Whether it’s for gaming, productivity, or media viewing, 15-inch laptops are some of our favorite laptops of all. They can be quite different from one another in design and platform though.
Taking a look at two of the top contenders in this class, we’re pitted the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme against the MacBook Pro 15-inch to see which notebook comes out on top.
At first glance, it’s easy to see that the MacBook Pro has more of a pedigree for aesthetics, with the new 15-inch versions extolling all of the style virtues of its predecessors. The silver paint job and lid-logo have become commonplace in a number of laptop designs in recent years, but the MacBook Pro still retains that original flair. While the X1 Extreme certainly has trimmer bezels and a less-professional feel than some of its ThinkPad contemporaries, it’s still arguably the less stylish of the two.
It’s a little thicker in most dimensions too, though it does weigh about the same. It also comes with a broader selection of ports, with a pair of USB-A 3.1 Gen 1 ports, two USB-C ports with Thunderbolt 3 support, a 4-in-1 SD card reader, an HDMI 2.0 output, headphone jack, and “Network extension” port, which can be used for Ethernet connectivity with an adapter. The MacBook Pro continues Apple’s focus on USB-C, by offering just four USB-C Thunderbolt 3 connectors and a headphone jack. Connecting anything else requires an adapter.
The Lenovo’s touchpad is a little smaller than the MacBook Pro’s, but its keyboard is one of the best we’ve used in some time, with long key travel and a crisp feel to key presses. The MacBook Pro’s keyboard is said to be improved over previous versions when it comes to dust and debris, but we’re keen to see more evidence of its long-term reliability before giving it much approval.
Nestled above the keyboard on the MacBook Pro 15 is the Touch Bar. We still haven’t found much of an everyday use for it, even if there are some fun ways to manipulate it.
Alongside different hardware designs, these notebooks do run completely different operating systems. The MacBook Pro makes use of Apple’s own MacOS platform with its collection of supported apps and programs. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme runs Microsoft’s Windows 10 with its own apps and programs. Each has their advantage, but apps that are unique to each could be a major factor in which is best for you.
The base model 15-inch MacBook Pro starts at $2,400 and comes with a six-core, eighth-generation Intel Core i7-8750H CPU clocked at 4.1GHz. That’s partnered with 16GB of DDR4 memory, 512GB of SSD storage, and an AMD Radeon Pro 555X graphics chip with 4GB of GDDR5 of its own. The $2,800 model comes with a slightly faster Core i7-8850H CPU and an AMD Radeon Pro 560X GPU. Both configurations can be upgraded to a Core i9-8950HK CPU clocked at 4.9GHz — don’t worry, that throttling issue has mostly been resolved. There are also options for 32GB of memory for up to $3,500. If you add on as much as 4TB of SSD storage the price rises to $6,700.
Every MacBook Pro 15 configuration comes with the same 15.4-inch IPS display with a resolution of 2,880 x 1,800. It can reach a brightness of 500 nits and supports Apple’s True Tone technology which allows it to customize the coloring of the display on the fly to match the palette of the room it’s in. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme starts at $1,859, but it does sport only a 1080p display and is powered by an Intel Core i5-8400H CPU. It’s joined by 8GB of GDDR4 memory, 256GB of SSD storage, and a GTX 1050 Ti.
Raising the bar to $2,510 guarantees the Core i7-8850H CPU, as well as upgrading the memory to 16GB, and the storage to 512GB of PCIexpress SSD space. It also means getting a 4K display with touch functionality, which is more detailed and brighter than the 1080p alternative at 400 nits. The most expensive option is priced at $2,834 increases storage to 1TB and memory to 32GB, with an option to double the storage if needed.
The Core i9 MacBook Pro gives it an advantage over the Lenovo laptop, but the GTX 1050 Ti in the latter is a much more capable chip for gaming and 3D rendering — albeit still relatively entry-level in its own right. As much as the MacBook Pro offers more expansive hardware options, especially when it comes to storage, it is vastly more expensive, especially when you move the storage options beyond default configurations.
The 15-inch MacBook Pro borrows much of the sleek portability of its 13-inch counterpart. It measures 13.75 x 9.48 x 0.61-inches and weighs just over four pounds. That makes it trimmer than the ThinkPad X1 Extreme by a small but noticeable margin. That Lenovo notebook measures 14.24 x 9.67 x 0.72-inches, but weighs effectively the same when equipped with the 4K screen. If you opt for the non-touch, 1080p version, however, the weight dips to 3.76 pounds, making the ThinkPad the slightly lighter option.
The four-cell, 80 watt-hour battery in the Lenovo laptop gives it up to 15-hours of life on the spec sheet and we managed to pull around five and a half hours out of it in our video loop test. The MacBook Pro 15’s 83.6 watt-hour battery is rated for up to 10 hours of movie playback. We don’t have any hands-on battery life testing for this particular MacBook model, but the 13-inch variant is rated for 10 hours as well, and those claims held up in our testing.
It could be that the ThinkPad lasts longer in ideal scenarios, but in heavier usage settings the MacBook’s larger battery may give it a longer use time between charges.
Price is still a problem for the MacBook Pro
There’s no doubt that Apple products demand a premium in almost all of the markets they compete in and to some extent, it’s worth it, but that price is a high one in this head to head.
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme offers comparable or better hardware at a lower cost than the Apple alternative. It offers a broader selection of ports, and it’s not exactly ugly in comparison. It’s not quite as portable and its hardware options aren’t as expansive, but you get a fantastic keyboard and don’t have to pay for a gimmicky Touch Bar to go along with it.
Don’t get us wrong. The MacBook Pro 15 is a great laptop and offers much more bang for your buck than the MacBook Pro 13 with a Touch Bar, but it’s still not enough of a killer machine that we can recommend it over a solid workhorse like the Lenovo option.