The ThinkPad X1 Family Gets Revamped for 2017

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Yoga Say Hello to Facial Recognition

Last year at CES, Lenovo expanded the ThinkPad X1 line into the flagship X1 Carbon laptop, the X1 Yoga 2-in-1, and the X1 Tablet slate PC. All three devices are getting a refresh at CES 2017, and while they all appear much the same as last year’s models, there are some hardware upgrades and helpful new features that deserve attention.

In terms of hardware, not much is different on the X1 Carbon from last year. They’ve made the expected jump from 6th gen to 7th gen Intel Core i processors (with standard integrated Intel HD Graphics 620), and all of the SSD options (up to 1 TB PCIe)  are now TLC and OPAL certified. TLC (triple-level cell) SSDs are generally slower than other SSDs but a bit cheaper, while OPAL certification goes to drives that have the requisite data security features laid out by the Trusted Computing Group, a standards consortium formed by several tech giants over a decade ago. Otherwise, we’re still looking at up to 16 GB of RAM and your choice of a 14″ 1080p or 1440p display. LTE and WiGig connectivity also returns. The best hardware improvement is probably battery life — Lenovo puts it at about 15.5 hours, a big increase from 11 last year.The jump from 6th gen to 7th gen Intel Core i processors is a relatively modest one, leaving the ThinkPad X1 Carbon very similar to last year’s model so far. Fortunately, one of the best improvements can be seen immediately — the bezels are much smaller this year, allowing Lenovo to fit the same 14″ display into a smaller, lighter frame (2.49 pounds to 2.6 pounds last year). The trademark carbon fiber exterior is also still here, as implied by the name.

2016 model (left) vs 2017 model (right)
X1 Carbon 2016 model (left) vs 2017 model (right)

Otherwise, this year’s improvements are mostly found in ports and security — the more business-friendly kind of features the ThinkPad line has made its name on. The fingerprint sensor returns and is joined by dTPM 2.0 and an IR front camera, which enables the use of facial recognition with Windows Hello. The ThinkPad physical trackpad and the TrackPoint nub are there as usual, too. It’s also got the Window 10 Pro Signature seal, meaning it’s running Windows 10 Pro with no additional software.

Ports are tricky business. Apple raised the ire of some professionals last year by abandoning all ports other than USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 on the new MacBook Pro, but it looks like Lenovo is using a bit more caution. There are only two such Thunderbolt 3 ports here — being a Type-C port, these ports can handle power, data transfer, and audio/video transfer simultaneously. Its multi-purpose nature is why it tends to replace other ports, but Lenovo hasn’t gone that route. The new X1 Carbon also has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, an ethernet port, a microSIM slot for LTE connectivity, and a microSD slot.

Yoga X1
Yoga X1

The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is the most expensive of the three, and for good reason. It shares the specs of the Carbon, but adds a 360-degree hinge (not the famous Lenovo watchband hinge), a sharper OLED display, and military-grade durability. Like last year, the OLED display is a 1440p option, with 1080p and 1440p LCD displays also available. Otherwise, the spec sheet looks the same as the Carbon’s, except that the Yoga’s IR front camera is optional. There’s also been a boost to graphics performance, with the inclusion of an Intel integrated Iris Graphics 640 option. Battery life will edge out the Carbon’s at 16 hours, although that falls steeply to 10.5 hours if you spring for the higher resolution OLED display. But, the OLED version is a bit lighter at 2.99 pounds, compared to 3.13 pounds for the LCD models. Another nice addition is an included stylus that can be docked within the device itself.

The X1 Yoga still uses the Lift N’ Lock keyboard, which locks keys flush against the surface when it tablet mode. But, it’s gotten a bit of a redesign this year. Instead of the whole keyboard locking up as one, each key is held in place individually for more stability.

ThinkPad X1 Yoga

The ThinkPad X1 Tablet is the cheapest of the three. We got a chance to review last year’s model, and found it to be a bit overpriced for the lackluster performance and battery life. Part of the performance issue was the use of Intel Core m processors, but those have been replaced by 7th gen Core i processors, so we’re expecting a noticeable performance boost. Otherwise, the spec sheet only varies from the Carbon in that there is no IR camera option and it only has Intel HD Graphics 615. The 12″ 1440p LCD comes standard, and the bezels around it appear to be a bit slimmer. There are fewer ports (notably no Thunderbolt), with just one USB Type-C port, one USB 3.0 port, one mDisplayPort, a microSD slot, and a nanoSIM slot for LTE connectivity.

ThinkPad X1 Tablet

The X1 Tablet debuted last year as a slate PC with a backside kickstand and a detachable keyboard, making it a pretty good mobile device for less processor-intensive tasks. However, the keyboard cost extra, and that appears to still be the case this year. Lenovo is also carrying over the all the modular accessories they introduced for the X1 Tablet last year. That includes the presenter module, which includes an HDMI port and a projector that can throw up to a 60″ picture, and a productivity module, which adds five hours of battery life, an HDMI port, and a onelink+ port. Fortunately, the stylus is still included.

ThinkPad X1 Tablet Presenter Module

Lenovo will be launching the updated ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Yoga in February starting at $1,350 and $1,500, respectively. The new X1 Tablet will arrive in March starting at $950.

Update 01/03/17: An earlier version of this post stated that the X1 Tablet still will use Core m processors. Lenovo has moved to Core i processors this year. We regret the error.

Disclaimer: CES 2017 coverage is brought to you by Lenovo. All thoughts and opinions are 100% our own.