Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 vs Surface Laptop 4: Which should you get?
Lenovo recently introduced the Thinkpad X1 Carbon Gen 10 laptop, and it’s a big step up from its predecessor in more ways than one. The X1 Carbon is one of Lenovo’s most iconic and best ThinkPads, and with this refresh, that’s more true than ever. Of course, that begs the question: how does the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 stack up against other great laptops out there, such as the Surface Laptop 4?
The first thing to point out with this comparison is that the Surface Laptop 4 is almost one year old at this point, and so it’s going to have some obvious disadvantages against the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. One of the big improvements in Lenovo’s laptop is the addition of 12th-generation Intel processors, and we’ll have to wait for a potential Surface Laptop 5 to see them on a Surface device. But aside from that, the comparison should still hold up, and you can expect most things to stay relatively similar when a new Surface Laptop comes out.
ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs Surface Laptop 4: Specs
|Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10||Surface Laptop 4|
|Price||Starting at $1,639||Starting at $899|
You can also tell here that the Surface Laptop 4 comes in two different sizes, while the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is only available in one. The differences between the two sizes are minor, though, so the comparison is mostly the same across both models.
Performance: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon comes with Intel Alder Lake processors
Performance is the first place you’ll see some big differences between these two laptops. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is one of the first laptops to pack Intel’s 12th-generation Core processors, also called Alder Lake. Admittedly, we don’t have performance numbers for these processors yet, but they use a new architecture that mixes high-performance cores and efficient cores and at least on desktop CPUs, the results have been impressive so far. These are almost certain to beat the previous generation, which is still used in the Surface Laptop 4.
Of course, we also need to consider that the Surface Laptop 4 has some variants with AMD Ryzen processors, but frankly, it doesn’t change much. These AMD variants offered worse single-core performance and better multi-core results compared to their Intel counterparts, while also offering better battery life. With as many cores as Intel’s 12th-generation processors have, though, they should still be much better than these older AMD models. Also keep in mind that, even when they launched, these AMD processors were a bit outdated, as there were already newer models around.
Another thing to note is that Lenovo is also using Intel’s new P-series processors with a 28W TDP in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10. These are step up from the 15W processors used in the Surface Laptop 4 and other ultrabooks from last year, and you’ll notice it. Using more powerful processors naturally means more performance, though you might see battery life take a bigger hit this way.
But even if the processor performance alone wasn’t that different, Intel’s new processors have another advantage: Support for LPDDR5 RAM. This new generation of RAM — the first big upgrade we’ve had in a few years — comes with much higher theoretical speeds compared to LPDDR4x. You may not notice right away until software is optimized for it, but in the long run, it should pay off. Similarly, the new ThinkPad X1 Carbon now comes with PCIe Gen 4 SSD storage, which is also much faster than the SSDs still being used in the Surface Laptop 4. All of these things are aspects where Microsoft is likely to catch up with Lenovo when a Surface Laptop refresh happens.
As for battery life, we don’t yet have estimates for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10, but it does have a noticeably larger battery (57Whr versus 47.4Whr), so it’s fair to expect it to perform better on that front. Of course, that will depend on things like your processor and display configuration.
Display: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has more options including OLED
Moving on to the display, some even more noticeable differences start to pop up. Particularly when it comes to the display size. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is a 14-inch laptop, and the display has a 16:10 aspect ratio, which is already taller than a typical 16:9 panel. The Surface Laptop 4 comes in two versions — a 13.5-inch panel and a 15-inch variant – both with an even taller 3:2 aspect ratio. In that regard, the Surface Laptop 4 gives you more options, and it’s nice to be able to choose your preferred size. You may also like the taller 3:2 aspect ratio.
However, the Surface Laptop 4 only has one display configuration for each size, and they both have the exact same pixel density. They’re both IPS panels, with 2256 x 1504 resolution in the 13.5-inch model and 2495 x 1664 resolution in the 15-inch model. These are both quite sharp displays, and they both support touch and pen input.
On other hand, Lenovo offers plenty of configurations for the ThinkPad X Carbon display. The base configuration is less impressive, starting at Full HD+ (1920 x 1200) resolution, but you can upgrade to a 2.2K (2240 x 1400) IPS panel, a 2.8K (2880 x 1800) OLED panel, or all the way up to a 4K+ (3840 x 2400) IPS panel. Not all panels include touch, but you do get the option, and there’s also an option for a privacy screen in the base model. While the Surface Laptop 4 will give you a great experience by default, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 has a few more options to get a display that really suits your preference.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon also comes out on top when we look above the display. It took a while. but Lenovo is now building Full HD webcams into its laptops, and while it’s not the default, at least you have the option. A 1080p camera is available along with IR facial recognition for Windows Hello, and you can even add computer vision to make the camera smarter. Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 4 is still using a 720p camera, which is odd considering other Surface devices are known for having great webcams. At least it does have Windows Hello facial recognition, and it’s included in every configuration, unlike with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon.
As for sound, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 has a stereo speaker system, and if it’s like its predecessor, that will include four speakers (two 2W woofers and two 0.8W tweeters). Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 4 has a stereo dual-speaker setup and it uses an “omnisonic” system, which means the sound is coming through from under the keyboard ad firing directly at the user. Both should give you a solid audio experience, though you might get a better experience with the Lenovo laptop.
Design and ports: The Surface Laptop 4 is sleeker but less versatile
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon and the Surface Laptop 4 are also quite different in terms of design. Lenovo’s ThinkPad lineup has an iconic look that’s been around for years, and the latest X1 Carbon carries that legacy. It’s a black laptop with red accents, an optional carbon fiber lid, and classic ThinkPad elements like the red TrackPoint and mouse buttons above the touchpad. This is all a big part of the ThinkPad brand, and it’s here for fans of Lenovo’s classic laptops.
The Surface Laptop 4, on the other hand, is a much more modern-looking laptop. It has a sleek design overall and a minimalistic aesthetic, but it’s still unique in its own right. The 13.5-inch model comes in four color options, and two of them use an Alcantara fabric cover for the keyboard base. Meanwhile, the 15-inch model comes in two colors, and it’s only available in an all-metal build. Still, it gives you options to get the color you like the most, and it still has that modern look. This is a big part of what it comes down to: Do you want something that looks modern or something that feels familiar and classic?
In terms of portability, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10 is arguably better thanks to its lighter starting weight of 2.48lbs. The Surface Laptop 4 is slightly thinner, but it starts at 2.79lbs for the 13.5-inch model, and 3.4lbs if you want the 15-inch version. The difference isn’t huge, though, and we’d say both laptops are fairly easy to carry around. If you opt for the 15-inch Surface Laptop 4, you should already know what to expect in terms of weight.
One area where Lenovo’s laptop is far ahead is connectivity. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has two Thunderbolt ports, two USB Type-A ports, HDMI 2.0b, and a headphone jack. That’s a very versatile setup out of the box, plus the two Thunderbolt ports give you options for docking and connecting peripherals like external GPUs. Meanwhile, the Surface Laptop 4 has one USB Type-C port (not Thunderbolt), one USB Type-A port, a 3.5mm headphone jack, and a Surface Connect port. There’s decent variety here, but no traditional display output and no Thunderbolt support make this a far more limited setup. That’s something Surface devices do a lot.
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon also gives you the option for cellular connectivity, which means you can connect to the internet even when you’re away from Wi-Fi. Some Surface tablets have this option, but not the Surface Laptop 4, and it makes some sense as this is a feature more common for business devices. Lenovo’s laptop also supports Wi-Fi 6E and a newer Bluetooth protocol, but those are things Microsoft will likely match when a Surface Laptop 5 eventually launches.
Bottom line: The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is generally better than the Surface Laptop 4
It should be evident by now, but the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is simply a better laptop across the board, and that shouldn’t surprise you. As we mentioned at the start, the Surface Laptop 4 will soon be one year old, and it has some outdated specs, so performance is far better on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Lenovo’s laptop also has the option for a better display and webcam, though the Surface Laptop 4 should also give you a pretty good experience overall. But potentially the biggest advantage of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is its port setup, which is far more capable and versatile than the Surface Laptop 4’s.
There are a couple of advantages to the Surface Laptop 4, though. Having two display sizes to choose from means you can get something that suits your taste a bit better, particularly if you want a bigger display. You may also prefer the taller 3:2 aspect ratio of this laptop compared to Lenovo’s. There’s also the matter of design, with the Surface Laptop 4 feeling far more modern and sleek than the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Another potential big advantage for the Surface Laptop 4 is the price. It starts at $899, which is significantly less than the $1,639 starting price of the X1 Carbon Gen 10, and that might sway you towards the Surface.
Here’s the thing, though: The advantages the Surface Laptop 4 has will probably stay the same in a Surface Laptop 5 when it happens. You can count on the same design language, display type, and likely similar pricing. Plus, this purported laptop would likely catch up with Lenovo in terms of performance, and it might feature better connectivity, too. After all, we’ve seen Thunderbolt support in the Surface Pro 8 and Laptop Studio. If you want a Surface laptop, at this point, we’d recommend waiting to see what a Surface Laptop 5 ends up looking like.
If you can’t wait, though, the Surface Laptop 4 is available from the link below, and some models are heavily discounted at writing time. Otherwise, you can check out the best Surface PCs you can buy right now if you’re interested in a different form factor. As for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 10, it’s not available to buy yet, but it’s expected to launch in March of this year.