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Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 review

The Lenovo Thinkpad P15 Gen 2 is a workhorse of a workstation

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop
Editor's Choice
(Image: © Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Our Verdict

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 delivers unbelievable raw performance that may make you forget just how expensive and heavy it is.

For

  • Class-leading performance
  • Excellent array of ports
  • Bright display
  • Durable build
  • Comfortable keyboard

Against

  • Fans can get loud
  • Expensive
  • Heavy
Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 specs

Price: $2,949 (starting)
CPU: Intel Core i7-11950H vPro
GPU: Nvidia RTX A5000
RAM: 32GB
Storage: 1TB SSD
Display: 15.6-inch, FHD (1920x1080)
Battery: 10:40
Size: 14.7 x 9.9 x 1.2 inches
Weight: 6.2 pounds  

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 improves on what was already a winning formula with the original ThinkPad P15 with upgraded performance and stellar battery life for the 1080p model.

The laptop’s 11th Gen Intel Core i9-11950H CPU, Nvidia RTX A5000 GPU and 32GB of RAM make it an absolute workhorse of a workstation. If raw performance is your goal, it will be hard to beat the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2, after you screw up the courage to hit the buy button with that daunting price tag above it. The one concern for creatives will be the display, but if that’s crucial for you consider the OLED panel option or perhaps an external display.

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 easily earns a spot among our best workstations with performance that outclasses the competition and the few missteps aren’t likely to impact most users. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 price and configuration options 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 starts just shy of $3,000 for the base configuration, hardly outlandish in the realm of workstations. That $2,949 model will get you an Intel 11th Gen Core i5-11500H processor with vPro, Nvidia T1200 GPU, 16GB of DDR4 RAM, a 512GB PCIe SSD and a 15.6-inch FHD IPS display. 

In another workstation tradition, things can escalate quickly, the top-end model comes in at a double-take inducing $8,769. For that princely sum, you jump up to an Intel 11th Gen Xeon W-11855M processor with vPro, Nvidia RTX A5000 Max-Q GPU, 128GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB PCIe SSD and a 15.6-inch UHD IPS display.

My review unit at $5,109 lands slightly closer to the base model, but is still quite robust with an 11th Gen Intel Core i9-11950H with vPro processor, Nvidia RTX A5000 with Max-Q, 32GB of DDR4 RAM, a 1TB SSD and an FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS display. 

As is almost always the case with Lenovo there is a significant asterisk on all of that pricing as there are perpetual steep discounts running on all of these laptops. At the time of writing the base model is available for $1,709, or 42% off the retail price and the top-end configuration is $5,089, or 41% off the retail price. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 design

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is not a laptop you could ever forget to put in your laptop bag as you would immediately notice that the bag was not being strained at the seams by the 6.2-pound weight of this behemoth. The matte black finish and overall design are very traditional ThinkPad –– just imagine that a ThinkPad X1 popped a quarter into the Zoltar machine and made a wish to be big.

The expanse of matte black is only broken up on top of the laptop by the Lenovo logo carved into a small silver rectangular in the top left corner and the ThinkPad logo angled at the bottom-right corner with the blinking red LED dotting the “i.” I was thrilled to find that, unlike the previous ThinkPad P15, the matte finish did its job here and completely shed fingerprints. The bottom of the laptop is dominated by venting with large rubber strips at the front and back to give those vents some room to work.  

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lifting the lid of the laptop and the familiar ThinkPad keyboard greets you with a full number pad, the red TrackPoint nub, and a touchpad with three buttons above it. I’ll address the performance of the keyboard later, but it looks wonderful as always with clear large lettering and generally excellent spacing, although I do find the cursor cluster is a little cramped.

The fingerprint sensor is located directly below that cursor cluster and just like on the previous model, I find myself wishing it were either above the keyboard or closer to the touchpad. That way it’d be more easily accessible without having to reposition my hand, but it doesn’t come up enough to be a serious irritation.

The area above the keyboard is dominated by what looks to be a speaker grille, but closer inspection will reveal that the pattern extends considerably beyond the speakers themselves. As a design touch, it is nice, but it does instill a bit more confidence in those speakers than is warranted as I’ll cover later.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Given its 6.2-pound weight, its 14.7 x 9.9 x 1.2-inch frame is actually slightly smaller than I would have guessed. It’s a laptop that you will want to consider your grip on carefully on the likely rare occasions that you pick it up off the desk to avoid dropping it. With its MIL-STD 810G certification, the laptop would be fine, but you could lose a toe if you drop this beast on yourself.

While a workstation isn’t meant to be thin and light, the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is certainly bucking the more recent trend of workstations shrinking down a bit. Nearly all of its 15.6-inch workstation competitors like the HP ZBook Create G7 (13.9 x 9.3 x 0.7, 4.3 pounds), MSI WS66 10TMT (14.2 x 9.7 x 0.7 inches, 4.6 pounds) and the Asus ProArt StudioBook 15 (14.2 x 9.9 x 0.8 inches, 4.4 pounds) are considerably smaller and lighter. Admittedly they drop the number pad, but it’s worth questioning whether the number pad is worth the extra nearly 2 pounds. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 security and durability 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 proves its business class workstation mettle with an abundance of security features onboard and the aforementioned durability certification.

This includes an optional IR camera for Windows Hello facial recognition and the fingerprint scanner. Working in tandem they can really streamline your login process and save you a reasonable amount of time over the course of the day. A nano security lock on the right side of the laptop will help you secure it to a desk if you need to lock it down physically as well as digitally.

The ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 also includes a TPM 2.0 chip for encryption and of course is a necessity for the update to Windows 11

Again, durability is not the slightest concern with this laptop. Its certification means it can handle drops and shocks, extreme temperatures, high-altitude, sand and dust exposure, humidity, fungus, solar radiation and more. If you aren’t taking it out of the office then you will likely find the spill-resistant keyboard to be the most important of the laptop’s durability claims.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 ports 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2’s expansive frame is ringed with ports that should be enough for just about anyone’s needs. 

Starting from the left side you have a combo headphone/mic 3.5mm headset jack, an optional Nano-SIM card slot, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port (always-on), and an HDMI 2.1 port.  

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

The back features a pair of Thunderbolt 4 ports, a USB-C port, a charging port and an RJ45 Ethernet port.

Finally, the right side includes a full SD card slot, a USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 port and the nano security lock slot.  

If that doesn’t cover all of your needs, the Thunderbolt 4 ports guarantee that you can add anything else via a USB Type-C hub

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 display 

My review unit features a 15.6-inch, FHD (1,920 x 1,080-pixel) display with Dolby Vision HDR support. This is the second-tier screen for the P15 Gen 2, if your work depends on visuals you may want to consider the top-end 4K (3,840 x 2,160-pixel) OLED HDR500 touchscreen display option.

It feels like the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 should have considered bumping up to a 16-inch display to help minimize its bezels, which are far larger than any modern laptop should feature. However, if you can get past the bezels, the display itself is not bad at all.

Watching the trailer for Marvel’s Hawkeye, the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 display does a solid job with what is a largely dark trailer, but the 1080p image stretched across that 15.6-inch display isn’t as sharp as it could be and lacks some of the colorful punch of its competitors. A foggy scene on the rink at Rockefeller Center shows some of these weaknesses with the lights on the Christmas tree not popping on the otherwise dim background and the following shot of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop losing detail in their wardrobe and bows.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Our colorimeter backed up these feelings with the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 panel only delivering 71% of the DCI-P3 color gamut. That comes in slightly behind the MSI WS66 10TMT (78%), but feels like it is participating in a different event than the ZBook Create G7 (148%), the ProArt StudioBook 15 (121%), and the workstation laptop average of 141%.

Brightness testing on the other hand was a clear win for the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 peaking at 489 nits. That beat the category average of 409 nits, as well as all of its nearest competitors, like the ZBook Create G7 (357 nits), the WS66 10TMT (346 nits) and the ProArt StudioBook 15 (339 nits).

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 keyboard and touchpad 

Lenovo hasn’t changed anything from the original ThinkPad P15 and that’s a great thing in this case as that was one of the most comfortable laptop keyboards that I’ve ever used. Once again I find the relatively deep and bouncy key travel is just right and the pleasantly clicky sound gives good feedback without being too noisy.

My one complaint is that the TrackPoint is a source of occasional misfires for me when trying to type the letter “B” given its location at the top center of that key. I got better over time and I suspect after a couple of weeks this would not be an issue at all, but I find it interesting as the same placement causes me no problems on the ThinkPad X1 Titanium Yoga.

Testing my typing speed, I averaged 83 words per minute with 95% accuracy on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, just behind my average of 86 wpm. I suspect this is attributable to the slight hitch as I consciously reposition my fingers to avoid the “B.” But a little more time with the keyboard and I’d be fully up to speed on this keyboard.

The 3.9 x 2.8-inch surface of the touchpad on the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 isn’t exactly luxurious, but it’s large enough to carry out Windows 10 gestures and easily navigate the 1080p display. The TrackPoint is of course there for its loyalists and remains as mystifying a navigation tool as ever for me personally. I wish Lenovo would extend the width of the touchpad slightly given the vast expanse of laptop available to them, but it doesn’t rise to the level of being a problem. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 audio 

I tipped my hand in the design section, but the speakers on the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 are a disappointment overall. Despite what appears to be a very large speaker grille running the length of the top of the keyboard, there are actually just two small openings for the speakers there. They were able to easily fill my 18 x 12-foot listening space, but there is absolutely no bass present and it ends up coming across as distant despite the reasonable volume.

I listened to “For Tonight” by Giveon and the vocals lack any of the rich tonality that should be present. The entire song has a tinny sound quality that will leave you disappointed even if you are just watching a video. Basically for anything more than just a video call or a quick YouTube video you will want to invest in some wireless headphones and avoid the onboard speakers. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 performance 

Performance is the name of the game for any workstation and the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 came to play. The Intel Core i9-11950H processor with 32GB of RAM and a 1TB SSD were more than equal to any task that I could throw at them. 

Simulating a typical day for me I loaded up 40 Google Chrome tabs, including three YouTube videos running and a pair of Twitch streams, and unsurprisingly everything ran smooth as silk, although the fans did hit harrier jet levels at times. Turning to more applicable tasks for a workstation, I fired up Adobe Creative Cloud and launched into some Premiere Pro projects and then scrolled through my Lightroom library. Again, nary a slowdown to be seen. Similarly, a dip into Blender showed that this workstation is able to handle far more than I can throw at it.

It crushed the Geekbench 5.4 overall performance test, with the highest score that I’ve seen at 9,306. That obliterates the category average of 6,575 and came out well-ahead of the ZBook Create G7 (8,003, Core i9 10885H), the WS66 10TMT (6,735, Core i9-10980HK), and the ProArt StudioBook 15 (6,076, Core i7 9750H). 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Our Handbrake video transcoding test requires the laptop to convert a 4K video to 1080p resolution and once again it delivered one of the best results we’ve seen completing the transcode in 6 minutes and 27 seconds. That’s almost a full minute faster than its nearest competitor in the ZBook Create G7 (7:21) and considerably faster than the WS66 10TMT (8:28) or the ProArt StudioBook 15 (10:25).

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2’s 1TB SSD performed well, but didn’t score the decisive victory that it did in other categories. It completed our 25GB file transfer test with a 1,204 megabyte per second transfer rate. That was much better than the HP Z7 (640MBps) or the MSI (727 MBps), but just behind the Asus (1,254 MBps).

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 graphics 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 features an Nvidia RTX A5000 GPU with 16GB of VRAM. This was good enough to lay waste to our 3DMark Fire Strike synthetic graphics benchmark shows with a score of 21,668. That easily tops its competition with the HP ZBook Create G7 (14,260, RTX 2070 Max-Q), the MSI WS66 10TMT (16,788, Quadro RTX 5000), and the Asus ProArt StudioBook 15 (13,767, GeForce RTX 2060). 

While if gaming is your primary focus you should definitely peruse our best gaming laptops page. I wouldn’t recommend the 60Hz display, but for occasional gaming the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 has you covered. It hit 98.8 frames per second on Sid Meier’s Civilization VI: Gathering Storm, decisively beyond our 30fps playability threshold and the 58fps category average.  

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 battery life

The battery life on the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is stellar for a workstation, delivering 10 hours and 40 minutes in our battery test that involves continuous web surfing over Wi-Fi at 150 nits of brightness. That is going to come down considerably if you are pushing it with more appropriately intensive tasks for the laptop, but it’s an excellent mark for any workstation.

It crushed all of its 4K competitors with the ZBook Create G7 (5:57) almost a full five hours behind and the Asus ProArt StudioBook 15 (3:39) at over seven hours less. It’s also considerably ahead of the workstation average of 6 hours and 23 minutes.

The MSI WS66 10TMT (10:10) was understandably the closest as it also features a 1080p display, but regardless the more powerful ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 still claims the top spot. 

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 webcam 

The 720p webcam in the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen won’t surprise you in either direction. It delivers the same kind of slightly grainy results as most laptop webcams do, even in my office, where I have extensive lighting controls. It’s not the sort of thing that will make you avoid taking a video call, but it’s not going to be putting your best foot forward either.

As I almost always find myself saying with laptops, if you do a lot of video conferencing or video chat and care about image quality, you need to pick up an external webcam

The optional IR camera may not help the image quality, but it does give you Windows Hello support, which is awfully convenient.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 heat

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is ready for the considerable heat output that is inevitably going to come from cramming these high-end components into even a laptop form factor this large. The bottom of the laptop is dominated by vents and there are four additional large vents located on the sides and back of the laptop. 

Even with all of that it still doesn’t manage to completely offset the heat buildup inside, but it does it where it counts. Our testing involves playing a 15-minute, 1080p video and taking temperature readings on various parts of the laptop, which is plenty to spin those fans up. The bottom of the laptop shot up to 99.3 degrees, just beyond our 95-degree Fahrenheit comfort threshold. However, the touchpad and keyboard managed to keep their cool at just 79.3 and 86 degrees. The hottest spot on the bottom of the laptop was in the back center and it peaked at 102.9. 

Considering the size and weight of this laptop, I don’t think many would opt to actually use it in their laps, so the underside getting hotter than is comfortable shouldn’t be an issue.

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 software and warranty 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 ships with Windows 10 Pro and just like its predecessor it steers clear of most bloatware. This should be the expectation with a workstation this expensive, but it’s not always the case.

Lenovo Commercial Vantage is the primary system management tool that comes pre-installed on the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2. It’s worth checking out as it offers a glanceable system health dashboard and monitors for any necessary updates to your system. This includes BIOS and Lenovo-specific updates, some of which I had when I first fired up the laptop, in addition to any Windows 10 updates. You can also enable Lenovo Wi-Fi Security from Commercial Vantage which will analyze your network for any security threats in real-time, again a nice touch for the presumably professional audience for this laptop.

Commercial Vantage also displays your current warranty status with links to either utilize your warranty or upgrade it. The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen comes with a three-year limited warranty. You can see how Lenovo fares in general on this front in our Tech Support Showdown and Best and Worst Brands special reports.  

Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 workstation laptop

(Image credit: Laptop Mag/Sean Riley)

Bottom line

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 may as well be dropped into the dictionary as the definition of a workstation. The bulky and heavy frame isn’t going to win any laptop beauty pageants, but it delivers performance that is unmatched by virtually anything on the market.

The comfortable keyboard, durable build, and solvable display concerns make this laptop an easy recommendation for a wide variety of users. The size of the laptop and the pricing are reasonable complaints to have with this laptop, but in the end both can be reasonably dismissed considering the performance you are getting and the actual use case for a workstation laptop.

You could absolutely spend less on a workstation laptop and still have a solid experience, but if you are using this laptop for work where saving minutes or even seconds on every task makes a meaningful difference for you then the ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 is likely the choice for you.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.