Wolfleben's Thinkpad X390 Review

I bought an X390 and received it on May 30. The following is my review of it after using it for a little over two weeks. No, I did not do my battery test method because I don’t have the time to do it.

TLDR: X390 is overkill for what I’m doing but I think it is a good laptop.

Table of Contents


Packaging

Contents in Package


The ThinkPad X390

Placement of the left CTRL Key

The placement of the left CTRL Key goes against my decades of muscle memory and instinct of it being on the far left and bottom key. On the Thinkpad X390 you get the Function key instead next to the the CTRL:

I get that this is a laptop and it needs a function key but the CTRL should be where the function is. There are a lot of keyboard shortcuts that involve the CTRL key and I’ve have to remind myself on this keyboard that the left CTRL key is not where it should be.

To illustrate my point look at this normal keyboard:

The good news is you can change that in the BIOS.

How do you do it:
F1 to enter BIOS on startup
Select Config
Select Keyboard and Mouse
Toggle the Fn and Ctrl Key Swap enable or disable (normal)

Specs

  • Processor - Intel i7-8565U

  • Operating System -Windows 10 Pro 64

  • Display Type - 13.3" FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS anti-glare

  • Memory -16 GB DDR4 2400MHz

  • 512GB Solid State Drive, PCIe-NVMe OPAL2.0 M.2

  • Graphics - Integrated Intel UHD Graphics 620

  • Camera -720p HD Camera with microphone and a Privacy Shutter

  • Fingerprint Reader

  • Keyboard - Backlit Keyboard - US English

  • Wireless - Intel 9560 802.11AC (2 x 2) & Bluetooth 5.0

  • Battery time before having to charge is claimed to be 17.6-hour

  • Ports

    • 2 x USB 3.1 Gen 1
    • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 1 Type-C
    • 1 x USB 3.1 Gen 2 Type-C / Intel Thunderbolt 3
    • MicroSD card reader/Micro-SIM combination slot
    • Smart card reader
    • Headphone / mic combo
    • HDMI 1.4
    • Ethernet extension

What comes Installed

There is some deceptive stuff going on with what looks to be installed. Most of those are just links to the Microsoft store. Comes with a trial version of 365. I removed and uninstalled about 14 things.

The menu is a lot more streamlined.

What I installed and configured

  • Firefox
  • Foobar 2000
  • Keepass
  • Revo Uninstaller
  • VLC
  • Office 2019

One thing I’m planning on doing is switching to office 365. I’ve had to buy Office twice which in comparison to just paying for 365 is not a deal. With 365 I can install it on up to 6 different machines. It’s going to be a bit before I do that though.

I’ve gotten use to using a 24 hour clocks and I’ve been doing it for decades. Getting it Changed in Windows isn’t as straight forward as it should be.

In Windows and in Office I have the language set to English United Kingdom. Keyboard is set to the US. The reason the language is set to English UK is because the story I’m working on is technically set in the UK. I want to use the spelling of words for the story from there and this will make it easier for me.

What I'm using it for

I’ve been using it as a pure writing machine both for the story I’m working on and updating the wiki for it. Though I did watch one film on it while I was at a repair shop for my car.

A majority of that is redacted because I don’t won’t to spoil things but I’m alright if you know a character’s favorite food is waffles. Right now I’m spending time working on the wiki/outline for the story. I’ll be rewriting the story soon.

The only other thing I do on the laptop is listen to my music while I write.

Performance

Typing

The Thinkpad keyboard has a solid feel to it. It is similar in feel to a mechanical keyboard. That said it took me time to adjust to the left CTRL key not being the last key at the bottom. As a writer, keyboard shortcuts are a timesaver. I’ve adapted to this layout but if a person is considering this laptop they need to be aware of this. It can be changed in the BIOS though. I do think it is the best keyboard I’ve ever used on a laptop.

Sound

The X390 has the Dolby Audio Built in. I use my Shure SE215 Headphones for listen to music while I work on Project Camelot. The thing that was suprised by was that I could hear things in music I hadn’t heard before.
Example: The Song Equation from Fringe Season 1 Soundtrack.
I could hear the wood crack as the piano was being played.

Now I have watched one film on the machine. The Truman Show. Yes I know not the most action packed film but the Sound was like I was in theater watching the film by myself. Its kinda neat.

Overall the Dolby Audio experience, is impressive.

Portability

The X390 is great for carrying around from the bed, to the couch, to waiting in a car repair shop for three hours.

Battery Performance

I work on the wiki and outline for about an 1 to 2 hours a day while listening to music. I’ve only had to charge it twice. In my opinion, the battery performance is good enough for what I’m doing.


Conclusion

The Thinkpad X390 is overkill to have as a dedicated writing machine with the specs I have. It has been great to use for me. While I do think the left CTRL key is not where it should be, I think the laptop is solid. I know I’ll be using this laptop for years to come to write stories.


What about Linux?

You may be wondering am I going to install Linux on this. Look I do bug testing for Debian in a dedicate VM. I love Debian but I'm not going install any Linux on this machine for at least five years and if I do, it'll be Debian.

FAQ

The following are questions people might have about the X390:

Does the X390 have a magnesium body and internal frame still?

Yes.

How easy is it to take apart to do maintenance like upgrading ram, storage, battery replacement)?

RAM is soldered in. Can’t upgrade.

The SDD is a M.2 PCIe solid-state drives. It is easily to get to and replace.

The battery is also easy to get to. It can be replaced if you need to.


Optional Extra Content

Curious about my dedicate writing space, what's different in how I write now, and music I listen to while I write? Then click the triangle below:
Optional Extra Content

My Dedicated Writing Space

For longer sessions, I do have a dedicated writing space:

The other things in the dedicate writing space:
Ducky One 2 Mini RGB LED 60% Cherry MX Silver
SteelSeries Rival 110 Mouse and SteelSeries QcK Gaming Surface - Small Cloth Mousepad
Saber Red/Nero - AKA The One True and Best Saber of the Fate Series.
1:1 Scale PSI Judge Replica Badge

What’s Different in How I write Now

I’m taking a course in writing fiction and it has fundamentally changed how I approach writing for the better. I use to write with no outline or planning. I also learned in the course how important it was to seek feedback early. One of things was to write a rough 1st chapter with no outline. Get feedback and then create the outline with that feedback. Then write the rest. One thing I got from the feedback was my dialogue needed working. I have a word doc I’m doing dialogue writing exercises to practice flow of conversation.

I’m spending most of my free time working on the outline and wiki right now. It is my 2nd job in a lot of ways. Stepping away from actively posting and not being a mod or leader has allowed me to dedicate myself to writing when I can.

The outline right now is at 56 chapters. I’m still working on the details for those chapters. This will not be a short story. There are arcs, sub arcs, and more. It’s going to take me time to write in publish it. I’ll let you guys know when it is done. Just be patient.

Music I listen to while I write

I’ve talked with others about how I listen to music while I write. I create a theme based playlist for the story. Now I’m still working on this for this story. Most of the music selected so far has a somber feel to it which fits with the main character. There are variants to somber - like somber hopeful or somber and sad. The following are songs I have for the playlist so far. The order will change and I will being adding to it:

Justin Hurwitz - [First Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) CD1 #37] Sep Ballet (Bonus Track)
千住明 - [Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 1 CD1 #12] Requiem for the Brigadier General
Kenichiro Suehiro - [Goblin Slayer Original Soundtrack CD1 #23] 時の傷跡
Hans Zimmer & Benjamin Wallfisch - [Blade Runner 2049 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) CD1 #07] Memory
Petri Alanko - [Alan Wake: Original Score CD1 #07] The Clicker
Senju Akira - [Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 3 CD1 #17] The Day the Sun Disappeared
Clint Mansell - [Moon CD1 #05] Memories (Someone We’ll Never Know)
Chris Tilton - [Fringe: Season 1 CD1 #11] The Equation
Chris Tilton - [Fringe: Season 3 CD1 #30] Funeral Pyre Straits
Chris Tilton - [Fringe: Season 5 CD1 #24] Finale End Credits
Michael Salvatori - [Destiny 2 Original Soundtrack CD1 #11] Journey (feat. Kronos Quartet)
Ryuichi Takada - [Fate/EXTRA Last Encore ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACK CD 1 CD1 #20] Do not forget the flowers, do not forget the songs, do not forget the appreciation
Senju Akira - [Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 3 CD1 #04] Crime and Punishment
はい島邦明 - [Monster Original Soundtrack2 CD1 #14] Faith
Ramin Djawadi - [Person Of Interest Season 2 CD1 #11] Prisoner’s Dilemma
Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard - [Batman Begins CD1 #04] Barbastella
Evan Call - [Violet Evergarden Original Soundtrack Automemories Disc 2 CD2 #05] The Ultimate Price
Ramin Djawadi - [Person of Interest Season 3 & 4 CD1 #20] Reese On Ice
Hans Zimmer - [Batman The Dark Knight Rises: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Edition) CD1 #11] Why Do We Fall?
Senju Akira - [Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 3 CD1 #22] Sorrowful Stone
Justin Hurwitz - [First Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) CD1 #27] Apollo 11 Launch
Max Richter Orchestra & Lorenz Dangel - [The Blue Notebooks CD1 #12] Richter: On The Nature Of Daylight
Max Richter - [Taboo (Music From The Original TV Series) CD1 #15] Lamentation For A Lost Life
Justin Hurwitz - [First Man (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) CD1 #31] The Landing
Marvin Kopp - [Enderal Soundtrack CD1 #79] Two Souls - Zwei Seelen (dialogue)
Gustavo Santaolalla - [The Last of Us™ (Original Soundtrack) CD1 #01] The Quarantine Zone (20 Years Later)
Gustavo Santaolalla - [The Last of Us™ (Original Soundtrack) CD1 #03] The Last of Us
Gustavo Santaolalla - [The Last of Us™ (Original Soundtrack) CD1 #06] Vanishing Grace
Gustavo Santaolalla - [The Last of Us™ (Original Soundtrack) CD1 #11] The Choice
Gustavo Santaolalla - [The Last of Us™ (Original Soundtrack) CD1 #18] All Gone (Aftermath)
Gustavo Santaolalla - [The Last of Us™ (Original Soundtrack) CD1 #22] The Path
Marco Beltrami - [3:10 To Yuma CD1 #03] Man of his word
Marco Beltrami - [3:10 To Yuma CD1 #17] One man left
Mick Gordon - [Prey (Original Game Soundtrack) CD1 #07] The Truth Will Set You Free
Mick Gordon - [Prey (Original Game Soundtrack) CD1 #11] Neuromods
Ben Salisbury & Geoff Barrow - [Annihilation (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) CD1 #08] The Watchtower
Tom Holkenborg - [Alita: Battle Angel (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) CD1 #02] I Don’t Even Know My Own Name
Tom Holkenborg (Junkie XL) - [Mad Max: Fury Road - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Deluxe Version) CD1 #16] Redemption
Michael Salvatori - [Destiny 2 Original Soundtrack CD1 #02] Last Rite
Keiichi Okabe - [NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack CD1 #09] Voice of no Return
Keiichi Okabe - [NieR:Automata Original Soundtrack CD1 #28] Mourning
千住明 - [Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood Original Soundtrack 1 CD1 #27] Lapis Philosophorum
Motoi Sakuraba - [Dark Souls Soundtrack CD1 #11] Great Grey Wolf Sif
Nobuyoshi Suzuki - [Dark Souls III Complete CD1 #09] Deacons of the Deep
Yuka Kitamura - [Dark Souls III Complete CD1 #15] Oceiros, the Consumed King
Yuka Kitamura - [Dark Souls III Complete CD1 #18] Abyss Watchers
Yuka Kitamura - [Dark Souls III Complete CD1 #21] Lorian, Elder Prince Lothric, Younger Prince
菅野よう子 - [Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex-Original Soundtrack II be Human CD1 #13] good by my master

The feel for the music I’m going for is a somber journey. Where the main character starts and where it ends. The first song in the playlist will stay where it is. I do find a bit ironic the first song in the playlist isn’t even a song featured in the film but a bonus song from the soundtrack for it. I picked as the starting point. It’s a simple song featuring a flute playing a kinda of somber tune.

8 Likes

Wow man, great write up! I lol’d at the function key, that was trippy. Mine have always been to the right of the Control or Windows key. You seem to do the post Windows setup very similar to myself. I remove the tiles and clean up the start menu.

How do you like the performance so far?

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Nice laptop based on the specs alone it looks like a beast. How much does it weigh?

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where is the concrete break test?

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I’ve very impressed with how it has performed so far. I press the power button and there is no delay in boot time. There is no delayed response in anything I work with and listening to music on it is like I’m hearing the song for the first time with discovering things I didn’t know where in them. That’s been really interesting. Overall, pleased with how it has performed.

1.22 kg

or

2.7 lbs

It’s very light and easy to carry around.

LOL. Never going to happen with me. You could google to see if someone has done one.

2 Likes

That’s a pretty detailed write-up! Thanks for posting it.

Every time I head the name Lenovo now, I think bundled spyware, back-doors and stuff like that. I don’t trust them like I don’t trust huwahee. Purely based on the stuff they have been doing with their own gear.

Has this been a concern for you? Any bundled stuff that is weird? Have you ran malware anti-bytes or whatever it’s called? Or is it just me being paranoid about stuff that happened years ago.

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I can understand that concern. I remember when Superfish happened. Now alot of people don’t know what happened after this came to light or forget.

The Federal Trade Commission investigated. Fined Lenevo 3.5 million. Lenevo agreed it would not install any bloatware without permission of the user for at least 20 years.

There isn’t any bloatware or malware on this machine. Trust me I dug into it and I know what to look for.

There was a Leveno Support Software that came installed but you can easily uninstall it. There are drivers for the keyboard and trackpad but those are needed to use them. Nothing sketchy with them.

Now there are links in the start menu when you first get the machine. This are links to download the item from the Microsoft store. They don’t come preinstalled. It is easy enough to remove those links and they never come back.

There isn’t a reason to worry about buying and using a Lenevo now.

3 Likes

Wow, that’s impressive. Never read a reaction like that about a laptop. Good stuff!

Definitely keep insights and gems of discovery updated in this thread. Really curious now.

The key part to this is I’m listening with Noise Isolation Headphones. I’m comparing the experience to my dedicate mp3 player and my dedicate rig. I’ve listened to music for a pretty long time. I have the music memorized. I had no idea when I listened to music on this laptop it’d be alike hearing the song in a enhanced way. That’s the best why I can describe it. I can hear the atmosphere of the room the song was played in. Its not earth-shattering but it’s neat.

I have no idea how the laptop sounds without headphones.

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Cool!

What about root certs, such as the good old Honk Kong post office or whatever it was. Dell got into trouble for stupidly leaking the private certificates for it’s support tools.
I think windows is better at detecting and removing certain certificates, but probably happens on a case by case basis over windows update.

Interesting thing about the root certs with Lenovo. So yes they were sketch in 2015 which is when Superfish happened as well. I think they both happened at the same time. I think they were related.

The FTC requires that Lenovo be audited by an independent 3rd party to make sure no superfish or sketchy root certs happen again.

This laptop is safe to buy and use in my opinion.

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Good enough for me. Might be time to consider them an option again.

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One laptop I did consider was the XPS 13. The important things to remember for your future purchase are:
know what you need/want,
set a budget,
compare what is available,
read trusted reviews.
Get what works for you.

For laptop reviews:

I know it sounds like a sketch site but the laptop reviews on there are in-depth and they cover a lot of ground other review sites don’t.

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Oh, notebookcheck is amazing!

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