Crazy Powerful: Lenovo ThinkPad P First with Xeon CPU

Engineers, architects, professional animators and other demanding professionals will soon have a powerful new option for taking their work on the road. Today, Lenovo announced its new ThinkPad P Series line of workstation-class laptops, which come with a variety of high-end options, including Intel's new mobile Xeon processors and 4K displays. 

Replacing the company's ThinkPad W line, the 15-inch P50 will start at $1,599 and the 17-inch P70 will start at $1,999 when the systems go on sale this fall. The P series notebooks will also include a new fingerprint reader that you activate with a touch instead of a swipe.

The new ThinkPad P series has two models: the 15-inch ThinkPad 50 and the 17-inch ThinkPad P70. Designed for the most demanding applications, both notebooks come with a choice of either an Intel Xeon E3-1500M processor or a Sixth Generation Core Series (Core i5 or Core i7) CPU. The P50 and P70 will be among the first notebooks to offer Intel Xeon CPUs, the chipmaker's line of workstation and server class processors, which have only been available in desktops up until now.

Last week, Intel announced that it was coming out with mobile Xeon processors, but the company has yet to offer any specs or expected performance numbers. However, if the mobile Xeon is like its desktop cousins, it will offer better stability than Core i5 / i7 by supporting ECC error-correcting RAM and speedier overall performance, thanks partly to a large L3 cache.

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A high-powered workstation is only as fast as its cooling system allows it to be, because laptop processors are designed to lower their clock speeds when they get close to overheating. Lenovo has equipped the P series with its new FLEX cooing system, which features two fans that are connected by a heat pipe and located near the CPU and GPU. When the system is performing a graphics-heavy task, it can deliver more cooling to the Quadro chip or, if it is doing a more CPU-heavy load, it can put more emphasis on the processor.

Catering to the CAD users and 3D animators who make up much of the P series intended market, Lenovo has replaced the buttonless clickpad on the prior-gen W541 / W550s with a 3-button touchpad. In our experience, dedicated touchpad buttons provide  a more accurate navigation experience on any notebook, because the pad cannot confuse a swipe with a click. Even better, in many graphics programs, the middle button enables pan or zoom functionality. 

In another improvement over prior ThinkPad workstations, the P series features a new kind of fingerprint reader that lets you log in with a single press rather than a swipe. Lenovo reps told us that the new reader should be more accurate and speed up logins because you won't have to swipe multiple times to be recognized.

Lenovo's new mobile workstations will also feature a choice of full HD or 4K displays, an X-Rite Pantone color calibrator, the latest Nvidia Quadro workstation grahics chips, up to 64GB of RAM and up to 1GB of high-speed PCIe SSD storage. Users can configure the notebooks with dual PCIe SSDs in RAID 0 or RAID 1, leading to incredibly fast speeds. Considering that PCIe SSDs can achieve transfer rates as high as 1,400 MBps, using two of them in RAID 0 could theoretically get you close to 2,800 MBps transfer rates. The best SATA SSDs can't get much faster than 550 MBps.

Starting at $1,599 the ThinkPad P50 supports up to three internal storage devices and sports a single USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 port for connecting with high-speed peripherals. With a starting weight of 5.6 pounds and a thickness of 1.02 inches, the P50 can fit in a large bag, but it's significantly bulkier than mainstream ThinkPads like the 3.5-pound, 14-icnch ThinkPad T450s or the 5-pound, 15-inch ThinkPad T550.

The 17-inch, 7.6-pound ThinkPad P70 is larger (1.2 inches thick) and more expensive, with a starting price of $1,999. However, for that price, you not only get a larger screen, but the ability to use up to four internal storage devices. The P70 also sports two USB Type-C Thunderbolt 3 ports where the P50 has only one.

Both ThinkPad P series notebooks promise no-compromise performance for business users that really need it. If you need to crunch spreadsheets, write documents or even edit photos, you'd be better off with a less-expensive, more portable notebook. However, If you're in the oil and gas industry and need to drill, you're creating a high-end computer animation, you're editing a lot of 4K video or you're designing a building using CAD, these notebooks were made for you.

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Avram Piltch
Online Editorial Director
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master's degree in English from NYU.