Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 review


If we hadn’t just reviewed the latest Dell XPS 15 OLED, we’d be thrilled with the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 (starting at $ 1,639; $ 2,498 depending on testing). A bright OLED display was one of our favorite features from last year’s X1 Extreme Gen 3. The new Lenovo replaces the usual 15.6-inch diagonal and 16: 9 aspect ratio with a 16-inch panel with a slightly larger 16:10 profile, but unlike the Dell 16:10, Lenovo doesn’t offer a OLED version, just a choice of three IPS displays. It’s disappointing in a high-end laptop, but the X1 Extreme is still a sleek, loaded speedster that will appeal to executives looking for a luxury desktop replacement.

Lighten up: alloy and carbon fiber

Like its competitors like 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 have need independent software vendor (ISV) certifications of a full-fledged mobile workstation. It’s not cheap, but even the base model has an 11th-gen eight-core Intel Core i7-11800H processor and Nvidia GeForce RTX 3050 Ti graphics.

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Our $ 2,498 review unit (the price quoted by our Lenovo rep, although I configured it for $ 2,131 on the company’s website) retains this system’s 2.3 GHz processor and l non-touch screen of 2560 x 1600 pixels, but upgrades to 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB PCIe 4.0 SSD and 6 GB GeForce RTX 3060 GPU from Nvidia. You can upgrade to a Core i9-11950H, 64GB of memory and two 2TB drives as well as a 3,840 x 2,400 display with 600 nits of brightness, available in either touch or non-touch versions.

The aluminum alloy bottom and carbon fiber top cover of the X1 Extreme Gen 4 is in the same matte black shade and has passed the same MIL-STD 810G tests for shock, vibration and extreme environmental conditions as others. ThinkPad. At 0.7 x 14.2 x 10 inches, it’s slightly larger than the Dell XPS 15 (0.71 x 13.6 x 9.1 inches) and the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition (0.67 x 14 x 9.3 inches), but a bit lighter at 4 pounds compared to Dell’s 4.3. and the Razer 4.4.

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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 rear view

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Medium-thick bezels surround the screen, leaving room at the top for a webcam with a sliding privacy shutter; our Extreme didn’t have the optional facial recognition camera, but a Windows Hello fingerprint reader built into the power button. Latest Wi-Fi 6E joins wireless Bluetooth 5.2; the datasheet lists optional 5G mobile broadband, but I haven’t seen it in the online configurator.

With the exception of an audio jack, the only ports on the XPS 15 and MacBook Pro are the Thunderbolt USB-C ports. The Lenovo has two Thunderbolt 4 ports on its left side, but you’ll also find an HDMI port (along with audio and power connectors), so you can plug in an external monitor without the need for a DisplayPort dongle. Two USB 3.2 Type-A ports (one always on) join an SD card slot and a security lock slot on the right.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 left ports

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Memo to other manufacturers: copy this keyboard

Laptop keyboards are no better than those you’ll find on Lenovo’s high-end 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 on the bottom right. Top row hot keys let you make and end video calls, as well as adjust volume and brightness, and switch to airplane mode. The Fn and Control keys are arguably instead of each other at the bottom left, but you can swap them out with the included Lenovo Vantage software.

The backlit keyboard provides a fast typing feel. It wants a slightly harder touch or a firmer rap to avoid missed keystrokes than I’m used to with my Logitech desktop keyboard, but it’s quiet and comfortable. There are two cursor controllers, the Lenovo-branded TrackPoint mini joystick built into the keyboard (with three buttons below the space bar), plus a good-sized touchpad that takes just the right amount of pressure for a quiet click.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 Keyboard

(Photo: Molly Flores)

The screen offers plenty of brightness, with crisp white backgrounds and excellent contrast. Viewing angles are wide and fine details and letter edges are crisp. Colors are rich and well saturated, perhaps a bit duller than vivid hues and darker blacks than ink on an OLED panel, but about as good as an IPS display.

The webcam offers 1080p instead of the usual minimum resolution of 720p; it captures well-lit and colorful images with almost no noise or static. The speakers flanking the keyboard produce loud, clear sound, 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 dynamics presets as well as an adjustable equalizer with surround virtualizer and volume leveler. The Lenovo Vantage mentioned above manages system updates and Wi-Fi security as well as device settings.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 front view

(Photo: Molly Flores)

X1 Extreme review: running with a fast crowd

Besides the Razer Blade 15 Advanced Edition and the high-end Dell XPS 15, I compared the benchmark performance of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 to that of two alternatives under $ 1,500, the Microsoft Surface Laptop 4 and the Dell. Inspiron 16 Plus. All four have won PCMag Editors’ Choice awards, so the Lenovo has its work cut out for it.

Productivity tests

UL’s leading benchmark for PCMark 10 simulates a variety of real-world productivity and content creation workflows to measure the overall performance of office tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and video conferencing. We also run the PCMark 10 Full System Drive test to assess a laptop’s load time and storage throughput. (Learn more about how we test laptops.)

Three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to assess a PC’s suitability for CPU-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 applications ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open source HandBrake 1.4 video transcoder to convert a 12 minute video clip from 4K resolution to 1080p resolution (lower times are better).

Our latest productivity test is PugetBench for Photoshop from Puget Systems, which uses version 22 of Creative Cloud from Adobe’s popular image editor to assess a PC’s performance for content creation and multimedia applications. This is an automated extension that performs a variety of general and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks, from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradients. and filters.

The X1 Extreme led the pack in our all-important PCMark 10 benchmark, although all five systems scored well above the 4000 points that indicate stellar productivity – Microsoft Office and Google Docs are easy to use for these PCs. The Lenovo also passed our storage and processor tests, and performed well in a very competitive area in Adobe Photoshop.

Graphics tests

We test the graphics of Windows PCs with two 3DMark DirectX 12 game simulations from UL, Night Raid (more modest, suitable for laptops with integrated graphics) and Time Spy (more demanding, suitable for gaming platforms with GPUs) discrete).

We’re also running two tests from the GFXBench 5 cross-platform GPU benchmark, which emphasizes both low-level routines such as texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p tests Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase, 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 tests (although it hesitated in 3DMark’s Time Spy subtest), but the ThinkPad took second place. It’s not meant to be a gaming laptop, but it can definitely get you shooting or chasing after work hours. More importantly, it is a good choice for editing images or videos or other creative content tasks.

Battery and display tests

We test the battery life of laptops by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open source Blender movie Tears of steel) with 50% screen brightness and 100% audio volume. We make sure the battery is fully charged before testing, with Wi-Fi and keyboard backlight turned off.

We also use a Datacolor SpyderX Elite monitor calibration sensor and its Windows software to measure the color saturation of a laptop screen – what percentage of the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color ranges or palettes the screen can display – and its 50% and its peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).

The Lenovo finished second to last in terms of battery life, but its nine-hour battery life is perfectly acceptable for a powerful desktop replacement, especially since it’s light enough to take on air travel. Dell’s OLED panel and the Razer’s high refresh rate 1440p display featured the most vivid colors, but the Extreme was not far behind and its peak brightness was outstanding, topping its 400 nits.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 straight ports

(Photo: Molly Flores)

Sensational, but without OLED

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 is a sensational desktop replacement for power users. It’s barely missing 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 looking for a first-class creative platform that can double as a laptop or gaming workstation, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t include the Lenovo.

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