Head-To-Head: Dell XPS 13 Vs. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

Top Laptops

At the CRN Test Center, two of the best laptops we've tested recently are tried-and-true names that have been updated for current business productivity needs. The latest editions of the Dell XPS 13 and Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon stood out in our tryouts, both for what they did and didn't change from past editions. Which of the laptops is the best fit for you? In the following slides, we compare the Dell XPS 13 vs. the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon on specs and price.


At 14 inches, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has the larger display of the two laptops, with the XPS 13 measuring at 13.3 inches. Both laptops feature a small bezel around their displays, a signature feature of the XPS 13 that Lenovo has now brought to the X1 Carbon. The small bezels allow the laptops to remain a manageable size while offering the maximum screen space to work on.

Both laptops feature same resolution, of 1,920 x 1,080, as the standard configuration. But both have higher-res options as well. Dell offers a QHD+ (3,200 x 1,800) touch-screen option for the XPS 13, while Lenovo offers a WQHD (2,560 x 1,440) non-touch display for the X1 Carbon.

Notably, the X1 Carbon has a webcam above the display where you'd expect it to be, in contrast to the awkward placement of the webcam below the display in the corner of the XPS 13.

Thickness & Weight

Thanks in part to the small bezel design, both laptops rate high on portability. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes out ahead on lightness, with a weight of 2.5 pounds. The XPS 13 has a weight of 2.7 pounds for the non-touch model, with the touch screen model weighing 2.9 pounds.

The laptops are pretty close regarding thinness, though the XPS 13 is the winner there at 0.6 of an inch thick, compared to 0.63 of an inch for the X1 Carbon.

Battery Life

In our tryouts, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the XPS 13 were the two best laptops in terms of battery life that we've seen over the past year. The XPS 13 gave us nine hours on a charge, no doubt thanks in part to the larger battery that Dell included with the laptop this time around. The X1 Carbon was not far behind, however, giving us 8.5 hours of battery life on a charge.


Both the XPS 13 and ThinkPad X1 Carbon offered speedy, smooth performance in our tryouts, thanks to the inclusion of seventh-gen Intel Core processors and 8GB of RAM. In both of our tests, Web pages loaded ultra-fast, and multitasking was no cause for lag.

Users can choose between two seventh-gen Core i5 options and a Core i7 chip for the X1 Carbon, while the XPS 13 offers Core i3, i5 or i7 processor choices. Meanwhile, the X1 Carbon is configurable is with either 8GB or 16GB of RAM and the XPS 13 comes in configurations of 4GB, 8GB or 16GB RAM.


Both laptops are strong in terms of port options, though the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has more to offer. The laptop has two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports (which have come to the X1 Carbon for the first time), as well as two USB-A ports, HDMI and a slot for Micro SD and Micro SIM. The XPS 13 includes two USB-A ports, one Thunderbolt 3/USB-C port, and an SD card slot.


One area where the X1 Carbon stands out is that it 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. While Dell doesn't point to any sort of military-grade durability features for the XPS 13, the laptop does include strong materials such as a machined aluminum back. The QHD+ model features Corning Gorilla Glass NBT, as well.

Price & Bottom Line

Dell's XPS 13 is available in less expensive configurations than Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, with a starting price of $800 for the XPS 13 versus $1,100 for the X1 Carbon. However, the entry-level model of the XPS 13 includes a slower processor and less RAM than the entry-level X1 Carbon. For an apples-to-apples comparison, the XPS 13 will run $1,000 for a configuration that's similar to the $1,100 entry-level X1 Carbon--so the XPS 13 is still the less-pricey of the two.

From there, many configurations of both laptops are available with different processors, storage and RAM amounts, and displays. Notably, adding the WQHD display on the X1 Carbon adds $70 to the price, while getting the QHD+ touch screen on the XPS 13 adds $350.

Ultimately, a decision between the X1 Carbon and XPS 13 will most likely come down to design preferences, since both laptops offer fast performance, long battery life, and a highly portable form factor. The XPS 13 is certainly the sleeker of the two laptops, but the X1 Carbon is more rugged, has a larger display and is a bit lighter, too. Our choice would be the X1 Carbon due to these factors – and the inclusion of the extra ports and properly placed webcam doesn't hurt, either.