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Lenovo's latest ThinkPad has new features that will make professionals jump for joy

Lenovo's 12th-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon may not be the fastest laptop on the market, but key improvements make it a great option for professionals.
Written by Cesar Cadenas, Contributing Writer
Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • After making calculated adjustments to the older model, Lenovo 12th-Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon offers a more user-friendly experience.
  • It sports an 8MP webcam allowing for 4K video, a stunning 2.8K display, plus a slightly redesigned keyboard.
  • Despite these changes, the laptop does have some performance issues, occasionally taking a long time to wake up or launch an app.

Sometimes the most impactful changes in a laptop series are small improvements made over time, as collectively, they add more to the user experience than just one big upgrade. Case in point: the twelfth generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The eleventh-generation model is a fantastic laptop in its own right, (in fact, it's ZDNET's pick for the best Lenovo laptop) so I had a hard time imagining what Lenovo could do to one-up it. But I'm happy to say the company found multiple ways, beginning with the display.  

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Simply put, it's better than before. The 12th-Gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes equipped with a 14-inch 2.8K resolution (2,880 x 1,800 pixels) OLED display outfitted with multiple image-enhancing software. It supports the entirety of the DCI-P3 gamut and HDR 500, delivering bright, vivid arrays of color rivaled only by the greatest monitors. What's more, it's covered in an anti glare (and anti-smudge) coating, letting it maintain its high quality even under bright sunlight.

View at Lenovo

All in all, it's a very nice display, but it's not what impressed me the most. The other changes made around the screen, like the webcam, ultimately felt more impactful. It's an 8MP camera capable of shooting video in 4K resolution (3,840 x 2160 pixels), with a lens housed inside a large finger tab jutting out from the top. You will look great in video calls, even in scenarios where the lighting is bad.

This ridge has a two-pronged effect. One: it lets you easily open the lid with a single finger. And two: it enables smaller bezels. Shrinking the bezels allowed Lenovo to increase the surface area of the ThinkPad display, giving it the appearance of a bigger screen, despite it being 14 inches on both the 11th and 12th-Gen models. This is a perfect example of a small change that makes a big difference.  

When it comes to the keyboard, not much has changed compared to the older devices. It's covered in a matte-like material that's smooth to the touch, giving each key a slight indentation that alleviating stress on the hands when typing. But when I looked closer, I began to see the tiny tweaks. 

For starters, the FN and Ctrl keys have switched places, falling in line with mainstream keyboard layouts (and reducing the chance that you'll hit the wrong button). Additionally, Lenovo placed more tactile bumps near the FN and Enter keys for easier touch typing. The Page Up and Page Down keys have different shapes so you can tell where they and the arrow keys are located with a slight touch, and the fingerprint reader stands out from the crowd thanks to its new glassy covering. 

Like other ThinkPads, you will find a TrackPoint in between the G, H, and B keys. What's interesting about it is that double tapping it opens a floating toolbar, giving you quick access to some of the ThinkPad tools like the microphone and Voice Typing. The second-generation Lenovo ThinkPad Z13 also has this feature.

Also: This ultraportable Lenovo laptop has a secret Trackpoint function, among other hidden features 

Before I forget, I should mention the trackpad because it has its fair share of improvements. For starters, it's bigger now, measuring 4.72 inches across. Above it are three buttons that function similarly to those found on a mouse. Personally, I prefer using these over pressing down on the trackpad as they offer better haptic feedback and a satisfying "click". You can still push down on the trackpad itself, but it's a lot more mushy. It all comes down to preference, and if you prefer having the haptic feedback on the trackpad itself, you may feel a touch disappointed.

Cesar Cadenas/ZDNET

My review unit came with the Intel Core Ultra 7 155H processor, which allowed the laptop to work really well the majority of the time. I was able to have multiple windows and tabs open at the same time without having a major performance drop. However, I did experience a performance drop when I tried waking up the ThinkPad and opening Google Chrome. The laptop would sometimes take an abnormally long time to wake up or launch an app to the point where I worried I had broken something.

These problems extended to the battery, too. I performed my usual battery test of playing a 720p YouTube video non-stop at 50 percent brightness to see how long it lasts. I do this to simulate an average day of work. On battery saver, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon lasted around five hours before dying. That's not very long. With the quirky performance in mind, all this leads me to believe that the ThinkPad's hardware isn't well optimized.

ZDNET's buying advice

I would recommend the 12th-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon to just about everyone: casual users, professionals, programmers, et cetera. There's something in it for everyone, from Lenovo's View feature to the build quality, to the speakers.

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon is on sale right now with a starting price of $2,919.

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