If you need a laptop that can handle serious 3D modeling, CAD work or other demanding professional graphics tasks, you'll want a mobile workstation with discrete Nvidia Quadro graphics. Normally, choosing a mobile workstation means carrying a fairly bulky system and forgetting all about convertible designs. Enter Lenovo's ThinkPad P40 Yoga, which packs enough power for AutoCAD but bends back 360 degrees to morph into a tablet, complete with an active stylus. This 14.1-inch, $1,484 hybrid ($2,084 as tested) is a strong choice for engineers, animators or researchers who sometimes need a slate, but clamshell-only workstations offer stronger performance and less powerful 2-in-1s are a lot more portable.
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga has the same raven-black ThinkPad aesthetic as almost every other ThinkPad, with splashes of color provided only by the red TrackPoint pointing stick on the keyboard and the blinking status light on the logo. The lid is made from a blend of carbon fiber and plastic, while the body is plastic.
Like other ThinkPad Yoga laptops, including the X1 Yoga and Yoga 260, the P40 has two tight hinges that allow it to bend back a full 360 degrees, transforming it into tablet, tent or stand modes. Lenovo's laptop also features a Lift n' Lock keyboard, which keeps the keys from depressing when the system is not in clamshell mode.
At 13.30 x 9.3 x 0.78 inches and 3.96 pounds, the ThinkPad P40 Yoga isn't the most svelte 14-inch convertible on the market, but it's noticeably lighter than 15-inch clamshell workstations. The HP ZBook Studio G3 (0.71 inches thick) and the Dell Precision 5510 (0.66 inches thick) both weigh 4.6 pounds but are a little thinner. However, Lenovo's own 14-inch ThinkPad X1 Carbon (0.66 inches thick) tips the scales at just 2.8 pounds. The 15-inch HP Spectre x360, which is also a bend-back 2-in-1, is just 0.2 pounds heavier than the P40, despite its larger display.
Like most ThinkPads, the P40 Yoga is designed to take a punch, figuratively speaking, and keep on standing. According to Lenovo, the laptop has passed MIL-SPEC 810G durability tests for extreme temperatures, shocks, vibrations and humidity.
The company also says that all of its ThinkPad models endure an 8-corner drop test, an LCD stress test and a lid/open close test that occurs 30,000 times.
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga comes standard with the Intel vPro manageability and TPM encryption, two features that many corporate IT departments require. It also has a swipe fingerprint reader for biometric logins.
Keyboard, TrackPoint and Touchpad
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga's spill-resistant keyboard provides a really comfortable typing experience, even if the feedback isn't as good as on the ThinkPad P50. With 1.8mm of vertical travel, the keys are deeper than those on the X1 Yoga (1.7), the HP ZBook Studio (1.5) and the Dell Precision 5510 (1.3).
Using the P40 to take the 10fastfingers typing test, I achieved a strong score of 101 words-per-minute with a 0 percent error rate, far above my typical 96 wpm, 2 percent performance. The keyboard's backlight was more than bright enough at both low and high settings.
Like almost every other ThinkPad, the P40 Yoga has a TrackPoint pointing stick between its G and H keys. As always, I found the stick extremely accurate and appreciated being able to navigate around the desktop, without lifting my hands off the home row.
If you don't like the little red nub, you'll appreciate the P40 Yoga's 3.5 x 2.1-inch touchpad. Whether I was clicking on an icon, drawing figure eights in Windows Paint or highlighting text in Google Docs, the buttonless pad provided precise movements, without a hint of jerkiness. Multi-touch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom and three-finger swipe worked flawlessly.
Like other recent ThinkPads, including the Yoga 260, the P40 Yoga includes a stylus. Called the ThinkPad Pen Pro, this 4.5-inch long pen allows you to sketch on the screen with 2,048 levels of pressure. At less than an ounce, the stylus certainly felt light in my hand, but pressing the tip against the hard display for writing felt a bit slippery. I had a more paper-like experience with the same pen on the Yoga 260 and with the thicker stylus on Microsoft's Surface tablets.
Despite a little slickness, I was able to draw effortlessly in Windows Paint, to highlight just the text I wanted on a web page and to handwrite with ease. Lenovo includes its WRITEit app, which allows you to handwrite directly into any text area in any application and have those scribbles turn into ASCII characters.
Because of my poor handwriting, I found it easier to write into large fields like the canvas in WordPad, rather than small sections like the Windows 10 search box or the Chrome browser address bar. However, no matter where I wrote, WRITEit did a pretty decent job of recognizing my chicken scratch. I also enjoyed using WRITEit's canvas feature, which let me take screen shots and scribble notes or put highlights on top of them.
Unlike many other devices that come with pens, the P40 Yoga includes a built-in bay for storing and charging the stylus. Lenovo claims that putting the pen into the bay for just 20 seconds provides 19 hours of juice and, in my tests, I never had a problem with its battery life.
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga's 14-inch, 2560 x 1440 touch screen provides sharp images with accurate colors, though the panel's glossy surface makes it highly reflective at wider viewing angles. When I watched a 1080p trailer for Rogue One, fine details such as the freckles on Jyn Erso's face or the ridges on a star destroyer were prominent. Blacks, like the darkness of space, were deep, while bright shades such as the green in the battle room lights or the orange in an X-Wing Pilot's jumpsuit were true to life, though not overly rich.
According to our colorimeter, the P40 Yoga's display can reproduce a strong 105 percent of the sRGB color gamut (anything over 100 percent is great). That's much better than the 14-inch laptop category average (81 percent), but not quite as vibrant as the Precision 5510 (177 percent), the ZBook Studio G3 (169 percent), the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (109 percent) and the Spectre x360 15t (119 percent).
With a Delta-E color accuracy score of 1.1 (0 is perfect), the P40 Yoga is also quite a bit better than the average 14-inch laptop (2.5) and most of its competitors. However, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga has a similar rating of 1.0.
The P40 Yoga's screen registered 260 nits of brightness on our light meter. That's just above the 14-inch laptop category average (250 nits), the ZBook Studio G3 (241 nits) and the HP Spectre x360 (246 nits). However, the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (279 nits) and Dell Precision 5510 (322 nits) are more luminous. Colors stayed true as we moved up to the left and right, but even in a dark room, the panel reflected a lot of light, obstructing our view, even at a very modest 45 degrees.
The P40 Yoga's bottom-facing speakers put out loud, rich sound that was loud enough to fill two adjacent rooms in my house and good enough for real music listening. When I played AC/DC's "Hell's Bells,"
I heard a clear separation of sound with the drum section on the left and the guitar and vocals on the right. Unlike on so many other laptops, the percussion and guitar were not tinny at all, even at maximum volume. Chic's bass-heavy "Good Times" sounded even sweeter.
The included Dolby Audio software lets you manually set the equalizer or choose between profiles for Music, Movies, Voice or Gaming. We found that songs sounded best on Music mode, though Dynamic mode, which adjusts the output based on content, was also good.
Ports and Webcam
The ThinkPad Yoga P40 has a wide array of ports, but lacks the Ethernet connection many business users still need and eschews the USB Type-C / Thunderbolt 3 ports that appear on a number of mobile workstations, including the P50.
The right side contains an HDMI-out port, two USB 3.0 connections, a mini DisplayPort, a Kensington lock slot and the power button. The left side contains an SD Card reader, Lenovo's OneLink+ docking port, an audio jack and a third USB 3.0 port.
The laptop's 720p webcam took sharp, colorful images in our tests.
A selfie I took accurately captured the green wall behind me and red letters on my shirt while clearly showing the hairs in my beard. When I turned the lights down, more visual noise appeared, but my visage was still more than clear enough for a video call.
With its Core i7-6600U CPU, 16GB of RAM, Nvidia Quadro M500M graphics and 512GB SSD, our review configuration of the ThinkPad P40 Yoga is built for serious computing tasks like 3D modeling, architecture and engineering. It's no surprise, then, that Lenovo's laptop easily handled everything we threw at it, including an intense multitasking session with 14 Chrome tabs open and a video playing in another window. However, it's also not shocking that more-powerful workstations that aren't 2-in-1s scored much higher on our tests.
The P40 Yoga scored a strong 6,740 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark which measures overall processing power. That's comfortably higher than the 14-inch laptop category average (6,402) and the Core i5-6200U-enabled HP Spectre X360 15t (6,376). However, the HP ZBook Studio G3 (14,276) and the Dell Precision 5510 (14,316) scored more than twice as high, thanks to their much more powerful Intel Xeon E3-1505M CPUs. Somewhat surprisingly, the Core i7-6400-powered ThinkPad X1 Yoga got a slightly higher score (7,064), despite its marginally slower CPU.
Lenovo's convertible workstation fared better on our spreadsheet macro test, taking just 3 minutes and 42 seconds to match 20,000 names with their addresses. That's significantly faster than the category average (6:03), the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (4:31) and the Spectre X360 (4:31). The ZBook Studio (3:23) and the Precision 5510 (3:40) weren't that much better.
Thanks to its 512GB SATA SSD, the P40 performed really well on the Laptop File Transfer test, copying 4.97GB of files in just 17 seconds, a rate of 295.7 MBps. That's far faster than the category average (124.4), the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (186.2) and the Spectre x360 (149.7), but comfortably behind the ZBook Studio (508.9) and the Precision 5510 (565).
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga's Nvidia Quadro M500M graphics processor is optimized for high-end graphics apps like AutoCAD. It scored a strong 87,341 on 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, a synthetic test that measures graphics prowess. That's way better than the category average (65,946) and the integrated Intel GPUs on the X1 Yoga (70,475) and the Spectre x360 (64,632). However, the ZBook Studio (117,745) and the Precision 5510 (117,636) fared a lot better, thanks to their more-powerful Quadro M1000M GPUs.
With enough juice to get you through two-thirds of a typical workday, the ThinkPad P40 Yoga trails other 2-in-1s and 14-inch laptops by a wide margin but is slightly better than other mobile workstations. Lenovo's laptop lasted 6 hours and 35 minutes on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi.
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That's far behind the 14-inch laptop category average (7:56) and the ThinkPad X1 Yoga (7:52 for Core i7 version). However, the ZBook Studio G3 (5:08) and the Precision 5510 (5:34) lasted over an hour less.
Heat and Noise
The ThinkPad P40 stayed cool throughout our tests, but it didn't necessarily stay quiet. After we streamed a video for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured just 79 degrees, the keyboard clocked in at a cool 83.5 degrees while the bottom hit only 95 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures around 95 degrees and below to be comfortable.
However, while I was using the laptop to write this review and surf the web, I often heard a subtle but scratchy fan noise. Most laptops have some kind of fan, but usually I don't notice the sound unless I'm performing an intense task.
Software and Warranty
Lenovo preloads the ThinkPad P40 Yoga with a few useful first-party applications and a minimal amount of bloatware. In addition to WRITEit for pen input and Dolby Audio for adjusting the sound, the laptop includes Lenovo Settings, which gives you fine control over the keyboard, Wi-Fi, webcam and other key parts of the system.
The P40 also comes with Lenovo Companion, which performs hardware scans and searches for software updates to keep your laptop in tip-top shape.
Unfortunately, like almost every Windows laptop, the P40 Yoga comes with Flipboard and Candy Crush Soda Saga piled onto the Start Menu. There's also a tile that takes you to the Adobe Photoshop Express page in the Windows Store.
Lenovo backs the ThinkPad P40 Yoga with a standard one-year limited "depot" warranty on parts and labor and where the company pays for return shipping. You can add features like accidental damage protection or a warranty extension of up to five years for prices ranging from $19 to $649.
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga starts at $1,484. For that price, you get a Core i7-6500U CPU, a 1080p screen, Nvidia Quadro M500M graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. At Lenovo.com, you can configure the system to order, choosing a faster Core i7 CPU, a QHD display, more RAM or a larger SSD. Our maxed-out, $2,028 review config came with a Core i7-6600U CUP, a 2560 x 1440 display, 16GB of RAM and a 512GB SSD.
The ThinkPad Yoga P40 delivers on a unique value proposition: graphics professionals can have their 2-in-1 hybrid and do compute-intensive work on it, too. In addition to its strong performance and even stronger build quality, Lenovo's laptop benefits from an accurate display, a comfortable keyboard and strong stylus support.
If you need the best possible performance, consider getting a nonconvertible 15-inch workstation like the Dell Precision 5510 ($1,399 to start), which is available with a speedy Xeon CPU and Quadro M1000M graphics. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Lenovo's own X1 Yoga is much lighter and lasts a lot longer on a charge than the P40, but it doesn't have Quadro graphics or as fast a Core i7 CPU. However, if you want a 2-in-1 that's powerful enough to run 3D-modeling software yet flexible enough to sketch on, the ThinkPad Yoga P40 is your best choice.