We had an opportunity to spend some time with the X1E and were thoroughly impressed with it. The X1 Extreme is Lenovo’s new 15″ laptop with a centered keyboard and packing some very powerful hardware. Most importantly, it also checks most boxes when it comes to light sensitivity.
The X1 Extreme comes with two display options, and three possible displays. The 4K glossy display is offered as a premium option. The base model is equipped with a full-HD 1080p display.
Lenovo uses one supplier for the 4K display option, so you’re guaranteed one particular display when that option is chosen. In contrast, Lenovo uses two suppliers for its full-HD 1080p display: Beijing BOE Display Technology Co., and the Innolux Corporation of Taiwan.
We tested the BOE full-HD 1080p variant (model NV156FHM-N61), though there is no guarantee you will receive the BOE display and not the Innolux. At this time we have no information on the Innolux display.
We detected flicker, but the frequency of this flicker is so high that it’s highly unlikely to cause any neurological response in even those most sensitive. The flicker is present at brightness levels of 0% through 99%, at a frequency of 21 kHz. In other words, the flicker cycles on this display 21,000 cycles each second, which is so far beyond anything likely to cause problems.
The flicker depth (amplitude modulation) couldn’t be reliably measured as this frequency as it runs up against the limits of our equipment. Having said that, the pattern observed suggests that the flicker depth is probably 100%, which would be offensive except that it is completely mitigated by the incredibly high flicker frequency.
We would prefer no flicker at all, but can’t fault BOE for assisting users by implementing such a high flicker frequency.
We note the 4K display option guarantees flicker-free operation at all brightness levels, but trades an anti-reflective matte coating for the reflective glossy type coating which is more difficult to use at low brightness operation due to glare from nearby light sources.
COLOR SPECTRUM OUTPUT
The display settings out-of-the-box, as shipped by Lenovo, are nothing short of awful. Colors look terribly washed out, leading to a cooler, more blue appearance that some may find harder to tolerate. Furthermore the display brightness continually adjusts based on how light or dark the image displayed is, by noticeable and annoying increments. In other words, when switching to a dark image on screen you will notice the screen slowly becoming darker and when switching to a white image the screen will begin to brighten on it’s own. The culprit is the default color and power saving settings utilized by the Intel Graphics driver.
To adjust these settings, access the Intel Graphics Settings by right-clicking on the desktop.
Once open, navigate to the power settings and adjust settings as follows.
Ensure you then select “Apply” in the bottom right of that window.
If you desire a colorful display with vibrant colors, navigate back towards the color settings in the same Intel Graphics Settings application and boost saturation by around 30%.
We measured the CCT of the display to be 6,237 K, after we disabled the above power enhancement features. With Windows 10 Night Light enabled at around ~45% strength, the CCT was reduced to a much warmer 4,003 K. Users may adjust Night Light to any strength they prefer.
You will see on the above SPD graphs that increasing the Windows Night Light setting reduces the proportion of blue light relative to green, yellow and red, resulting in a much warmer appearance.
The ThinkPad X1 Extreme we tested was able to achieve an impressively low minimum level of brightness. In fact, it bests almost every other laptop display we have looked at. It is very well suited for operation at very low brightness levels.
POLARIZED LENS COMPATIBILITY
You may have noticed that the light from some displays is completely blocked by polarized glasses.
For those sensitive to light few accessories are more valuable than polarized sunglasses. Polarized lenses work by filtering out photons oscillating horizontally. While natural light from the sun oscillates in all orientations, light from displays on most devices will all share a single orientation by design. If that orientation happens to be horizontal to your polarized lenses then the light may be blocked in whole or in part, leaving the device unusable with polarized lenses. For a more detailed explanation see our article, Polarized Glasses and Electronic Displays: A Brief Tutorial.
With respect to the ThinkPad X1 Extreme equipped with the BOE display, we found that ~100% of the light emitted by the display was visible through polarized sunglasses when used in classic landscape orientation.
This is a desirable result.
The BOE display equipped on this laptop features an anti-glare matte display. The matte display is non-glossy and does a good job of diffusing nearby light sources that would otherwise be reflected by the screen and into your eyes. A matte display is especially important for avoiding eye strain during low brightness operation.
The laptop is equipped with function keys allowing for fast adjustments to brightness. Our only complaint with this is the significant jump in brightness between minimum brightness level and one interval up when adjusting by way of the function key. Finer tuning can still be achieved by using the less convenient slider bar in the settings menu.
SUMMARY OF RECOMMENDED SETTINGS
The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme requires very few adjustments to achieve operation likely to minimize the aggravation of symptoms of those most sensitive.
We recommend adjustments to the Intel Graphics Settings, as described above. We also recommend users consider making adjustments to Windows Night Light to reduce the proportion of blue light emitted from the display.
With those changes implemented the laptop is likely to be well tolerated.