Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review

This business laptop is a bit boring, but it gets work done

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review unit on a desk
(Image: © Future)

Tom's Guide Verdict

Lenovo's productivity pedigree shines in this business ultraportable’s comfy keyboard and lengthy battery life.


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    Simple, elegant design

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    Great keyboard

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    Lengthy battery life


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    Comparatively weak benchmark performance

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    Chassis gets dirty easily

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11: Specs

Price: $1,733.40
Intel Core i7-1355U
Graphics Card:
Intel Iris Xe Integrated Graphics
2x Thunderbolt 4, 2x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 1x HDMI, 1 3.5mm audio jack
12.43 x 8.76 x 0.6 inches / 315.6 x 222.5 x 15.36 mm
1kg 167g / 2.5 lbs

The Lenovo X1 Carbon Gen 11 ($1,391 to start) is a no-frills ultraportable that’s built for business. 

The Thinkpad line has come to define the (boring) work laptop, eschewing flashy aesthetics or novel designs in favor of solid productivity fundamentals, and excellent keyboards. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 is no exception, a mouthful of a model that eschews most frills to dish out a productivity-focused experience.

This laptop offers plenty of battery life and an excellent keyboard in a lightweight package, and not much else. And if you're just looking for a machine that lets you get work done and stays out of the way, that might be enough. It certainly makes this one of the best business laptops you can buy at this price, and I’ll show you why in this Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Price and configuration options

The Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 11 series starts at $1,391.40; the model I'm looking at is available for $1,733.40 (at time of writing). It's powered by an Intel Core i7-1355U processor paired with 16GB of RAM, comes equipped with a 512GB M.2 SSD for storage, and is running Windows 11 Pro. The lowest end model is powered by a Core i5 CPU, cuts the storage down to 256GB, and omits the touch screen, while the highest end model offers a slightly more capable variant of the Core i7 CPU, and doubles the RAM and storage to 32GB and 1TB, respectively.

Personally, this configuration feels like the sweet spot. The 14-inch display is a little on the small side for extensive Lightroom labors and so, coupled with the integrated graphics, I'd be hard pressed to get much use out of 32GB of RAM on this device. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Design

The carbon fiber and magnesium shell is elegantly understated, with just a few chrome and red accents (including that iconic red nub) to break up the solid black color scheme. It's just over half an inch thick and weighs 2.5 pounds, a readily toteable package that, when coupled with impressive battery life, makes a strong showing as a productivity platform.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

It's sturdy, offering little to no give when I attempt to twist or flex the display or chassis awkwardly. And the display's hinge is at once rigid and smooth, remaining rock solid as I type or move the machine about, but gliding open or shut with a single finger.

It's not all sunshine. I like to think I'm fairly tidy, but I also have a dog and a cat, I eat food, I exist in the world and touch things with my hands. The black Carbon Fiber and Magnesium shell reflects all of that and more. Stray pet hair, oil, errant crumbs, fingerprints — the machine seems to attract it all.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I spent a fair chunk of my time with the machine wiping it down with microfiber cloths, debating wearing gloves while I work. And this should go without saying, but I'd advise against using this machine outside on sunny days. The display holds up fine (we'll get to that in a bit), but the black chassis and aluminum base gets scorching hot in the California sun.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Ports

The Carbon Gen 11 has a fair assortment of ports for a machine this slim. There are a pair of USB-C ports on the left, joined by an HDMI port and a USB-A 3.2 port. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 ports

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

On the right, there's another USB-A 3.2 port joined by a 3.5mm audio jack and a Kensington security slot. I'd love to have a USB-C port on both sides for greater charging flexibility, but this is otherwise fine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 ports

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Display

The 14-inch 1,920 by 1,200 pixel resolution IPS display, like much of this machine, is perfectly adequate. It's hard to stand out when the competition is increasingly turning towards larger, bolder OLEDs, but this comparatively humble display suits this machine just fine — and helps the battery go that much further, too.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In our testing, the display reproduced 98.5% of the SRGB spectrum (100% accuracy, or as close as possible to it is ideal), and 69.8% of the DCI-P3 spectrum. In practice, my images look accurate, if not especially bright and vibrant, and I read, wrote, and edited text for hours without complaint. The touchscreen is responsive, too, if not exactly necessary on this machine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

We also saw an average of 327 nits of brightness across the display. That's plenty bright without being overbearing indoors, and suitable outdoors for most content. I had a little trouble with darker videos — I've been watching a lot of Diablo IV-centric discussion and guide videos, and the game's pitch black aesthetic is difficult to make out on YouTube when I'm outdoors.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Keyboard and Touchpad

Thinkpads have always delivered a fine keyboard experience, and the Carbon Gen 11 is no exception. The design is at this point standard, and familiar: the keys are wide and spacious, comfortable to type on and offering generous travel with every press. There's also a fingerprint reader integrated into the power button, a convenient option for unlocking the machine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 keyboard

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

I'm not a fan of the business-first function row, which omits media playback keys but offers dedicated buttons to answer and hang up phone calls. And the tiny PageUp and PageDown keys flank the undersized arrow keys on the bottom right corner of the keyboard, which occasionally results in my cursor jumping wildly all over documents when as I try to navigate. That's the sort of thing I'm sure I'd grow accustomed to with time, but it aggravated me throughout my time with the machine; again, your mileage may vary.

I've never really wrapped my head around Lenovo's signature red nub, the pointing device that sits smack dab in the middle of the keyboard. The three buttons required to make it functional sit right on top of the touchpad, cutting down on that peripheral's overall size and souring the experience for my (admittedly large) hands. The touchpad, which is otherwise smooth and responsive, could use that extra space, but I won't risk the ire of nub fans by calling for it's removal.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Audio

The Dolby Atmos-certified speakers flank the keyboard, firing up. They're adequate: perfectly suited for video conferences and fine for movies or TV shows. Music can sound a little flat, out of the box: there's a decided lack of bass (pretty common in thin laptops) that sours my hip-hop and electronica-heavy personal library. But I'm no audiophile, and quickly got over it as I plodded away at text and images, music playing in the background. The bundled Dolby Access app gives you a few audio presets to choose from, and you can create equalizer profiles if you'd prefer to roll your own audio experience. They can also get comfortably loud, filling a space with sound that remains crisp and full (relatively) even when cranked uncomfortably loud.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Performance

The Carbon Gen 11's Intel Core i7-1355U CPU earned a score of 8,628 on the GeekBench 5.5 Multicore benchmark. That slots it behind most of our recent, adjacently priced notables — the $2,069 Framework Laptop 13 scored 11,317, the $1,399 Lenovo Yoga 9i Gen 8 scored 9,954, and the $1,379 Acer Spin 5 scored 10,040. This isn't surprising; the Framework Laptop 13 and Yoga 9i Gen 8 uses a higher tier variant of the 13th-gen Intel Core i7 CPU, and while the Acer Spin 5's uses an older 12th-gen CPU, it's the equivalent higher-tier variant, and sports a higher clock speed.

Let's set synthetic benchmarks aside. Handbrake is a video encoding tool that taxes a machine to convert video from one format or resolution to another (and plenty more besides, but let's keep things simple). For our test, we transcode a 4K video clip down to 1080p. The Carbon Gen 11 complete the task in 9 minutes and 10 seconds. The Framework Laptop 13 took 5 minutes and 49 seconds, the Acer Spin 5 took 6 minutes and 39 seconds, and the Yoga 9i Gen 8 took 9 minutes and 45 seconds.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Gaming isn't all that feasible, owing to the reliance on integrated graphics. For our official tests, we saw an average of 19 frames per second in Civilization VI at 1080p and the native 1,920 by 1,200 resolution. My personal Steam library is chock full of esoteric ASCII titles and classic, late 90s CRPGs, so I had better luck. But while I could play Baldur's Gate and Fallout 1 all day, every day, you might want something a bit less antiquated.

If you're comfortable with all work and no play, this package will suit you well. It's a pleasure to use for wordsmithing and web browsing, holding up to multiple application and browser windows, across multiple virtual desktops, without dropping a beat. My time with Adobe Lightroom was a bit less smooth, as the hardware ocassionaly tripped and stuttered across image adjustments and culling tasks, but the performance was right in line with my expectations.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Battery Life

The Carbon Gen 11 hummed along for 13 hours and 45 minutes on our automated battery test, which consists of setting the laptop's brightness to 150 nits and trawling the web over Wi-Fi until the battery dies. That's a strong showing for this particular test, but you can expect a bit less staying power in real world use. Anecdotally, I averaged around 9 and a half hours between charges: I tend to keep the display fairly bright, and did a fair bit of processor-intensive image editing, but there's enough juice here to easily get me through a longer than average day without too much concern about tracking down a USB-C cord.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Webcam

The 1080p webcam works; there's not all that much to say about it. It can take advantage of the full suite of features that Windows 11 offers, including blurring the background so you stand out in the frame, and laying a filter over the image so your eyes appear to be focused on the camera. It also supports Windows Hello, so you can log in with your face is you tire of using the fingerprint reader, and there's a privacy shutter so you need not worry about invasive apps snooping while you're unawares. The image quality is fine, if not as robust as what folks are used to on their smartphones, and it performs well enough in most lighting conditions; just stay out of the sun.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Heat

The laptop's temperature peaked at 105.4 degrees Fahrenheit on the underside, and got as high as 76.3 on the Touchpad, during our testing. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 sitting on desk

(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

In practice, I could feel the heat from the bottom of the machine while tooling around in Lightroom and the fans kicked to life, but it never really veered into discomforting territory. If you're planning on doing CPU-intensive work, find a desk or table and you'll be fine.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Software

The Carbon Gen 11 is blissfully light on bloat. The Lenovo View app is a camera-centric Swiss Army app, with tools to improve your video conferencing experience, blur your screen when a stranger approaches, or help you correct your posture. The Lenovo Commercial Vantage app serves up hardware details that will be useful should you need to get on the phone with customer service, and gives you another avenue to update drivers and the like, if you choose to ignore the (mandatory) Windows Update process. Finally, there's Dolby Access: you'll find your equalizers here to tune the speakers to your liking, and a few profiles to choose from if you'd rather not tinker. And that's about it; nothing too egregious, and likely helpful in an office environment.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 review: Verdict

Lenovo's ThinkPads are a bit boring, and I've always loved them for that. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 does exactly what a work-centric laptop is supposed to do: the battery lasts forever (figuratively), the keyboard is comfortable, the display is easy on the eyes and the hardware's performance holds its own when real-world work is concerned. It's light enough to disappear in my bag, while sturdy enough to survive the occasional mishap. It's pleasant to look at, too, provided you keep a microfiber cloth handy.

You can find machines that can do more, occasionally for less. They'll have bigger, brighter screens, nicer speakers, or let you play something with more than a handful of polygons. Thinkpads offer a purpose-built tool for those of us with specific, Office and productivity software centered workflows who want to get things done and then shut the lid and move on. This PC doesn't crush benchmarks, and I've got better screens for binging movies or games on a flight, but you'd be hard pressed to find a less onerous machine to knock out day after day of mundane office work on. This is ultimately a fantastic device for getting things done — red wart and all.

Nate Ralph

Nate Ralph has well over a decade of experience tinkering with, on, and around technology. He's driven by a need to understand how things work, which manifests as a passion for building and re-building PCs, self-hosting open source services, and researching what's new and next in the world of tech. When he's not troubleshooting his home network, he can be found taking and editing photos, dabbling in space and flight sims, or taking baby steps into the world of woodworking.