Head-To-Head: Microsoft Surface Book 2 Vs. Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

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The battle for primacy in the professional notebook space is about to get a bit more heated, with the upcoming release of Microsoft's second-generation Surface Book. The Surface Book 2 includes some upgrades over the original model, which together could make it a top contender for best workhorse laptop on the market. It will have to contend with popular, powerful notebooks such as Lenovo's fifth-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon, however. Which is the better fit for you? In the following slides, the CRN Test Center compares Microsoft's forthcoming Surface Book 2 vs. Lenovo's latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon on specs and price.


One of the biggest differences between the two notebooks in our comparison is on the display. Apart from the use of LCD in both of the laptop's displays, there's not much they have in common. For starters, the Surface Book 2 will come in two display sizes -- a 13.5-inch model and a 15-inch model. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon falls in between the two sizes, at 14 inches.

The Surface Book 2 screen sports higher resolution than the X1 Carbon on both of its models -- 3,000 x 2,000 for the 13.5-inch version, and 3,240 x 2,160 for the 15-inch model. The X1 Carbon is noticeably lower-res at 1,920 x 1,080 in the standard configuration. The X1 Carbon does have a 2,560 x 1,440 configuration available, though.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the displays is that the Surface Book 2 display is a touchscreen that can detach for use as a tablet, while the X1 Carbon display is non-touch.


Microsoft is outfitting the Surface Book 2 with Intel's brand new, eight-generation processors. The notebook will include an option for an eighth-gen Core i7 processor (quad-core) in both models. There will also be an option for a seventh-gen Core i5 (dual-core) on the 13.5-inch model. The use of eighth-gen, quad-core processors, could give the Surface Book 2 a leg up on performance over the X1 Carbon, which features seventh-gen Intel processors that are dual-core (Core i5 or Core i7).

Additionally, the Surface Book 2 will include an option for discrete Nvidia GeForce graphics in both models -- GTX 1050 for the 13.5-inch model, and GTX 1060 for the 15-inch model. The entry-level configuration for the 13.5-inch model includes Intel HD Graphics 620. The X1 Carbon doesn't have an option for discrete graphics, with Intel HD Graphics 620 as the standard.

Battery Life

One area where both notebooks are aiming to excel is on battery life. Lenovo promises a generous 15.5 hours of battery life on a charge for the X1 Carbon. However, Microsoft has even loftier promises when it comes to the Surface Book 2, which the company says can provide up to 17 hours of usage on a charge. Regardless, either notebook should provide some of the best battery life available in a performance-focused laptop right now.

Thickness & Weight

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has the clear edge in our comparison in terms of portability. The notebook comes out far ahead on lightness, with a weight of 2.5 pounds. By contrast, the Surface Book 2 has a weight of 3.38 pounds for the 13.5-inch Core i5 model; a weight of 3.62 pounds for the 13.5-inch Core i7 model; and a weight of 4.2 pounds for the 15-inch model.

It's a similar story on thickness. The X1 Carbon measures 0.63 of an inch thick, compared to a thickness of 0.9 of an inch for the Surface Book 2.

RAM & Storage

Both the X1 Carbon and the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 are configurable with either 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. The 15-inch Surface Book 2 will only come in a 16 GB configuration.

On storage, the X1 Carbon features three options -- 128 GB, 256 GB or 1 TB. The Surface Book 2 also comes in three storage configurations, though the amounts differ from those of the X1 Carbon -- 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB.


Both laptops have a wide range of ports to offer. The X1 Carbon has two USB-C ports, along with two USB-A ports, HDMI and a slot for Micro SD and Micro SIM.

The Surface Book 2, meanwhile, features one USB-C port, two USB-A ports, a full-size SD card reader and two Surface Connect ports for charging.


A key benefit of the X1 Carbon 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 has passed a series of military-standard and in-house durability tests, according to Lenovo. Microsoft does not specifically tout any durability features for the Surface Book 2, which has a magnesium exterior.

Price & Bottom Line

Microsoft will be opening pre-orders for the Surface Book 2 on Nov. 9, and shipping will begin on Nov. 16. The entry-level version of the notebook (13.5-inch display, seventh-gen Core i5) is priced at $1,499. That is above the lowest-priced ThinkPad X1 Carbon that's currently available, which is priced at $1,403 and also has seventh-gen Core i5.

The pricing diverges from there. A 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 with eighth-gen Core i7 starts at $1,999. Moreover, the cheapest version of the 15-inch Surface Book 2 still runs at $2,499. A Core i7 model of the X1 Carbon is currently priced at $1,417 (with 16 GB of RAM) while upgrading the display on that model to 2,560 x 1,440 adds just $100.

The X1 Carbon offers a strong value for the money, with advantages around durability and portability. It also boasted impressive performance in our tryouts. The X1 Carbon does lag behind the Surface Book 2 in a number of areas -- CPU, graphics, display quality/flexibility, and battery life -- but having the latest and greatest in those areas with the Surface Book 2 will clearly cost you.