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Lenovo ThinkPad P52 Review

Our Verdict

The Lenovo ThinkPad P52 is a chunky machine, but its blistering performance, gorgeous display and top-class keyboard more than compensate for the heft.

For

  • Stunning 4K display
  • Fast performance
  • Durable, premium chassis
  • World-class keyboard

Against

  • Poor battery life (on 4K model)
  • Heavy
  • Expensive

The Lenovo ThinkPad P52 is a powerful 15.6-inch workstation designed for business professionals who use demanding programs. Great for 3D modeling or content creation, the ThinkPad P52 comes armed with an Intel Core i7-8850H CPU and Nvidia Quadro P3200 GPU. You'll enjoy doing work on the ThinkPad P52's extremely vivid 4K display while typing on the workstation's excellent keyboard. Just be aware that this machine is better for use when you're the office rather than on the go; the ThinkPad P52 feels like a lead brick, and the 4K model's battery life is very short. Still, if you need a durable, high-performing machine, the ThinkPad P52 is a great option.

Lenovo ThinkPad P52 Pricing and Configurations

Like most workstations, the ThinkPad P52 can be configured with a wide assortment of components. The $1,160 base model has a 15.6-inch, 1080p display and comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-8750H CPU, 8GB of RAM, a 1TB and 7200-rpm hard drive, and Nvidia GeForce P1000 graphics. For $1,839, you can upgrade the CPU to an Intel Xeon E-2176M and boost the graphics to a Quadro P2000 GPU. That FHD model, however, comes with a pedestrian 500GB, 7200-rpm HDD.

Our beastly $3,637 review unit has a 15.6-inch, 4K display and comes equipped with an Intel Core i7-8850H with vPro CPU, 16GB of RAM, a 512GB SSD and Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics. But even our brawny configuration costs half as much as the $7,559, decked-out 4K model, which packs an Intel Core i7-8850H CPU, a whopping 128GB of RAM, 4TB of SSD and 2TB of HDD storage, along with a Quadro P3200 GPU.

Design

The ThinkPad P52 is what happens when you take Lenovo's iconic ThinkPad design and dress it in a suit of heavy armor. Flaunting a soft-touch, carbon-fiber lid with a silver ThinkPad logo, the matte-black ThinkPad P52 looks like a typical ThinkPad. Even the interior has some familiar design elements, including red-trimmed left- and right click-buttons, Lenovo's divisive red pointing stick, and those cherished curved keyboard keys.

But if you were hoping for the lightweight materials found on other ThinkPads (like the X1 Carbon), then you'll be sorely disappointed. The P52's behemoth chassis is made from metal and glass-fiber-reinforced plastic, so you'll want to hit the gym before you attempt to lift this machine. Fortunately, what the P52 trades in portability it regains in durability. It's the first laptop I'd take with me into battle.

The ThinkPad P52 is what happens when you take Lenovo's iconic ThinkPad design and dress it in a suit of heavy armor.

Apart from its heft, the P52 has a few more differences from other ThinkPads. For example, under the P52's touchpad there are dedicated left-, center- and right-click buttons. LED icons for Wi-Fi connectivity and hard-drive activity reside beneath the display. Also, a slim, top-firing speaker grille sits above the keyboard.

MORE: Best and Worst Laptop Brands

At 14.9 x 9.9 x 1 inches and 6.3 pounds, the ThinkPad P52 is similarly sized but significantly heavier than the HP ZBook 15 G5 (14.8 x 10.4 x 1 inches, 5.7 pounds) and Dell Precision 3530 (14.8 x 9.9 x 1 inches, 5.1 pounds).

Ports

The ThinkPad P52 has all the ports you could ask for, but be prepared to reach around to the back when you need to connect peripherals.

On the rear of the laptop are two Thunderbolt 3 ports, an HDMI 2.0 input and an Ethernet port. Unfortunately, Lenovo's proprietary charging port also hides on the back edge.

On the left side of the ThinkPad P52 are a USB 3.1 Type-A port and a 4-in-1 (SD, SDHC, SDXC, MMC) card slot, along with an optional smart card reader.

You'll find two additional USB 3.1 Type-A ports, a Mini DisplayPort and a headphone jack on the right side.

Durability and Security

I wasn't surprised to learn that the ThinkPad P52 passed 12 military-grade durability tests and gained Mil-Std-810 certification. With a top cover made from glass-fiber-reinforced polymer and an undercarriage made of magnesium-aluminum alloy, the ThinkPad P52 can withstand altitudes up to 15,000 feet, extreme temperatures and mechanical shock, which involves more than 18 repeated pulses in testing. The ThinkPad P52 also has a spill-resistant keyboard, so you don't have to panic the next time you knock over your morning cup of coffee.

The ThinkPad P52 is just as protected on the inside as it is on the outside. An IR camera lets you quickly and safely log in to the ThinkPad P52, or, if you'd prefer, you can use the match-on-chip fingerprint reader.

With a top cover made from glass-fiber-reinforced polymer and an undercarriage made of magnesium-aluminum alloy, the ThinkPad P52 can withstand altitudes up to 15,000 feet, extreme temperatures and mechanical shock.

The ThinkPad P52 is TCG (Trusted Computing Group)-certified and comes with TPM 2.0, a microchip that provides hardware-based security. IT departments can use the ThinkPad P52's vPro chip to remotely manage, diagnose and update the PC.

Display

The ThinkPad P52's 15.6-inch, 4K touch-screen display is drop-dead gorgeous. The exceptionally vivid panel almost feels out of place on such a utilitarian chassis. In a trailer for the upcoming action film John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum, red and blue neon lights give the scenes a retro-noir aesthetic, and these lights burst off the P52's display. The screen is so detailed that I could see thousands of tiny shards of glass as our protagonist broke through the floor of a skyscraper.

The ThinkPad P52's display covers an outstanding 189 percent of the sRGB color gamut, making this screen significantly more colorful than those of the ZBook 15 G5 (112 percent) and Dell Precision 3530 (117 percent); it also beat the category average (156 percent).

I only wish the panel were a bit brighter so that it could really show off those luscious colors. With 314 nits of maximum brightness, the P52's display is far from dim, but competing laptops, like the ZBook 15 G5 (631 nits), get significantly brighter. The ThinkPad P52 isn't quite as dim as the Precision 3530 (289 nits), but it couldn't outshine the workstation average (340 nits).

MORE: Laptops with the Best Display Brightness

The optional 4K touch screen was super responsive when I swiped and clicked my way across the web. And a tree I drew in Paint 3D with my finger was fairly discernable, which is quite an achievement given my utter lack of artistic ability.

Audio

The top-firing speakers on the ThinkPad P52's deck sound decent; however, I had to crank Sampha's "Plastic 100 Degrees C" to 100 percent volume to fill our medium-size lab. While I wish the speakers were louder, Sampha's emotive vocals sounded clear and I could hear all the layers of percussion and vocals in the chorus. Low-frequency sounds, however, lacked depth. The low, rumbling bass that provides the pulse to the track was essentially nonexistent.

Keyboard, Touchpad and Pointing Stick

The keyboard on the ThinkPad P52 is every bit as brilliant as we've come to expect from a Lenovo business laptop. The curved, chiclet-style keys offer 1.6 millimeters of key travel, above our 1.5mm preference, and the high 71 grams of actuation force give these keys an extremely satisfying tactile click.

As comfortable as it is, the keyboard does have a few faults. While Lenovo was able to squeeze a numpad on the ThinkPad P52's deck, that comes at the expense of undersized arrow and Alt, PrtSc, Ctrl, PgUp and PgDn keys.

I typed at 113 words per minute with an accuracy rate of 93 percent on the 10FastFinger typing test. This is quicker but not quite as accurate as my averages of 109 wpm with a 5 percent error rate.

Offset on the left side of the deck, the ThinkPad P52's 3.9 x 2.3-inch touchpad is small for a business laptop. However, with the assistance of Windows Precision touchpad drivers, the surface responded quickly to my gestures, including pinch-to-zoom, three-finger swipe to switch apps and a four-finger tap to open the Windows 10 Action Center.

MORE: Chromebook Touchpad Gestures: How to Navigate Chrome OS Like a Pro

Love it or hate it, the red pointing stick in the center of the ThinkPad P52's keyboard worked as advertised, and the left, center (for scrolling) and right buttons above the touchpad allowed me to navigate the web using the nub without ever lifting my hand off the keyboard.

Performance

Armed to the teeth with an Intel Core i7-8850H with vPro CPU and 16GB of RAM, our ThinkPad P52 review unit had enough horsepower to blaze through my real-world testing, which involved loading 20 Google Chrome tabs, four of which played 1080p YouTube videos while another pair streamed Sekiro and Fortnite on Twitch.

The ThinkPad P52 scored an 18,457 on the Geekbench 4 overall performance test. That is a hair short of the workstation category average (18,826) and a good distance behind the scores from the ZBook 15 G5 (Intel Core i7-8850H with vPro, 20,783) and Precision 3530 (Intel Xeon E-2176M with vPro, 19,809).

The ThinkPad P52 rebounded by matching 65,000 names with their corresponding addresses in 44 seconds on our Excel spreadsheet test. That is quicker than the category average (0:46) and matches the Precision 3530's result. The ZBook 15 G5 clocked a speedy 38 seconds.

On our challenging HandBrake test, the ThinkPad P52 needed 10 minutes and 52 seconds to convert a 4K video into 1080p resolution, topping the category average (12:36). The ZBook 15 G5 (9:53) once again came out on top, while the Precision 3530 (11:11) lagged behind.

MORE: Which ThinkPad is Right for You

The ThinkPad P52's 512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Opal 2 SSD offers fast transfer speeds. It copied 4.97GB of mixed-media files in 7 seconds, for a rate of 727 MBps. That outpaces the category average (641.2 MBps) and the ZBook 15 G5's showing (512GB NVMe M.2, 508 MBps) but is a tad slower than the Precision 3530's (512GB M.2 PCIe NVMe Class 50) blazing speed (848.2 MBps).

Graphics

Business laptops aren't necessarily meant for gaming, but the Quadro P3200 GPU (with 6GB of VRAM) inside the ThinkPad P52 should have no problems running the latest releases on high graphics settings. The ThinkPad P52 scored a 10,241 on the 3DMark Fire Strike benchmark, which crushes the results from the ZBook 15 G5 (Quadro P2000; 6,121) and Precision 3530 (Quadro P600; 3,860), as well as the workstation average (7,530).

While the Quadro P3200 graphics card is primarily designed for digital-content creation like 3D design or CGI, we played the racing game Dirt 3 (at 1080 resolution) at a buttery-smooth 221 frames per second. Drifting around hairpin turns was a bit smoother on the ZBook 15 G5 (235 fps), while the Precision 3530 (214 fps) and the workstation average (195 fps) were left in the dust.

Battery Life

If the ThinkPad P52's bulky chassis isn't reason enough to keep this workstation at your desk, its poor battery life should be. Lasting a measly 4 hours and 26 minutes on our Laptop Mag battery test (continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits), the ThinkPad P52 powered down long before the ZBook 15 G5 (8:56) and the Precision 3530 (8:53). The ThinkPad couldn't even match the 6:09 workstation category average.

We recommend configuring the ThinkPad P52 with a 1080p display if you want longer battery life.

Webcam

The ThinkPad P52's 720p webcam provides solid image quality, but those who frequently use video conferencing will still want to upgrade to an external camera. The lens did a good job capturing the deep purple of the shirt I was wearing under my appropriately toned gray zip-up. Unfortunately, a selfie I snapped was a bit blurry and, therefore, failed to capture some fine details, like individual strands of hair in my beard.

Heat

The bottom of the ThinkPad P52, near the hinge, heated to a toasty 101 degrees Fahrenheit after we played a 15-minute HD video in full screen. That is already above our 95-degree comfort threshold, and you can expect the machine to get even hotter under a heavier workload. On a positive note, the center of the keyboard (91 degrees) and the touchpad (89 degrees) maintained reasonable temperatures.

Software and Warranty

The ThinkPad P52 comes with minimal first-party pre-installed software. In fact, the only Lenovo-branded app is Vantage, a one-stop shop for driver download, system updates and customer support.

Sadly, this exorbitantly priced, military-tested business laptop is still infected with Windows 10 bloatware, including those pesky Candy Crush kids' games. Other third-party apps include Fitbit Coach; a Dolby Atmos app for adjusting sound settings; and an Nvidia app that allows you to change display, video and 3D settings.

The ThinkPad P52 ships with a one-year warranty. See how Lenovo fared on our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands ranking.

Bottom Line

Whether you're an engineer, video game designer or content creator, the ThinkPad P52 has enough oomph for everything you throw at it. That power is combined with a gorgeous 4K display, a world-class keyboard and a number of useful security features. However, because of this machine's heavy chassis and short battery life, we can't recommend the ThinkPad P52 to anyone who works remotely or takes frequent business trips.

If you need something a bit more portable, we recommend the Precision 3530. While its 1080p display isn't nearly as vibrant as the ThinkPad P52's, this 15.6-inch workstation weighs a pound less than the Lenovo laptop, and the FHD model's battery life lasts twice as long.

Still, if you want that exceptional Lenovo keyboard or one of the best displays we've tested, then getting the ThinkPad P52 is a no-brainer.

Credit: Laptop Mag

Tech Specs

CPUIntel Core i7-8850H
RAM16GB
Size14.9 x 9.9 x 1 inches
Weight6.3 pounds
Display Size15.6
Native Resolution3840 x 2160
Hard Drive Size512GB
Hard Drive TypeM.2 PCIe NVMe Opal 2
Operating SystemWindows 10 Pro
Ports (excluding USB)Mini DisplayPort, RJ-45, SD card slot, USB 3.1 Always-On, Smart Card Reader, Thunderbolt 3, HDMI 2.0, Headphone/Mic
Video Memory6GB
Wi-Fi802.11ac
Wi-Fi ModelIntel Wireless-AC 9560
Secondary Hard Drive TypeHDD
Warranty/SupportOne-year warranty.
USB Ports5
Touchpad Size3.9 x 2.3 inches
Secondary Hard Drive Speed7200 rpm
RAM Upgradable to128GB
Graphics CardNvidia Quadro P3200
Company Websitehttps://www.lenovo.com/us/en/pc/
Card Slots4-1 card reader
BrandLenovo
Highest Available Resolution3840 x 2160
BluetoothBluetooth 5.0
Secondary Hard Drive Size1TB
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Phillip Tracy is a senior writer at Tom's Guide and Laptop Mag, where he reviews laptops and covers the latest industry news. After graduating with a journalism degree from the University of Texas at Austin, Phillip became a tech reporter at the Daily Dot. There, he wrote reviews for a range of gadgets and covered everything from social media trends to cybersecurity. Prior to that, he wrote for RCR Wireless News and NewBay Media. When he's not tinkering with devices, you can find Phillip playing video games, reading, listening to indie music or watching soccer.