Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen2 Review


Created as a desktop replacement Workstation, the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen2 is a powerful laptop for those who need serious computing power for CAD, engineering, and other highly intensive tasks.

This 15.6-inch laptop is not your typical thin & light designed to be agreeable to carry in your backpack. Instead, the computer is relatively chunky and heavy, but it features plenty of potential upgrades that thin & lights can only dream of.

Specs Highlights and Configurations Options

Our specific test unit is equipped with the Intel Core i9-11950H CPU, 32GB of RAM, the RTX A5000 16GB graphics processor, 1TB of SSD storage, and the FHD 500 NITs display option. It retails for $5381.99 at CDW.

To cater to as many use cases (and prices) as possible, Lenovo is flexible with the configuration, and the CPU options include the Core i5, i7, i9, and Xeon processors. The RAM options vary between 16, 32, 64, and 128 GB, spread across four memory modules.

Either 512 or 1TB of storage can be included by default, and Lenovo has two additional m.2 2280 slots if you want to add even more. That’s a fantastic possibility for a laptop.

Graphics processor options go from the NVIDIA Quadro T1200 to the RTX A2000 to A5000 cover a wide range of use cases since T1200 has 1024 GPU cores, while the A5000 has 6144 cores. For example, an i7 CPU + T1200 GPU version can cost around $2200.

Industrial Design

As mentioned in the introduction, the ThinkPad P15 Gen2 chassis has sizeable dimensions: 375.4 x 252.3 x 25.25-32.2 mm and 3070g for the heavier touch models, and 2870g for non-touch ones.

Typically, people shopping for these workstations know about this, but our data suggests that a lot of people compare the ThinkPad P15 with the Carbon X1, so we’ll feature some comparisons with the X1 and with the ThinkPad P1 (2020) as well since it is also a popular comparison to the P15.

The chassis is made of magnesium alloy. It’s a material and overall design language very similar to other ThinkPads, minus the dimensions. As usual, the keyboard is still proof, and the laptop has a MIL-STD-810H certification, an updated version of the MIL-STD-810G standard.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The ThinkPad keyboard and trackpad use the classic and proven ThinkPad keyboard design, and there’s ample room for key travel (1.3mm?). The chassis is large enough to feature a numeric pad to the right. Overall, I find it very agreeable to use, and there’s no surprise since we review quite a few ThinkPads every year.

I always point out that the physical trackpad buttons are crucial for click accuracy, and that’s even more important for a workstation, especially if you work on CAD applications that require minute mouse selections.

Ports

An advantage of larger laptops is the high number of ports. It’s perfect if you use the laptop as a fixed-location computer, but if you plan on moving it daily, check good Thunderbolt 4 docks, including Lenovo’s unique 230W TB3 dock, which I have not tested yet.

2x USB 3.2 Gen 1 (one Always On)
1x USB-C 3.2 Gen 2 (support data transfer, Power Delivery 3.0 and DisplayPort™ 1.4)
2x Thunderbolt 4 / USB4™ 40Gbps (support data transfer, Power Delivery 3.0 and DisplayPort 1.4a)
1x SD card reader
1x Ethernet (2.5GbE RJ-45)
1x Headphone/microphone combo jack (3.5mm)
1x HDMI 2.1 (RTX) or 1x HDMI 2.0 (T1200)
1x Smart card reader (optional)
1x Nano-SIM card slot (optional)

Upgradability

If you’re unsure about how much capacity you need at purchase time, the Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen2 has ample upgrade options. It’s relatively easy to repair as well because the primary modules are removable and separated (GPU, WIFI, BT, Broadband, Main motherboard).

There are four RAM slots: two under the keyboard and two hidden under the back cover meant to be easily accessible. Next to these two RAM slots, you will find two m.2 2280 SSD slots (Opal compatible), which are super convenient. You could potentially save a ton of money by upgrading RAM and storage later.

Sound quality

The two 2-Watt speakers are located just above the keyboard and deliver precise sound. If you watch a movie in your hotel room, the sound is powerful enough, and you will enjoy a good multimedia experience.

The audio is not as good as the exceptional Lenovo Yoga 9i, which has a better soundbar, spatialization, and more bass. I know this is a “work” computer, but there might be an opportunity to improve the sound quality given the size of the chassis.

Display

Our test unit comes with an FHD non-touch 500 NITs (Dolby Vision) display with 100% sRGB color and a high contrast ratio of 1200:1. Calibrated at the factory, it performs well and is adequate for work that requires good color rendering.

As the table below shows, you have many options if you need slightly lower or much higher display capabilities. The 4K OLED option seems especially impressive in contrast (infinite) and color rendering. OLED might be the best option if you do professional video editing.

Webcam

As usual, the laptop has a 720p camera with an Infra-Red sensor for secure face-ID login. There’s also a privacy shutter, but if your organization is highly paranoid, Lenovo has a display without a camera at all, according to the official specs.

The image quality is similar to what you can find on other PC laptops: quite average. If you need something better, Lenovo has some external cameras, or you can use an old smartphone as a webcam, and the chances are that it will look a lot better.

Performance

Our test unit did exceptionally well with one of the most powerful CPU and GPU configurations (Core i9-11950H, 32GB, RTX A5000 16GB).

Even in low-key productivity benchmarks, the difference with the Carbon X1 or last year’s ThinkPad P1 workstation is palpable.When you get into graphics (TimeSpy) or heavy multicore workloads (Geekbench multicore), the ThinkPad P15 Gen2 is in a class of its own.

Something like Geekbench is an excellent proxy for CPU tasks such as Cinebench. Cinebench’s R23 benchmark shows excellent results, in line with what we would have expected from looking at the Geekbench numbers alone.

Absolute performance is where these heavier laptops shine, but even if we look at the Performance/Weight ratio, the ThinkPad P15 Gen2 graphics comes out way ahead. That said, the ThinkPad X1 Gen9 carbon has an excellent CPU performance/weight ratio, thanks to its exceptional design.

Internal components can get very hot when pushed to their limits, with the CPU hitting 99.9C and the GPU spiking to 80C in some tests, although I bet that it could climb a little higher too. Thermal throttling on thinner laptops would prevent them from sustaining this kind of heat, even though you might have similar “paper specs.”

The SSD performance is also solid and easily outpaces the SSD numbers we typically see in “productivity” laptops, including lighter ThinkPads we recently tested. Your big scientific database or 4K video will be accessed as fast as possible on a laptop.

Battery Life

These laptops are meant to be used at full power when connected to an outlet, but the 94Wh battery is here when you need to be mobile. That’s a relatively large capacity, but keep in mind that the laptop’s components consume much power.

It’s possible to opt for a slower CPU, GPU, and the FHD 300 NITs display to maximize battery life at the expense of performance.

“THE THINKPAD P15 GEN 2 CHARGES EXTREMELY QUICKLY”

The 6h47mn battery life test* results for office productivity type applications show that you can get some work done away from an outlet, but keep in mind that any computing-heavy or graphics-heavy task will drastically cut that time, and that’s normal.

*PCMark 10 modern office battery test at 110 NITs and battery settings set to “best battery life.”

The ThinkPad P15 Gen 2 charges extremely quickly at a rate of 1.5 Watt-hours per minute, nearly twice as fast as the Carbon X1 Gen9 and 3.5 times faster than the new ThinkPad X1 Titanium. This charging speed makes up for the shorter battery life, and you could get nearly 50% of battery charge in about 30mn.

Conclusion

The Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Gen2 is a great mobile workstation, and from our Google search data, prospect buyers are comparing it with the X1 Carbon, the ThinkPad P15s, P15v, T15, and P1, in that order. Google highlights that buyers aren’t even searching non-Lenovo alternatives to the ThinkPad P15.

We’ve shown that the ThinkPad X1 Carbon is in a whole other category, but buyers comparing “P15 vs. X1” now have enough data to decide what’s best for them. The ThinkPad P15s (official page) has been discontinued, and the ThinkPad P15v is likely not nearly as speedy according to the specs I’ve seen.

“A FANTASTIC DESKTOP REPLACEMENT”

If you want this kind of ThinkPad P15 performance in a smaller chassis and are okay with fewer upgrade options, check the new ThinkPad P1 Gen4. With identical CPU/GPU specs, the performance could rival the P15 Gen2, but I’m curious to test its sustained performance given that it’s a much thinner laptop.

The raw performance of the ThinkPad P15 Gen2 is excellent, and I consider it to be a fantastic desktop replacement, with a ton of ports and plenty of room for future upgrades. That configuration flexibility is THE differentiator when compared to smaller Lenovo workstations with comparable specs.

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