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Lenovo ThinkPad P1 review: Stunning display, durable body, powerful hardware

Lenovo ThinkPad P1
Lenovo ThinkPad P1 (Image credit: Windows Central)

Windows Central Recommended Award

Lenovo's ThinkPad P1 is a mobile workstation that's quite similar to its X1 Extreme, save for the hardware options inside. Here, you can get an Intel Xeon E-2176M processor (CPU), NVIDIA Quadro dedicated graphics (GPU), and up to 64 GB of error-correcting code (ECC) RAM, which makes it better suited to the Enterprise sector. Sure, this laptop can handle some gaming and common productivity work, but it's built (and priced accordingly) to handle specialized tasks and comes with multiple independent software vendor (ISV) certifications.

It's hard to not draw comparisons to Dell's XPS 15 9570 — from size, design, and function — so if you like that type of Ultrabook but need the extra specialized hardware, the ThinkPad P1 should be on your radar. I used it for about a week of work in order to determine whether or not it's a worthy addition to your workflow.

About this review

Lenovo supplied Windows Central with a review unit of the ThinkPad P1 mobile workstation. Inside is an 8th Gen Intel Core i7-8850H CPU with six cores, 32 GB of DDR4 RAM, a 2 TB PCIe solid-state drive (SSD), and dedicated NVIDIA Quadro P2000 graphics with 4 GB of VRAM. This specific model with a 4K touch display costs about $2,754.

For the true workstation experience, there's an Intel Xeon CPU and up to 32 GB of ECC RAM, bringing the total cost closer to $3,712. It's not cheap when fully decked out, but you can save $400 by going with the FHD display and hundreds more if you don't get the biggest 2 TB SSD.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 technical specifications

The ThinkPad P1 sets itself apart from its X1 Extreme sibling with the specialized hardware available. The review unit is missing the Xeon CPU and ECC RAM, but it's still quite a performer. Here's what the review unit has inside.

CategorySpec
OSWindows 10 Pro
Processor8th Gen six-core
Intel Core i7-8850H
Up to 4.30 GHz
RAM32 GB DDR4-2666MHz
Single channel
Storage2 TB M.2 PCIe
Samsung PM981
Display15.6 inches
3,840 x 2,160 (4K)
Touch, IPS, anti-reflective
GraphicsNVIDIA Quadro P2000
Max-Q
4 GB GDDR5 VRAM
PortsTwo Thunderbolt 3 (4x lanes PCIe each)
Two USB-A 3.1
HDMI 2.0
Mini Gigabit Ethernet (requires adapter)
3.5 mm audio jack
SD card reader
Smart Card reader (optional)
SpeakersDual 2 W speakers
Dolby Audio Premium
WirelessIntel Wireless-AC 9560
802.11ac (2 x 2)
Bluetooth 5.0
CameraFront-facing 720p
KeyboardBacklit
TouchpadPrecision
Trackpoint included
SecurityIR camera for Windows Hello
Fingerprint reader
Battery80 Wh
135 W charger
WeightFrom 3.76 pounds (1.7 kg)
Dimensions14.24 inches x 9.67 inches x 0.74 inches
(361.8 mm x 245.7 mm x 18.7 mm)
ColorBlack

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 design and features

The 15-inch ThinkPad P1 looks like a mix of classic ThinkPad and Dell XPS 15. Closed, you get the black soft-touch paint that does pick up smudges from your fingers quite easily, and on the inside — if not for the lack of carbon fiber finish and addition of TrackPoint system — the keyboard deck resembles Dell's Ultrabook. Keys are set into the chassis, there's a power button near the top-right corner, and a fingerprint reader is set next to the keyboard, also on the right side well out of the way of your hand while typing. The fingerprint reader is fast and allows for Windows Hello logins, and there's also an IR camera for quick facial identification. Opting for the FHD model without IR camera gives you the option for a shutter to easily block the 720p camera.

Lenovo's ThinkPad P1 is a powerful specialized laptop that doesn't waste space.

There's a lot of hardware and a 4K display tucked in here, so it's not exactly light, but the magnesium and carbon fiber hybrid chassis is sturdy without much flex or creaking. It's put through 12 MIL-STD tests to ensure its durability lives up to the ThinkPad standard, and you get a one-year warranty with all models that can be extended if you need more time. The bottom part of the chassis has a wedge taper to it that makes it look thinner when sitting on a flat surface, and the hinge allows the lid to sit back flat. It's tight to cut down on wobble when in a moving vehicle, but you cannot open it with one hand.

Being labeled as a workstation usually means you get a wide variety of ports to handle your externals, and the ThinkPad P1 delivers. On the left is Lenovo's proprietary rectangular charger, two Thunderbolt 3 ports with 4x lanes of PCIe each, HDMI 2.0, a Mini Ethernet port that requires an adapter for full RJ45, and a 3.5 mm audio jack. On the right, you get a Kensington lock slot, two USB-A 3.1, and a full-sized SD card reader, which is disappearing on a lot of laptops in lieu of microSD, or nothing at all. Ports are spaced well enough that you shouldn't have issues with crowding if using multiple peripherals at once.

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Finally, there are two down-firing speakers located on the bottom of the laptop. The idea here is that when sitting on a flat surface you get sound that's pushed out and up, but when in your lap, it's mostly just muffled. Sound is loud, there's no crackling at higher levels, but these are still laptop speakers, if above average.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 display

The 15.6-inch 4K touch display on this laptop is stunning, and it's exactly what designers and creative types are looking for. Testing color accuracy, I got back 100 percent sRGB, 99 percent AdobeRGB, and 95 percent NTSC, which are outstanding results that can be seen in everyday use. If you need an Ultrabook that doesn't skimp on the display quality, this is it.

The bezel around the screen is even on the sides but uneven on the top and bottom. There's enough room for an IR camera above, and the below chin isn't noticeably large. It doesn't rotate around to tablet mode, but the hinge allows the display to sit back flat, making it easier to use an active pen; one is not included, but any active pen with Wacom AES technology should work here.

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There's an FHD model available as well that will cut back on cost and up battery life, but for the most color accurate and stunning screen, stick with 4K. Up to about 400 nits of brightness cuts down on glare from the anti-reflective display, overall making it one of the nicest I've seen in recent memory.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 battery and charging

Lenovo primarily uses its proprietary charging port, and it comes with a 135 W power adapter that has a new flat shape rather than the usual brick. It's a rather heavy-duty charger to keep up with the performance hardware inside, delivering a 50-percent charge in about 30 minutes.

The 80 Wh battery has its work cut out powering the performance hardware and 4K touch display. I tried out some light gaming in 4K and got about 2.5 hours of life while going about regular tasks I saw about six hours. If you're going about specialized tasks, you'll want to keep the charger handy, especially with the 4K display, but for general use, you can probably push it most of the day, especially with the FHD screen.

Adding to the laptop's versatility are the two Thunderbolt 3 ports that can be used for charging. The USB-C form factor is becoming more common, and if you don't mind losing the extra connectivity, it will work in a pinch if you forget the proprietary charger at home.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 keyboard and touchpad

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The ThinkPad P1 includes the keyboard you'd expect, with three-level backlight, cupped keys, and a soft deck to bottom out on. Using it to type all day is no issue, thanks to precise spacing and uniform travel on all keys. It's a standard six-row setup without number pad, and the F-keys have volume, brightness, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth toggle, and screen extension functions.

The TrackPoint system is here, and though I don't regularly use it, it works just as it should. Physical buttons above the regular touchpad complement the red pointer nub. The touchpad is big, but I think it could definitely be a bit larger based on the amount of space that's available on the surface. It is using Microsoft's Precision drivers that give you full access to all Windows 10 gestures, and pointing is precise without any issues.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 performance and benchmarks

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One of the major things that sets the P1 apart from other laptops — like the X1 Extreme — are ISV certifications. Here you get ArcGIS, AutoCAD, CATIA, Creo, Inventor, Microstation, NX, PDMS, Revit, Solid Edge, SolidWorks, and Vectorworks certifications, meaning these programs are entirely compatible with the ThinkPad P1. Along with the NVIDIA Quadro GPU, Xeon CPU, and ECC RAM. This is where a lot of the extra price comes from. It's simply not a laptop for casual users.

Removing the back (seven screws are easily undone) reveals easy access to the SSD, RAM, and Wi-Fi card. There's actually a second slot for another SSD if you want to upgrade later and save some money at checkout, and there are likewise two slots for RAM that you can add to yourself. This laptop is using one stick of 32 GB, but there are a bunch of configurations available from Lenovo if you'd like a dual-channel setup without doing the upgrade yourself.

A dual-fan cooling system is also revealed. They do a decent job of keeping the laptop cool while under load — I didn't notice any egregious hot spots while putting it through stress tests — but there is certainly a bit of a whine when they're cranked up.

CPU

Geekbench 4.0 benchmarks (higher is better)

DeviceCPUSingle coreMulti core
Lenovo ThinkPad P1i7-8850H4,92618,230
Dell XPS 15 (9570)i7-8750H5,00221,761
Surface Book 2 15i7-8650U5,03614,237
Lenovo Yoga C930i7-8550U4,78715,028
Lenovo ThinkPad T580i7-8650U4,92014,636
HP ZBook 15u G5i7-8650U4,85316,075
Lenovo ThinkPad T480i5-8250U3,94012,559
Microsoft Surface Proi7-7660U4,5139,346
Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carboni7-8650U5,02514,178
Dell XPS 13 (9370)i7-8550U4,68114,816

I was expecting a bit higher score from the multi-core test, but it's still quite the performer. For that extra bit of specialized power, you can go with the Intel Xeon-E-2176M option with Boost clock speed up to 4.40 GHz.

GPU

Geekbench 4.0 OpenCL (higher is better)

DeviceCompute score
Lenovo ThinkPad P176,554
Lenovo Yoga C93021,376
Lenovo ThinkPad T58018,879
HP ZBook 15u G5 (AMD)42,071
Lenovo ThinkPad T48018,245
Microsoft Surface Pro30,678
LG gram 1522,334
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 1519,769

The NVIDIA Quadro P2000 GPU here is intended to specialized use, but it still delivers a great score in the OpenCL test.

PCMark

PCMark (Home Conventional 3.0)

DeviceScore
Lenovo ThinkPad P13,134
Lenovo Yoga C9303,506
Lenovo ThinkPad T5803,451
HP ZBook 15u G53,323
Lenovo ThinkPad T4803,254
Microsoft Surface Pro3,055
LG gram 153,395
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 153,542

The PCMark Home Conventional test measures how well the hardware in a laptop works together to accomplish usual tasks. Again the P1 didn't quite score as high as I thought it would, but this isn't quite the appropriate test. On the PCMark Work Conventional, it scored a 3,509.

SSD

CrystalDiskMark (higher is better)

DeviceReadWrite
Lenovo ThinkPad P13,499.3 MB/s2,289.9 MB/s
Dell XPS 15 (9570)2,700 MB/s400 MB/s
Lenovo Yoga C9302,596.8 MB/s806.2 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T5801,743.7 MB/s1,683.2 MB/s
HP ZBook 15u G53,448.0 MB/s1,566.4 MB/s
Lenovo ThinkPad T4801,738.1 MB/s1,174.9 MB/s
Microsoft Surface Pro1,284 MB/s963 MB/s
LG gram 15554.1 MB/s449.6 MB/s
Samsung Notebook 9 Pro 15549.9 MB/s519.3 MB/s

The Samsung PM981 2 TB SSD included here offers outstanding speeds, and there's even room to add a second SSD if this one doesn't cut it.

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 review conclusion

Compared to some other mobile workstations in the same arena, the ThinkPad P1 has a lot to offer and has a price that remains competitive (if high). You can get specialized hardware and a ton of ISV certifications, the 4K touch display is absolutely gorgeous, there are a bunch of ports, including two Thunderbolt 3, and it's all wrapped up in a classic ThinkPad chassis that remains relatively light and comes with the standard durability perks.

The battery won't last through a full workday — at least with the 4K model — and the fan has a bit of a whine to it, but if you need this type of laptop on a daily basis, it should prove to be well worth the cost.

Who is this laptop for?

This is a specialized laptop not for the casual user, even if you need something for gaming. Xeon CPU, Quadro GPU, and ECC RAM options are priced for Enterprise, and that's where this laptop belongs. If you need something that can handle data-intensive rendering associated with design software, this will certainly fill that role.

Cale Hunt
Cale Hunt

Cale Hunt is a Senior Editor at Windows Central. He focuses mainly on laptop reviews, news, and accessory coverage. He is an avid PC gamer and multi-platform user, and spends most of his time either tinkering with or writing about tech.

3 Comments
  • Looks like all the other matt black finger print magnet thinkpad; nice internals though.
  • Good Laptop PC. Its a shame that they did not consider SIM slot in it. I like my ThinkPads coming with Internet Everywhere Function. Lenovo should in fact by now make SIM a standard feature in their laptops.
  • I hope they have worked on the Keyboard. in T460s the Keyboard is leaving ugly marks on the display due to friction. The keys are protruding. I also hope the touchpad is also great. There are reports that T460 model has faulty TPs. mine has never been resolved despite driver update as was recommended by Lenovo support staff in the Lenovo community forum.