Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme vs. X1 Carbon: Which should you buy?
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is for the mobile professional and offers powerful model configurations. However, it can be a hard sell if you're looking for an affordable base model or a top of the range configuration since the Extreme X1 only caters to the mid-range. It also doesn't have an LTE option, making it less portable.
- More powerful configurations
- 4K HDR display
- Great for PC gaming
- Dedicated NVIDIA GPU
- Newer CPUs
- No LTE option
Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 Carbon is designed with portability in mind. While the X1 Extreme can easily handle more intense applications and workloads, the option for LTE and HDR for the 1440p display makes the more affordable X1 Carbon well worth considering.
- Optional LTE
- More affordable
- Dolby Vision HDR support
- Fewer configurations
- Less powerful
- Older Intel CPUs
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.
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.
|Header Cell - Column 0||Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme||Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon|
|Processor||9th 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
|GPU||Intel UHD Graphics 630|
NVIDIA GTX 1650 (4GB GDDR5)
|Intel UHD 620|
4K OLED (non-touch)
1440p HDR non-touch
|Storage||256GB PCIe SSD|
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
|256GB PCIe SSD|
512GB PCIe SSD
1TB PCIe SSD
|Ports||1x 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
SD card reader (SD, MMC, SDHC, SDXC)
Ethernet Extension Connector
|Wireless||Dual Band 9560|
|Dimensions||0.45 - 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
|Weight||1.8kg (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.
The X1 Extreme is all about portable performance
To enjoy extreme levels of performance, Lenovo decided to throw everything into the X1 Extreme without going overboard. There's an NVIDIA GTX 1050 Ti GPU, latest Intel Core i7 processors, and a 4K display, but you'll still get respectable battery life.
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.
Cheaper entry model with the option for LTE and HDR support
The lesser powerful option of the two Lenovo notebooks, the Carbon doesn't scream about specifications, unless you bring up portability and LTE in the conversation. Not only can you save some money and enjoy a solid battery life and a lighter notebook, but also one that makes content pop on-screen.
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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.