Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Review


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“That’s not a laptop…. that’s a laptop.”

This is the phrase that sits in my head when I think about what the Lenovo ThinkPad P50 is. If the Yoga 900 is a Ferrari, then the P50 is a Monster Truck.

I’m getting ahead of myself here, so I’ll take a deep breath and start again.

Lenovo has released two high specc’d laptops – the ThinkPad P50 and ThinkPad P70. I was lucky enough to receive a P50 to review care of Lenovo, once I wiped the drool off my mouth.

“High specc’d” doesn’t do these laptops justice either. Although they come in a wide range of configurations, here’s what I have:

  • Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 Processor (8MB Cache, up to 3.70GHz)
  • Windows 7 Professional 64 preinstalled through downgrade rights in Windows 10 Pro
  • 15.6″ FHD (1920×1080), anti-glare, IPS
  • 16GB DDR4-2133MHz ECC SODIMM (8GBx2)
  • NVIDIA Quadro M2000M 4GB
  • 720p HD Camera with Microphone
  • Backlit Keyboard with Number Pad – English
  • 3-button TrackPoint pointing device and 3-button multi-touch touchpad
  • Integrated Fingerprint Reader
  • Hardware dTPM Enabled
  • 1TB 5400rpm HDD
  • 256GB SSD OPAL2.0
  • 170W AC Adapter – ANZ (3pin)
  • 6 Cell Li-Polymer Battery, 90Wh
  • Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8260, 2×2, Wi-Fi with Bluetooth 4.0

Let’s go over some of these settings.

CPU – An Intel Xeon, a server CPU in a laptop! Xeons are normally reserved for servers, but Intel has now released a line for mobile workstations. You can read Intel’s announcement here.

OS – This one came with Windows 7, but a Windows 10 Pro license. It’s now running Windows 10, but good for those who need or want to run the older but reliable Windows 7, fully supported.

Screen – 15.6″ is a decent size for a laptop. The bezel around it is reasonably thin, and the actual image quality I am impressed with. There are options for a touch screen, or a higher res 3840×2160 screen – but 1920 x 1080 has less issues at the moment, especially when remote desktopping to other servers that won’t like the super high res.

RAM – 16GB came with this, but I’ll be adding in another 16GB for a total of 32GB. The laptop can go all the way up to 64GB(!!) and has 4 RAM slots, so you can put in 4 sticks of 16GB. I’ll *only* have 4 sticks of 8GB – but this amount of RAM is great for someone looking to run a bunch of virtual machines off their PC, or do some very high end artist work (images/video/3D rendering etc).

Video Card – The Intel Xeon CPU has an onboard Intel® HD Graphics P530, but beyond that, there’s also a dedicated NVIDIA Quadro card, with 4GB of RAM attached. Not designed for gaming, but will still do a decent job of it. The Quadro card gives the laptop the ability to support “four independent displays; Max resolution: 3840×2160@60Hz (DisplayPort via Mini DisplayPort cable); 3840×2160@60Hz (Thunderbolt); 3840×2160@30Hz (HDMI)” which is a big WOW!. You will need a few different cables to make this happen, but 3 extra screens at such a high res, straight off this laptop is very impressive.

Fingerprint Reader – A simple addition, but works really well. Check out my video here.

Primary Disk – Yes that’s right, just the primary for starters since you can have up to three. I *only* have two but that’s ample for what I need. The primary disk, running the OS is a 256gb SSD. There is an even faster SSD option, the 512GB SSD running over PCIe. If you want to know what that is, put on your reading glasses and check this article out – there’s a lot to learn.

Secondary Disk – Spinning disks still have their place, and I have a 1TB HDD in this. Still fast enough for most things that don’t need the crazy SSD type speeds of reading and writing. Perfect for storing things like movies, television, and virtual machines!

Weight – As I have the bigger 6 cell battery, this weighs in at 2.67kg. It’s not designed to discreetly fit into a small bag, you can’t contain a beast like this that way!

Other things like wireless, bluetooth, backlit keyboard are all standard (although you may have noticed this is big enough to have a full keypad too!).

Let’s see some more pictures!

20160311_124430P50 170w battery pack above a normal 65w Lenovo adapter – this thing needs juice!

IMG_20160306_222121Top of the P50

IMG_20160306_222222Bottom of the P50 – dock connector visible

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Keyboard, trackpad, fingerprint reader – all great!

IMG_20160306_222517Backlit keyboard glowing in the dark

20160311_131102Right Hand Side – 3.5mm Audio out, 2 x USB3, Mini DisplayPort

20160311_131050Left Hand Side – ExpressCard/34 slot (above), 4-in-1 reader (MMC, SD, SDHC, SDXC) (below), Smartcard reader

20160311_131111Back of laptop – USB 3 (always on), USB 3, Ethernet, USB Type-C/Thunderbolt, HDMI, Power

Thoughts – There’s a few similar laptops in this space, but not many. These are perfect for the heavy user, and personally as an IT Pro, I love it. It has enough grunt to run up a full test environment where I can muck around with different servers and software, but all be enclosed on a device that sits on my desk, and can be moved around with ease.

It seems to be very well built and incredibly responsive when mucking around on it. I forgot to mention the battery life – I’ve left it on my desk for days unplugged, and it still has over half its battery life. The claim is “6-cell Hybrid Graphics: up to 13.2 hours” which is really good!

These aren’t cheap, but you’re paying for the high end hardware. They’re very customisable on the web though, so you can pick and choose the bits you do and don’t want.

Got any questions for me about the P50? Feel free to ask below!

Update 24th May 2016

As requested in the comments, here’s the RAM latency from CPU-Z after mixing Lenovo and Kingston RAM

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16 thoughts on “Lenovo ThinkPad P50 Review

  1. Great review. How would you rate the P50 against a Dell Precision 7710 or 7000 series specifically in terms of performance?

    1. Performance comes down to pure specs. Checking out the Dell Precision 7000 http://www.dell.com/au/business/p/precision-m7510-workstation/pd as it’s also 15″ – specs can be identical to the one I had, and other options are pretty similar. The big difference I can see is the drive options – Dell’s 7000 specs only indicate a single drive, where the P50 can have up to three.

      If you don’t care about that, then I’d choose based on price. If price is pretty much the same, go with the brand you trust more :)

  2. I’m considering buying a P50 to use as a mobile server. I would instal a bare metal hypervisor (ESXi for example), and run two or three domains with maybe 3-4 workstations in each domain. Do you think the P50 could be used for this purpose (RAM would be maxed out to 64GB with 2TB of hard drive space).

    1. Hi Justin,
      Yes definitely, it’s perfect for that sort of lab. You may want to get the third disk and run disks 2 and 3 in RAID 0 for a bit of faster performance. I’m in the process of setting up a bunch of VMs right now so may report back once they’re all up and running :)

      1. A follow on question would be – do you think this laptop would support this kind of environment simply using a hyper visor (like VMWorkstation) running on top of a OS or would I have to use a bare metal hyper visor?

      2. I had the same thought – I can’t speak for the VMWare side of things, but Windows 10 fully supports Hyper-V so that’s what I’m doing, running Windows 10 Enterprise with Hyper-V enabled, then all my VMs running in that space.

        Another option for better performance may be to use Storage Spaces (supported in Windows 10), and have tiered storage for drives 2 and 3.

  3. Hi,

    Im also thinking to have 2 esxi and multiple machines with virtual SAN and microsoft cluster. can it support this load. Also please let me know if it support gskill and do i have to populate first memory slot underneath the keyboard and secondly bottom of the laptop. What is the RAM latency.

    1. HI,
      I can’t tell you if it’ll support that load, because it depends what the VMs are doing. It’ll easily support that config, but as with everything there’s a limit.

      GSkill not sure, I bought off the shelf Kingston RAM and it worked fine. You’ll void warranty if something breaks by doing this, so if you don’t mind that risk then just make sure you can return the RAM if it doesn’t work.

      RAM needs to go under the bottom of the laptop first before keyboard – check my video and you’ll see where I find the only RAM installed before adding more.

      RAM latency I’ll update the post with a screenshot from CPU-Z. This is completely unmodified and mixed Lenovo/Kingston RAM.

      1. The laptop will support GSkill RAM…hat is what I’m using in my P50, purchased off newegg.

    1. Hi Erin,
      I wouldn’t say overkill. You can probably get away with something cheaper – but a high end laptop will make things like AutoCAD a bit nicer. I worked at a mining company for a few months, and the engineers using AutoCAD had stupidly high end workstations with a SAN directly connected to their desktop PC. If you want an experience like that, but need mobility, then something like the P50 is ideal.

      You could go down the gaming path and be fine I think – The Y700 series of laptops is worth checking out:
      http://lenovo.7eer.net/c/248291/286892/3808

  4. Hi Adam, I am an IT consultant and want to install ERP SAP (training system) in P50 and use it without plugging in power for 4 to 5 hours a day. Will P50 support this. I am planning to go for i7-6700HQ, 32 GB (2x16GB) DDR4-2133, 2 TD HDD.

    Also, can we have a 9 cell battery for P50.

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