X1 Carbon 2012 – 2018

The X1 Carbon? This is certainly not the god tier IBM ThinkPad™ we wanted, it is the successor to the X300 series which was a competitor to the MacBook Air. Thanks to Intel funding companies to produce Ultrabooks, the X1 Carbon is here to stay, and it became the flagship for Lenovo’s ThinkPad division.

I do like the X1 Carbon, though I wouldn’t recommend it for being a daily driver for someone who wants to do light gaming or video editing, it is pretty decent for photoshop. A dGPU MacBook Pro would be a better choice for that kind of crap, or an XPS 15. The X1C is a lovely device still, its thin, lightweight, iGPU and usually has the best screen Lenovo offers for their 14″ laptops.

Not all X1 Carbons are the same

Although first getting into ThinkPads was confusing (380XD, A21p, T440s, E220 etc), all of the X1 Carbon line is just called that, sometimes just X1C. Lenovo recently started to spin off the X1 line to include the X1 Tablet, a slate tablet that replaced the Helix, and the X1 Yoga, which is essentially an X1 Carbon that can retract 360 degrees to be used like most tablet/laptop convertables. Those will not be covered in this post, nor will the original 13″ X1, mostly because getting a battery with 80% or more life is difficult to find/verify and its 1366 x 768 display did not look well then and def did not age well at all.

Back to it, the X1 Carbon didn’t really get a name change, when the 2014 X1 Carbon released with the attrocious keyboard, it was just known as the new X1, or 2014 model. It wasn’t until the 2015 model with the Broadwell processor & regular keyboard/trackpoint, did Lenovo started to call them by Generations, or Gen.

Quick rundown of differences

  • X1 – 2011 Sandy Bridge – 13″ 720p, 1 RAM slot upgrade
  • X1C 1st gen – 2012 Ivy bridge – 14″ Ultrabook, Touch screen added, 900p max, RAM soldiered from now on
  • X1C 2nd gen – 2014 Haswell – clickpad, bad keyboard, 1440p (4K) IPS finally added
  • X1C 3rd gen – 2015 Broadwell – Fixed keyboard/trackpoint, 900p LCD dropped, 1080p TN standard, IPS optional, 16GB RAM option added
  • X1C 4th gen – 2016 Skylake – NVMe speeds introduced, touch & glossy displays dropped, 45W now, SD Card port removed for microSD
  • X1C 5th gen – 2017 Skylake & Kabylake – Silver color added, now in 13″ frame, small LCD bezel, silver color added, 4GB RAM not an option, USB-C Charger
  • X1C 6th gen – 2018 8th Gen Kabylake R – Quadcore i5 & i7, 65W USB-C, Touchscreen added & ‘new’ HDR option available, SD Card port brought back

With all this said, it would be easy to find out what ThinkPad is what, right? Well no, people still just list these laptops as ‘X1 Carbon’ without any Gen or year indicator. And even at that, you’d still find those who mislist that as well, as sorting by processor generation will not be accurate too… barf.

Before I delve into more word jargon information, I have made a spreadsheet of X1 Specs using Lenovo’s tabook as well as pricing on the second page.
Additionally you can look at these for pricing.
Google Sheets  –  Open Document Format  –  Microsoft Excel  –  CSV Format

You can also identify most of an X1 Carbon by the Machine Type Model, or MTM. That number is also part of the serial number, so sometimes some sellers may not disclose that information, because spooky reasons. But if you do see a photo of the BIOS or bottom part of the laptop, and can see the barcode & MTM, then you can figure out what year it is.

Lenovo has a page identifying an X1 Carbon or you can stay here 🙂

  1. X1C1 – 34**-*** – The only X1 that used the old 7 alphanumeric MTM
  2. X1C2 – 20A7 20A8
  3. X1C3 – 20BS 20BT
  4. X1C4 – 20FB 20FC (could be an RX-7)
  5. X1C5 Skylake   – 20K3 20K6
  6. X1C5 Kabylake – 20HQ 20HR
  7. X1C6 – 20KG 20KH

 

Visual Differences

Most X1 Carbons look the same, they undeniably all look the same with the lid closed, so i didn’t do a post about that. Additionally showing the ‘front’ side and the rear of the laptops doesn’t really show much, so I didn’t bother with that. And finally there are some key differences on the bottom of the laptop, but I seemed to have difficulty finding a decent photo of the bottom on 2 generations and it ultimately made me waste 4 hours in addition to getting too distracted for looking for it… which led to giving up on it.

The most visually different X1C is the 2nd generation, followed by the 4th gen which the X1 Yoga took design cues from. The 5th gen X1C brought the ThinkPad to a smaller footprint, Lenovo crammed a smaller bezel, just like good ol days of the 4:3 ThinkPads, in addition to this you can get it in a silver color, which gives it a dramatic look.

All photos taken from notebookcheck.com 🙂

Keyboard

Left Side I/O

Right Side I/O

Display???

I cannot accurately show the differences of each panel. Although I did download a few photos from Notebookcheck and was going to show the differences, I didn’t have all the options available for the ThinkPads. Meaning only a 1440p panel would be shown, or a base 900p model, alongside superior screens of the other generations.
Basing the displays from Notebookcheck… not all of their photos seem to be the same. Now at first I just thought it was the slight differences of angles taken by each person, but I was wrong as you can see on the right.
Clearly Lenovo must use more than one different panel for the screen resolutions, and sadly NBC doesn’t say which precise screen is shown…
So even if you do get a X1C with the LCD option that has rave reviews, there’s a chance it might not be that actual panel…
In addition to this, when I was looking for the HMM to see if it has a certdain FRU for the panels… they are not cited.
As you can see to the photo on the right, here are two panels of the X1C5, I verified that it was the 2017 model, and it is, the specs are different ofc, and the MTMs are 20HR0021GE and 20HQS03P00. Even if I did show you the differences of a 1080p panel and 1440p panel (I refuse to call it 4K or WQHD, it is not!), I believe you can still end up with a jobber LCD. Supposedly these two screens on the right are both made by AUO and the top one is verified to be the B140HAN01.3 panel, but the one on the bottom? In addition to this, NBC also has significant differences in PVM, brightness, color accuracy and black level… Can this really be the panel differences of the two even if they are the exact same?! I don’t believe it as I had two of these panels before and they didn’t have this much of a difference.

So due to this, I won’t be covering the display differences, because for me, it would take too much time to pinpoint each exact panel, and presume there are no differences within them. I had this problem with looking at the bottom of the X1 Carbon, and I spent another 50 minutes trying to find each panel by looking at different reviews. I just cant do it, I’m sorry. UWUx

 



 

CPU, SSD & RAM Info

Is there really a big difference between them? Looking at the CPU Benchmarks of them, I see about a 200 point difference in passmark, to a 400, and then a 3600 difference. Which equates from being 6%, 15% & 62%. Intel didn’t really do much of a difference in performance, however there seemed to be about a 1 to 1.5 hour battery life difference.

The 1.8GHz i5-3427u of the X1C 1st gen scored 3543, while the 2.2GHz i5-5200u got 3492 from the X1C3. Thats a 3 year difference, however we do know that Intel was improving battery life on these devices, as the X1C1 would of gotten about 3 hours of battery life, vs getting about 7 hours on the X1C3… In addition to this, the graphic capabilities will drastically show, or at least you will be able to hear it.

 X1C Ivy Bridge      -  X1C2 Haswell        -  X1C3 Broadwell
 4/8GB  DDR3  1600      4/8GB  DDR3L  1600     4/8GB  DDR3L 1600
 1.7 i5-3317u 3049   -  1.6 i5-4200u  3283  -  2.2 i5-5200u 3492
 1.8 i5-3427u 3546   -  1.9 i5-4300u  3743  -  2.3 i5-5300u 3790
                     -  1.5 i7-4550u  3759  -  2.4 i5-5500u 3970
 2.0 i7-3667u 4002   -  2.1 i7-4600u  4110  -  2.6 i7-5600u 4304

 X1C4/5 Skylake      -  X1C5 Kabylake       -  X1C5 Kabylake R (Quad)
 4/8/16GB LPDDR3 1866   8/16GB LPDDR3 1866     8/16GB LPDDR3 2133
 2.3 i5-6200u 4013   -  2.5 i5-7200u  4651  -  1.6 i5-8250u 7621
 2.4 i5-6300u 4365   -  2.6 i5-7300u  5135  -  1.7 i5-8350u 8639
 2.5 i7-6500u 4434   -  2.7 i7-7500u  5206  -  1.8 i7-8550u 8302
 2.6 i7-6600u 4811   -  2.8 i7-7600u  5565  -  1.9 i7-8650u 9055

Storage & Memory

The X1 Carbon does not have a CD Drive of any kind and has the m.2 format with the two notches. Almost all of them had a 128GB stick as standard, only as the years progressed did the max SSD options change from 256GB to 1TB. It is to note that the X1C 4th gen from 2015 brought PCIe NVMe speeds to the X1C, so all prior will not have that 2 second bootup. Only the 6th Gen X1C has NVMe only SSDs, but I still wouldn’t be thinking I’d get an NVMe drive from a used X1C because they were so expensive.

Like the Processor, the RAM is soldiered into the motherboard. For me I would spend the extra cash for 8GB of RAM, 16GB is overkill but if you need a lot of chrome tabs, then get that. The 4th Gen X1C was the first to offer 16GB RAM and the last to offer 4GB as the base. I would say this laptop is really at the sweet spot of them all.

I/O Ports

The first 3 iterations of the X1C has SD Card slots, the X1C4 & X1C5 have only a microSD card slot at the back of the laptop, but the X1C6 brings back full size SD Card again. So if you’re thinking about one of these for photo editing, you’ll need a dongle for the 4th and 5th gen.

The first gen X1C is gimped, no ethernet or HDMI out. The rest have a mini ethernet port that needs a dongle & all have fullsize HDMI out. If you want a mini Display Port, the X1C2, X1C3 & X1C4 has them.

Docking stations

Sadly in order for this laptop to be so thin, Lenovo does not have the traditional ThinkPad dock on the bottom of the laptop. However not all is horrible as there are less convenient docks out there. The X1C2 & X1C3 has the One Link docking port, but the X1C4 has a One Link+ port which is physically different. Lenovo powers the X1C5 & X1C6 thru USB-C, so you can get the 90W ThinkPad USB-C Dock to connect to all of your devices. I am unsure how reliable off brand USB-C docks are, so just read reviews if people had used them for an X1C or ThinkPad. USB 3.0 docks have mixed reviews.

PRICING

Prices are sourced from January 2018 to April 25th 2018, the X1C6 just got released and is still ‘new’.
Only ThinkPads with their processor in the listing were compiled in the database.
No guessing or visual photo confirmation of individual listings.

Model   Low    Fair      High  #Sold   Availability

X1C     $200  - $296  // $390  ~ 173 V 50
X1C2    $240  - $350  // $350  ~ 307 V 74
X1C3    $360  - $550  // $790  ~ 236 V 55
X1C4    $475  - $900  // $1400 ~ 86  V 50
X1C5    $600  - $1170 // $1900 ~ 155 V 445 (Skylake & Kaby)
X1C5K   $870  - $1350 // $1940 ~ 122 V 387
X1C6    $1400 - $1600 // $1850 ~ 12  V 23

Highest you should pay             Best   Max    Max    Base  Best
Model  Parts  Used   Refurb New    i7     RAM    SSD    LCD   LCD
X1C    $200   $365   $400   $450   $430   $420   $400
X1C2   $270   $500   $480   $1200  $480   $380   $500   $400   $500+
X1C3   $445   $720   $650   $1000  $800   $725   $815   $745   $685
X1C4   $565   $1000  $1100  $1500  $1370  $1095  $1370  $1175  $1230
X1C5   $1265  $1370  $1460  $1800  $1550  $1800  $1940  $1770  $1910
X1C5K  $1265  $1365  $1550  $1910  $1810  $1850  $1940  $1810  $1920
X1C6                        $1850  $2300  $2000+               $2300

Snag them!                         Best   Max     Max   Base   Best
Model  Parts  Used   Refurb New    i7     RAM     SSD   LCD    LCD
X1C    $95    $177   $230   $350   $270   $240   $200
X1C2   $150   $230   $350   $450   $260   $210   $400   $240   $320
X1C3   $205   $320   $425   $600   $340   $545   $580   $345   $500
X1C4   $330   $525   $750   $810   $585   $695   $815   $550   $735
X1C5          $665   $800   $1000  $970   $1100  $1525  $770   $1100
X1C5K         $820   $1100  $980   $1080  $990   $1550  $1100  $1335
X1C6                        $1400  $1475  $1800                $1800

What does Saucey Think?

Best Price/Performance – $550 X1C4  2.4GHz i5-6300u 8GB RAM + $140 512GB NVMe SSD Sleeper!
Budget futureproofing – $650 X1C5 2.3GHz i5-6200u + $100 USB-C Dock
Performance –  X1C6 1.7GHz i5-8350 16GB RAM FHD @ $1300 or get the i7  WQHD HDR for $2000
Extreme trolling – X1C2 as a daily driver and actually liking it

X1C – Nab the i7 & 8GB, upgrade SSD, 4000 Passmark performance should last another 3 years
X1C2 – Skip it, switching F Keys don’t work under Linux, keyboard is extremely dodgy
X1C3 – What the X1C2 should of been. WQHD isn’t all I though it would be, hurts my eyes & the matte display has a sparkle effect
X1C4 – New body & Frame, looks robust, CPU exhausts to the rear, 9+ hours of battery life like the X1C5, one link+ might be cheap or hard to find
X1C5 – USB-C charging brings convenience, two CPU gens bring russian roulette fun in cryptic listings, SILVER COLOR HERESY
X1C6 – Quadcore i5 & i7, AMD cucks intel to bring performance CPUs again, WQHD HDR display finally brings back the legacy of the QXGA display

Have I ever used one of these? I have only came across 2 X1 Carbons.

  • Factory Refurb X1C3 $900 – 2.2GHz i5-5200u 4GB 256GB WQHD – imgur link
  • Parts X1C2 + 8 As Is Mobos – Just to try it, the keyboard was bad & touchpad, but the Function Bar was interesting
  • Original X1 – Was able to upgrade to 6GB RAM but buying a new genuine battery from a reseller sucked due to it’s battery in poor health.
  • S70 & X301 – X300 preproduction version ‘Kodachi’, best typing experience on a Lenovo ThinkPad (havent tried TP25 yet)

I liked the X1C3, it was my daily for a bit, however this was before I got my T430s and did the FHD IPS mod. In comparison to the Google Pixel I was using, it didn’t feel as robust. I know that aluminum isn’t durable, but opening up the Pixel’s lid vs the slightly flexing X1… it gave a small sour taste to me. Along side that I got an X1C2 just to see how it is. I noticed that the motherboard is slightly different than the X1C3, so swapping the keyboard/trackpoint wouldn’t of just worked, in addition it used a different LCD cable for the WQHD and 900p model.

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