Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (2023)

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 is a ThinkPad through and through. It’s got the keyboard nub, the discrete mouse buttons, and the all-black chassis with scattered dots of red. (If you’ve seen its predecessor, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2, you’ll know what you’re getting — the models are identical, with different chips.)

But this ThinkPad has a unique feature you don’t see every day: an OLED screen. That, combined with its discrete GPU, puts the X1 Extreme Gen 3 out of the business laptop space that ThinkPads traditionally dominate and into the crowded market for ultraportable content-creation machines. Among those competitors, the X1 Extreme has some significant drawbacks that keep it from reaching the top of the pack. But it still includes the features that have made ThinkPads so dominant across the board, and that means there’s certainly an audience for it.

Like other ThinkPads, the X1 Extreme is customizable for a variety of price points. All configurations have an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q. The base model is $2,734 (currently discounted to a much more reasonable $1,640) and includes a Core i5-10400H, 8GB of RAM, 256GB of storage, a 1920 x 1080 non-touch display, and a standard 720p HD webcam. Among prebuilt models, you can go all the way up to a system with a Core i9-10885H, 64GB of RAM, 1TB of storage, a 3840 x 2160 OLED touchscreen, and an IR camera, all for — wait for it — $4,959 (currently listed at $2,974.40). My test configuration is in the middle; it includes a Core i7-10850H, 1TB of storage, 32GB of RAM, and the OLED touchscreen. It has an MSRP of $4,111 but is currently listed at $2,466.You can tweak most of the specs to your liking, though some are dependent on others; for example, all models that don’t have the base display come with the IR camera.

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This model has two absolutely standout features. The first is the keyboard. ThinkPads usually have great keyboards, and this one is no exception. It’s one of my favorite keyboards that I’ve tried on a workstation laptop this year, with the possible exception of the Dell XPS 15. The keys have a comfortable texture and a heck of a lot of travel, without being too loud. The typing experience feels closer to that of a mechanical keyboard than to that of flatter laptop keys. I actually found myself eschewing my personal laptop during my testing period in favor of the ThinkPad because of how much I love typing on it.

There’s a row of useful hotkeys on the top of the deck. New to the X1 Extreme are three buttons tailored to remote work: F9 brings up the notification center, F10 answers calls, and F11 ends calls. There are also keys to cut the volume and microphone, toggle airplane mode, and adjust volume and brightness.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (1)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (2)

One quick thing about the keyboard: the Fn and Ctrl keys are swapped from the locations where you’ll find them on most keyboards. This is how ThinkPad keyboards have been laid out since forever, and you can remap the keys through the BIOS or with Lenovo’s utility app if you prefer. But if you’re not a regular ThinkPad user, or you’ll be swapping between this machine and a personal laptop, it’s worth noting that it’ll take time to adjust (or you’ll be using mislabeled keys). I’ve been using the X1 Extreme for almost a week, and I’m still accidentally hitting Fn all the time.

The second standout feature is the 15.6-inch 4K OLED panel. It covers 100 percent of the sRGB spectrum, 100 percent of Adobe RGB, and 100 percent of P3. (Basically, it maxed out our colorimeter.) The panel is sharp and vibrant with great contrast. You can watch streaming content that supports HDR and swap between various color profiles with Lenovo’s Display Optimizer.

Build quality is another strength. Like most of its ThinkPad siblings, the X1 Extreme feels quite durable. There’s no flex in the keyboard or lid, and Lenovo says it’s been tested against “12 military-grade certification methods and over 20 procedures” for resistance to vibrations, shocks, extreme temperatures, humidity, and the like. The laptop achieves this without sacrificing much portability. It’s on the thick side at 0.74 inches — but at four pounds, it’s lighter than many competitors including the Dell XPS 15 and the MacBook Pro 16.

The chassis has a black finish with a nice texture. The ThinkPad logo on the right palm rest and the X1 logo on the top cover add splashes of red. The lid has a unique carbon-fiber weave pattern, which looks and feels similar to the carbon-fiber palm rests on the Dell XPS 15. (This is only available on UHD models). Lenovo says this material is lighter and more durable than aluminum and other common chassis materials. It’s also likely part of the reason for the X1 Extreme’s lofty price tag.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (5)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (6)

One note on the build: the lid and chassis aren’t the worst fingerprint magnets I’ve ever seen, but they do pick them up. After a few days of use, the keyboard deck was pretty smudgy.

Finally, the X1 Extreme comes with some helpful features for remote meetings. You can optimize the dual microphones for various settings (including voice recognition, solo calls, and conference calls) in Lenovo’s Vantage software. They didn’t have any trouble picking up my voice. And the stereo speakers are fine, delivering distortion-free audio with percussion and bass that are audible but not exceptional. You can create custom equalizer profiles in the preloaded Dolby Access software, and you can also toggle presets for scenarios like voice, music, movies, and games.


Every smart device now requires you to agree to a series of terms and conditions before you can use it — contracts that no one actually reads. It’s impossible for us to read and analyze every single one of these agreements. But we started counting exactly how many times you have to hit “agree” to use devices when we review them since these are agreements most people don’t read and definitely can’t negotiate.

To start using the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3, you’ll need to agree to the following:

  • A request for your region and keyboard layout
  • Windows 10 license agreement, Lenovo privacy statement, and Lenovo limited warranty
  • PIN

You can also say yes or no to the following:

  • Wi-Fi
  • Microsoft account (can be bypassed if you stay offline)
  • Privacy settings (location, Find My Device, sharing diagnostic data, inking and typing, tailored experience, advertising ID)
  • Allow Microsoft to collect personal information for Cortana, including location and location history, contacts, voice input, speech and handwriting patterns, typing history, search history, calendar details, content and communication history from Microsoft services, messages, and apps.
  • Provide your name, region, and email address to add the device to your Lenovo ID profile
  • Sign up to receive offers, discounts, and promotions from Lenovo

That’s six mandatory agreements and 11 optional agreements to use the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3.

The webcam was fairly color-accurate and delivered a decent picture in low-light environments

The infrared webcam was also a pleasant surprise — while a bit grainy, it was fairly color-accurate and delivered a decent picture in low-light environments. There’s a physical privacy shutter that’s easy to click back and forth. You can sign into the X1 Extreme with Windows Hello facial recognition, as well as a match-on-sensor fingerprint reader on the side of the keyboard deck, which was quick to set up and didn’t usually have trouble recognizing me.

All of this stuff is similar to the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 — there’s not much noticeable change. The Gen 3’s upgrades are on the inside. It has a six-core 10th Gen Intel processor and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q, where its predecessor had a 9th Gen Intel processor and a GeForce GTX 1650 Max-Q.

The Core i7-10850H isn’t the most monstrous processor around, especially compared to AMD’s recent H-series chips. But it does bring the business-specific benefits of Intel’s vPro platform, and it did a fine job with my piles of spreadsheets, emails, Slacking, and other general office work.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 specs (as reviewed)

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-10850H
  • RAM: 32GB
  • Storage: 1TB SSD
  • Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti with Max-Q design
  • Display: 15.6-inch touchscreen (3840 x 2160), 16:9
  • Ports: two USB 3.2 Gen 1 (one always on), two Thunderbolt 3 (with Power Delivery and DisplayPort), one HDMI 2.0, one SD Card reader (supports UHS-II), one microphone / headphone combo jack, optional Nano-SIM card slot
  • Camera: 720p
  • Weight: four pounds (1.81kg)
  • Dimensions: 14.24 x 9.67 x 0.74 inches
  • Operating system: Windows 10 Pro

Similarly, the GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q is a midrange graphics card — it’s not what you’d want to use for serious gaming or high-throughput professional video editing. But for amateur creators and other artists, it can certainly lend a hand.

My test model scored a 386 on PugetBench for Premiere Pro, which tests its proficiency in real-world Premiere Pro tasks. That’s not a shameful score among top competitors, but it’s not great either. The system comes in under scores we’ve seen from the Dell XPS 15 with the same GPU, and the six-core MacBook Pro, which has AMD Radeon Pro 5300M. And, of course, it loses out to creator machines with more powerful Nvidia chips, such as the lower-priced Gigabyte Aero 15 with an RTX 3060.

If you’re going to be doing intense content work, prepare to hear the fans. Even when I was just bouncing around in Chrome, they were audible quite often. On the plus side, they did their job: the laptop’s bottom, keyboard, touchpad, palm rests, and hinge all remained cold.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (7)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (8)

Another compromise you’re making here is battery life. I only averaged four hours and 59 minutes on our battery test, which involved using the ThinkPad for continuous office multitasking on the Battery Saver profile, with the screen around 200 nits of brightness. I ran a trial without using Chrome to see if that would make a difference; it didn’t. And this result actually seems to be a bit on the high side — Tom’s Hardware got an even pithier two hours and 19 minutes on a synthetic streaming benchmark.

It’s not unexpected that a machine with a 4K screen and a discrete GPU wouldn’t last all day. But I got more juice out of the Gigabyte Aero 15, which has both an OLED display and a heftier graphics card. And if you don’t need the high-resolution screen (which many people won’t), the Dell XPS 15 (which still has an exceptional display) lasted an hour longer with my workflow, while my colleague Dieter Bohn got up to eight hours out of the MacBook Pro. Folks who are interested in the X1 Extreme who would prefer not to have it plugged in all the time should consider an FHD (1080p) model.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (9)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: a ThinkPad with a twist (10)

Ultimately, the decision between the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 and other 15-inch thin-and-light workstations really boils down to: do you want a ThinkPad?

This is to say that the X1 Extreme shares many of the strengths and weaknesses of Windows machines like the XPS 15. Both have dazzling displays, decent chips, sturdy build, boisterous fans, and mediocre battery life. Both have best-in-class keyboards and touchpads, with average webcams and speakers.

But a ThinkPad and an XPS are still very different machines — and if you’ve used any member of either lineup before, you probably know which one you prefer. They have different looks and different feels. The ThinkPad is slightly lighter and slightly thicker, with more ports and larger bezels. The XPS is a bit more powerful, but the ThinkPad has extra business features.

The XPS, due to its lower price, is a more accessible model for most consumers. And the X1 Extreme’s weaker chips and poor battery life, in particular, are tough pills to swallow at such a high price. But there’s still a market for the X1 Extreme — and if you’re willing to sacrifice a bit of power, a bit of money, and a bit of battery life for the unique advantages of a ThinkPad, you probably fall into it.

Photography by Monica Chin / The Verge


Is ThinkPad X1 Extreme good? ›

With powerful performance and a stunning 4K display, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a great, albeit expensive laptop for creative professionals and users with demanding workloads.

Why is ThinkPad X1 extreme so expensive? ›

Lenovo ThinkPads are often considered premium laptops, and their pricing reflects several factors that contribute to their higher cost compared to some other laptop brands and models: Build Quality: ThinkPads are known for their robust build quality and durability.

Is ThinkPad X1 worth it? ›

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 (2023) and the Dell XPS 13 Plus (2022) are both high-end ultraportable laptops that provide a premium user experience. However, the ThinkPad X1 is better overall because it has a better keyboard and webcam as well as a wider port selection.

Is ThinkPad X1 extreme touch screen? ›

The top-end options are 4K IPS screens, one with touch and one without (unlike the XPS 15, there's no OLED option available). We tested the top-end 3840×2400 IPS touchscreen; the panel is bright and sharp, with a respectable 1,397:1 contrast ratio and a 557 nit peak brightness (as measured by our colorimeter).

Why are Lenovo ThinkPads so popular? ›

Incredible Durability and Longevity

First developed by IBM, ThinkPad was taken over by Lenovo in 2005. Its longevity and durability are two major factors which make Lenovo ThinkPads as the number one choice of hundreds of business professionals.

Why are ThinkPads so special? ›

ThinkPads typically have one of the best keyboards compared to any other laptop. Firstly, the keyboards have a higher travel distance. This makes typing much easier compared to the shallow keyboards found on many laptops. Also, shallower keyboards tend to fail more often compared with the thicker ThinkPad keyboards.

What is the most powerful Lenovo ThinkPad? ›

Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5 is one of the most powerful business laptops you can find. With Intel's latest H-series processors, NVIDIA RTX graphics, and high RAM and storage configurations, there's not much else you could ask for.

Which is better MacBook or ThinkPad? ›

The MacBook Air has a brighter display, a larger touchpad, and longer battery life. However, the ThinkPad X1 has a much wider port selection, and it can output a video signal to multiple displays, whereas the MacBook Air is limited to a single external monitor.

What is the most popular ThinkPad? ›

  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11) Best ThinkPad overall. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano. Best 13-inch ThinkPad. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) Best 2-in-1 ThinkPad. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4. Best ThinkPad for multimedia. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E14. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Z13. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2.
Sep 7, 2023

Are ThinkPads still the best laptops? ›

ThinkPads are generally hailed as being awesome business laptops because of their comfortable keyboards and silent operation. With its quiet keyboard, security features, and booming audio, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9 is one such laptop.

How long does ThinkPad X1 last? ›

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 11 battery life

So, battery life should be around five or six hours, as we experienced when we reviewed last year's model. Of course, the way you use your ThinkPad X1 Carbon will change that. If you always have the screen at high brightness, you can't expect long battery life.

What is the difference between ThinkPad and normal laptop? ›

Lenovo ThinkPad laptops are specially designed for business use. The ThinkPad offers extra security options to encrypt files. These laptops also use the Pro version of the Windows operating system. Thanks to the very good build quality, they can easily take a hit.

What is the middle button on ThinkPad X1? ›

The middle button on the touchpad can be used for scrolling up and down pages. Whenever you are on a website or document page, just press it once then you can move the mouse or the touchpad to scroll up and down. Click it again to turn it off.

Is X1 extreme a gaming laptop? ›

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme 15.6´´ i9-9800H/32GB/1TB Gaming Laptop Black| Techinn.

How rugged are Thinkpads? ›

Lenovo's dedication to constantly improving product quality means rigorous testing for reliability and durability. In addition to our extensive in-house testing for real-world challenges, Lenovo ThinkPad® devices are tested against twelve MIL-STD 810G Methods and twenty Procedures to demonstrate their toughness.

Is ThinkPad X1 Extreme good for programming? ›

Reasons to avoid. If you have the funds for an unstoppable workhorse, then Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Extreme mobile workstation is the best laptop for programming. This laptop gets our vote as one of the best Lenovo laptops for many reasons. It has several configurations on hand, depending on your needs and budget.

What is the best ThinkPad X1? ›

  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 11) Best ThinkPad overall. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Nano. Best 13-inch ThinkPad. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga (Gen 6) Best 2-in-1 ThinkPad. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4. Best ThinkPad for multimedia. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad E14. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Z13. ...
  • Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2.
Sep 7, 2023


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