The ThinkPad P1 Gen 4 (starts at $1,676; $3,599 as tested) is the good kid in Lenovo’s lineup of mobile workstations. Carrying a range of Independent Software Vendor (ISV) certifications for specialized design, CGI, and scientific apps, it’s the workstation version of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme like the Dell Precision 5560 XPS 15’s drafting and rendering sibling. That means it’s less powerful and expandable but thinner and lighter than Lenovo’s flagship ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 — a whopping 3.99 pounds versus a partially under 4-pound line of prosciutto. The P1 costs a lot more than comparable content creator laptops without ISV credits, but its performance and ports propel it past the Precise 5560 as our new Editors’ Choice honor for lightweight mobile workstations.
Formerly a 15.6-inch laptop, the ThinkPad P1 now sports a 16-inch screen with a slightly longer 16:10 aspect ratio. For $1,676, the Gen 4 base model has an Intel Core i7-11800H processor, an Nvidia T1200 GPU, 8GB of memory, a 256GB solid-state drive, and a 2,560-by-1,600-pixel display rated at 400 nits brightness has gone.
Our review unit (model 20Y3006XUS) ranged from $3,599 at Staples to $3,925 at CDW. It steps up to an eight-core, 2.5GHz (4.8GHz turbo) Core i7-11850H CPU and GeForce RTX 3070 graphics—with Nvidia’s RTX A-series professional GPUs on the RTX 3070 and 3080 option lists, along with 1TB PCIe Is. Gen 4 SSD (storage ceiling is 4TB) and up to 64GB of RAM. Processor options climb to the Core i9-11950H and six-core Xeon W-11855M, the latter being offered with error-correcting-code (ECC) memory.
If you want higher resolution, both touch and non-touch 3,840-by-2,400 IPS screens are available, each rated at 600 nits. Our system has a non-touch panel with medium-thin bezels all around; The top border makes room for a face-recognition webcam with sliding privacy shutter, which gives you two ways to log in with Windows Hello, along with a fingerprint reader in the power button. The keyboard is surrounded by stereo speakers, so there’s no room for a numeric keypad.
Equipped with an aluminum alloy bottom and carbon fiber wave top, the ThinkPad P1 Gen4 has passed the MIL-STD 810G test against road hazards such as shock, vibration and hot and cold temperatures. There’s almost no flex if you mash the keyboard or grab the corners of the screen. The system measures 0.7 by 14.1 by 10 inches (HWD), making it slightly larger than the Dell 5560 (0.73 by 13.6 by 9.1 inches) and the HP ZBook Studio G8 (0.69 by 13.9 by 9.2 inches). HP weighs the same as Lenovo; Dell is a third of a pound heavier.
While the Precision 5560 only offers three USB-C ports (two with Thunderbolt 4) and a USB Type-A and HDMI dongle, the ThinkPad has a full set of interfaces. The two Thunderbolt 4 ports connect to an HDMI port, an audio jack, and the AC adapter connector on the laptop’s left side. The right edge houses two USB 3.2 Type-A ports and an SD card slot and a security lock slot. Wired networkers will get a USB-C to Ethernet adapter in the box; Wi-Fi 6e and Bluetooth handle wireless links.
above-average 1080p camera
The workstation’s IR webcam is higher than usual, offering 1080p instead of the usual, minimum 720p resolution and capturing sharp, colorful images with almost no static – you’ll see a little darkness in a low-light room, but your colleagues Will know if you quit shaving this morning.
The upward-firing speakers produce loud and clear sound; It has a surprising amount of bass and overlapping tracks are easy to hear. Dolby Atmos software provides dynamic, game, movie and music presets and an equalizer. Another preinstalled utility, Lenovo Vantage, centralizes settings ranging from system updates and information, Wi-Fi security, and cooling fan speed (and noise level) to keyboard defaults.
Coming to the keyboard, it has a bright backlight and Lenovo’s trademark first-class typing feel. There are dedicated Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys, and the top-line Escape and Delete keys aren’t too small. The F10 and F11 keys make and end calls in Microsoft Teams; The Fn and Control keys are interchangeable in the bottom left, but you can swap them out with the Lenovo Vantage if you can’t adjust. Both Lenovo’s TrackPoint keyboard pointing stick (with three buttons, including a beloved one among ISV apps) and a good-sized touchpad are available for cursor control; The pad takes the right amount of pressure for a quiet click.
Unlike the Gen 2 models we reviewed in March 2020, the ThinkPad P1 Gen 4 doesn’t offer an OLED display, so it has incredibly high contrast and not entirely black black. But the 3,840-by-2,400-pixel screen is about as good as an IPS panel gets, with remarkable brightness and nuanced detail; You can’t see any pixelation even when you try it.
The white background is pure like driven snow, helped by a screen hinge that curves to the back. Colors are deep, rich and well saturated and viewing angles are wide. An X-Rite Color Assistant utility in the system tray lets you switch between Default, sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3 Cinema, Rec. 709 Television, and DICOM Medical Imaging color palette.
ThinkPad P1 performance test: Workstation vs. creative laptop
For our benchmark chart, I compared the P1 Gen 4 to four other high-performance desktop replacements whose basic specifications appear below. The Dell Precision 5560 is a direct competitor as a lightweight workstation, while the HP ZBook Studio G8 expands into the workstation and content-creator worlds. The Acer ConceptD 5 and Asus ProArt StudioBook 16 belong to the OLED content-creator camp—and cost a lot less than mobile workstations, at $2,000 and $2,400, respectively.
UL’s PCMark 10 core benchmarks simulate a variety of real-world productivity and content-creation workflows to measure overall performance for office-focused tasks such as word processing, spreadsheets, web browsing, and videoconferencing. We also run PCMark 10’s full system drive test to assess the load time and throughput of a laptop’s storage drives.
The three benchmarks focus on the CPU, using all available cores and threads, to rate the suitability of a PC for processor-intensive workloads. Maxon’s Cinebench R23 uses that company’s Cinema 4D engine to render a complex scene, while Primate Labs’ Geekbench 5.4 Pro emulates popular apps ranging from PDF rendering and speech recognition to machine learning. Finally, we use the open-source video transcoder Handbrake 1.4 to convert a 12-minute video clip from 4K to 1080p resolution (the shorter the time the better).
Our final productivity test is Puget Systems’ PugetBench for Photoshop, which uses Creative Cloud version 22 of Adobe’s renowned image editor to rate PC performance for content creation and multimedia applications. It’s an automated extension that performs a variety of common and GPU-accelerated Photoshop tasks, from opening, rotating, resizing, and saving an image to applying masks, gradient fills, and filters.
Obviously, this is an overrepresented group. All five laptops smashed a 4,000-point score that indicates excellent productivity in PCMark 10 (using them for Word or Excel is useless). Considering it was going up against a Core i9 and a Ryzen 9 CPU, Lenovo’s Core i7 outperformed our processor benchmarks, and it’s a great Photoshop platform.
We tested the graphics of Windows PCs with two DirectX 12 gaming simulations from UL’s 3DMark, Night Raid (suitable for laptops with more modest, integrated graphics) and Time Spy (suitable for gaming rigs with more demanding, discrete GPUs) We do.
We also ran two tests from the cross-platform GPU benchmark GFXBench 5, which emphasizes both low-level routines like texturing and high-level, game-like image rendering. The 1440p Aztec Ruins and 1080p Car Chase tests provide offscreen to accommodate different display resolutions, practice graphics and calculate shaders using the OpenGL programming interface and hardware tessellation, respectively. The more frames per second (fps), the better.
The ThinkPad won’t win any gold medals, but it’s clearly capable of moderate-high hours of post-gaming as well as demanding visual apps, which deliver on the promise of its eye-pleasing screen.
We run three additional programs to simulate workstation applications. Since we don’t have results for them for every notebook in our database, I swapped in three heavy laptop workstations, the MSI WS66, Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen 2, and HP ZBook Fury 15 G8. All have a Core i9 processor and Nvidia’s professional Pinnacle RTX A5000 GPU.
The first test is PugetBench for Adobe Premiere Pro, a counterpart to our Photoshop benchmark that focuses on video rather than image editing. The other is Blender, an open-source 3D suite for modeling, animation, simulation, and compositing. We record the time it takes for its built-in cycle path tracer to render two photo-realistic views of BMW cars, one for the system’s CPU and one GPU (less time is better). BMW artist Mike Pan has said that he considers the visuals too fast for rigorous testing, but they remain a popular benchmark.
Perhaps our most important workstation test, the SPECviewperf 2020, renders, rotates, and zooms in and out of solid and wireframe models using the viewsets of popular ISV apps. We run 1080p resolution tests based on PTC’s Creo CAD platform; Autodesk’s Maya modeling and simulation software for film, TV and games; and Dassault Systems’ SolidWorks 3D rendering package. The more frames per second, the better.
If you’re a full-time 4K video editor, you may want to hold out for a Core i9 chip, but otherwise the P1 Gen 4 was amazing, with an eyelash of matching the much bulkier and bulkier ThinkPad P15 and beating the Precision 5560. Coming in Blender and two out of three SPECviewperf tests. If you need a top-performing mobile workstation that won’t slide off the bottom of your briefcase, look no further.
Battery and performance testing
We test a laptop’s battery life by playing a locally stored 720p video file (the open-source Blender movie.) tears of steelTears of Steel) with display brightness at 50% and audio volume at 100%. We make sure the battery is fully charged, Wi-Fi and keyboard backlighting turned off before testing.
We also use the Datacolor SpiderX Elite Monitor Calibration Sensor and its Windows software to measure the color saturation of a laptop screen – the sRGB, Adobe RGB, and DCI-P3 color gamut, or what percentage of the palette the display can display. is – and 50% of it and the peak brightness in nits (candelas per square meter).
I don’t think we’ve ever seen a better set of laptop displays than any. The Asus ProArt and HP ZBook Studio have OLED panels, but all five screens are brilliant, with the ThinkPad P1 actually covering only 90% of the DCI-P3 gamut (used for cinema rather than design programs). Looks bad for and is just shy of 1% of its advertised 100% Adobe RGB. The P1 compensates by delivering the highest brightness you’ll find from a rugged laptop used in outdoor sunlight.
Its seven-hour battery life isn’t impressive but mobile workstations spend most of their time plugged in for long sessions of 3D rendering or dataset crunching, so that’s forgivable.
a new lightweight champion
The ThinkPad P1 Gen 4 has USB-A and HDMI ports that the Dell Precision 5560 is limited to a dongle, and it beats the Dell and takes lunch money in most of our performance benchmarks. Unless you crave OLED instead of an IPS display, it’s actually an easy pick as our new Editors’ Choice winner among portable workstations.