We tested and compared the Lenovo ThinkPad P53 versus ThinkPad X1 Extreme in terms of Display Quality, Weight, Performance, Price, Battery life & more.
Above you can see the Ranking with the test results and below you will find the in-depth reports of each ThinkPad Laptop.
Ranking First: Lenovo ThinkPad P53 (2020)
- Best GPU / computing power performance
- Bright & color rich 1080p Display
- Outstanding keyboard
- More expensive than ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Is the Quadro RTX 5000 too much? Lenovo now offers the new ThinkPad P53 with the high-end Nvidia Quadro RTX 5000 GPU, which is often reserved for larger devices. Cooling in Lenovo’s workstation also reaches its limits, which also affects CPU performance. Update: Wi-Fi 6 results added
With the ThinkPad P53, Lenovo offers a classic 15.6-inch mobile workstation. Classic in the sense that we’re not dealing with an especially thin and light representative like the ThinkPad P1 2019. In return, we get faster components (especially on the GPU side), more connections and more expansion possibilities.
The ThinkPad P53 starts at $2000, but there are hardly any limits on the upper end.
Design & Ports / Interfaces
Professional models usually follow a two-year cycle when it comes to case updates. However, this doesn’t apply to Lenovo’s ThinkPad P-5x series, as last year’s P52 was also more a facelift than a complete update. It’s the same with the current ThinkPad P53, at least externally. Apart from differences in the connections, the look of the new P53 with the black plastic surfaces is unchanged. However, a lot has changed under the hood, because a lot of things have been redesigned here.
This didn’t have any negative effects on the stability and the workmanship, though, as the ThinkPad P53 is still an extremely stable device without workmanship flaws. The base unit can’t be twisted or noticeably dented and there are also no annoying creaking noises. The two hinges are very tight and can easily avoid teetering, but they can’t hold the screen lid at small opening angles and it collapses.
The lid itself is especially noticeable with its extremely wide edges; the P53 hasn’t heard of the slim bezel trend yet. The lid itself isn’t quite as torsionally stiff as the base unit, of course, but there aren’t any problems with stability here either. So, overall a good performance, but the cases in HP’s competitors and especially Dell (a lot of metal and rubberized surfaces) look even more valuable.
There are no changes to the predecessor in terms of dimensions and the weight has also hardly changed (there can be configuration-related differences here). However, the choice of screen is once again an important aspect, as the versions with matt screens weigh around 0.88 lbs less than the models with reflective panels. But this is only the case with the ThinkPad P53 if you choose the 4K OLED screen.
There are some differences in the connections and their positioning compared to the old ThinkPad P52. On the left side there is the HDMI 2.0 output (previously on the back), two normal USB-A ports and the two card readers. The slot for the nano-SIM card has now moved to the left side and is thus much easier to access than before in the battery slot. There is also a USB-C connector (Gen.1) here.
The two full-size Thunderbolt 3 connectors are still on the back. The distribution is altogether tidy, even if the missing USB-A on the right side can possibly be disturbing. The connections are now in any case further apart than before, so there are no problems even with thicker plugs.
Update 11/14/2019: We have now carried out our standardized WiFi test with a new router (Netgear Nighthawk RAX120), which can also exploit the potential of the Intel AX200 WiFi card. We determined average values of more than 1.4 GBit/s for both sending and receiving. Those who have a corresponding server can thus benefit from a significantly higher transmission speed. This also increases the connectivity rating, but has no influence on the overall result (rounded).
On the bottom there is a large maintenance flap, which is only secured with a few cross screws and can be easily removed. You get access to the most important things, including two of the four RAM slots, the three M.2-2280 slots, the battery and the communication modules. However, WWAN is not prepared in our model, so the necessary antennas are missing, which is incomprehensible to us.
For access to further components, the laptop has to be further disassembled, for which we recommend a look at the manufacturer’s hardware maintenance manual or the service videos, which are available on the manufacturer’s support page.
Keyboard & Touchpad
If you compare the ThinkPad P52 and the ThinkPad P53, you might not notice any difference in the keyboard at first glance. And yet Lenovo has reworked the keyboard, even if only a few details. The key data remains the same, it’s still a “chiclet” style keyboard with six rows of keys and a dedicated number pad on the right side, so that the main keypad is slightly shifted to the left.
In comparison to the Thinkpad P52, it has shrunk slightly in width, so that some keys, like the umlauts, are now smaller. Thus, the keyboard frame is a bit wider to the left and right of the keyboard. This seems relatively nonsensical, as there would be enough room for a full-size keyboard.
However, a look at the P53’s parts lists gives an indication as to why Lenovo has made this change: The ThinkPad P53 now contains the same keyboard as other 2018 ThinkPads – the previous models still contained a special keyboard that was only used in the ThinkPad P series. So this is a cost-cutting measure.
However, we’re wondering why Lenovo has shrunk the main keypad instead of the number pad – the smaller keys are sometimes a bit annoying when typing, while a smaller number pad wouldn’t cause any problems in use.
Apart from that, the backlight keyboard’s quality (three levels: off, weak and stronger) is beyond any doubt. The slightly concave keys have a comparatively long stroke of 1.7 mm and an excellent pressure point, making typing on the keyboard very pleasant.
Like the keyboard, both mouse replacements have been slightly reworked. The touchpad is slightly larger because Lenovo has removed the space between the touchpad surface and the TrackPoint keys. The plastic touch surface now measures 10 x 6 cm. However, Lenovo sticks to the traditional touchpad construction, which no other current ThinkPad offers: There are three dedicated touchpad buttons underneath the touch surface.
Overall, the touchpad works very well, just like its corresponding keys. The software implementation is almost perfect thanks to Microsoft’s precision touchpad driver. It would be nice if Lenovo could switch to a glass surface for the touchpad – that would at least be appropriate for a laptop in this price range. But in principle, this is criticism on a high level.
Apart from the touchpad, the typical red Lenovo TrackPoint is of course also included in the package, which is a very good alternative to the touchpad.
Although Lenovo is now using a new version of the TrackPoint, in which the TrackPoint pen is not as high as in previous models, this doesn’t change much, but it doesn’t change the fact that Lenovo’s implementation of the “Pointing Stick” is still the best on the market.
There were some changes in the screens and overall the quality was improved compared to the previous year. There is still a Full-HD panel with 300 nits brightness as standard, which we also tested in the ThinkPad P52. Moreover, three more panels are available for selection this year:
- Full HD HDR 400 (matt, IPS, 500 nits, 72% NTSC)
- 4K UHD HDR 400 (matt, IPS, 500 nits, 100% NTSC)
- 4K UHD HDR 500 (glossy, OLED, 350-400 Nits, 100% DCI-P3)
Thus, there is finally a better Full-HD variant, which is also in our test device. The matt 4K screen has also become brighter, and the OLED panel is completely new. The subjective impression of the Full-HD screen is very good. Despite the matt coating, there is no grainy image impression even with bright content.
The readings support the impression, even if we can only confirm the advertised brightness in the middle of the picture. The contrast ratio is more than 1,400:1, which contributes to the plastic image impression.
But there are two negative aspects: Specially in the maximum brightness, one recognizes some halos in dark pictures, moreover, the brightness levels are not linearly graded.
The brightness already drops from 510 to only 236 nits at 90% and already to 149 nits at 80%. From a brightness level of 77% or less, we also measure a flickering of the backlight. But it’s not a classic PWM with the extremely high frequency of 26 kHz.
The color temperature is a bit too cool on delivery and there is a minimal blue cast, but we can remove this with our calibration (i1 Pro 2). But the colors and the gray tones are also ok without calibration. But one should calibrate the panel if one wants to work as colour accurate as possible. Due to the incomplete sRGB coverage, the image processing is indeed possible, but for this purpose there are better options.
Outdoors, the matte panel of course profits from the high maximum brightness, so that one can also work in very bright environments. If you align the screen sensibly, even sunshine, as in our pictures, is no obstacle. The IPS panel produces a reasonable picture from all angles.
Lenovo offers a wide range of components for the ThinkPad P53, so both performance and emissions can vary significantly depending on the configuration chosen. Lenovo’s “intelligent cooling” can no longer be set via the Vantage app on the current models, but via the normal Windows power controller (selected via the battery icon in the system tray).
Lenovo offers various 45 watt processors, starting with a Core i5-9400H with 4 cores, over various i7 models (6 or 8 cores) up to a mobile Xeon processor (6 cores), which then also supports ECC RAM. Our test device uses a strong 6-core CPU with a base clock of 2.6 GHz and a turbo of up to 4.6 GHz with the Core i7-9850H. For further technical details of the 9850H, we refer to our CPU page.
If you’re already using a mobile processor of the last generation, the performance differences are rather small overall, as not much has changed in the cooling, either. Thicker workstations like the P53 often have an advantage in this area in comparison to the slimmer versions, such as the ThinkPad P1, especially under sustained load.
You can also see this very nicely in our Cinebench loop (R15 Multi), where the thin ThinkPad P1 works about 14 percent slower on average with the same processor. The Core i7-9850H in our ThinkPad P53 reaches a very good 1,230 points in the first run, but then settles down in the further course at around 1,100 points. Thus, it is also slightly ahead of the old ThinkPad P52, but has to admit defeat to the Precision 7530.
Lenovo sets the two power limits for the processor with 90 watts (short-term) and 60 watts (long-term) very generously. We also actually see a consumption of up to 89 watts at 6x 3.7-4.1 GHz on a cold device, but only for a few seconds. After that, the value settles down at around 54 watts, which corresponds to 6x 3.3-3.4 GHz. In the Cinebench loop the average values are: 53 watts consumption, 95.3 °C processor temperature, 3.4 GHz clock. There would certainly be more potential here, but under pure CPU load the cooling remains very reserved (only really audible after about 7 minutes).
Due to these observations, the i7-9850H is therefore not worthwhile in comparison to the “normal” i7-9750H, as the performance will turn out practically identical. The optional Core i9-9880H is especially worthwhile if you can use all 16 threads, but you won’t be able to exploit the full potential of the processor here either.
The Xeon E-2276M (6 cores) isn’t nominally the fastest processor anymore (only in single-core mode) and is actually only worthwhile if you also want to use ECC RAM.
In battery mode, the CPU behavior is basically identical, but there are always short clock speed reductions, which also affects the results. In the CB R15 single test it’s only 183 instead of 196 points; in the multi test 969 instead of 1.230 points.
As expected, our ThinkPad P53’s tester scores very well in the synthetic PCMark 10 and the SSD tests. The used Samsung M.2 PCIe SSD P981a offers a storage capacity of 1 TB (903 GB free after the first use) and is one of the fastest drives on the market.
In practice, the mobile workstation enables very smooth operation with fast reaction times and without significant waiting times. During the test we also couldn’t find any problems (e.g. hangers, bluescreens).
Nvidia offers various performance versions of the Quadro RTX 5000, and it wasn’t at all easy to find out which model is in the ThinkPad P53. According to our information, it’s a normal RTX 5000 (without the special Max-Q label), but it’s the slowest 80 watt version. An overview of the different versions can be found on our corresponding GPU page.
Quite simply formulated, only the core clock, which is indicated for our model with 600 MHz (default) and/or 1,350 MHz (boost), differs. However, we can give a little all-clear here, because in the pure GPU benchmarks we actually always see at least 1.350 MHz and in the GPU benchmarks usually around 1.450 MHz; the peak value was even at 1.770 MHz. The RTX 5000 can therefore work faster with sufficient cooling.
What does this mean for performance now? We’re a bit away from the performance of a full-fledged Quadro RTX 5000, which you only get in larger 17-inch units, but the 80-watt version is still minimally faster than the regular Quadro RTX 4000. That’s an enormous amount in a 15-inch workstation and also significantly better than the Quadro P3200 in the predecessor ThinkPad P52.
The ThinkPad P53 passes the 3DMark Time Spy stress test with 97%, so the GPU performance remains stable even under longer load. Away from the socket, however, a performance loss of about 70% (6,999 vs. 2,051 points @Time Spy Graphics) occurs.
The Quadro RTX 5000 is also very suitable for gaming. We only had a problem with Anno 1800 in the 4K preset in our gaming benchmarks because the game repeatedly crashed there. Otherwise, the Quadro driver from Nvidia worked very well.
The RTX 5000 is actually already too powerful for the native screen resolution, and you can also play smoothly in the newest games with the maximum details. The performance also remains constant during gaming, as our Witcher 3 long-term test shows.
Noise & temperature levels
In Lenovo’s current workstation models we can see that the fan control is rather defensively designed and only slowly increases the speed under load. It’s the same with the current P53, which even with the powerful Quadro RTX 5000 needs a few minutes before you can really hear the fans. The device actually always remains silent under low load.
The maximum level, which we reach both during gaming and in our stress test, is just 38.3 dB(A). This is of course good on the one hand, but there would certainly be some reserves here, for example to allow a better utilization of the CPU power.
The device can be made even quieter by choosing a different energy profile (Windows power controller), for example, the level in the stress test is reduced from 38.3 dB(A) (best performance) to 33.3 dB(A) (better performance) or 32.2 dB(A) (more battery efficiency).
The mobile workstation’s surface temperatures remain uncritical even under load, but you should use the device on a table and not on your thighs if possible. The keyboard also warms up, but that hardly disturbs typing. Considering the performance, this is a good result.
In the stress test, it becomes clear that Lenovo prioritizes GPU performance because the Quadro RTX 5000’s clock rate stays in the range of the regular boost value (~1,350-1,440 MHz) even under combined load. This is of course a good result for a 15-inch workstation with such a powerful GPU, but at the same time it comes at the expense of the processor.
After a few minutes, the processor may only use 30 watts, which is only enough for 6x 2.1 GHz. We would have liked a bit more balance here and at least a permanent consumption at the nominal 45 watts.
When choosing a weaker graphic card, the cooling should have more leeway for the processor, but we can’t confirm this at this point.
Not much has changed with the speakers. There are still two stereo modules with 2 watts each, which neither become particularly loud nor sound good. Speech intelligibility is good, but we recommend headphones or external speakers for music or videos.
The manufacturer currently proves that Lenovo can build in good loudspeakers with the X1 Extreme, but apparently this feature isn’t particularly important for workstation customers.
The 90-Wh battery allows very good runtimes in the range of 10-11 hours in WiFi or video tests. If you use the maximum brightness, you can still expect about 8-9 hours.
Overall very good rates, even if these won’t probably play a major role in most cases on a large 15 inch workstation. There are still about 2 hours under load, but with reduced performance.
These results are likely to worsen considerably when choosing a 4K or even OLED screen. The 230 watt power supply doesn’t quite need 2 hours for the charging process (with the device turned on), whereby the first 80% is already available after 60 minutes.
The ThinkPad P53 is still a classic mobile workstation that doesn’t pay much attention to current trends towards thinner cases and screen edges. In return, however, there is a very stable case, many ports, decent upgrade options and very powerful components, especially in the graphics area.
Nothing has changed from the outside in comparison to last year’s ThinkPad P52, but there have been changes under the hood. The highlight is now the stronger graphics cards (Quadro RTX 4000 & 5000), which are often only reserved for larger 17 inch workstations.
However, we have to express criticism at this point, because the customer doesn’t know which version of the graphic card he’ll get. Neither Nvidia nor Lenovo state that it is the slowest 80 watt version. A slower version should also be used in the RTX 4000. All in all, the graphics performance is still impressive.
Bright 1080p screen, modern connections, excellent input devices and massive performance: The ThinkPad P53 is a very mature product and doesn’t afford any real weaknesses. Merely with a simultaneous load on the CPU & GPU, we would have wished for a better cooling optimization.
This brings us to another problem, the cooling. First of all, we like the defensive fan control, so the fans don’t start immediately under short load. However, the device comes to its limits when the CPU & GPU are under load at the same time, as the processor performance is significantly reduced here. Quiet fans are good, but if you choose such fast components in this segment, you want to make the best possible use of their performance.
The cooling would certainly still have potential upwards, even if this would lead to somewhat noisier fans. We can only guess at this point how other configurations of the P53 will perform. Especially with smaller GPUs (RTX 3000 or T-series) the CPU utilization should be better.
Analog to many other current ThinkPads, Lenovo has significantly upgraded the display selection. An IPS panel with 300 Nits is still built in as standard, but there is now finally a better and above all brighter 1080p model. Lenovo also offers two high-resolution versions (4K-IPS and 4K-OLED), so every user should find the right model here.
All in all, this is criticism on a very high level, because the ThinkPad P53 doesn’t reveal any real weak points and rightly receives an excellent rating, which is why the Lenovo ThinkPad P53 is ranking first vs ThinkPad X1 Extreme.
Ranking Second: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020)
- Good computing power
- Cheaper price than ThinkPad P53
- Lightweight & Outstanding keyboard
- Battery life only average
The Thinkpad X1 Extreme is the notebook that can do everything: High processing power, huge resolution, many ports, light and slim. The new 2019 model in test.
Lenovo updates the work/fun/mobility machine Thinkpad X1 Extreme with a new CPU, new graphics card and makes the notebook about 0.22 lbs lighter than last year’s predecessor.
But the basic orientation doesn’t change: The X1 Extreme wants to be a notebook for all tasks – for texts and tables, of course, but also for the newly discovered target group of digital creators, i.e. users who need high computing power for photo and video editing and rendering, and even gamers want the Thinkpad to satisfy.
And everything is packed into a stable, under 20 millimeter thin case, which however offers as many connections as a large notebook.
Display & Performance
Lenovo completes this total package with useful details: The display can be opened up to 180 degrees so that everyone present in a meeting can have a look at the screen content. The front camera is covered by a mechanical shutter, and even more security is provided by biometric registration via face recognition and fingerprint as well as a smart card reader.
The new X1 Extreme makes the leap from the eighth to the ninth core generation in terms of processor: But the technical differences between the Core i7-9750H and the predecessor Core i7-8750H are minimal, the newer six-core offers a slightly higher standard and turbo clock and a larger cache. In practice, this doesn’t help the 2019-X1, because the CPU can’t run as fast as in the 2018 model: In Cinebench R15, for example, the new processor is about 10 percent slower.
On the other hand, the fan is quieter: It starts up quickly under load, but keeps the CPU temperature stable at 80 to 85 degrees with a speed of around 4400 and makes an audible noise, but not disturbingly loud or high-pitched.
The disadvantage of the reduced fan activity: During longer load phases, isolated warmer hotspots form on the underside of the case, where the laptop warms up to almost 50 degrees – which only bothers users who place it on their thighs.
Hardware & Ports
Nevertheless, the overall performance of the new X1 is higher than the predecessor: The NVMe-SSD Samsung PM981a is a bit faster, the GPU Geforce GTX 1650 stronger. However, ambitious multimedia users must be aware that this graphics card in Max-Q design is inferior to RTX graphics, such as those found in current gaming notebooks, even during image processing or rendering.
But only with a Max-Q GPU is it possible to build a notebook as slim and light as the X1 Extreme – without having to compromise on connectivity: HDMI is available, for example, as well as two USB 3.0’s.
On the left side there are two type C sockets that understand Thunderbolt 3. The card reader, which is connected via PCI Express, accepts standard-sized SD cards. A network cable can be connected via an adapter to the proprietary mini-LAN socket on the left side of the X1.
Keyboard, Battery life & Features
Lenovo already uses the new Wifi-6 standard for WiFi: the notebook contains the 11ax WiFi module AX200 from Intel. Lenovo in the US currently offers the X1 Extreme with a non-reflective Full-HD-IPS display in 10-bit HDR or an OLED touchscreen with 4K resolution.
However, a matt UHD display with IPS technology was built into our test device – this display option is offered in the US. Due to the used panel with 10-bit HDR, the measured values of the tested X1 should be close to the offered Full-HD display despite the lower resolution: The brightness is quite high at just over 400 cd/m², which allows pleasant screen work even outdoors thanks to the anti-glare surface. The contrast is good, but not outstanding due to the fairly high black value.
The X1’s color space coverage of 99 percent sRGB and 96 percent Adobe-RGB deserves this praise, which the Lenovo notebook recommends for photo editors: “They’ll be annoyed about the inflexible brightness control, though: Even one level below the maximum brightness of 400 cd/m², the X1 only shows a luminance of around 200 cd/m².
Office workers get one of the best notebook keyboards in the X1: Those who write a lot and persistently will appreciate the clear pressure feedback as well as the soft pressure point, the keyboard that is quiet at all times and stable everywhere, and the non-slip touchpad. As always with the Thinkpad, there is also a trackpoint, which proves its worth when you have to retire the mouse pointer with absolute precision.
The high UHD resolution in the test device strongly pulls on the battery, which is why users who want to be on the road a lot with the X1 are recommended to choose the Full-HD variant. Therefore, a rather meager 5.5 hours of runtime remain in the WiFi test with a brightness of 200 cd/m².
Prices for the new X1 Extreme start at $2000 with a Core i5-9300H, 8 GB RAM, 256 GB SSD, Full-HD display and Windows 10 Home. The most recommendable variant with a Core i7-9750H, 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD and Windows 10 Pro is available for $2350.
The new generation Thinkpad X1 Extreme remains outstanding and unmatched in combining mobility and computing power – although battery life could be better, which is why the Lenovo Thinkpad X1 Extreme is ranking second vs ThinkPad P53.