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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019 Privacy Guard Review: Business laptop with ePrivacy filter is not perfect

The first attempt. Lenovo now offers some of its ThinkPad models with the optional Privacy Guard display. We checked the ePrivacy screen in combination with the current ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019 and also compare Lenovo's first attempt with HP's SureView technology.
Andreas Osthoff 👁 (translated by Andreas Osthoff),

We have already reviewed the 2019 model of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon two times, once with the Low Power 1080p screen as well as the familiar WQHD panel. Lenovo now also offers units with the Privacy Guard 1080p screen, which includes a privacy filter (ePrivacy). This is a direct competitor for HP's SureView technology, which is available in its third generation by now.

We focus on the screen quality and the effectiveness of the privacy filter in this review. More details on other review sections are available in our previous reviews of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019:

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QD00M7GE (ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019 Series)
Processor
Intel Core i5-8265U 4 x 1.6 - 3.9 GHz, Whiskey Lake-U
Graphics adapter
Memory
16384 MB 
, LPDDR3-2133, Dual-Channel, soldered
Display
14 inch 16:9, 1920 x 1080 pixel 157 PPI, N140HCR-GA2, IPS, ePrivacy Screen, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel Cannon Lake-U PCH-LP Premium
Soundcard
Intel Cannon Lake-LP - cAVS
Connections
2 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 2 USB 3.1 Gen2, 2 Thunderbolt, 1 HDMI, 2 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: 3.5 mm stereo jack, 1 Fingerprint Reader
Networking
Intel Ethernet Connection I219-V (10/100/1000/2500/5000MBit/s), Intel Wireless-AC 9560 (a/b/g/n = Wi-Fi 4/ac = Wi-Fi 5), Bluetooth 5.0, LTE
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 15.4 x 323.5 x 217.1 ( = 0.61 x 12.74 x 8.55 in)
Battery
51 Wh Lithium-Ion
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 10 Pro 64 Bit
Camera
Webcam: 720p HD
Additional features
Speakers: Stereo, Keyboard: Chiclet, Keyboard Light: yes, 65-Watt PSU, RJ45 adapter, 36 Months Warranty
Weight
1.226 kg ( = 43.25 oz / 2.7 pounds), Power Supply: 356 g ( = 12.56 oz / 0.78 pounds)
Price
2000 Euro
Note: The manufacturer may use components from different suppliers including display panels, drives or memory sticks with similar specifications.

 

Size Comparison

The selection of the Privacy Guard screen also results in a higher weight (~100 grams/~3.5 oz). While the X1 Carbon 2019 with the Low Power 1080p screen tipped the scale at 1.113 kg (~2.45 lb), we can now measure 1.226 kg (~2.7 lb). The Privacy Guard SKU is also slightly thicker by about half a millimeter (~0.02 in). However, you will not notice the difference unless you can compare the two units directly.

323.5 mm / 12.7 inch 217.1 mm / 8.55 inch 15.4 mm / 0.606 inch 1.2 kg2.7 lbs323.5 mm / 12.7 inch 217.1 mm / 8.55 inch 14.9 mm / 0.587 inch 1.1 kg2.45 lbs

Connectivity – Wi-Fi 6 only as an option for the ThinkPad

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019 is unfortunately not shipped with a Wi-Fi 6 module by default (Intel AX201), but with the familiar Intel Wireless-AC 9560 card instead. We have upgraded our Wi-Fi router (Netgear Nighthawk RAX200) for our standardized WLAN test since our last review of the X1 Carbon, and the results with the 9560 are much better. Compared to our previous router, the transfer speeds are almost doubled and the newer Wi-Fi 6 card (here shown by the Lenovo Yoga C740-15) is not much faster, either.

Networking
iperf3 Client (receive) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Lenovo Yoga C740-15IML
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
1420 MBit/s ∼100% +14%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QD00M7GE
Intel Wireless-AC 9560
1246 (min: 574, max: 1357) MBit/s ∼88%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QE000VGE
Intel Wireless-AC 9560
617 MBit/s ∼43% -50%
iperf3 Client (transmit) TCP 1 m 4M x10
Lenovo Yoga C740-15IML
Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201
1380 MBit/s ∼100% +17%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QD00M7GE
Intel Wireless-AC 9560
1176 (min: 1149, max: 1209) MBit/s ∼85%
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QE000VGE
Intel Wireless-AC 9560
652 MBit/s ∼47% -45%

Display – Privacy Guard with good picture quality

Subpixel array
Subpixel array

After we had the chance to test all four different versions of Lenovo's new 1080p Low Power screen, it is now time for the optional FHD display with the integrated ePrivacy filter (Innolux N140HCR-GA2). The specs are basically identical with the Low Power SKUs: 1080p resolution, IPS technology, and a matte screen surface.

Subjectively, the image quality is good and comparable to the regular 1080p LP display. Working with the screen is no problem and the picture quality is very good for a business laptop. There is no visible grain, even on bright surfaces, despite the matte coating. We did not detect PWM (also the case for active privacy filter), only a background flickering at 25 kHz when the brightness drops to 50 or lower. This frequency should not be an issue even for sensitive users though. Great: Our unit does not show any signs of backlight bleeding.

363
cd/m²
360
cd/m²
358
cd/m²
373
cd/m²
406
cd/m²
372
cd/m²
370
cd/m²
385
cd/m²
360
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
N140HCR-GA2
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 406 cd/m² Average: 371.9 cd/m² Minimum: 5 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 407 cd/m²
Contrast: 1624:1 (Black: 0.25 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 2.9 | 0.6-29.43 Ø5.8, calibrated: 1.1
ΔE Greyscale 4.4 | 0.64-98 Ø6
98.6% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 63.4% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.24
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QD00M7GE
N140HCR-GA2, IPS, 1920x1080, 14
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QE000VGE
LP140QH2-SPD1, IPS, 2560x1440, 14
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QES01L00
LP140WF9_SPF1, IPS, 1920x1080, 14
HP EliteBook x360 830 G6
M133NVFC R5, IPS LED, 1920x1080, 13.3
Response Times
15%
-6%
-38%
Response Time Grey 50% / Grey 80% *
40.8 (21.2, 19.6)
33.6 (16.4, 17.2)
18%
44.8 (21.2, 23.6)
-10%
44 (18.8, 25.2)
-8%
Response Time Black / White *
27.2 (15.6, 11.6)
24 (12.4, 11.6)
12%
27.6 (15.6, 12)
-1%
30 (14, 16)
-10%
PWM Frequency
25000 (50)
952.4 (100)
-96%
Screen
-29%
-11%
13%
Brightness middle
406
338
-17%
381
-6%
603
49%
Brightness
372
315
-15%
375
1%
692
86%
Brightness Distribution
88
88
0%
94
7%
69
-22%
Black Level *
0.25
0.43
-72%
0.24
4%
0.26
-4%
Contrast
1624
786
-52%
1588
-2%
2319
43%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 *
2.9
4
-38%
4.6
-59%
2.2
24%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 max. *
6.1
7.9
-30%
8.5
-39%
7.7
-26%
Colorchecker DeltaE2000 calibrated *
1.1
1.7
-55%
1.2
-9%
1.5
-36%
Greyscale DeltaE2000 *
4.4
6.2
-41%
5.1
-16%
2.6
41%
Gamma
2.24 98%
2.13 103%
2.52 87%
2.17 101%
CCT
5967 109%
6787 96%
7052 92%
6412 101%
Color Space (Percent of AdobeRGB 1998)
63.4
68.1
7%
60.7
-4%
60.2
-5%
Color Space (Percent of sRGB)
98.6
97.8
-1%
95.7
-3%
93.6
-5%
Total Average (Program / Settings)
-7% / -22%
-9% / -11%
-13% / 2%

* ... smaller is better

Our measurement results are very similar to the previously tested 1080p Low Power screen. We can only confirm the advertised luminance of 400 nits for one spot; the average brightness is still good at ~370 nits. Thanks to the low black value, you can enjoy an excellent contrast ratio of more than 1600:1.

We use the professional CalMAN Ultimate software in combination with the X-Rite i1 Pro2 photo spectrometer for our analysis. There are some deviations compared to the sRGB reference color space out of the box, and there is a visible color cast towards yellow in combination with a slightly too warm color temperature. However, we are positively surprised by the picture quality when we turn on the privacy filter, because it does not affect the image quality at all.

CalMAN measurements ePrivacy off
CalMAN measurements ePrivacy off
CalMAN measurements ePrivacy on
CalMAN measurements ePrivacy on

Our calibration shows the real potential of the Innolux panel. The corresponding icm profile is linked in the box above and you can download it for free. Both the deviations for the grayscale and the colors are within the important limit of 3, and the color cast is gone as well. We determine an almost complete sRGB coverage (98.6%; AdobeRGB: 63.4%), so the display is also suited for picture editing.

CalMAN measurements calibrated
CalMAN measurements calibrated

The maximum brightness is also available on battery power once you deactivate the power-saver settings in Intel's graphics control panel. Thanks to the matte surface, you can use the screen very comfortably on the go.

Display Response Times

Display response times show how fast the screen is able to change from one color to the next. Slow response times can lead to afterimages and can cause moving objects to appear blurry (ghosting). Gamers of fast-paced 3D titles should pay special attention to fast response times.
       Response Time Black to White
27.2 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 15.6 ms rise
↘ 11.6 ms fall
The screen shows relatively slow response rates in our tests and may be too slow for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.8 (minimum) to 240 (maximum) ms. » 56 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is worse than the average of all tested devices (24.6 ms).
       Response Time 50% Grey to 80% Grey
40.8 ms ... rise ↗ and fall ↘ combined↗ 21.2 ms rise
↘ 19.6 ms fall
The screen shows slow response rates in our tests and will be unsatisfactory for gamers.
In comparison, all tested devices range from 0.9 (minimum) to 636 (maximum) ms. » 49 % of all devices are better.
This means that the measured response time is similar to the average of all tested devices (39 ms).

Screen Flickering / PWM (Pulse-Width Modulation)

To dim the screen, some notebooks will simply cycle the backlight on and off in rapid succession - a method called Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) . This cycling frequency should ideally be undetectable to the human eye. If said frequency is too low, users with sensitive eyes may experience strain or headaches or even notice the flickering altogether.
Screen flickering / PWM detected 25000 Hz ≤ 50 % brightness setting

The display backlight flickers at 25000 Hz (Likely utilizing PWM) Flickering detected at a brightness setting of 50 % and below. There should be no flickering or PWM above this brightness setting.

The frequency of 25000 Hz is quite high, so most users sensitive to PWM should not notice any flickering.

In comparison: 51 % of all tested devices do not use PWM to dim the display. If PWM was detected, an average of 17927 (minimum: 5 - maximum: 2500000) Hz was measured.

Privacy Guard

We have already shown that the use of the privacy filter does not affect the image quality or brightness, respectively, which is a big advantage over HP's SureView technology. HP only managed to improve the picture quality with the third generation of SureView, which we reviewed in combination with the EliteBook x360 830 G6, for instance. However, we have to be fair and mention that HP offers SureView in combination with a matte touch screen, while Lenovo uses a standard IPS screen without touch support.

Privacy filter off
Privacy filter off
Privacy filter on
Privacy filter on

But how effective is Lenovo's privacy filter? First of all, you should know that the viewing angle stability is limited compared to standard IPS screens even when the privacy functionality is turned off. The brightness drops more quickly with horizontal shifts, but this is the case for Lenovo's Privacy Guard as well as HP's SureView.

As soon as you activate the privacy filter ("FN" + "D"), Lenovo automatically reduces the screen brightness to around 90 Nits. The image is now harder to see from an angle, but you notice a blue hint. You can increase the brightness manually up to the maximum, but this reduces the effect of the privacy filter noticeably. This means that the filter does not really work in bright environments where you need the highest display brightness. HP's SureView technology is better in this respect. We have recorded the viewing angles of the X1 Carbon 2019 Privacy Guard in the video below (ePrivacy off, ePrivacy on, ePrivacy on max. brightness).

We used the ThinkPad X1 Carbon a couple of times and also tested it on a train ride. Due to bad weather and the time we did not have to use the maximum luminance, which is why the privacy filter worked well. This is a scenario where the optional Privacy Guard screen can make sense. However, we would like to see a more effective filter for the next generation – especially at higher brightness levels.

Battery Runtime – Privacy Guard reduces stamina

In addition to the increased weight, the Privacy Guard display also consumes more power than its LowPower counterpart. We determine about 7.5 hours in our standard Wi-Fi test at 150 Nits. Not bad in general, but the X1 Carbon 2019 with the LP-1080p-screen lasts almost two hours longer. The runtime is reduced to just 5 hours when we repeat the test with the maximum luminance. The use of the privacy filter has no effect on the power consumption.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QD00M7GE
51 Wh, 1920x1080
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QE000VGE
51 Wh, 2560x1440
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QES01L00
51 Wh, 1920x1080
Average of class Office
 
Battery Runtime
8%
23%
14%
WiFi Websurfing 1.3
456
493
8%
562
23%
427 (105 - 1124, n=402)
-6%
WiFi Websurfing 1.3 max Brightness
301
402 (220 - 609, n=18)
34%
Battery Runtime
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3 (Edge)
7h 36min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3 max Brightness (Edge)
5h 01min

Pros

+ very good picture quality, even with active privacy filter
+ good system performance
+ quiet fan
+ very good speakers
+ comprehensive warranty
+ still very good keyboard...

Cons

- ...but worse than before
- smaller battery and no more mSD reader
- worse battery runtime compared to LowPower 1080p display
- privacy filter only effective at low brightness levels
- Wi-Fi 6 only as an option in combination with 10th Gen Core CPUs
- very limited maintenance
- LAN only via (provided) adapter

Verdict – Privacy Guard ThinkPad with room for improvements

In review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019. Test model courtesy of Lenovo Germany.
In review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019. Test model courtesy of Lenovo Germany.

You have to pay $197 extra for the ePrivacy display compared to the regular 1080p screen (400 nits). The picture quality as well as the brightness are pretty similar between these two models and the overall picture impression is very good. However, the viewing angles of the ePrivacy screen are more limited even without the privacy filter running, because the brightness drops pretty quickly with horizontal shifts. We think the panel is not worth it for all users since the privacy filter is only really effective at low brightness levels. HP's current SureView generation definitely has an advantage in this regard, even though the picture quality is more affected due to the manufacturing process. HP also offers a matte touchscreen.

Lenovo's ePrivacy screen is only effective at low brightness levels, but there are at least no negative effects on the picture quality. This is not a bad result for the first attempt, but there is still plenty of room for improvements.

Lenovo's first attempt for a privacy filter is certainly not bad, but it has to be improved to be really effective. It currently only works well at low brightness levels. HP's SureView filter, however, has improved significantly with the third generation, because the first two versions had major effects on the picture quality and it was not really suited for longer work sessions.

If you want to buy a current ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you should also consider the negative aspects of the Privacy Guard panel. Besides the slightly higher weight and the slightly thicker chassis, we are mainly talking about the reduced battery runtime, which can be important for such a mobile device. It is certainly no mistake to choose the ePrivacy screen though. All the other advantages and disadvantages are obviously transferred from the other ThinkPad X1 Carbon SKUs.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019-20QD00M7GE - 12/25/2019 v7
Andreas Osthoff

Chassis
90 / 98 → 91%
Keyboard
92%
Pointing Device
95%
Connectivity
71 / 80 → 89%
Weight
72 / 20-75 → 95%
Battery
77%
Display
87%
Games Performance
47 / 78 → 60%
Application Performance
89 / 95 → 93%
Temperature
90%
Noise
98%
Audio
74%
Camera
50 / 85 → 59%
Average
79%
90%
Office - Weighted Average

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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2019 Privacy Guard Review: Business laptop with ePrivacy filter is not perfect
Andreas Osthoff, 2019-12-25 (Update: 2019-12-26)
Andreas Osthoff
Editor of the original article: Andreas Osthoff - Managing Editor Business Notebooks
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.