If you want the best portable business laptop, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Yoga should top your list. But which of these Lenovo laptops is right for you? The two slim notebooks are similar in many ways but a few important differences separate the clamshell laptop from its convertible relative.
Before we get into that, let's talk about why you should go with one of these ThinkPads. For one, they're both very portable, coming in at or under 3 pounds and 0.6 inches thick. They have great 1080p and 4K display options, and their 10th Gen Intel U-series CPUs deliver reliable performance. There are plenty of security features to protect your sensitive files and the laptops' military-tested chassis can withstand a beating.
There really isn't much we don't like about these laptops. But no siblings are exactly the same — the X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon each have their own pros and cons. We'll run through the differences between these notebooks to help you determine which one is best for you.
Value and configurations
The X1 Carbon has a pricing edge on the Yoga with the base model selling for $1,331. It comes with a 1080p display, an Intel Core i5-10210U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. An X1 Yoga with the same specs goes for $1,439.
From there, you can customize each laptop to your needs. I reviewed two configs of both laptops. The cheaper X1 Carbon I reviewed costs $1,745 and has a 14-inch, 1080p display, an Intel Core i5-10310U ( with vPro) CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a few optional upgrades (IR camera, Windows 10 Pro).
Our 4K model with a Core i7-10610U ( with vPro) CPU, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD costs $2,322. It's one of the most expensive options, only cheaper than the 1TB config, which costs an extra $268.
Our less expensive ThinkPad X1 Yoga unit goes for $1,670 and comes with an Intel Core i5-10310U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD and a 1080p display. The pricier version we tested costs a wallet-busting $2,106 and is equipped with a Core i7-10610U CPU (with vPro), 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and a 4K panel.
Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga vs X1 Carbon: Specs
|ThinkPad X1 Yoga||ThinkPad X1 Carbon|
|Price||$1,331 (1080p); $2,106 (4K)||$1,745 (1080p); $2,123 (4K)|
|Display||14 inches, 1080p or 4K||14-inch, 1080p or 4K|
|CPU||Intel Core i5-10310U (vPro); Core i7-10610U (vPro)||Intel Core i5-10310U (vPro); Core i7-10610U (vPro)|
|RAM||8GB; 16GB||8GB; 16GB|
|SSD||256GB; 512GB||256GB; 512GB|
|Ports||2 Thunderbolt 3; 2 USB 3.2 Type-A, HDMI 1.4; headphone/mic; docking connector; lock slot||2 Thunderbolt 3; 2 USB 3.2 Type-A, HDMI 1.4; headphone/mic; docking connector; lock slot|
|Battery||11:30 (1080p); 7:28 (4K)||10:45 (1080p); 7:23 (4K)|
|Size||12 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches||12.7 x 8.5 x 0.6 inches|
|Weight||3 pounds||2.4 pounds|
Take a picture: it's a ThinkPad face-off with two distinct-looking laptops! Lenovo mixed things up last year when the X1 Yoga ditched the carbon fiber for aluminum.
The Slate Gray metal chassis looks great, but I prefer the soft-touch carbon fiber on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon; the smooth matte-black surface adds a touch of luxury and feels nice on your wrists when you're typing.
One objective advantage for the Yoga is its flexible 2-in-1 form factor; you can flip the X1 Yoga's display back and turn the laptop into a tablet or position it in tent mode.
Apart from the materials and form factors, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and ThinkPad X1 Carbon have similar designs. They flaunt everything you'd expect from a ThinkPad: discrete touchpad buttons with red trim, a red pointing stick, and the red-illuminated "i" on the lid.
Lenovo had to use heavier components to get the X1 Yoga to flip around. As a result, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the more portable laptop at 2.4 pounds compared to the 3-pound ThinkPad X1 Yoga
Winner: ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon have the same ports and the selection is pretty good. My only gripe is the lack of an SD card, which Lenovo removed in the previous models.
On the left side of these laptops are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a USB 3.2 Type-A input, an HDMI 1.4, a network extension for Ethernet and docking, and a headphone/mic jack. On the right side are a second USB 3.2 Type-A port and a Kensington lock.
The two laptops seem to use the same displays based on my side-by-side comparison and our benchmark tests. Whichever one you choose, expect a sharp picture with vivid colors and a screen that's bright enough to use outdoors.
According to our colorimeter, the 1080p panels on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga and ThinkPad X1 Carbon cover nearly the same range on the sRGB color gamut, at 102% and 101%, respectively. The 4K screens are more vivid at 133% for the X1 Yoga and 135% for the X1 Carbon. The small differences in these scores are insignificant.
When it comes to brightness, the 1080p panel on the ThinkPad X1 Yoga gets up to 404 nits whereas the X1 Carbon's FHD screen reached 368 nits. At 488 nits, the Yoga's 4K option beams with about the same intensity as the 4K panel on the X1 Carbon (498 nits).
Keyboard, touchpad and pointing stick
"Um, these are the same keyboards," my wife said when I asked her to confirm my suspicions. That's great news because we both really like the ways these keys feel. There is a strong tactile click that you won't get on other ultrathin laptops and the keys do all the work, bouncing your fingers from one letter to the next.
The key layouts are also the same, which is good and bad. My fruitless campaign to get Lenovo to swap the Fn and Ctrl keys to their normal position continues. I've gotten used to this layout from reviewing ThinkPads over the years, but I prefer Ctrl as the bottom-left-most key so I can instinctively execute shortcuts (like ctrl + c for copy).
I have no other qualms about the placement of the keys — the arrow keys are easy to find and there are useful mute and accept/deny call shortcuts for video conferencing.
These two systems use the same 4 x 2.3-inch touchpad. It's responsive but too small for those with mozzarella stick fingers like myself. Some people buy ThinkPads for the little rubber nub sandwiched in the keyboard; this pointing stick, found on both models, is useful if you want to keep your fingers on the home row while controlling the cursor and discrete left/right-click buttons.
The biggest advantage the X1 Yoga has over the X1 Carbon is its flexible design. As a 2-in-1, the X1 Yoga can convert into a tablet when you need to present content or use touch navigation. And instead of making you tap your oily fingers on the screen, the X1 Yoga comes with a stylus housed within a slot on the right edge of the laptop. It's a super convenient feature although the stylus itself is thin and uncomfortable to hold if you have large hands.
Winner: ThinkPad X1 Yoga
You won't notice much of a performance gap between these laptops as they employ similar components, including 10th Gen Intel Comet Lake CPUs and up to 16GB of RAM. It's no wonder they traded punches in our benchmarking tests.
Before we get into those, let's look at the specs. Again, we reviewed two versions of the X1 Yoga and X1 Carbon: one with a Core i5-10310U CPU with vPro and another with a Core i7-10610U CPU with vPro. Keep in mind, both X1 Yoga models came with 16GB of RAM, but the Core i5 X1 Carbon had only 8GB, so it's not a perfect apples-to-apples comparison.
On the Geekbench 5 overall performance test, the Core i7 ThinkPad X1 Carbon scored a 3,939, just edging out the equivalent ThinkPad X1 Yoga (3,878). Similarly, when looking at the Core i5 models, the X1 Carbon (3,597) beat the X1 Yoga (3,567) by a hair despite having less memory.
These two stealthy business notebooks were neck-and-neck in our real-world video transcoding test, which asks them to convert a 4K clip to 1080p using the Handbrake app. Starting with the Core i7 models, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga needed 19 minutes and 22 seconds whereas the ThinkPad X1 Carbon needed 18:29.
The X1 Carbon had the edge when we compared the Core i5 models, completing the task in 19 minutes and 51 seconds, whereas the ThinkPad X1 Yoga finished after 20:28.
A quick look in the Device Manager shows the same Samsung SSD in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and ThinkPad X1 Yoga, which explains why our file transfer test ended in a virtual tie. It took 53 seconds for the 256GB PCIe NVMe SSD in the ThinkPad X1 Yoga to duplicate a 25GB multimedia file, equating to a transfer rate of 503.7 megabytes per second. The X1 Carbon with a 256GB SSD took 5 seconds longer for a rate of 462.9 MBps. The 512GB PCIe NVMe drives in both our pricier systems took 26 seconds at a blistering rate of 1,044.7 MBps.
With Intel UHD graphics, the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga struggle to run any graphics-intensive tasks, whether that be gaming or heavy video editing. All four systems — the Core i5 and Core i7 versions of the X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga — ran Dirt 3 at around 30 frames per second, toeing the line of our minimum playability threshold.
This is another close round but the ThinkPad X1 Yoga finally gets its first win. With a runtime of 11 hours and 30 minutes on our battery test (continuous web browsing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), the 1080p X1 Yoga narrowly outlasted the X1 Carbon (10:45). Those, I should mention, are both excellent results.
Even the 4K models put up some respectable runtimes, although they stopped short of our preferred 8-hour mark. The X1 Yoga endured for 7 hours and 28 minutes while the X1 Carbon fell a song short, at 7:23.
Winner: ThinkPad X1 Yoga
Overall winner: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
The X1 Carbon outscored its flexible twin by the narrowest of margins. It's incredible how similar these two laptops are, but the X1 Carbon got the win for having a lighter chassis and a lower starting price than the X1 Yoga.
|ThinkPad X1 Yoga||ThinkPad X1 Carbon|
|Battery life (20)||17||16|
But just because the ThinkPad X1 Carbon scored a point higher in this face-off doesn't mean it's the best option for you. If you want to use your laptop in tablet mode or with a stylus, the X1 Yoga is the best 2-in-1 business laptop and the obvious choice between these two.
Which would I buy? I'm fine with a traditional clamshell laptop so I'd go with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. It is considerably lighter than the X1 Yoga and I prefer the matte finish over the aluminum on the Yoga. That said, I'd be happy with either as they are both top business laptops with very few shortcomings.