The best Lenovo ThinkPads to buy in October 2021 – X1 Carbon, X1 Extreme, and more
Lenovo’s ThinkPad brand has long been synonymous with business devices. The ThinkPad lineup was initially produced and sold by IBM, who designed the laptops at its Yamato labs in Japan, but Lenovo acquired IBM’s personal computing business in 2005. Since then, the laptops have carried the Lenovo branding, but they’re still very much geared towards the same audience. All of the ThinkPad laptops are designed for business users, but they still manage to stand out from each other. If you’re looking for the best ThinkPad you can get for yourself, we’re here to help.
As we’ve mentioned, the ThinkPad lineup comes in a lot of different flavors, from more budget-friendly options to performance beasts. They all retain that classic feel of the ThinkPad brand, but they still manage to be fairly distinct from each other. And while they’re not far from what you might remember, they have plenty of modern features, too. These are some of the best laptops you can buy, especially for business users.
Navigate this article:
- Best overall: ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
- Best clamshell: ThinkPad X1 Carbon (Gen 9)
- Best thin and light: ThinkPad X1 Nano
- Best for performance: ThinkPad X1 Extreme
- Best mainstream: ThinkPad T14
- Best workstation: ThinkPad P17
- Best budget laptop: ThinkPad L13
- Best Chromebook: ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
Best overall: ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga
Our best overall pick goes to the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, and that’s because it’s one of the more unique laptops in Lenovo’s lineup. The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is a brand-new addition this year, and it does a lot right while also refreshing the brand. It’s less configurable than some of Lenovo’s other ThinkPads, but that also means you get a solid experience across the board.
Starting with performance, the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga comes with 11th-generation Intel Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1180G7 vPro. Yes, that does mean it comes with Intel’s Y-series processors, but it still delivers rock-solid performance for day-to-day business tasks. These processors still include Iris Xe graphics, too, so you’re getting a fairly close experience to the typical 15W processors in many other laptops. You can also choose between n 8GB and 16GB of RAM, and the SSD storage can go up to 1TB. Like most other ThinkPads, you can mix and match these components at will, so you can get the fastest processor and more RAM but save on storage if you don’t need that much.
The display on the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is also great, being a 13.5-inch panel with a 3:2 aspect ratio, something many other laptops don’t have. The company usually offers 16:10 displays, which is already taller than a typical 16:9 screen, but a 3:2 display gives you even more surface area for the display, and it’s great for productivity. Unlike some other ThinkPad laptops, the display doesn’t offer any configuration options, but frankly, it doesn’t need to be. The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga has a resolution of 2256 x 1504, which Lenovo calls Quad HD, and it’s an IPS panel with Dolby Vision support 450 nits of brightness, and 100% of sRGB coverage. For a 13.5-inch display, this is all fantastic, and you don’t need to configure it because you’re going to get a great experience no matter which model you choose.
The design is another thing that makes the X1 Titanium Yoga stand out, and it’s all in the name. Unlike most Lenovo laptops, which come in black, this one comes in a color called titanium, and it uses titanium material, too. The lid on this laptop uses a mix of titanium and carbon fiber, and it has a somewhat grainy and very unique look. It’s very different from the more polished-looking base, which is made from a magnesium-aluminum alloy, and that gives the Titanium Yoga something of a dual-tone look even though it’s all the same color. This combination of materials also makes for a very lightweight PC, weighing just 1.15kg (2.54lbs), plus it’s incredibly thin at just 11.5mm.
Of course, you still get classic ThinkPad elements like the red accents, the pointing stick in the keyboard, and the buttons above the trackpad. This is something modern laptop users might not care about, but it’s a part of the ThinkPad lineage, and even though this is a very modern-looking laptop, it keeps that feature for long-time fans. You also get both an IR camera and a fingerprint reader for Windows Hello. In terms of ports, you get two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack, and that shouldn’t be too surprising considering how thin and light the laptop is. It does mean you’ll need to buy something like a Thunderbolt or a USB-C hub if you want to connect wired peripherals, however.
Another modern feature of the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga is support for cellular networks, and you get to choose between LTE and 5G. LTE support is powered by a Fibocom modem, and it provides Cat9 speeds – up to 450Mbps downloads and 50Mbps uploads. If you want faster connections on the road, you can get the Qualcomm Snapdragon X55 5G modem, which is faster and more future-proof technology compared to LTE.
All in all, this is a fantastic business convertible, and in our opinion, the best ThinkPad out there.
Best clamshell: ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 9
The ThinkPad X1 Carbon is the oldest member of the ThinkPad family, but there’s a good reason it still gets improved upon every year. This classic clamshell retains the elements you love about the ThinkPad family, but it keeps adding more modern capabilities.
First off, it comes with 11th-generation Intel Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7 vPro. This is a quad-core processor that can reach speeds up to 4.8GHz, plus it comes with Iris Xe graphics, which is Intel’s best integrated GPU yet by far. It’s a 15W processor, so it’s a bit faster than the Y-series CPUs you’d find in thinner laptops. You can also configure it with up to 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD, and that amount of RAM pretty much ensures you’ll never be strapped for memory. You can work on very large databases, coding projects, or image editing with plenty of layers this way, so you have nothing to worry about.
The 14-inch display is also great on the ThinkPad X1 Carbon, though it depends on which model you choose. First off, it’s worth noting this is a 16:10 display, and while that’s not quite as tall as a 3:2 panel, it’s already an improvement over 16:9 displays many other laptops have. A taller screen means more surface area, and that means more space for UI elements and text, making reading and productivity that much better. The base configuration here is fairly simple, with a Full HD+ panel (1920 x 1200) and not much more. However, you can add a touchscreen, a privacy guard (which makes the screen invisible to people around you), or skip all of that and get a super sharp 4K+ (3840 x 2400) display with HDR support.
If you do get the 4K+ display, you’ll also automatically get an IR camera for Windows Hello, in addition to the fingerprint reader that’s included across the board. You also get a woven carbon fiber design for the lid, which helps the laptop stick out a bit more than its typical flat black color. In terms of ports, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon also offers a healthy supply of them, including two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A, HDMI 2.0, and a headphone jack. Just like most other ThinkPads, you still get signature features like the pointing stick. The overall design is fairly standard for a ThinkPad clamshell, and it’s 14.7mm thin while weighing 2.49lbs for its base configuration.
For mobile workers, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon also includes cellular connectivity, and you get the choice of either LTE or 5G. LTE connectivity is provided by a Quectel modem with LTE Cat12 speeds, meaning you get up to 600Mbps downloads and 150MBps uploads. That’s already a solid experience, but if you want even faster connectivity, you can get the Snapdragon X55 5G modem, which should also be more future-proof if you plan to use this laptop for years to come.
One last thing that’s worth noting is that you can also get the ThinkPad X1 Carbon with Linux preinstalled instead of Windows, which allows you to save some money, too. This and most configuration options are only available on Lenovo’s website, however.
Best thin and light: ThinkPad X1 Nano
If you want the lightest laptop in Lenovo’s lineup, the ThinkPad X1 Nano is for you. This is the lightest PC on this list, but that doesn’t mean it sacrifices any of the things that make the ThinkPad family great.
Performance-wise, the ThinkPad X1 Nano is very similar to the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga at the top of this list. It comes with Intel’s 11th-generation Core processors, up to a Core i7-1180G7, a quad-core CPU with boost speeds up to 4.6GHz. It also packs Intel Iris Xe graphics, so you really aren’t sacrificing a lot to get this lightweight machine. Of course, these are Y-series processors, but as we’ve mentioned, that’s not as big of a deal as it used it. They have lower power consumption and generate less heat, so it does come at some cost to performance, but it’s not as noticeable as it used to be in previous generations. Plus, you get up to 16GB of RAM and 1TB of storage, so again, no big sacrifices here for most users. You get a bit less flexibility than you might expect, though, since any processor upgrade also forces you to get 16GB of RAM, but to be fair, we’d generally recommend the extra RAM either way.
The display is also fantastic on the ThinkPad X1 Nano, as it’s a 13-inch panel with a 16:10 aspect ratio. That means it’s about as tall as a typical 14-inch laptop, but it fits in a smaller body. The resolution is 2160 x 1350, which is similar to Quad HD, but not as wide, and you also get Dolby Vision support and 100% sRGB coverage. The only configuration option you get is adding support for touch, but that’s not a bad thing. This resolution is already as sharp as it gets for a display of this size, and it means you get a fantastic display experience regardless of the configuration you choose. The laptop also includes both an IR camera and fingerprint reader for Windows Hello by default. This is all very similar to the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, but now in a clamshell form factor.
Of course, the big draw of this laptop is that it’s incredibly light, starting at less than 2lbs, or around 907 grams. It’s the lightest ThinkPad ever made, and it’s also very thin at 17.2mm at its thickest point for touch-enabled models. It’s not quite as thin as the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga, but it is significantly lighter, and this is laptop you can truly take anywhere without a problem. Just like other ThinkPads, you get the classic black look, red accents, and a pointing stick with buttons above the trackpad, so all the essence of the lineup is here, just in a super portable package.
The big sacrifice to achieve this is the port selection. All you get is two Thunderbolt 4 ports and a headphone jack, and while Thunderbolt 4 is very capable, it may be a bit inconvenient to require an adapter for legacy peripherals and display outputs. What you don’t sacrifice is the option for cellular connectivity, which is still here with your choice of LTE or 5G support. The options here are the same as the X1 Titanium Yoga, with a Fibocom L850-GL Cat9 LTE modem or a Snapdragon X55 5G modem. The latter is significantly more expensive, but you should get faster speeds and be more future-proof by going that route.
Best for performance: ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4
So far, we’ve been looking at the most portable machines in Lenovo’s lineup, but what if you care less about portability and more about beastly performance? Well, the latest generation of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme gives you just that, but it’s still designed with some mobility in mind.
First off, let’s talk performance, because this thing is a beast. It comes with 11th-generation Intel Core H-series processors – the 45W models – and you can get it with up to an Intel Core i9-11950H vPro CPU. Yes, that’s an 8-core, 16-thread CPU capable of boosting up to 5GHz, so you can rest assured that pretty much anything you might want to do, you can do. Even demanding video editing tasks aren’t going to be a big issue with this one. But that’s not all. While previous generations used middle-of-the-road GPUs, you can get the ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 4 with up to an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3080 graphics card now. You can use this laptop for high-end gaming if you want to.
This is truly a machine for those who need beastly performance, and that’s even more obvious when you look at the maximum of 64GB of RAM and 4TB of SSD storage. That’s an insane amount of RAM, so you can work with very large coding projects, image editing with lots of layers, and so on without a hitch. It’s worth noting, however, that the storage is divided into two slots, and one of those slots is removed if you get an GeForce RTX 3060 GPU or higher, so you’ll be limited to 2TB of storage that way. That’s still not too shabby at all, though.
The display comes in a few different configurations, but even the base model is great. It starts with a Quad HD+ (2560 x 1600) panel, which is already more than sharp enough for a laptop display. Plus, this is a 16:10 aspect ratio, so the extra surface area of the display means text, UI elements, and so on will more easily fit on the screen, making for a fantastic productivity experience. But if that’s somehow not enough, you can upgrade to a 4K+ display (3840 x 2400), which increases the brightness level to 600 nits (from 400), and adds support for Dolby Vision and DisplayHDR 400 certification. You can also add a touchscreen to the 4K+ panel, though not to the base model.
That “extreme” mentality continues with the ports, which include two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A ports, an SD card reader, HDMI, a headphone hack, and a proprietary charging port. You’ll be ready to connect to just about anything out of the box. Plus, this is one of the few laptops on this list (and in general) to have a 1080p webcam, instead of 720p. Of course, with all of this inside, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is much heavier than the laptops we’ve seen so far, but with a starting weight of 3.99lbs, it could be far worse. It’s also just 17.7mm thin, which is very impressive for something this powerful.
And that’s still not all, because the ThinkPad X1 Extreme still offers you the option for cellular connectivity if you need to get work done on the road. Or at least, it will, as the option doesn’t seem tot be available yet. You won’t be able to get regular LTE, only 5G, and the option isn’t available if you get an RTX 3060 GPU or higher. Still, if you need cellular connectivity and top-tier performance on the go, the ThinkPad X1 Extreme is one of the best options you can find.
Best mainstream laptop: ThinkPad T14 Gen 2
Not everyone is looking to for the thinnest and lightest laptop out there. Sometimes, you just need something reliable, durable, and with all the performance you need for your day-to-day tasks. The Lenovo ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 delivers that, while being more affordable than most other laptops on this list.
Starting with performance, the ThinkPad T14 Gen 2 delivers the goods with the latest hardware from either Intel or AMD. You can have your choice of processor brand, with AMD models being noticeably cheaper overall. Both models are more than powerful enough, however, with up to either an Intel Core i7-1185G7 vPro or a Ryzen 7 Pro 5850U. The AMD models may offer higher multi-core performance, though, since the top-tier model has 8 cores and 16 threads, versus the 4 cores and 8 threads of the equivalent Intel variant. However, the Intel models can be had with a GeForce MX450 GPU if you want a little bit more power for graphics.
The RAM can also be configured up to 48GB, and that’s for both AMD and Intel models. The first 16GB are soldered onto the motherboard, but you can get up to 32GB in a SODIMM slot, or upgrade it yourself later. You also get up to 1TB of SSD storage, which is enough to store plenty of documents and other files.
Unlike other ThinkPads on this list, the display here usesa 16:9 aspect ratio, which is part of what makes this a “mainstream” laptop, This is still the most common aspect ratio for a laptop, so it makes sense why it’s here. You can get it in a Full HD variant, with optional touch support and a privacy guard, or upgrade all the way to 4K with HDR support and Dolby Vision. This aspect ratio is going to be ideal for consuming content, since most online videos and movies are still 16:9.
Design-wise, this is one of the more boring ThinkPads. It’s not especially light or thin, though at 17.7mm, it’s certainly not overly thick, either. It’s a fairly standard laptop, but it does come in a couple of color options, which Lenovo doesn’t offer on that many of its laptops. If you don’t like the typical black, you can always get it in Storm Grey (or Aluminum Grey for the AMD variant). It also gets you a healthy supply of ports with two USB Type-A ports, two USB Type-C (with Thunderbolt 4 on the Intel model), HDMI 2.0, a microSD card reader, and an RJ45 port – the first laptop on this list to offer wired internet access out of the box.
Put simply, this is just a great mainstream laptop, and it certainly deserves a spot as one of the best ThinkPads out there.
Best workstation: ThinkPad P17 Gen 2
What if your idea of mobility is simply to take your PC from one office to another and you want the ultimate laptop performance? That’s where mobile workstations like the ThinkPad P17 might just be what you’re looking for. This is a beastly machine that sheds almost any semblance of portability, but delivers all the power you could ever want.
Indeed, this is an incredibly powerful laptop, starting with the fact that you can get it with up to an Intel Core i9-11950H or an Intel Xeon-11955M processor specifically designed for mobile workstations like this. These are both 8-core, 16-thread processors capable of boosting up to 5GHz, so you won’t be missing any performance. You also get workstation graphics from NVIDIA, with up to an NVIDIA Quadro RTX A5000 GPU, giving you a ton of power for business applications.
You can also configure this laptops with up to 128GB of ECC memory (only with Xeon processors) and a whopping 6TB of SSD storage for just about anything you might ever need. There are three M.2 slots inside, and potentially, you could get even larger SSDs yourself and expand your storage even further in the future. To power all of that, there’s also a massive 94Whr battery, but you’re still going to want to be plugged in most of the time with hardware like this.
The display on the ThinkPad P17 is a 17-inch panel, and it uses a more traditional 16:9 aspect ratio compared to the taller screens of other ThinkPads. The base configuration is just Full HD, however, and it has a maximum brightness of 300 nits, which isn’t the best. However, you can upgrade to a 4K panel with 500 nits of brightness and HDR support, which also includes factory color calibration to make sure it’s suitable for color-sensitive work.
As we’ve mentioned, portability isn’t much of a concern with a workstation like this, so it’s anywhere between 24.3mm and 32.4mm thick, and it starts at a whopping 8.09lbs of weight. This is truly a laptop you want to use at a desk, and not on a train or something. Ports are aplenty here, with two Thunderbolt 4 ports, two USB Type-A, HDMI 2.1, a headphone jack, RJ45, and an SD card reader. You also get an extra USB Type-C port plugged directly into the NVIDIA GPU, so you can connect VR headsets easily to the laptop. And if you want, you can add a smart card reader, too.
Even with this hardly being a portable PC, Lenovo still gives you the option to add LTE connectivity. It’s using a Quectel EM160R-L model with Cat16 speeds, which means yu get up to 1Gbps downloads and 150Mbps uploads.
All in all, the Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 gives you all the performance and features you could ever need from a workstation, and it’s certainly one of the best laptops in the lineup.
Best budget laptop: ThinkPad L13 Gen 2
We can’t all afford the most premium designs andfancy features. Sometimes, we just need something reliable that gets the basics right at an affordable price. For those people, the Lenovo ThinkPad L13 is probably the best option out there.
Like we said, this is an affordable laptop that gets all the basics right. It comes with 11th-generation Intel Core processors, up to an Intel Core i7-1185G7, the same as many of Lenovo’s flagships. However, the base configuration comes with a Core i3, which allows you to save some money. That configuration also doesn’t include Intel’s Iris Xe graphics, but the more powerful processors do. Aside from that, you can get up to 16GB of RAM (starting at 4GB), and up to 1TB of storage (starting at 128GB).
It’s these lower configuration options that make the starting price much lower than other ThinkPads, but if you don’t need all that extra performance, this is still a valid option. And, aside from upgrade the RAM (the 8GB upgrade is tied to an Intel Core i5 or higher, and vice versa), you can still combine these components at will to make something that meets your needs and is less expensive than other options.
The display is another notable step down from other ThinkPads, starting with a resolution of 1366 x 786 and just 250 nits of brightness. However, you can upgrade to a Full HD panel with 300 nits of brightness and even an optional touchscreen. It’s still not going to be on the same level as the more expensive laptops on this list, but it’s a good entry-level experience and it’s going to be more than acceptable for a laptop at this price.
The design is fairly unexceptional, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s not super thin or light, weighing 3.06lbs and measuring 17.6mm in thinness, but it’s still portable enough, and it keeps classic elements of ThinkPad design like the pointing stick and a privacy shutter for the webcam, so these aren’t just premium features. You can even get an IR camera and/or fingerprint reader for Windows Hello. And you get a solid supply of ports, too, with two USB Type-A ports, two USB Type-C (one of which supports Thunderbolt 4), HDMI, headphone jack, and a microSD card reader. The only big thing you don’t get here is the option for cellular connectivity, but that’s not too surprising for a budget laptop.
It may not be on the level of the most expensive ThinkPads, but this is still one of the best options for business users.
Best Chromebook: ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook
And of course, not everyone is a Windows user, so Lenovo also has some great Chromebook options available. It may not feature all the bells and whistles of some Windows-based ThinkPads, but this is still a solid business convertible through and through.
Starting with its internal specs, we have up to an AMD Ryzen 7 3700C processor, which has four cores and 8 threads. This isn’t the latest and greatest from AMD, but it’s more than enough to power a Chromebook and deliver a solid all-around experience. Plus, you get up to 16GB of RAM, so multi-tasking should be a breeze. The 256GB SSD isn’t exactly mind-blowing by Windows standards, but with much of the Chrome OS experience being web-based, you probably won’t need a lot more.
The display is also a strong point for the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook, starting with a base configuration that features a Full HD IPS display. It’s the standard 16:9 format, which may be a bummer to some, but this is still the most common aspect ratio for a laptop, and it’s ideal for content consumption. The best part is that you can upgrade to an Ultra HD display with an OLED panel, and that’s a fantastic option to have. That makes this display absolutely fantastic, and it’s brighter, too. Overall, the viewing experience will be great here. This is a convertible, so naturally it also comes with a touchscreen, and the display rotates all around. One classic ThinkPad feature that’s missing here is the privacy shutter for the webcam.
The design is also different from most ThinkPads. The chassis is all made from aluminum, and it makes this somewhat heavy, starting at 3.3lbs. Still, it’s just 15.5mm thin, so it’s still portable. And you get a very solid selection of ports here, too, including two USB Type-A, two USB Type-C, HDMI 2.0, microSD card reader, and a headphone jack. There’s no Thunderbolt support, but that’s to be expected with an AMD-powered laptop. You can also add a fingerprint reader for security, though there’s no option for an IR webcam. One ThinkPad feature that’s not missing is the pointing stick, so long-time fans have nothing to worry about in that aspect.
Compared to some of its Windows siblings, the ThinkPad C13 Yoga Chromebook falls short in some ways, but this is still a great Chrome OS experience, and it deserves its place as one of the best ThinkPads.
And those are what we’d consider the best ThinkPads you can buy right now. The ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga takes the crown because it’s a fantastic blend of a versatile form factor, powerful specs, an incredibly thin and light design, and unique materials including titanium, carbon fiber, and magnesium. It does all that while keeping elements of the ThinkPad line that fans have loved over the years, and that’s no easy feat.
Of course, if that form factor isn’t your style, there are other fantastic options for different use cases, so you’re sure to find something you like here. All of these laptops carry the lineage of the ThinkPad brand, and you’ll find many similar features across all of them. Not interested in Lenovo’s offerings? Check out our lists of the best HP laptops and the best Dell laptops to see if something suits your taste a bit better.