x1cuck9 "review"

This laptop was paid for with my own money for $1311 USD. The specs are:
i7-1165G7 | 32GB LPDDR4X | 256GB SSD | 1920x1200 400 nits | IR cam
Pics (with screen/keyboard comparisons to my Latitude 7480)

Buying experience/shipping

Customized on 28 May, had the "4+ months shipping" status. Ship date ended up being 10 Jul (6 weeks+1 day), delivery date was 20 Jul (for a total of 7 weeks+4 days). Here is how Lenovo's (awful) shipping estimate changed over time.

Chassis
  • Very solid & lightweight, hinge is good, can open to ~185 deg.
  • Rubber feet are much more slippery than the Latitude's. This makes one-handed opening "doable" but not really because it's too easy to push the whole thing around while opening/closing. It also makes it hard to grasp the lid to open without bracing it against the other hand.
  • As usual, a fingerprint magnet. Looked dirty like 5 minutes after unboxing.
Keyboard/trackpad/trackpoint/cameras/fp reader
  • Keyboard is fine but travel/tactility is noticeably worse than the Latitude's (2mm travel) keyboard. X1C9 keys are bigger so it took a little adjustment. Still hate the fn-lctrl order/sizing and useless (and non-rebindable) Skype fn keys. Shorter right-column non-issue for me (same as Lat).
  • Trackpad is very smooth; this is my first Precision and it's nice to use. However I'm not used to the lack of dedicated bottom buttons like on the Lat/VAIO, so quickly mousing and clicking is much less precise. After setting the option, using three fingers to middle-click doesn't work.
  • As expected, trackpoint is amazing after using X-Mouse Button Control to get tpmiddle-like behavior. Top buttons are nice and tactile and easier to operate than the Lat.
  • Webcam is absolute garbage. Significantly worse than the (4-year-old) Lat and a (2-year old) LG Gram. Capture rate is super choppy, like 10 fps vs 30 on the Lat. I would actually be embarrassed to use this thing in calls. Apparently the non-IR webcams are much better. x1c9 sample | lat sample
  • IR camera login doesn't work with webcam shutter closed. It's also unreliable
  • Fingerprint reader is unreliable.
Screen
  • Good colors, bright, matte--similar to the Lat so i'm not blown away or anything. 16:10 is great; FHD+ at 125% scaling gives decent real estate while keeping text pretty.
  • Minimum brightness is much lower than min brightness on Lat--a great feature for me.
  • Noticeable ghosting while playing Overwatch
Performance/thermals

Here's where it gets shitty. Unpredictible/erratic PL1 behavior cripples what should be a very good Iris Xe+LPDDR4X setup. When it's not doing random shit it seems to settle to triangle-waving between 15-20W. I tried messing around with Windows power settings and ThrottleStop--no dice.

The worst part is that it has the capacity to cool 20-25W sustained, it just chooses to shoot randomly between 5W and 45W instead. My unit shipped with the latest BIOS v1.42 (which contains two iterations of Lenovo's attempts to fix this behavior).

Running AIDA64+Heaven stress test:

Games:

Misc
  • Haven't tested battery life but I'm sure its fine
  • Sleep battery drain: 4% in 7h
  • Sleep/wake is very fast, combined with IR login it go brrr
  • If I set it to Do nothing when closing the lid and put it to sleep while lid is open, it will wake up if I close the lid. It will also wake when I unplug the charger. Annoying.
Verdict

It's going back. Paying for the latest-and-greatest Intel CPU only for Lenovo to cripple its performance in firmware is a dealbreaker for me. It seems like this is a common issue for Lenovo, as I've seen some sort of aggressive/arbitrary throttling in almost every single higher-end (T/X/X1) ThinkPad from the past few years. This time I even gave them the benefit of the doubt by waiting for multiple BIOS fixes. The awful webcam, nerfed keyboard, and soldered everything also don't help make me feel good about this purchase.

I briefly considered the Intel X13 Gen 2 but it's just more of the same. Other candidates were Elitebook 845 G7 (skipped because 16:9 and lack of WSL virtualization) and T14 AMD (skipped because of 16:9, poor thermals, and soldered components).

Next steps

I pre-ordered a Framework Laptop with the same CPU, which should hopefully be shipping soon. Framework's approach has been a breath of fresh air and it's obvious that they put much more thought into their product than Lenovo does in theirs. What really sold me is that they advertise 28W sustained load and when asked they immediately produced proof. Not to mention never-before-seen features like hotswappable ports, upgradeable mobos, 1080p webcam, open-source schematics/EC firmware, etc.

I really will miss the trackpoint (literally the only thing giving me second thoughts) but the sacrifices that come with sticking to ThinkPad just aren't worth it to me.

Edit
Pub: 21 Jul 2021 06:50 UTC
Edit: 07 Aug 2021 21:57 UTC
Views: 407