Lenovo X1 Carbon (2018) brings Dolby Vision HDR to a work-focused laptop

Windows Central Recommended Award

There are a few iconic Windows laptops in the wild these days, and the Lenovo X1 Carbon sits near the top of that list. Built for professionals who want a sleek, thin, but high performing PC on-the-go Lenovo has been tweaking and refining the design for years.

The new 6th generation X1 Carbon is – thankfully – the best version yet. It's not just because it has a potent Intel 8th generation processor, but smaller changes around the trackpad and bigger ones around the display make all the difference.

X1 Carbon 6th gen what's new

Lenovo has kept the overall design of the X1 Carbon like last year's model, but there are a few notable modifications:

  • New powerful and efficient 8th generation Intel processors.
  • New ThinkShutter camera privacy.
  • Fingerprint reader with "Match-in-Sensor" architecture.
  • In-Cell Touch.
  • New 360° far-field microphones and Cortana.
  • Modern Standby with Wake on voice.
  • Side Mechanical Docking.
  • New X1 Branding.

That processor change is substantial too. Users can configure the X1 Carbon with up to a Core i7-8650U with burst speeds up to 4.2GHz and Intel vPro support. That's the same processor found in the new Surface Book 2. That's interesting because most Ultrabooks opt for the i7-8550U, which is clocked a little lower.

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

The other biggest change is the display. Lenovo gives the usual abundant choice to users all with a 14-inch display at 16:9 aspect:

  • FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare, 300 nits.
  • FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare multi-touch, 300 nits.
  • WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS anti-glare, 300 nits.
  • HDR WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS glossy with Dolby Vision, 500 nits.

Options are welcomed, and each of these displays has pros and cons to them including pricing variations. It's that last option with Dolby Vision that is the real unique choice, and it's gorgeous.

Lenovo also lets users configure the X1 Carbon with up to 1TB of SSD storage. In our review unit, the drive is the brand-new Samsung PM981, which is an outstanding performer.

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CategoryLenovo X1 Carbon 6th gen
1920 x 1080 or 2560 x 1440
Touch or non-touch
Anti-glare or glossy
Dolby Vision HDR (optional)
ProcessorUp to 8th Gen Intel Core i7 8650U with vPro
GraphicsIntel UHD 620
RAM8GB or 16GB DDR3 2133MHZ
StorageUp to 1TB PCIe-NVME SSD OPAL2.0
Ports2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 (one Always On)
2 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C / Intel Thunderbolt 3 (Power Delivery, DisplayPort, Data transfer)
4-in-1 MicroSD card reader
Ethernet Extension Connector
ConnectivityIntel Dual-Band Wireless AC (2 x 2) 8265 + Bluetooth 4.1
Integrated Global Mobile Broadband LTE-A (optional)
AudioDual speakers (bottom edge), noise-cancelling dual-array mic
Battery57Wh, up to 15-hour battery life
Dimensions323.5 mm x 217.1 mm x 15.95 mm / 12.73 x 8.54 x 0.62 inches
Weight2.49 lbs (1.13 kg)
ColorsBlack or silver

The ThinkShutter is merely a sliding door that covers the front-facing web camera. It's great for privacy, apparently, but feels uninspired – it's a sliding door that clicks. I think Lenovo offered this for those who work in specific environments, but it is also a small bone to those who can't get the infrared (IR) camera option for Windows Hello facial recognition. In other words, you get one or the other, but not both.

This theme of choices with tradeoffs is a frustrating one with the X1 Carbon.

X1 Carbon – The good

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

There's a lot to like about the new X1 Carbon.

If you opt for the Dolby Vision HDR WQHD (2560 x 1440) display, you will drop a reasonable extra $180 for the privilege, but it is so worth it. The Dolby Vision display is 100 percent sRGB and AdobeRGB color accurate, which is something I have not seen before in a laptop. Even the NTSC rating for color accuracy is 99 percent.

There are only three significant downsides to the HDR display: you cannot get it and the IR camera, just the regular, subpar webcam. It is also glossy with no anti-glare option. And finally, it is non-touch. Those are by no means deal breakers, but those options are available for the other display types at full HD and WQHD. Tough choice.

Surprisingly, a hit on battery life is not a drawback of that Dolby Vision screen – unless, of course, you run it at full brightness (500 nits). But for normal usage? This display looks like an OLED, but performs like an LED – it's remarkable.

I'm also glad to report Lenovo has finally and wholly switched to Microsoft Precision drivers with no Synaptics software (unlike last year's model). The trackpad here is outstanding especially the soft click.

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

No significant changes to the keyboard either, which is fine since the X1 Carbon easily has one of the best keyboards on the market. Sure, there is the usual complaint about how Lenovo switches the Ctrl and Fn keys, but this is a small annoyance.

Battery life is also excellent. The full HD option will net you around two extra hours over the WQHD model for about ten hours versus eight. While I've always enjoyed the X1 Carbon battery life was never its strength. That changes this year as the new 8th generation Intel processor lets this laptop finally hit "all day" usage. It's not the highest on the market, but it doesn't feel like such a compromise this time. The USB-C fast charge is also excellent.

The new design changes, including that refined logo and deep, jet-black design are magnificent. Still, it does pick up hand oil quickly so if that is a concern you should opt for the silver color option.

For performance, it is fun to use a 14-inch Ultrabook of this caliber and get the same CPU performance as the new Surface Book 2. That i7-8650U is an outstanding performer achieving 5,025 for Geekbench single-core and 14,178 for multi-core scores. That single-core score beats Surface Book 2, which is impressive.

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

The Samsung PM981 SSD, meanwhile, gets the highest performance rating yet with 3,270 MB/s for read and 2,395 MB/s for write speeds, which is incredible. When combined with that i7 processor the X1 Carbon will plow through any Microsoft Excel document or browse the web with ease.

Very impressive read and write speeds for the Carbon's SSD.

Very impressive read and write speeds for the Carbon's SSD.

I also really liked Lenovo's new Vantage app in the Microsoft Store. It handles many unique configuration options for the Carbon's hardware and keeps the BIOS and firmware all up to date. It's a breath of fresh air from the old Lenovo system apps.

There's also the excellent port selection with full Thunderbolt 3, two Type-C, two Type-A, and an HDMI port.

X1 Carbon – The bad

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

There are a few minor quibbles with the new X1 Carbon. Ideally, getting a model with that Dolby Vision HDR display and Windows Hello for facial recognition would be an option. Sure, there is an including fingerprint reader on the keyboard deck, but it's awful to use.

While the HDR display is jaw-dropping the audio on the X1 Carbon is still subpar, which is weird. I get using the X1 Carbon for watching movies on a flight, but why make crappy downward firing speakers to mar the experience?

Another issue is availability. Lenovo famously onramps configuration options at a slow pace - so, while they advertise many configuration options, just as many are not-yet-available. Do you want the silver X1 Carbon with Dolby Vision HDR display? Sorry, can't do that. Want that built-in LTE Advanced 4G modem? You'll have to wait until May to order it. Do you want Windows Hello facial recognition? It's only with specific display configurations.

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

New ThinkShutter slide is merely OK for the mediocre webcam.

While I get there are limitations in engineering some of that is annoying. I'm unsure if I'll be able to order the X1 Carbon in silver with Dolby Vision HDR and an LTE modem. Plus, even if I can, I still have to live with that lousy fingerprint reader.

Finally, for graphics, there is only the Intel UHD 620 with no discrete GPU. Those built-in graphics still yield 22,525 on Geekbench's OpenCL test, but it would have been fun to have a new GeForce MX150 option to double that score too.

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th generation is a winner

Lenovo X1 Carbon 6th

Despite a few drawbacks I'm in love with the X1 Carbon 6th generation. It finally gets good battery life to match that ridiculous lightweight and thin design. It's also a powerhouse with fantastic CPU and SSD configurations. And Lenovo is finally using a pure Microsoft Precision driver experience. Bravo.

I'd also be remiss to mention the X1 Carbon when fully spec'd out is profoundly expensive. With HDR, 1TB and a Core i7 processor, you hit the $2,500+ range. Luckily, Lenovo lets you configure down to a more reasonable $1,400 for a Core i5 and full HD version (and the full HD display is very good too).

Now that's a perfect display!


  • The HDR display is 100 percent color accurate and dazzling.
  • Excellent battery life.
  • Outstanding typing and trackpad experience.
  • The refreshed design is muted and professional.
  • Very good performance.


  • Odd configuration options and limitations.
  • Terrible fingerprint reader.
  • Speakers are subpar.

While I would personally prefer a 3:2 display aspect I get that this is for business types, so I'll swallow my pride there. Give me this laptop in silver, with HDR, and a 4G LTE modem? This laptop could very well be the best productive PC on the market. But seriously, Lenovo, work on the audio speakers and use a better fingerprint reader. You do that, and this is a perfect laptop.

See at Lenovo (opens in new tab)

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • Dolby vision!
    What does Dolby know about video?
    FFS just use the standard HDR10
  • By most independent accounts Dolby Vision is better than HDR10, even if it is proprietary and not used as much. Regardless, 100 percent sRGB/AdobeRGB ain't, to quote the wise philosopher Wu Tang, nuthin' to f' with.
  • Like you say Daniel, Dolby Vision is indeed most of the time the better HDR experience. I’m also seeing it used more and more. Both on Netflix and on 4K Blu-Rays. And speaking of Dolby; Dolby Atmos.. Amazing experience! I highly recommend basically everyone I meet to invest in a Dolby Atmos setup. Dolby Vision+Dolby Atmos = 👍🏻👍🏻
  • I see...
  • The speakers should be irrelevant while watching a movie on a flight. You aren't one of those annoying people who doesn't have headphones, are you?
  • Don't be an apologist for Lenovo. Can they add better speakers? Yes. Did they? No. Is this a very expensive laptop and should it have crappy speakers? No.
    "You aren't one of those annoying people who doesn't have headphones, are you?"
    Headphones are not the solution to have shitty speakers, sorry.
  • The scenario you described is silly. That is all.
  • Beautiful screen, but no touch? That's the most disappointing part of the machine for me.
  • Well, the HDR version is no touch, you can get WQHD, matte, and touch all in one, which is pretty great. IF, however, you want HDR + Touch Lenovo will sell you the X1 Yoga ;) Working on that review next.
  • From the Lenovo site, it doesn't read like you can get WQHD, matte, and touch; is that due out later? "14" WQHD (2560 x 1440) IPS anti-glare, 300 nits" is all it says for WQHD, compare that to "14" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare multi-touch, 300 nits" for the one with touch.
  • Daniel, you successfully connected a Razer Core eGPU to last years model, do you think it will work with this model?
  • I haven't tried, but this is full 40Gbps TB3, so I see no reason why it can't. I may give it a try at the office tomorrow.
  • RAM is DDR3?
  • RAM is DDR3.
  • I think that is a limitation of the intel mobile chipsets for the foreseeable future...
  • Where can I find the wallpapers that you used to use in the laptops' reviews?...
  • Does it have a TPM?
  • What is the bad part of the fingerprint reader, is it the location, the accuracy or something else? I use the fingerprint reader on my XPS 13 all the time and actually really like it.
  • “While I would personally prefer a 3:2 display aspect I get that this is for business types, so I'll swallow my pride there” That seems like an odd take to me, as I feel 3:2 displays would be _better_ for business types.
  • Thanks for the review Daniel! The X1 is one on my wish list once my GeN3 X1 dies
  • Hmmm, can anyone comment on the hardware compatibility with Linux? Qubes specifically. I'm off to do some research on that.... EDIT: Dealbreaker, it can only be configured with 16GB of RAM, I need 32GB or even better 64GB. Anyone know if there are slots to add to the onboard memory you configure it with? Also I don't see LTE as an option in their configurator.
  • To me, switching Ctrl and Fn keys is not a minor complaint: I virtually never use the Fn key. I use the Ctrl key constantly, e.g., Ctrl+C, Ctrl+V, Ctrl+S, etc., etc. Using the ring finger (which is virtually necessary for touch typists) to hit the Ctrl key on the Lenovo layout, is very cumbersome compared to using the pinkie. (Of course, the Mac is even worse...) I also prefer the 3:2 format.
  • I want a full multi media Laptop which requires a built in R/W Optical drive. they are not light and thin like Ultra books i want the PC equivalent full workstation that has an optical drive