Lenovo ThinkPad P1: A Laptop with a Workstation Heart
Steven Schain posted on January 11, 2019 |

Lenovo is known for building laptops and portable workstations that are made for those that want more from their system than just good looks. The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is no exception. With a base price of $1,659, the ThinkPad P1 can be customized to suit a range of design and engineering needs. But this machine is not all work and no play; gamers will also find a whole lot to like. 

The 15-inch ThinkPad P1, which weighs in at a mere 3.76lbs. and is just 0.7in thick, is sleek, thin and light on its feet. When it comes to raw horse power, however, the Intel Xeon E-2176M, coupled with an NVIDIA P2000 with Max-Q Design, delivers for even the most compute-intensive applications, including 3D design, animation and video editing.

First Impressions

Upon opening the box, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 reveals a powerful visual design with a smooth matte black finish, precise corners and solid construction that is typical of Lenovo laptops. What makes the P1 extra special is its impressive durability. Made from four layers of carbon fiber, the laptop is tested 12 times to MIL-STD-810G to ensure it can survive even the most extreme conditions.

Opening the carbon fiber top requires little effort, yet it boasts just the right amount of stiffness to ensure that it will remain in the exact position you wish, even when lying flat on the table. The 15.6-in 4K UHD touch-screen display is crisp and colorful. While it could be a little brighter, it is bright enough for everyday use and works well even when in a brightly lit room. On the back of the screen, the dot in the “i” of “ThinkPad” glows red—one of Lenovo’s nice little touches.

Navigation

Typical of many Lenovo laptops, the backlit keyboard and trackpad are augmented by a red TrackPoint option located between the G, H and B keys on the keyboard. Left and right mouse buttons, and a center button for the TrackPoint, are located above the touchpad, which I find quite useful when working. The center button can be used as either a scroll wheel or a middle mouse button for independent software vendor (ISV) applications.

To the right of the keyboard are the power button and a very handy fingerprint scanner to simplify the login process.

Connectivity

While the P1 is thin and light, it does not skimp on inputs and outputs. On the right edge of the system, you’ll find the Kensington lock space, two USB 3.1 (Type-A) ports, an ST card slot and an optional smart card slot. 

On the left edge of the system is the power port, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, a full-size HDMI port, a mini ethernet port (an RJ-45 adapter come in the box) and an audio input/output jack. While the network connection does come with an RJ–45 dongle, it is a proprietary adapter, so you may want to think about getting Lenovo’s Thunderbolt 3 workstation dock to make connecting the laptop to a network connection and monitors quick and easy task. The system comes with a 135-Watt AC adapter and plenty of cord if your wall socket is not right next to your desk. All-in-all, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 has all the connectivity you would require.

Specifications

The ThinkPad P1 as configured price is $3,739. This includes an Intel Xeon E – 2176M CPU with six cores and 12 threads, along with a 12 MB cache running at 2.7GHz and a boost of up to 4.4GHz. There are 32GB of DDR for RAM and a 2TB solid-state PCIe–VME SSD. You can upgrade to a maximum of 64GB of RAM and a whopping 4TB of internal storage.

The display is a 15.6-in UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS multi-touch display with an antireflective coating that’s coupled with a NVIDIA Quadro P2000 Max-Q graphics card with 4GB of memory. The Quadro P2000 is a mid-range mobile workstation graphics card based on NVIDIA’s Pascal architecture, offering a balance between price and performance.

The Entry level ThinkPad P1, at $1,659, is outfitted with an 8th Gen Intel Core i5 and Windows 10 Home. Of course, you can customize your system to add more memory and storage. There are additional standard models starting at $1,729 with and 8th Gen Intel Core i7 and Windows 10 Home, ranging up to $2,999 with an Intel Xeon processor running Windows 10 Pro.

Removing the back cover reveals all the user upgradable components. Here, you have access to the two M.2 solid state drive slots and the two memory slots. This system came configured with 32GB of memory on one module, but you can upgrade at purchase time or can opt to upgrade yourself.

Battery Life

The ThinkPad P1 is equipped with a 15.36 Volt, 5080 mAh battery that, according to Lenovo, can supply the laptop with up to 13 hours of battery time. In my battery test, using only the dedicated P2000 with Max-Q Design graphics option, running full brightness and playing full-screen 1080P video, I was able to get just over three hours of runtime. 

Attempting to get the maximum time out of the battery, I changed to the hybrid graphics mode and reduced the screen brightness to 25 percent. While surfing the internet and reading documents, I managed to squeeze a little more than nine hours and 47 minutes from the P1.

Camera and Sound

The laptop also sports an Intel 9560 802.11AC V Pro wireless-AC adapter, along with Bluetooth 5.0 support. The built-in camera is a 720p HD camera with a built-in microphone. For added security, there’s also an infrared camera built into the bezel that is designed for Microsoft Windows Hello facial recognition.

Sound is emitted from two speakers mounted toward the front of the base and out the sides into the desk. These are loud enough to use in a small space, but they do sound a bit muffled, especially if you have the laptop on a soft surface. For the best experience, plug in a set of headphones and use the available Dolby Atmos feature.

The Display

The 15.6-in panel is a UHD (3840 x 2160) IPS touch screen with HDR capability and a specified brightness of 400 nits. Using the Datacolor Spyder 5 Elite monitor calibration system, I measured an average of 344.1 nits at 100 percent brightness, with a black level of 0.33 nits, giving a 1050:1 contrast ratio. The screen is great when working inside under controlled lighting, with a wide viewing angle and ample brightness for everyday use. When working on my deck on a sunny day, however, the reflection on the screen, coupled with the maximum brightness, made it difficult to see.

The HDR monitor really shines when it comes to color quality. After testing both the sRGB and Adobe RGB color spaces, the ThinkPad P1 screen was easily able to display 100 percent of both. Watching one of my favorite Netflix 4K HDR movies, Planet Earth II, on this screen was truly a joy. The colors of the jungle and desert were rich and pure. Even the tiniest details, like the individual green leaves in the mangrove, stood out crisp and clear.

When it comes to brightness or luminance uniformity, displays tend to differ due to variations in manufacturing and handling. At 100 percent brightness, this laptop’s display shows a variation from a bright 383.9 nits (or cd/m2), down to a low of 323.6 nits, a 16 percent difference in luminance. 

In terms of color accuracy, the display fared well straight out-of-the-box with no color correction added. With an average Delta-E of 2.48, the color representation to the naked eye looks fantastic.

Performance and Benchmarks

Boasting a 6-core/12-thread Intel Xeon E-2176M Coffee Lake processor running at 2.7GHz, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 with 32GB of RAM showed it has what it takes to be a powerful competitor in a crowded field. After running the standard battery of benchmarks, the laptop received results you would expect in a system with these specifications. Working in programs like Fusion 360 on the ThinkPad P1 was smooth and what I expected from a workstation-class laptop. 

Scores

Starting with an average multi-core Cinebench 15 score of 1121 means the ThinkPad P1 is no slouch when it comes to compute-heavy rendering tasks. This score is in the middle of the pack in terms of raw multi-core processing but about what is expected of this level of Intel Xeon processor. But the Xeon processor really excels with its single core CPU score of 182.

A run of Geekbench 4.1 showed a single CPU score of 5052 and a multi-CPU score of 17936. Again, showing the ThinkPad P1 coming in right where the Intel Xeon E-2176M processor normally sits. 

With an overall Passmark rating of 5990, the ThinkPad P1 ranks in the 97th percentile of computer systems in its class.

Beneath it all, the P1 is a powerful laptop with the heart of a workstation. Running the SPEC series of benchmarks show pretty much the same as other benchmarks. The Intel Xeon processor excels at single thread processes, but the 2.7GHz benchmark speed shows it doesn’t compete with other, faster multi-core processors. While the NVIDIA P2000 with Max-Q Design is a good graphics option, it is underpowered compared to the standard P2000. As shown by the breakdown of the SPECworkstation 3 and SPECviewperf 13 results, this is a workstation class machine.

Conclusion

Portable workstations have become a market segment unto themselves these days, with more manufacturers producing desktop replacements in a laptop format. The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 is a strong, thin and lightweight contender in Lenovo’s ever-growing catalog of portable workstations.

I liked the P1 because of its beautiful 4K UHD touch-screen display, powerful Xeon CPU and the incorporation of the highly-capable NVIDIA P2000 with Max-Q Design GPU. A large number of I/O ports and easy access to both memory and storage expansion add to the rock-solid design. Despite a few minor issues with battery life and the screen reflection and brightness, the ThinkPad P1 is a true portable workstation worthy of the Lenovo brand.

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