The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 is not a mere 15.6” laptop; it’s a Mobile Workstation configurable with a professional NVIDIA Quadro graphics processor, ECC memory, and Intel Xeon CPU with vPro. This can be packaged in an extremely light 3.75+ Lbs chassis, making it a powerful laptop for its weight.
The ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 has been designed for professionals working on demanding apps that require potent processors and plenty of memory.
Folks working with 3D applications may want a certified Quadro driver, and some buyers might also buy this workstation for its certified durability. As such, there’s a premium associated with some of the design and features, which we will go over.
Configuration as tested
In this review, we are specifically testing the model with a 2.7Ghz i7-10885H CPU, 32GB of RAM, 1TB of SSD (Samsung MZVLB1T0HBLR-00L7) with the 4K OLED display. The GPU is an NVIDIA Quadro T2000 with 4GB of VRAM.
At publishing time, this configuration on the official Lenovo product page has an estimated cost of $5040, and Lenovo was offering a discounted price of $2670.67 via eCoupon (code: THINKCMSALE). Coupons are temporary by nature and might be discontinued at any time. Also, the most affordable ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 starts at $1704.62 on Lenovo’s website.
The system configuration options can support a wide array of prices, with the base version selling for $2939 and the fully-loaded one retailing at an MSRP of $6734. That said, Lenovo had some huge discount (~50%) this week, so it’s worth looking at the official website.
Components such as the Quadro GPUs bear additional value for professionals who want certified drivers and specific extra features not found in the gaming counterpart GPU.
The ECC memory is also something that some users might want and protects against memory errors for the absolute best system stability.
ECC memory is something that the average user doesn’t know about or want. If you don’t see why you would wish to have ECC memory or Quadro GPUs, then you don’t “need” it.
- CPU: i7-10750H (base), i7-10850H (+$310), i7-10850H (+$440), i9-10885H (+$890), Xeon W-10855M (+$1100)
- GPU: NVIDIA Quadro T1000 or T2000 with Max-Q 4GB
- RAM: 8, 16, 32, or 64GB of DDR4 2933MHz of RAM, user-replaceable. With some CPUs, ECC memory shows up as an option.
- 15.6-inch Display
- Two physical M.2 slots (for RAID option), 256GB, 512GB, 1TB or 2TB Intel OPAL SSD.
ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 Design and Ports
The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 has a classic and modern ThinkPad design proven to be successful for business users. You can appreciate the aesthetic aspect with the photos, and we’ll focus on the objective benefits and potential pitfalls.
The chassis is mostly made of carbon-fiber and magnesium with a soft-pain on top, like the ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The display back-cover is the only place where you can see the carbon weave pattern, and it adds a touch of class while reminding people what is underneath.
Lenovo’s soft paint is agreeable to the touch, not slippery, and very resistant to wear and tear – more so than naked aluminum.
As usual with the ThinkPad line of product, the laptop has passed a dozen or so MIL-STD-810 tests and probably has a spill-resistant keyboard, although we did not put this to the test.
The bottom cover can be opened by removing screws, which gives you access to the components. There are two DDR4 RAM slots and two M.2 SSD slots, great for upgrades and repairs.
“THE 3.75+ LBS WEIGHT OF THE LENOVO THINKPAD P1 GEN 3 IS A MASTERPIECE IN ITSELF”
The 3.75+ Lbs weight of the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 is a masterpiece in itself, and anyone who carries a typical 5.5+ Lbs workstation knows that it will make a big difference when it comes to mobility and travel – especially if you often fly to meet clients and colleagues.
To give you an example, here are the respective weights of a handful of competitors. HP ZBook 15 G6 (5.7 Lbs), MSI WS75 (5 Lbs), Razer Blade 15 Studio Edition (4.85 Lbs), and the closest, the Dell Precision 5530 (4.4 Lbs).
Keyboard and Trackpad
The full-size keyboard is excellent and one of the best we’ve tested on a 15.6” laptop. There’s ample key-travel, and the keys are curved and comfortable to the touch. The plastic is designed to repel finger grease, which is a plus for heavy keyboard users.
The trackpad is large, but not enormous – some 13.3” laptops have larger trackpads. However, I suspect that most people using Workstations like this mainly use a mouse.
The physical trackpad buttons are comfortable and accurate than in my opinion. It is especially true for “click & drag” operations and small items selection where you want to be 100% sure that the cursor won’t move as you mouse-click (example: polygon vertices in a CAD app).
Thinkpad P1 Gen 3 Ports
The wide availability of ports is incredibly convenient if you need to connect to various peripherals. Workstation users are probably more prone to be connected to multiple displays, printers, and custom-peripherals than your typical office worker.
With a full array of ports, including a full-size USB+HDMI and powerful ThunderBolt 3 ports, there aren’t limitations as to what you can connect to, and no risk of forgetting dongles when you need to connect the most.
The number of ports is a crucial difference with more compact and ultra-thin 15” consumer laptops in this price range.
- 2x USB-A, 2x Thunderbolt 3
- 1x full-size HDMI 2.0
- 1x 3.5mm audio, 1x SD full-size
- 1x proprietary Ethernet
- 1x security lock port, 1x 4G LTE (optional)
ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 Display
We have the OLED 15.6-inch display, so the colors are vibrant, and the ~588 NITs measured brightness is usually more than bright enough, in any circumstances. Note that the OLED display is rated for 400 NITs, but it does peak well above that, as our tests show.
I think that OLED is the best for media consumption because of the perfect blacks. Also, for coding and high-contrast text, I find it to be more comfortable too. The color accuracy is outstanding (we measured 100% sRGB, 96% Adobe RGB, 99% of P3 with SyderXElite), but if you work in design or require the best color matching, the IPS 4K display -might- be a better option.
Because it is a workstation, all displays come out fully calibrated from the factory, which is a plus for people who buy laptops for their whole team. Eventually, you would have to recalibrate them, however.
For utilitarian applications that don’t need high-resolution or super-precise colors, the base FHD display (300 NITs, no HDR certification) will do just fine. For more enjoyable media consumption, the FHD+HDR display tends to have better contrast and colors too.
Keep in mind that FHD displays are much more battery-friendly than their 4K counterparts, often by ~30%-40%, but workstations are, in general, run with power connected.
4K displays are excellent if you work with fine text (code, writing, reading) because the text will appear very smooth. The same thing is true for applications that use a lot of wireframe 3D graphics like CAD and 3D modeling apps.
- 1920 x 1080 IPS anti-glare, 300nits, 72% color gamut
- 1920 x 1080 IPS, anti-glare with Dolby Vision™ HDR, 500 nits
- 3840 x 2160 LCD IPS, anti-glare with Dolby Vision™ HDR, 600 nits
- 3840 x 2160 OLED, AR/AS, touchscreen with Dolby Vision™ HDR True Black, 400 nits
Optional Digital Pen
The ThinkPad Pen Pro is optional ($99.99, with Wacom AES 2.0) but Lenovo provided us with one for testing purposes. The pen is big and comfortable like a regular pen, so it would be suitable for long-term use (versus just taking notes for ~45mn).
I’m no designer, but I can confirm that the Ink is very fast and responsive. Now, this pen might not be as good as an iPad 10 Pro’s for sketching purposes, but I find it to be quick and accurate.
The performance will likely be limited by the app’s brushes rather than the Pen itself and Windows OS. For more details about the pen, watch the official video:
Depending on your display option, the webcam will be a plain one or a fancier one with the secondary IR camera for a secure unlock. Both will have ThinkShutter, a physical shutter that prevents the camera from seeing anything. In many places, it’s a must and beats tape on the camera!
The webcam is within the quality standard for high-end laptops, but that’s not saying much. Generally, even a mid-range or low-end phone should yield a higher image quality for video conferences and such.
The 2020 work from home will hopefully push OEMs to include higher quality cameras. Recently, reducing the cameras’ size has been a priority to have a small bezel, but quality needs to rise too.
ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 Speed Test
We don’t review a lot of Workstations since mostly we’re a consumer-oriented website, but I have an affinity for them since I worked in the video games industry for ~13 years.
First, I wanted to show how choosing different CPUs affect the raw CPU/RAM performance profile. Secondly, we can compare this with classic work laptops to show you how having a workstation could improve your work situation.
If we look at the raw CPU numbers with a test like Geekbench, you can see that going from a Core i7 to a Core-i9 or a Xeon CPU does kick performance into a higher gear (and into higher price too).
The graphics and creative tests such as PCMark 10 Creative and 3DMark FireStrike show that the graphics performance of our test laptop is quite high. Remember that parts of the graphics tests could still be CPU-limited, so we do not exclude that a faster processor would raise the graphics scores even further.
And this is not even considering the additional value for some users to have Quadro-certified GPU drivers, and their app-specific optimizations. It is tough to capture that value in benchmarks, but customers who “need” Quadro GPUs don’t need any convincing.
When working on compute-intensive applications, the laptop fans will kick-in relatively quickly. The noise isn’t too loud for me, but it depends on your tolerance. If you really need something quiet, you might prefer a desktop because the P1 fan -will be ON regularly.
That’s true for any mobile workstation that performs a compute-intensive task. Performance generates heat, and heat needs to go away.
There’s an option for ECC RAM, which is excellent for people who want the most outstanding system stability. Again, if you don’t know why or if you need it, you probably don’t.
ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 Battery Life
Battery life isn’t typically critical for Workstations because they are not used for ultra-mobility. As such, these computers often feature high-powered processors, graphics cards, and 4K displays. They are really meant to replace a desktop and its monitor.
That said, the 80Whr battery is very large, for the sub-4Lbs weight. With the 135W power-supply, you can charge it from 0% to 32% in a pinch in ~30mn, which is pretty fast.
In the PCMark 8 “work” battery test, a typical office-work benchmark, our laptop lasted for ~3h43mn. This length is not bad at all for such a powerful laptop with a 4K display (at 110 NITs of brightness). With a FHD display, it could last 5.5 or 6 hours, in our estimation.
That said, laptops designed for ultra-mobility will tend to score even higher, with some reaching 9-11 hours at this test.
Again, keep in mind that battery life will significantly vary depending on your display resolution and brightness. Of course, the apps you use have a major impact on energy consumption.
The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 is an excellent 15.6-inch workstation, which is powerful and comes with a great deal of order-time configuration flexibility. No matter the use case, it has ample options to get the job done and do it securely (vPro chipset).
It is especially interesting to the road-warriors because of its lightweight and MIL-810G-STD proven durability because it reduces overall travel fatigue and lowers the risk of having a breakdown during a mission, which will cost thousands of dollars in delay. I travel a lot for work, and one constant worry is having my laptop die on me.
“AN EXCELLENT 15.6-INCH WORKSTATION”
If you don’t know why you would need Quadro, ECC memory, or a Xeon processor, you -might- be able to find an alternative in gaming laptops. It might be heavier but more cost-efficient, depending on the configuration.
But I doubt that Enterprise customers would consider this kind of corner-cutting and would seriously consider the ThinkPad P1 Gen 3 for their workforce.
Overall product rating: 9.1/10