Tech review: Sleek Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme packs a punch

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is the first in the series to include a dedicated Nvidia graphics card.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme is the first in the series to include a dedicated Nvidia graphics card.PHOTO: LENOVO

Men in suits - that is the first thing that comes to mind when Lenovo's ThinkPad laptops are mentioned.

In particular, the premium ThinkPad X1 series seems purpose-built for high-level executives with its sleek professional appearance, lightweight yet sturdy chassis and long battery life.

The new X1 Extreme upsizes the series with a 15-inch form factor. It is also the first in the series to include a dedicated Nvidia graphics card.

Fittingly, its tagline is "Work hard, play harder".

Like other ThinkPads, the Extreme has a matt black finish. It feels smooth, but is not slippery to hold. A downside is that its exterior picks up smudges and grease, though these can be removed with a quick wipe.

At about 18mm thick, it is relatively thin. It weighs 1.7kg - handy enough for a 15-inch laptop and lighter than the competing Apple MacBook Pro (1.8kg).

Lenovo says four layers of carbon fibre reinforce the lid, which has a small amount of flex. To better dissipate the heat generated by its graphics chip, the bottom of the Extreme is now made from aluminium instead of carbon fibre.

ThinkPads are renowned for their keyboards and the Extreme does not disappoint. The backlit keyboard feels tactile with good key travel.

Lenovo did not try to squeeze in a numeric keypad even though this is doable for a 15-inch laptop. Hence there is ample space for important keys like Backspace, Enter and Shift - these are comfortably large.

The red pointing stick is still present in the middle of the keyboard for those who prefer this classic input tool.

On the right of the keyboard is a square fingerprint sensor that is fast, accurate and responsive. There is also the option to use your face to unlock the laptop via the infrared camera above the screen.

No dongles are required for the Extreme as it has plenty of ports, both old and new. Early adopters will like its two USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports while those who are more traditional will find its HDMI port and USB Type-A ports very convenient. There is also an SD card reader and a Smart Card reader.

The laptop uses Lenovo's proprietary power connector and not USB Type-C for charging. The included power adaptor is a 135W version that is bulkier than the usual one.

The Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti graphics chip is good enough for most games if the eye-candy graphical effects are tuned accordingly. It also helps that the laptop uses a hexa-core Intel Core i7 processor that is designed for gaming laptops and workstations.

In the PCMark 10 system benchmark, the Extreme scored 4,823 - just slightly short of the 4,884 score from Razer's 15-inch Blade gaming laptop. I also managed to play a short game of Civilization VI at full-HD resolution at medium graphics settings without a hitch.

In short, it does a decent job of running games as well as perform workstation tasks like 3-D rendering.

Obviously, it will not outperform a proper workstation with a professional-grade graphics chip or a high-end gaming laptop, but then these notebooks tend not to be lightweight or sleek like the Extreme.

With a large 80 watt-hour battery, the Extreme lasted seven hours and 40 minutes in the video-loop battery test. This is impressive for a 15-inch laptop.

Verdict: Those who crave more performance from work computers will be delighted with the lightweight yet capable ThinkPad X1 Extreme.

ST Tech Editor's Choice

SPECS

Price: $2,929

Processor: Intel Core i7-8750H (2.2GHz)

Graphics: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 Ti 4GB GDDR5 with Max-Q design

RAM: 16GB DDR4

Screen size: 15.6 inches, 1,920 x 1,080 pixels

Connectivity: 2 x USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3, 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1, HDMI, network extension, smart card reader, SD card reader, audio jack

Battery: 80 watt-hour

RATINGS

Features: 4/5

Design: 4.5/5

Performance: 4/5

Value for money: 3/5

Battery life: 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5