Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon – Outdoor Usability Review

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Working in the outdoors has always provided a bit of a challenge for laptop users. For a rugged and durable laptop the choices are on the extreme side of things; super expensive, look and feel like a fully loaded briefcase and aren’t really office friendly. For those of us that don’t necessarily need a bombproof outdoor laptop, but still want something that is durable and usable in the outdoors, as well as office compatible, the options seem to be very few.

The large majority of laptops are completely unviewable when the sun is out, just due to the low nit rating and glossy screens. And then there are the ones that are built so light and fragile that you would be scared to take them anywhere. Enter the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, quite possibly the unexpected goldilocks of outdoor usable laptops.

What is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon?

Lenovo has been making ThinkPad laptops since 1992 and this October marks their 30th anniversary. The ThinkPad laptop has set the standard in many industries and garnered plenty of loyal fans over the last 30 years. Their X1 Carbon line is now on the 10th generation and is one of Lenovo’s premium laptops geared towards professionals who want higher levels of performance, better camera and audio capabilities for immersive collaboration and a secure laptop to protect them from the daily demands of hybrid working. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 features the latest 12th Generation Intel® Core™ i5 / i7 Processor, has Integrated Intel Iris Xe Graphics, an Integrated Li-Polymer 57Wh battery, spill-resistant LED backlit keyboard, TrackPoint® pointing device and glass surface multi-touch touchpad, as well as a plethora of build options for memory, SSD, displays, chargers, etc. **The specific model specs for the laptop in this review are listed below.**

The above ports are standard throughout the X1 Carbon line with the exception of the Nano-SIM card slot which is only available on select models.

As the title of this piece states, this is an outdoor usability review, so I will not be diving into all of the features and the performance of the X1, other than to say that I did not have a single issue with the multitude of tasks and operations I put it through. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon far exceeded my expectations from a performance standpoint and easily handled everything that is involved in the day to day operations with running a business and a website.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Outdoor Viewability

With seven different display options for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon laptop, there is plenty to choose from. The display on this ThinkPad X1 is the IPS WUXGA (1920×1200) 400 nit anti-glare touch screen that offers a 170 degree viewing angle and 1000:1 contrast ratio. In my opinion for a laptop to be viewable in outdoor sunlight, it should have an anti-glare screen and a minimum of 400 nits of brightness, which this one checks both of those boxes.

The picture above is of the X1 sitting in full direct sunlight while remaining perfectly viewable. To give you an idea of just how much sunlight, the solar panel in the background was pulling in it’s max charging output and cranking in 190-200 watts into the battery pack. Set at max brightness the readability and usability of the IPS WUXGA anti-glare screen was clear enough to do detailed photo editing and read even the smallest font on websites.

Working with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon in a low light setting presented zero viewing issues and the backlit keyboard helped make work in the darker environments a breeze.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Outdoor Performance

Working in direct sunlight heats up already warm running electronics rather quickly. The ThinkPad X1 has been factory tested to run at 109 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hours. To put that to the test, I took the X1 outdoors in direct sunlight on an 80+ degree day to work on what was going to be about a three hour project, unfortunately an hour into the project the smartphone that I was using for a hotspot got an over heating warning and shut itself down, while the X1 laptop was definitely hot, it was running and performing as if it was not baking in the sun, thanks to the dual fan setup and rear venting.

I don’t know that there would be too many scenarios that would call for work to be done in extremely hot temps, but if it needs to be the ThinkPad X1 laptop has demonstrated that it is ready to handle the job.

On the cold side of things, the X1 has been factory tested to run at -6 degrees Fahrenheit for 8 hrs. As for my testing, the weather hasn’t quite turned to winter yet, so the best I was able to test it at was only down to 37 degrees Fahrenheit that resulted in no issues.

One little nitpick I do have with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon series is that there is no SD card reader. For anything pertaining to cameras, videos and photography this is a must in a laptop, especially when taking photos of products. My solution was a USB plug-in Lexar micro SD card reader that pretty much stays attached to the laptop at all times. And while this works just fine, it is quite mind boggling that Lenovo has not integrated a micro SD card reader into the Carbon line.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Outdoor Durability

The “Carbon” in the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon name is for the build of the durable carbon fiber top. While I didn’t put the laptop through any extreme durability testing cases, the X1 has held up to being tossed in a SUV, packed and stuffed in amongst camping gear, used in hot and cold temps, been jostled around on a 20+ mile bike rides in a saddle bag, knocked off of a picnic table and opened / closed and pulled in /out of a backpack hundreds of times, all resulting in no ill effects. To me these are all standard use scenarios that I would except my outdoor laptop to be able to handle. But Lenovo takes it a bit further with their ThinkPad line, they use the US Department of Defense’s MIL-STD 810H standards to create a balance of reliability and durability.

They test against 12 standards and have more than 200 quality checks to ensure their ThinkPads can handle and run in extreme conditions. These tests cover brutal variables like the Arctic wilderness and desert dust storms, which include temperature, pressure, humidity, vibration and more.

Lenovo’s MIL-STD 810G testing standards cover the following:

  • Mechanical Shock – High acceleration, repeated shock pulses over 18 times.
  • Vibration – Tested while running and turned off.
  • Shipboard Vibration – 4-33Hz for 2 hrs.
  • Humidity – 91–98% relative humidity, at 30–60°C.
  • Sand & Dust – 140 mesh silica dust for 6 hr. cycles and silica sand for 90 min. cycles.
  • Fungus – 28 days with common fungus sources.
  • Altitude – Tested for operations at 15,000 feet.
  • Solar radiation – Seven 24-hr. cycles of simulated UV radiation.
  • Explore atmosphere – Fuel vapor environment.
  • Low Temperature – Storage: -25°C for 24 hrs. Operation: -21°C for 8 hrs.
  • Extreme Temperature – -25 – 60°C over 3 cycles of 2 hr. duration.
  • High Temperature – Storage: 63°C for 24 hrs. Operation: 43°C for 8 hrs.

And with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon passing all of those tests, it would explain why ever outing that I took it on didn’t even phase it.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Specs on Model Tested

  • Model # 21CB000CUS
  • OS – Windows 11 Pro (64-Bit)
  • Processor – Intel Core i7-1260P (12th Gen)
  • Graphics – Intel Iris Xe Integrated
  • Storage – 512 GB M.2 NVMe PCIe
  • Display – 16:10 Anti-glare WUXGA 1920 x 1200 400 nits
  • Ports – 2 x USB Type-A (USB 3.1 / USB 3.2 Gen 1) 2 x Thunderbolt 4 (Supports DisplayPort and Power Delivery) 1 x HDMI 1 x 1/8″ / 3.5 mm Headphone/Microphone Input/Output
  • Audio – Dolby Atmos
  • Connectivity – Wi-Fi 6E and Bluetooth 5.2
  • Camera – 1080p
  • Keyboard – Backlit
  • Touchpad – 110mm glass – Precision TrackPoint
  • Security – Fingerprint reader – IR hybrid camera – dTPM 2.0 – Kensington lock slot – Camera shutter
  • Battery – 57Wh – 65W Type-C adapter
  • Dimensions – 12.43 x 8.76 x 0.6″ / 315.72 x 222.5 x 15.24 mm
  • Weight – 2.48 lb. / 1.12 kg
  • Color – Deep Black

Final Thoughts on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a powerful laptop that strikes a perfect balance between durability and high performance, making it ideal for anyone who rotates between working indoors and out. For someone that is always on the go and spending time doing work outside, the strength, compact profile and outdoor usability of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon really puts it in a productivity class of it’s own.

For more info on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and other Lenovo products, visit www.lenovo.com.

MSRP Varies with Build

Mark Ranum: Mark is an outdoor adventure seeker, living in the beautiful state of Michigan. He loves trekking hundreds of miles through the wilderness, whether on two feet or two wheels, always looking for the next new trail or road to see where it will take him.
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