Why mess with success? That's what Lenovo must be thinking as today it announced the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 and X1 Yoga Gen 5, both of which have nearly-identical specs and the same chassis as their immediate predecessors. Due out later this year for starting prices of $1,499 and $1,599 respectively, the new Carbons offer a couple of new configuration options, improved Wi-Fi and a slight keyboard labeling change.
We normally expect that, when a company releases a new version of a laptop that it will either have a newer CPU, a noticeable design change or, most likely, both. But the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 8 and X1 Yoga Gen 5 will have the same 10th Gen Intel "Comet Lake" CPUs as the current models on offer right now; it is just adding versions of those chips with vPro remote management built-in.
The chassis design on both models has not changed. The X1 Carbon remains 2.4 pounds and 0.6 inches thick while the X1 Yoga is still 3 pounds and 0.6 inches thick. Both are remarkably slim and light so there probably wasn't much headroom to improve there without sacrificing full-size USB ports or battery capacity.
In addition to the new CPU options, users will have some brighter screen options as the X1 Carbon will now an optional 400-nit FHD touch screen panel, which is 100 nits more than the current 300-nit touch screen option. Its FHD ePrivacy-enabled panel option jumps up to 500 nits from 400 nits. However, the other screen options, including the 400-nit default screen and 500-nit 4K display remain the same. The X1 Yoga's ePrivacy screen option also moves up to 500 nits.
There are two improvements in the X1 Carbon that aren't optional and should be noticeable. Both models now come with Wi-Fi 6, aka 802.11ax, while their predecessors had only Wi-Fi 5 / 802.11ac. The other change is that their keyboards now have conferencing (call / hangup / messaging) icons on the F9, F10 and F11 keys and those keys will work within apps like Skype.
Whether these modest improvements justify a version number increase is up for debate. Remember that Lenovo added Comet Lake CPU options to the Gen 7 ThinkPad this past fall without changing the generation name. However, considering that it's a new year and the company typically announces new ThinkPads at this time, it only makes sense to brand this as a relaunch.
New model number or old, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon remains one of the best productivity laptops around. Its combination of extremely light weight, long battery life, excellent keyboard and TrackPoint navigation make it an incredible productivity tool. We loved the X1 Carbon Gen 7 when we reviewed it in September 2019 and we expect identical or nearly-identical performance from Gen 8.
From a shopper's perspective, however, Lenovo has made it pretty easy for consumers to buy the current, Gen 7 model without feeling like there's something significantly better coming around the corner. Given Intel's problems with producing an adequate supply of 10 nm chips, it seems likely that we won't see an X1 Carbon or X1 Yoga with new Intel CPUs for a long time.