Intel defines Evo branded certified laptops as being "designed and tested to perform how you need them to, based on how you’ll actually use them—with many applications open at once, heavy media use, and constant toggling," with "measurements of battery life, responsiveness, and speed [that] reflect the way you work." Launched in conjunction with Intel's Tiger Lake platform, Evo branded machines must meet certain criteria in performance and specifications. These laptops must have at least 8GB of RAM with a minimum of 256GB of storage with consistent responsiveness while on battery power. They also must wake from sleep in less than 1 second and provide specific connectivity benefits from WiFi 6 to Thunderbolt 4. To achieve some of these metrics, Evo certified machines like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon have to not only have robust CPU processing power, but also high performance subsystems for a balanced experience. Let's take a look at what Lenovo delivers here in that regard...
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 Storage Test: ATTO
First on our docket of tests is the ATTO disk benchmark, which is a fairly straight-forward and easy test that measures read and write operations per second at differing file transfer sizes. On board our machine from Lenovo is a 512GB SK Hynix HFS512GD PCIe Gen 3 NVMe
SSD, rated for 3.4 GB/sec for reads and 2.5GB/sec for writes.
As you can see here, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon's SSD put up slightly better peak write numbers than its specification, but slightly slower read numbers that still were well north of 3GB/sec. Regardless, compared to some of the other drives we've seen in similar class ultralight laptops, these are very respectable numbers that will bode well in general throughout our benchmark gauntlet. We're still jonesing for the day we'll see a PCIe Gen 4 SSD
grace an ultralight laptop configuration like this, but they're currently cost-prohibitive and may negatively impact battery life.
Web Based Benchmarks: Speedometer
Here the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 puts up a top score as the fastest machine we've tested to date in this particular lightly-threaded benchmark. It even outscored beefier gaming-oriented machines like the ASUS ROG Zephyrus G15 (not represented in the graph) with its AMD Ryzen 9 5900HS
CPU in this test. This could be a foreshadow of things to come.
3D Rendering Performance: Cinebench
Cinebench R20 is a long sustained-load rendering test that gives a good idea of single and multithreaded performance. Moreover, it gives a rough idea of how a laptop may or may not struggle in the cooling department, though thermal saturation is not something we noticed specifically in testing this ThinkPad machine.
Once again the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon puts up very strong scores, even though its quad-core Tiger Lake
should be on similar footing with other machines sporting similar configs. Here the new Lenovo ThinkPad only really falls victim to higher core count processor configurations.
Synthetic CPU Throughput Test: GeekBench 5
GeekBench 5 is something of a benchmark Swiss-Army knife as a “cross-platform benchmark that measures your system's performance with the press of a button.” In this instance, we ran both the single- and multi-core tests to get an idea of how the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 performs versus its peers.
Here again we see another strong showing for the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9. It doesn't quite catch the ASUS Zenbook Flip S in its Performance mode setting but it smokes it at its Standard mode setting.
Interesting Findings When Testing On Battery Power
We should note that out of the box, the X1 Carbon Gen 9 is set to Best Performance on the Windows Power Mode slider when plugged into the wall, and when unplugged, the machine drops to the Better Battery Life setting. However, with the Power Mode slider set to the same Best Performance setting and the machine unplugged from the wall outlet, we found a drop in top-end performance of about 12% in GeekBench and 28% in Cinebench, suggesting that Lenovo aggressively tunes the machine for utmost performance when plugged in, but overall better battery life when untethered from the wall.
Trace-Based Productivity Application Testing: PCMark 10
Futuremark tests are something of a staple when it comes to benchmarking systems around here, and for good reason. We put our X1 Carbon through the PCMark 10 gauntlet, which gives us an idea of how the device would perform in real world day-to-day productivity and content creation tasks, unlike GeekBench 5's synthetic workloads.
The results from this test are interesting indeed, showing that Lenovo's new ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a well-balanced machine capable of responsive throughput in light-duty productivity tasks and even robust content creation performance.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 Gaming Tests: 3DMark Night Raid
With all the productivity and day-to-day task tests out of the way, we can move on to testing the gaming-capable aspects of this new ThinkPad. As this laptop is thin and light, with gaming much less of a focus, we ran 3DMark’s Night Raid benchmark as a quick sanity check.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon puts up very impressive numbers here versus other thin and light machines in our database. In fact, it's the best scoring Tiger Lake machine we've seen yet in this benchmark, when plugged into the wall, and it only bled off about 15% of this number when running strictly on battery power.
Gears Tactics Gaming Benchmarks
Pushing a somewhat more strenuous gaming workload in Gears Tactics, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 delivers playable frames rates even at the game's High quality preset. It's only at the High setting that it falls behind a discrete GPU-equipped machine like the Dell XPS 15. Regardless, once again it's the fastest Tiger Lake-based machine we've tested thus far, though some of that performance lead may be the result of Intel graphics driver optimizations over time.
Let's look at thermals, acoustics and battery life next...