Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs. X1 Carbon: Which should you buy?

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

When you need a dedicated GPU and the latest Intel processors, Lenovo has the ThinkPad X1 Extreme that houses everything you need and more. If you prefer a lighter notebook and one with HDR support, ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the better option.

Powerful notebooks

Lenovo targets two different consumers with the ThinkPad X1 Extreme and ThinkPad X1 Carbon, though both notebooks overlap in certain areas, so you're forgiven for any confusion. You can only get Intel Core i5 and i7 processors with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, though the ThinkPad X1 Extreme comes rocking newer models of the respective CPUs and even an optional Intel Core i9.

That's the main takeaway here. If you need raw performance and dedicated hardware to power through not only more demanding tasks but some gaming as well, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is better equipped. Of course, the more powerful internals come at a cost with the budget and weight.

While Intel's integrated UHD graphics processors have come along way over recent years, you just can't match the performance offered by the NVIDIA GTX 1650 with a generous 4GB of GDDR5 memory in the ThinkPad X1 Extreme. If you're able to put up with the additional weight of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, it's possible to game comfortably on the move.

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Header Cell - Column 0 Lenovo ThinkPad X1 ExtremeLenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon
Processor9th Gen Intel Core i5-9300H
9th Gen Intel Core i7-9750H
9th Gen Intel Core i9-9980HK
8th Gen Intel Core i5-8250U
8th Gen Intel Core i7-8650U
8GB DDR4 2133MHz
16GB DDR4 2133MHz
GPUIntel UHD Graphics 630
Intel UHD 620
Display15.6-inch 1080p
4K (touch)
4K OLED (non-touch)
1080p non-touch
1080p touch
1440p non-touch
1440p HDR non-touch
Storage256GB PCIe SSD
Ports1x Thunderbolt 3 with DisplayPort
2x USB 3.1 Gen 1
1x HDMI 2.0
SD card reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC)
3.5mm combo jack
2x USB 3.1 Gen 1
2x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C
Headset jack
SD card reader (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC)
Ethernet Extension Connector
WirelessDual Band 9560
Bluetooth 5.0
Bluetooth 4.1
Dimensions0.45 - 0.66 x 14.06 x 9.27 inches
(11 - 17 x 357 x 235 mm)
12.73 x 8.54 x 0.62 inches
323.5 x 217.1 x 15.95 mm
Weight1.8kg (4lbs)1.13 kg (2.49 lbs)

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme comes rocking a 56Wh or 97Wh power plant to keep everything running smoothly, which offers up to 15 hours of life depending on the configuration. If you opt for the 4K display and more powerful Intel processor, it's going to take a hit. Lenovo was able to get away with a 57Wh battery in the ThinkPad X1 Carbon due to fewer power requirements, so it gets the same 15-hour rating.

Trusted ThinkPad design

Design-wise, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, and Carbon are both from the same notebook family, and as such, they look and feel similar. That's not a negative point since they're well designed, and while somewhat inspiring, they should hold up through daily use without issue.

The 4K HDR display available as an option for the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is a worthwhile upgrade if you plan on making full use of the extra pixels, but the Carbon is restricted to a 1440p display. This may sound like a drawback — and it is at first glance — but for a 15-inch panel with support for HDR using an integrated GPU, it works well.

That HDR support on either laptop could be a game-changer if you need it to be supported by your next portable PC. It looks stunning, as noted in our detailed review of the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. There are a few significant downsides to the HDR displays, however. It's glossy with no anti-glare option, and finally, it's non-touch.

Ports on both notebooks are comparable, as is the 1-year warranty and security measures included by default.

Configure your own Lenovo Thinkpad X1

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is cheaper from the get-go. At $200 less than the entry model of the X1 Extreme, you're only sacrificing in the GPU and CPU departments. Both models have a 1080p display, 8GB RAM, and 256GB of flash storage. With the Carbon, you'll have a slightly slower processor and no dedicated graphics handling.

It's when you begin to configure the notebooks is when it starts to get a little wild. The Extreme has the faster SKUs, the option for an Intel Core i9, and the dedicated GPU throughout makes a massive difference. Still, the options for LTE and HDR make the X1 Carbon enticing.

Extreme for work and play

When only the best of the best will do, the X1 Extreme offers a dedicated NVIDIA GPU and powerful Core i7 processors from Intel. The 4K display is also a gorgeous upgrade, allowing you to take advantage of larger screen real estate.

Carbon for a lighter notebook

Not only is the Carbon lighter to hold, carry, and use when not at a desk, it's also the only notebook here that supports LTE, should you configure it as an option. That makes this the more appealing notebook for use in the field, especially where wireless LANs are not present.

Rich Edmonds
Senior Editor, PC Build

Rich Edmonds was formerly a Senior Editor of PC hardware at Windows Central, covering everything related to PC components and NAS. He's been involved in technology for more than a decade and knows a thing or two about the magic inside a PC chassis. You can follow him on Twitter at @RichEdmonds.