Whether you are editing 4K video, 3D animation or an overwhelming number of numbers, you need a powerful laptop with separate graphics to be productive on the go. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme delivers great performance with an eighth-generation Intel H-series processor, up to 64GB of dual-channel RAM, two M.2 SSD slots, and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics cards. Starting at $1,673 and $2,834.10 ($2,867.99), this 15-inch mobile power station has an optional 4K HDR display, one of the sharpest and most colorful displays we’ve ever seen on a laptop. You need to live with short battery life (at least 4K screen), warm skin temperature and low fan noise, but if you need it and have the budget, the X1 Extreme is a great option.
- Superb 4K HDR screen
- Solid performance overall
- Snappy keyboard and pointing device
- Upgradeable RAM and storage
- Warm skin temperatures
- Short battery life
- Noisy fans
The X1 Extreme combines Lenovo’s tried-and-true ThinkPad aesthetic with a few premium twists. The case is raven black and has a soft and pleasant touch that you won’t find on most ThinkPads, except X1 Carbon. Usually, the silver ThinkPad logo is black and the cover also has an attractive X1 logo.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme has a solid selection of ports. On the left, there are two Thunderbolt 3 ports that allow you to connect to a high-speed peripheral. You should be able to install an external GPU if the internal GTX 1050 Ti is too slow. It also comes with a full-size HDMI output, two USB Type-A ports and an SD card reader. With a dedicated Ethernet port, you can connect to the network if you buy one of Lenovo’s dedicated network expansion connectors, which costs more than $30.
Unfortunately, you cannot charge through Thunderbolt 3, but use the 135-watt charger supplied by Lenovo. USB-C does not support connections with more than 100 watts.
The X1 Extreme is 3.8 kg (1.7 kg) or 4.2 lb (1.9 kg) with an optional touch screen and is not as light as its 14-inch brother, X1 Carbon which is 1.1 kg (2.5 pounds). But it is more beautiful than the Dell XPS 15 (1.9 kg) and the 15-inch MacBook Pro (1.8 kg). With a thickness of 17.8 mm (0.7 inches), Extreme has the same Z height as the XPS 15. However, the MacBook Pro 15 and the X1 Carbon are 2.5 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 inches) thinner.
|Display||15.6-inch, 3840 x 2160 resolution with Dolby HDR|
|CPU||Intel Core i7-8750H|
|Graphics||Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti|
|SSD||1TB Samsung PM981 NVMe|
|Networking||Intel Wireless-AC 9560 802.11ac Wi-Fi / proprietary Ethernet port|
|Video Ports||HDMI, Thunderbolt 3|
|USB Ports||2x Type-A2x Thunderbolt 3|
|Camera||720p webcam with IR face detection|
|Power Adapter||135-watt, proprietary connector|
|Operating System||Windows 10 Pro|
|Dimensions (WxDxH)||14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches / 360 x 246 x 17.8mm|
|Weight||4 pounds / 1.8 kg|
|Price (as configured)||$2,834.10 (£2,867.99)|
Regardless of configuration, the X1 Extreme delivers plenty of power with the standard Intel H Series 45-watt chip and Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti graphics. However, our test configuration was particularly impressive thanks to the Core i7-8750H processor, 32GB RAM, and 1TB NVMe SSD. Whatever task we did, the extreme settled on its name. Even with over ten tabs open, video streaming, Cinebench running, and Handbrake video re-encoding, there was not even a lag in the system.
In Geeketch 4, which measures overall performance, the X1 Extreme achieved a good score of 20,905, which is about 67 percent better than the average premium laptop. It’s also a bit better than the XPS 15 we tested, which had the same CPU and GPU with only 16GB of RAM, slightly behind the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Core i7-8850H CPU and 32GB of RAM.
X1 Extreme only needed 40 seconds to match 20,000 names to their addresses in Excel. It’s about 9.1 percent faster than the Dell XPS 15 and about 21.6 percent faster than the MacBook Pro 15. It’s also just a fraction of the time it takes for an average premium laptop to get the job done.
Video editors will love the decoding power of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme. It took only 10 minutes and 3 seconds for the device to convert 4K video to 1080p format. This is twice the class average and is several seconds ahead of direct competitors.
The Samsung PM981 1 TB SSD is incredibly fast. 4.97 GB files took only 5 seconds to copy. This is equivalent to 1.017 Mbps, which is more than twice the class average and the speed on the Dell XPS 15.
Clock Speeds and Performance Over Time
To see how much the processor falls during prolonged and intensive use, we run Cinebench 15 10 times. In the first execution, we always get the best result because the CPU has not yet reached its warm-up threshold. After the first race, however, the numbers drop slightly. In this case, the X1 Extreme began with a score of 1,111 and fell most of the race to the 1,070 range. However, the CPU drowned substantially during executions 8 and 9, the point fell as low as 1,001, before returning to the 10th run. The average of 1,067, which is approximately 30 points above the Dell XPS 15 with the same processor Core i7-8750H.
Lenovo has chosen a different approach to the CPU clock than Dell. The records of HWiNFO through XPS 15 were kept constant in the 2.2 GHz processor, the base clock speed for all runs, respectively, and the temperature at 64° C (147.2° F), and the results were very consistent after the first run.
However, with the X1 Extreme, clock speeds increased to 4.1 GHz, which allowed the maximum of this chip, but the average was 3.4 GHz. Temperatures were much higher and averaged 89 degrees Celsius. The warming took place at 97 degrees Celsius. During most executions, the system beat between 3.9 and 4 GHz for the first two or four seconds and then dropped to approximately 3.2 GHz. At moments 8 and 9, it lowed to just 2.9 GHz.
Gaming and Graphics
The Nvidia GTX 1050 Ti-GPU is not fast enough for VR or high-end animations but robust for video editing. You can definitely play 1080p games and settings at medium or high.
This is not a gaming laptop, but you can play at a medium preset on 1080p. The X1 Extreme achieves 56 frames per second on the Hitman (1080p, high settings), which is a couple of frames behind the XPS 15 and slightly below the average of premium notebooks but is extremely reproducible. The system also achieves a solid 32fps in GTA V (1080p, high configuration), which is 5fps ahead of Dell XPS 15.
The optional screen of ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a 4K HDR touch screen and is one of the most insightful and colorful things I’ve seen on a laptop. When the 4K movie Tears of Steel played, I was able to make the fine details that I hadn’t noticed the other times I used for the test, such as the pores and beds of the character’s skin, the wrinkles of a shirt and a jacket and the engravings on a lamppost.
All the colors were very full and alive. I was especially impressed with the green of the trees, the slate blue in some clothes or the red laser light that came out of the cyborg’s eye. If you don’t spend a lot of time watching movies on your laptop, you will still appreciate the vitality of watching all the icons, menus, wallpapers and window bars that you will see throughout the day. Even the yellow, red, green and blue swirls of the Chrome link came to life.
The 4K screen repeated 186 percent of the sRGB color range. This will blow competitors like the XPS 15 and the 15-inch MacBook Pro, which have good screens for themselves. The ThinkPad X1 Carbon we tested had a 199 percent record on the HDR screen, but the panel doesn’t have a touch screen and has a resolution of less than 2560×1440.
The screen supports Dolby Vision HDR, which should offer even better color reproduction when playing one of the few compatible videos. Netflix has several dozen names compatible with Dolby Vision, including many of its original presentations. However, to improve image quality, you must have a 4K account and use the Edge browser or Netflix application (sorry, Chrome and Firefox users).
When I saw Netflix’s Lost in Space with Edge in a 4K account, the yellow and blue shades of the character’s spacesuit were so vivid that the clothes seemed even more vivid than anything I have seen in real life. I cannot say with certainty if Dolby Vision really works or if the striking colors are due solely to the excellent overall quality of the image on the screen since Netflix has no screen to show it.
With 366 nits, the panel is brighter than the average notebook in this class and is slightly ahead of the MacBook Pro. However, the XPS 15 is brighter and the X1 Carbon with its 2K HDR screen impresses you when you register one night 469 that burns the eyes.
Keyboard, TrackPoint, and Touchpad
The Lenovo ThinkPads are known for their industry-leading keyboards, and the ThinkPad X1 Extreme lives up to its reputation. Thanks to the deep movement of the 1.7mm buttons, the keys feel smooth, the soft curvature of the covers makes it easier to move and the soft-touch protection protects your wrists.
Our review unit’s keyboard required a very strong 78 grams (most keyboards were low in the ’70s), so it’s not surprising that they sometimes feel stiff. This is not the best ThinkPad keyboard I use, but it is much better than most laptops and farther than the Dell XPS 15 and MacBook Pro 15.
However, I arrived at a decent speed of 95 words per minute (ppm) with an error rate slightly above the 5.5% average in the 10FastFingers typing test. I usually get between 95 and 100 words per minute with an error of 3-5 percent.
Not everyone loves the Lenovo Tracking Point, the bright red pressure between the G and H keys on most ThinkPads, but more people should use it. This high-precision pointer provides extremely precise navigation and lets you move the pointer without lifting your hand from the start line.
If you don’t like pointing devices, you can try the stunning 3.9 x 2.3-inch touch screen with no buttons on the Windows precision drivers. The mat surface provided the right friction when navigating the desk. its movements were extremely accurate in my test and he responded perfectly to multi-touch gestures such as pinching the zoom, swiping two fingers and swiping three fingers.
Considering the thin voice is the carbon X1, I am surprised that the sound quality of X1 Extreme is quite good. When I heard AC/DC “Back in Black” at full volume, I heard a clear difference between the left percussion instrument and the right guitar without any serious distortion. The music was also strong enough to fill my dining room, which means it should be good for performances in a typical meeting room.
As with other ThinkPads, you can switch between Dolby audio profiles (audio, music, games, movies, etc.) with the Vantage control panel software or the preinstalled Dolby Atmos application. You don’t want to disable Dolby’s improvements because by doing this the music sound was completely hollow.
Unlike the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with welded memory, the X1 Extreme has two DIMM slots that can access and support up to 64GB of dual-channel DDR4 RAM. It also has two M.2 SSD slots for up to 2TB of storage.
Reaching the components is pretty easy. All you have to do is loosen the seven screws and remove the entire base plate. The DIMM slots are covered with Mylar tabs that you can easily lift while the dual M.2 slots are visible (ours used only one, which facilitates later upgrades). The Intel Wi-Fi card is also interchangeable. If it is not broken, there is no reason to remove it.
The impressive 4K HDR screen of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme offers an incredibly low battery life. In our battery test, which included continuous Internet browsing, video streaming and OpenGL tests over Wi-Fi with a brightness of 150 nits, the system only took 6 hours and 7 minutes. This is far from the 8:14 class average and even further from the Dell XPS 15 with 4K display.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme 1080p likely lasts several hours more. So, if you want to see this system and this battery as your top priority, you must allow the screen to have a lower resolution. We will update this review as we receive a model to try with that panel.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme keyboard can get very hot during normal use. The dot between the G and H keys reached 40.5 degrees Celsius in just 15 minutes to stream a YouTube video. Although it was not “burning hot”, it was uncomfortable.
The touchpad was kept cool at 29.4 degrees Celsius (85 degrees Fahrenheit) while the bottom was 50 degrees Celsius (122 degrees Fahrenheit).
We also measure a few minutes after the launch of Cinebench, which is a more intense work than streaming video, and temperatures rose slightly with the keyboard at 41.9 degrees Celsius, while the touchpad remained cold at 30 degrees Celsius and the bottom still 49 degrees warm was degrees (120.2 degrees Fahrenheit).
To see the difference, switch to the Lenovo Vantage control panel and switch from performance mode to cold and quiet mode. The keyboard and touchpad have actually warmed from 42 degrees Celsius to 32 degrees Celsius.
Cooling and Fan Noise
Powerful dual fans are installed on Lenovo and the system is not afraid to use them. During the Cinebench test, fans were particularly noisy. We also listen to them sometimes when we do normal productivity, such as browsing the Internet. With Lenovo Vantage, you can manually configure the system so that a “cool and quiet” system has priority over maximum performance, or you can leave the default value and let the system choose. If you buy this laptop, you probably want performance and should leave it intact.
The 720p webcam can capture fairly sharp and clear photos. When I took a selfie in our office, my face was light and my blue-gray shirt looked a bit grayer than usual. The bright lights on the back caused some of the backgrounds to blow out, and fine details like my beard was a bit blurry.
Our review unit comes with an optional IR camera that allows you to use Windows Hello facial recognition. However, if you get a non-IR camera by default, you’ll still get a ThinkShutter, a physical switch that covers the webcam for extra privacy.
As a business notebook, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme must have high-end security features and will not disappoint you. The system ships with the fingerprint sensor and serial dTPM hardware. Some, but not all the available processors are compatible with vPro. An optional IR camera is included, but if you select them, you won’t get a ThinkShutter switch that covers the sensor to protect your privacy.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo keeps the software preload relatively clean by connecting only the Vantage control panel. Vantage is useful because it gives you sophisticated control in addition to the camera and audio output and gives you the ability to prioritize silent operation for maximum performance. Dolby Atmos is also present to help you configure the sound profile. You can also do that in Vantage.
Unfortunately, Microsoft also provides a load of standard crapware for each OEM installation of Windows. For this reason, you can choose from several popular and free games like Candy Crush Soda Saga and Hidden City: Hidden Object, as well as links to download money from Minecraft and Photoshop Elements from the Microsoft Store. Of course, you can always download them alone, unless they have been preloaded.
In the United States, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is backed by a one-year limited warranty for parts and employees. However, you can update it for up to five years, increase protection against unintentional damages and receive on-site service for more. When you buy from Lenovo.com in the United Kingdom, you have a three-year warranty.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is available from $1,673.10. For this price, you get the Intel Core i5-8400H processor in the US. Or the i5-8300H processor in the UK with 1080p touch screen, 8 GB RAM and 256 GB SSD. You can set up your laptop to order with the Core i7-8850H processor, 64GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, and a beautiful 4K display. Although the system has a different M.2 slot, no other option could be specified in the United States. The alternative was in the Lenovo Store in the UK.
At the time of release, our review sample costs $2,834.10 (£2,867.99). You can et the Core i7-8750H processor, 32GB of RAM, 1GB SSD, an IR camera and an incredible 4K HDR display for this price.
Versus the Competition
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a niche market that surpasses ultrabooks like carbon X1, but far below real workstations such as the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 (in the same chassis) and Dell Precision with Xeon processors and Nvidia Quadro graphics. In this narrow compartment, compete better with models such as the Dell XPS 15 and, to a lesser extent, the MacBook Pro 15.
If you are looking for a powerful but portable computer in this segment, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme can run on the XPS 15, but both have good basics. The Lenovo laptop has an absolutely impressive HDR screen option, the best we have seen, but the 4K screen of the XPS 15 does not go unnoticed and is brighter than 100 nits. Dell’s battery life is much better, at least in a 4K panel.
In two similarly configured systems, the X1 Extreme earns more benchmarks, possibly due to a more aggressive turbo. However, the high explosion speeds of X1 resulted in a choke and less uniform values over some time. On the other hand, if you make a video, you don’t mind if the clock speeds go up and down whenever the process is completed faster. In terms of memory performance, the Lenovo computer beat Dell by one mile.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme comes with a keyboard and webcam much better than the XPS 15. This could only be the reason for your decision. However, the keyboard may be uncomfortable depending on what you do.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme offers impressive performance, an agile keyboard, and an impressive 4K HDR display. If your keyboard is not as demanding, you don’t make so many video calls and does not require the best 4K panel on the market, the Dell XPS 15 is the better choice due to its long battery life and cooling performance. But if you’re looking for a fantastic workhorse with a more colorful display than real life, the X1 Extreme is for you.