The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a premium thin-and-light 15-inch notebook with a compact form-factor, modern and powerful hardware, as well as little to no compromises, at least on paper.
It’s a niche product that should cater to those of you who need performance and a good quality 15-inch screen in a compact envelope, but it’s at the same time an expensive option, even more expensive than the other variants in its class: the Dell XPS 15, the HP EliteBook 1050 or the Asus Zenbook Pro UX580.
I’ve spent the last few days with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme and gathered all my impressions in this article, with the strong points and the various quirks I noticed during this time. We’ll talk about the build, screen, typing experience and performance, but also about all the other fine bits you should be aware of if you decide to go for one of these laptops.
As with most other review units, this was a loaner from Lenovo and it was returned after the article was published, but these aspects have absolutely no impact on the contents of the post.
Specs as reviewed
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Screen 15.6 inch, 3840 x 2160 px, IPS, touch, glossy
Processor Intel Coffee Lake-H Core i7-8850H CPU
Video Intel HD 630 + Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q 4 GB
Memory 32 GB DDR4 2666 MHz (2x DIMMs)
Storage 1 TB SSD ( Samsung PM981 MZVLB1T0HALR – 2x M.2 NVMe 80 mm slots with RAID 0/1)
Connectivity Wireless AC (Intel AC 9560), Bluetooth 5.0, Gigabit LAN (with adapter)
Ports 2x USB-A 3.1, 2x USB-C Thunderbolt 3, HDMI, SD card, mic/earphone, network extension port, Kensington Lock, optional SmartCard reader
Battery 80 Wh, 135 W brick
OS Windows 10
Size 362 mm or 14.2” (w) x 246 mm or 9.7 (d) x 18.7 mm or .72” (h)
Weight 4.05 lbs (1.83 kg) + 0.99 lbs (450 g) power brick, EU model
Extras backlit keyboard, finger sensor, HD webcam and Windows Hello IR camera, stereo speakers
Design and first look
The X1 Extreme looks and feels much like all the other premium ThinkPads of this generation and in fact shares many design cues with the
existing X1 Carbon line.
Design wise, the case is entirely black, with subtle branding elements and only a few slashes of red in the ThinkPad logos, the TrackPoint and the mouse buttons. It also gets a soft rubbery finishing, and the two combined lead to surfaces that easily show smudges and are rather difficult to rub clean, unlike with the bare-aluminum laptops like the EliteBook or the MacBooks, that hide them much better. You’ll mostly notice the smudges on the arm-rest and they’re just something you’ll have to accept with this laptop.
As far as the choice in materials goes, most of the outershell is made from carbon-fiber reinforced polycarbonate, just like the X1 Carbon, with the bottom made out of aluminum, to better cope with heat spreading.
We should mention that quite a few X1 Carbon owners have been complaining about the soft-coating chipping away easily on their units, especially on the edges and around the ports. As far as I can tell, the finishing on the X1E looks like it can take a beating, but there’s no way for me to tell how it’s going to age. Hopefully Lenovo improved the manufacturing process, but this is nonetheless something to further look into at the time you’re reading the article. If the manufacturing is still problematic you’ll find people complaining about it on the forums, on Reddit or on Youtube.
That aside though, there’s little to complain about when it comes to the overall build quality of this X1 Extreme. The lid is sturdy, so you’re not going to have to pamper this in your backpack, and the palm-rest barely bulges when pressed. There is a slight amount of flex in the keyboard deck, but not something you’ll be bothered by in daily use.
On a more practical approach, this is the kind of laptop you can comfortably grab and move along. It’s fairly compact and light, but not as small as the Dell XPS 15 for instance, which you can tell by the slightly thicker bezels around the screen. This however leaves room for cameras at the top of display, where they should be.
Our unit comes with the optional IR camera alongside the HD webcam, which are only available without a physical camera cover, but you can get a ShutterCamera if you pick the standard webcam without the IR addon. You probably shouldn’t though, as this works great with Windows Hello, but even if you do you’ll be left with the precise finger-sensor you can use to login to Windows and various other applications.
And since we’re nitpicking, I also have to mention the fact that the power-button integrates an always on light, just like the older Dell XPS models. There’s no way to disable it and it’s annoying when trying to watch a movie in a dark room.
A large bar-hinge holds the screen in place and allows it to lean back flat to 180-degrees. It’s fairly sturdy, so the frame is not going to wiggle in place much when poking at the touchscreen, but at the same time you’ll need both hands to lift open this display. Win some, lose some.
The interior is smooth and feels comfortable in everyday use. The corners and front lip are a bit blunt, but still sharp enough to bite into the wrists. However, since this is a 15-inch laptop, my wrists are able to sit comfortably on the palm-rest most of the time, so you’ll only notice their bite if you’ll use this on a small desk.
Flip the X1 Extreme upside down and we can have a look at the underbelly, with the large and grippy rubber feet, the speakers cuts carved into the inclined laterals and the spacious air in-take grill. Don’t forget this gets powerful hardware inside, so it needs the big intakes and those exhausts on the back edge, behind the hinge, to keep that at bay.
The IO is one final aspect we’ll mention in this section. The X1 Extreme offers pretty much what you’d expect from such a computer: full-size HDMI and two USB-A slots, as well as an SD card-reader, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support and a SmartCard reader. Both Thunderbolt 3 ports are fully fledged x4 PCIe slots and support fast transfer speeds, video output and charging (more about this in the Battery section).
What the X1 Extreme lacks is the classic docking connector available on many other ThinkPads, which limits compatibility to
Thunderbolt 3 docks only, including the expensive Lenovo Thunderbolt 3 Workstation Dock that was initially released for the ThinkPad P52 workstation.
All in all, this is the kind of laptop that will be easily accepted in strict business environments and should face the hassle of everyday use well. I personally like how the soft-coating feels to the touch and I prefer it over the colder feel of aluminum laptops, even if that means I have to deal with pesky smudges.
I only hope Lenovo got their quality control in check and the outershell is not going to chip and peel-off easily over time. That aside, my gripes with the laptop’s build are subjective and insignificant in the grand scheme of things: the always lit power button, the stiff hinge that requires both hands to lift up and the still fairly sharp front lip and corners.
Keyboard and trackpad
Many people swear by the AccuType keyboards Lenovo puts on their recent ThinkPads, and even I, a die-hard fan of their classic keyboards used prior to 2012, have to agree they’re pretty good, but at the same time I have to warn you they’re not without their quirks.
Lenovo uses similar keyboards on the X1 Carbon and this X1 Extreme, and as you might already know, they source keyboards from various manufacturers, which means different buyers can get keyboards that feel and perform different on their units. This aspect
has been documented on the X1 Carbon, for instance, and you’ll just have to accept that there’s no guarantee your unit will offer the same experience as our unit.
With that in mind, the keyboard on this X1 Extreme didn’t feel
like the keyboard on the ThinkPad T480s we reviewed a while ago, despite the fact that they look the same. Softer, nicer plastic is used for the keys and they are quieter and easier to press on the X1 Extreme, so I was able to type on quickly, but my accuracy still suffered due to two reasons: the actuation point is at the end of the press and requires a firm hit in the middle of the key, which means that hitting keys outside the ideal hotspot can result in that press not being registered, and also the fact that the keys offer roughly 1.8 mm of travel, and I’m just accustomed to shorter strokes.
The former is mostly an issue when hitting the Shift keys, while the latter aspect is highly subjective, and most of you might even appreciate this kind of a keyboard over the shallower options out there. I haven’t got my hands on the EliteBook 1050, but I did test the XPS 15s, MacBook Pros and the Zenbook Pros over the years and overall this ThinkPad is the nicer typer among them, but just not my first choice among all the existing options out there.
This aside, you should also be aware that this keyboard still gets 2-key rollover/ghosting, which means that pressing more than two keys at once that are close together (like QWAS, UIKJ, etc), something that can happen when typing really quickly, can result in a beep and a lack of properly registering those inputs. Potential buyers might also complain about the layout, which lacks a NumPad for once and uses an oddly arranged set of dedicated keys (Home/End/Insert, PgUp/PgDw), as well as uses reversed Fn and Ctrl keys in the lower-left corner. You can switch them back from BIOS (Fn will act as Ctrl and Ctrl as Fn), and I for one like having a centered keyboard without a NumPad, but some might want one on a 15-incher.
The X1 Extreme also gets the same glass clickpad from the X1 Carbon, with dedicated click buttons on top and the classic TrackPoint among the G and H keys. The clickpad performs nearly spotless and feels excellent to the touch. There’s clear tactile separation from the palm-rest around, it deals smoothly with swipes, taps or gestures, and the actual integrated clicks are soft and quiet.
I did however notice some lag when keeping one finger on the surface and swiping with the other, so if that’s how you use your laptop you might want to further look into this aspect. Everything else works fine though.
The X1 Extreme also gets a finger-sensor, similar to the ones on the X1 Carbon and T480s. Doug had some issues with the finger-sensor on his X1 Carbon, but for me it worked fine on the T480s and this X1 Extreme, so perhaps Lenovo addressed the loose end in the meantime. You should however double-check that it works well on your unit once you receive it.
You can get the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme with two 15-inch screen options: FHD IPS matte non-touch and UHD IPS touch.
We got the latter on this test unit, with the standard layer of glossy glass on top. Lenovo advertises it as a 400-nits HDR panel with 100% Adobe RGB support and it delivers on those promises in real-life, as you can see from our results below, taken with a Sypder4 sensor:
Panel HardwareID: Lenovo LEN40BE (LB156ZAN03.2);
Coverage: 100% sRGB, 98% NTSC, 100% AdobeRGB;
Measured gamma: 2.2;
Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 351 cd/m2 on power;
Contrast at max brightness: ~1000:1;
White point: 8300 K;
Black on max brightness: 0.34 cd/m2.
Keep in mind our measuring tool is not as good as others, so you should also check out this article for
a more indepth look at the pane’s performance.
I will also add a few things. We noticed limited light bleeding issues with out test-unit, but that’s just one more aspect that’s going to vary from unit to unit. However, while brightness uniformity is pretty good, the higher half of the panel is dimmer than the bottom, and we also noticed some color uniformity issues in the lower-right corner.
Then, HDR is mostly marketing here, because the 400-nits peak brightness is not enough to actually make a noticeable difference with HDR content. The wide-gamut coverage on the other hand might be enough to justify this screen option for certain professionals among you. The panel is rather poorly calibrated out of the box, but it can be tweaked to excellent colors and gray levels. You can use
our calibrated profile, although it’s best to use a calibrating tool yourselves for ideal results on your unit.
This is also a fairly slow panel, with about twice the response times of normal IPS FHD screens, so not a great option for gaming. Some reviews also mention ghosting noticeable in daily use when moving the cursor or scrolling, I for one didn’t find these bothering, but I did notice the slight lag when playing fast games.
This screen also offers support for active digital pens like the Lenovo ThinkPad Pen Pro. We didn’t get one to test on our unit, but using a pen on a clamshell computer makes little sense anyway.
The UHD panel is also an expensive option, adds in the glare and takes a significant toll on battery life, that’s why many potential buyers might consider the FHD matte screen instead. It’s a 300-nits panel with mid-level 75% Adobe RGB gamut-coverage, a variation of the Chi Mei N156HCE-EN1 panel available on the Thinkpad P52 or the
Asus Zenbook UX550 lines. It lacks touch though.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is available in a multitude of configurations, and we got to test a higher-end model with the Intel Core i7-8850H processor, 32 GB of RAM, a 1 TB NVMe SSD and the Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics.
The i7-8850H is a higher-clocked version of the standard 6-core i7-8750H, with a base clock speed of 2.6 GHz and Turbo Boost up to 4.3 GHz, as well as support for vPro. An i9-8950HK option was also announced at launch, but given the fact that this is a thin laptop and
the way the i9 performs in other similar devices, I’d stick to the i7 builds.
The GPU is the Max-Q version of the GTX 1050 Ti chip, similar to the chip inside the Dell XPS 9570, and even with the lower default clock-speed, it’s actually capable of maintaining high Turbo Speeds in games and nearly match configurations with
the full-power GTX 1050 Ti. We’ll talk about gaming performance down below.
The X1 Extreme gets two memory modules, with theoretic support for up to 64 GB of RAM from 2x 32GB DIMMs, however there are still no 32 GB SO-DIMMs available out there (some were announced earlier this year, but they’re still not available to buy – please correct me if I’m wrong), so you’ll have to stick with up to 32 GB of memory for the time being.
As for storage, this laptop supports two PCIe x4 SSDs, configurable in RAID 0/1. Our test unit shipped with a fast 1 TB Samsung PM981 SSD, but given the fact that Lenovo sources components from different manufacturers, you could get a different drive on your unit.
Both the memory and storage are upgradeable. For that you’ll need to remove the back panel, which is a simple task, as it’s only hold in place by a handful of Philips screws. In here you’ll also find the wi-fi chip, speakers and battery. All in all, this is easier to repair than the competition, with accessible components and a
proper supply of parts.
Let’s jump to the actual performance. This laptop can easily handle everyday multitasking and basic activities while running cool and quiet, but potential buyers will be more interested in how it tackles demanding loads, so let’s get to that part.
First of all, we’ll look at the CPU’s behavior in continuous all-core loads. In real-life this translates in graphics editing, engineering and programming software etc., but we simulate it by running the Cinebench R15 CPU test for 10+ times in a loop. As mentioned earlier, the i7-8850 has a default clock speed of 2.6 GHz, but can Turbo up to 4.3 GHz in single-core loads and 4.0 GHz in all-core loads. However, CPUs are designed to reduced their clock-speeds when reaching high-temperatures, as a measure protection, and the reduction is usually more aggressive with thinner laptops such as this one, due to the reduced space for ample cooling solutions.
The i7-8850H inside our test unit stabilizes at around 3.3 GHz in concurrent Cinebench runs, with a TDP of 45W and temperatures of around 90-92 degrees Celsius, which translates in Cinebench scores around 1070-1090 points, down from the initial score of around 1150 point after the first run.
However, we can improve the performance by undervolting the processor (
explained in here). In this case, the CPU was stable at -140 mV, and this profile resulted in a significant performance gain when running the same Cinebench loop test: a 3.8 GHz stabilized frequency, similar TDP of 45 W and temperatures of around 90-92 Celsius, but improved scores of around 1180-1200 points (down from the original score of around 1280 points after the first run).
Undervolting is safe and something we’d recommend on modern thin-and-light laptops in order to improve performance in demanding loads, or efficiency/temperatures with everyday use. Just keep in mind that each CPU is different and will run at different voltage values, that’s why you should find the settings that best suit your unit,
as explained in this article.
All in all, the CPU inside the ThinkPad X1 Extreme performs well, with minor thermal limitations in all-core full loads. However, given the design and these limitations, there’s not much point to opt for the i7-8850H over the more affordable i7-8750H option, unless you actually need vPro.
We ran our standard set of benchmarks on this unit and here’s what we got:
3DMark 11: P8979 (Graphics: 8577, Physics: 12269);
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6493 (Graphics – 7168, Physics – 14597);
3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 2355 (Graphics – 2183, CPU – 4270);
PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 3474;
PCMark 10: 4890;
PassMark: Rating: 5133, CPU mark: 14953, 3D Graphics Mark: 5968;
GeekBench 3.4.2 32-bit: Single-Core: 4275, Multi-core: 23154;
GeekBench 4.1.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 5373, Multi-core: 22771;
CineBench R15: OpenGL 100.83 fps, CPU 1146 cb, CPU Single Core 178 cb;
x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 209.07 fps, Pass 2 – 66.76 fps.
We also ran some of them on the -140 mV undervolted profile:
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 6425 (Graphics – 6998, Physics – 15787);
GeekBench 4 64-bit: Single-Core: 5287, Multi-core: 22978;
CineBench R15: OpenGL 98.33 fps, CPU 1282 cb, CPU Single Core 177 cb;
x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 208.70 fps, Pass 2 – 74.49 fps.
As far as gaming goes, Lenovo only offers the X1 Extreme with the Max-Q version of the GTX 1050 Ti chip, which is a more efficient version designed for thin-and-light laptops, but with reduced clock speeds compared to the fully fledged GTX 1050 Ti variant. However, due to the cooling implementation’s ability to keep temperatures at bay, this runs at high Turbo Speeds of around 1600 MHz in most titles , and as a result delivers solid results in benchmarks and games, nearly matching full-size laptops with the standard GTX 1050 Ti chip.
Here’s a quick comparison with the GTX 1050 Ti equipped full-size
Lenovo Legion Y530 and Asus TUF FX505 laptops.
3DMark 11 – Graphics 8577
3DMark FireStrike – Graphics 7168
3DMark TimeSpy – Graphics 2183
And here’s a comparison with other 15-inch thin-and-lights in its class: the
Dell XPS 15 9570 (GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q) and the Asus Zenbook Pro UX580 (GTX 1050 Ti).
XPS 15 9570
3DMark 11 – Graphics 8577
3DMark FireStrike – Graphics 7168
3DMark TimeSpy – Graphics 2183
And here are some real-life gaming results (FHD resolution, maximum graphics settings):
XPS 15 9570
Bioshock Infinite 74 fps
FarCry 4 60 fps
FarCry 5 41 fps
Rise of the Tomb Raider 34 fps
Shadow of Mordor 70 fps
4K gaming is not an option with this kind of hardware, unless you plan to run some older titles, so we didn’t even included it in here.
All in all, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme and the Dell XPS 15 9570 are neck in neck when it comes to the graphics performance, but the ThinkPad actually comes a little on top in real-life gaming sessions. Both are within 10% of the existing full-size 15-inch laptops built on GTX 1050 Ti graphics, so the performance losses of the Max-Q variant are almost negligible in real life.
In the pictures below you’ll also find HWInfo logs recorded while playing games (Far Cry 4 and 5, Shadow of Mordor), with details on CPU/GPU frequencies and temperatures. You’ll notice that the CPU dips beneath its core frequency of 2.6 GHz with the more demanding titles, despite only averaging temperatures of around 78 degrees Celsius. Lenovo chose to sacrifice on the CPU in order to keep the GPU’s performance and temperatures at bay.
However, while undervolting the CPU has very little impact on the GPU’s behavior and actual performance in most games, it does allows the CPU to run at higher clock-speeds in all titles, as you can see in the following pictures.
Emissions (noise, heat), Connectivity and speakers
The cooling on the X1 extreme is fairly standard for this class, an implementation with two mid-sized fans and two heatpipes that run across both the CPU and the GPU. There’s ample air-intake on top of the entire ensemble, and hot air is pushed out through the grills on the back, behind the hinge.
While simple, this implementation works well, and allows the X1 Extreme to match and even outmatch most of the competition in its segment of 15-inch thin-and-lights with Core H hardware and mid-range dedicated graphics. You should however make sure to periodically open the back panel and blow dust off, as plenty is going to get inside through those big grills on the bottom. You should also make sure not to cover the intakes when running demanding loads.
The fans remain inactive with daily use, even with heavier multitasking, which is just what I’d want in a modern laptops, even if it causes it to run a bit warm with basic tasks. Our sample was not completely quiet though, as I did notice a slight amount of electronic cringing coming from the CPU. It’s barely noticeable at head-level, but you’ll still hear it in a quiet room. I also noticed that the fans occasionally kick-on for a split-second, even if the laptop sits idle. It doesn’t happen often, maybe once or twice an hour, but it’s odd and a little annoying.
The two fans spin faster and noisier with games. We measured up to 45-46 dB at head level in longer gaming sessions (35 dB ambient level). Notebookcheck’s review mentions much quieter noise levels of up to 40 dB, but also lower ambient noise levels, and they sure have more accurate tools than we do. Regardless, you’ll hear the fans when performing full-load chores, but they’re not as noisy as on standard gaming laptops.
Case temperatures under load get fairly high, with the keyboard deck reaching high 40s and certain spots on the back going above 50 degrees Celsius, so gaming on the lap is a no-go, but that was to be expected from this kind of a notebook.
*Daily Use – Netflix clip in EDGE for 30 minutes
*Load – playing FarCry 4 for approximately 30 minutes on ultra FHD settings
For connectivity the X1 Extreme offers Wireless AC, Bluetooth 5.0 and Gigabit Lan through an adapter (not included with the base versions and costs about $35), but no option for LTE, unlike with other ThinkPads and business laptops. This one ships with a new generation Intel AC 9560 wireless module, which performs well and reliably both near the router and at 30+ feet with obstacles in between.
Audio has been notoriously bad on Thinkpads for the last years and it’s been improved on the X1 Extreme, but is still just about average. The two speakers are averagely loud, reaching up to 75 dB at head-level, and the quality is decent, but nothing to brag about, lacking on both the low and mid levels. The XPS 15 and Zenbook Pro pack nicer speakers, and the MacBook Pro is in a different class of its own.
As a business laptop, the X1 Extreme offers extra functionality like TPM2.0 support, the ability to set a BIOS password, the finger-sensor, the Kensington Lock and the optional ExpressCard, as well as the benefits of vPro if you opt for one of the compatible CPU options.
There’s also an IR camera at the top of the screen, alongside a 720p webcam, which will do the job for occasional calls, even if the image quality is mediocre. The IR sensors are optional, and if you only opt for the regular webcam you’ll get that with the mechanical ThinkShutter privacy cover.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme gets a 80 Wh battery, which is mid-sized in its segment and smaller than the options on the Dell XPS 15 and HP EliteBook 1050.
The hardware and especially the UHD screen take their toll though, so you’re only going to get about 4 hours of daily use and 5-6 hours of video content. Here’s what to expect, with the screen set at 30% brightness, roughly 120 nits:
13 W (~6 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
13.5 W (~6 h of use) – 1080p Youtube fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
15 W (~5 h 20 min of use) – 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
16 W (~5 h of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Better Battery Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
13 W (~6 h of use) – 4K fullscreen .mkv video in the Movie app, Energy Saving Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
22 W (~3 h 45 min of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON;
70 W (~1 h 10 min of use) – Gaming – Shadow of Mordor, Maximum Performance Mode, screen at 30%, Wi-Fi ON.
You can squeeze a little longer runtimes if you switch to Energy Saving in Windows, but this tends to make the computer sluggish and I’d only use it when watching video content. You can however opt for the FHD screen option if battery life is important to you, that should add about 2 hours of daily use and 2-3 of video to the UHD model tested here.
I’ll also add that our sample didn’t get any kind of wear, so battery life will only go south over time as the battery degrades.
Update: As of late November 2018, several users reported that disabling and re-enabling the dGPU allows to gain up to 2 hours of battery life. Doug noticed the same bug on his ThinkPad P1, this trick dropping idle power consumption from 9-11 W to just 6-7 W. You have to do it every time your restart the computer or resume from sleep, but hopefully Lenovo will address the bug with a future software update. Till then, that should get you better runtimes. Let us know in the comments if this works on your laptop.
The X1E is also supposed to charge via USB-C, but it didn’t work with a 45W 20V charger I had at my disposal. Other people on the forums struggle to get it to charge via USB-C as well, but some reported that it charges when hooked up
to certain Lenovo docks.
The X1 Extreme comes with a compact 135 Wh power brick. A complete charge from 10 to 100% takes about two hours. Lenovo advertises that the battery can charge to 80% in 60 minutes, and it actually took just a little longer than that to charge from 10 to 80% in our tests.
Price and availability
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is available in stores in most regions of the world as of mid October 2018.
The base version starts at $1879 in the US, £1859 in the UK and €2119 in Germany, for a configuration with a quad-core Core i5-8400H processor, 8 GB of RAM and a 256 GB NVMe SSD, alongside the FHD screen and GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip.
The Core i7-8750H processor is a $150 upgrade, while the i7-8850H version costs about $350 in the configurator. Adding the i7 processor, 16 GB of RAM and a 512 GB SSD pushes this close to about $2400 in the US, while the UHD screen option is another $400 upgrade.
Lenovo tends to offer discounts quite often, so you should check their regional sites at the time you’re reading this article, of
follow this link for updated prices and configurations on third party sellers.
It took Lenovo a fair bit to get into this segment of 15-inch premium laptops, but they actually did a great job with the first generation of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, which is now a worthy alternative for the big fishes in the class.
The X1 Extreme is a very well rounded product. It merges fundamentals of the ThinkPad line, like the solid craftsmanship, the clean aesthetics, the fast keyboard and the proper IO, with powerful hardware, a compelling cooling solution that keeps the hardware at bay, and a good-quality UHD screen with wide-gamut color coverage. It’s not without its quirks, but besides the fairly short battery life of the UHD configurations, most of them are rather minor, like the still lacking audio, the rather slow UHD screen or the mediocre webcam, or subjective, like the black design scheme that shows smudges easily or the overall typing experience.
The X1 Extreme is very expensive though, at least for the time being, and this will weigh heavily in your decision if you’re spending your own money on it. I’m not necessarily saying it is not worth the kind of money Lenovo asks for it, that’s up for each of you to decide, but I’m saying you should consider the existing alternatives if you’re looking for the best value for your buck. The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 and
Dell XPS 15 are the main alternatives, with the Zenbook Pro UX550/ UX580 and HP EliteBook 1050 as other options to consider in certain cases, as well as the Apple MacBook Pro if you’re in that ecosystem.
Potential buyers should also decide on whether they need the UHD touchscreen or can settle for the dimmer mid-level panel on the FHD matte option. If you’re looking for an all-rounder and also plan to tackle some games from time to time, the FHD option with the faster panel is definitely the better option, not to mention the significantly cheaper one as well. The UHD screen with the 100% AdobeRGB coverage should make sense for graphics professionals that need a color-accurate screen, but you’ll have to accept the costs and significant toll on battery life. Besides these, if you’re just not interested in gaming at all and just want a nice all-rounder, look into the Lenovo ThinkPad P1, which is pretty much the same laptop, but cheaper and with Quadro graphics.
Last but not least, you should also consider the whole QC aspect of buying this laptop, or in fact any expensive laptop these days. If you’ve read through reviews of the X1 Carbon around the beginning of the year, they were all highly enthusiastic and for a good reason: in the ideal scenario, the X1 Carbon is an excellent ultraportable. However, due to the fact that Lenovo sources components from various manufactures, final retail products were available with various quality finishing, keyboards and screens, as well as various glitches with the wireless and finger-sensor, among others.
So what I’m saying is that you should proceed with caution. The X1 Extreme is expensive, more expensive than all the other Windows competitors, that’s why QC needs to be spotless. So unless you’re buying from places that would allow you to check out the product in person or easily return it if needed, I’d personally wait a few weeks for more buyer impressions to emerge, just to make sure the X1 Extreme is not going to suffer from similar inconsistencies and quality-control problems, as well as find out about all the quirks we and other reviewers might not have discovered during our limited time with the laptop.
This pretty much wraps up our review of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme, but if you have anything to add, any comments or questions, just get in touch in the section below.
Andrei Girbea Andrei Girbea, Editor-in-Chief
. I've a Bachelor's in Computer Engineering and I've been covering mobile technology since the 2000s. You'll mostly find reviews and thorough guides written by me here on the site, as well as some occasional first-impression articles.
October 19, 2018 at 9:54 am
I'm curious whether the X1E is really more durable than XPS 15 9570. After all, they're made of same materials – carbon fiber plastic and aluminum alloy, and the Extreme surely is the most consumer-oriented out of all the current Thinkpad X,T,P lineup. You've handled both laptops, what is your take on this?
October 19, 2018 at 10:47 am
Hard to say. Both are very well made, but the XPS actually feels a little bit more solid imo, as the outside is made from fairly thick sheets of metal and the interior barely bulges, while the keyboard deck of the X1E flexes a bit when pressed. Still, i don't think durability should be a concern or a decisive factor with any of these.
October 25, 2018 at 7:29 am
Would you pick it over XPS 15? There seem to be some quality control issues being reported with XPS?
October 25, 2018 at 10:39 am
It depends on the price, but the XPS is much cheaper in most regions, and as long as you're OK with its shortcomings, still a very competitive option. I'd also consider the ThinkPad P1 as a more affordable alternative.
October 25, 2018 at 12:25 pm
Well, the prices I've seen are actually same for XPS and X1, while P1 is pricier… might be because of the preconfigured versions of P1 often sell them with Xeon CPUS (which, let's admit it are pretty useless for 99% of people). So, assuming that the prices are about the same (from what I've seen preconfigured XPS/X1 extreme 15 9570 32GB Ram + 1TB SSD with i7 8750/8850 cost about the same). So, if the price is the same – would you say that x1 extreme is better choice? What concerns me a bit is the battery life…
Also, how does undervoloting affect the battery life in your case?
October 25, 2018 at 12:36 pm
I'd get the X1 in that case. Yes, battery life is shorter. I haven't tested battery life on the undervolted profile, but it shouldn't have much impact in daily use, when the CPU already runs at pretty low frequencies and thus, Wattage.
Performance is a little better though, the keyboard/touchpad nicer and the screen about on par (i'd reckon you're going to opt for the UHD panel?). The XPS gets louder speakers, but the ones on the X1 aren't as bad as on other Thinkpads.
November 2, 2018 at 5:26 pm
How would the X1 compare with the larger 15' workstations like the Lenovo P52 and Dell 7530 (same specs) in terms of CPU performance, throttling, cooling given you undervolt all, for heavy use? If not directly, from prior experience (i.e. Dell 9560 vs 7520). From this review as well as from Notebookcheck, it seems the Lenovo X1 and Dell 9570 perform better than their respective larger siblings – no?
We know that larger SSDs are faster, but if you only use it for WIN 10 and programs, would opting for a 512GB drive over a smaller 256GB drive (on my PC, I have 100GB used, 138GB free) produce any tangible speed differences in performance?
One more question, does the 8850h make a real difference over the 8750h on laptops like the X1 Extreme and 9570?
Thanks for the detailed review!
November 2, 2018 at 6:48 pm
I've never reviewed the P52 or the 7530 and can't comment on those. Theoretically the larger the laptop, the more space for the cooling and thus the better the performance.
Notebookcheck's review of the P52 shows a little better performance in Cinebench out of the box, compared to the 9570, so with both undervolted, I'd expect slightly higher frequencies for the P52 in continuous demanding loads. They're within 5% of each other from what I can tell, but I'd reckon the P52 should run at lower temperatures, so yes, there's some benefit from choosing the larger laptop, but unless you'll mostly keep the device in one place, I don't think it compensates for the loss in portability.
As for the other questions, a 512 Gb SSD should be perfectly fine for everyday use, and I'd even reckon a 256 GB drive should be enough. Yes, the 256 GB version is slower, but unless you're transferring a lot of content everyday, the difference in response times should be marginal. I'd go with the 512 GB SSD if possible, that's pretty much the sweet spot imo.
As for the 8850h vs 8750h, I'd stick with the latter in such computers, simply because the 8850H is significantly more expensive and cannot run at its maximum Turbos in 100% loads (see the Cinebench test). Yuo might see some marginal performance benefits from the 8850H in demanding loads that won't put a 100% load on the CPU, but imo that's not significant enough to be worth the premium.
November 3, 2018 at 11:00 am
I've found USB-C charging to function with Apple adapters and cables. Also tossed together some stats for it:
You're welcome to use any of it as you wish.
November 6, 2018 at 1:25 am
Looks like a clone of Macbook Pro 2007/2008 layout :) Regarding LCD panel it is clear that companies like Lenovo cut the cost accepting LCD panels with high tolerance. This is unnaceptable for a professional machine for photo / video editing at this price. Regarding P1 model difference is no HDR support but Xeon, Quadro and ECC DRAM support. Theoretically P1 should support 10-bit color depth on GPU side (Quadro) and possibly LCD panel so this is real advantage over X1E. Unfortunately there is no review that go into details on this.
November 9, 2018 at 6:23 am
It just tickles me that they still put that little red rubber mouse control thingy on ThinkPads. Takes me back to the first time I used a ThinkPad in my high school biology class – I remember actually using the red thing because the touch pads were so iffy.
November 9, 2018 at 7:32 pm
It's part of their branding. All ThinkPads still get the knob.
November 11, 2018 at 11:42 am
Sorry, being autistic this is too long to read online. Is it pen compatible and does the screen flip around for use as a tablet/convertible?
November 12, 2018 at 1:49 pm
Yes, certain pens are compatible, but the screen doesn't flip to 360 degrees. You can look at the smaller ThinkPad X1 Yoga if a convertible screen is what you want.
November 21, 2018 at 11:28 pm
Hey Andrei, I received this exact model couple days ago and I noticed aswell some electric hissing coming from keyboard area. its not loud but im worried about long-term effect. Should I even bother returning it? Any suggestions on what to do?
November 21, 2018 at 11:33 pm
It shouldn't get worse long term, so as long as you can live with it, just accept it and move along. There's no guarantee you won't get the same or worse if you ask for a replacement.
November 23, 2018 at 6:06 am
Since DELL XPS 15 9570 is mentioned, what is your opinion regarding the reported issues with high DPC latency and with the Standby / Modern Standby problems?
I'm actually considering the X1 to avoid these problems. And also to not have a nose-cam, which is annoying in a professional environment, where Skype calls are common.
For the X1, I think the absence of a RJ45 port is a bad decision for a professional laptop. It's one more dongle to carry and, maybe, forget somewhere.
Thanks for X1 the detailed review.
November 23, 2018 at 1:16 pm
Those have been documented in Doug's article here: https://www.ultrabookreview.com/23071-xps-15-9570-review-follow-up-3-months-later/ . As far as I can tell, the X1 doesn't run into any of those issues, at least the unit I got to use did not.
Ports are being cut out with these newer thinner devices, and yes, no LAN can be an issue. It's a minor nuisance for me, as I've been using ultraportables without LAN for so long now and never missed it, as even remote hotels have wireless around here these days or I can hotspot my phone if I really have to get online.
November 23, 2018 at 1:51 pm
I carry an all in one dongle just because I never know where I'll need VGA, LAN or additional USB ports. Unlikely to be lost due to size, but not so big it can't be comfortably carried in my bag.
November 23, 2018 at 2:01 pm
That's a solution, yep, but the one you mentioned seems a bit large and from what I'm seeing, gets a lot of 1-star reviews on Amazon. I'd personally prefer something more compact, but there are various options that would cater to most needs.
November 25, 2018 at 1:22 pm
First of all, thanks for the detailed review!
As a blind person, may I need your help in terms of keyboard difference between 9570 and x1 extreme:
is the size and shape of arrow keys same? ( wondering the same thing for enter key as well )
Does 9570 have dedicated home, end etc keys like x1e?
Lastly, what about the distance between f1-f12 keys? are they really tight in both machines?
Thanks for your help!
November 25, 2018 at 1:54 pm
1. The size of the keys is mostly the same, but the keys on the Lenovo are a bit more tactile in my opinion, as they have a lowered bottom part and slight concave key-cap.
2. HMO, END, PageUp and PageDown are not dedicated keys on the XPS, instead they are secondary functions on the arrows, you need to press FN + one of the arrow for them.
3. The Fucntion keys at the top are squeezed together on the X1 Extreme, with maybe one mm or two in between. They're a bit more spaced out on the XPS, but not fully spaced
November 25, 2018 at 2:51 pm
Thanks for the detailed explanation!
As a blind person, I use a screen reader and do my all work by using the keyboard so it is really important for me.
And at last, should I go with xps 9570 or x1 extreme?
November 26, 2018 at 2:10 pm
That's up to you to decide, both are good laptops with pros and cons. The X1 Extreme is a better overall products imo, but the XPS might be more affordable in some regions, and based on that it might be the better value buy. Up to you to balance the positive/negatives and price and make the decision that best suits your needs
January 4, 2019 at 2:42 pm
I went for the x1 extreme during black friday – cyber monday deals on lenovo website.
I have one important question: which settings should I use for long battery life? ( windows power settings, and / or lenovo vantage software settings )
I mean, did you make the battery test by disabling and re-enabling the d-gpu?
I was having the same issue and just saw your update about this bug.
I wish you a great year!
January 4, 2019 at 4:55 pm
I use the Windows Power Settings. Make sure to update to the latest BIOS options, you should get better runtimes than I did back when I tested this.
January 4, 2019 at 5:27 pm
I installed all the updates by using the lenovo vantage software. My battery estimated time jumps up and down most of the time. I think the d-gpu issue still continue..
January 4, 2019 at 6:15 pm
Use HWinfo >> Sensor to monitor CPU/GPU activity and Energy drain (in the battery section). It will show you if the dGPU is active with your daily chores or not.
January 4, 2019 at 9:28 pm
I downloaded the hw-info and it says 15.5w under the smart battery..
my battery settings are set to balanced mode ( better battery ) what may cause such a high power consumption?
January 7, 2019 at 11:52 am
That's normal for everyday use on Balanced imo.
December 1, 2018 at 1:14 pm
Nice article, I wasn't able to find how much you undervolted the GPU.
Would you mind given more info (values etc) on you GPU undervolting?
Thanks a lot!
December 1, 2018 at 1:43 pm
I haven't messed with the GPU on this one, only undervolted the CPU
January 7, 2019 at 1:27 pm
One important issue is that there is a popping sound when you are using a headphone through the headphone jack. There are ceveral topics which you can find on lenovo forums. Seems like a hardware issue, I can't find any solution even after reading the posts. These kind of issues are really annoying for this kind of premium (?) devices…
October 22, 2019 at 12:53 pm
It has been a long time, I forgot to mention the update about this issue. This was solved after a software update. I don't have this kind of a problem any more since 7-8 months.
January 7, 2019 at 10:46 pm
I have one last question about throteling. Even if I set the power slider to best performance mode, the cpu is significantly throteling on battery. For example, in Cinebench, I can only get about 400 points and fans are not spinning fast. Any suggestions?
January 8, 2019 at 1:05 pm
Try to disable Intelligent cooling in the Vantage app, preferably switch to High Performance (or something of that sort, can't remember exactly how it's called) and see if that changes anything
January 11, 2019 at 12:01 pm
I made that change but it doesn't have any impact I guess, fans still don't come active when I perform a cinebench test. However, when I set the power slider to better battery mode, I could get about 850 points in cinebench. fans even didn't work in this case too.
I have the latest 1.17 bios version.
January 11, 2019 at 4:30 pm
By the way, what is the boot time after pressing the power button to log-in screen for you?
January 11, 2019 at 4:33 pm
I no longer have the X1 Extreme around, perhaps others can help you with that.
January 9, 2020 at 11:32 pm
Got a pre-owned X1EG1 similar to the reviewed version but with a 512Gb SDD at a decent price before the Christmas holiday.
The included 16Gb RAM chip was from Micron. Bought a 16Gb Crucial RAM chip since it on sale.
Put in a 2Tb SSD and now have 2/5Tb of space. Combined with the upgraded RAM, it's a fast laptop.
The one expected drawback was the 4K touchscreen. Currently have resolution scaled down to 200% with 50% brightness and most background apps turned off and power savings battery mode on and it gets ~3-4 hours, maybe close to ~5 hours if I'm lucky but that's to be expected for a power hungry 4k screen.
September 26, 2021 at 10:38 pm
Generally what do you think is the best in terms of durability? The Thinkpad X1 Extreme or the Asus Zenbooks?
September 27, 2021 at 11:37 am
Generally, Thinkpads should be more reliable and better design for hassle, but that might vary on your luck with the particular unit that you end up getting, as there are variations in quality control with all brands. I'd also consider which brand offers the better service and post-sale in your country.