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

Face Off

Though the PC market has been sluggish overall, that hasn't stopped manufacturers of Windows 10 notebooks from releasing plenty of options for professionals. There are lots of powerful notebooks to choose from, but two offerings that go above and beyond are Lenovo's latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon (the sixth generation) and Microsoft's Surface Book (second generation). The two recently released notebooks include the sort of horsepower that was once reserved for desktop PCs along with a range of other premium features for enabling major productivity. Which of the two workhorse notebooks is a better fit for you? What follows is the CRN Test Center comparison of Lenovo's 6th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs. Microsoft's Surface Book 2 on price and specs.


The first major difference between the two notebooks is on display size. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon features a 14-inch display, and the Surface Book 2 has two display size options on either side of the X1 Carbon -- 13.5 inches and 15 inches. Another difference is that the X1 Carbon has both touch screen and non-touch options for the display, while the Surface Book 2 has a touch screen by default, as the display actually detaches from the keyboard for use as a tablet. The options are as follows:

-- X1 Carbon: 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, non-touch, brightness of 300 nits

-- X1 Carbon: 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, touch screen, 300 nits

-- X1 Carbon: 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, non-touch, 300 nits

-- X1 Carbon: 2,560 x 1,440 resolution, non-touch, Dolby Vision HDR, 500 nits

-- Surface Book 2:

-- Surface Book 2:

Processor -- CPU

Possibly the biggest value proposition for either of the notebooks is the massive horsepower that's available in a portable form factor. As both notebooks are relatively new to the market, they both feature eighth-gen Intel Core processors. In the case of the 15-inch Surface Book 2, it's the Core i7-8650U (quad-core, up to 4.2Ghz). The 13.5-inch model offers the same processor, along with one alternate option -- a 3.5GHz Core i7 from Intel's seventh generation (dual-core) for a lower end price point.

At the top level, the latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon is also available with the speedy Core i7-8650U chip. The notebook can be configured with three other choices as well -- a Core i7 (up to 4GHz) and two Core i5 options (up to 3.6GHz and 3.4GHz) -- all of which are quad-core. Regardless of what you choose, the notebooks are going to deliver big on processing power for professionals who are looking to get a lot done on the go.

Processor -- Graphics

The Surface Book 2 has the leg-up on graphics power, however, with choices for discrete Nvidia GeForce GPUs in each size of the notebook. The options are for the Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 with the 13.5-inch model, and the GTX 1060 with the 15-inch model. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon doesn't offer powerful graphics of this sort, instead opting for Intel HD Graphics 620, which are integrated with the CPU. The entry-level 13.5-inch Surface Book 2, meanwhile, also comes with Intel HD Graphics 620.

Battery Life

With all of their processing power and bright displays, the two notebooks in our comparison could be expected to heavily tax the battery. Happily, both Lenovo and Microsoft have made serious strides to ensure strong battery life with the laptops. Lenovo promises up to 15 hours of battery life on a charge for the X1 Carbon (and our tryout in the CRN Test Center left us very impressed with the battery life). But Microsoft sets the bar even higher with a pledge of up to 17 hours of battery life for the Surface Book 2.

Thickness & Weight

The biggest trade-off with the Surface Book 2 may be around portability. The 13.5-inch Core i7 model weighs 3.62 pounds, which makes it far heavier than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, which weighs just 2.49 pounds The 15-inch Surface Book 2, meanwhile, weighs 4.2 pounds.

It's a similar story in terms of thickness. The X1 Carbon is much thinner at 0.63 of an inch versus the Surface Book 2, which measures 0.9 of an inch thick. For users that put portability high on their wish list, the X1 Carbon is going to be an extremely attractive option.


Unlike many of the laptops now hitting the market, both of the notebooks in our comparison feature a variety of port options. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with two USB-A ports, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, a microSD card reader, HDMI and a docking connector for native Ethernet.

Meanwhile, the Surface Book 2 isn't quite as generous on USB-C ports -- there's just one included--but the notebook does feature two USB-A ports, a full-size SD card reader and two Surface Connect ports for charging.

Memory & Storage

There are configuration options for both notebooks with either 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. That doesn't apply to the 15-inch Surface Book 2, though, which automatically comes with 16 GB.

In terms of storage, both the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and Surface Book 2 come with PCIe solid-state drives. And the two notebooks have identical choices in terms of the storage amounts included -- 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB.


As mentioned, both of the notebooks in our comparison are offered with entry-level configurations featuring Core i5 processors. The starting price for the 6th-gen ThinkPad X1 Carbon is $1,367, below that of the base model 13.5-inch Surface Book 2, which starts at $1,499. Worth noting: the entry-level Surface Book 2 has a seventh-gen Core i5 processor (dual-core), while the X1 Carbon has the newer, eighth-gen Core i5 (which is quad-core).

To move up to models with the Core i7-8650U, you'll need to pay $2,299 for the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 but significantly less --$1,605 -- for the X1 Carbon. That $2,299 price for the Surface Book 2 also gets you discrete graphics, however (Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050).

A variety of other configurations are available for different price points. A fully loaded X1 Carbon -- including the Dolby Vision touch screen, 16 GB of RAM and 512 GB of storage -- is currently priced at $2,072. A 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 with the same storage and RAM will run $2,499. That happens to be the same starting price for the 15-inch Surface Book 2, which goes up to $2,899 for 512 GB worth of storage and 16 GB of RAM.