ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs T460s: Which 'Thin Pad' Reigns Supreme?

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If you want an extremely light and powerful business laptop with a generous display, Lenovo has two compelling 14-inch options in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the ThinkPad T460s. Both ThinkPads offer durable, MIL-SPEC-tested chassis, strong performance and high-res screen options. Neither system is cheap, as the T460s starts at $980 and the X1 Carbon base model goes for $1,142, but both notebooks justify the premium for demanding users.

Which 14-inch, lightweight ThinkPad is best for you? To help you decide, we've pitted the ThinkPad X1 Carbon against the ThinkPad T460s in a seven-round showdown.

Design

Both the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the T460s are extremely thin and light, when compared with most 14-inch laptops on the market. However, when the two ThinkPads are compared head-to-head, it's no contest. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon weighs just 2.6 pounds and is only 0.65 inches at its thickest point, compared with 3 pounds and 0.74 inches for the T460s.

Laptop   Weight Size
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2.6 pounds 13.11 x 9.02 x 0.65 inches
ThinkPad T460s 3 pounds 13.03 x 8.93 x 0.74 inches

The two laptops share Lenovo's raven-black ThinkPad aesthetic, though the X1 Carbon's slim size and tapered edges make it a little bit better-looking. Both combine carbon-fiber-reinforced lids with lightweight magnesium chassis.

Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Slimmer and sexier takes this round.

Value and Selection

The ThinkPad T460s is less expensive than the X1 Carbon, but only by $100 to $150, depending on the configuration and Lenovo's often-changing prices. The base model ThinkPad T460s goes for $980 and includes a 1920 x 1080, non-touch display, a Core i5-6200U CPU, 4GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a non-backlit keyboard. The starting X1 Carbon goes for $1,142 and includes a 1920 x 1080, non-touch screen, 8GB of RAM, a 128GB SSD and a backlit keyboard. When both are configured with 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a backlit keyboard, the T460s is still a little cheaper at $1,196, to the X1 Carbon's $1,277.

Lenovo lets you configure both laptops with more RAM, a more powerful processor and a faster, PCIe SSD. However, the T460s has a few more options than its sibling, offering up to a 1TB SSD and 20GB of RAM where the X1 Carbon tops out at 512GB and 16GB of RAM. Both laptops are available with either 1920 x 1080 or 2560 x 1440 resolution displays, but the T460s offers a 1920 x 1080 touch-screen option that the X1 Carbon doesn't. However, most users don't need more than a 512GB SSD, and the touch screen option harms battery life, so we wouldn't miss it.

Laptop Screen CPU RAM / Storage Kbd Backlight Price
ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Base) 1920 x 1080 Core i5-6200U 8GB / 128GB Yes $1,142
ThinkPad T460s (Base) 1920 x 1080 Core i5-6200U 4GB / 128GB No $980
ThinkPad X1 Carbon (recommended) 1920 x 1080 Core i5-6200U 8GB / 256GB Yes $1,277
ThinkPad T460s (recommended) 1920 x 1080 Core i5-6200U 8GB / 256GB Yes $1,196

Winner: ThinkPad T460s takes this round by a small margin because of its slightly cheaper price.

MORE: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon: Full Review

Upgradability

One way to save a lot of money on a laptop purchase is to upgrade the RAM and SSD yourself, after purchase. Like most PC vendors, Lenovo charges a lot more to add memory or storage than it costs to buy similar components yourself. For example, going up from a 128GB SSD to a 512GB model adds at least $315 to the T460s's price, but a compatible 512GB drive can cost as little as $130 on NewEgg.

Unfortunately, if you opt for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, you can't upgrade the laptop at all, because the parts are sealed in. The T460s, however, has user-accessible RAM and storage slots that you can use to swap DIMMs or M.2 SSDs in and out at will, without voiding the warranty.

Upgrading the T460s SSD

The ThinkPad T460s also has a proprietary docking port on the bottom that lets it plug in to Lenovo's $229 ThinkPad Ultra Dock, which offers six USB ports, charging and dual-monitor output over a single, snap-in connection. The X1 Carbon doesn't have Lenovo's proprietary bottom connector but it does have a OneLink+ docking port on the side that lets it work with the company's $179 OneLink+ USB dock, which powers the system and connects to dual displays.

Winner: ThinkPad T460s can save you a lot of money at purchase time, or give you the flexibility to expand as your needs evolve.

MORE: How to Upgrade Your ThinkPad T460s' SSD / Upgrade T460s RAM

Ports

With its thin, tapered chassis, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has less room for ports than most laptops, but it still packs in three USB 3.0 ports, a mini DisplayPort, a full-size HDMI out, a microSD card reader and Lenovo's OneLink+ docking port. However, if you do a lot of digital photography, you'll be disappointed by the lack of a built-in, full-size SD card reader. And, if you need to connect to wired networks, you'll miss having an Ethernet port.

X1 Carbon Ports

The ThinkPad T460s has both an Ethernet port and an SD card reader, along with HDMI, a mini DisplayPort and three USB connectors. Neither laptop has a USB Type-C or Thunderbolt 3 port, unfortunately.

T460s Ports

Winner: ThinkPad T460s has a couple of key connections that the X1 Carbon lacks.

MORE: Lenovo ThinkPad T460s: Full Review

Keyboard and Touchpad

Both laptops have good keyboards that look the same, but they don't exactly feel the same. The ThinkPad T460s has slightly more vertical travel, with 1.9mm of depth, compared with the X1 Carbon's 1.8mm. The keys on both models of ThinkPad X1 Carbon we tested felt very snappy and responsive, but one of three T460s units we tested had a mushy feel, while the others felt good. Although both keyboards are available with a backlight, the X1 Carbon comes standard with it, while the T460s requires you to pay a $30 premium.

ThinkPad T460s

Each of the laptops has the same excellent TrackPoint pointing stick and identical size 3.9 x 2.2-inch touchpads. However, the X1 Carbon's pad is covered in a luxurious glass finish; the T460 uses a less-premium "crystal silk" surface.

X1 Carbon

Winner: X1 Carbon. Both laptops offer compelling typing and navigation experiences. However, the X1 Carbon's glass touchpad has a more comfortable surface and its consistently snappy keyboard comes standard with a backlight.

Screen

While both are available with full 1080p and high-res 2K displays, the X1 Carbon's panels are a lot more luminous and colorful. The default, 1920 x 1080 screen on the X1 Carbon has 292 nits of brightness while covering a gorgeous 104 percent of the sRGB color gamut. The 1080p, non-touch screen on the T460s offered a competent 275 nits of brightness, but managed only 64.6 percent of the gamut, which is below-average for any lightweight laptop and far behind its sibling. The touch model wasn't any better, outputting at 240 nits and covering only 66 percent of the gamut.

Laptop Screen Gamut (%) Brightness (Nits)
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 1920 x 1080 104 292
ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2560 x 1440 103 257
ThinkPad T460s 1920 x 1080 64.6 275
ThinkPad T460s 1920 x 1080 (touch) 66 240

Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon wins by a mile with a much more colorful screen.

Battery Life

If you want to wring the most endurance out of your laptop, get the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. With its 1080p display, the Carbon lasted for 9 hours and 6 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. The T460s managed a much-lower 8 hours and 16 minutes without touch and dropped to a paltry 7 hours and 21 minutes with touch; don't get it with touch, whatever you do. When we tested a ThinkPad X1 Carbon with a 2560 x 1440 display, its endurance dropped to 7 hours and 57 minutes.

X1 Carbon vs T460s battery life

Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon lasts longer on a charge.

Bottom Line

At first glance, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and T460s offer a very similar value proposition. Both systems have good keyboards and touchpads, and light and durable designs. Since they are available with similar components, the two should provide equivalent performance when configured with the same CPU, RAM and SSD.

The T460s has a few advantages in its larger port selection and component upgradability. However, the X1 Carbon outclasses its sibling in the ways that matter most, offering a noticeably lighter chassis, a better keyboard/touchpad combo, longer battery life and a far superior screen. Even if you're not impressed with its more svelte body or 50-minute endurance advantage, the dramatic different in color quality on the screen is reason alone to spend just a little bit more on the X1 Carbon.

Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon

 ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs. T460s

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Author Bio
Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of Laptopmag.com since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
Avram Piltch, LAPTOP Online Editorial Director on
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2 comments
  • KOUA GUSTAVE KADIO Says:

    I need to order a Thinkpad qwerty keyboard lap top T460 or X1.

  • Hicham Mawlawi Says:

    Lovely review!
    Why didn't you comment on the TDP difference between the 2? Isn't the 460s design of 20Watts much more competent than the x1's 15watt TDP?

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