Taking a page from its consumer laptop twin -- the ThinkPad X1 Extreme -- the workstation-class Lenovo ThinkPad P1 offers powerful performance in a thin and lightweight chassis. The optional 4K display pops with rich, vibrant colors, and the P1's wonderfully comfortable keyboard might just be Lenovo's best yet. On top of that, the Xeon CPU and Nvidia Quadro P2000, available on the pricier models, offer outstanding performance.
If the ThinkPad P1 had a longer runtime and its 4K panel weren't so dim, this machine would be the workstation to beat. Even so, the ThinkPad P1 is an excellent option for anyone looking for a portable powerhouse. And it's earned a spot on our Best Workstations page.
If I had to close my eyes and paint a picture of a Lenovo Thinkpad laptop from memory, the P1 is exactly what would come to mind. A near-identical twin to the X1 Extreme and T580, the 15-inch ThinkPad P1 flaunts an understated soft-touch, matte-black finish on the lid and deck. My colleagues and I are still smitten by the carbon fiber case after all these years, although I'd welcome future tweaks that keep the material from being so dang smudge-prone.
The P1 has a uniform, matt-black finish, giving it a stealthy appearance that reminds me of a B-2 bomber. That simple design is only broken by pops of red color on the rubber pointing stick, touchpad clicker and the light-up ThinkPad logo on the lid and deck.
The narrow bezels around the P1's screen aren't quite as thin as they are on other laptops, but they still draw your eyes to the display. At 14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches and 4 pounds, the ThinkPad P1 feels more like an ultrabook than a workstation. The Dell Precision 7520 (14.9 x 10.4 x 1.3 inches, 6.3 pounds) is gigantic compared to the P1, while the HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 (14.2 x 9.7 x 0.8 inches, 4.9 pounds) is about the same size but a pound heavier.
Throw away your dongles; the ThinkPad P1 has you covered on ports.
Despite the workstation's slim size, the P1 has a wide variety of modern inputs, including a headphone jack, a proprietary Mini Gigabit Ethernet port (includes RJ45 adapter), an HDMI 2.0, two Thunderbolt 3 ports and an AC power connector on the left side.
An SD card reader, two USB 3.1 (Type-A) ports and a Kensington lock take up the right side. There is an also an optional smart card reader for added security.
Durability and Security
The ThinkPad P1 proves that a workstation doesn't need to weigh as much as chain mail to have ample protection against the elements. Made of four layers of reinforced carbon fiber, the P1 is tested to 12 MIL-STD 810G, which means it can withstand various harsh conditions, including high humidity, sand and dust exposure, extreme temperatures and mechanical shock.
Business professionals should also feel reassured by the P1's suite of security features. On the deck, to the right of the keyboard, is a stock fingerprint sensor for faster and more secure login. Alternatively, you can upgrade to an IR webcam for Windows Hello facial recognition login but doing so means forgoing the standard HD camera's ThinkShutter sliding-lens cover.
The ThinkPad P1's 15.6-inch, 4K display isn't very bright, but its exceptional detail and vibrant colors more than make up for that drawback.
When I watched a trailer for the upcoming live-action film Detective Pikachu, I could see individual threads of hair on the cute (and undeniably creepy) Pokémon. A quick shot of an outdoor market bristled with detail, from the chef tossing his wok in the background of the scene to the facial expressions of three small creatures sitting atop a stall. Colors were also exceptionally vibrant. Pikachu's electric-yellow fur burst off the screen, and its red cheeks looked as if they'd been freshly painted on.
According to our colorimeter, the ThinkPad P1 covers 179 percent of the sRGB color gamut, making it significantly more colorful than the Precision 7520 (100 percent) and ZBook Studio x360 (135 percent). The workstation average (156 percent) isn't quite as impressive, either.
At a maximum of 285 nits, it's a shame the P1's marvelous display doesn't get brighter. The displays on the Precision 7520 (365 nits) and ZBook Studio x360 G5 (378 nits) are far more luminous, and even the average workstation (336 nits) breaches the 300-nit mark.
Keyboard, Touchpad and Pointing Stick
The ThinkPad P1's backlit keyboard is so good I almost felt inspired to write a novel. In all seriousness, these comfortable keys live up to, and perhaps even exceed, the lofty reputation of Lenovo's ThinkPad keyboards.
The 2.2 millimeters of key travel, far above our 1.5-mm preference, kept me from bottoming out, even with my aggressive typing style.
The bouncy keys also exhibit a pronounced bump that rewards you with pleasant feedback during each keystroke. Additionally, the keys are relatively quiet and adequately spaced, and I've always been a fan of Lenovo's curved keycaps.
I scored 109 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test with an accuracy rate of 91 percent. That matches my 109-wpm speed average but falls short of my typical 5 percent error rate.
A 3.9 x 2.6-inch soft-touch touchpad sits below discrete left, center and right-click buttons. I had no issues using the surface to execute Windows 10 gestures, like two-finger scrolling or pinch-to-zoom. Even switching windows with a three-finger swipe was a painless task.
Positioned in the center of the keyboard is the iconic ThinkPad pointing stick. While I'm not among the narrow group of users who swear by it, I didn't have any issues using the little rubber nub to navigate the web.
The ThinkPad P1 is very much the Manny Pacquiao of laptops: it's slim-framed but packs one heck of a punch. Equipped with a business-grade Intel Xeon E-2176M CPU and 32GB of RAM, the ThinkPad P1 didn't bat an eye in my real-world performance test.
The laptop swiftly loaded 14 Google Chrome tabs and didn't stutter at all when I played two 1080p YouTube video and two Twitch streams. I then loaded 16 more tabs -- a combination of news sites, social media and a live stream of the World Chess Championship -- but even that heavy workload didn't faze the P1.
The ThinkPad P1 cruised through our benchmark tests. The workstation scored a 17,893 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test, topping the Precision 7520 (Xeon E3-1535M, 15,958) but falling short of the powerhouse ZBook Studio x360 G5 (Xeon E-2186M, 19,638). The Lenovo laptop edged out the workstation average (17,172).
The ThinkPad P1 set a blistering pace on our Excel Macro Test, matching 65,000 names to their corresponding addresses in just 3 seconds. The ZBook Studio x360 G5 (0:45) was sluggish in comparison, and the average workstation needed another minute to complete the task (1:05).
The 2TB NVMe SSD in the ThinkPad P1 didn't waste time on our transfer test, duplicating 4.97GB of mixed-media files in a blinding 6 seconds for a rate of 848 megabytes per second. The Precision 7520 (512GB M.2 PCIe Class 50 SSD, 626 MBps) and ZBook Studio x360 G5 (1TB PCIe NVMe TLC SSD, 509 MBps) were also quick, but these competitors couldn't quite muster the speed of the P1. The workstation category average is a rate of 570 MBps.
Even the rigorous video conversion test didn't slow down the ThinkPad P1, which took 9 minutes and 45 seconds to transcode a 4K video into 1080p resolution using the HandBrake app. That's quicker than the ZBook Studio x360 G5 (10:40) and the workstation average (15:35).
With an Nvidia Quadro P2000 GPU, the ThinkPad P1 has plenty of graphics power under the hood for gamers and software designers alike.
The ThinkPad P1's 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited score of 163,705 tops the marks received by the Precision 7520 (Quadro M2200, 156,543) and the workstation category average (152,664), but falls a tiny bit short of the ZBook Studio x360 G5 (Quadro P1000, 163,238).
Gamers will perk up at the 190 frames per second the ThinkPad P1 mustered when playing the racing game Dirt 3. That's far above our 30-fps playability threshold and a few frames smoother than what we saw on the Precision 7520 (162 fps), ZBook Studio x360 G5 (182 fps) and the workstation category average (180 fps).
The bottom-firing speakers on the ThinkPad P1 are loud enough to fill a medium-size room, and their audio quality is solid. When I listened to Hozier's newest single "Movement," the Irish singer's soulful vocals were clear and free of distortion, even at maximum volume. The P1 deftly handled the transition in vocals from soft and solemn to booming. However, there were points in the song -- especially during the verses -- when the track sounded slightly veiled, and the instruments at the end were a bit tinny.
Changing tracks to Thrice's single, "In Exile," the ThinkPad P1 did a nice job dealing with the complexity of the instruments, but the drum hits could have been meatier.
You shouldn't expect a 4K workstation to last all day on a charge, but even with that in mind, battery life is a pain point on the ThinkPad P1. At 4 hours and 16 minutes, the workstation powered down several hours earlier than the Precision 7520 (6:28) and the premium laptop average (6:32). Adding insult to injury, you could power the ThinkPad P1's battery to 100 percent twice -- and it still wouldn't endure as long as the ZBook Studio x360 G5 (9:06).
The 720p webcam, mercifully located above the ThinkPad P1's display, produces decent photos. My facial features were clearly defined in a selfie under our dim office lighting, but the color of my warm skin tone was exaggerated.
Zooming in on my face revealed plenty of visual noise, and the light shining on the wall above me was blown out. If you intend to hold video conferences in an office with poor lighting, I suggest you purchase an external webcam.
The P1's aluminum alloy bottom panel isn't effective at dispersing heat. The underside of the laptop, near the hinge, reached a maximum temperature of 119 degrees Fahrenheit after we played a 15-minute HD video at full screen. The bottom center of the machine and the location between the G and H keys also topped our 95-percent comfort threshold, at 104 degrees and 102 degrees, respectively. Only the touchpad, at 82 degrees, remained reasonably cool.
Running Windows 10 Pro, the ThinkPad P1 is mostly spared of unnecessary software out of the box. From Lenovo, there is the Vantage app, which is a one-stop shop for updates, hardware setting and system support. In the Pen Settings program, you can reassign buttons and adjust the tip sensitivity of the supported stylus.
The ThinkPad P1 also comes preinstalled with Mirametrix Glance, an attention-sensing program that locks your computer when it detects that you're away for an extended amount of time.
Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision apps allow you to fine-tune the display and speakers to your liking, and Realtek Audio offers a quick way for you to get to the microphone and speaker volume settings.
A few other additions, courtesy of Microsoft, include the LinkedIn app; a Solitaire game and a Sticky note app; and several utility programs, like the Office suite, Microsoft News and Paint 3D.
The ThinkPad P1 is available at a wide range of prices and configurations. The 1080p base model costs $1,299 for a Core i7-8750H CPU, Quadro 1000 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD. Doubling memory to 16GB and storage to 512GB raises the price to $1,699. You'll spend $2,329 for the more powerful Quadro P2000 GPU.
You can also configure the ThinkPad P1 with business-grade Xeon CPUs, like the one found in our review unit. Our $3,209 test laptop sported a pixel-packed 4K display along with a Xeon E-2176M CPU, 32GB of RAM, a 2TB SSD and Quadro P2000 graphics. From this high-end config, you can add a second hard drive for up to another 2TB of storage, but doing so brings the price to $4,559.
The ThinkPad P1 is a great choice for business users who need enough power to run demanding programs or designers who desire the best, highest-res display. But what really makes the ThinkPad P1 stand out from its competitors is its thin, lightweight and durable chassis, which could easily be mistaken for a premium ultrabook, not a workstation.
My biggest complaints with the ThinkPad P1 are its below-average battery life and relatively dim display. Also, the underside of the chassis reached uncomfortable temperatures under a heavy workload. Because of these faults, the HP ZBook Studio x360 G5 retains its title as the best slim ultrabook on the market. Still, if you're partial to Lenovo's ThinkPad design and features, then the P1 won't disappoint.
Credit: Laptop Mag