Lenovo’s ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga are two of the best premium laptops you can buy. Though they are business notebooks, you don’t need to be a Fortune 500 CEO to appreciate either system’s long battery life, colorful display or sleek, sexy chassis.
A reader named Gilad recently messaged me to ask which of these premium notebooks to buy. So here’s a detailed comparison between the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Yoga, both of which I’ve tested.
The first and most obvious difference between the X1 Carbon and the X1 Yoga is that the latter is a bendback 2-in-1 that can convert into tent, tablet or stand modes, while the former is a clamshell only. If you definitely want a 2-in-1, you can stop reading here, because you have to get the X1 Yoga. And if you don’t like 2-in-1s, your search is also over, because the X1 Carbon is the logical choice.
However, if you think 2-in-1 functionality is a “nice to have” but not absolutely necessary, then you have to consider other factors when choosing between these two laptops.
Winner: Tie. Your answer really depends on how much you want, or don’t want, a 2-in-1.
Design and Size
Both the X1 Carbon and the X1 Yoga are available in either black or silver. Though some folks are excited by the possibility of a silver ThinkPad, I would go with black, because it looks a lot classier and comes with a luxurious soft-touch finish. This gentle texture, which both laptops have, is a great advantage for touch typists who can rest their wrists on a much more comfortable deck. Both laptops also have best-in-class keyboards with fantastic feedback and deep travel.
Because it’s a 2-in-1, the X1 Yoga has a pair of strong hinges that bend its screen backward and a small compartment for its active stylus. The Yoga also features a “Wave Keyboard,” with keys that retract when you bend the lid back. There’s a slight creaking noise when you fold the hinge, which is also a little stiff, but only the pickiest users would be really bothered by it.
The X1 Carbon is quite a bit lighter than its sibling, weighing just 2.5 pounds to the Yoga’s 3.2 pounds. However, both laptops are the same 0.7 inches thick.
Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon is noticeably lighter.
While the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is only available with a 1920 x 1080, non-touch screen, the Yoga comes with your choice of a 1920 x 1080 or 2560 x 1440 regular display, or a 2560 x 1440 OLED panel. The Yoga is one of only two laptops on the market that’s available with OLED (the other is the Alienware 13) and, if you can afford to spend the extra $250, you should definitely get it, because the color is far more vibrant than on a regular display.
However, if you’re buying either laptop with its base level, 1080p screen, you’ll get similar image quality. In our tests, the X1 Carbon’s display reproduced a strong 104 percent of the sRGB color gamut while delivering 275 nits of brightness. An X1 Yoga with a 1920 x 1080 panel got a very similar 109 percent of the color gamut and 274 nits of brightness. Both laptops were slightly more colorful than the average ultraportable (99 percent) but also a little dimmer (302 nits).
Winner: ThinkPad X1 Yoga has better screen options, but only if you’re willing to pay extra.
Good news. No matter which ThinkPad X1 laptop you buy, you’ll get great endurance. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon lasted an impressive 12 hours and 21 minutes on the LAPTOP battery test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. The X1 Yoga tapped out after a nearly identical time of 12 hours and 6 minutes. Both laptops are well above the 8-hour-and-23-minute category average.
You can expect similar performance from either X1 laptop, because they are both available with your choice of Core i5 or Core i7 U series processors and both come with PCIe SSDs for storage. We tested a Core i7-7600U-enabled ThinkPad X1 Carbon and a Core i5-7300U-powered X1 Yoga, so the model with the Core i7 model should be faster, but both got fairly similar benchmark scores.
The X1 Carbon scored a solid 8,571 on Geekbench 4, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance, while the Yoga was close behind with 8,514. The X1 Carbon took 3 minutes and 22 seconds to complete our spreadsheet macro test, which matches names with their addresses, just edging out the X1 Yoga (3:35) by 13 seconds.
Winner: Tie. You’ll get the same performance on both laptops, provided you configure them with the same components.
For laptops this thin, both have a very broad selection of ports. Both laptops have dual Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI-out ports, microSD card slots and mini Ethernet connectors, which require a dongle. However, the X1 Yoga has three USB 3.0 connectors, whereas the X1 Carbon has only two.
Winner: X1 Yoga has one more USB port.
It almost goes without saying that the X1 Carbon, which is not a 2-in-1, costs several hundred dollars less. As of this writing, Lenovo is charging $1,101.75 for the base model X1 Carbon, which comes with a Core i5-7200U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The X1 Yoga starts at $1,401.75 with similar specs, but a 256GB SSD instead of a 128GB unit.
When you configure the X1 Carbon with a 256GB SSD, its price jumps to $1,154, which makes it around $250 less than an identically configured X1 Yoga.
Winner: X1 Carbon is cheaper.
These sibling laptops offer identical performance and battery life, nearly identical port selection and nearly identical screen quality with a base-level 1080p panel. The X1 Carbon is noticeably cheaper and lighter than the X1 Yoga, but it doesn’t have a colorful OLED screen option and it can’t bend back into tablet or tent modes.
Ultimately, the decision comes down to how much you value 2-in-1 capability. If you just want a lightweight productivity system and don’t plan to do any scribbling on the screen, the X1 Carbon is a better value. However, if you can afford to spend the extra money and want its added flexibility, the X1 Yoga is a superior choice.