Head-To-Head: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Vs. Apple MacBook Pro

Powerful And Portable

The era of having to choose between portability and horsepower in a PC is officially over. Apple and its rivals in the Windows universe now offer plenty of choices for laptops that are both fast and lightweight. One of the leading notebooks to fit this description is the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which is now in its fifth generation. Apple, meanwhile, released an update this month to the MacBook Pro (which was just overhauled this past fall) which adds the latest Intel processors. Which of the two portable-yet-powerful laptops is the better fit for you? In the following slides, we compare the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs. the Apple MacBook Pro on specs and price.

First Things First

One thing to mention up front is that you've got some initial choices to make with the MacBook Pro, around the size and whether or not you want the Touch Bar -- a touch-sensitive strip that's located in place of the function row of keys. There are three distinct models of the MacBook Pro, and the Touch Bar, which provides controls that adapt to whatever app is being used, is included in two of the models. Apple is offering a 15-inch MacBook Pro that comes automatically with the Touch Bar, as well as a 13-inch model that has the Touch Bar and an entry-level 13-inch model that doesn't have the Touch Bar.


As mentioned, the displays on the MacBook Pro models come in 13-inch and 15-inch sizes. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon falls squarely in between those two sizes, with a 14-inch display. Both laptops use IPS technology in their LCD displays, which helps enable better viewing angles and colors, while Apple also leverages its popular Retina display technology in the MacBook Pro, of course.

In terms of pixels on the display, the standard configuration of the X1 Carbon features resolution of 1,920 x 1,080. There is, however, an option to move up to a 2,560 x 1,440 display. That nearly matches the display resolution of both 13-inch MacBook Pro models, which is 2,560 x 1,600, while the 15-inch MacBook Pro display is higher-res at 2,880 x 1,800.

Thickness & Weight

As we also alluded to, the portability factor on both the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and MacBook Pro is high. Both Lenovo and Apple put special attention on reducing the thickness and weight of their respective laptops in the new releases. The X1 Carbon comes out the winner on lightness, with a weight of 2.5 pounds. That's made possible in part by the smaller overall size of the X1 Carbon, which -- due to minimal bezels around the display -- is actually more akin to the size of a typical 13-inch laptop overall. The 13-inch MacBook Pro models weigh in at 3.02 pounds, while the 15-inch MacBook Pro is 4.02 pounds.

However, the MacBook Pro manages to be the thinner laptop in this comparison. Both versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro measure 0.59 of an inch thick, while the 15-inch version is 0.61 of an inch. The X1 Carbon is a bit thicker at 0.63 of an inch.


The MacBook Pro, which got its big refresh this past fall, was missing one key element at the time -- the seventh generation of Intel Core processors, known as Kaby Lake. Apple's update to the MacBook Pro this month addresses that issue. The 13-inch MacBook with Touch Bar now includes a seventh-gen Intel Core i5 chip (clock speed of 3.1GHz, dual-core) as the standard. It's also configurable with a faster Core i5 chip as well as with Core i7. Meanwhile, the 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with a seventh-gen Core i7 processor as the standard (clock speed of 2.8GHz, quad-core), and has two options for even speedier Core i7 chips.

Processor choices for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon consist of two seventh-gen Core i5 options (clock speed of 2.6GHz for the faster chip, which is dual-core), along with a Core i7 chip (clock speed of 2.8GHz, dual-core). The MacBook Pro models would appear to have the edge on speed -- particularly with the quad-core i7 chips on the 15-inch model -- though both laptops are going to be extremely fast. The 13-inch MacBook Pro without the Touch Bar is a bit slower, however, with either Core i5 (2.3GHz, dual-core) or Core i7 (2.5GHz, dual-core) processors.

Battery Life

This is one area where the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a clear advantage. Lenovo promises up to 15.5 hours of battery life on a charge for the X1 Carbon (and during a recent tryout in the CRN Test Center, we did indeed find stronger battery life than most laptops on the market). Apple, by contrast, promises just up to 10 hours of battery life for both the 13-inch and 15-inch models.


Another plus for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, for many users, is the inclusion of a variety of ports. The X1 Carbon has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (which have come to the laptop for the first time), as well as two USB-A ports, HDMI and a slot for Micro SD and Micro SIM.

The MacBook Pro, meanwhile, depends entirely on USB-C/Thunderbolt 3--and all other connections will require an adapter. The Touch Bar versions of the MacBook Pro include four USB-C ports, while the 13-inch non-Touch Bar version has two.

Memory & Storage

The 13-inch MacBook Pro models come with 8GB of RAM as the standard, but can be boosted to 16GB. The 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with 16GB of RAM. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is configurable is with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM.

On storage, the MacBook Pro Touch Bar models start at 256GB of storage but can be configured with 512GB or 1TB. The non-Touch Bar model starts with 128GB of storage. For the X1 Carbon, storage options include 128GB, 256GB, 512GB or 1TB.

Additional Features

While the MacBook Pro, of course, differentiates from the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with its Touch Bar, the X1 Carbon has a number of distinct features of its own. First and foremost, the laptop features the sturdy build that ThinkPads are known for. The body is reinforced with carbon fiber and magnesium alloy, and the laptop passed a series of military-standard and in-house durability tests, Lenovo said. Meanwhile, for security, Lenovo is offering an optional IR camera with facial recognition to support Windows Hello log-in. Both the X1 Carbon and MacBook Pro include fingerprint sensors for secure authentication.


The entry-level models of the MacBook Pro and X1 Carbon are priced similarly, thanks to a price drop this month by Apple for the 13-inch MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar. That MacBook Pro model now starts at $1,299, while the lowest-priced X1 Carbon starts at $1,322 (though it has a faster Core i5 chip).

From there, however, things diverge. The starting price for the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is $1,799, and the 15-inch model starts out at $2,399. The next tier of the X1 Carbon beyond the entry-level model is priced significantly lower, at $1,418 -- and configuring the X1 Carbon with comparable display resolution to the MacBook Pro only adds $70. For price-conscious buyers, the X1 Carbon is going to be the better bet.