They don’t have mobile workstations‘ independent software vendor (ISV) certifications for specialized computer-aided design, rendering, and scientific apps, but elite systems for digital content creators are some of our favorite laptops. The Dell XPS 15 and the Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch are probably the best-known, but everyone from Acer and Asus to Gigabyte, Razer, and MSI competes in this space—as does Lenovo, which has just unveiled a third generation of its 15.6-inch ThinkPad X1 Extreme (starts at $1,479; $2,913 as tested). The new Extreme combines elegant design and solid performance with alluring features led by a gorgeous OLED display. Its battery life is a little disappointing and it can’t double as a gamer as some competitors can, but it’s a first-class creative and productivity partner.
The $1,479 base model has a six-core Intel Core i7-10750H processor, 8GB of memory, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a 1080p IPS screen rated at 300 nits of brightness. There are three better display options: 500-nit full HD, 600-nit 4K (3,840-by-2,160-pixel) IPS with Dolby Vision, and my test unit’s 400-nit 4K touch screen with OLED technology and Dolby Vision True Black. All X1 Extreme models come with a 4GB Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q GPU, which slots in just below the XPS 15’s unthrottled GeForce GTX 1650 Ti and well below some rivals’ GeForce RTX silicon.
last year’s Gen 2 model.) Wi-Fi 6 and Bluetooth are standard; LTE mobile broadband is optional.
The Extreme has the same matte-black-slab styling that has defined ThinkPads forever, though units with 4K screens have a subtle carbon-fiber weave pattern on the lid. Like all ThinkPads, it’s passed MIL-STD 810G torture tests against shock, vibration, and environmental extremes; there’s no flex if you grasp the screen corners or press the keyboard deck. At 0.74 by 14.2 by 9.7 inches, it’s a bit bulkier than the Dell XPS 15 (0.71 by 13.6 by 9.1 inches), though half a pound lighter at 4.0 pounds with the touch screen. The Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED is about the same size, at 0.78 by 14 by 9.8 inches.
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For our objective benchmarks, I pitted it against the Apple MacBook Pro 16-Inch, the Dell XPS 15, and the Gigabyte Aero 15 OLED. That left one slot, which I filled with the Asus ProArt StudioBook 15 to give the ThinkPad some six-core company. (The other laptops have eight-core CPUs.) You can see the contenders’ basic specs in the table below.
Tears of Steel—with screen brightness set at 50 percent and volume at 100 percent until the system quits.
November 20, 2020