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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 vs. P1 Gen 1 (First Impressions and Comparison)

By Douglas Black , last updated on August 30, 2019

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.

The ThinkPad P1 Gen 1 (left) vs. ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 (right).

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 standard camera w/ physical shutter of the Gen 1.

 

The IR and (regular) camera s with new shutter design for the Gen 2.

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.

A key difference between Gen 1 and Gen 2’s logos. What am I doing with my life?

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.

Internals of the X1E Gen 2. Note the larger buck converters in the VRM (above the CPU portion of the heatsink).

 

Internals of the P1 Gen 1.

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!

 

Based in Hong Kong, Douglas Black is a veteran editor of Notebookcheck, university lecturer, researcher, and writer.

46 Comments

  1. steve burridge

    August 26, 2019 at 8:06 pm

    Hi. I'd like to know how the oled screen is with the X1 gen 2

    • Douglas Black

      August 26, 2019 at 8:22 pm

      That's a good question, but I doubt I will have access to the OLED model at least for some time. I suspect it's going to be the same Samsung panel found in most laptops, such as the XPS 15, however. You can check out my review of that laptop here or in the news article on notebookcheck for my thoughts on it.

    • James

      August 26, 2019 at 10:13 pm

      Does the carbon fibre weave on the 4K options scratch as easily as on the X1 Carbon

  2. Mike

    August 27, 2019 at 5:08 am

    Any improvement in the speakers?

    • Douglas Black

      August 27, 2019 at 5:35 am

      Good question. Will give a good listen today

      • alex

        August 27, 2019 at 7:55 pm

        Any thoughts on audio?

        • Douglas Black

          August 28, 2019 at 7:20 pm

          Hi alex,

          please see updated notes at the bottom! seems like they switched from realtek to synaptics

    • Douglas Black

      August 28, 2019 at 7:19 pm

      Hi mike,

      I've updated the article with a few notes. The speakers are actually worse sounding than before (subjectively). They are now synaptics instead of realtek.

      • Hans Intakt

        September 1, 2019 at 11:46 am

        a bit off topic: but can one exchange the speakers for better ones? is that something to do?

        • Douglas Black

          September 1, 2019 at 11:48 am

          In theory, you should be able to do that as long as they are a similar wattage and they can physically be secured/connected. I've heard of people doing that with X220/x230's and iPad speakers.

  3. Ken

    August 27, 2019 at 9:30 pm

    How is the thermal throttling and management compare to previous generation? I do lots of 4k video editing.

    • Pooya

      August 30, 2019 at 1:20 am

      Hi! I've ordered the P1 Gen2 (haven't recieved it yet) and I'm kind of worried about the T2000 termals since it is not Max-Q. I would also like to know more about the CPU termals and if it trottles since I got the 9750h. May I ask why you didn't go with the P1 again and ordered the X1E?
      Thanks a lot!

  4. DD

    August 29, 2019 at 2:03 am

    Lots of P1 reviews complained about temperature management and how it causes cpu to throttle down. Do you still see this to be an issue?

    Many (in comments to your P1 review) talked about doing repaste, under-volting, etc. A power/techie user may find this fun, but this is scary for a user of a multimedia laptop. Is this necessary?

    Also there were issues with fan noise and coil whining. Do you still see this?

    Battery life on P1 was not good. Do you see that improving?

    • Douglas Black

      August 29, 2019 at 5:55 am

      Temperatures seem better with the i7/1650. I have only done around 15 minutes of gaming (lack of time) but the GPU and CPU were both between 65-69C. I did repaste and undervolt, however. When I have time I will remove UV and run CB loops.

      Battery life (I have FHD) seems marginally better. 7-8 hours, maybe? will take it for a spin today.

      • DD

        August 29, 2019 at 6:50 am

        Thanks! My use case will be mostly engineering|scientific work: large excel files, Tabeleau data exploration/visualization, GIS vidualization, "may be" some 3D exploration (for2D GIS integrated Intel graphics suffices), engineering models and simulations (not real-time), statistical analysic, economic models, data science/analytics, etc. Lot of interactive work rather than sustained stress on cpu/gpu.

        For my use case which does not include 3D games, processing audio/video files, or sustained cpu stressing workload would I encounter any of the termal/fan-noise/coil whining/cpu throttling type problems?

        It seems P53s may suffice though it has relatively entry level GPU (P520). P53s cpu's are 15W and don't seem to have any of the thermal issues.

        But I am feeling tempted by X1 Extreme. The price point of a P53s (16GB RAM, 512GB SSD) is quite close to X1 Extreme (8GB RAM, 256 SSD).

        However, changing BIOS, repaste, under-volting is beyond my comfort level. Given my use case, is it OK for me to yield to my temptations or better be wise and stay with P53s/T590? (Price point is too close to be a rational discriminator).

        Thanks much!

        • Douglas Black

          August 29, 2019 at 8:09 am

          I don't think you will have much issues with fan noise of CPU throttling, especially with an undervolt. I would get the X1 Extreme over the P53 now that the P53 has no external battery. I got my X1 E for just 1500 USD or so with a perk code I got off r/thinkpads. You might check that out, because you can get a pretty damn good deal from it!

          • K

            August 29, 2019 at 5:15 pm

            I'm from Hong Kong too – curious about how you went about with your purchase. Did you order it off the US website and have it shipped here or did you buy it from the Lenovo HK store? Thanks!

          • Douglas Black

            August 29, 2019 at 5:30 pm

            Had it shipped by family in the States. Last year I bought my p1 from HID evolution for 3000+ usd. This time I used perks and bought from Lenovo and saved myself 1600 usd.!

          • DD

            August 29, 2019 at 8:02 pm

            Thanks again!!

            Given my use case (and anything even 8th gen would be a vast improvement)

            (i) would 9th gen i5-9300H be a better choice so far as temp/fan/throttling is concerned? (i7-9750H is 41% better on PassMark score, and i5-9300H is already 2X over my current but struggling 6th gen cpu). Additional $ for i7 is not an issue .. it is more why take a headache is not needed.

            (ii) For a personal/home/student .. does Win10Pro makes sense? I doubt I will spin-up Hyper-V. Dockers/Containers … no sure, a lot of complex application builds sometimes come packaged as dockers install … seems docker does need hardware virtualization turned on, so answer would be yes.

          • LHPSU

            August 30, 2019 at 3:02 pm

            If you're in HK, find a friend who works at a university and see if the academic discount program is still running.

          • Douglas Black

            August 30, 2019 at 3:05 pm

            Haha I am a full-time lecturer at HKUST! The discount programme is decent but it's usually for a limited # of models and it only runs for a few months of the year IIRC. Prices in HK are probably 2x what they are in the US, as well.

          • LHPSU

            August 30, 2019 at 3:39 pm

            Thinkpad X1 Extreme Gen 2 from HKUSU Notebook Ownership programme: $12,999
            (i7-9750H, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD, FHD screen)

            The same notebook with the same specs is $16,900 from Lenovo's HK site. The US site is running a sale which brings the price down to $1758 USD (without the sale the listed price is $2930), which is about $13,700 HKD.

            It's the start of the school year so the promotions should be running.

  5. WS

    August 29, 2019 at 12:55 pm

    Ear to keyboard do you hear any coil whine or other electrical noise? My Gen 1 X1E had bad coil whine

    • Douglas Black

      August 29, 2019 at 11:26 pm

      I could not hear any, but I do not live in a silent environment (hong kong) and I don't think I'm sensitive to coil whine. I should have fairly good ears, though…

      • WS

        August 29, 2019 at 11:57 pm

        Great thanks. I was so disappointed with the Gen 1 coil whine but Lenovo was great and accepted a return and refund and then I purchased an X1 Gen 2 and am waiting for it to arrive. After disappointment of the coil whine I did some research I noted that across similar competing laptops, from Thinkpad to Dell to HP, major coil whine problems like mine seemed to be far, far more prevalent in laptops with the i7-8750 and GTX 1050 combination. Perhaps there was something about that combination that increased the probability of problems. So I'm very hopeful the new combination of the 9750 and 1650 deliver a better result.

  6. J

    August 29, 2019 at 9:14 pm

    Do you have an opinion on which one is a better value now? I'm assuming Gen 1 will be much cheaper…I also thought Gen 2 would have 8core option, but since it doesn't, might not be worth it.

    • Douglas Black

      August 29, 2019 at 11:24 pm

      Lenovo always has these weird deals going on so it's hard to compare prices. I would go with the Gen 2 over the Gen 1 unless you're able to get the Gen 1 at a relative bargain.

  7. Mike

    August 31, 2019 at 10:47 pm

    Thanks for the updated impressions! Would you be open to posting a video guide on how to repaste the X1E

    • Douglas Black

      August 31, 2019 at 11:27 pm

      Hi Mike,

      Is there anything is particular you are concerned about with repasting the x1e? I ask because I'm sure there are lots of repaste videos online already better than I could make. The only thing the x1e requires out of the ordinary is unplugging the fan cables and getting the wiring back in place.

      Unfortunately I don't have the equipment or time at the moment to make a good video of that, though

  8. Arak

    September 1, 2019 at 7:38 pm

    Could you try booting from a Kubuntu live usb stick and check how well suspend / resume works?
    (Just need to boot into Kubuntu, not install it (https://kubuntu.org/getkubuntu/))

    Also, does the fan go continuously full speed, which was a common bug with some older X1 Extreme models, related ot their BIOS?

    Thank you!

  9. Hans Intakt

    September 3, 2019 at 6:42 pm

    Hi,
    my X1 arrived today. In normal settings and no reduction of brightness, the battery life is given by 2+ hours with regular FHD display and th battery % is pretty much decreasing before my eyes. Is that normal?

    My Samsung Series 7 did about 4-5 hours!

    • Hans Intakt

      September 3, 2019 at 6:46 pm

      sry! it readjusted after some time, so: given maximal brightness, it says now: 5:51h. That's what I expected. greetings!

      • Douglas Black

        September 4, 2019 at 2:54 am

        Yeah, it will always be a bit finicky with life on a new machine that's downloading updates and running background tasks! I'm getting around 8 hours with an undervolt.

    • abgersaurus

      September 4, 2019 at 8:14 pm

      you have to keep using it for a while and do some battery cycles 0-100% I had 2-3 hours when I got it, now I have 8-15 hours! :O

  10. Thomas

    September 4, 2019 at 2:27 pm

    Thanks for the insight! I would love to know how this generation is doing in terms of DPC latency (with NVIDIA graphics on and off). Would you mind taking a look at that?
    Thanks!

    • F. Frank

      September 18, 2019 at 10:05 am

      Yes please do some DPC latency test with this tool:
      https://resplendence.com/latencymon
      Thanks

      • Douglas Black

        September 18, 2019 at 10:37 am

        Will try and do ASAP! Sorry I've been very busy with life stuff the past few weeks and haven't been able to update this article much.

        • F. Frank

          September 18, 2019 at 7:46 pm

          Thanks for the response.
          Looking forward to the result.
          F.

  11. Jorge

    September 10, 2019 at 1:39 pm

    Have you had a chance to compare the X1E Gen 2 to the XPS 15 New? I'd think the build quality on the X1E would be superior to the XPS, but the price point of the XPS seems to be significantly cheaper for similarly spec'ed builds

    • Douglas Black

      September 10, 2019 at 1:50 pm

      The build quality is better on the X1E Gen 2, mainly in the display QC, keyboard, and touchpad. The XPS 15 feels more solid, but the keyboard is just low quality.

  12. Marcos

    September 14, 2019 at 2:51 pm

    Hi Douglas. What can you say about the battery life so far? Have you ever reached more tan 8/10 hours? And also, what about portability. Is it heavy to carry around or the weight is fine for an 15.6 inch laptop?
    Thank you.

    • Douglas Black

      September 14, 2019 at 7:18 pm

      Yup, been hitting 8 hours reliably! For a 15.6 inch laptop, it's the lightest Hexacore out there I think because of the carbon fiber construction instead of aluminium. Very light and manageable

  13. Lwi Htoo Paw

    September 15, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    Hi, looking to order X1E (Gen2) here in Canada.

    Still waiting for the OLED 4K option for the display to become available. I was thinking about reducing the RAM to 8GB DDR4 2666 Mhz and storage to the standard 256 GB NVME option and elect to upgrade those components myself.

    Just would like to know:
    (1) There are two SODIMM slots for me to do my own upgrade, right? Even thought I am picking 8 GB as the standard, or is the 8GB "build-in" into the moterboard? I am going to remove 8GB RAM module, and install two of these: Samsung 32GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM Memory Module for Laptop Computers (260 Pin SODIMM, 1.2V) Model: M471A4G43MB1, that should give me 64 GB DD4 right? Any other memory modules you would recommend?

    (2) for NVME storage, I am planning on removing the factory 256 GB and installing this one: Samsung 970 EVO Plus Series – 1TB PCIe NVMe – M.2 Internal SSD (MZ-V7S1T0B/AM), again, no issues right?

    • Douglas Black

      September 15, 2019 at 7:24 pm

      Hi there,

      You will have 2 SO-DIMM slots no matter what configuration you order. Nothing is soldered! As for those memory modules, I believe Samsung has quite good (or uses a quite good supplier) of a reputation.

      Regarding the NVMe drives, I wrote recently about some good SSD buys I found here: https://www.ultrabookreview.com/28506-ssd-recomendations/

      I personally bought 2 of the Intel 2TB drives, as 1.6 gb/s r/w is really good enough for me. The 970 evo plus is a great drive either way.

  14. Nick Allo

    September 19, 2019 at 1:46 am

    What is the weight of the new gen 2?

    • Douglas Black

      September 19, 2019 at 2:01 am

      Same weight for fhd. I'm not sure if the new 4k weave design has any difference, but I'd assume it's minor

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