Lenovo’s ThinkPad line includes several models that go beyond the common perception of staid, sober business machines that the brand originally became famous for. Lenovo has experimented with various new features including 2-in-1 convertible devices, tablets, and ultra-slim laptops within the ThinkPad family, but they all still prioritise construction quality, reliability, and manageability — to a large extent, at least. The 15.6-inch ThinkPad X1 Extreme (reviewed at $2,955) lives up to its name with a jaw-dropping 4K HDR display and excellent overall performance offered by a Core i7 processor and an Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU.

Starting at $1,580, this powerful business laptop also has a sleek chassis and an exceptionally comfortable keyboard. Battery life on the 4K version is shorter than we’d like, but the ThinkPad X1 is still one of the best 15-inch laptops on the market, and a compelling alternative to the Dell XPS 15 and 15-inch Apple MacBook Pro. Like its competitors, it earned a spot on our Best Video Editing Laptop and Best 15-inch Laptops pages.

Specs

CPU Intel Core i7-8750H
Operating System Windows 10 Home
RAM 32GB
RAM Upgradable to 64GB
Hard Drive Size 1 TB
Hard Drive Type PCIe-NVME OPAL2.0 M.2
Display Size 15.6
Highest Available Resolution 3840 x 2160
Native Resolution 3840 x 2160
Graphics Card NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050Ti
Video Memory 4GB
Wi-Fi Model Intel Wireless-AC 9560
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.0
Touchpad Size 3.9 x 2.3 inches
Ports (excluding USB) HDMI 2.0
Ports (excluding USB) USB 3.0 Always On
Ports (excluding USB) Fingerprint Scanner
Ports (excluding USB) Thunderbolt 3
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Smart Card Reader
Ports (excluding USB) SD card slot
Ports (excluding USB) Kensington Lock
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone/Mic
USB Ports 4
Card Slots 4-1 card reader
Card Slots Smart Card
Warranty/Support one-year warranty.
Size 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches
Weight 3.8 pounds (FHD)/4.0 pounds (4K)
Company Website https://www.lenovo.com/us/en/

 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme design

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme comes in an impressively thin box, but its charger and accessories are packed separately. It isn’t as thin and light as most of today’s consumer ultraportables, but it feels very sturdy and well-built. The 1.8kg weight combined with the 18.7mm thickness give this laptop a sense of solidness rather than bulkiness.

The body is all metal and rectangular with only the slightest contours on the sides breaking up its boxy design. There’s no real design flair other than the diagonal ThinkPad logo in one corner of the lid with a red LED dotting the letter i, and an X1 logo in the opposite corner.

The outer surface is a plain matte black and we weren’t too happy with the texture. It has the feel of a rubberised coating, and these tend to not only attract a lot of smudges and stains from the natural oils on your fingertips, but also rub off after a while. We did find it hard to keep the exterior clean, which is a shame because the marks really stand out on such a minimalist design. On the plus side, this laptop won’t easily slip out of your grasp when you’re carrying it around.

Lift the lid and you’ll find that the hinge feels smooth but also very strong. Since this is a ThinkPad, the lid can open to 180 degrees which means it won’t snap if it accidentally gets knocked backwards. Uncharacteristically, though, the lid does flex and bend a little when pressure is applied, and you can see slight warping on the screen. The lid will wobble slightly on contact when you use the touchscreen, but this is unavoidable.

The borders around the screen are fairly narrow but there’s thankfully enough space at the top for a front-facing camera (without the sliding camera cover we’ve seen on other recent ThinkPads) as well as a second infrared camera for Windows Hello face recognition.

Surrounding the keyboard and trackpad on the lower deck, we have the same rubberised texture as on the lid. There’s a fingerprint reader to the right of the keyboard for additional biometric security. Interestingly, Lenovo hasn’t used the width afforded by a 15-inch screen to fit in a keyboard with a numeric keyboard. You do get three buttons for the TrackPoint, right where your thumbs would rest when typing, and the trackpad itself is clickable but doesn’t have physical buttons.

ThinkPad keyboards are almost universally loved, which might well be an indication of how low the bar is set across the industry. Lenovo has a layout that’s common across the ThinkPad line, and it’s fairly sensible but not perfect. The arrow keys aren’t too badly compressed and there are individual paging keys, but the Print Screen button is for some reason on the bottom row and the Fn row is given over to multimedia and system shortcuts by default.

You also have to deal with the Fn key in the lower left corner instead of Ctrl, which is a legacy ThinkPad holdover (but the two can at least be swapped from within the laptop’s BIOS). Where this keyboard does excel is typing comfort. The keys have great travel and have just the right balance of crispness and cushioning. There are only two levels of brightness for the keyboard backlight, and it isn’t automatic.

In terms of durability, the ThinkPad Extreme X1 feels top-notch. The company has used reinforced carbon fibre and an aluminium alloy frame designed to channel heat as well as maintain structural rigidity. There’s very little flex in the middle of the keyboard, and apart from the oddly bendable lid, we have no complaints.

Display

If battery life and price aren’t a concern for you, opt for the X1 Extreme’s phenomenal 4K (3840 x 2160) HDR touch-screen display over the matte, 1080p option. Detailed and bursting with vivid, saturated colors, this is without a doubt one of the best 15.6-inch displays on a consumer-grade business laptop, or any laptop for that matter.

The trailer I watched of the upcoming X-Men film, Dark Phoenix, was riveting on the practically bezel-less 4K model. During the slow-motion car crash, I could see the tiniest shards of glass floating harmlessly, inches away from a young Jean Grey. I also noticed an incredible amount of detail in James McAvoy’s face during a close-up shot, from the tiny cracks in his bright red lips to the smallest lines on his forehead

The exceptionally vibrant colors on the HDR panel leap off the screen; in fact, I was so captivated by the images it produced that I felt an urge to rewatch my favorite movies just to experience them in such scintillating color and detail. In Dark Phoenix, Mystique’s bright red hair looked like it had been dipped in a bucket of paint, and McEvoy’s blue eyes glistened like sapphire gemstones. Even Windows 10 icons were given new life by the richness of this display.

But while white balance seemed accurate, color saturation was exaggerated to the point of being lurid. Because of this, photo editors who need accurate tones will need to use color calibration software to dial things down. On a positive note, I had no issues using the X1 Extreme’s touch screen to browse the web and draw images in Paint 3D.

Our lab tests confirmed the brilliance of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme’s display. The panel covers an excellent 186 percent of the sRGB color gamut, which is greater than the displays on the 4K XPS 15 (164 percent), the Apple MacBook Pro (117 percent) and the Asus ZenBook Pro 15 (141 percent). The premium laptop average is paltry in comparison, at 113 percent.

At a maximum of 366 nits, the X1 Extreme’s display is also very bright, although other panels are even more luminous. For example, the Dell XPS’ display reached a blinding 447 nits of brightness, and the 2K panel on the Thinkpad X1 Carbon maxed out at 469 nits. The displays on the MacBook Pro (354 nits), the ZenBook Pro 15 (330 nits) and the premium laptop average (310 nits) are dimmer.

Performance

The X1 Extreme lives up to its name when it comes to performance — this laptop is blazing fast. Our test unit, which came equipped with an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, didn’t stutter when I loaded 15 Google Chrome tabs and ran multiple 1080p YouTube videos. From there, the laptop speedily opened the LinkedIn app and played Microsoft Solitaire without any lag. I then played an HD Twitch stream and noticed only brief slowdowns when switching between web browser tabs.

We saw similarly strong performance on our lab tests. The X1 Extreme scored a high score of 22,021 on the Geekbench 4.1 overall performance test, narrowly outperforming the Dell XPS 15 (Core i7-8750H; 21,201) and the Asus ZenBook Pro 15 (Core i9-8950HK; 21,691). The MacBook Pro 15 (Core i9-8950HK; 23,138) had a slight edge on the ThinkPad, with a score of 22,021. Still, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is more powerful than the average premium laptop (13,996).

The X1 Extreme also has one of the fastest hard drives we’ve tested. The business machine’s 1TB PCIe-NVME OPAL2.0 M.2 SSD needed only 5 seconds to duplicate 4.97GB of mixed-media files for a rate of 1,017 megabytes per second. That score didn’t quite reach the soaring heights of the MacBook Pro (2TB; 2,724 MBps), but it outpaced the ZenBook Pro 15 (512GB NVMe PCIe SSD; 424 MBps) and the XPS 15 (256GB M.2 PCIe SSD; 391 MBps).

Our high-end configuration of the X1 Extreme matched 65,000 names to their corresponding addresses in just 40 seconds on the Excel Macro Test. The ZenBook Pro 15 (40 seconds) completed the test in the same amount of time, while the MacBook Pro (52 seconds) and the XPS 15 (44 seconds) lagged behind. The premium laptop average (1:29) took more than twice as long as the ThinkPad.

Even our rigorous Handbrake video-transcoding test was no task for the Thinkpad X1 Extreme, which converted a 4K video to 1080p in 10 minutes and 3 seconds. The XPS 15 (10:12) and MacBook Pro (10:16) took a few seconds longer, and the ZenBook Pro 15 (10:53) was even slower. Again, the average premium laptop (20:30) takes twice as long to complete this test.

Verdict

Lenovo has tried combining the best of all worlds with this laptop, and we’re sure there are plenty of people who need a relatively portable machine that can be used for heavy creative work with a bit of entertainment on the side. Whether people who match that profile have the budget for a ThinkPad X1 Extreme will be another matter altogether.

The price of Rs. 3,05,891 (for the same configuration with a 1TB SSD) is well out of the reach of most retail buyers. It’s possible that Lenovo will offer better prices for bulk orders, but we’re not concerned with that. You can get gaming laptops with pretty much the same configuration, minus the 4K HDR screen, for half this price.

The 15-inch Dell XPS 9570 ₹ 139,790 is available with a Core i9-8950HK CPU, 4K non-HDR screen, 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD for Rs. 2,29,852 — but it weighs slightly more at 2kg. This laptop makes even the current 15-inch MacBook Pro seem reasonably priced. Finally, you might also want to consider the fact that Intel’s 9th Gen laptop Core CPUs are right around the corner and Nvidia’s mid-range GeForce GTX 16-series is still rolling out.

All in all, we love the idea of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme but like most ThinkPads, it doesn’t seem like great bang for the buck unless you’re really in love with the ThinkPad aesthetic. If you’re lucky enough to have your company footing the bill, you’ll be quite happy.

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