We tested and compared the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme versus Dell XPS 15 in terms of Weight, Performance, Price, Display Quality, Battery life & more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the test results and below you will find the in-depth reports of each Workstation Laptop.
Ranking First: Dell XPS 15 (2020)
- Very high CPU performance, perfect for a mobile work station
- Very comfortable keyboard, ideal for long writing sessions
- Very good display & battery life
- More expensive than ThinkPad X1 Extreme
If you are looking for a compact but powerful notebook, you will sooner or later stumble upon the Dell XPS 15. The Dell XPS 15 has been considered the flagship Windows notebook for years.
Accordingly, the XPS 15 model series is also diligently updated and improved by Dell.
The new Dell XPS 15 7590 was finally released in mid-2019. On paper, it certainly has a few new features. There are new CPUs with up to 8 cores and up to 5GHz, a new stronger GPU, an improved webcam and various new display options.
What has remained is the compact form factor, the good port selection and the strong battery.
But how does it look in practice? Is the Dell XPS 15 7590 still a good choice in 2019? Let’s find this out in the review!
Design & Ports
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it” seems to be Dell’s motto for the new XPS 15 7590. Dell apparently uses the same case for this one as it has already used for the XPS 15 in the past few years.
On the one hand this is of course a bit boring, but on the other hand the case of the XPS 15 is still pleasantly modern and chic!
The most important thing is clearly the display. Dell was one of the first manufacturers to rely on an almost borderless display in notebooks, which is of course still the case.
The frames around the 15.6 inch panel can also be described as super slim with a few mm on the XPS 15 7590. This makes it already look very modern.
A big disadvantage of this design was the webcam, which could not be positioned at the top edge. But this is one of the points that Dell has now changed in the XPS 15 7590 compared to its predecessors. The webcam sits in its optimal place centrally above the display.
The XPS 15 generally turns out very compact due to these very narrow display bezels.
It is one of the most compact 15 inch notebooks currently on the market with a width of only 357mm and a depth of 235mm. Also the thickness, which varies between 11mm and 17mm, is very small!
The 2KG weight is certainly also quite light for a 15 inch notebook, but also not quite top class. Here you can find notebooks which are built a bit lighter.
However, the XPS 15 7590 in return is very massive! As usual, Dell relies on a mixture of aluminum for the bottom and top side (display) and carbon fiber reinforced plastic for the interior.
Both the plastic inside, as well as the outer aluminum look quite thick and massive. The XPS 15 7590 can’t be bent or dented! You can’t build such a notebook much more stable.
Surely, one can argue if a complete aluminum construction wouldn’t be even better, but the plastic for the wrist-rest has a great practical advantage.
For one thing, the wrist-rest warms up much less, and for another, it feels very soft and pleasant during longer typing. Also you won’t get stripes when resting your wrists, as it is often the case with hard aluminium edges.
Only with the durability I am a bit torn. No, the carbon fiber reinforced plastic won’t break, but Dell uses a kind of soft-touch surface here. This tends to look dirty quite quickly.
What about the connections?
On the left side we find the power adapter connector, a USB A 3.0 port, an HDMI 2.0 output, a Thunderbolt 3 port and the 3.5mm headset connector.
Another USB A 3.0 port is on the right side, together with a large SD card reader.
- 2x USB A 3.0 (5Gbit)
- 1x USB C Thunderbolt 3
- 1x HDMI 2.0
- 1x SD card reader
- 1x 3,5 headphone jack
I think the Dell XPS 15 7590 has a pretty perfect port configuration for a compact model!
The XPS 15 7590 is available with three display options, Full HD IPS, 4K IPS and OLED. I decided to go for the normal Full HD version.
Excitingly, Dell doesn’t use the same Full HD panel here as on the older XPS 15 models. So Dell advertises the display as “IPS, HS LED, Infinity HD, low-reflection”. HS LED seems to mean as much here as especially bright, as the new panel is supposed to achieve 500 cd/m² (previously 400 cd/m²).
Subjectively, the XPS 15 7590’s display looks good! This isn’t surprising, since even the Full HD version is a premium notebook.
The picture sharpness fits perfectly, even if 4K at 15 inches seems a bit sharper, colors look clean, even if not “bright”, and the contrast is good!
The fact that the colors don’t bang so loud is surely also due to the matt panel, which really does a good job of avoiding reflections. I would even say this is one of the best matte panels I have seen so far when it comes to reflections. The brightness and contrast is very positive! Both are also confirmed by the measured values.
The Dell XPS 15 7590 achieves an excellent contrast of up to 1020:1 and a maximum brightness of 497 cd/m², which I consider the manufacturer’s specifications to be fulfilled.
With a 94% coverage of the sRGB color space and 71% of Adobe RGB, the Full HD panel also doesn’t show any bareness here. Yes, there’s still some room for improvement here, but for simple photo/video editing on the go, these values are completely suitable.
Especially since the panel is perfectly calibrated by default! I could measure a Delta E of less than 1! Here Dell has done a perfect job. So even the normal Full HD panel is suitable for photo and video editing.
The Dell XPS 15 has two speakers, which are mounted on the front. Qualitatively, I’m a bit torn by these back and forth.
On the one hand the speakers are super clear and clean, on the other hand there is almost 0 bass. The speakers of the XPS 15 can’t keep up with an Apple MacBook Pro or similar models.
The XPS 15 has rather good smartphone speakers. In everyday use, it’s quite sufficient, but with still a lot of air to the top!
Keyboard & Touchpad
One of the great strengths of the Dell XPS series are the input devices. Especially the keyboard of the Dell XPS 15 7590 is world class!
Dell relies on a “normal” chiclet keyboard with white backlight in the XPS 15. The XPS 15 doesn’t have a number pad, even if there might have been room for it! Instead, Dell has centered the keyboard.
But the keyboard itself is top quality! The keys have a very nice firm and precise pressure point. The stroke is also great. Thus, the keyboard deck can’t be pressed through or even pressed in at all. The layout is an industry standard for a QWERTY keyboard. So if you write a lot on your notebook, the XPS 15 is perfect for you.
The trackpad is also good. The size is comfortable and the tracking is precise. No this is not on Apple MacBook level, but it is one of the best you can find in a Windows notebook.
My test device of the XPS 15 7590 has the top equipment. The core is the Intel Core i9-9980HK. This is the currently strongest mobile CPU from Intel, which offers 8 cores and up to 5Ghz. As usual, the basic clock rate is significantly lower with 2.4Ghz.
Besides the Intel Core i9-9980HK, the XPS 15 is also available with the i7-9750H (6 cores) or the i5-9300H (4 cores). Quite clearly, the i7-9750H is usually the most sensible choice for the XPS 15 7590, partly due to temperature problems.
The i7 and i9 are each combined with an Nvidia GTX 1650. The GTX 1650 is a current midrange Nvidia GPU based on the Turing architecture, which is also used in high-end cards.
The Nvidia GTX 1650 isn’t directly intended as a gaming graphics card; it is rather found at the lower end of the current performance spectrum. Nevertheless, compared to an onboard graphic card, it still represents a massive performance leap!
The benchmarks look reasonable! However, we also see first signs of possible temperature problems. For example, the XPS 15 7590 places itself behind the ASUS ROG Strix Scar III in my Video Encoding Test, although the i9-9880H is slower on paper than the XPS i9-9980HK. However, the Intel Core i9-9980HK is still faster even a well cooled i7-8750H or i7-9750H in this quite practical test.
The Intel Core i9-9980HK really shows its muscles in shorter test sequences, where traditionally the temperature isn’t quite as relevant!
In Cinebench R15, the XPS 15 7590 downright outclasses the competition! In the newer Cinebench R20, this is not quite as pronounced, but here you can also see that the XPS 15 has power.
With the SSD in the XPS 15 7590 we see an old acquaintance. Dell once again uses the Toshiba XG6 M.2 NVMe SSD “kxg60znv512g”. At least in the model with the 512GB version.
Dell advertises “performance SSD” in the models with 1TB or 2TB SSDs. So, another model is probably built in here.
But isn’t the Toshiba XG6 a performance SSD?
The 512GB Toshiba XG6 is also a performance SSD with 3000MB/s reading and 2700MB/s! A much faster SSD can’t be built in here.
The same applies to the WLAN card. The XPS 15 7590 uses a “Killer Wireless 1650” WLAN card. Normally I’m always very careful with Killer Wireless cards, there were some bad models here!
But the Killer Wireless 1650 is great! It is based on the very good Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 and offers up to 2404Mbit in the new WLAN 6 “ax” standard.
Paired with a good WLAN router, we can see here three digit transfer rates (100MB/s+). Only the drivers still seem a bit bitchy at the moment.
The Dell XPS 15 7590 is certainly not a gaming notebook, but the GTX 1650 should allow us to play some games, right?
The XPS 15 7590 achieves 30 FPS on average in all of the titles I tested, with maximum details and Full HD resolution. Compared to other notebooks, the GTX 1650 +- ranks on the level of the GTX 1060.
Info! Out of the box my XPS 15 had to fight with massive throttling of the GPU up to 300Mhz. This made it impossible to play games on the XPS 15. But Dell has now fixed this problem via BIOS Update (from 31.07)! If you have similar problems, check which BIOS version you have.
Noise & temperature levels
Cooling has always been a certain problem with the XPS 15, so it is still a problem with the XPS 15 7590. If we put the Intel Core i9-9980HK under full load, it reaches 100 degrees in less than a second.
In order not to overheat, it starts to reduce its clock rate. The clock rate usually drops immediately to 3.2-3.4Ghz and settles down to 2.4 to 3Ghz under constant full load, at a temperature of 8x degrees.
This is of course a bit far away from the maximum possible 5Ghz, but the clock rate remains constant at or above the basic clock rate of the i9-9980HK, which is 2.4Ghz.
Theoretically, the XPS 15 7590 doesn’t overheat, but in practice it doesn’t reach the full potential of the i9-9980HK either.
We see very different temperatures and clock rates in games where the graphics card is also loaded.
The Nvidia GTX 1650 keeps itself at 68-75 degrees and a clock rate of +- 1550Mhz (1590Mhz maximum).
The CPU also fluctuates a bit (I’ve seen everything from 2.4 to 4.2GHz), depending on how demanding the game is, but doesn’t fall below the basic clock rate, unless the game doesn’t put enough load on the CPU.
Surely one reason for the high temperatures are the fans. The XPS 15 is completely silent in idle! But even under full load the notebook is only quietly humming. If we compare this to a Razer Blade, it’s a difference like day and night.
The XPS 15’s fans just seem to be optimized for silent operation, even when they are running at full speed.
Dell XPS 15: Full HD or OLED Display?
One of the great new features of the Dell XPS 15 7590 is clearly the optional OLED display. OLED displays are still an absolute specialty and novelty in notebooks. So how come that suddenly the XPS 15, Razer Blade etc. are available with OLED panels?
Very simple, Samsung has launched a suitable 15 inch OLED panel for notebooks on the world market, which is now used by various manufacturers. So you can be quite sure that currently all 15 inch notebooks with OLED display use the same panel from Samsung.
Accordingly, the picture quality is on a very similar level for all models. Yes, the OLED panel in the XPS 15 7590 looks outstanding and will be one of the best OLED panels in the world!
Even bigger problems like burn-in are not to be expected. Samsung promises that this is not a problem here and I think Samsung can be trusted.
Why did I still decide against the OLED panel?
This one has a massive disadvantage and that is the battery life! If you choose the Full HD panel, the XPS 15 7590 should last a full 20.5 hours in Word, Excel, etc. according to Dell. If you choose the 4K IPS panel, the runtime drops to 13.22 hours and with the OLED panel to 7.23 hours.
According to Dell, the XPS 15 with Full HD display has a 2.8x better battery life than the OLED version. If you consider that Dell has certainly tested “optimally” (no background programs, minimum display brightness, etc.), it could be that the OLED version lasts for 5-6 hours in normal everyday use, which is okay, but also not good.
How can that be? OLED displays need a lot of energy when they have to display bright colors (or white). With a regular IPS panel it doesn’t matter what is shown on the picture.
However, most websites and documents (Word/Excel) have a white background. Therefore the OLED panel needs much more power than the Full HD or regular 4K version.
In Dell’s Netflix test, however, the OLED version and the 4K IPS version are on the same level, which makes sense. Movies usually have a lot of black and darkness, in which an OLED panel needs much less energy.
In short, you put emphasis on the battery life, then choose the Full HD XPS 15! If you still want the OLED version, which I can understand, switch everything to “Dargmode”, which is possible. This saves energy.
This brings us to the XPS 15’s battery life with a Full HD panel and the large 97 Wh battery.
The notebook’s battery is as big as possible with 97Wh! If the battery were even bigger, you wouldn’t be allowed to take the XPS 15 into an airplane (100Wh is the limit here). Such a large battery is always a good sign concerning the runtime.
Dell gives the XPS 15 a runtime of 20.5 hours for Word use and 14.5 hours for video playback.
Unfortunately I can’t confirm this information! Maybe if you set the display to minimum brightness, turn off WLAN, close all background programs and only marvel at a static Word window. Runtimes in Dell’s size specification would possibly be possible here. But this is not practical.
I could reach about 11.5 hours in an office use and about 9.5 hours in a video playback (YouTube). These rates can perhaps be improved a bit with a little optimization, but these are the runtimes you can expect.
The XPS 15 gets bonus points for the possibility to recharge via Powerbank! If you have a Powerbank with 45W or more power on the USB C port you can use it to power the XPS 15.
The Dell XPS 15 is not a perfect notebook, but it is probably the best option on the market if you are looking for the combination of a reliable, fast, compact and battery-powered notebook and don’t want to play games!
Let’s start with the weaknesses of the Dell XPS 15 7590, the most important weakness being the cooling.
In my case, the Intel Core i9-9980HK has to throttle down quite a bit in order not to overheat. Nevertheless, the Intel Core i9-9980HK is still significantly faster than an i9-8950HK, i7-8750H etc., even if they are well cooled. So I can forgive the XPS for this. CPU power the XPS 15 7590 has more than enough!
The second slightly smaller negative point are the speakers. These are sufficiently clear and clean, but when it comes to the bass they are quite weak. Not the end of the world, but here is more!
That’s it in negative points. Let’s get to the plus points.
Although the i9-9980HK isn’t optimally cooled in the XPS 15, it still delivers good, if not outstanding performance! Hardly more performance is possible in a notebook than here in the XPS 15, especially not in such a compact case. Productive applications really fly! I have never had a notebook with Adobe Lightroom running as well as the XPS 15.
You can work or be productive on the XPS 15 7590 very well, thanks to a strong keyboard, very long battery life and last but not least a good display. Even the simple Full HD panel already looks good enough for photo and video editing and is also very well calibrated. Surely you want studio quality, a large monitor makes sense, but on the go the XPS 15 is great for a preview or first editing.
The last big plus point is clearly the case. It is very compact for a 15 inch monitor and at the same time incredibly valuable. The Dell XPS 15 is a very massive and stable notebook without being too heavy. The wrist-rest also feels very pleasant when typing, much more comfortable than in most aluminum notebooks.
In short, for someone looking for a powerful Work Station that is also easily portable, allows you to play a game here and there and offers good battery life, the Dell XPS 15 7590 is a great notebook!
It’s always difficult to reproduce the Office desktop experience with a Laptop. But the XPS 15 7590 is close to the perfect notebook, which is why the Dell XPS 15 is ranking first vs ThinkPad X1 Extreme.
Ranking Second: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020)
- First class display
- Better price than Dell XPS 15
- Balanced cooling system & lightweight + slim
- Only average battery life
- Power Limit Throttling
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme has now had a few weeks as my work tool and daily companion. During this time I was able to test and try out a lot – you can find out how it did in the test.
This is where the true strength of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme lies. The 4K UHD touch display built into our test model is in one word: Great. The color display is excellent, the color accuracy couldn’t be better, the viewing angles are more than generous. The recognition of touch input is also excellent, although the sense of the touch display in a “normal” notebook isn’t really apparent to me.
However, since the non-touch display only relies on a 1080p 8-bit panel, the touch version is the only sensible option for graphic artists and designers who are looking for the most accurate color representation possible. Thanks to the anti-reflective coating, the display is even easy to read when used outdoors.
The only catch on the 4K panel is the scaling within Windows 10, which can cause problems from time to time. This is not due to the X1 Extreme, but it should be mentioned anyway. Applications that are not designed for the high pixel density could cause problems.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The discreetly illuminated keypad is – as usual for other ThinkPad models – one of the X1 Extreme’s highlights. The clearly delineated keys shine with a non-slip surface, great stroke and a pleasant counterpressure. Neither the Dell XPS 15 nor the MacBook Pro 16 can keep up with this. It’s just a pity that Lenovo doesn’t have a separate number pad – such a one is actually standard on a 15 incher.
After all, the mouse replacement with separate keys turns out very large. It also responds reliably to input and doesn’t start to stick unpleasantly even with fast movements. If you don’t want to take your finger off the keyboard while typing, you can use the familiar red trackpoint as a mouse substitute.
Of course, benchmarks should not be missing at this point. As mentioned in the video, I have of course run a whole series of tests to show the performance. What the results show quite well is that the X1 Extreme can score especially in the area of productivity. The SSD is extremely fast, the card reader is fast, the CPU runs really smoothly, there’s no real reason to complain.
The only thing you notice is that the system is not designed for gaming. A clearly cheaper Lenovo Legion Y530 with a similar base – but with the GTX 1050Ti without Max-Q – achieves noticeably more FPS in games. Since gaming is also not the main focus of the X1 Extreme, I think this can be tolerated.
In benchmarks, which then rather refer to the CPU or the general system performance, it can score points. For example, it achieves a result on par with an Intel Core i7-5820K including GTX 970 in the desktop version in the Photoshop benchmark. With significantly lower energy consumption and waste heat.
It also does well in very demanding tasks like video editing. FullHD videos are rendered faster than in real time, the preview runs smoothly and error-free at any time. With 4K data, rendering then takes noticeably longer and doesn’t quite run in real time – but the preview always runs smoothly thanks to the GTX 1050Ti’s hardware acceleration.
The built-in SSD is fast on the move and shouldn’t become a bottleneck. The same applies to peripherals like the SD card reader. Our SD cards could all be accessed at full speed – but due to the lack of a high-end UHS3 card, we unfortunately couldn’t test the upper limit. The usual 90+MB/s cards were no problem though.
All in all, the performance is right and even demanding users should get their money’s worth. Experienced users can still optimize the performance a bit, for example by Undervolting. The system ran stable in my test with up to -180mV.
Due to the Undervolting it runs a bit cooler and quieter, but also better in most tests. Corresponding values are marked with (UV) in the above comparisons. In the test I fixed myself at -150mV – between -150mV and -180mV there was no measurable difference in performance or temperature development any more. But from -185mV the system became unstable and could not be used properly.
Which values can be achieved depends on the processor, within a model there can be large fluctuations. The achieved -180mV is however already an exceptional value, which shows that Lenovo apparently pays attention to the quality of the processors used.
As undervolting brings along an, albeit rather small, danger, there’s no explanation for this at this point. For those who know how it works: Undervolting is only possible via Intel XTU! The UEFI offers no possibility for this.
A lot of power also requires a lot of energy. The battery lasted between 3 and 5.5 hours depending on the system settings. If you put the X1 ExtremE into energy savings mode with a display dimmed to 25 or 50%, the 5 hours should be easily in there.
Absolutely okay for a device of this performance class. If you place great value on battery life instead of performance, it’s better to look elsewhere – for example, at the smaller X1 Carbon.
But if you demand a lot of power from the system, the battery will go down accordingly fast. About one hour of video editing is enough to bring the battery to about 50% capacity.
The 80 Wh battery is also quickly refilled due to Lenovo’s RapidCharge technology. It takes about an hour for the first 70%, and the battery is then completely filled after 1.5 hours. Not bad for a battery of this size. The value can of course also vary, depending on whether the device is used during the charging process or not.
As already said in the video: I see nothing that would speak against the X1 Extreme. Especially someone who uses his notebook for hours every day and needs correspondingly high performance is more willing to pay such a price than someone who only uses it as a mobile typewriter every now and then. Then the X1 Extreme would definitely be too much of a good thing.
In conclusion, the X1 Extreme is definitely a good Laptop for a cheaper price than the Dell XPS 15.
All in all the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is ranking behind vs Dell XPS 15, because the battery life was better with the Dell XPS15.