ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 2017 Ultrabook Laptop Review: 3 Month Update

It has now been a little over 3 months with the X1 Carbon. I thought you would like to know my final impressions after using this laptop almost daily for 3 months.

Performance – X1 Carbon Gen 4 Ultrabook 3 Month Update

Performance-wise this laptop lacks nothing. I do not at all regret the 16GB of RAM upgrade and better processor upgrade. In fact even at full usage I never experience any lag or performance decrease. The only time that I saw a performance drop was lower framerates when trying to record the screen while also trying to play a youtube video (for a narration of a youtube video that was playing). However, I just tried that just now and it was fine, I was probably doing far too many things.

This laptop is basically equivalent to a fully-powered desktop computer as far as performance is concerned. I could even doing modest video editing, although due to the lack of a discrete graphics card, it took awhile to process the video. Still, it was possible. I can do 99% of what I need on this laptop. That is saying a lot for a 2.5lb ultrabook.

Battery Life – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

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At full power on the Maximum Performance plan, and may include videos and video editing and extreme use – up to 8 browser windows, hundreds of tabs open at once, photoshop, and other programs running, the battery dies within the day. I could wish for a longer battery life. I wish I could use it at maximum usage without having to plug it in for the whole day. Maybe I am dreaming for a laptop, what I’m suggesting may not actually even exist. Not in an ultrabook anyway.

There is a loud annoying beep that scares me half to death saying the battery is low and I can’t disable the audio – even turning off the low battery alarm does not work. Still, I work long hours and my extreme usage of this laptop actually suggests the battery life is really good, for a laptop.

Storage – ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 Ultrabook

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Note: I made two partitions which is why you see two drives. It is one drive in two partitions. Also, there is no CD/DVD drive. What you see is an emulated CD drive which I used software to create.

A downside is storage space. Even though I took the 256GB M.2 upgrade, I have already run out of space multiple times. I had to move things over to my desktop or external drive. I am planning on upgrading to the 512GB or 1TB M.2 drive. I would suggest if you are a storage hog like me, don’t get the 256GB upgrade but just get the cheapest hard drive and upgrade it manually to a larger drive.

Although the space is inadequate for my needs, it might be fine for the casual user. Still, the excellent thing is that the X1 Carbon Gen 4 allows for the storage upgrade, so that I can manually upgrade without having to get a new laptop or live with it. This is one of the primary reasons I bought a laptop without soldered storage – and this has paid off because now I need to upgrade for more storage space.

Wireless – ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 Ultrabook

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The wireless card is fast. However, there is a big problem with the wireless. It is the bluetooth – I cannot get bluetooth to work. I confirmed that the wireless card inside is supposed to have integrated bluetooth 4.0.

As a result, I am forced to use a USB bluetooth device. This is disappointing because I use bluetooth wireless speakers to play music from my laptop and I don’t want this bluetooth usb stick sticking out of the side of my laptop; and plus, it’s buggy.

This may be a result of the fact I am running Windows 7 instead of the default Windows 10 that came with it; that is, it could be a driver issue. I tried everything, even all the different drivers, and still I cannot get the bluetooth to work. I tried all the latest drivers and even uninstalling from device manager and reinstalling – nothing works.

Not only that but Lenovo overnighted me a new wireless card. I installed it, but still cannot get the bluetooth to work. It just isn’t going to work unless they update the drivers – or, maybe I got two defective wireless chips in a row. No way to know. I really want to use bluetooth internally without this external USB bluetooth stick.

Portability – ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 Ultrabook

thinness

I cannot complain. This laptop is so thin and light that I can use it anywhere. I love that. This laptop has made me way more productive. Also I think I’m working too much now!

Fan Noise – ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 Ultrabook

The fan can get annoying at times. While it is dormant, I can’t even hear the fan. However, under heavy use the fan gets quite loud, and this can be annoying. I turned the fan to passive mode in battery settings, but this did not seem to have any effect.

Keyboard – ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 4 Ultrabook

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The keyboard is great. It has a great feel and my hands don’t really get tired. I sometimes notice I miss a key. The ghosting could be improved in the Gen 5 X1 Carbon. If I press a bunch of keys at once, it doesn’t read anything at all. In fact, it can only handle 3 simultaneous key presses.

Keyboard Ghosting – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

If I don’t press exactly simultaneous but almost simultaneous, it can press up to 8 keys but misses the 9th or 10th if I tried to press 10 at the same time. Why would you need to press 10 keys? Sure, but the reality is that better ghosting means less chance of it missing a key under heavy typing. I notice that once every 2000 words or so there is a missed key – it wasn’t a typo.

Still, this keyboard is excellent and far better than your average keyboard. It is sufficient for a writer. The biggest peeve was the fact it used to beep when you pressed to many keys which was annoying as hell. You can disable that by uninstalling the BEEP driver in Device Manager.

Keyboard Backlight – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

keyboard-backlight

The backlight is a problem. Often I refer to keep it off because at extreme angles it lets in too much light – especially if typing in a dark room. The backlight is only useful is looking at the keyboard at a 45 degree angle or more.

It is also annoying that every time it wakes from sleep it turns off the backlight. There is no way to keep the backlight on – you have to manually turn it back on every time. As a result often I use this with the backlight on. Still, it’s a useful feature to have, but needs improvement to prevent excessive light bleed around the sides of the keys.

Audio Quality – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

speaker

The audio quality is not great. The reason why is because at a loud volume there is rattling. If I squeeze together the left corner, the rattling goes away. Overall the build quality is good but this is an oversight. It could also be just a problem with mine, a defect. Nonetheless, it’s really only enjoyable to listen to audio over external speakers – which is why I got the bluetooth speakers and wanted to use bluetooth. It is not enjoyable to listen to music at a higher volume on this laptop due to this defect, although your particular device may not have this defect.

On a positive note, the built-in microphone is excellent. It is very clear and crisp and allows me to make great videos and voiceover recordings. I don’t even need an external microphone, which is excellent, for normal use anyway. It also worked very clear and crisp over skype. The other party even commented how good my audio quality over skype was.

Touchpad/Buttons – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

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As I get used to a smaller screen, and when using an extermal mouse, it is much better. I feel limited with only the trackpad and have not really used the iconic red Thinkpad thumbstick since I’m not used to that yet. However, the two physical buttons located below the spacebar and above the touchpad are extremely useful and I use those frequently.

The touchpad really isn’t adequate for detailed graphics work (like photoshop), so I use an external mouse instead; however, the touchpad is fine and responsive for normal use. However, I do find it clunky, but it could be that I’m still getting used to using a trackpad after years of using a trackball mouse. I often do fine myself using a combination of the touchpad, my external trackball mouse, and the physical right and left-click buttons. Maybe at some point I will start using the pointer stick more.

Screen Quality – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

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The screen quality is as good as day 1. There is nothing to complain about. I am really glad I got the 1080p version instead of the 2140p version, because scaling is already slightly small on the 1080p version with the 14″ screen. Still, it’s better than the closest competitor, the XPS 13, with it’s smaller 13.3″ screen. I am glad I have the 14″ screen on the X1 Carbon.

Overall Impression – X1 Carbon Gen 4 ThinkPad Ultrabook

Overall, I am happy with this machine. It is not perfect, but it is probably as close as you can get, especially for the featherlight weight and ultra-thin profile. The build quality is good and it is already paying off in terms of productivity. The only real downsides are the audio speakers rattling defect, the fact I can’t get bluetooth to work on Windows 7, and the keyboard backlight bleed at angles. Other than that, this is an excellent laptop.

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I would definitely recommend the X1 Carbon, although for the top performance upgraded version like I have, it is a bit expensive. I bought this on Black Friday and got a stellar deal, but if I had to pay full price for it then my review might be a little bit different. If you don’t get 16GB of RAM, you can’t upgrade since the RAM is soldered to the motherboard. I would definitely recommend the 16GB RAM upgrade when you purchase it if you are a heavy user.

Still, this laptop probably beats out the main competitors in the ultrabook market, and may well be one of the best laptops (not including gaming laptops) ever made up to the year 2017. I can’t wait for a 1mm thin laptop that weighs only 5 ounces and is 20 times more powerful! Maybe next decade? Until then, this laptop should do well for a long time.

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