If we hadn't just reviewed the latest Dell XPS 15 OLED, we'd be raving about the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (starts at $1,639; $2,498 as tested). A brilliant OLED display was one of our favorite features of last year's X1 Extreme Gen 3. The new Lenovo swaps the familiar 15.6-inch diagonal and 16:9 aspect ratio for a 16-inch panel with a slightly taller 16:10 profile, but unlike with the 16:10 Dell, Lenovo doesn't offer an OLED version, just a choice of three IPS screens. That's disappointing in a premium laptop, but the X1 Extreme is still a sleek, loaded speedster that will tempt execs seeking a deluxe desktop replacement.
Lighten Up: Alloy and Carbon Fiber
Like rivals including the XPS 15, the 16-inch Apple MacBook Pro, and the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED XC, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is an elite laptop for digital content makers who don't need the independent software vendor (ISV) certifications of a full-fledged mobile workstation. It's not cheap, but even the base model has an eight-core, 11th Generation Intel Core i7-11800H CPU and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics.
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(Photo: Molly Flores)
Our $2,498 review unit (the price our Lenovo rep quoted, though I configured it for $2,131 at the company's website) keeps that system's 2.3GHz processor and 2,560-by-1,600-pixel non-touch screen but steps up to 16GB of RAM, a 512GB PCIe 4.0 solid-state drive, and Nvidia's 6GB GeForce RTX 3060 GPU. You can escalate to a Core i9-11950H, 64GB of memory, and two 2TB drives as well as a 3,840-by-2,400 display with 600 nits of brightness, available in touch or non-touch flavors.
The X1 Extreme Gen 4's aluminum alloy bottom and carbon-fiber top cover wear the same matte-black hue and have passed the same MIL-STD 810G tests for shock, vibration, and environmental extremes as other ThinkPads. At 0.7 by 14.2 by 10 inches, it's slightly bulkier than the Dell XPS 15 (0.71 by 13.6 by 9.1 inches) and Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (0.67 by 14 by 9.3 inches), but a bit lighter at 4 pounds to the Dell's 4.3 and the Razer's 4.4.
Dell XPS 15 OLED (9510)
Read Our Dell XPS 15 OLED (9510) Review
Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (2021)
Read Our Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (2021) Review
Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610)
Read Our Dell Inspiron 16 Plus (7610) Review
Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-Inch)
Read Our Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 (15-Inch) Review
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Medium-thick bezels surround the screen, making room up top for a webcam with a sliding privacy shutter; our Extreme didn't have the optional face recognition camera but had a Windows Hello fingerprint reader integrated with the power button. The latest Wi-Fi 6E joins Bluetooth 5.2 wireless; the spec sheet lists 5G mobile broadband as an option but I didn't see it in the online configurator.
Except for an audio jack, the only ports on the XPS 15 and MacBook Pro are USB-C Thunderbolt ports. The Lenovo has two Thunderbolt 4 ports on its left flank, but you'll also find an HDMI port there (along with audio and power connectors), so you can plug in an external monitor without needing a DisplayPort dongle. Two USB 3.2 Type-A ports (one always on) join an SD card slot and security lock slot on the right.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Memo to Other Manufacturers: Copy This Keyboard
Laptop keyboards don't get any better than the ones you'll find on high-end Lenovo ThinkPads. The X1 Extreme's keyboard has the familiar ThinkPad layout with Home and End keys on the top row and Page Up and Page Down at bottom right. The top-row shortcut keys let you place and end video calls, as well as adjust volume and brightness and toggle airplane mode. The Fn and Control keys are arguably in each other's places at lower left, but you can swap them with the supplied Lenovo Vantage software.
The backlit keyboard has a snappy typing feel. It wants a slightly harder touch or firmer rap to avoid missed keystrokes than I'm used to from my Logitech desktop keyboard, but it is quiet and comfortable. There are two cursor controllers, Lenovo's trademark TrackPoint mini joystick embedded in the keyboard (with three buttons below the space bar), plus a good-size touchpad that takes just the right amount of pressure for a quiet click.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
The screen offers plenty of brightness, with pristine white backgrounds and excellent contrast. Viewing angles are broad, and fine details and the edges of letters are sharp. Colors are rich and well saturated—maybe a touch duller than the vivid hues and darker-than-ink blacks of an OLED panel, but about as good as an IPS screen gets.
The webcam offers 1080p instead of the usual, minimal 720p resolution; it captures well-lit and colorful images with almost no noise or static. Speakers flanking the keyboard produce loud and clear audio, with a surprising amount of bass and virtually no distortion; it's easy to hear overlapping tracks. Dolby Access software offers music, movie, game, voice, and dynamic presets and an adjustable equalizer with surround virtualizer and volume leveler. The above-mentioned Lenovo Vantage handles system updates and Wi-Fi security as well as device settings.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Testing the X1 Extreme: Running With a Fast Crowd
Besides the high-end Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition and Dell XPS 15, I compared the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4's benchmark performance to that of two under-$1,500 alternatives, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 and Dell Inspiron 16 Plus. All four have won PCMag Editors' Choice awards, so the Lenovo has its work cut out for it.
The main benchmark of UL's PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-centric tasks such as word processing, spreadsheeting, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10's Full System Drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop's storage. (See more about how we test laptops.)
Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate a PC's suitability for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon's Cinebench R23 uses that company's Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs' Geekbench 5.4 Pro simulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder HandBrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).
Our last productivity test is Puget Systems' PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses the Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe's famous image editor to rate a PC's performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It's an automated extension that executes a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks ranging from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
The X1 Extreme led the pack in our all-important PCMark 10 benchmark, though all five systems scored way above the 4,000 points that indicate stellar productivity—Microsoft Office and Google Docs are easy peasy for these PCs. The Lenovo aced our storage and CPU tests as well, and did well in a very competitive field in Adobe Photoshop.
We test Windows PCs' graphics with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL's 3DMark, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming rigs with discrete GPUs).
We also run two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which stresses both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests, rendered offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, exercise graphics and compute shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
The Razer's top-of-the-line GeForce RTX 3080 predictably led the way in these benchmarks (though it balked at 3DMark's Time Spy subtest), but the ThinkPad took second place. It's not intended to be a gaming laptop, but it can certainly indulge you in some shooting or racing action after working hours. More important, it's a fine choice for image or video editing or other creative content tasks.
Battery and Display Tests
We test laptops' battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie Tears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged before the test, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off.
We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure a laptop screen's color saturation—what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamuts or palettes the display can show—and its 50% and peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
The Lenovo finished next to last in battery life, but its nine-hour runtime is perfectly acceptable for a powerful desktop replacement, especially since it's light enough to take on plane trips. The Dell's OLED panel and the Razer's high-refresh-rate 1440p screen showed the most vivid colors, but the Extreme wasn't far behind, and its peak brightness was exceptional, exceeding its rated 400 nits.
(Photo: Molly Flores)
Sensational, But Sans OLED
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 is a sensational desktop replacement for power users. It barely misses an Editors' Choice nod, mainly because its competition is so formidable—the Dell XPS 15 is nearly flawless, and the Gigabyte Aero 15 offers an OLED display for hundreds less. But if you're shopping for a first-class creative platform that can double as a gaming laptop or workstation, you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't include the Lenovo.
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4
See It$1,850.00 at Amazon
Base Configuration Price $1,639.00
Trim, light design with sunny 16-inch screen
HDMI and USB-A ports, as well as USB-C/Thunderbolt
No OLED display option
A bit pricey
Another couple of hours of battery life would be nice
The Bottom Line
We miss last year's gorgeous OLED screen, but Lenovo's refreshed ThinkPad X1 Extreme remains a top choice for creative pros.
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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 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.Why are ThinkPads so durable? ›
Carbon fibre, magnesium alloy and stainless steel make ThinkPad impact-resistant yet incredibly lightweight, far outperforming any competitor on the market. Moreover, Lenovo's engineers go beyond the usual international testing that is mandatory for every computing device.Why is the Lenovo ThinkPad so good? ›
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.
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 best ThinkPad X1? ›
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Yoga Gen 8 is arguably the best business convertible on the market, with a premium design, high-end specs, and the option for a stunning 4K OLED display. It also includes a garaged stylus for drawing and taking notes.Which RAM is best for Lenovo X1 extreme? ›
Crucial DDR5-4800MHz RAM
A stick of DDR5 RAM clocked at 4800MHz, the perfect match for the RAM included with the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, It comes in different capacities.
They have great keyboards. Its a pleasure typing. High performance. Programmers have to run code that doesn't work all the time during development - every microsecond of time it takes to run (and possibly compile) matters to development speed.Can you upgrade RAM on ThinkPad X1 extreme? ›
RAM Upgrades | ThinkPad X1 Extreme - max up to 64GB.Is X1 extreme a gaming laptop? ›
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme 15.6´´ i9-9800H/32GB/1TB Gaming Laptop Black| Techinn.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).Is the X1 extreme touch screen? ›
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 5 21DE0048US 16" Touchscreen Notebook - WQUXGA - 3840 x 2400 - Intel Core i7 12th Gen i7-12800H Tetradeca-core (14 Core) 2.40 GHz - 16 GB Total RAM - 1 TB SSD - Black.