Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 Review: Great Build but Underwhelming Performance

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo
Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

Lenovo’s ThinkPad series is meant for serious business. They’re not as flashy and pretty as its Yoga line or as heavy and gaming-focused as its Legion line. ThinkPads are hardcore in terms of specs and quite boring regarding aesthetics. They’re made for professionals and are best known for their portability.

The ThinkPad X1 series is famous for its slim form factor, like the ThinkPad X1 Nano, and a durable but lightweight build. Lenovo sent us their latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12, released in December 2023. The configuration sent to us retails for a whopping $2700.

The design and build are all great, and the battery life is impressive, too, but I obviously can’t skip past how little we’re getting in terms of power. You would expect an expensive laptop to be a total powerhouse, but not here.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 Design

You can tell it’s only meant for work.

Don’t expect an aesthetically pleasing body on the X1. It’s fully matte, and the no-frills build may underwhelm you, but that’s just a ThinkPad thing. The build’s great because it’s incredibly light and slim. Weighing just 2.8 lbs and measuring around 0.6 inches, the X1 is pretty portable. I carried it to and from work in my small tote bag for a few days and didn’t feel it weighing me down.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo
Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

The ports attest to how this laptop is designed with business in mind. There’s a pretty generous set of ports on both sides, with even a SIM card slot being offered from Spring 2024. Though we didn’t get to test it out, our review unit sported a sim slot, too. You also get a nice old Kensington lock slot, which a lot of laptops don’t feature anymore, an HDMI port, one Type-A and two Type-C ports, and a power port. The power button is also found on the side with all the ports. I guess the keyboard didn’t have enough room for it because it does seem a bit cramped.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo
Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 Keyboard and Trackpad

The keyboard feels a bit cramped in some places

The keyboard on the X1 is pretty snappy, and there’s a fair level of sound and travel feedback on it, which feels nice. The bright red trackpoint stands out in a pool of matte black keys, and while some may find it outdated, I believe this is as ‘ThinkPad-core’ as it can get. The only issue is that the arrow keys feel cramped. I wouldn’t say the keyboard is stuffy enough to be a deal breaker, but I’m still going to be a little extra critical about it because this is a productivity-focused machine.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo
Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

Another feature that left me feeling a little underwhelmed is the keyboard backlighting. It has two brightness settings, which were quite dim, even in the brighter one. I tried it out with my room’s light off, and it was post-sunset, so it was completely dark. While I could make out the keys, it wasn’t bright enough to fulfill my needs. If my work setup looks like that someday, I’d probably have to turn a small lamp on, too.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo
Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

I like that the trackpad has a firm feel and enough real estate. But it was way too matte to be comfortable. Scrolling up with two fingers—because there were usually nails involved—felt like I was scratching a chalkboard, and we all know how that feels. I didn’t have to look very closely to notice that the slightest use of nails was leaving visible scratches on the trackpad, too. I had to rub them with my forefinger for a few seconds to get rid of them.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 Performance

Underwhelming performance, especially for the price

The X1 is available in two configurations: 32GB and 1TB for $2700, which was sent to us, and 16GB and 512GB for $2300.

Considering its steep price, I expected a lot more power from this laptop. But unfortunately, the Intel Core Ultra 7 fell short. I ran the Geekbench 6 on it, and the results were surprisingly low. I had to run it multiple times to make sure what I see is accurate. I got a 1511 on the single-core CPU test. Compare this to the M3 MacBook Pro’s score of 3129; it’s a shame, considering the MacBook Pro is much cheaper—$1600—too.

The only good thing about the performance of the X1 is its battery life. Lenovo promises an ‘all-day battery life’ and means it. I have used this laptop for several hours over the past four days and haven’t even used the charger once.

Though the fingerprint reader is uncomfortable and so stuffed that I almost didn’t notice it at first, I’m glad it’s there. There’s also a privacy shutter, so you’re pretty sorted security-wise.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 12 Display

Brilliant detail and contrast

The 14-inch OLED display on this device is one of the best I’ve come across. It features the blackest of blacks and the whitest of whites, creating the kind of striking contrasts that are a treat to watch. You get a 120 Hz 2.8K (2880 x 1800) resolution with incredible detail. I was almost distracted by the level of intricate detail and got carried away noticing the things I usually wouldn’t see in a video. The colors look vibrant with 100% DCI-P3 coverage.

Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo
Photo: Dua Rashid / Gizmodo

You also get all the bells and whistles you’d expect from a display on a $2000+ laptop. There’s anti-glare, anti-reflection, and anti-smudge technology. There’s also low blue light tech for eye safety. The screen maxes out at 400 nits, which is enough brightness for me to thoroughly enjoy content right next to my big, bright bedroom window.


The price seriously confuses me.

I can’t see spending over two grand on a laptop with an underwhelming performance. Even though I’m a fan of the build and form factor, the battery life is excellent, too, and so is the port spec; what’s the point if it lacks power? A more reasonable price tag might have convinced me, but for what the X1 currently costs, there are far cheaper and more powerful options on the market.

Want more of Gizmodo’s consumer electronics picks? Check out our guides to the best laptops, best TVs, and best headphones. If you want to learn about the next big thing, see our guide to everything we know about the iPhone 16.

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