Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon vs. Lenovo ThinkPad T490 | Digital Trends

Lenovo has a few classes of ThinkPad laptops, each aimed at different types of people. The X1 Carbon is an example of a ThinkPad aimed at jet-setters who appreciate thin and light laptops, while the T490 is for those who see ThinkPads as solid, reliable, and, let’s face it, a bit. more portable for pedestrians.

We compared the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 against the ThinkPad T490 to see if the higher price of the former is justified on the solid reliability of the latter.


The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 looks and feels very similar to the slim Gen 7 model, keeping its mix of magnesium alloy and carbon fiber that make up the chassis. If you buy the version with a 4K display, you will love the woven carbon fiber pattern that adorns the lid. In addition to the slimmer design, the X1 Carbon looks a lot like the T490, both of which highlight the usual iconic black chassis with red accents that adorns most ThinkPads. They both also enjoy the soft touch feeling that makes the typical ThinkPad so comfortable to carry and use. However, the T490 is constructed of fiberglass-backed plastic.

In terms of their keyboards, you can imagine that both laptops enjoy identical ThinkPad quality. That’s not the case though, as the X1 Carbon Gen 9 has a slightly shallower keyboard thanks to its thinner chassis. It still feels great, but if you want the traditional ThinkPad keyboard, then the T490 is the best option. Both offer backlit and non-backlit versions.

Both laptops sport the typical red TrackPoint bump in the middle of the screen with an additional set of buttons above the touchpad. Both touchpads are compatible with Microsoft’s Precision touchpad drivers for excellent compatibility with Windows multi-touch gestures, but the X1 Carbon Gen 9 has a wider panel with more room for your fingers. Both laptops also support Windows Hello password-free sign-in via fast and accurate fingerprint scanners, with a ThinkShutter privacy panel that slides over the webcam for privacy.

The display options are where the two laptops seriously diverge. The X1 Carbon offers a host of viewing options, from Full HD (1920 x 1080) panels with low-power or anti-glare touch support, to a 4K (3840 x 2160) display with 500 nits of brightness and high-quality Dolby Vision. Dynamic range support (HDR).

We can attest to how great this latest display is, with great colors, brightness, and some of the best Netflix HDR media you’ll find on a laptop. The T490 is more limited, with HD or Full HD screens, but few other options and no UHD model; It’s not the most important consideration for a 14-inch screen where the extra pixels won’t be lost as much, but it is noteworthy for those who want full 4K.

Finally, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has better connectivity, with two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 4 support, an Ethernet / docking station connector (which unfortunately requires an optional adapter), two USB-A 3.2 ports, and HDMI 2.0. The T490 only has two USB 3.1 ports, a USB-C 3.1 Gen 1 port and a USB-C 3.1 Gen 2 port with Thunderbolt 3, plus an HDMI 1.4 port.

Both laptops can be upgraded to Intel’s Wi-Fi 6 card with Bluetooth 5.0, at least on those versions with Intel’s 10th Gen CPU (more on that below). You can also configure optional WWAN SIM slots.


Lenovo laptop sitting on the white table.

The X1 Carbon Gen 9 lineup has only 11th generation Intel Comet Lake processors, ranging from the quad-core i7-1135G7 to the quad-core i7-1185G7. These 11th gen processors are some of the fastest, based on our tests, and a great option for a performance boost if you haven’t bought a new laptop in a few years (there’s also a model with built-in Linux support if you prefer that system. operational).

The T490, on the other hand, mainly offers 8th generation Intel processors, starting with the quad-core i7-8665U. The more advanced version of the T490 comes with a 10th generation i7-10510U chip, but it is currently out of stock and that requires the maximum upgrade for the T490. This is a compromise the T490 makes to remain the most affordable laptop, but it is a noticeable decrease in power.

On the GPU front, the T490 offers integrated Intel UHD graphics, while the X1 Carbon Gen 9 uses the more advanced Intel Iris Xe graphics for an enhanced experience.

Both models also offer options for PCIe SSD storage up to 1TB. But when it comes to RAM, the T490 is limited to 16GB, while the X1 Carbon Gen 9 has options for up to 32GB of RAM.


Man typing on Lenovo laptop.

The X1 Carbon is a much lighter, smaller and thinner laptop than the T490. It is easier to throw in a backpack and transport it. The X1 Carbon is significantly smaller than the T490 even though both laptops use 14-inch displays.

The T490 is wider (12.95 inches vs. 12.71 inches) and deeper (8.94 inches vs. 8.54 inches) than the X1 Carbon, thanks mainly to thicker screen bezels, and it’s thicker. at 0.70 inches vs. 0.58 inches. Finally, the X1 Carbon weighs 2.49 pounds, almost a pound lighter than the T490 which has a starting weight of 3.23 pounds (up 3.56 pounds with the PrivacyGuard screen). That makes the X1 Carbon a more modern and attractive design.

The T490 comes with a 50 Wh battery with a capacity of up to 16.11 hours, while the X1 Carbon comes with a 57 Wh battery with a capacity of up to 16.7 hours. However, the decisions you make about the processor and displays will also have a big impact on battery life, so keep these specs in mind along with other decisions.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the latest ThinkPad iteration

Using Lenovo ThinkPad laptop at work.

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 is hands down the most expensive laptop. The base model starts at $ 2,321 (up to $ 1,392.60 with Lenovo’s auto-coupon), and depending on the upgrades you want, that price can go up to $3,889 (up to $ 2,333.40 with the coupon). If you can find these kinds of deals, then you really have no excuse not to take the plunge and buy the new ThinkPad X1.

The current price of the ThinkPad T490 places it within a very similar price range despite the slower performance. The base model starts at $ 2,409 ($ 799.99 with offers) and can go as high as $ 2,859. You can find different features and upgrades for this model such as the 10th Gen CPU, but you will need to research what the price will be for that.

There is no denying that the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 is the superior product due to an improved processor and 4K offerings. That said, if you’re on a budget, the T490 offers decent specs at an affordable price. If your budget allows you some leeway for upgrades, then the X1 Carbon is what we recommend. Overall, it’s a superior machine, and current offerings mean there’s only a slight price difference between the two options, and with that in mind, we highly recommend the Gen 9 Carbon model.

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