Full written review: Lenovo ThinkPad P1: A Laptop with a Workstation Heart
Video transcript: Today we’re going to talk about the Lenovo ThinkPad P1, a laptop in the middle of Lenovo’s latest lineup of mobile workstations. It’s not the most powerful ThinkPad you can buy, but it meets a sweet spot of performance and price that makes it an appealing option for engineers or designers looking for a portable yet powerful device.
Let’s jump right into the specs of the ThinkPad P1. A few different CPUs are supported: the 8th gen Intel Xeon E-2176M, which is what we had in our machine, or the 8th generation Intel Core i5-8400H, Core i7-8750H, or Core i7-8850H. Those all differ in terms of cores, clock speed, and cache size, but our 6-core Xeon model has a 12MB cache and runs at 2.7GHz with a turbo boost up to 4.4GHz. So, not the highest specs you’ve ever seen in a CPU, but respectable for a mobile workstation.
As for memory, our model has 32GB of DDR4 RAM, but you can go as low as 8 or as high as 64. Storage wise, you can put up to two SSD drives in the P1, each of which can range from 256GB to 2TB. So you’re looking at a maximum of 4TB.
For the GPU, you’ve got a choice of either the NVIDIA Quadro P1000 or the Quadro P2000. These are both on the lower end of the Quadro P series of GPUs, but they’re still Quadros, and they’re both geared for professional applications like CAD and simulation. Keep in mind though that NVIDIA has recently come out with their new Quadro RTX cards, which have only just started shipping in Lenovo’s ThinkStations, their desktop workstations. The RTX cards aren’t in the ThinkPads yet, but I’ve been told by Lenovo that RTX-enabled ThinkPads will likely be available by this summer. So if you’re psyched about those new cards, you'll need to wait a while.
To test the graphical performance of the ThinkPad P1, we ran the SPECviewperf 13 benchmarks across viewsets including SOLIDWORKS, CATIA, Creo, Maya, and others. This benchmark tests the performance of professional graphics applications, and the ThinkPad P1 achieved decent results. But compared to a ThinkStation with the same graphics card, a Quadro P2000, for example, there's a reduced performance across almost all viewsets. The tradeoff is that mobility, however, so that sacrifice in performance isn't a surprise.
The display of the ThinkPad P1 can be configured two ways. You can go for the 1080p non-touch display with 300 nits of luminance, or what we have, a 4K multitouch display with 400 nits of luminance. In both cases, the screen is 15.6 inches, so it’s a good working screen size.
For the input and output, there’s plenty of ports on the P1. On the left side you’ve got the power port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a mini ethernet port, and an audio input/output jack. For the mini ethernet port, an RJ-45 adapter comes in the box. On the right side of the P1 is a Kensington security slot, two USB 3.1 Type-A ports, an SD card slot, and an optional smart card slot.
Finally, let’s get to the price. The ThinkPad P1 starts at $1659, and if you max out the specs, it’ll run you $4024.
Now let’s get into the performance of the ThinkPad P1. We found the P1’s performance in applications like Fusion 360 to be smooth and pretty much what you’d expect given the specs on this machine. We ran a series of benchmarks and found that our model, with the Intel Xeon CPU and Quadro P2000 GPU, performs respectably, but more or less in the middle of the pack, on multi-core, single-core, and OpenCL benchmarks. For the GPU especially there’s a lot of room for improvement, but you’d have to jump the P1 ship to upgrade to something like a Quadro P5200, for example. The ThinkPad P1 is workstation class, but you could certainly outdo it if you had the extra budget.
Putting the compute power aside, the 4K display of the ThinkPad P1 was crisp and clear with a wide viewing angle. It’s got great color quality and accuracy, and can display 100 percent of both the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces. However, the brightness tended to vary, measuring at 100 percent brightness a maximum of 383.9 nits and a minimum of 323.6 nits, and an average of 344.1 nits. We did find that the screen was difficult to see in extremely bright conditions, like outside on a sunny day, but that’s hardly shocking.
The ThinkPad P1 boasts a 5080 mAh battery that falls a little short of expectations. Lenovo advertises the P1 as having a 13 hour lifetime, but even in our most conservative tests, we only managed 9 hours and 47 minutes. That was at 25 percent brightness and hybrid graphics mode. At 100 percent brightness and dedicated graphics, we got just over three hours of full screen 1080p video playback.
Lenovo ThinkPads are prolific for a reason. I’ve never had a bad experience with a ThinkPad, and there’s many who swear by them. The ThinkPad P1 fits nicely in this paradigm: it’s a well-built mobile workstation that performs reliably. If budget isn’t an issue and you want to spring for a more powerful mobile workstation, you might want to consider the ThinkPad P52 or P72. But if you’re just looking for something to get the job done when you don’t have access to your desktop workstation, the ThinkPad P1 is a very capable machine with a low cost of entry.
If you want to dig a little deeper into our experience with the ThinkPad P1, we also have a companion article. Until next time, thanks for watching.