Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Review: Great for work and play

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The ubiquitous corporate laptop that started with IBM and evolved to Lenovo has finally gotten a worthy upgrade. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme even retains the TrackPoint (the little red joystick in between the keyboard’s keys) for a sweet dose of nostalgia for the older customer base. It’s sleek but professional and handy for all use cases, ensuring even the millennial professional doesn’t miss their Macbook at work too much.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme: Specs

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme comes with a 15.6-inch display and an all-black carbon fiber / graphite exterior. It’s an all-business looking machine that’s clearly built for the corporate elites but can pass off as your daily-use machine. The keyboard is spill-proof and has a high durability certification ensuring it’s a long-lasting business traveling companion. The durability extends to its insides as well. It’s powered by Intel’s 8th-gen i7 processor with up to a whopping 64GB of DDR4 RAM and 2TB of hard disk space with 2 1TB SSDs. The review unit we got was running 16GB of RAM with a 1TB SSD. Running the graphics side of things is Nvidia’s GeForce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q. The screen is a 15.6-inch 4K UHD with Dolby Vision HDR. The hinge connecting the screen to the body allows a full 180-degree extension that can be a handy feature. All of this weighs in at a lightweight 1.8kg.

Keeping their core audience in mind, Lenovo has included all the necessary ports so that you’re not scrambling for dongles while setting up a presentation. On the left, there are two Thunderbolt 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet extension port, power port and audio jack. On the other side are two USB 3.0 Superspeed ports, a Smart Card reader and a full-size SD card slot.

The keyboard retains the same characteristics as the ThinkPad predecessors, with tightly fit keys and the little red TrackPoint whose use in this generation can be questionable. The keyboard also comes with a backlight, a greatly helpful feature while working in a dimly lit room or on a flight. The mouse trackpad, on the other hand, may take getting used to. Though it pays solid homage to the original ThinkPad trackpad with the button placement on top of it, no other laptop does that, which definitely requires some getting used to.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme: Daily usage

I’ve been an Apple user for some time now so I get excited when I get to try a Windows machine. Harkening back to the old Windows days, the ThinkPad was the go-to for corporate laptops during the advent of mobile working culture. It’s got a slick 4K 15.6-inch screen where all the colours pop and makes usage under any lighting quite easy, as well as allowing you to watch Netflix in 4K and HDR in between spreadsheet work.

It’s lightweight, so resting on my lap for hours was never much of a problem. In fact, it’s lighter than my everyday Macbook Pro so making the switch back was tough. The tactile feel of the keyboard and ease of use allows anyone to immediately dive into work without the usual time needed to acclimatise to a new laptop’s keyboard. The trackpad is situated just below the keyboard so it’s really easy to switch back and forth. The button placement on top of the touchpad wasn’t as difficult as I initially expected, however, I can see a lot of people not appreciating the original ThinkPad design, which isn’t very common anymore. 

I was surprised when I saw the little red TrackPoint in the middle of the keyboard. I tried to make use of it but it just wouldn’t happen naturally. When I would make a conscious decision to use it as well, it wouldn’t last long and wasn’t very intuitive. It was originally installed in the classic ThinkPad so that power users could easily move the mouse while typing, without moving their hands too far from the keyboard. With years of laptop use, users have obviously evolved to work efficiently with a keyboard and mouse trackpad. In this case, it’s even easier thanks to the small gap between the keyboard and the trackpad.

With a dedicated GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q, I was even able to run some video game demos such as the new Doom Eternal. I couldn’t play it on high settings but for a work-focused laptop, it worked out nicely. When in heavier-than-normal use, the fans blare up and the base can get hot. It’s something I’m more than used to but many other users may not be. Going back to the thin and sleek design with powerful innards means at times, the cooling fans will go into overdrive.

Security is a big part of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, for obvious reasons. The core audience is Fortune-rated organizations, consultants and suits at places like Google and Amazon. It comes built with a TPM 2.0 chip for encryption and Window’s Hello authentication in the form of fingerprint and facial recognition.

Battery life is advertised at 15 hours and I was able to get a solid workday and a couple of hours of Netflix in the evening without needing to charge. A solid workday for me primarily consists of browser-based working with little to no heavy app usage and minimal video watching. Considering the rich display and powerful specs, I was pleasantly surprised with what I got out of the battery. Lenovo’s battery also takes a page from smartphone’s books by introducing rapid charging, which helps the ThinkPad X1 Extreme go from 0 to 80 per cent in just a half an hour. The charging brick that comes with it isn’t too large or inconvenient either.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme: Final thoughts

When I first got the ThinkPad X1 to review I was excited to see how an old form of working machine has evolved, especially because we are surrounded by a sea of multifunctional laptops that basically do more of the same. The X1 Extreme manages to carve out a very special niche for itself. Even though its existence is for multinational corporate users, it’s a justifiable investment for any power user looking for a robust, dependable laptop that will last them years.

Lenovo takes it a step further to ensure you don’t need to separate your work and home device when one laptop ticks every box you need it to.