Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Review: A Workhorse That's Got Game

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ThinkPad X1 Extreme Design, Build Quality, Software And User Experience

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Extreme is designed very much along the same lines of the rest of the company's ThinkPad X1 series. Flat, black carbon fiber/graphite hybrid materials are shaped into an angular, straight-up rectangle form with smooth, rounded corners and edges. It's not glitzy, but you could say it's a distinct, yet understated and clean design. It's generally fingerprint resistant, but does tend to smudge a bit with skin oils over time, though clean-up is but a micro fiber wipe away and an easy effort at that.

back open left ThinkPad X1 Extreme
bottom ThinkPad X1 Extreme

The bottom of the machine is home to lots of intake venting and a long rubber skid strip, accompanied by two more individual skids on the front edge of the machine. This setup makes for a balanced, stable foundation on a desktop or counter and that's something occasionally overlooked by some other laptop OEMs. The bottom-firing speaker drivers, on the other hand, are not the loudest or highest fidelity solution you'll find in a machine of this size. Though the Dolby Atmos software loaded on the machine helps deliver a fuller tone, the audio on this machine is generally sub-par and not very loud. Get some earbuds and/or a Bluetooth speaker to complete the audio experience, unless you care only about basic Windows chimes and dings, because there's not much sense in piping music over the X1 Extreme, though its passable for casual movie-watching. It's kind of a bummer, really, especially after being wow'd by Lenovo's Yoga C930 with Dolby Atmos and a sound bar design that pretty much rocked it.

left side ports ThinkPad X1 Extreme
right side ports ThinkPad X1 Extreme

On the plus side, if you're looking for IO port availability, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme has all the ports and a side of optional Smart Card reader. The right side is home to the aforementioned option, a full size SD Card reader slot, a pair of USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-A ports (one with always-on power) and a Kensington Lock port. On the left you'll find the AC power port, two full Thunderbolt 3 ready USB Type-C ports, a full-sized HDMI 2.0 port, an Ethernet extension port, and a combo headphone/mic jack. There's no doubt this is a fully-equipped machine and you've got enough IO connectivity here to satisfy many different use cases.

keyboard ThinkPad X1 Extreme
cooling vents ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Lenovo ThinkPad keyboard anyone? Yep, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme's deck is all kinds of voluminous and roomy with shaped, contoured key caps, backlighting and a large, accurate trackpad with three button control. The typing area is also splash resistant and MIL-STD810G rugged. It's built for heavy mashers and abuse, with almost no flex or give. There's also a Windows Hello compatible fingerprint reader on the right side and, of course, Lenovo's signature red trackpoint mouse nub that dates back to the days of IBM. We'd still argue that you won't find a better laptop typing experience than Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 line and the ThinkPad X1 Extreme only extends that with a roomier feel and no hot spots, with just the slightest bit of warm surface just above the function button row where the venting for the machines thermal solution is, on the back edge of the machine (hit the high res shot for a closer look).  

ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs X1 Carbon
ThinkPad X1 Extreme (Top Left) - 2018 ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Bottom Right)
power brick ThinkPad X1 Extreme

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a full fledged 15-inch machine that's notably wider, deeper and taller than the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon. However, it doesn't weigh a whole lot more, at just 4 pounds, so if you're the type concerned with travel weight, but are looking for a bit more of a high octane-fueled power plant on board, this machine is just 1.5 pounds more heft than the X1 Carbon. Don't cheat on your curls and you'll be good. And that 135 Watt power brick? It's, large palm-sized but does come with a handy rounded flange on it that helps wind its cables around it for neat and tidy storage.

web cams windows hello ThinkPad X1 Extreme
display ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Rolling on up to the display we have Lenovo's new thin bezel setup that we saw on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon 2018 incarnation, only now with a 15.6-inch diagonal spread. The top and bottom bezels are a little thicker to support the dual IR and 720p camera combo Windows Hello compatible setup, and to lift the display a bit up off the hinge area. However, as you can see, the side bezels are fairly svelte and over all the setup looks rather balanced. The UHD 3840x2160 native resolution panel we have here is a Dolby Vision HDR certified display with 400 nits of brightness. Overall it looks fantastic with crisp rendering, great contrast, OLED-like saturation and 400 nits of brightness. We'd offer it's not quite as impressive and bright as the 500 nits HDR panel on Lenovo's 2018 X1 Carbon but it's close, and easily one of the best 15-inch laptop panels on the market right now. It's also touch enabled and supports 100% Adobe RGB color space. However, that touch interface is likely why it doesn't quite have the pop of the X1 Carbon non-touch HDR panel, though it's an easy trade-off, if you want/need touch or pen support. There is also a 1080p, non-HDR, 300 nits panel option, if you don't need high res and want to save a few pesos. Our opinion? Go 4K HDR and don't look back. This is a great 15.6-inch 4K touch display.

ThinkPad X1 Extreme Software

In terms of software setup, Lenovo is thankfully pretty spartan with the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, opting to install only a standard Windows 10 Home or Pro OS, along with a few maintenance tools and configuration utilities. You get Lenovo Vantage, for keeping the system current with firmware and software updates, along with Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos tools, for configuring sound and color profiles, depending on the media you're running. All told it's a lean, clean setup here -- just the way we like it.

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