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By Rich Woods
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3 review: A spec bump, but still a winner
by Rich Woods
Lenovo's ThinkPad X1 series is the best that it has to offer, and a couple of years ago, the company decided to kick things up a notch with a larger screen, a 45W CPU, and dedicated graphics, things that weren't previously seen in a ThinkPad X1. The ThinkPad X1 Extreme was born.
Now on the Gen 3 model, not much has changed. In fact, coming from the Gen 2 model, the only things that are different is the CPU and the GPU. That's not unique to the ThinkPad X1 Extreme either. All of Lenovo's ThinkPad lineup look the same as they did last year. So now, we've got Intel's Comet Lake H processors and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti GPU.
It's still a lovely device, despite the lack of changes. This model that Lenovo sent me packs a 4K OLED touchscreen, along with a 1TB SSD and 32GB of RAM. It's also got one of the best keyboards around, especially when it comes to its class, which is a small class to begin with.
CPU Intel i7-10850H (6C / 12T, 2.7 / 5.1GHz, 12MB) GPU NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 Ti Max-Q 4GB GDDR6 Display 15.6 inches, 16:9, UHD (3480x2160) Dolby Vision HDR Anti-reflection/ Anti-smidge multi-touch – SDR 400 nits, HDR 540 nits Body 14.24x9.67x0.72" (361.8x245.7x18.7mm), Starting at 4.0lbs (1.81kg) Memory 2 x 16GB DIMM 2933 MHz DDR4 Storage 1TB SSD M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Opal2 Ports (2) USB 3.2 Gen 1 (one always on)
(2) Thunderbolt 3 (w/ function of Power Delivery and DisplayPort)
(1) HDMI 2.0
(1) SD Card Reader (SD, SDHC, SDXC), supports UHS-II SD card
(1) Microphone / Headphone Combo Jack
(1) Optional Nano-SIM card slot Camera IR camera and HD720p camera, fixed focus Connectivity Intel AX201 11ax 2+2 + Bluetooth 5.1 Keyboard 6-row, spill-resistant, multimedia Fn keys with Unified Communications controls, LED backlight
TrackPoint pointing device and 2 button glass surface multi-touch touchpad Audio Stereo speakers, Dolby ATMOS Speaker System, dual far-field microphones Security Power-on password, hard disk password, supervisor password, security keyhole
Discrete TPM 2.0, TCG Certified, Optional Intel vPro technology Battery 80Wh, supports Rapid Charge with 135W AC Adapter Material Woven Carbon Fiber Finish
Display cover: Carbon Fiber (woven pattern) + PC + PPS
Hybrid Bottom: Aluminum + PC / ABS OS Windows 10 Pro Price $2,236.30
This is the unit that Lenovo sent me, as this PC starts at $1,399.99. It's also noted that these prices vary. Full price, as configured, is $4,066, but Lenovo.com always has some kind of discount, and it fluctuates.
As I mentioned, the chassis has not changed since last year's model. The lid has Lenovo's carbon fiber weave, which made its debut a couple of years ago in the X1 Carbon. In fact, the one thing that looks different with this model is the logo on the lid. It has the same black ThinkPad logo that's reserved for premium devices, but it has X1 branding under it now.
The body only comes in two flavors, both of which are black. There's regular black, and then there's the carbon fiber weave. Black is standard for ThinkPads and carbon fiber weave has been an option for high-end ThinkPads for a while, but there's not much else. The X1 Yoga comes in a gray color now, since it's actually made out of aluminum, but if you want a clamshell that's not black, you'll have to go for Lenovo's ThinkBook lineup.
Obviously, the ports haven't changed either. On the left side, there's an AC power port, being that this requires too much power to only use Power Delivery. There are also two Thunderbolt 3 ports, HDMI 2.0, and a 3.5mm audio jack. You can charge through the Thunderbolt 3 ports, but it charges slowly. If you use a regular 65W USB Type-C charger, it's about half the wattage of the adapter that comes with this PC.
On the other side, there's an SD card slot and two USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A ports. USB 3.2 Gen 1, also known as USB 3.1 Gen 1 and USB 3.0, supports data transfer speeds of up to 5Gbps, and frankly, I'm a little tired of seeing it in premium PCs. It's time to move on to USB 3.2 Gen 2 for 10Gbps, if not USB 3.2 2x2 for 20Gbps.
There's really not much to say about the design, because it's a ThinkPads. ThinkPad is a brand that produces magnificent PCs, but is also glued to legacy technologies. It's also stuck to a legacy design, for the most part. That's the whole reason that the newer ThinkBook brand exists, so Lenovo can think (get it?) outside of the box on commercial PC designs.
Display and audio
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme has a 15.6-inch display, the biggest of any ThinkPad that's not under the P-series umbrella, and the only one of its kind in the flagship X1 family. As has always been the case, there are options for FHD and UHD resolutions. Unlike the 14-inch ThinkPad X1 PCs, there's no QHD option, which is a shame given that QHD resolution is often the best balance between resolution and battery life.
You do get a few options though. There's a 300-nit FHD panel, which isn't very bright but will get you the best battery life. There's also a 500-nit one that supports Dolby Vision HDR. If you bump it up to 4K, there's a 600-nit panel that supports Dolby Vision HDR, or you can go for the 540-nit OLED panel.
Lenovo sent me the OLED model, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Here's some advice if you're buying any kind of computer that has an OLED option: get the OLED option. The blacks are blacker, the colors are more vibrant, and it's just more pleasant to use. When you turn on that PC that you spent thousands of dollars on, make sure that it returns the favor.
Being that the chassis hasn't changed, you shouldn't be surprised to hear that the bezels haven't changed. The somewhat narrow side bezels do feel a bit like they were designed for 2019, and the top bezel still includes an IR camera, a webcam, and the ThinkShutter privacy guard. I don't use the privacy guard though, because if you don't remember to open it again, Windows Hello doesn't work.
The Dolby Atmos speakers are pretty solid, and they get fairly loud. For work, such as video calls, they're phenomenal. And for listening to music at your desk, they can get pretty loud.
But let's talk about streaming video too. After all, you probably need one device for work and play, especially if you're working from home, or you're an employer that wants to hand out PCs to people that will take them home. Either way, modern PCs need to be able to fit multiple use cases, and this is quite nice for that. The combination of the stunning OLED display and the powerful Dolby Atmos speakers make for a great entertainment experience.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard section is one that you can actually skip if you're familiar with ThinkPads. As always, it's got one of the best keyboards around, and also one of the longest key throws. Most keyboards, including business PCs, have much shallower keyboards than this. But still, ThinkPad keyboards, especially premium ones, feel comfortable to type on, an they're accurate too.
They're also quite quiet, which is always a factor for me and other loud typists. I've heard ThinkPad keyboards referred to as the Cadillac of keyboards, and I think that's an acceptable description.
There is, however, a TrackPoint right smack in the middle of the keyboard between the 'G', 'H', and 'B' keys. It's a relic from back when Windows PC trackpads were terrible, and I think most people just ignore it. It's also one of those things that Lenovo just can't get rid of because of backlash from the ThinkPad fan base. Both Dell and HP include a similar mechanism in their mainstream laptops, at least as an option, but Lenovo puts a TrackPoint on every model of ThinkPad that currently exists.
Of course, with the TrackPoint comes physical buttons above the clickable Precision trackpad. To me, that makes it worth it. Even though the trackpad is clickable, I'll still use those physical buttons for drag-and-drop operations and such.
Performance and and battery life
This is probably the meat of the review, since since the CPU and GPU are really the only parts of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme that changed since last year. It now has Intel's Comet Lake H processors and an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti.
The 10th-generation processors are an improvement over last year's ninth-gen chips, although they're still 14nm. The Core i7-10850H is still six cores with 12 threads too, and if you want more, you have to get something with a Core i9. To be clear, the Core i7-10850H is the vPro version of the Core i7-10750H. It maxes out at 5.1GHz, something that the Core i9 in last year's X1 Extreme couldn't do.
The new GPU is an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1650 Ti with 4GB GDDR6. It replaces a GTX 1650 with 4GB GDDR5, so the memory is superior in the newer model. In short, this one is more powerful than last year's. It's that simple.
Battery life, unsurprisingly, isn't great. With brightness on about 33% and the power slider on the notch above battery saver, I only got about four hours of actual work. This is roughly expected when you have a 45W CPU, powerful dedicated graphics, and a 4K OLED display. You'd probably save a bit of battery life if you went for non-OLED, and you'd do much better with an FHD display. Still, when it's up to me, I always recommend sacrificing battery life for a beautiful 4K UHD OLED display.
For benchmarks, I used PCMark 8 and PCMark 10.
ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 3
Core i7-10850H, GTX 1650 Ti ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2
Core i7-9850H, GTX 1650 HP OMEN 15
AMD Ryzen 7 4800H, GTX 1660 Ti Dell XPS 17 9700
Core i7-10875H, RTX 2060 PCMark 8: Home 3,258 3,594 4,756 3,544 PCMark 8: Creative 4,526 3,856 6,028 5,095 PCMark 8: Work 3,161 3,348 3,989 3,221 PCMark 10 4,968 5,045 5,639 5,305 3DMark: Time Spy 3,618 3,285 6,037 5,582 VRMark: Orange Room 4,427 4,600 7,533 7,343
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme is an excellent machine. My only complaints are that it has a 2019 design, and that the screen doesn't have a QHD option. After all, batetry life wasn't great, and it would be made better with a lower resolution, but I also don't want to go to 1080p on a 15.6-inch screen.
Other than that, the X1 Extreme is a delight. It's great for everything. Like I mentioned before, the OLED screen and Dolby Atmos speakers make it perfect for entertainment streaming, and the excellent keyboard makes it great for productivity.
The powerful internals mean that you can use it for anything from video editing to gaming. Yes, I said you can use a ThinkPad to play games, and those games look really pretty on the OLED display. In fact, so do the videos and photos that you're editing. Like I said, this machine is simply great for everything that you throw at it.
If you want to check it out on Lenovo.com, you can find it here.
By Abhay V
Google discloses a zero-day vulnerability in Windows, currently exploited in the wild
by Abhay Venkatesh
Google’s Project Zero team known to discover security threats has disclosed a zero-day vulnerability in Windows that affects versions from Windows 7 all the way to Windows 10 version 1903. The company’s post says that it has evidence of active exploits, which could allow attackers to execute code with elevated permissions.
What’s interesting is that the vulnerability that is tracked with the label CVE-2020-17087, coupled with another actively exploited Chrome zero-day vulnerability disclosed last week (CVE-2020-15999), performs what is known as a sandbox escape. This is where the malicious actor leverages these two bugs to execute code on a compromised target by escaping the secure environment of the browser, explains ZDNet’s Catalin Cimpanu.
The disclosure post also adds that Microsoft will be patching this vulnerability with the upcoming Patch Tuesday updates on November 10. However, the fixes for Windows 7 versions will only make it to users that have subscribed for extended security updates (ESU), so not all users will be able to patch their Windows 7 systems. Since the bug was being actively exploited, the search giant’s team provided Microsoft with seven days to patch the bug before disclosing it publicly today.
Google has already patched the Chrome vulnerability with stable build version 86.0.4240.1111. As for the Windows bug, the vulnerability lies in the Windows Kernel Cryptography Driver (cng.sys), which the Project Zero team explains in detail in the post here. The company has also attached a proof-of-concept code to show how the exploit could crash the system.
Additionally, Google’s Threat Analysis Group direction Shane Huntly has confirmed that the exploit is not related to any state-sponsored attack on the upcoming U.S. election.
Halo 4 Insider session extended, adds Halo Reach multiplayer for cross-play tests
by Pulasthi Ariyasinghe
The latest Halo: The Master Chief Collection Insider session has received an extension and new features. The Halo 4-focused test began last week, and following today's extension, invited PC and Xbox One Insiders will be able to keep participating in the flight until November 6.
The new content comes in the form of Halo: Reach's multiplayer, including both multiplayer and Firefight modes, which Insiders will now download via a build update on all platforms. The intent of this bonus content is to further test the PC and Xbox One cross-play capabilities the studio is introducing with the Halo 4 launch onto the PC version of the Master Chief Collection.
The flight update also applies bug fixes for the current Halo 4 build and improvements to Halo: Reach. The full patch notes are available for Insiders to see on their HaloWaypoint Insider portal.
343 Industries invited every eligible Halo Insider to this flight as it prepares to launch the final game of the collection for PC. However, Insider sessions won't stop here, so those who are interested can still sign up for future flights by heading here. The Halo 4 content being tested in this flight was detailed last week, and can be found here.
By Abhay V
Microsoft details all the features added and improvements made to Teams in October
by Abhay Venkatesh
In line with the monthly schedule, Microsoft has detailed all the new features added to Teams in the month of October. The list is extensive this month with updates ranging from new meetings and calling experiences such as live transcription with speaker attribution, the general rollout of the new Spotlight feature, recording improvements, and more. There are also improvements to the file-sharing experience, and much more.
First up are the updates to the meeting capabilities. The Redmond firm has added live transcription capabilities with speaker attribution to make it easy to associate statements to the right attendees. The Spotlight feature that lets presenters lock video feeds in meetings is also generally available. The ability to hard mute attendees preventing them from unmuting their mics, especially useful in classroom scenarios, has also rolled out completely this month. The hard mute and Spotlight features are also being added to Teams Rooms. Whiteboard in Teams is also receiving some features, with users now able to present whiteboard content in read-only mode to gain control of the content and allow for edits when necessary.
There are improvements for users that use Teams feeds for broadcasts with advanced production options. With Network Device Interface (NDI) support, users can now stream specific meeting feeds to video streaming tools for better control in professional streaming setups.
As for improvements to recording meetings, admins can now set meetings and call recordings to be stored in OneDrive for Business or SharePoint locations, letting users access, manage, and share these recordings easily. Meeting organizers can also download participant reports in chats to analyze attendance and other participant stats. Lastly, there are some updates to meeting policies that now allow for incoming and outgoing video to be blocked by admins.
Next up are changes coming to chats and collaboration features. Users can now pin important posts to the top of the channel for easier access. The new ‘Offline’ status is also available in addition to the ‘Busy’ and ‘Do not disturb’ statuses, letting users set themselves to completely unavailable. The company is also bringing a new file sharing experience that lets users set access permissions for a file stored in OneDrive or SharePoint right from a chat screen when attaching the file. Users can also create shareable links for files stored in Teams. There are updates to SharePoint pages to allow for the easy addition of pages as tabs in the collaboration tool.
Other improvements include a revamped notifications settings page with better categorization, language-aware spellcheck that automatically switches to the desired language to check for errors based on the text, and the new 'templates' feature that enables users to set up a new Team with less work using pre-defined industry templates.
Microsoft also announced a host of features being added this month for education users. These include anonymous grading and marking for Assignments to avoid any kind of student bias and the ability to view assignments across all classes in the Assignments section. There is one new feature for first-line workers too. IT admins can now configure Teams to alert users when they try to access the tool outside of working hours, helping employees adhere to regulations.
The company has also posted the features and enhancements being made for Government and Healthcare customers, which you can read in the blog post here. There are updates for developers and the platform itself, including a new Power Automate app for Teams, the ability for companies to brand their line-of-business apps in the tool, and a new publisher verification service for developers to verify their apps with IT admins. The company also noted the availability of the new native Teams app for ARM64 devices such as the Surface Pro X.
Rounding it off is a new section called Teams App Spotlight this month where the company highlights third-party apps for the platforms. The debutant this month is an app called Clio, which you can check out here.
By Rich Woods
Microsoft announces live-stream event for Xbox Series X|S launch
by Rich Woods
Today, Microsoft announced that it's going to be holding a live-stream event on November 10, the day that its next-generation Xbox consoles launch. Obviously, the event is to celebrate the launch of the Xbox Series X and the Xbox Series S.
The company says that this event is meant to be a companion for your already-existing gaming plans that day. There are going to be "Let's Play" segments, and you'll be invited to play alongside of the content creators on the stream. Microsoft refers to it as grabbing your "device of choice", a nod to how you don't need an Xbox to play Xbox games anymore, as we can stream them to an array of Android devices.
"To honor the launch of the new Xbox generation, we invite you to celebrate this power of play with us," said Xbox chief Phil Spencer in a blog post. "On November 10, we invite you, players of all identities and backgrounds, console generations and devices, skill sets and tastes, to celebrate, connect, and play together. We invite you to grab your device of choice and play alongside Team Xbox, your favorite creators, and our partners, right from your homes around the world. We invite you to take a glimpse behind-the-scenes of the next generation of games, hear the stories of people who make them, and play along with them."
The event will be at 2pm Eastern Time on November 10, and you'll be able to watch on YouTube, Twitch, and Facebook Gaming.