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

Face Off

Apple's surprise release of an updated MacBook Pro in July aimed to address some of the biggest concerns with the laptop -- in a nutshell, by making the notebook much more "pro" than in the past. Performance does get a serious upgrade in the new MacBook Pro, but for superior battery life and portability, users still may want to look elsewhere. One alternative, which we are big fans of at the CRN Test Center, is Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon, now in its sixth generation. Which of the two laptops is a better fit for you? What follows is our comparison of the new Apple MacBook Pro for 2018 vs. Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon on specs and price.

First Things First

Apple's latest update to the MacBook Pro did not include the entry-level version of the laptop, which omits the Touch Bar (the touch-sensitive display strip sitting atop the keyboard). So, for the purposes of this comparison, we'll only be looking at the 13-inch and 15-inch MacBook Pro models with Touch Bar versus Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon.


Apple kept the display on the new MacBook Pro mostly the same, with one exception: the company has brought its vibrant "True Tone" display technology from the iPhone to the MacBook Pro screen.

The 15-inch MacBook Pro is the highest-res option in our comparison, with resolution of 2,880 x 1,800 pixels. The 13-inch model offers 2,560 x 1,600 pixels. Both models offer high brightness of up to 500 nits.

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon display falls in between the two sizes of the MacBook Pro, at 14 inches. The X1 Carbon offers lower resolution and brightness at the starting point -- 1,920 x 1,080 pixels and brightness of 300 nits. Notably, however, that configuration offers a touch screen option, while the MacBook Pro display is non-touch.

Other choices for the X1 Carbon screen include a 2,560 x 1,440 non-touch display, with brightness of 300 nits, and a 2,560 x 1,440 non-touch display with 500 nits of brightness and support for colorful Dolby Vision HDR technology.

Processor - CPU

It had been over a year since Apple last updated the MacBook Pro with new processors, and so the processor upgrade is a main focus of the latest models. Both sizes of the MacBook Pro now offer eighth-gen Intel Core chips, with the 15-inch model getting a six-core processor option -- the Core i9. That chip clocks at up to 4.8GHz. The 13-inch model goes up to eighth-gen Core i7 (quad-core, up to 4.5GHz).

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon also offers eighth-gen Intel chips but doesn't offer a six-core processor option, topping out at a 4.2GHz Core i7.

Processor - Graphics

Apple also has a leg-up on graphics. The 15-inch MacBook Pro offers AMD's powerful Radeon Pro 555X or 560X, in addition to Intel UHD Graphics, which are integrated with the CPU. The 13-inch MacBook Pro has options for Intel Iris Plus Graphics 655.

By contrast, the X1 Carbon only has the option for CPU-integrated Intel HD Graphics 620.

Memory & Storage

Another boost to performance comes with Apple's decision to increase the available RAM on the new MacBook Pro (a much-requested move by professional users). The 15-inch MacBook Pro is now configurable with up to 32 GB of RAM, with 16 GB as the base-level option. The 13-inch MacBook Pro can come with 8 GB or 16 GB of RAM. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon doesn't offer a 32 GB RAM option, with the choices between 8 GB and 16 GB configurations.

On storage, the X1 Carbon is available with 256 GB, 512 GB or 1 TB. The 13-inch MacBook Pro, meanwhile, offers choices between 256 GB, 512 GB, 1 TB and 2 TB. The 15-inch model has all of those options, as well as a massive 4 TB option at the top level.

Battery Life

All of this emphasis on performance with the MacBook Pro takes a toll on battery life, however. Even though Apple has increased the size of the battery in both the 13-inch and 15-inch models, the estimate on potential battery life remains the same as in the previous versions -- up to 10 hours of usage on a charge. This is where Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a distinct advantage: the laptop promises 50 percent more battery life than the MacBook Pro, with up to 15 hours of usage on a charge.

Thickness & Weight

Even though Apple has sought to improve the portability on the MacBook Pro, it's still noticeably heavier than the X1 Carbon at 3.02 pounds for the 13-inch model. Even with its larger display than the MacBook Pro, the X1 Carbon weighs just 2.5 pounds. The 15-inch MacBook Pro, meanwhile, weighs 4.02 pounds.

The MacBook Pro is a bit thinner than the X1 Carbon, though, both for the 13-inch model (0.59 of an inch thick) and the 15-inch model (0.61 of an inch). But it's close: the X1 Carbon measures 0.62 of an inch thick.


The MacBook Pro's shallow key travel has been one of the many complaints about the laptop's keyboard to date, and that hasn't changed with the latest update. Apple does say that the "butterfly" keyboard design has been tweaked to make the keys quieter. Reports also suggest that the design change is meant to alleviate some issues with debris getting trapped under the keys and leading to keyboard failure (an issue that recently prompted Apple to launch a repair program).

By contrast, the keyboard on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is comfortable and quiet, and features key travel of 1.8mm. That's a big plus over the sub-1mm key travel found on the MacBook Pro.


While Apple is touting its updated MacBook Pro as tailored to the needs of professionals, the notebook maintains the unfortunate port setup of the previous models. Get ready to carry around some dongles because four USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports are all you will get with the MacBook Pro in terms of ports. Not exactly pro-friendly.

By comparison, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon features a wide variety of port options: two USB-A ports, two USB-C/Thunderbolt 3 ports, a microSD card reader, HDMI and a docking connector for native Ethernet.


At the starting point, with eighth-gen Core i5 and 8 GB of RAM, Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon is easily the more-affordable option. That notebook currently has a starting price of $1,139, versus the 13-inch MacBook Pro, which is priced at $1,799 to start. You'll pay higher prices for both laptops to get Core i7, additional RAM and, for the X1 Carbon, the higher-end display options. The 15-inch MacBook Pro, meanwhile, is in another pricing league altogether with its starting price of $2,399.