Thinkpad X1 Extreme vs MacBook Pro (2020)

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Winner
New Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray
Best Price
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme 2nd Gen 15.6" FHD (1920x1080) HDR 400 Display - Intel Core i5-9300H Processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe-NVMe SSD, NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB, Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Model
MacBook Pro 2020
ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Test Result
Test Result 9.7/10 Excellent August 2020
Test Result 9.3/10 Very good August 2020
Manufacturer
Apple
Lenovo
RAM
16 GB
16 GB
CPU
Intel Core i7
Intel Core i5-9300H
Graphics Card
Intel UHD Graphics 630
NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB
Storage Capacity
512GB SSD
512GB SSD
Battery Time
Value for money
Weight
4.3 lbs
3.76 lbs
Pros
  • Best performance for mobile Work Station, ideal for workload intensive programs
  • Long battery life
  • Large, high-resolution display & revised keyboard (very comfortable)
  • Best keyboard for long writing sessions & Good overall Performance
  • Color rich 4K Display with very good image quality after calibration
  • Better price than MacBook Pro 2020
Cons
  • More expensive than ThinkPad X1 Extreme
  • Worse CPU performance than the predecessor
Winner
New Apple MacBook Pro (16-inch, 16GB RAM, 512GB Storage, 2.6GHz Intel Core i7) - Space Gray
Model
MacBook Pro 2020
Test Result
Test Result 9.7/10 Excellent August 2020
Manufacturer
Apple
RAM
16 GB
CPU
Intel Core i7
Graphics Card
Intel UHD Graphics 630
Storage Capacity
512GB SSD
Battery Time
Value for money
Weight
4.3 lbs
Pros
  • Best performance for mobile Work Station, ideal for workload intensive programs
  • Long battery life
  • Large, high-resolution display & revised keyboard (very comfortable)
Cons
  • More expensive than ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Best Price
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme 2nd Gen 15.6" FHD (1920x1080) HDR 400 Display - Intel Core i5-9300H Processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB PCIe-NVMe SSD, NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB, Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Model
ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Test Result
Test Result 9.3/10 Very good August 2020
Manufacturer
Lenovo
RAM
16 GB
CPU
Intel Core i5-9300H
Graphics Card
NVIDIA GTX 1650 4GB
Storage Capacity
512GB SSD
Battery Time
Value for money
Weight
3.76 lbs
Pros
  • Best keyboard for long writing sessions & Good overall Performance
  • Color rich 4K Display with very good image quality after calibration
  • Better price than MacBook Pro 2020
Cons
  • Worse CPU performance than the predecessor

We tested and compared the Apple MacBook Pro (2020) versus Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme in terms of Performance, Display Quality, Price, Battery life, Portability & more.

Above you can see the Ranking with the test results & below you will find the in-depth reports of the two Lenovo ThinkPad Laptops.

Ranking First: Apple MacBook Pro (2020)

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) review

Pros

  • Best performance for mobile Work Station, ideal for workload intensive programs
  • Long battery life
  • Large, high-resolution display & revised keyboard (very comfortable)

Cons

  • More expensive than ThinkPad X1 Extreme

In November Apple announced the MacBook Pro in a 16-inch case and what at first seemed like a kind of step backwards turned out to be the supposedly better way on closer inspection.

The size and weight are countered by a revised keyboard and a new cooling concept, which were the biggest criticisms of the 15-inch predecessor. We took a closer look at the 16-inch MacBook Pro and focused primarily on the performance in workstation use.

Design & Hardware

According to Apple, the 16″ MacBook Pro is the new mobile workhorse with macOS operating system, which is to go hand in hand with the new Mac Pro, which is intended for stationary use. A fast eight-core processor, up to 64 GB RAM, an 8 TB SSD and AMD’s Radeon Pro 5500M represent the current possibilities in the mobile segment for Apple.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) design

Much more can hardly be packed into a case with a height of just 16.2 mm, although width (357.9 mm) and depth (245.9 mm) are correspondingly wide (357.9 mm) and deep (245.9 mm) for a 16 inch device. Nevertheless, Apple manages to keep the weight at almost exactly 4.4 lbs. Thus, the balancing act of mobility and performance can basically be described as successful, if the performance rates should fit in the end.

If you use your MacBook almost exclusively for mobile use and don’t depend on such performance when on the move, the 16-inch MacBook Pro is perhaps a bit too much for you and you’re better off with the smaller 13-inch model, but Apple hasn’t yet used the new keyboard here. We’ll go into this in more detail later.

But let’s come to the most important technical data. In the standard configuration, the 16-inch MacBook Pro uses a six-core processor based on an Intel Core i7-9750H with an AMD Radeon Pro 5300M with 4 GB of GDDR6 memory. It also includes 16GB of DDR4-2666 and a 512GB SSD. Apple charges $2200 for this variant.

The second base model uses a Core i9-9880H with eight cores, an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with also 4 GB of GDDR6 and also 16 GB of RAM, but offers an SSD with 1 TB capacity.

Both configurations can be optionally expanded. Thus, it is possible to install a Core i9-9980HK with also eight cores, but a higher single core and boost clock.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) back view

If you want to use an AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8 GB graphics memory, you’ll have to pay an additional $200. 32 or even 64 GB RAM (always DDR4-2666) cost $400-800 respectively.

We had the 16-inch MacBook Pro with an eight-core Core i9-9880H, 16GB of memory, a Radeon Pro 5500M with 4GB of graphics memory, and a 1TB SSD.

So, if you have a certain amount of choice when it comes to the components, which is certainly limited by the available budget, the other equipment options are identical for all versions of the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Display

Besides the hardware specifications, one of the highlights is the 16-inch display with a resolution of 3,072 x 1,920 pixels at 226 ppi. The 15-inch predecessor achieves 2,880 x 1,800 pixels at 220 ppi. The thin frame (other manufacturers have pushed the display to frame ratio even further), but above all the brightness of up to 500 nits are convincing.

There are also models with a higher brightness, but the homogeneity of over 95% across the entire panel plus the DCI-P3 color space coverage and the good black values make the display of the 16″ MacBook Pro a convincing model in the notebook sector.

A point of criticism, especially in the creative sector, is the use of a reflective surface for the display. Apple offers an optional coating for the Pro Display XDR, but this also entails a surcharge of 1,000 Dollars. There is no such option for the 16-inch MacBook Pro. You can certainly counteract the reflections with the high brightness. But many a person will be bothered by the display.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) design test review

In summary, Apple uses a very good display in the 16″ MacBook Pro, which more than meets the demands of mobile use. The display rates hardly offer any grounds for criticism, at best the white point is perhaps a bit cool at 6,900 K. The True Tone technology, however, has meanwhile found many friends.

Apart from the display, the connectivity is also the same. There are two Thunderbolt 3 connections on the right and left. Unlike the 13″ MacBook Pro, these are identically connected and theoretically reach 40 GBit/s each. In the mentioned 13-inch model, the right-side ports aren’t fully connected and therefore a bit slower. But this is not the case for the 16-inch MacBook Pro, and of course the MacBook Pro can also be charged at each of these ports. There is also a jack connector on the right.

So it remains the same: All external devices have to be connected via type C, either Thunderbolt 3 or maximum USB 3.2 Gen2 are then available. Thus, not even a USB stick with a type A port can be plugged in.

Ethernet adapters, USB ports, card readers – everything must either have a USB C plug directly or be connected via an adapter. If you’ve already made major changes to your ecosystem, used a dock at a stationary workstation, or just gotten used to it, you’ll have to live with the adapters in the 16-inch MacBook Pro, too.

Keyboard, Touchpad & Sound

With the 16″ MacBook Pro, Apple for the first time installs the new Magic Keyboard, which no longer uses the butterfly mechanism but the “old” scissor mechanism again. Of course, a return to the old technology doesn’t have to be a bad thing – quite the contrary.

Apple has been struggling with problems since the introduction of keyboards with butterfly mechanism. In several steps they tried to save the butterfly keyboard, but how unsuccessful this was is shown by the fact that all MacBooks with this keyboard are subject to extended repair or warranty extension.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) keyboard, touchbar test review

Apple still doesn’t want to admit the Butterfly one-way street. The official PR language does not speak of faulty Butterfly keyboards. Instead, the demands and wishes of professional users have been reassessed in numerous studies and the new keyboard has been found. This is certainly a bit too much of a good thing, because Apple should have known years ago that the Butterfly keyboard was a mistake.

A pro user simply can’t afford an unreliability of this form. Whether the new/old keyboard is really much more reliable again, will have to wait and see.

However, the keyboard of the 16-inch MacBook Pro is not a complete return to the old keyboard, but a kind of intermediate step with numerous improvements. If you type on an external keyboard from Apple, you’ll be able to transfer the feeling to the keyboard of the 16-inch MacBook Pro.

Apple takes the step from 0.7 mm back to 1 mm for the stroke of the keys, which clearly benefits the frequent typist. The surface area of the individual keys is minimally smaller, but you hardly notice it. Apple was able to slightly increase the space between the keys and thus the keyboard is no longer a two-dimensional blind flight.

In this context, the arrow keys in an inverted T-arrangement should also be mentioned. These can also be identified blindly much better than the previous solution with left and right in full height to the shift key and the two up and down keys in half height each.

The typing feel is back, the arrow keys can be felt better and the ESC key also returns in physical form. This is also one of the big plus points of the keyboard and Apple wants to have made many studies in this area, too. But in view of the numerous criticisms of the ESC key in the Touch Bar, Apple has probably already learned from its own employees that many people can hardly cope with the missing ESC key. The 16″ MacBook Pro is thus another step in the right direction.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) display package test review unboxing

This also applies to the Touch ID key, which is now also removed. The touch bar is thus separated from the other input options above the keyboard. Whether it is now possible to integrate them sensibly into your workflow is another matter. But at least the ESC- and Touch-ID-keys can be found much faster and are less often pressed by mistake.

The new mechanism, a dedicated ESC key, the intuitive arrangement of the arrow keys – the keyboard is more than just a detail improvement. Why Apple is only now making the appropriate changes and thus indirectly admits that the butterfly keyboard was not the right way, however, remains probably the secret of the manufacturer from Cupertino.

Now the question still arises, when the other MacBooks will also get the new keyboard, because actually none of the other models can be recommended besides the 16″ MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, Apple is keeping quiet about this. However, the 13″ MacBook Pro is likely to be updated in the spring and it remains to be seen whether there is enough room for the MacBook – the main argument for the Butterfly keyboard.

The Force Touch trackpad on the 16-inch MacBook Pro has the same dimensions as its 15-inch predecessor – 160 x 100 mm. The picture above shows a comparison with the 13-inch MacBook Pro, whose trackpad is a bit smaller (135 x 83 mm). But even with the smaller MacBooks, the trackpad is still a reference in input in this form. Apparently, many other notebook manufacturers still find it difficult to develop such a trackpad. The multi-touch and pressure gestures make many users in mobile use completely do without a mouse.

Probably not the most important factor when buying a notebook, but important enough are the built-in loudspeakers. Apple has also incorporated numerous improvements here. Apple mentions the support for Dolby Atmos playback in the data sheet, and in fact the 16″ MacBook Pro offers a spatially solidly divided surround sound.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) side view

Apple installs six loudspeakers for this. Three are mounted on each side of the 16-inch MacBook Pro, one on each side as a woofer. To prevent vibration and cabinet rattling, these woofers can counteract, balance, or dampen each other’s vibrations.

At maximum volume, even a large room can be covered with sound, although external speaker systems are of course still mandatory, depending on the application. Streaming a film on the sofa or in a hotel room is, however, always possible with the new speakers in decent quality.

Performance

A big shortcoming of the 15-inch MacBook Pro is the insufficiently dimensioned cooling system in the high-end equipment. In practical use, this results in reduced performance because the hardware’s potential could not be fully exploited. The heat sink for the processor and GPU is supposed to be 35% larger. The two fans should also be able to move 28% more air, which should enable the hardware to reach its performance potential.

Depending on the load scenario, the clocking of the hardware and the cooling behave slightly differently. A short load of up to half a minute on all cores is easily absorbed by the new cooler and causes the processor to produce about 90 W of waste heat. The heat sink absorbs this and gradually releases it again.

Only after more than 30 seconds of full load do the fans become clearly audible and turn faster. However, since the cooling system has a certain inertia in absorbing and releasing the waste heat, it takes some time until stability is reached. Under longer full load the processor is then allowed to generate about 65 W of waste heat permanently and the clock rate remains stable at 2.45 GHz for hours – also a temperature of 89 °C at an ambient temperature of 21 °C.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) performance test review benchmarks

But you should give the 16-inch MacBook Pro enough air to breathe. In these conditions, MacBook should be placed on a table or stand, and never on your lap or on a soft surface, which can trap heat.

Of course, you can’t expect a notebook to operate quietly in these conditions. The fans already rotate at 2,000 revolutions per minute under light load and can be heard by the user in a quiet environment. Under full load on the processor we are talking about about 5,500 revolutions per minute and this is expressed with a noise level of about 50 dB(A) at a typical user’s distance.

But if you edit your 8K video on such a flat notebook, you’ll also have to understand that performance is always accompanied by waste heat and this has to be dissipated. Silent operation is simply not possible in this form factor. Despite the nominally high volume, the noise of the fans is still comparatively pleasant and by no means disturbing due to certain frequencies.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is thus once again a real workhorse, at least the prerequisites for cooling are right.

Benchmarks

We didn’t use our standard benchmarks for testing the 16-inch MacBook Pro. Instead, we compared the new model with its immediate predecessor, the 15-inch MacBook Pro and a 13-inch MacBook Pro, using some typical applications such as Final Cut Pro X, DaVince Resolve and Blender. In addition, there is a compile benchmark in Xcode – which will certainly be interesting for Mac users as well.

In the single-threaded benchmark, the performance increase between generations is clearly visible. The 15-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro use the same processor, so performance in this area is almost identical. This is different in the multi-threaded test. The new 16-inch MacBook Pro also offers the higher processing power due to better cooling, or can maintain it over the full benchmark run (we did several runs in a row).

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) performance benchmarks gaming test review

In Blender version 2.81 we calculated a sample file called The Junk Shop. At first we used only the processor. It turns out quite well that the new 16″ MacBook Pro is also ahead of the game, even if the rendering only takes a little more than two minutes. For longer projects, this lead should increase even more.

Blender also allows the use of GPU rendering. Here, a part of the computing tasks is then outsourced to the graphics card. The 16-inch MacBook Pro is ahead with the Radeon Pro 5000M, with a clear lead over the 15-inch MacBook Pro with Radeon Pro 560X. The 13-inch MacBook Pro does not have a compatible GPU.

Final Cut Pro X also offers support for hardware support for a built-in graphics card. For the benchmark, we used two videos in 8K resolution, cut them together, added crossfades and then exported them. Rendering in the background was disabled. The 16-inch MacBook Pro takes about 24 minutes to render, and the 15-inch MacBook Pro takes more than 26 minutes. The 13-inch MacBook Pro is far behind with more than 43 minutes, but also has only half the cores and no dedicated GPU.

We didn’t notice any major delays in the timeline while editing the video. With the 16″ MacBook Pro, you can scroll through the timeline with as little jerk as possible. This is not always possible with the 15-inch MacBook Pro in the form the lower performance in the GPU is noticeable. With the 13-inch MacBook Pro, editing 8K material is hardly possible.

For the measurement in Handbrake, we exported the just exported video once again in 1080p. H.264 was used as codec. Here, the two large MacBook Pros are very close together, the 13-inch model can’t keep up, of course.

In DaVince Resolve we used the two 8K sample files to apply various effects to it. If these are applied, it takes a certain amount of time to calculate the modifications. The two big MacBook Pros are almost level again.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) setup office

Finally, we compiled a sample project in Xcode. Here the performance of the processor is decisive. The 16-inch MacBook Pro can keep its maximum clock speed longer. The advantage of the improved cooling is apparently evident here again. But the 15-inch MacBook Pro is only slightly slower.

Battery life

Before we come to the conclusion, a few words about battery life. The battery of the 16-inch MacBook Pro lasts for about 10 hours in normal office use. This shows that the battery has a generous capacity of 100 Wh. Over a full work day, you can get around with some photo editing, office, audio streaming, etc. without having to go to a power outlet.

Under full load in 3D rendering, the battery only lasts for about 70 to 80 minutes, which is not very long. This looks similar for video editing or the actual export. However, videos can be edited for three to four hours as long as they don’t have to be exported.

Verdict

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is an improvement over its predecessor in many ways. The new or revised keyboard is certainly the most important point for many prospective buyers, because if there is something professional users can’t use, it’s unreliable hardware, which may even result in a complete abandonment of the device because it needs to be repaired.

Apart from the hopefully better reliability of the keyboard, many people like the dedicated ESC key. The stroke of the keys has been increased, which is also good for frequent typists. The arrangement of the arrow keys and the separation of the touch ID button round off the better feel of the keyboard. Apple takes a step back in a certain way, but that’s nothing bad in this case – quite the opposite.

Apple MacBook Pro (2020) display test review

Another plus point is the improved cooling. This ensures that the eight-core processor can really call up its performance. The temperatures no longer work at the limit of throttling, respectively the processor is also throttled, but remains within a tolerable range.

The two fans are of course clearly audible under load, but this is the case with every notebook during a video export or a 3D rendering. In combination with the built-in GPU, which offers a further performance boost, the 16-inch MacBook Pro unfolds its full potential. If you travel a lot, this MacBook Pro is the mobile workhorse – if it has to be a Mac. Apple’s performance is the best it can do in the notebook segment.

The display also offers no reason for criticism and matches the rest of the equipment. Such a large retina display has its charms and offers a lot of working space when on the move. The display’s technical specifications support the creative user as much as possible in this form.

However, the white point is somewhat different (too cool) to the desired display in a professional environment with 6900K. The new Pro Display XDR can be connected to the 16″ MacBook Pro in stationary use.

But there are also a few points where Apple continues to tease with its 16-inch MacBook Pro. Most users can manage with four ports and the necessary adapters, even if this means that you always have to have the adapters in your luggage. In stationary use a dock might be the best solution.

Once you’ve decided on a particular model of 16-inch MacBook Pro, the setup has to stay that way. Even the memory and SSD are not replaceable or expandable. Of course, that goes for the battery, too. Everything is firmly soldered or glued.

Thus, the prices are quite high, but one is meanwhile used to that. If you want to use software under macOS and need this kind of performance, you probably can’t avoid the 16″ MacBook Pro.

Since the biggest criticism points in the form of the keyboard and the cooling have been removed, one can at least recommend the new MacBook Pro again without hesitation anddoesn’t have to issue a warning.

The 16-inch MacBook Pro is once again the hardware one would expect in this form. Now the software has to be brought up to the same level, because Apple hasn’t exactly delivered a masterpiece with macOS Catalina. Meanwhile the biggest bugs have been fixed and with a 16″ MacBook Pro you are bound to the last macOS anyway.

However, the new Mac Pro, the Pro Display XDR and the 16″ MacBook Pro do convince overall, due to its amazing performance, which is why the Apple MacBook Pro 2020 is ranking first vs ThinkPad X1 Extreme.

Ranking Second: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020)

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) review test


Pros

  • Best keyboard for long writing sessions & Good overall Performance
  • Color rich 4K Display with very good image quality after calibration
  • Better price than MacBook Pro 2020

Cons

  • Worse CPU performance than the predecessor

Can a Thinkpad in 15.6-inch format be good? The X1 Extreme proves it can! In the test, the notebook convinces with the usual good workmanship and the proven Thinkpad keyboard. However, the sluggish cooling stands in the way of the good performance.

Design & Ports

Lenovo’s Thinkpads come in many sizes: Popular are 14-inch devices like the T480s or the X1 Carbon. But there are also smaller models like the X270 or even smaller: the now discontinued Thinkpad X121e. The Thinkpad X1 Extreme goes in exactly the opposite direction. It is a 15.6-inch notebook that nevertheless carries the essence of the series.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) design test review

We can mention the typical keyboard, the discreet Thinkpad logo, the usual slightly rubberized and matt black case, many ports and the red trackpoint. One addition is rather untypical: the dedicated Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q, which Lenovo puts into the case. The combination turns out to be a very good product in the test. We would choose a different configuration, though.

It should be said that those who don’t like large notebooks in general won’t be very happy with the Thinkpad X1 Extreme. The notebook weighs 4.02 lbs and doesn’t fit in every travel bag with 36.2 x 24.6 x 1.8 centimeters.

Compared to other notebooks of this size, however, it has turned out pleasingly slim. We especially like the chassis’ workmanship quality. The rubberized surface feels high-quality and the large 15.6 inch screen can be tilted up to 180 degrees. The hinge holds the heavy glazed touchscreen firmly in place.

The X1 Extreme has even less conspicuous features than the other Thinkpads, which are already so discreet. The Thinkpad inscription is not silver but black. The new design is directly borrowed from the smaller X1 carbon devices. The red status LED on the lid is also included in this model. The addition of the name “Extreme” is almost inappropriate. We like the subtle understatement because Thinkpads were never flashy and garish – a tradition that our test sample also preserves.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) display test review

The X1 Extreme’s large chassis has various advantages when it comes to the choice of connections. We can access two USB A 3.0 sockets and two Thunderbolt 3 connectors. In addition, there is an HDMI 2.0a port, a full-size SD card reader and a smart card slot.

On the left side we find a proprietary mini-ethernet port, which we already know from other X1 models. A suitable adapter is included with the notebook. We still wonder why Lenovo doesn’t simply use a conventional RJ45 port. The space in the case is still available.

A proprietary docking port hasn’t been available on various Thinkpads for some time now – and the X1 Extreme is no exception. Instead, Lenovo offers suitable docking stations that can be connected to Thunderbolt 3. We think this is a step in the right direction.

Keyboard & Touchpad

If you expect a revolution in the keyboard layout of the X1 Extreme, you should look at another product. The notebook uses the same keys as actually every other Thinkpad: they are also 1.6 centimeters wide and have the feel and pressure point of other models.

Users are offered the usual high quality here. We like writing on the keyboard very much. Again, the combination of a trackpoint and the three mouse buttons above the touchpad is also included, so we can leave our fingers on the keyboard when operating the mouse cursor.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) keyboard test review

The touchpad itself is good. The sensor surface feels – similar to the notebook’s lid – somewhat rubbery. In comparison to a Thinkpad 480s, we don’t feel any difference when clicking or tapping on the touchpad.

It looks as if Lenovo has simply built the input hardware from other Thinkpads into a larger chassis. This leaves an unusually large amount of space between the keyboard and the sides of the case – about 3.5 centimeters.

A few more keys or even a number pad would certainly have fit in here. However, some keys would then be smaller and thus less accessible. Doing without a number pad is therefore understandable, but we find it a pity.

Display

We see a serious difference to many other Thinkpads as soon as we open the X1 Extreme: A reflective display with touchscreen, instead of the usual matt screen. Moreover, the 15.6 inch panel has a high UHD resolution of 3,840 x 2,160 pixels. This is definitely an advantage. However, we have to do without an anti-glare display for this.

After a short time, the light reflections even annoy us indoors. And that even though the screen’s brightness values aren’t bad.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) display test review

On average, the device achieves 402 candelas per square meter and thus keeps the 400 cd/m² promised in the data sheet. This is a good value in itself, but ambient light reflects strongly, which irritates us every now and then.

It is therefore very nice that Lenovo also offers the notebook with a darker, but non-reflective Full-HD panel without touchscreen and at a lower price. This configuration is recommendable if the device is also used outside of the desk.

Performance

The performance of the X1 Extreme is very good, especially in productive applications. This is due to the Intel Core i7-8750H with six cores and twelve threads. The basic clock rate of 2.2 GHz can be increased by the CPU up to 4.1 GHz.

Under full load during video encoding in Adobe Premiere Pro CC v13, the X1 Extreme’s clock rate averages 3.2 GHz. The integrated Intel graphics unit and the dedicated Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q also come to the aid of the YouTube preset for 2160p with H.264 codec.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) performance test review benchmarks

The computing speed is therefore quite impressive: The notebook completes the conversion of an episode of the Techtestreport Weekly Review (WR-KW1018) in only 8:08 minutes. For comparison: The 95 watt desktop processor Intel Core i7-8700K including a Geforce 2080 Ti is not much faster with 7:57 minutes. The previous generation Core i7-7700K with the same graphics card needs just under 10 minutes for this task.

The Thinkpad X1 Extreme is also fast in other applications. Image editing in Adobe Photoshop CC is even possible with high-resolution source material without jerking. For such tasks, the 16 GByte DDR4 RAM is a help. The fast NVMe SSD is also an advantage – Lenovo has a Samsung PM981 installed. The data rates are correspondingly high: 3,412 MByte/s in sequential reading and 1,921 MByte/s in sequential writing.

The notebook also achieves a good value in the multi-core CPU benchmark Cinebench R15: With 1,097 points, it is almost 15 percent faster than a system with Core i7-7700K. However, we already notice a strange behavior here, which we attribute to the sluggish cooling system.

A fast CPU and a dedicated graphics unit, like the Geforce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q, naturally invite you to try one or the other game. However, our measured frame rates aren’t convincing, especially in this discipline. Generally, we should at least lower the resolution to Full-HD in titles like Destiny 2, Kingdome Come Deliverance, PUBG and CSGO. Even then, reliable frame rates are mostly not possible.

We can already see this in the older shooter CSGO on medium details: initially, about 80 fps are still possible. In the course of the game, the value reduces to almost 65 fps. That’s because the CPU gets too hot and therefore clocks down until it finally works at only 1.8 GHz per core instead of almost 4 GHz at the beginning.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) benchmark test gaming performance

Destiny 2, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to be too much affected by this. The notebook reaches at least 45 fps at medium detail level in Full HD resolution. This always happens when there are many enemies and other objects on the screen. We measured up to 80 fps indoors.

Both Kingdom Come: Deliverance and PUBG are too much of a good thing for the X1 Extreme in Full HD: In medieval role-playing games, we measure 24 fps at low details with some noticeable picture dropouts. PUBG is hardly playable at very low details with 26 fps. Users of the Lenovo notebook should therefore limit themselves to less demanding titles on their business trip.

We notice during gaming that the notebook’s sluggish cooling has a strong impact on the performance under continuous load. We even read out a maximum of 97 degrees Celsius on the CPU. It’s no wonder that the processor downclocks. The two small fans are relatively quiet for a workstation of this kind, even though we can hear them clearly. The system is not audible when writing texts or browsing the web.

Upgradability

The X1 Extreme is in no way inferior to other Thinkpads when it comes to reaching the hardware. The lower case shell is attached with only seven screws, which also can’t fall out. Inside we find two RAM banks, of which only one is occupied by a 16 GB module.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) office setup test review

Fortunately, a second M.2 drive can also be installed in the device. The ac-9560 WiFi card from Intel is relatively new. The 2×2 device radios in two bands to 802.11ac and with Bluetooth 5.0. However, we can’t find a free slot for a mobile phone module.

The screwed, but replaceable battery takes up a fairly large part of the case’s space. It measures 80 watt hours and allows the X1 Extreme solid, if not extraordinary runtimes. We measured 8:04 hours in the productivity preset of the runtime test, Powermark, which simulates office work, web browsing and video chat. In the more demanding PCMark8, which among other things also displays casual games, 4:34 hours are still possible.

We let both benchmarks run at a display brightness of around 200 cd/m². These rates are often lower in many 15.6 inch notebooks with a dedicated graphics unit. In this respect, the X1 Extreme is a well usable device on the go. It’s a pity that Lenovo doesn’t provide the notebook with a battery that can be removed from the outside.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) test review

We liked this possibility very much in the Thinkpad X270 review. However, many other notebooks in the series also don’t have a pluggable battery anymore – an emerging trend for this device class.

Verdict

The addition of Extreme for Lenovo’s 15.6-inch notebook may be quite exaggerated, but it’s still a very well manufactured notebook that can play off qualities of the series well. This is not least because Lenovo uses the same very good combination of keyboard and trackpoint here. It’s very pleasant to write longer texts on it.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2020) laptop mobile work station

At the same time, the case has a high quality finish. The design isn’t extreme either, but follows the well-known Thinkpad mantra with a rubberized lid and inconspicuous black product logos. The device has enough space for various connections: USB-A, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI, an SD card reader and the unusual Ethernet port known from the X1 Carbon, which can only be used with a separately available adapter, though.

The 15.6 inch 4K display with touchscreen is characteristic of our test sample. It glows pleasantly brightly with 402 cd/m², but is very reflective. Alternatively, there is a less bright, but anti-reflective Full-HD panel without touchscreen. This also doesn’t cost that much.

The X1 Extreme is especially well positioned in productive applications, such as encoding videos in Adobe Premiere Pro CC v13. The combination of Intel Core i7-8750H and Nvidia Geforce GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q renders an episode of Techtestreport’s weekly review in just over eight minutes. That is only slightly slower than the 95 watt Core i7-8700K chip. The integrated Intel graphics unit and the Nvidia GPU help with the calculation.

The notebook is less convincing in games: In the role-playing game Kingdom Come Deliverance we only measure 26 fps even on low settings and Full-HD resolution. In the team shooter CSGO, however, we notice that the processor throttles down after a while and the measured frame rate drops from 80 fps to 65 fps in medium details.

One of the weak points is the rather quiet, but slow solution for cooling the notebook. The hardware reaches its limits especially in games. We sometimes measure up to 97 degrees Celsius on the CPU.

The X1 Extreme’s battery life is good for a device of this size. It’s nice that the notebook can also be screwed on quite easily. Hardware can be exchanged and there is even room for a second RAM module or a second M.2 drive. The battery is screwed on and can be replaced if necessary.

Users who need a Thinkpad for more than writing can do little wrong with the X1 Extreme. All in all the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is ranking behind vs MacBook Pro 2020, not by a great marging though, it is also cheaper, so if you want to save some bucks but still need a great Laptop, go get the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme!


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