Hands on: Lenovo ThinkPad P70 review

The first Xeon-powered mobile workstation

What is a hands on review?
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Our Early Verdict

If you don't mind the large dimensions and 7.6-pound weight of the ThinkPad P70, you'll be rewarded with a powerful mobile workstation with Intel's Skylake or mobile Xeon processors.

For

  • Powerful performance
  • Integrated colorimeter
  • Assortment of ports
  • 4K display

Against

  • Battery not replaceable
  • Heavy

It definitely isn't the lightest or slimmest notebook on the market, but if you're looking for blistering performance, Lenovo's new ThinkPad P70 should be at the top of your list. The new ThinkPad P70 ($1,999, £1,290, AU$2,702) is Lenovo's flagship mobile workstation and the successor to the ThinkPad W541 ($1,322, £853, AU$1,788).

The ThinkPad P70 is one of the first notebooks featuring Intel's Sixth Generation Skylake processor, which should give it a boost in performance compared to Broadwell or Haswell chips. Equipped with ample storage and plenty of RAM, an excellent keyboard and wide selection of ports for connectivity, Lenovo is positioning the ThinkPad P70 as the ultimate workstation that you can take on the go without missing your desktop.

ThinkPad P70

This means that this year's Lenovo ThinkPad P Series mobile workstations will replace the ThinkPad W Series, said Brooks Flynn, Worldwide Segment Manager at Lenovo. There are two models in the P Series – a smaller 15.6-inch ThinkPad P50 and a 17.3-inch ThinkPad P70, and both models will be available in the last quarter of this year.

Design

Even though Lenovo is giving its mobile workstation a new badge, the overall design has not changed. The ThinkPad P70 comes in a matte black box, similar to the ThinkPad W541 and the ThinkPad W550s.

While the black carbon fiber-reinforced design appears understated on the slimmer ThinkPad T450s, it takes on a more brick-like appearance on the thicker chassis of the ThinkPad P70. With a touchscreen display, the P70 measures 16.4 x 10.8 x 1.2 inches (416 x 275.5 x 31.5mm) and weighs 7.6 pounds (3.4kg).

Coupled with the P70's straight edges and angular design, these measurements make the P70 look substantial, especially when compared against Intel's 0.83-inch (21.1mm) minimum thickness requirement for Ultrabooks with 14-inch or larger displays. It's not a light laptop for travel, and you'll definitely feel the weight of the P70 in a shoulder bag or briefcase. However, if you demand raw performance, few can match the power promised by the P70.

The P70 is cloaked in a black soft touch material, but the material feels smooth and less prone to attracting grease, fingerprints or dirt than the soft touch coating on the ThinkPad W550s. The material falls between the matte black plastic coating on the ThinkPad T450s and the soft touch of the W550s.

Despite retaining the classic ThinkPad design, the ThinkPad P70 still brings a few firsts to Lenovo's mobile workstation lineup. The P70 is the first Lenovo mobile workstation to come with a 17.3-inch display, and it's the first Lenovo laptop to come with a 4K resolution, besting the 3K screens on the ThinkPad W541 and W550s.

ThinkPad P70

A plus for what could be conceived as a boring design choice is that the black construction helps you focus on the content. Since the P70 is targeted at graphics and video professionals, designers, engineers and architects, the black frame draws you into the content displayed on the large 4K display.

Like previous ThinkPads before it, the ThinkPad P70 comes equipped with a comfortable backlit and spill-resistant keyboard, dedicated number pad, and dual mouse input with the signature red TrackPoint nub and a trackpad located just below the keyboard.

ThinkPad P70

The keyboard has keys with an island-style arrangement. The keycaps have a slight curve for a very comfortable typing experience, and I found the deep key travel to be extremely pleasant. The keyboard feels clicky and responsive without being loud.

ThinkPad P70

The trackpad on the P70 has three physical buttons for left click, right click and a center button that's user-configurable, unlike the clickable touchpad found on the older ThinkPad W541.

The colorimeter also makes a return to the ThinkPad P70; a missing feature on the slimmer ThinkPad W550s that was found on the ThinkPad W540 and ThinkPad W541.

The X-Rite Pantone calibration tool, located on the keyboard deck ne'xt to the trackpad, is used to calibrate the display's colors, for those who need a color accurate screen for production work. Lenovo says that screen calibration is as easy as launching the application on the ThinkPad P70, closing the lid and letting the software complete the calibration. We'll have to wait and see how accurate the integrated X-Rite colorimeter compares to standalone tools like Datacolor's Spyder5 Elite.

ThinkPad P70

Because of its robust size, the ThinkPad P70 accommodates plenty of ports, making it a very versatile machine for those who need portability but don't want to sacrifice performance or productivity. Most of the ports on the P70 are located on the rear and right side of the notebook. The left side houses an optical DVD drive, which can be swapped out for an additional hard drive, as well as a single USB 3.0 ports.

ThinkPad P70

The ThinkPad P70 has three more USB 3.0 ports, for a total of four, an HDMI 1.4 port, Mini DisplayPort 1.2, two Thunderbolt 3 ports, Ethernet jack, microphone and headphone combo jack, Smart Card reader, ExpressCard 34 and SDXC memory card slot. Additionally, the laptop also has a docking port on the bottom.

ThinkPad P70

The keyboard isn't the only ruggedized part of the ThinkPad P70. Lenovo advertises the laptop as MIL-SPEC tested for durability when used in extreme hot, cold, humid, or dusty conditions.

Power

Because of Intel's delays with Broadwell, we still haven't seen a ThinkPad W Series mobile workstation with a Fifth Generation quad-core CPU. Users have to choose between an older Fourth Generation quad-core Haswell processor for performance or go with a dual-core Fifth Generation processor for better battery efficiency. Fortunately, mobile workstation users won't have to make the choice between power efficiency and performance with the P70 with Skylake.

The ThinkPad P70 comes with Intel's latest Skylake or, for the first time on a laptop, mobile Xeon processors and dedicated Nvidia Quadro GPU for graphics.

"These machines are the first equipped with the new Intel Xeon Processor E3-1500M v5 product family, for lightning-fast performance and enhanced reliability for critical workstation applications," Lenovo said in a statement.

Flynn would not disclose specifics about the graphics, telling us to confirm with Nvidia with that announcement, leaving us to speculate that this may be a new, unannounced Quadro chip.

ThinkPad P70

With powerful processors and graphics under the hood, Lenovo created a new dual-fan Flex Performance Cooling system to reduce heat to the processor and graphics. "This revolutionary design allows for both optimal uptime, as dictated by the needs of the application, giving the user the ability to push the system harder and for longer periods of time," the company said.

The ThinkPad P70 can be configured with 3TB total storage, making it ideal for those working with large graphics or video files. This amount is split between a hard disk and solid state drives, with 1TB on a PCIe SSD, and the optical drive can be swapped for a 2TB 2.5-inch HDD. Memory starts at 4GB DDR4 RAM, with a 64GB option at the the highest configuration.

The ThinkPad P70 can be configured with 64-bit versions of Windows 10 Home or Pro, Windows 7 Professional, Ubuntu Linux or RHEL.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view. For more information, see TechRadar's Reviews Guarantee.