Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen - First Impressions

March 16, 2019
thinkpad open

ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Generation

I recently purchased a ThinkPad X1 Carbon 6th Gen laptop to replace the two laptops that I was using to get the same job done. I did some research as I wanted to get a laptop that would work really well with Linux. I looked at the offerings from Dell and System76, but I ended up choosing Lenovo, despite it officially being a Windows laptop, and I will touch on those reasons later. Suffice to say, after the research, this laptop seemed to be my best option, and I am very much not disappointed.

The hardware on this machine is great, and despite the body not being made of aluminum, this thing feels premium. I really like the matte black finish, and it is incredibly light and sturdy. The typing experience is the best of the four laptops that I currently have. I will state here that I quickly wiped Windows from this laptop and installed Pop_OS!, a Linux distribution produced by System76. Everything so far has worked great out of the box on Pop_OS! and the system came up-to-date with the latest bios, which contained better support from Lenovo for Linux.

Here is the only major issue that I ran into with this laptop so far. I originally attempted to install Ubuntu; however, I immediately ran into issues with it not wanting to install due to UEFI and installing the third-party software during install. I attempted both 180.04 and 18.10, but was unsuccessful. I was able to install Pop_OS! and used it to make a new copy of Ubuntu, but still failed. I kept getting an error prior to loading the install live environment and the computer would shut down. I have checked all the bios settings for anything that would cause an issue and made several different live, boot USBs on different thumb drives, but always the same. I am unsure what is causing the error, but I will investigate further. For now I am happy with Pop!_OS.

The screen on this machine is fantastic. It is one of the features that sold be on the computer. When I was looking at the Dell and System76 options, the resolution options were either 1080 or 4K (Dell XPS only). Further investigation revealed that neither had the color replication of the ThinkPad, nor the brightness. Now, I do not forsee myself cranking the brightness on this up to the 500nits, but it is nice to have it, and the 100%AdobeRGB is awesome! I wish it was not such a glossy display, but it is nice. I also am not someone that needs 4K on a 14” screen. You do not really notice the greater pixel density unless you are two inches away, and I wanted the better battery life. The resolution offered on the ThinkPad was a nice middle ground for me.

Because the ThinkPad is a business class laptop, it comes with a great range of I/O. On the right side is a single USB-A 3.0 port and a headphone jack. On the right is a full HDMI port, another USB-A 3.0 port, and two USB-C Thunderbolt ports, one combined with the ThinkPad dock port. On the rear is a tray that will pop out for a MicroSD card. The way this works is nice if you would like to use it for more permanent storage, but is not so ideal if you would like to pop cards in and out. The tray cannot be accessed while the lid is open.

The experience so far with Pop_OS! Has been good. One reason that I decided to go with the ThinkPad is the trackpad. On many of the other laptops, expecially consumer grade, the trackpad is larger and most importantly, wider. The issue here is that while typing, the palm rests on the trackpad. With Windows and MacOS, this is not a huge issue because they have good palm rejection with MacOS being the best. Linux, in my experience, has poor palm rejection. On my Spectre x360, I had to deactivate a inch worth of trackpad to avoid having my cursor move accidentally. I observed that the Dell XPS and System76 Darter Pro would have this same issue. I was likely going to have to eliminate the tap-to-click feature, which I did not want to do. For the ThinkPad, the trackpad is nicely centered beneath the spacebar, and the additional buttons at the top make it short enough that my palms do not really rest on it at all.

thinkpad left side

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Left Side

Some added bonuses is that it comes with a Trackpoint, which I do use, and built in webcam security by being able to deactivate it. The fingerprint reader does not work in Linux, but I am fine with that. There are two levels of brightness for the back lighting on the keys, which is more than the Spectre x360, but less than the MacBook Pro.

I use a ThinkPad T470 for work, and it is nice to be able to get used to one keyboard layout. I also have a ThinkPad USB dock that is similar to the one I use at work, and this is also another nice bonus. I know that the dock and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon will work well together, and being able to use one USB-C cable to connect the ThinkPad to two external monitors, ethernet, keyboard and mouse, is very nice. This setup is now perfect whether I am connecting for work or play. And when I want to move from the office to the couch, I can take everything with me. Before I would have to modify the setup for the MacBook Pro when working on web development, and the USB-C setup for work or the Spectre. (My MacBook is 2014 and does not have USB-C Thunderbolt). On small issue I have had is that the Victsing wireless mouse that is connected to the dock can be a little jumpy sometimes, and connecting it by Bluetooth, rather than the 2.4GHz receiver, is not any better.

Final impressions: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the best laptop I have used so far. While I miss the all metal chassis of the MacBook Pro and HP Spectre x360, the usability and compatibility with Linux is far better. This machine is perfect for what I am looking to do with it, and the power for the internals for the money I paid could not be beat by the System76 Darter Pro or the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition. While it was a little challenging to install Linux at first, now that it is on there, everything works great.