Update: August 29, 2019 — Added notes about bottom chassis and sound quality (see end of article)
I’ve been eagerly awaiting my ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 about as eagerly as you guys have been asking me to buy it and get a review up, so I’m happy to do a quick post today putting up my first-impressions. Coming from the ThinkPad P1 Gen 1, I’m also happy to say that my experience so far has been extremely positive.
Before I get to the bullet-points, though, a quick reminder that this is not a review — just my first impressions of using the X1E Gen 2 for a day and a cursory comparison with the P1 Gen 1 I’d been using for the past 6 months. The SKU in question utilizes the i7-9750H, GTX 1650 Max-Q, and 500-nit FHD matte display with IR cam.
In terms of validity for this comparison, it should be noted that the P1 Gen 1 and X1E Gen 1 were essentially identical in design except for the “X1” logo on the lid of the latter. I expect the same to be the case for the second generation of these devices.
Looking at the X1E Gen 2 side-by-side by my P1 Gen 1, there were only two tells that these were different generations of the devices to me. The first and most obvious change is the IR camera option on the Gen 2, which also has a slightly better design and feel on the hardware switch.
The second change is very subtle: the ThinkPad logo on the right palm rest now has a slightly slimmed-down debossed area around the “ThinkPad” text. You won’t notice it unless you happen to have the two generations of devices next to each other, but it’s an aesthetically pleasing improvement, in my opinion.
My first-generation P1 came with a 300-nit FHD matte display with quite a bit of bleed, not to mention that neither the backlight nor the installation were even. I had the screen replaced by a technician on-site, and I was quite happy with the replacement. My initial impression of the 500-nit panel on the X1E Gen 2, however, is that it’s a clear and straightforward upgrade in every way.
The last and biggest upgrade I’ve noticed right off the bat isn’t the speedy Nvidia GTX 1650 Max-Q, it’s the fingerprint sensor. I complained about the sensor in the X1 Carbon (6th gen) and the P1 (1st gen) in their respective reviews and on YouTube, and I’m overjoyed to see that the new fingerprint sensors are now just as fast and accurate as any competition in the laptop world. The slow and (effectively) useless fingerprint scanner on my X1 Carbon Gen 6 and P1 Gen 1 annoyed and frustrated me daily and was probably my biggest bug-bear with the laptops.
Build quality with the past generation X/P-series has been described as “inconsistent” by many (including myself), but I have to say that the screen installation and general feeling of the hardware (different keyboards were a known issue) seem improved. Obviously, I am only looking at a sample-size of one here with the X1E G2, but I’ve had enough experiences with poor QC with dozens of laptops over the past few years to be grateful.
August 29th: I’ve noticed a couple of things over the past two days. Firstly, the buck converters in the voltage regulator module (VRM) seem a big larger this time. Hopefully this translates to less chance of throttling in long-term stress tests, but let’s see.
Secondly is the sound. A few people have also written in asking me about the sound. Well, somehow it seems actually worse on the X1E Gen 2 than my P1 Gen 1. The drivers installed for it are actually Synaptics Audio whereas my older P1 uses RealTek drivers. I haven’t tried different driver versions yet, but the X1E Gen 2 sounds significantly quieter and flatter than my P1 Gen 1. Not exactly the kind of improvement I’m sure many of us were hoping for!
That’s all for now, but I intend to follow-up with a full review once in a few weeks once I’ve had sufficient time with the X1 Extreme Gen 2. So far, I am very happy.
If there’s anything you’d like me to check for you, please comment below and I’ll make my best effort to get to it in my testing. Thanks for reading!