Lenovo resolves ThinkPad P1 and X1 Extreme's second screen low framerate bug, then pulls the update that fixes it
The ThinkPad P1 and X1 Extreme series have impressed us since Lenovo launched the series last year. The two are essentially identical for the uninitiated, with Lenovo distinguishing the P1 from the X1 Extreme by equipping the former with workstation-grade hardware. While the SKUs that we have reviewed have garnered between 87% and 92% overall ratings, the two series have their issues. We not shall cover all these in this article, but Ultrabookreview has written a handy bugs/miscellaneous issues summary in its ThinkPad X1 Extreme Gen 2 review if you are interested.
Instead, our focus here concerns the first issue that the website flagged, framerate stutters on external monitors. The issue seems to affect all ThinkPad P1 and X1 Extreme models, with multiple forum threads attesting to that effect. We have linked four in the sources section of this article, for reference. In short, framerates drop dramatically when either series are connected to an external monitor and set to "Second screen only" in Windows 10. Doing so disables the ThinkPad's built-in display and only leaves the external monitor active. While we appreciate that this functionality is a niche feature, Lenovo actively promotes it in its marketing for its ThinkPad docks. The ThinkPad USB-C Dock Gen 2, for instance, can power on our X1 Extreme even with the latter's display lid shut, so it is a functionality of which Lenovo is aware that people use.
Anecdotally, our personal X1 Extreme Gen 2 has suffered from this framerate issue since purchasing it in September. The ThinkPad uses its NVIDIA GPU exclusively when connected to an external monitor, meaning that its integrated Intel GPU should remain inactive. While many reasons for the bug have been considered online, only disabling the Intel GPU from within Device Manager resolves it, in our experience. Leaving the Intel GPU disabled when not on mains power will impact on battery life though, so we often found ourselves having to repeat the workaround whenever we connected the device to an external display again. We replicated the issue with multiple monitors too, irrespective of whether we used HDMI or USB Type-C.
It has been over a month since we raised the matter with Lenovo, but the company is yet to reply to any of our correspondence since November 21. In the meantime, Lenovo published a new Intel Graphics Driver (version 18.104.22.16829) for the P1 Gen 2 and X1 Extreme Gen 2, which it claimed addressed the following:
Fixed an issue where there is lag when drag app interface under Second Screen Only mode.
Installing the update addressed the problem from which our ThinkPad had been suffering, just as Lenovo claimed it would. Moreover, we have encountered no new bugs or issues. While that is excellent news for those who have already downloaded the N2ODR08W update package on their P1 Gen 2 or X1 Extreme Gen 2, Lenovo has inexplicably pulled the update. Searching for the update now only reveals N2ODR06W, an update it published in August that contains Intel Graphics Driver (version 22.214.171.12411). This is the version that had been causing the framerate issues we had described above.
In short, the framerate on external monitors bug still exists for plenty of ThinkPad P1 and X1 Extreme laptops. We shall await Lenovo's response, if any, about why it chose to pull N2ODR08W, and when it plans to roll out a comparable update to all Gen 1 and Gen 2 machines.