to choose the appropriate configuration at the time of purchase.

Overall, the X1 Carbon Gen11 offers many positive aspects, but it’s important to consider these limitations before making a decision.

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