Thinkpad X1 Carbon 6
I got a new Thinkpad, the 6th gen (2018) X1 Carbon, herein referred to as the t6x1c because why not. I’m not the first to get this laptop, and I’m sure some complete reviews are out there, but a few more personal notes I found interesting.
I already have, among other computers, the t3x1c. It’s probably my favorite all time. The plan was to wait a bit longer, but I decided to compile clang and it was faster to order a new computer. Over time, the screen had become scuffed, and at some point a grain of sand dug a little hole in the screen. Like a dead pixel, but white when the screen is black and black when the screen is white. I can ignore it, but I constantly forget what it is, and then try to wipe it off. So the first thing I did was get a screen protector for this laptop.
The 2019 t7x1c is apparently coming in June, but availability of the specific model I want may be some time after that. And from previews, it sounds like not much has changed. Not for the better anyway. Intel has refreshed the wifi again, and the GPU for some reason. Maybe OpenBSD will support them by June, maybe not. It’s not the end of the world (the t3x1c didn’t run OpenBSD very well when I first got it), but if there’s a hardware model that works well today, that’s the obvious low risk no fun option.
I happen to really like the screen size and resolution (2560x1440) of the X1 line. Everyone else used thin bezels to put a 13” laptop in a 12” case. I’d rather have the 14” screen on a 13” case. I’ve looked at a few higher resolution screens, the fabled 4K, but they don’t move the needle for me the way moving 1080p (or 900p) to 1440p did. Moving higher up seems less efficient in theory.
The keyboard is very similar, though the caps seem less shiny. (Good thing.) The caps also rise up a bit higher. I think I’m unusual in preferring rather low set key caps so my fingers don’t get stuck on the edges. The touchpad buttons, in constrast, are sunk down too much and have a soft, very shallow range. I have much more trouble clicking with this laptop than I’ve had in the past.
Battery life seems pretty good. The t3x1c had slowly dipped down from 500 minutes to about 400 minutes, which was enough for six hours, but at the end of it I was increasingly anxious about being below 20%. I seem to get closer to 550 minutes now. Or maybe 20 minutes compiling clang.
Performance is great. So far, the t6x1c and t3x1c have been about equals, but CPU performance is where the new model pulls away. 4x (no SMT) cores is notably faster than 2x (SMT on) cores. Of course, this comes at a power cost.
Noise is great. Which is to say nonexistent most of the time. The old system’s fan was usually off, but would quickly start up the moment I’d load a tweet, coming online with a distinctive whoosh sound. The new system’s thermals have been tuned so that the CPU must heat up quite a bit more before the fan activates, and it has a more gradual startup. Very happy about this.
There is no whining, singing, or other noise making from any solid state components, proving that yes, it is still possible to build such a PC. People tell me to try the Dell XPS 13, but whenever I ask about coil whine the answer is either “It’s not that bad.” or “I sent the first one back and it’s not that bad on the second one.” Sigh.
Construction is solid. The hinge is perhaps a bit stiff.
I feel like a port or two is missing. You can’t really say there’s two USB-C ports if one is used for power and the other is used for DisplayPort. That’s zero ports. There is HDMI, which is good, and thankfully one USB-A port on each side. I bought the extra cost ethernet adapter because I like wires.
OpenBSD supports it as well as any laptop available. You do need an updated BIOS, with options to enable “Linux” mode suspend and Thunderbolt assist. I was unable to boot in EFI mode, spent 30 seconds pondering this, then just toggled the other setting for CMS legacy boot.
Like other modern laptops, performance is affected by power and thermal constraints that are somewhat opaque. Lenovo has configured in minor overdrive by default. Here’s a notebookcheck article on undervolting the carbon with some more details. OpenBSD doesn’t currently expose the CPU’s actual clock frequency (just 2001 when it’s in turbo mode). Intel apparently decided to drop support for mobile CPUs from XTU, so if you want to play you’ll need to download version 220.127.116.11 from your favorite totally legit backup filez site.
For me, it’s basically the perfect laptop. I spent some time considering alternatives, even tried one out, but nothing else makes the cut. I’m very happy with this laptop, and very sad that there’s only a single supplier.