Over the years, I’ve worked on a wide variety of computers. From top-of-the-line MacBook Pros and custom gaming PCs to my current (albeit modest) Microsoft Surface Pro 6, I’ve bounced around brands and operating systems alike exploring what’s out there. But after testing the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3, I no longer care about other computers. Only this one.
It’s lightning fast, has a smart and durable design, and oh baby, that wondrous 15.6-inch 4K UHD OLED HDR display. Talk about eye candy! The laptop’s 32 GB of RAM and powerful Core i7 processor effortlessly kept up with everything I threw at it day after day. And after spending two weeks with the X1 Extreme, I can definitively say that its only real drawbacks are the disappointing 720p webcam, the lackluster battery life, and the steep price tag.
The laptop is genuinely awesome and a pleasure to use. It has all the features I could ask for, and it never gets in my way. It’s perfect for anyone looking for a dependable, hardworking, and easy to use laptop.
Specs as Reviewed:
- CPU: 10th Generation Intel Core i7 10850H vPro (2.70 GHz, up to 5.10 GHz with Turbo Boost, 6 cores, 12 threads, 12 MB cache)
- RAM: 32 GB DDR4 (2933 MHz)
- Display: 15.6″ 4K UHD OLED Touchscreen with HDR 400 and Dolby Vision, 400 nits
- Storage: 1 TB PCIe SSD
- Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q 4 GB
- Cameras: Hybrid IR & 720p HD
- Ports: 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 1, 2 x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C with Intel Thunderbolt 3 (PD, DP, DT), DisplayPort, 4-in-1 SD card reader, Headphone/mic combo, HDMI 2.0, Kensington lock slot
- Connectivity: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 802.11AX, Bluetooth 5.1
- Audio: Dolby Atmos Speaker
- Dimensions: 14.24 x 9.67 x 0.74 inches
- Weight: 4 lbs.
- Price: $2,182.95
After seeing those specs, it’s understandable why the laptop costs so much; but after using it for two weeks, I don’t even care because I love it. Of course, that’s easy for me to say since it was just shipped to me for testing and I didn’t actually have to pay for it, but I am now considering saving up to buy one of my own, for what it’s worth.
The X1 Extreme is a big laptop, but that’s not a bad thing. It means there’s plenty of room for all of its hardware, ports, and its large screen. Despite measuring 14.24 x 9.67 x 0.74 inches and weighing 4 pounds, the laptop still doesn’t feel gigantic. It has plenty of powerful features, but can still be stowed away in your backpack or messenger bag if you need to use it on the go.
It boasts an array of ports that are actually useful. It has two USB 3.2 Gen 1 ports (always on), and two USB 3.2 Gen 2 ports with Intel Thunderbolt 3 for Power Delivery, Data Transfer, and DisplayPort. It also has a full size 4-in-1 SD card reader, much to the delight of photographers everywhere, an HDMI 2.0 port, a headphone/microphone combo, and support for an RJ45 via Type-C Ethernet adapter that’s sold separately, which is good since it lacks any on-board Ethernet.
Opening up the back of the laptop reveals it has two M.2 SSD drive slots—one empty and one full—so there’s room for you to upgrade or add more storage, should you want to. Both RAM DIMM slots are accessible from the back as well, and you can swap them out easily without a screwdriver. It’ll also be a cinch to repair or replace the battery if needed.
The X1 Extreme also has a few nice extras like a backlit keyboard, a self-healing BIOS, and a Kensington lock slot. It also uses an IR camera and a fingerprint scanner for Windows Hello, for those who are concerned about security. Plus the laptop’s sturdy, high-quality build is solid from every angle. It doesn’t flex or distort, and it’ll stand up to wear and tear over the years.
The laptop follows the lead of its predecessors, keeping the muted ThinkPad aesthetic. The carbon fiber design on the lid has a nice subtle look and it adds some structural integrity, which is always a good thing. And although not everyone is a fan of the way ThinkPads look, I am personally a huge fan. I don’t want a laptop that’s full of flash, I want a laptop that’s powerful and durable. And besides, it’s hard to even think about how the laptop looks once you open the lid and see that beautiful, beautiful screen….
The X1 Extreme’s 15.6-inch 4K OLED HDR touchscreen display is nothing short of delightful. If I didn’t have a big flatscreen in my living room, I’d be perfectly content watching my shows on it because it’s just that good. The bright OLED reaches 400 nits in SDR and 540 nits in HDR. It looks colorful, rich, and gloriously detailed no matter what I’m watching or playing. In fact, I found that both Netflix’s Dolby content and 4K content from The Slow Mo Guys, looked especially remarkable on its Dolby Visual display.
The screen is made of anti-reflective glass and looks bright and crisp in all lighting scenarios. It also has an anti-smudge coating, which is really great considering it’s a touchscreen. Color accuracy is stellar, and color gamut is also decent for the most part. It covers 100% of sRGB, but just 96% of AdobeRGB. This is a negligible detail for most users, but it is noteworthy for creative types.
The screen’s only downside is its 60 Hz refresh rate. This won’t affect most users, but it does mean that the computer isn’t the best choice for serious gamers. Though it handles gameplay just fine, it isn’t the best choice for those wanting a display with a high refresh rate.
The Keyboard and Trackpad
The laptop’s backlit keyboard has a fantastic travel distance and a nice tactile feel. The keys are a little too spaced out for my comfort, at least compared to what I’m used to (Logitech’s MX Keys). But that aside, the Lenovo keyboard feels nice to use. It’s pleasantly quiet and perfectly responsive.
It’s also spill resistant, which is great for clumsy types (or those with kids or pets). I love that it features three super convenient Unified Communication keys (F9-F11), as they allow me to access the notification center and start or stop a call with the press of a button. My only gripe is that the Fn key and Ctrl keys are switched, though you can easily swap them in the BIOS or with a Lenovo driver program.
Staying on brand, the Lenovo X1 Extreme Gen 3 maintains its infamous TrackPoint “nipple mouse” in the center of the keyboard. It’s nice to have for those who like it, and it beats carrying around an actual mouse in your bag.
The glass trackpad is also great. The surface has a nice feel to it, but much of its real estate is taken up by the dedicated buttons, which I don’t think are totally necessary since you can still click or tap on the trackpad. It’s also off-center (to the left), which might bug some, but it’s not so far off center that it’s unusable. It works just fine.
The Camera, Microphone, and Speakers
The X1 Extreme’s unenthusiastic 720p camera barely qualifies to be called high-definition and just seems out of place for the laptop, given how well it delivers on pretty much everything else. During the video calls I made on the laptop, everyone I talked with said it looks blurry. If you’ll be on video calls all the time on this device, you should consider using a separate webcam.
However, the hybrid infrared camera works with Windows Hello biometrics if you want to have some login-based security on your laptop. There’s also the ThinkShutter webcam privacy cover, which is small and never gets in the way. It offers you some peace of mind anytime you’re using the laptop and saves you from having to buy a separate webcam cover.
My coworkers and friends said the laptop’s dual far-field microphones sounded good when used in video calls. You won’t need to buy a separate microphone to use with this laptop, unless you’ll be recording studio-grade audio. The included Lenovo Vantage app also lets you optimize your microphone for (Cortana) voice recognition, and for multiple voices.
The X1’s Dolby Atmos Speaker System is pretty dang nice as well. I spent weeks listening to tunes, playing video games, and watching movies with the downward-firing speakers and was never disappointed. Vocals always sound clear and crisp, as do most genres of music (especially EDM and metal). That said, it could stand to have a heartier bass response and more balanced treble, but overall the audio sounds great for a laptop.
The Performance and Power
Allow me to cut to the chase: I love how powerful this laptop is. It handled everything I threw at it without so much as breaking a sweat. At one point, I had Slack, Spotify, Netflix, YouTube, and Adobe Photoshop all open and running, along with a whopping 32 tabs open in Chrome. It never stuttered for a moment, and the fan never kicked on. The Core i7 just kept up with my ridiculous antics without complaints.
The X1 Extreme’s 10th Generation Intel Core i7 10850H vPro processor is terrific both on paper and in actual use. And paired with 32 GB of memory, it’s up for any task, even those that are fairly processor-intensive. I ran it through the gamut of processor-heavy activities, like editing photos in photoshop, playing a sandbox explosion simulator video game, and playing multiple 4K videos at the same time without a single issue. It was really nice.
And if you don’t mind its limited 60 Hz refresh rate, the laptop is also plenty sufficient for use as a gaming laptop. Otherwise, it handles gaming and other similar tasks with ease. In fact the one singular thing that made the fan kick on in all of my tests was resizing photos and doing more intense stuff in Photoshop. At no point did the laptop ever feel like it was overheating or struggling.
Oh how I wish the X1 Extreme’s battery was better. On days where I had two or three tabs open in Google Chrome along with a chat client, I got an average of just five hours out of it. But its underwhelming battery performance isn’t uncommon for this line of laptops. It seemed to have fared only slightly better than its Gen 2 predecessor, and they both have the same battery.
Under my standard pass-out test—which consisted of running a chat client, a looping YouTube video, 15-20 open Chrome tabs, and Spotify and Adobe Photoshop open—it just barely passed three and a half hours. I kept the screen at medium brightness and the volume in a low to medium range.
Battery life for less demanding users will likely improve by an hour or two, but I’d like to see it be able to keep up with heavier workloads for those who don’t want to be tethered to an outlet all day. But as it is, it’s barely enough to get me through half a work day or a short flight. With all of its high powered components, this shortcoming isn’t shocking, but bad battery life is always disappointing to see on any device.
The included 135-watt slim AC adapter can recharge the battery to 80% capacity in 60 minutes and fully in 90 minutes, which is appreciated. But its proprietary port means you can’t just plug in any old battery bank—you’ll have to use the charger that comes with the laptop. I attempted to charge it with my fastest USB-C battery bank, but the X1 never recognized it.
I Don’t Want to Send This Laptop Back!
After spending two weeks working off of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3, my sentiments echo those of my coworker Michael when he tested the 2nd generation version of this laptop: Please Don’t Make Me Say Goodbye! The laptop’s stellar hardware handled every task (or fleet of tasks) I threw at it, and I love that it never got in my way at any point.
Sure, the laptop lacks the flashiness found in other models, and the webcam quality and weak battery life are off-putting, but the Extreme Gen 3 is the perfect choice for general home office use, as well as for casual gaming and watching videos. Plus it’s not too heavy or bulky, and will easily fit in your bag if you need to take it on the go. I’m gonna have a hard time going back to my Surface Pro 6 after this.
Here’s What We Like
- Stunning 4K OLED touchscreen
- Handles simultaneous demanding programs with ease
- Full-size SD card reader
- Great ThinkPad aesthetics
And What We Don't
- Blurry webcam
- Underwhelming battery life
- Real expensive