Why did Lenovo stretch the THINKPAD X1 EX­TREME to 15 inches? To kill the Macbook Pro.

The Macbook’s But­ter­fly key­board vs. the Thinkpad key­board? No con­test.


Lenovo’s Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme has a mis­sion: to kill the Macbook Pro 15. I’m not just say­ing that to man­u­fac­ture drama, ei­ther. A Lenovo rep­re­sen­ta­tive straight-out told me, “this is our Macbook Pro killer,” dur­ing our brief­ing on the prod­uct.

I could say, “crummy Macbook but­ter­fly key­board ( go.pc­world.com/btkb) vs. leg­endary Thinkpad key­board? No con­test. End of story.” But the strug­gle is real: Even though the lat­est Macbook Pro 15 suf­fered ( go.pc­world.com/15rv) some per­for­mance is­sues be­fore Ap­ple found a fix, the brand still car­ries some ca­chet with cor­po­rate users. Heck, it’s still what I see most of­ten on

my fel­low com­muters’ laps as I take the train to work.

To face down this for­mi­da­ble foe,

Lenovo has stretched its new, top-of-the-line Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme to ac­com­mo­date a 15-inch dis­play (14 inches had been the max­i­mum be­fore). It’s even added dis­crete Nvidia graph­ics for the first time. An­nounced at IFA in Ber­lin, Ger­many, the Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme will ship in Septem­ber with a start­ing price of $1,860.

No, that isn’t cheap, and the price goes up as you pick higher-end op­tions. But con­sider this: The low­est-priced Macbook

Pro 15 starts at $2,399. So if you se­lect a Macbook Pro 15, you’re over $500 in the hole com­pared to the Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme, and you haven’t even up­graded any­thing yet. Ap­ple has al­ways charged a premium for its prod­ucts, so this is hardly news. But when a lap­top is a busi­ness de­ci­sion, the Macbook Pro’s sig­nif­i­cantly higher prices com­pared to the Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme could very well be what kills it in the end.

Here are all the specs we know about the Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme, with com­par­i­son to the Macbook Pro 15 along the way.

CPU: Up to 8th-gen­er­a­tion Core i7 with vpro. More specif­i­cally, these are the well-re­garded Cof­fee Lake H mo­bile pro­ces­sors ( go. pc­world.com/clmb), the same fam­ily from which Ap­ple draws the CPUS for its Macbook Pro 15. Ap­ple also of­fers the top-of-the-line Core i9 pro­ces­sor as an op­tion, which Lenovo will start of­fer­ing in De­cem­ber for the ThinkPad X1 Ex­treme (not at launch time).

Mem­ory: Up to 64GB DDR4 RAM at 2,666MHZ. The Macbook Pro 15 of­fers up to 32GB of DDR4 mem­ory, at a slightly slower 2,400MHZ.

Dis­play: The 15.6-inch dis­play comes in two fla­vors: Full HD (1920x1080) IPS with anti-glare and a max­i­mum bright­ness of 300 nits; or a 4K IPS touch­screen with a max­i­mum bright­ness of 400 nits. The Macbook Pro 15’s 15.4-inch dis­play is a skosh smaller but uses Ap­ple’s well-re­spected Retina dis­play tech­nol­ogy. It has a res­o­lu­tion of 2880x1800 and a max­i­mum bright­ness of 500 nits

Graph­ics: Nvidia Ge­force GTX 1050 Ti Max-q. This is Nvidia’s midrange graph­ics so­lu­tion, a solid choice for photo and video edit­ing, and even gam­ing. It’s a good sight more pow­er­ful the AMD Radeon Pro 555X or 560X op­tions of­fered for the Macbook Pro.

Stor­age: Up to two 1TB PCIE SSDS with RAID 0/1 ca­pa­bil­ity. The Macbook Pro takes

just one SSD, but it of­fers ca­pac­i­ties start­ing at 256GB (just on the $2,399 model) up to 4TB.

Net­work­ing: While both of­fer wire­less net­work­ing, nei­ther of­fers eth­er­net (the Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme of­fers it via a don­gle).

Ports: The Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme splits the dif­fer­ence be­tween le­gacy and fu­ture de­vices, with two USB 3.1 (Gen 1) Type A and two Thun­der­bolt 3, plus HDMI 2.0 and an SD card slot. The Macbook Pro 15 says buy your own don­gles, of­fer­ing four Thun­der­bolt 3 ports.

Bat­tery: 80Whr, up to 15 hours on a full charge. The Macbook Pro 15 has an 83.6Wh bat­tery and a pro­jected life of up to 10 hours on a full charge. Your mileage will vary, of course. Higher res­o­lu­tions or brighter dis­play set­tings will use more bat­tery power, for in­stance.

Weight: 3.75 pounds. The Macbook Pro is a lit­tle heav­ier at 4.02 pounds.

Di­men­sions: 14.24 x 9.67 x 0.72 inches. The Macbook Pro 15 is a lit­tle smaller, at 13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61 inches.

Let’s look at a few other fea­tures that dis­tin­guish this com­pletely new Thinkpad.

The build qual­ity seems up to Thinkpad’s usual high level. The lid con­sists of four lay­ers of re­in­forced car­bon fiber. A shell of alu­minum al­loy on the bot­tom is durable and also helps dis­si­pate heat.

The key­board ques­tion is no small mat­ter. Much has been lamented ( go.pc­world. com/3mbm) over the but­ter­fly-switch key­board Ap­ple started putting into its Macbooks. The short travel and ap­par­ently spotty reli­a­bil­ity ( go.pc­world.com/sprl) have made it few friends.

Mean­while, the Thinkpad key­board is one of the trade­mark strengths of the prod­uct line. It has a great 1.8mm of travel. It even still has the eraser-nub Track­point nav­i­ga­tion tool, as well as a track­pad and real mouse but­tons. These lap­tops are sup­pos­edly de­signed for real work. When it comes to the fun­da­men­tal key­board com­po­nent, the Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme is much bet­ter equipped.

Last is one thing the Macbook Pro still can’t match: Pen sup­port (let alone touch sup­port of any kind, other than the Touch Bar). The Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme in­cludes its own pen—though it’s ex­ter­nal, not stored in the chas­sis—so you can use it with

Win­dows 10’s pen func­tions.

The Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme in­cludes two USB 3.1 Type A ports and an SD card slot.

The Thinkpad X1 Ex­treme uses four lay­ers of re­in­forced car­bon fiber in its lid.

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