Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Review: A Workstation for All

by Reads (65,501)
  • Editor's Rating

    Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

      • Software & Support
      • 8
      • Upgrade Capabilities
      • 9
      • Usability
      • 10
      • Design
      • 7
      • Performance
      • 9
      • Features
      • 9
      • Price/Value Rating
      • 8
      • Total Score:
      • 8.57
      • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10
  • Pros

    • Strong battery life
    • Excellent keyboard
    • Beautiful 4k IPS display
    • Strong performance
  • Cons

    • Limited brightness
    • Heavier than alternatives

Quick Take

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 offers top-notch performance, with a long lasting battery in a portable 15.6-inch package.

 


Lenovo has changed its branding with the introduction of a mobile workstation line. The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 is the continuation of the old ThinkPad W541 while the P50s is a follow up to the workstation ultrabook ThinkPad W550s.

While the naming convention has changed, the staples that make up a Lenovo workstation ThinkPad are still very much there. Equipped with Intel Xeon CPU and Nvidia Quadro GPU the P50 has more than enough horsepower to handle computing intensive tasks such as 4K editing and 3D modeling. The 15.6-inch ThinkPad P50 workstation sports an attractive 4K IPS display, with an MIL tested chassis and best-in-class keyboard all wrapped up in a portable 5.8-pound package. It’s not the lightest workstation on the market, but it’s a great all-around choice. Read on to the rest of this Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review to find out why.

Build and Design

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review unit

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 is surprisingly svelte for a workstation laptop. With a 1.16-inch thickness and weighing only 5.8 pounds the P50 isn’t exactly lightweight, but it is portable. The 15.6-inch workstation easily fit in my bag and along with the 1.2-pound power brick, the entire package only totals 7 pounds, which is easily manageable.  

Despite the slim design, the P50 still very much looks the part of the practical workstation. The device sports a black boxy chassis design, reminiscent of Lenovo’s classic ThinkPad T-series aesthetic. The “i” in the ThinkPad lettering along the top-left hand corner of the display lid lights up. The one surprising element of the laptop’s design is soft to the touch plastic lid, which runs counter to the standard ThinkPad design. However, the inclusion proves to be a welcomed one making it easier to grip the device.

As you’d expect from a ThinkPad the rest of the deck is built like a brick house. The P50’s magnesium/aluminum base feels incredibly durable with virtually no give. According to Lenovo, the laptop has passed MIL-STD 810G tests for extreme temperatures, sandblasts, humidity, vibrations, and shocks. Plainly put, this notebook is built to last.

Ports and Features

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 ports leftLenovo ThinkPad P50 ports right

 

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation offers excellent connectivity with a wide selection of ports. The left side features an SD card reader, an optional ExpressCard 34 port, and an optional smart-card reader. The right side of the device houses a mini DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports, and an audio jack. The lion share of the ports are actually located at the rear of the device. The back of the chassis houses power connector, an HDMI connector, a Thunderbolt/USB Type-C port, an Ethernet connector and two USB 3.0 ports. Having most of the ports located in the rear is a bit inconvenient, but it’s better to have them along the back-end of the chassis, than to not have them at all.

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 back portsIn addition to the wide selection of ports, the ThinkPad P50 also offers a number of security features aimed at enterprise IT managers. All of the CPU options come with Intel vPro management technology and TPM encryption. Every model of the P50 also comes equipped with a fingerprint reader, just below the arrow keys on the deck.

Display and Speakers

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation houses a beautiful 15.6 4K (3,840 x 2,160) resolution IPS display. Images appear crisp and clear on the panel with vivid pure color reproduction. While watching a trailer for Captain America: Civil War NBR was impressed by how well the display captures the orange cascading clouds of an explosion and the dark purple ring of a battered Iron Man’s right eye. The insane color accuracy and clarity make the P50 a great choice for high-end image work such as CAD, but the beautiful color contrast also makes the laptop a joy to view media on when you have some downtime.

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 screen frontLenovo ThinkPad P50 screen forward

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 screen sideLenovo ThinkPad P50 screen back

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 display hingeThe  only thing we can really knock the P50’s display for is it’s limited brightness. At only 300 nits the P50’s screen does sit on the dimmer side. Under normal viewing conditions, this doesn’t prove to be an issue at all. Even when viewing the display from wide angles, colors and images hold up incredibly well. The only area where the display struggles is in direct light. In heavy or direct lighting a noticeable sheen will appear on the screen and colors become washed out.

Located above the keyboard is a thin black grill speaker bar. The P50 provides enough audio to fill a modest size room, making it a decent option when presenting in a meeting. NBR was also pleased with the device’s ability to accurately depict a number of classical duets from the pair Duo Sonidos. The classical guitar and violin were accurately captured with minimal feedback. The bass is flat, so special effects, such as the explosions in the Capitan America trailer rang hollow. 

Keyboard and Touchpad

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review unit keyboard and touchpad

The keyboard and touchpad of the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation

One of the most appealing aspects of the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation is the classic spill-resistant island style keyboard. The glossy black plastic keys are rounded at the corners and curve slightly inward to cup the user’s fingertips. The keyboard offers excellent to travel with quick precise feedback. Typing on the P50 is quick easy and precise.

Old stalwart ThinkPad fans will be happy to know that Trackpoint stick has made a return, sitting just above the “B” key. The red rubber pad allows for excellent control and the mouse buttons located above the touchpad, work perfectly in tandem with it.

Located below the spacebar at the bottom right of the deck is the Synaptics touchpad. The hard plastic pad is moderately sized with three hard plastic mouse buttons located along the bottom edge. The smooth hard surface of the pad allows for fluid easy travel with excellent precision. Likewise, clicks, swipes, and multi-finger gestures all read without a hitch.

Performance

Equipped with a 2.8 GHz Intel Xeon E3-15-5M v5 CPU, a Nvidia Quadro M2000M GPU with 4GB of DDR5, with 16GB of DDR4 RAM, and an incredibly fast 500GB PCIe SATA 3 SSD the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation performs incredibly well across the board.

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review unit that NBR tested was the most expensive configuration currently available on the company’s website at $2,353. That price makes it considerably more expensive than the starting P50 configuration, which is currently listed on Lenovo’s website for $1,323. The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 offers a lot of scalable configurations, with options for lower resolution displays, Intel Core i7 CPUs, smaller hard drives. There’s a lot of money to be saved if you can afford to scale down, but there’s something to be said for the P50 with all of the bells and whistles attached.

As you’d expect the workstation is ideal for computing intensive productivity apps such as CAD or engineering software. Needless to say, that make normal everyday tasks a breeze. The dedicated Nvidia Quadro M2000M is also perfect for 4K video editing and 3D modeling. The P50 is also capable of running the latest games if you’re looking to do that on the side. But as seen from the middling 3DMark Firestrike benchmark scores, the chipset isn’t really intended to do that. The PCIe SSD further boosts the productivity prowess of this device, allowing the P50 to boot in mere seconds and making it relatively painless to move large data files.  

Technical specifications for our Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review unit:

  • Lenovo ThinkPad P50 topWindows 10 Pro
  • 15.6-inch 4K (3,840 x 2,160) IPS display
  • Intel Xeon E3-1505M CPU 2.8GHz
  • Nvidia Quadro M2000M 4GB DDR5
  • Intel HD 530 integrated graphics
  • 16GB DDR4
  • 512GB PCIe SSD SATA3
  • 802.11 b/g/n/ac
  • Bluetooth 4.1
  • Dimensions: 14.86 x 9.93 x 1.16 -inches
  • Weight: 5.8 pounds
  • Starting price: $1,323
  • Price as configured: 2,353  

Benchmarks

wPrime processor comparison results (listed in seconds – lower scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 wprime

PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 pcmark 8 h

PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 pcmark 8 w

3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 3dm11

3DMark Fire Strike is a newer benchmark measuring overall graphics card performance for visually demanding games (higher scores mean better performance):

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 3dmark firestrike

CrystalDiskMark storage drive performance tests:

CDM

Heat and Noise

The Lenovo ThinkPad P50 has two large vents located at the rear of the chassis. For a workstation the laptop is incredibly quiet, only producing after HD video for a half an hour. While consumers may not hear the cooling system at work, it’s certainly doing its job. After streaming HD video on our Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review unit for 30 minutes the top of the keyboard along with the bottom of the chassis was only warm to the touch, and could comfortably still be used as a laptop.

Battery

To test battery life, we used Futuremark’s PowerMark benchmark in balanced mode. The test consists of a combination of automated web browsing, word processing, gaming and video playback workloads. The test is far more strenuous than typical web browsing alone, measuring the machine under a litany of scenarios to better simulate high-stress usage. With the test being far more demanding the scores are understandably lower than what you’ll experience just checking Facebook or watching Netflix.

Powermark battery life benchmark test results listed in minutes (higher scores indicate longer battery life):

Lenovo ThinkPad P50 powermark

Workstations aren’t typically known for their long lasting battery life, but this is the exception to the rule. Our Lenovo ThinkPad P50 review unit ran for 5 hours and 12 minutes before shutting down. Normal everyday tasks won’t drain the battery as quickly as our battery test, meaning that users can expect upwards of 7 hours of continuous battery use on a single charge.

Conclusion

Armed with powerful specs, a beautiful 4K resolution display, responsive keyboard, and a durable chassis the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 workstation is an excellent machine. Let’s not forget to mention the long lasting battery life means users can stay productive even when they’re away from a power outlet.

Power users willing to give up a bit of portability may want to consider Lenovo’s P70 model, which comes equipped with an even faster Nvidia M4000M GPU. Conversely, those who don’t need quite as much performance may want to consider either MacBook Pro or the Dell Precision 5510, which both come in at more than a pound lighter than P50.

Nevertheless, when it comes to excelling in nearly every area, while delivering strong battery life few workstations can stand up to the total package offered in the Lenovo ThinkPad P50.

Pros:

  • Lenovo ThinkPad P50 backStrong battery life
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Beautiful 4k IPS display
  • Strong performance

Cons:

  • Limited brightness
  • Heavier than alternatives


LEAVE A COMMENT

3 Comments

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  1. dckirba

    Hi guys, thanks for a great review as always. There have been several negative posts from P50 owners on thr Lenovo forums and on Reddit regarding the 4k screen. Users have complained of uneven brightness and excessive light leaks around the panel. Have you observed any of these on your review unit? Do you mind posting pictures of the screen with a fullscreen black image on maximum brightness in the dark? I think the quality of the 4k screen is something that worries potential buyers like myself and there is a lack of positive reviews from actual buyers. Thanks for your time.

  2. risanecek

    No need to sell me a P50 – I just ordered one. So a few remarks: 1) Remove every second “incredible” from your text to make it sound more professional. 2) I disagree that having ports on the back is inconvenient. Up to now I had most ports left and right (Thinkpads) and having Ethernet on the side is IMHO way worse than to have it out of your way 3) Incredibly fast PCIe SATA SSD? Really? SATA? Check again. Other than that I agree. This goodie is incredible.

  3. mattmarx

    Great review, thank you. Might I ask why you wrote that those who “don’t need as much performance” might consider the Dell 5510? True that it maxes at 32G memory instead of the 64G possible in the P50, but I believe the available chips are the same: Xeon E3-1505M at the high end. Unless the Dell is throttled somehow, how would it not have similar performance? (that said, the keyboard is surely worse)