Carbon X1 and poor Thunderbolt display performance

I was given a Thinkpad Carbon X1 7th Gen (2019 model) from work couple of weeks ago (which is what prompted a rejiggle of my home setup and led to me trying the Raspberry Pi as a desktop as detailed earlier). After a lot more rejiggles (turns out I am very fussy with my computer setup – and this is not the first time I’ve been down this rabbit hole) I tried out hooking the laptop to my LG 4k Ultrafine monitor yesterday. This is what I have hooked up with my iMac (and MacBook Pro prior to that) and it’s a nice monitor with a high PPI (not as high as the prior model from what I understand, but I never used that so am happy with what I got). 

Windows 10 in general looks rubbish with a high resolution display. Nothing’s consistent, but that’s just expected I guess and one lives with it. I set it to use the monitor at 4k and with 200% scaling to make it readable. The laptop connects to the monitor via its Thunderbolt port and things were fine for about a day. Occasionally I’d notice mouse & keyboard lags (both were connected directly to the laptop) but I decided to live with that too. At least I got to use the laptop with a gorgeous display. 

(On a side note I am now spoilt for displays too. I used to think the LG 24UD58 was grand, and when I purchased the LG 4k Ultrafine I even wondered if it was a waste of money … but boy I was wrong. Even though on paper the two are similar the 4k Ultrafine is something else altogether; and now the same way I couldn’t use a regular monitor after using the 4k LG 24UD58 now I can’t use the LG 24UD58 or anything similar after using the 4k Ultrafine. It’s so beautiful. The only other monitor I can currently use apart from it is the iMac screen). 

All was not great with the laptop and this screen though. Today I had a couple of Teams calls and also some Zoom screen sharing and on both occasions the laptop would be super sluggish, video and audio would lag or be choppy… it wasn’t good at all. While on one of these calls I opened the laptop lid and unplugged it from the 4k Ultrafine and immediately things improved! I connected the cable again and it worsened … even with the 4k Ultrafine being a secondary monitor and the actual video call being on the laptop screen. Clearly the laptop wasn’t able to handle Thunderbolt displays. I upgraded the drivers and Thunderbolt firmware too on the laptop, but no luck! Finally I went back to using the laptop without the 4k Ultrafine. 

Which brings me to what I really wanted to say in this post. For all that Apple devices are expensive I had no such trouble with the MacBook Pro or iMac driving this display. I’ve had numerous screen sharing sessions and audio/ video calls and they always work smoothly. And that’s just the thing with Apple devices and macOS etc… they give you a better experience. Be in the hardware of the software, things just work well and are designed well. Using Macs is what got me spoilt on good displays and typography and design etc. and now I can’t go back to using anything else.