Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme: a notebook designed for work

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Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme is a laptop designed for all-round business use, thanks to its power and portability.

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme review: a notebook designed for work

If you are among those who are looking for a powerful laptop, and I am talking about the workplace as in the gaming one, but which has an attractive look at the same time, then you are in the right place. In recent years we have witnessed a beautiful revolution in terms of design, and it has been some time since Lenovo has accepted the challenge, so much so that in the last season it gave us the excellent Thinkpad X1, with the eighth-generation Intel i7 on board. Today is the turn of his disciple, the second generation X1 Extreme, which obviously aims to improve the top of the Lenovo range on all fronts.

The aforementioned fireball wants to be a hybrid, suitable for work but also capable of withstanding -without problems- the latest video prowess thanks to its GTX 1650 Max Q, and for this reason, it should not be confused with its cousin, the Thinkpad P1, which instead it mounts an Nvidia Quadro T2000 and has been specifically designed as a mobile workstation. Logical to expect also a refresh on the CPU side, and in fact in this version we find an i7 9750H, and in our case well 32GB of ram. The price, as you probably have already had the opportunity to go around, is not exactly affordable: currently, for our setup, we are on the 2500-2600 € on Amazon Italy, and slightly less for the FHD version with intermediate configuration, which instead is is around € 2200-2300. Do you want to know how he did it? Then you just have to follow us to the test bench …

Corporate Design and the best keyboard ever

We call it a “corporate” design because, with those sober lines and the legendary “ThinkPad” logo on the back, we see it very well resting on corporate desks around the world. For size and profile, the new second-generation X1 Extreme is a real gem: 361.8mm x 245.7mm x 18.4mm for the only 1.81Kg for our version, that is, the one without touch but with UHD HDR screen. Minimal design and a carbon finish that needs no further presentation, with an “almost-soft” feel to the touch. Clean lines, simple cuts and cleverly hidden edges, all synthesized in an excellent sensation of robustness, very different from that given by pure metal, yet extremely reassuring.

There are no logos in sight, except for the ThinkPad one with a red LED on the “i”, plus a small “X1” on the lower part of the back. Even on the lower body, the minimal look rages, and in terms of ventilation, we find a regular opening rather wide, with two symmetrical fans well visible. In the side profile, extremely thin and well optimized, we find an infinite number of doors; on the right smart card, SD slot up to UHS-II and two USB 3.1 ports, while on the left side there is the top connector for power supply, an HDMI 2.0, two-second generation USB 3.1 with Type C interface, a headphone/microphone minijack input and finally the last port for the ethernet adapter, which in our case was included in the package. The built-in battery is 80Wh, and with fast charging, it takes just under an hour and a half to bring it back to 100%, but know that in terms of duration there is more than a limit, which we will be able to learn more about come on.

The screen, however, gives great satisfaction, being a 15.6 ‘IPS, with 3840×2160 resolution with Dolby Vision certified HDR, anti-glare surface, maximum 500nits and a full 170 ° viewing angle. The contrast is 1200: 1, which is decidedly good, but the most important thing is certainly 100% coverage on the Adobe profile, essential since it is mainly a work machine. There would also be the OLED version with multitouch, 100000: 1 contrast and 100% DCI-P3 coverage, but be prepared to pay a few hundred euros more for that. In any case, we cannot conclude the presentations without first talking to you about the real main course or the keyboard: it is a backlit and anti-splash 6 file but said in these terms it does not do justice.

The point is that we are actually in front of one of the best laptop keyboards ever created, where the keys have a generous spacing but above all a real and pleasant ride. The trackpad is also good, precise though not very spacious, also accompanied this time by the inevitable red Trackpoint that peeps out between the letters. In the queue, it is also necessary to mention the fingerprint sensor, which we found to be more precise and faster than the previous version, certainly one of the best on the square.

Under carbon: the internal components

Let’s talk now about the internal components, and therefore also about the performance. Our model was equipped with an Intel Coffee Lake CPU, i7 9750H, with 6 cores and 12 threads, clocked at 2.6Ghz in basic mode, with the possibility of reaching frequencies up to 4.5Ghz in Turbo mode. We also have 12MB of cache and a combined Intel Graphics UHD 630, which never hurts, but know that the second-generation X1 Extreme can also be equipped with a more powerful CPU, i7 9850H or even i7 9870H, which uses 8 cores and reaches 4.8Ghz in turbo mode. You might want to focus on this latter setup if you intend to use it mainly dedicated to renders, especially to speed up the classic situation as a “video editor on the go”, if instead, you are a gamer (or 2D graphic) you know that it is not worth it, also because in this case almost € 3000 is almost reached.

Near the heart are the lungs, and near the CPU there is indeed RAM. In this case, there is not much to say, except that there are three configurations, from 16, 32 and 64GB, all DDR4 clocked at 2666Mhz, divided into two freely editable SO-DIMM slots. In our case we had the intermediate solution, that is 32GB, which proved to be perfect in all game/work situations. On the storage front, we have two M.2 slots, also in this case easily reachable for possible modification, and in our model, there was only a 1Tb high-performance Samsung SSD, on which, however, as always, we advise you to save for then proceed with a do-it-yourself upgrade.

The other backbone of the architecture, besides of course the CPU, is the GTX 1650 Max-Q, equipped with other 4GB GDDR5. It is a card that will never cease to amaze us, because it is capable of excellent performance while remaining “fresh” and snappy, even if in this case the stuck consumption profile of Lenovo is involved. If you need secondary screens (and if you look at such a product you will certainly have one), you can always switch from the HDMI 2.0 port, which is capable of output up to 4K @ 60Hz, or even better via Thunderbolt, which instead reaches the 5K @ 60Hz. There is of course also support for Wi-Fi 6 performance, based on the Intel AX200 11ax chip, accompanied in turn by the Bluetooth 5 device. On the paraphernalia said so far nothing to object, but there is something that we do not have particularly appreciated, that is the webcam supplied: this is the usual 720p standard, with IR and ThinkShutter support, which in normal lighting situations behaves very well, but it easily hops as soon as the subject is in the backlight position, making the annoyingly “smoky” image. We didn’t expect a Lamborghini in this case, but we could have done much more for these figures.

Ultra-thin: ultra performance

Let’s face it: the compromises for gaming and the main professional suites on laptops are on the agenda, especially if you are looking for that slim ultrabook design. The Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 2 does everything it can to give you the best performance around, and in most cases it does. For 1080p gaming, generally, with high or even very high settings, it manages to maintain excellent framerates, for example, Rainbox Six: Siege (ultra settings) had an average of 105Fps, with a minimum peak around 70-73. Overwatch instead was quietly around 70 on average, with rare cases of “engine dips” that brought it back abruptly around 38-40, while League Of Legends quietly abounds on 100FPS on average, with sporadic negative peaks around 50, of nature quite understandable.

This first send talked about eSports, which are generally much easier to manage because they are properly optimized, but how is our Lenovo X1 doing on the most demanding single players? Metro Exodus (therefore not exactly light), with high settings it travelled around 28-30FPS, with some obvious decreases, while with medium settings it easily reached 34-35FPS on average and decidedly fewer hiccups. Red Dead Redemption 2, with very high settings, fared well, remaining nimbly on 36-38FPS, with moments in the open air where it even exceeded 55FPS. And then, to conclude, the turn of Control came, notoriously considered the terror of PCists. Here, with settings set to high, we found good stability around 30-32FPS, sometimes ruined by disastrous thuds around 16, but also graced by entire sections lived above 45-48FPS. Not bad, right?

As for the working dimension, however, the performances have proved extremely satisfactory, at least as regards the ADOBE suite. More generally, the performances are still convincing, but the LENOVO block we were talking about before tends to shave the results a little, to always maintain acceptable temperatures (GPU 70 °, CPU 80 °). By crossing some data and some benchmarks we find that the second generation Thinkpad X1 is placed slightly behind the Dell XPS 15 (with the same configuration) of which, among other things, is the direct competitor. However, we appreciated the overall balance of the machine, which remains quite silent even in the hottest situations. In any case, for the record, we point out that on Cinebench R15 in multi-core we scored a maximum of 737 points (179 in single-core), while on Geekbench 4 we reached 4798 pts in a single against 20.260 in multi. And to finish: a total cross of 3670 on SSD mark 2, which is an excellent result.

Summing up, it should be said that theoretically something more could be obtained, “tampering” with the BIOS and replacing the stock version of Windows with a lighter one, but this Lenovo’s excellent set-up as regards the triptych performance/noise/consumption, which, however, with regard to the battery, certainly does not shine; with light use, i.e. browsing, office suite and little more, we have barely reached the scarce 5h, while under stress, focusing mainly on gaming, we have touched the 2h by a whisker. Moreover, as was easy to predict, the current Intel architecture heats up and consumes, and in addition, put in that the 4K screen does not help at all. Moreover, we remain of the idea that the advantages of these resolutions are very few, and in light of the current Italian price list we would advise against it, perhaps to focus on a decidedly more convenient FHD solution, also because, the real difference makes the Nvidia GPU. There is one last note against, which instead concerns the audio sector: despite the Dolby Audio Premium certification, the two 2W front speakers have not proved particularly performing, even reaching saturation earlier than expected. Again, it’s still a laptop, but let’s say we saw something better around …

Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme
The refresh of the old ThinkPad model X1 is definitely a big step forward for the top of the range made in Lenovo. The design remains almost unchanged, and we still continue to love it very much, and in addition, we appreciated some small precautions such as the renewed fingerprint. Other than that, the difference is CPU and GPU: as far as the Intel i7 9750H is concerned, there are no great revolutions compared to last season, but the processor is still solid and reliable. Another story is the graphics card provided by Nvidia, which instead skyrockets the performance on games and GPU-related apps and not a little, especially when compared to the old model. Compared to what is around today, the second generation Thinkpad X1 Extreme is certainly among the top of the list, and with its GTX 1650 Max-Q, it is able to achieve excellent framerates while remaining on temperatures (and DB ) acceptable.

These results are also due to the factory limitations imposed by Lenovo, which however we share in the name of the excellent balance that is created. The battery does not spark, and with high use, it barely reaches 2h of autonomy, and even the audio system (despite the Dolby certification), has surprised us particularly. The latter are the only spots we have found, to which perhaps a price that is certainly not affordable is added: we are talking about a gap that ranges from € 2000 or slightly to almost € 3000 for the OLED touch model, with i7 9870H processor. In the midst of this abyss, however, you could also find a configuration suitable for you, perhaps saving on the monitor, but also on RAM and SSD, thanks to the possibility of changing both on the motherboard. So is this the perfect laptop? No, but we have to admit that Lenovo came very close to us, and the road seems to be the right one …