Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Review: A Preeminent Workstation Laptop Worth Every Penny – Techaeris
Let me summarize this for you if you are in a hurry; and if you’re the kind of person that needs this kind of device, you probably are: this is the best laptop I have ever used. Now, if you have a few minutes, my Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review will explain why this member of Lenovo’s newest workhorse line of laptops has wooed me so thoroughly.
If you have ever used Lenovo’s Thinkpad W541 laptops, there is an unmistakable resemblance in the ethos of the P50 making it a spiritual successor that improves on its predecessor in every possible way. The P50 is not a gimmick or a toy and it makes no attempt to pander to people ogling ultra thin laptops with inert performance, lack of useful ports, or functionality. The P50 will never be available in rose gold, and I’m thankful for that. This is for getting work done quickly, effectively, and with all the tools at your beck and call; and it looks great while doing it. Although not cheap, it clearly signals that you really do get what you paid for.
- Display: 15.6 4K(3840×2160) IPS Non-Touch
- CPU: Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 Processor (8MB Cache, up to 3.70GHz)
- Hard Drive: 512GB SSD SATA3
- RAM: 16GB DDR4-2133MHz ECC SODIMM (4 SODIMM Slots, 64 GB Max)
- Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro M2000M 4GB
- Color Sensor: X-Rite® Pantone® (Optional)
- Communication: Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC(2×2) 8260, Bluetooth Version 4.1 vPro
- Camera: 720p HD webcam
- Audio: Dolby® Home Theater® built-in stereo speakers
- Ports:(4) USB 3.0, 1 Always-on Charging, (1) HDMI 1.4, (1) Mini DisplayPort™ 1.2, (1) Thunderbolt™ 3, (1) RJ45 Gigabit Ethernet, (1) Docking Connector, (1) Microphone/Headphone Combo Jack, (1) Smart Card Reader (Optional), (1) ExpressCard / 34 mm, (1) SDXC
- Battery: 6 Cell Li-Polymer Battery 90Wh
- Dimensions: (inches) : 14.86″ x 9.93″ x 0.96″ – 1.02″; (mm) : 377.4 x 252.3 x 24.5 – 25.9
- Weight: 5.6 lbs.
- Operating System: Windows 10 Pro (Windows7 or 8.1 Optional)
The Lenovo comes in one color choice — matte black. This is in line with many of the laptops Lenovo builds, and it still looks great. A stark and welcome contrast to the Macbook-ification of many other laptops, it also makes a rather thick laptop that looks like a svelte and slick construct. Don’t let the soft-touch on the outside fool you, the P50 is built to last and survive take a beating. Lenovo claims that it passes MIL-STD 810G durability tests for extreme temperatures, humidity, sand blasts, vibrations and shocks. Open the lid and the design language is again familiar with what we have come to expect from Lenovo but modern, cleaner and purposeful. Everything is spaced perfectly, the keyboard looks as good as it works and the large track-pad is comfortable to use. A bit above the trackpad is the familiar red Trackpoint with it’s own buttons. I have never preferred to use these, but apparently a lot of people still find it handy.
The good people at Lenovo knew that a lot of these laptops will find themselves in the hands of content and media creators. So a screen not only has to be good, it has to be great. Size, color reproduction, blacks, brightness and resolution all need to be top notch. So instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Lenovo just put one of the best displays in the P50, checking all the boxes at once. Users will disagree, but for me ~15″ of screen real-estate is perfect on a portable workstation. Anything smaller and I’m lacking valuable work-space; anything larger and it becomes burdensome to haul around and I would rather just get an external monitor involved. So the 15.6 inches Lenovo went with here is ideal. Quality of the display only ups the ante with a 3840×2160 resolution. Yes that’s 4K resolution, and yes it looks amazing.
Colors are vibrant and our model was equipped with an optional (and highly recommended) Pantone color calibration sensor. Coupled with included calibration software, this allows you to periodically recalibrate your screen to get accurate color reproduction. Something that is invaluable for design, as well as image and video editing.
One can argue that you don’t necessarily need decent speakers on a work laptop. You most likely will not be using it to consume too much media and for serious audio work or even hard core gaming, external headsets will probably be the way to go no matter how good the built-in speakers are. The setup on the P50 is definitively not blowing away any eardrums, but the Dolby equipment does a great job overall. The sound is crisp and the bass is strong. I would have preferred the speakers to be a bit louder, but was happy with their output overall.
The choice of a lesser 720p camera on a device of this level does feel a little odd. But considering that you will (or should) only use it for occasional video conference or Skype/Hangouts calls, the little standard camera perched above the screen in the usual location, does the job well enough that it is hardly a deal breaker. You won’t be using it to send any hi-res selfies but that is probably a good thing.
Unless you go custom, Windows 10 Pro is what you get here. Lenovo also give you the option to go with Windows 7 or 8.1 if your company’s IT and security needs require an older version. If you’re like me, Windows 10 is fantastic and well ahead of it’s Cupertino competitor. If you’re not like me, you will have to make do with your second or even third most favorite operating system. What becomes quickly noticeable is just how well Windows works with the hardware. I have never seen it run this fast or this smooth anywhere. Sure, the P50 is packing some class leading specs but that is not always a guarantee of a great user experience. The software on the the Thinkpad worked like it was written (or at least optimized) for this this laptop. From the rapid boot to the input response and resource management, everything flowed.
Earlier, I touched briefly on security and seeing as how this is aimed at commercial use, Lenovo took that very seriously. As a result the P50 comes with Intel vPro management technology and TPM encryption. As with any Lenovo you have some included software only in this case a lot of it is stuff you actually want including the aforementioned security and color correction applications. As usual, anything you don’t want can be quickly uninstalled. Just be careful what you banish to avoid losing things of value.
That word encapsulates the P50 perfectly. This laptop has performance coming out of every port. And that’s saying a lot since it has them all over the place and in a variety that is sure to please any user. Thirteen in total, covering your USB, SD, Ethernet, and HDMI needs and more.
With other recent laptop reviews, I had to work really hard to cause slowdown, lag or drop in performance of any kind. With the P50 I pretty much gave up trying. The Intel Xeon E3, 16GB RAM, combined with the NVIDIA Quadro M2000M, and SSD laughed at my feeble attempts trying to over-tax them. All my design needs were handled, as were 3D modeling and 4K video editors without even a sign of the Thinkpad getting warm. Programs didn’t so much load as simply open as soon as I launched them. For the way I work, I can simply open everything I need and never worry about shutting any of it down… about 3 times over. And that is not even considering that down the line I can still quadruple the RAM and put in even better SSDs. It even games fairly well. I didn’t spend too much time with entertainment this time around, but in the little time I had all my newer games ran on medium or higher settings with no problem. When I said the P50 can do everything, I meant it. Interfacing with all that power is a pure pleasure as you get what I believe to be the best combination of keyboard and trackpad ever put in a laptop. The backlit black and white keys, with 2 brightness settings, indulge you with 1.95 mm of travel and a gratifying, soft, clicky response (sorry for getting technical there). The trackpad is tuned to perfection with sensitivity settings exactly where I prefer them right out of the box. This level of responsiveness makes me completely indifferent to the lack of a touch-screen.
The first thing you will notice is the placement of the battery. Traditionally at the rear of the laptop, the ThinkPad’s is at the front and even has one of the stand-nubs on it. Out of the box this is not an issue but may affect replacement after-market battery choices later.
The good news is that you may not need to worry since the battery life here hits a very respectable 8+ hour mark under normal use. Pushing it, with everything I prefer to have running on a given day, the Lenovo started asking for juice after just over 4.5 hours. It’s enough to make you feel comfortable if you forget your charger, but I would recommend you try and remember it or a long day could become a lot longer as you scramble to outrun the battery. Under light use, with some online doc editing and normal browsing, the P50 made it through a day and a half with about 30% still on the meter. However the issue of the built in Windows battery indicator still irks me to no end. I understand that the indicated time on battery is an estimate but with every laptop I use, this estimate is completely inaccurate doing nothing but precipitating anxiety by showing a remaining time that is hours shorter than what is actually available. If Microsoft cannot get this to work correctly it simply needs to remove it since this is also a disservice to Lenovo’s product.
How do you convince someone that a $2300 laptop is worth it? In my case, I got to live with it for a month before coming to that categorical conclusion. You may not have the chance to spend as much time with the P50 outside getting a few minutes to play with it at your local Best Buy. But hey, that’s one of the reasons why we’re here at Techaeris. There are of course cheaper models as the P50 starts at $1300 with a very respectable Skylake i7, half the RAM, and less powerful Nvidia Quadro M1000M. But that still gets you vast performance and options to upgrade some of the components over time. You also still get the striking design and build, along with arguably the best keyboard and track-pad. The only real hit is the screen, but even still you get a really solid 15.6 FHD(1920×1080) IPS panel. I do however think that the extra costs are justified here. My claim to this being the best laptop I ever used is not just a hollow hyperbole.
I doubt I could have been any clearer regarding my feelings concerning the Lenovo Thinkpad P50. Forget the gimmicks. Forget the empty rhetoric by companies telling you that under powered, thin laptops, barren of functionality are somehow the future of computing just because they are expensive. Lenovo has made something here that will serve you well today and for years to come. The true future of computing is the ability to do and create without limitations or compromises, not accessorizing your coffee table. And that is why the P50 is the laptop I would buy today without any regrets.