Laptop Battle: ThinkPad T470s vs. ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017)

by Reads (11,127)

The Lenovo ThinkPad T470s and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017) are two of Lenovo’s premium 14-inch business notebooks. Their price points tend to be almost identical, and they’re both relatively thin and light. What we’ll look at in this article is the key areas where they differ, and why you may want to choose one over the other. 

To get a full rundown on these notebooks, take a look at our full reviews of each model:

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017)

Lenovo ThinkPad T470s

Physical Differences

Unless you’re around ThinkPads all day, we don’t blame you for thinking one looks like another. The key giveaway to tell the difference between the ThinkPad T470s and the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is that the latter has a slimmer display bezel. Both notebooks share a 14-inch display, which makes the X1 Carbon the smaller of the two notebooks.

The T470s measures 13.3 x 9.2 inches, whereas the X1 Carbon is 12.7 x 8.5 inches. Doing the math, that makes the T470s about 13 percent larger in area.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The X1 Carbon is also just 75 percent of the thickness, at 0.6 inches. Lastly, the X1 Carbon is lighter, at 2.5 pounds, as opposed to 2.9 pounds for the T470s.

In essence, if buying the thinner and lighter of the two was your only priority, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon would be the clear winner over the T470s. However, the extra size and weight of the T470s is not for naught.

Takeaway: the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is noticeably smaller, thinner, and lighter than the T470s.

Input & Output Ports

ThinkPad X1 Carbon ports

The variety of ports is similar on both of these notebooks. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a second USB Type-C port, but one of them needs to be used to power the notebook. You can see both USB Type-C ports on the left side of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, shown here. The T470s, on the other hand, has Lenovo’s traditional proprietary AC power plug. A minor advantage for the T470s is that it has an Ethernet port built-in. The X1 Carbon does as well, but you need to use an included adapter to actually connect an Ethernet plug to it. The other advantages for the T470s include an extra USB Type-A port (for a total of three), and a full-size SD card reader. The X1 Carbon has a MicroSD card reader, instead of a full-size. Last, the T470s has an available SmartCard slot.

The bottom of the ThinkPad T470s

Either of these notebooks can use USB Type-C docking stations, but only the ThinkPad T470s supports Lenovo’s traditional snap-in docking solutions. This is one of the main benefits of the extra thickness on the T470s. You can see the snap-in docking connector on the underside of the T470s in this image.

Takeaway: the ThinkPad T470s has an advantage in the number of built-in ports, as well as the ability to support snap-in docking stations.

Screen

The base screen on the ThinkPad T470s (below, left) and the X1 Carbon (below, right) is a non-touch 1080p panel, with IPS technology and an anti-glare surface. A 1440p panel, also with IPS technology and an anti-glare surface, is offered as an upgrade on both models. Only the T470s offers a touch display, however. Unless you need touch, this section is a toss-up.

Takeaway: only the ThinkPad T470s offers touch; the screen choices are otherwise equivalent.

System Performance

These ThinkPads are offered with equivalent processor and storage options. The only meaningful difference is that the T470s offers user-upgradeable RAM, in addition to 4GB or 8GB onboard. It supports a total of 24GB of RAM, assuming you install a 16GB module and get a model that has 8GB onboard. By comparison, the X1 Carbon offers up to 16GB of memory. You’ll have to have it configured that way from the factory, however, as all of the memory in the X1 Carbon is soldered to the motherboard, and therefore not upgradeable. For the types of usage for which these notebooks are intended, 16GB ought to be more than enough.

Takeaway: unless you need more than 16GB of RAM, the ThinkPad T470s and the X1 Carbon offer almost identical levels of performance.

Battery Life

Lenovo rates the ThinkPad T470s for up to 12.5 hours of battery life, and the X1 Carbon up to 15.5 hours. The test we use for battery life is far more demanding than a typical test, resulting in lower runtimes. In our testing, the ThinkPad T470s ran for 5 hours, 46 minutes, whereas the X1 Carbon went for over 25 percent longer, at 7 hours, 16 minutes.

Powermark battery life benchmark results listed in minutes:

Neither notebook is available with an upgraded battery, making battery life one of the biggest differences between the two notebooks. The battery life from the T470s certainly isn’t bad, by any measure, but the X1 Carbon simply leaves it behind.

Takeaway: the ThinkPad X1 Carbon had 25 percent better battery life than the T470s, in our testing.

Price

Lenovo’s prices are known to fluctuate significantly with sales, so be sure to re-evaluate the pricing difference between these two notebooks when you’re ready to make your purchase.

We configured a ThinkPad T470s and an X1 Carbon as closely as possible as we wrote this article. For specifications, we chose the 14-inch 1080p non-touch display, an Intel Core i5-7300U dual-core processor, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB storage drive, and a Windows 10 Pro license. The T470s rang up at $1,610, while the X1 Carbon was $1,646. In short, pricing doesn’t appear to be a major factor between these notebooks. Note what we said about Lenovo’s pricing, however; it’s possible that an economic advantage might exist in favor of one of these notebooks at some point, depending on the promotions at the time.

Takeaway: the pricing differences between the ThinkPad T470s and the X1 Carbon appear to be minimal.

Conclusion

The ThinkPad T470s and the X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017) are both excellent 14-inch business notebooks in their own right. While reviewing the major differences between them, we found that pricing surprisingly wasn’t one of them. That leaves you to decide based on the other differences.

For travelers, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is nearly a half-pound lighter, and is dimensionally smaller in every direction than the T470s. It also offers significantly better battery life, to the tune of 25 percent over the T470s according to our testing.

The extra weight and thickness of the ThinkPad T470s pay off when it comes to connectivity. It offers more built-in ports than the X1 Carbon, along with support for Lenovo’s snap-in docking solutions. The T470s also offers up to 24GB of memory, whereas the X1 Carbon tops out at 16GB. Finally, the T470s is offered with a touch display, which is not available on the X1 Carbon.

These two notebooks are otherwise equally matched. Our inclination is to opt for the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Its superior battery life and portability are hard to ignore. Performance-wise, we can’t see the need for more than 16GB of memory for the tasks likely to be performed on these notebooks. And as much as we love the convenience of snap-in docks, a USB Type-C dock should be able to provide a similar level of connectivity. Overall, you can’t go wrong with either, but unless some aspect of the T470s is a make-it-or-break-it proposition, we’d pick the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (5th generation/2017).


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  1. GrahamLacey

    Thank you. Very helpful article.