Lenovo recently refreshed its 14-inch ThinkPad X1 line with the X1 Carbon Gen 7 and X1 Yoga Gen 4. The former is its premier clamshell laptop while the latter is its premier 2-in-1 — and both received some significant updates in the latest generation.
While the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a refined version of the traditional ThinkPad build and aesthetic, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga represents a significant departure with new metal chassis and stand-outlook. Which is the better example of a modern ThinkPad?
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 received a serious slimming down this time around, with smaller bezels resulting in an overall smaller chassis and about a millimeter shaved off its thickness. It retains that iconic ThinkPad aesthetic. It’s all-black except for some red accents in the ThinkPad and X1 logos and the red TrackPoint nubbin in the middle of the keyboard.
Only the 4K version of the X1 Carbon has any splash, adding a woven carbon fiber pattern that adds some elegance.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 4 underwent an even more significant design overhaul, eschewing the magnesium allow and carbon fiber making up the X1 Carbon and moving instead to an aluminum chassis. It, too, is slimmer and smaller than the previous version, and the gunmetal grey aesthetic is also broken only by the usual ThinkPad red accents.
You’ll have a harder time recognizing the X1 Yoga as a ThinkPad, at least from a distance, but we do like the conservative look. The X1 Yoga feels more robust thanks to its cold, hard metal, though both are solid devices.
Because they’ve both been slimmed down, their keyboards are identically less deep than previous generations — specifically, with 15mm of travel compared to the 18mm of travel with older models. ThinkPad aficionados will notice the difference, but any touch typist will be able to get comfortable with these keyboards thanks to their snappy and precise mechanisms.
The TrackPoint and touchpad performance on both are equivalent and excellent, with the touchpads both supporting Microsoft Precision drivers and Windows 10 multitouch gestures. The X1 Yoga wins out in offering a touch display with active pen (included) support, which the X1 Carbon does not.
Another area of similarity is in their display options, where both offer Full HD (1,920 x 1,080) displays to go with a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) panel that offers a wider color gamut, more accuracy, higher brightness, and greater contrast. The latter display offers Dolby Vision high dynamic range (HDR) support. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Yoga are the first of Lenovo’s 14-inch ThinkPads to offer a 4K option, and both make for great Netflix binging thanks to excellent HDR streaming support.
Unsurprisingly, both laptops enjoy the same connectivity, with two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, an Ethernet/docking station connector (requiring an optional adapter, alas), two USB-A Gen 1 ports, and a full-size HDMI port.
In what’s becoming a theme for this comparison, both the X1 Carbon and the X1 Yoga offer the same 8th-gen Intel Core processor options (soon to be updated to Intel’s 10th-gen parts). In our testing, the laptops performed within a few percentage points of each other. One might be tempted to suspect that these are the same machines inside, with the X1 Yoga merely offering a 360-degree hinge and some extra components for touch and pen input support.
The bottom line is that both laptops are plenty speedy for productivity work, and you can get a boost of power beyond the admittedly average speed by selecting “Performance” mode on the Windows 10 power slider.
That gives you a very real choice between quiet and cool operation and higher performance — and we do like that Lenovo built that into the Windows utility rather than requiring a separate utility as do vendors like HP and Dell.
The X1 Carbon and X1 Yoga are also similarly sized in width and depth with small side bezels but rather bezels along the top and bottom, and they’re both 0.59 inches thick. The X1 Carbon is lighter than the X1 Yoga, at 2.4 pounds versus 2.99 pounds, thanks to the latter’s heavier metal chassis. But, neither will weigh you down.
And, you’ll be shocked to hear that in our testing, the 4K models also showed roughly equivalent battery life with equal 51 watt-hour batteries in both. That is, neither is likely to get you through a full working day away from a charge. We tested the X1 Yoga with a Core i5 and a low-power Full HD display, and it roughly doubled the battery life, and the X1 Carbon with the same display can be expected to perform equally well.
The X1 Yoga stands out
Both of these laptops are expensive laptops. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 7 starts at $1,462 for a Core i5-8265U CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 256GB PCIe SSD, and a non-touch Full HD display. You can spend as much as $2,561 for a Core i7-8665U CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD, and a non-touch 4K display.
The ThinkPad X1 Yoga is priced a bit more aggressive at $1,142 on sale for the same entry-level configuration (although the Full HD display is touch-enabled). It maxes out at $1,880 for the same high-end configuration.
Both laptops perform well, have great build qualities, and have great display options. But the ThinkPad X1 Yoga is a more modern design that feels better in hand, and it offers extra 2-in-1 functionality.
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