Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Review: Thin, fast and all business

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is not for the avocado-toast-eating youths. You know, the ones who take a laptop clad in brushed aluminum or maybe rose gold to Starbucks so they can fill out an application for grad school.

When a real businessperson thinks about the coolest laptop they could use to put together a proposal for a hostile takeover of a multi-billion dollar competitor with 25,000 employees, they think all black and all business. And yes, Lenovo’s famous ThinkPad X1 Extreme is of the latter sort. It channels Fortune 100, a bull market, and power suits. And with its 15-inch display, it provides extra real estate for that your huge spreadsheets and slick presentations—with surprisingly little weight penalty. Just don’t expect the performance to be as extreme as its name.

lenovo thinkpad extreme x1 10
Gordon Mah Ung

Forget the rose gold and brushed aluminum—if you’re all about business, you’re all about ThinkPad black.

What’s inside the ThinkPad X1 Extreme

For this review, we looked at an option-packed $3,149-version of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, with an excessive amount of RAM and an excessive amount of pixels, too. The laptop featured:

  • Intel 8th -gen Core i7-8850H
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q
  • 32GB DDR4/2667 in dual-channel mode
  • 1TB M.2 NVMe Samsung PM981 SSD 
  • 15.3-inch 4K screen with touch support
  • Biometric IR camera and finger-print reader

The screen represents Lenovo’s first foray into a ThinkPad X1 with a 15.6-screen. The company doesn’t scrimp, either. Our review unit came with a beautiful 4K UHD touch panel with a max brightness of 400 nits. The AU Optronics IPS panel (or IPS-like anyway) is an 8-bit panel, but Lenovo’s partnership with Dolby lets the panel support Dolby Vision HDR content. So, while not a true 10-bit panel, it can look richer if the content actually supports it.

Lost in the specs might be one of the most amazing features of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme: its weight. Coming in at exactly 4 pounds with a 4K UHD touch screen (which typically adds a few ounces), it’s noticeably lighter than, say, Dell’s XPS 15 at 4.25 pounds. Add touch to the XPS 15 (most of it is the Gorilla glass in the panel) and you’re up at 4.5 pounds. Many other workhorse laptops actually push up closer to 5 pounds.

The only other laptop we can think of that’s this light and svelte is Apple’s MacBook Pro 15, also a flat four pounds. (without touch). But the MacBook Pro 15 compromises on performance for its weight and size—does the ThinkPad X1 Extreme do the same? More on that later.

lenovo thinkpad extreme x1 12 Gordon Mah Ung

The power brick of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is fairly compact for 130-watts of power.

ThinkPad X1 Extreme trackpad and keyboard

The keyboard and trackpad on top of the hardware matter, too, and the ThinkPad X1 Extreme sticks with tradition. Sure, some ThinkPad aficionados will always think fondly back to a “their favorite”ThinkPad keyboard design that dates back to the George Herbert Walker Bush administration, but the company’s keyboards have always been among the best. If your Mac friends tell you something doesn’t “feel right” about the ThinkPad’s keyboard, tell them it’s the generous 1.7mm of key travel.

The trackpad is correctly and proportionately sized, without being so large that you have to pray to the palm rejection gods to keep from wiping whole sentences by accident. The surface of the trackpad has a very slightly friction to it, the usefulness of which will fall to personal preference (our fingertips prefer glass-smooth trackpads these days).


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