Singaporeans loved kopi long before western chains and third wave coffee arrived, but along with the chirpy baristas and latte art came a blooming café culture that transformed the city. For some, the sounds of clinking drinkware and hissing steam have become an inseparable part of their day, giving us the quintessential image of students and professionals tending to laptops and hot java.
Unfortunately, café culture and remote work culture don’t always agree. Some places are just too busy for extended calls or any kind of sensitive work, forcing us to either wander elsewhere or to splurge on a coworking desk. And even then, it’s just not the same—no matter how many times you loop that café ASMR video on YouTube. Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate your options.
Turn Down the Ambiance with the ThinkPad X1 Active Noise Cancellation Headphones
Remember the first time you had a good cup of joe and swore to never drink instant coffee again? The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Active Noise Cancellation Headphones ($279) is sort of like that. This Bluetooth headset packs both Active Noise Cancellation (ANC) and Environmental Noise Cancellation (ENC), piped through six wireless microphones, to make out-of-office teleconferencing possible.
ANC cancels ambient noise such as droning background chatter, granting you moments of silence to focus on work or on colleagues with bad microphones. But here’s the thing: not all ANC headsets are made equal. In the X1’s case, Lenovo uses a hybrid approach that places microphones inside and outside the headset. This nullifies a broader range of frequencies and adapts to what you’re hearing, since external setups don’t account for a headset’s cup design or how it’s being worn (maybe sound is leaking past the earpads). Simply put, you’re getting the best of both approaches, with two levels of ANC to ramp up the noise cancelling as needed.
If ANC affects what you hear, then ENC affects what others hear. You may doubt the X1’s lack of a boom microphone—you know, the type frequently associated with customer service agents—but it actually works. And it is leagues ahead of those in-line microphones you hold up to your mouth, not just because of the hands-free convenience but for cancelling that same background chatter surrounding you. After all, if you’re not being heard, then why are you wasting time on a call?
The rest of the package is well thought out, too. The X1’s form and finish look great in any setting, no matter if you’re hunkering down in your favourite coffee joint or zooming off to a fancy office meeting. The fold-flat design lets it shrink into a tidy carrying case when not in use, and it takes less than three hours of USB-C charging to get half a day’s worth of use. You can simultaneously connect two Bluetooth devices as well, just in case someone calls you on the phone instead.
Then when you’re blessed with some downtime, its aptXLL (aptX Low Latency) support ensures you get synchronized audio-video for gaming or that TV backlog. Compared to your smartphone’s stock headset or something you picked up for cheap, this feels a lot like trying your first pour over: it’s hard to go back.
Keep it For Your Eyes Only with the X1 Carbon
Cafes are urban watering holes in that everyone is welcome for a drink. Executives, creatives, digital nomads, students, and that one person who peeked over your shoulder and saw something they shouldn’t. Remember: You don’t have to lose a laptop to lose confidential information. If that’s a regular concern of yours, then consider migrating to the Lenovo X1 Carbon (starts from $2,999).
There’s a lot to love about this ultralight workhorse, but let’s talk security first. The X1 Carbon hails from Lenovo’s business line, which means that it’s kitted out in ThinkShield protections. To name a few, there’s anti-spoofing fingerprint technology, hardware-based data encryption, and FIDO (Fast Identity Online) authentication to protect your online credentials. It’s a huge confidence boost not just for yourself but for your company and clients, too.
However, what makes the X1 Carbon perfect for dreamy café lovers is the IR camera upgrade. It enables Windows Hello face login, but more importantly lets owners access Lenovo’s Glance technology for Presence Detection. This combines face-, eye-, and gaze-tracking so that nobody else can see what you’re looking at on-screen.
On the surface level, presence detection shows an on-screen notification whenever it notices someone peeking over your left or right shoulder. If the stranger insists on lingering, you can set the screen to automatically blur. It’s up to you how soon this should trigger — whether it’s after a timely three seconds, or a lengthier ten seconds. If you’re working with a handy external monitor, the IR camera can even blur the inactive screen — again, it uses that powerful face, eye, and gaze detection to determine which monitor you’re using.
And because not many of us hit CTRL + L to lock our workspace, Presence Detection will immediately throw up the login screen once you leave the table. Now that’s something to consider the next time you scramble to get your latte at the pick-up counter.
All that security wouldn’t count for much if the system itself isn’t worth using, so you’ll be glad to know that the X1 Carbon scores all the right points for mobile productivity. It uses Intel’s 10th generation processor, has up to 16GB of memory for fast multi-tasking, and runs for up to 15 hours. Added with the RapidCharge technology, you’ll get another 12 hours of battery use with just an hour’s charge! Not to mention, its suite of ports like the Thunderbolt 3 and a 4-in-1 MicroSD card reader.
So, the next time you hit the café for some emails and arabica, you know you won’t be responsible for the next headline-making leak.