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ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 review: won’t win any new converts

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 front view showing display and keyboard.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12

MSRP $2,703.00

“The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 won’t win new fans, but will satisfy its current audience.”

Pros

  • Thin and light chassis
  • Good productivity performance
  • Excellent OLED display
  • Great keyboard
  • Good business support

Cons

  • Performance lags competitors
  • No haptic touchpad
  • Mediocre battery life

Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon is one of the most venerable laptops available today. It’s on its 12th generation, with just enough changes to keep it modern while still holding on to the ThinkPad’s traditional design cues. This model makes minor adjustments to the previous two generations while updating to Intel’s latest chipset.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has always been a relatively thin and light 14-inch laptop, and the Gen 12 model maintains that key attribute. However, it’s slower than some other recent laptops with the same components and Lenovo isn’t yet offering business-friendly configurations. If you just want the latest X1 Carbon, the 12th-gen will do, but it’s not about to win over any new converts.

Specs and configurations

 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12
Dimensions12.31 inches x 8.45 inches x 0.59 inches
Weight2.42 pounds
ProcessorIntel Core Ultra 7 155H
GraphicsIntel Arc graphics
RAM16GB
32GB
Display14.0-inch 16:10 WUXGA (1920 x 1200) touch
14.0-inch 16:10 WUXGA Privacy Guard non-touch
14.0-inch 16:10 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED non-touch, 120Hz
14.0-inch 16:10 3K (2880 x 1800) OLED touch, 120Hz
Storage512GB SSD
1TB SSD
TouchOptional
Ports2 x USB-C with Thunderbolt 4
2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1
1 x HDMI 2.1
1 x 3.5mm audio jack
Optional Nano SIM slot
WirelessWi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.3
Webcam1080p with infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello
Operating systemWindows 11
Battery57 watt-hours
Price
$2,335+

Lenovo offers just two configurations of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12, a departure from the norm for the company’s ThinkPad lineup. Normally, ThinkPads have a much wider range of configurations. Right now, though, there are just two models, starting with a base configuration that costs $2,335 for an Intel Core Ultra 7 155H, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD, Intel Arc graphics, and a 2.8K OLED non-touch display. For $2703, you can upgrade to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD.

Lenovo will likely offer more configurations beyond the initial release, including some with the display options listed above. For now, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 is a very expensive premium laptop that doesn’t yet offer the line’s usual Intel vPro support, which would make it more manageable and secure.

Part of a dying breed?

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 front angled view showing display and keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Lenovo has released a handful of ThinkPad laptops that depart from the old-school ThinkPad design. The most relevant is the Lenovo ThinkPad Z13, which sports a more modern aesthetic, at least on the outside. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 retains the all-black chassis and angular design of older generations, demonstrating that Lenovo doesn’t mean to completely abandon the brand. Open it up, and it’s like all ThinkPads with its black keyboard and palm rest and a few red accents.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 rear view showing lid and logo.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

In terms of build quality, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 is a mixed bag. It’s constructed of aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber, and while the lid and chassis bottom are rigid, the keyboard deck has a little flex. The Apple MacBook Pro 14 feels more solid overall. The ThinkPad is very light, however, at just 2.42 pounds, and it’s thin at 0.59 inches. That’s less than the MacBook’s 3.6 pounds and 0.61 inches and the Dell XPS 14’s 3.8 pounds and 0.71 inches. The XPS 14 has a 14.5-inch display with incredibly thin display bezels, making it just a little wider than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 with its slightly thicker bezels.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Gen 12 front view webcam view.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

Speaking of display bezels, the ThinkPad has its webcam and microphones in a reverse notch at the top of the display that’s enlarged in this generation. That keeps the bezels thin — although Dell managed thin bezels without reverting to a notch — and provides a handy lip to open the lid. The hinge is smooth and allows opening of the lid with one hand while keeping the display firmly in place. Apple used a display notch to achieve the same effect, and many users might prefer Lenovo’s solution.

A great keyboard and a disappointing touchpad

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Gen 12 top down view showing keyboard.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

It sometimes surprises me how laptops are designed, with decisions that make little sense to outsiders. For example, Lenovo included an excellent haptic touchpad in the ThinkPad Z13. It was precise and responsive during my testing, with consistent and fast haptics, and it supported extra virtual buttons for the ThinkPad’s iconic TrackPoint nubbin. So, why didn’t Lenovo include that touchpad in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 rather than a just OK mechanical version?  I don’t know, but it would have meaningfully improved how pleasant the laptop is.

Lenovo did make one meaningful change to the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12’s keyboard by swapping the Ctrl and Fn keys to the Windows standard. ThinkPads have historically had the Ctrl key on the inside, which went against years of muscle memory for anyone who hasn’t previously used a ThinkPad. The Z series also made this switch, and it’s welcome. Otherwise, the keyboard retains the lineup’s usual sculpted keycaps and generous key spacing, and I found the switches light and precise. It’s a very good keyboard that rivals Apple’s Magic Keyboard for comfort. Note that Lenovo retained the keyboard’s spill resistance while channeling air through waterproof seals to keep things cool.

Good connectivity and security

The ThinkPad has very good connectivity, with a mix of modern and legacy ports. There are more ports here than on some other 14-inch laptops, like Dell’s XPS 14, which has only Thunderbolt 4. Wireless connectivity is fast enough, one step behind the bleeding-edge Wi-Fi 7, but likely ahead of what most people use. Lenovo markets optional Wireless WAN connectivity for always-connected internet, but that’s not yet available.

Finally, the webcam is 1080p, which is increasingly the standard and provides a quality image for videoconferencing. Some laptops offer higher-resolution webcams, like the Spectre x360 14 with 9MP, but the ThinkPad is plenty good enough. It includes an infrared camera for Windows 11 Hello facial recognition, as well as a fingerprint reader on the keyboard. Both methods let me log in quickly and easily.

Lenovo doesn’t include its user-sensing technology on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12, but it does incorporate its self-healing BIOS as part of the ThinkShield suite of secure hardware, software, and services. Eventually, Lenovo will likely offer Intel vPro processors for plugging into enterprise management and security infrastructures.

Slower than expected performance

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 side view showing ports and lid.
Mark Coppock / Digital Trends

The first of Intel’s 14th-gen Meteor Lake chipsets to reach laptops has been the 28-watt Core Ultra 7 155H with 16 cores (six Performance, eight Efficient, and two Low Power Efficient) and 22 threads. It’s tended to fall between the previous-gen 28-watt Core i7-1360P and 45-watt Core i7-13700H in most of our benchmarks.

At least, that was the case with the Asus Zenbook 14 OLED and the HP Spectre x360 14. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 was slower than the others, whether in balanced mode, where it was particularly slow, or performance mode, where it was faster, but still not as quick.

That’s not to say that the ThinkPad was slow. It’s still speedy enough for demanding productivity workflows, and none of these laptops with Intel Arc integrated graphics are great for creativity tasks. But it doesn’t provide the chipset’s improved performance. As far as Intel Arc goes, it was faster in gaming benchmarks than the previous Intel Iris Xe graphics, but well behind entry-level discrete graphics.

Geekbench 5
(single/multi)
Handbrake
(seconds)
Cinebench R23
(single/multi)
PCMark 10 Complete
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 1,658 / 8,569
Perf: 1,698 / 9,726
Bal: 159
Perf: 108
Bal: 1,570 / 6,867
Perf: 1,625 / 10,365
6,082
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED 2024
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 1,696 / 9,502
Perf: 1,703 / 12,246
Bal: 145
Perf: 88
Bal: 1,653 / 9,156
Perf: 1,635 / 12,130
6,316
HP Spectre x360 14
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
Bal: 1,696 / 9,502
Perf: 1,703 / 12,256
Bal: 111
Perf: N/A
Bal: 1,750 / 9,832
Perf: N/A
6,316
Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 (Core i7-1360P)Bal: 1,843 / 8,814
Perf: 1,835 / 10,008
Bal: 122
Perf: 101
Bal: 1,846 / 8,779 Perf: 1,906 / 9,8496,102
Asus Zenbook 14X OLED (Core i7-13700H)Bal: 1,848 / 11,157
Perf: 1,852 / 11,160
Bal: 84
Perf: 82
Bal: 1,819 / 11,066 Perf: 1,826 / 12,7956,020
HP Pavilion Plus 14 2023
(Ryzen 7 7840U)
Bal: 1,819 / 9,655
Perf: N/A
Bal: 84
Perf: N/A
Bal: 1,721 / 12,234
Perf: N/A
6,804
Apple MacBook Air
(M2)
Bal: 1,925 / 8,973
Perf: N/A
Bal: 151
Perf: N/A
Bal: 1,600 / 7,938
Perf: N/A
N/A

So far, the Core Ultra 7 155H hasn’t lived up to Intel’s promised efficiency gains, at least not consistently. It can’t keep up with laptops running 15-watt 13th-gen CPUs in our web-browsing or video tests, which is predictable. But it also doesn’t beat 13th-gen 28-watt chips either. And AMD’s Ryzen 7000 series is much more efficient, while the MacBook Air M2 is dominant.

Overall, it’s unlikely that the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 will last a full day’s work when running the usual productivity tasks. Intel still has quite a way to go to catch up with Apple.

Web browsingVideo
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
7 hours, 4 minutes10 hours 30 minutes
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED 2024
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
7 hours, 9 minutes14 hours, 22 minutes
HP Spectre x360 14
(Core Ultra 7 155H)
8 hours, 6 minutes13 hours, 3 minutes
Asus Zenbook 14 OLED 2023
(Ryzen 5 7530U)
12 hours, 13 minutes17 hours, 19 minutes
Lenovo Yoga Book 9i
(Core i7-1355U)
8 hours, 53 minutes9 hours, 53 minutes
Asus Zenbook S 13 OLED 2023
(Core i7-1355U)
9 hours, 47 minutes15 hours, 14 minutes
Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8
(Core i7-1360P)
7 hours, 41 minutes13 hours, 25 minutes
HP Dragonfly Pro
(Ryzen 7 7736U)
14 hours, 40 minutes15 hours, 57 minutes
Apple MacBook Air M2
(Apple M2)
17 hours, 59 minutes21 hours, 9 minutes

OLED goodness and lots of volume

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 front view showing display.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

I’ve been seeing some excellent OLED displays lately (as if any aren’t great), and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 has one of the better ones. To begin with, its colors are extremely wide at 100% of sRGB, 98% of AdobeRGB, and 100% of DCI-P3, and they’re incredibly accurate at a DeltaE of 0.66 (1.0 or less is indistinguishable to the human eye). And it has the usual incredible contrast that produces inky blacks. But it’s also brighter than usual, at 430 nits for standard dynamic range (SDR) content and 500 nits for high dynamic range (HDR). That’s not as bright as the Apple MacBook Pro’s Mini-LED displays, which can hit 1,600 nits for HDR, but it’s higher brightness than most other OLED panels.

The display is 2.8K (2880 x 1800) resolution and runs at up to 120Hz. It’s a great display for productivity work, creative tasks, and media consumption. Dolby Vision makes HDR content particularly enjoyable.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 features a new audio design, with dual upward-firing speakers underneath the keyboard. They got plenty loud, but there was some distortion at maximum volume. When I turned things down a bit, they were still loud enough, but the mids and highs were much clearer. There wasn’t much bass, though, putting them well behind the MacBook Pro 14, which has the best audio on a 14-inch laptop, and the Spectre x360 14, which comes in second.

A better ThinkPad, but not necessarily a better laptop

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 is its best version yet, as it adds a few welcome improvements over the previous few generations while retaining what makes for a very good laptop. But that doesn’t make it more competitive, at least not yet.

Missing are the Intel vPro variants that will appeal to business users, as well as lower-priced versions and lower-power displays that will provide better battery life. And the ThinkPad isn’t as fast as others using the same chipset. For those reasons, I can’t recommend it as of now. That could change if Lenovo releases more attractive configurations, but that’s where my opinion stands currently.

Editors’ Recommendations






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