Hardware Overview and System Performance

Like many ultraportables, there are several hardware configuration options available through Lenovo’s website. There’s a wide range of processor choices including both Intel Core i5 and i7 CPUs, as well as 8 or 16GB of RAM, and SSDs from 128GB to 1TB. The two pre-configured options are as follows:

  • Intel Core i5-7200U, 8GB RAM, 128GB SSD, 1080p display - $1,329
  • Intel Core i7-7600U, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD, 1080p display - $1,899

My review unit was the base model, but with an upgrade to a 256GB SSD. The X1 Carbon is quite expensive in the United States, so this model costs $1,569.

A well-configured ThinkPad X1 Carbon, with a Core i7-7600U, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD, costs a whopping $2,489. I know this laptop is business oriented, but that’s extraordinarily expensive for the hardware inside. Some of the configuration options are exorbitantly priced: it costs $290 to get 16GB of RAM, and a 512GB SSD costs a massive $540. I guess you’ve got to pay for the best.

This is the first laptop I’ve reviewed with the Intel Core i5-7200U inside, which is Intel’s entry-level 15W Kaby Lake processor. This CPU is clocked at 2.5 GHz across two cores and four threads, with a boost clock of 3.1 GHz. Compared to last year’s Skylake Core i5-6200U, you’re getting a 200/300 MHz base/boost clock increase, placing the i5-7200U more closely in line with the i7-6500U (but with 3MB L3 cache rather than 4MB).

Those opting for the i7-7600U model get a significant clock speed increase to 2.8 GHz base and 3.9 GHz boost. On clock speed, that’s a 12 to 29 percent performance improvement. Other Kaby Lake laptops I’ve reviewed so far have used the Core i7-7500U, which is a 2.7/3.5 GHz part.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon with its Core i5 CPU is around 3 percent slower than the Core i7-equipped Razer Blade Stealth in our CPU benchmarks. Considering the clock speed differences between the CPUs, this is a decent result for the X1 Carbon.

If you’re upgrading from an older laptop, the X1 Carbon outperforms the HP Spectre with its Core i5-6200U processor by 18 percent in CPU-limited workloads. It’s also four percent faster than the Dell XPS 13 with the Core i7-6500U, which is a surprise considering both CPUs have the same clock speed and largely the same architecture.