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Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme 2021 just got Nvidia RTX 3080 and Intel Tiger Lake refresh

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme
(Image credit: Lenovo)

There's a new model of Lenovo's high-performance ThinkPad X1 Extreme laptop hitting the market this August, and it arrives bearing the latest Intel Tiger Lake processors and Nvidia GeForce RTX laptop GPUs. 

That's a significant performance upgrade for this 15-inch laptop, making it a serious contender for a spot among the best laptops on the market. Plus, Lenovo claims to have designed a few new cooling systems into the chassis of the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme that make it more comfortable to use during periods of heavy work or play.

In addition to its under-the-hood upgrades, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is getting a redesigned chassis in 2021 that supports a bigger 16:10 display (configurable up to 4K) and a 1080p webcam, which is more appreciated than ever now that so many of us have spent over a year on video calls with our friends and loved ones.

Here's what we know so far about the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme, Lenovo's thin and light high-performance laptop.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) price and availability

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is available for sale via Lenovo's website, as well as select third-party retailers. However, you'll have to wait until at least August for the 2021 model to go on sale, with its 11th Gen Intel CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series GPUs.  

When the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) does become available for purchase, it won't be cheap: expect the price to start at $2,149.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) design

The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is getting a redesign this year that will see it outfitted with a 16-inch, 16:10 display surrounded by thin bezels. Trimmer bezels should make it easier to get immersed in the screen, which will be configurable with up to a 4K touchscreen.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

(Image credit: Future)

The X1 Extreme's chassis is also getting some subtle changes aimed at making it more performant, including a wider touchpad, speakers that fire up through the keyboard deck, a hybrid cooling system that combines vent pipes and a vapor chamber, and tiny holes in the keyboard itself (with special seals for spill resistance) which help vent heat and keep the laptop cool when it's running on all cylinders.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) display

The ThinkPad X1 Extreme's display is going from 16:9 to 16:10 in 2021. The newer, taller 16-inch screen should give you a little more vertical screen real estate, which can make reading and writing documents a little more comfortable.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

(Image credit: Future)

If you decide to invest in one you can configure it with either a QHD (2,560 x 1,600 resolution) display that can deliver up to 400 nits of brightness, or a 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,400 resolution) display that's rated up to 600 nits of brightness. The 4K version can also be configured as a touchscreen, and will cost you a bit more than the standard display.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) performance

The 2021 refresh of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme will ship with up to 64 GB of RAM and the latest Intel Tiger Lake CPUs and Nvidia GeForce RTX 30-series laptop GPUs, which means it should be competitive with the best gaming laptops on the market. 

When the ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) becomes available in August you should be able to configure it with up to 11th Gen Intel Core i9 vPro processors, which are some of the most powerful laptop CPUs currently available. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

In this torn-down X1 Extreme (photographed during a press event) note the fans and vents, designed to keep it cool under heavy loads. (Image credit: Future)

You'll also have the option of springing for up to an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3080 GPU, which should give this 16-inch laptop more than enough power to run the latest games at great framerates in 1080p. It should also do a respectable job of running games at up to 4K if you spring for the UHD display upgrade, though you may see framerates dip a bit.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) ports

While the ThinkPad X1 Extreme's chassis is getting slightly thinner in 2021, the refreshed model will still pack plenty of ports. Specifically, it will ship with 2 USB-A ports, 2 Thunderbolt 4/USB4 ports, an HDMI port, an SD card reader, and a headphone/mic jack.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

(Image credit: Future)

That's much better than most modern thin and light laptops, which tend to be light on anything besides USB-C ports and headphone jacks.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

(Image credit: Future)

Between the four USB ports you should have plenty of options for hooking up accessories to the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme, and the HDMI port is a nice touch for those times when you want to hook it up to an external monitor for presentations or gaming.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) webcam

As the world went into COVID-19 lockdown many of us found ourselves suddenly relying on Zoom and other video chat services to stay in touch with friends, colleagues, and loved ones. This videoconferencing renaissance gave us good reason to prize high-quality webcams, and Lenovo is responding by upgrading the ThinkPad X1 Extreme's 720p webcam to 1080p.

When the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme goes on sale it will ship with a 1080p webcam that has a built-in privacy shutter. If you like to log into Windows with your face, you'll also be able to configure it with a 1080p hybrid IR camera that supports facial recognition via Windows Hello. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) battery life

All this power comes at the price of battery life: Lenovo claims the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme will last up to 10 hours on a single charge, and we expect that number to shrink significantly if you're doing a lot of heavy gaming or video editing. 

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

(Image credit: Future)

We'll have to wait until we get one in for testing to be sure, but it's a pretty safe bet that if you configure the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme with a 4K screen and the most powerful CPU and GPU, expect battery life to take a hit.

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme (2021) outlook

While the 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme is just one of many revamped products Lenovo is unveiling this week ahead of Mobile World Congress, the under-the-hood upgrades and redesigned chassis make it the most exciting by far. 

With a starting price of over $2k this won't be a great choice for those on a budget, but anyone in the market for a thin, light, high-performance laptop should be well-served by the redesigned 2021 ThinkPad X1 Extreme. We'll be looking to do some hands-on testing ourselves once the laptop starts shipping in August, so stay tuned for our full review.

Alex Wawro

Alex Wawro is a lifelong tech and games enthusiast with more than a decade of experience covering both for outlets like Game Developer, Black Hat, and PC World magazine. He currently serves as a senior editor at Tom's Guide covering all things computing, from laptops and desktops to keyboards and mice.