The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme gen4 represents the technological pinnacle of the ThinkPad X1 series. As such, it has the highest possible configuration options of any X1 and shows how far Lenovo’s laptop technology can go for that generation of laptops.
When it launched, the specifications and configuration options looked terrific. Now, we’re going to dive deeper into the strengths and possible tradeoffs of packing so much power into a 3.99 Lbs chassis. We will tell you who, how, and when this laptop can be most beneficial (to).
Specifications highlights + config options
Our test unit is a ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen4 with a Core i7-11800H CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB of SSD (KXG7AZNV512G LA KIOXIA), and the NVIDIA RTX 3060 GPU. As configured, this unit is on the lower spectrum of performance the X1 Extreme Gen4 offers, so keep that in mind. Lenovo has considerable configuration options.
CPU options include the Core i7-11800H (ours), Core i7-11850H, and Core i9-11950H. The main difference between them is the maximum Frequencies of 4.6, 4.8, and 5.0 GHz, respectively.
Users can order or install a maximum of 64GB RAM (DDR4-3200) via two SO-DIMM modules, making this laptop suitable for data-heavy work. The following OSes are available: Win10, Win11, Linux (Ubuntu), and no OS.
The discrete GPU options include the RTX 3050 Ti 4GB, RTX 3060 6GB (ours), RTX 3070 8GB, and RTX 3080 16GB. More choices than top competitors.
Storage options of “up to” 2TB are slightly different depending on the laptop tiers: RTX 3050Ti and below get two M.2 slots, while RTX 3060 and above get only one M.2 slot.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme gen4 uses a slightly modified chassis compared to last year’s. The most notable evolutions are the new display 16:10 ratio and the new speakers’ location on either keyboard side.
The display cover is made of Carbon, while the rest of the chassis is mostly Aluminum. It’s all covered by the usual ThinkPad soft-touch paint that Lenovo has used for years (with minor tweaks), so if you’ve seen a recent ThinkPad before, the surface treatment is very similar."THE CORE I9-11950H+RTX 3080 THINKPAD X1 EXTREME SHOULD HAVE NO PROBLEM BEATING THESE COMPETITORS WHEN IT COMES TO PERF/WEIGHT RATIO"
With a weight of 3.99 Lbs (4.1 Lbs for the touchscreen SKU), it is a 16-inch light computer, on par with the new Dell XPS 15, but a bit heavier than the 3.5 Lbs Macbook Pro.
That said, the Core i9-11950H+RTX 3080 ThinkPad X1 Extreme should have no problem beating these competitors when it comes to Perf/Weight ratio. By “how much” it wins remains to be seen.
Keyboard and Trackpad
On the surface, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme inputs look like your typical ThinkPad keyboard and mostly feel the same. However, the key-travel seems a bit more shallow, and that’s also true for the trackpad click depth.
This small change doesn’t bother me, but folks who loved the classic ThinkPad keyboard for its deep key travel might notice and will have to decide for themselves. Most likely, you will get used to it very quickly, and that’s probably the price to pay for having such powerful internal components in a thin chassis.
The keyboard backlight has the standard two brightness levels, but it would have been nice to have a higher peak backlight brightness.
The larger (glass) trackpad is smooth and makes using any gestures comfortable. The physical left/right trackpad buttons make click operations more accurate and dissociated from any mouse cursor motion.
Ports & Connectivity
This laptop has all the ports one would typically need, and I can’t imagine requiring a dongle, except for Ethernet connectivity, perhaps. That could be a steep advantage over super-slim competitors with only USB-C ports.
The presence of a full-size SD card reader is a good hint that Lenovo had Creative users in mind, and it’s a great idea because this laptop will attract many of them for its size/weight/performance ratio.
WiFi-6E makes this laptop future-proof for local wireless networking. The next level would be to get the optional 5G connectivity powered by Qualcomm’s X55 modem that was utilized in high-end phones not so long ago. Integrated 5G is always much better and more convenient than creating a hotspot with your phone.
Finally, if you have multiple 4K displays or even external GPUs, Thunderbolt 4 is a great bonus to have on this laptop.
ThinkPad X1 Extreme Sound quality
The two up-firing speakers (2x 2-Watt) are located on either side of the keyboard and are a significant upgrade from previous X1 Extreme generations that had bottom-firing speakers. This is one of the most optimum speaker placement on a laptop."CUSTOMERS WILL BE SATISFIED WITH THE X1 EXTREME’S IMPROVED SOUND SYSTEM"
They output a good quality sound that is clear, distortion-free, and powerful enough to enjoy a good action movie in your bed or hotel room. Lenovo’s soundbar on YOGA Laptops is a bit better, and so are select laptops like the Macbook Pro 16, the new Huawei MateBook 16, or Dell XPS 15 (4 speakers).
Still, I think that customers will be satisfied with the X1 Extreme’s improved sound system.
Lenovo continues to roll out 16:10 ratio displays, and that’s great from a productivity standpoint since it provides a bit more vertical space for content. Perhaps we’ll see a 3:2 edition someday, like the 2021 X1 Titanium.
Our unit’s display is the 16-inch WQXGA (2560×1600), a non-touch panel with a matte finish. A matte display is not as prone to glare as a glossy screen, but it’s also true that colors don’t “pop” as much, and glossy displays might look a bit sharper.
The display quality is high, with excellent color gamut (95% sRGB measured) and good color accuracy as well (avg Delta-E < 2.2). The image quality makes this computer suitable for Creative professional usage.
A brightness of 354 NITs measured makes it readable enough outdoors, but that’s just above average. Fortunately, Lenovo has better, more expensive options with even better image quality.
For gaming purposes, keep in mind that the refresh rate is 60Hz. For most users, that’s completely fine, and I enjoy playing at a sustained 60FPS myself. But some gamers are a bit pickier and might want a screen that reaches 120Hz+ just because this laptop can run some games at a very high speed.
The new 1080p webcam is noticeably sharper than your typical 720p camera. That said, a mid-range phone selfie camera Is still better than any laptop we reviewed, including this one, but it’s nice to see some progress on this front, and I encourage OEMs to continue pushing the envelope.
ThinkPad X1 Extreme Performance
From a performance standpoint, the benchmark numbers show the ThinkPad X1 Extreme to be an outstanding performer, with significantly higher general “Productivity” performance than the latest X1 Carbon.
For CPU-heavy Creative tasks, our Core i7-11800H CPU proves to be an advantage when compared to laptops equipped with Core i7-11375H processors, even though they may have a similar graphics processor.
Typically not visible in the benchmarks, but in some applications, you might get a boost in memory performance if you opt for a unit with two memory modules as it increases the peak RAM bandwidth. Some RAM configurations come with one module only.
Laptops with the RTX 3070 or 3080 GPUs are even faster, as demonstrated by the Acer Predator Triton 500 SE. However, you must take into account the cooling capacity of each computer design. These two GPUs generate a lot of heat, and I don’t know how fast this X1 Extreme chassis can dissipate it, even though Lenovo is ventilating it as much as possible.
Also, looking at the performance “per Lbs” shows how great this X1 Extreme design is for those who care about every bit of weight.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is designed as a business computer or light workstation. That’s why it doesn’t feature a massive gaming-like cooling system (and chassis). Gaming laptops are designed to run hot and noisy.
Instead, the X1 Extreme is thin and visually friendly to a business environment, and that includes keeping a low fan noise (only ~51db max, vs. 60db+ for gaming laptops).
Our RTX 3060 GPU ran hot, nearly reaching 88-90 Celcius, and while it’s okay for minutes of benchmarking, it’s not ideal for sustained performance as heat builds up and thermal performance throttling sets in to prevent overheating. Note that we did not have any kind of stability issues.
Lenovo does not provide software fan controls, and having some of these capabilities would help users get the most from this laptop. In the meantime, you can control the fans using tpfancontrol, but I’d love to see a native solution.
If your budget is tight and you can get by with only 4GB of video memory, the RTX 3050 Ti SKU might be a good choice. It might maximize the price/speed ratio by maximizing the thermal dissipation capabilities.
In benchmarks, the graphics performance “per Lbs” of this RTX 3060 X1 Extreme is very comparable to the light Acer Triton Predator 300 SE gaming laptop. For a business laptop, it’s impressive and a massive improvement over last year’s X1 Extreme Gen3.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 offers workstation-level SSD performance, with slightly better overall performance than the heavier ThinkPad P15 Gen2. The writes are not as fast as the Predator Triton 500 SE because Acer uses a RAID0 configuration in that laptop, pushing it above everyone without RAID0.
Since this laptop has PCIe 4.0, you should get higher performance by manually upgrading to the latest PCIe 4.0 SSDs from Samsung or other OEMs, but this remains to be proven independently.
ThinkPad X1 Extreme Battery Life
The 88Wh battery capacity is very respectable given the small chassis size, and the 6h48mn battery endurance during the continuous “Office Productivity” battery test is in line with laptops with the same performance envelope.
If you want to have a much longer battery life, you will need to pick a computer with a lower performance profile. That’s all there is to it. If you want Gaming-like graphics performance, you also need a higher-wattage CPU and GPU that will consume more power at all times. Intel’s new Alder Lake architecture should help considerably with power efficiency in the future.
That’s why the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a much longer battery life, despite featuring a much smaller battery.
It is possible to charge the X1 Extreme using the USB-C ports, but you need a high-power USB-C charger. I’m not sure what the minimum is, but I have a 100W USB-C charger, and it worked, while a 65W from another Lenovo laptop didn’t. I’ll try finding out what the exact floor is, but be mindful of this until then.
That said, only the 230W original Lenovo power supply can satisfy this laptop’s energy requirement to run at full speed. But if you lose it, it’s nice to have an alternative emergency option (like borrowing from a friend).
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen4 (official page) is a formidable update from a year ago. It is one of the best thin & light 16-inch business laptops for its peak performance and overall features. And keep in mind that we only tested the slower version of this computer!
With faster RTX 3070 and 3080 GPU options, the graphics performance has more potential. Even though I wonder how thermal limitations could affect their peak performance, I know that peak speeds would be significantly higher."THE LENOVO THINKPAD X1 EXTREME HAS THE BEST CONFIGURATION OPTIONS IN ITS CATEGORY"
Objectively, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme has the best configuration options in its category, making it very hard to beat in its most “extreme” version: Core i9-11950H+RTX 3080.
For short and heavy compute workloads going from 20mn to 5mn is still a desirable and measurable productivity gain. You’ll have to figure this out for your use case and price it.
In conclusion, as the most “extreme” ThinkPad X1, this laptop is a great product that can handle any business application and will be a great companion during times of fun as well.