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ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 workstation review

Lenovo’s ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 workstation may be pricey but it is one of the most powerful laptops you can buy. If you need raw power, this delivers.

At a glance

For:Graphics performance, great display, keyboard and build quality.
Against:Sound quality and webcam could be better. Pricey.
Maybe:Battery life, screen ratio. Non-touch screen.
Verdict:Packs the most Windows laptop power into the smallest package. Good choice if you need the grunt.
Rating:4.5 out of 5
Price:From $3530, as reviewed $5400.
Web:Lenovo

Who is the ThinkPad P14s for?

Lenovo engineered the ThinkPad P14s for demanding users who need mobility. We used to call them power users.

It offers Intel CPU options that, when added to the Nvidia Quadro T500 graphics processor, are more than powerful enough for heavy duty work but not the most demanding workloads.

There are 17 and 15-inch models for people who need bigger screens. These can get big and hefty.

With a case that is 18mm deep and 330 by 230 mm elsewhere, the 14-inch model is the most portable P series model.

Lenovo thinkpad P14s - open

On the move

You might choose this if mobility is your priority.

While it is ideal for serious on-the-go photo or light video work, if you work in animation, CAD or need heavy video rendering you may prefer a less mobile computer with more grunt.

It would be good for scientific computing in the field and number crunching through large databases. Developers would be a key market and people who need to demonstrate creative work.

If you are reading this and think the price tag is outrageous; you are not the target market.

This machine is overkill for everyday computing. If your work means spending time waiting for calculations to finish, then you’ll see a return on your investment in weeks.

Above all, it’s a ThinkPad

Lenovo inherited the bento lunchbox inspired ThinkPad design when it acquired the brand from IBM in 2005. It has run with it ever since.

While Lenovo has tried other ideas, ThinkPad remains a classic premium business-focused laptop design. ThinkPads tend to be robust, but they are not tanks.

It’s a physical format that suits a powerful workstation.

The ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 workstation is made to get work done. It looks that way from the moment you unpack the box.

Black and red

You won’t be surprised to hear the ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 workstation keeps the black plastic case with red trim.

It includes the tiny, red, joystick-like TrackPoint controller which, once you adapt to using it, moves the cursor around the screen.

In case that’s not enough, there’s an excellent three button TrackPad. Because I’m a touch typist and prefer not to move my hands away from the keys, I find the TrackPoint works best. Both TrackPoint and Trackpad are accurate

No-one beats Lenovo when it comes to laptop keyboards. That’s true with the P14s keyboard. There is plenty of key travel for touch typists. Each key is sculpted and backlighting is best in class. It feels right.

Basics

The review model has a 14-inch display. Inside there is the 11th generation Intel Core i7–1185G7 processor. It has 32GB of Ram and 512Gb of storage. We mentioned the Nvidia Quadro T500 4GB graphics card earlier.

Lenovo sent the model with the UHD (3840 by 2160 pixel) display.

That configuration adds up to a New Zealand list price of $54001.

By any standard this is a lot of money for a laptop. Yet the second generation ThinkPad P14s i is no ordinary computer.

There is a base model P14s for NZ$3530. It’s hard to see who might choose that over a more conventional high-end laptop. This technology comes into its own when you pump up its specification.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s half open

Mobility

At 1.5Kg the P14s is light for this class of 14-inch laptop. That achievement is spoiled somewhat by the small 65w power brick and cables that add another 320g. Yet you won’t stretch your arms moving it around.

It feels robust enough to be hauled around town or, if you’re flying at the moment, on to planes without any worries. There’s a small amount of flex in the plastic case which can soften blows.

Display

Given the premium nature of the ThinkPad P14s, the bezels are large by the standard of modern laptops. The aspect ratio is 16:9. Lenovo missed a trick here2.

The non-touch display on the review laptop is nothing short of stunning.

It is luscious and bright, has high 3840 by 2160 pixel resolution, great colour and fast response. Thanks to the 500 nits of brightness, you can read the screen fine in sunlight.

White coloured areas on screen can glare at times… you may need to adjust the brightness down if you are in dark conditions.

In use

There are no applications in my armoury that could begin to trouble the ThinkPad P14s. I tried video editing, page design and audio rendering software without ever seeing any signs of stress.

While it handled almost everything with ease, there was one area of less than stellar performance: Video calling.

Many laptops have inadequate webcams. That’s to be expected on low-cost computers. You might expect better from something that costs more than five grand.

Lenovo’s 720p webcam is poor. 720p is about 0.9 megapixels. That’s a fraction of what you might find even on a modestly priced mobile phone.

Webcam

For comparison, my iMac has a 1080p webcam which is 2.1 megapixels. I thought that was low. My iPad has an 8 megapixel front facing camera.

In practice, P14s webcam pictures are blurry with washed out colours. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a boss who has shelled out for an employee to buy a P14s wondering where the money went.

Likewise, the P14s speaker and microphone are adequate, not outstanding. I found I needed to use earbuds to get better video call performance.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s front

Battery

Lenovo has the balance between portability and battery life about right. The processor, GPU and screen consume plenty of power and yet I could get close to ten hours between charges. I haven’t attempted to measure battery life when driving the system harder, no doubt it would drop.

Bits and pieces

  • The privacy shutter is a nice idea, but it was hard to find, hard to use and feels like it will be the first thing on the laptop to break.
  • I’m not going to dismantle a $5400 review laptop, but looking at the screws on the case, this would be easy to take apart if you want to upgrade components.
  • Wi-Fi 6 support is welcome. Should be a minimum in any 2021 device. It may pay to upgrade your wireless router if you buy this computer.
  • There’s a fan in the case, but you wouldn’t know it. My home office is quiet, but it was rare to notice any noise even when more demanding tasks might need extra cooling.
  • The P14s includes 12 ports – there’s a list on the website spec page. You probably won’t need a docking station with this, but Lenovo offers plenty of options if that’s your preference.

Verdict: ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 workstation

Lenovo has crafted a top quality, premium Windows workstation for professionals who need power while on the move.

It looks good, feels good and delivers on the promised high performance. Mobility and battery life are on a par with less powerful laptops.

This is not a laptop for everyone, the price makes that clear.


  1. As an aside, the Lenovo web site warns you may need to wait weeks to get this configuration. ↩︎
  2. I much prefer a square screen 16:10 or 3:2 because writing needs less width, more depth. ↩︎

One of our documents is missing

There are many ways you can lose computer documents.

You can delete them accidentally. This happens when your fingers slip and you click the wrong mouse button.

An application crashes. Today’s software is more robust than in the past, yet things can still fail, sending your last hour’s work to electronic oblivion.

Occasionally catastrophic hardware failures trash data. My last major document disaster happened when a fuse blew.

Prevention is better than cure

Before we look at finding lost documents, you should know there is an easy way to avoid the problem altogether. Use cloud apps. They store everything up to the last keystroke.

If your computer fails, the cloud doc is still there. Hit delete by accident and, unless you are seriously clumsy with the keys, you should be able to go back a step.

There are cloud versions of Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages. Google Docs was born in the cloud and has lived there ever since. Almost every major app has either a cloud version or a cloudy functional equivalent.

Cloud isn’t foolproof and it isn’t perfect. Yet it can be far less trouble than desktop apps.

Recovery

In most cases, recovering recently lost files is straightforward. You might not  get everything back, but you can limit any damage.

Your first line of defence for lost documents may be simple. After staring open-mouthed at a suddenly blank screen, you can magically restore everything in an instant by pressing Control-Z.

This is the standard Undo command. It also repairs some, not all, software stuff-ups.

Document recovery tools

Many applications have built-in recovery tools. Microsoft Word takes a snapshot of your document every ten minutes — you can change the time setting.

If things go wrong, you’ll only have a little catching-up to do.

When Word restarts after a crash, you’ll see one or more saved versions of the document. You can save this file and continue working.

If you’re nervous about your work, change the auto-recovery setting to, say, automatic back-ups every five minutes.

Windows Recycle

The Windows Recycle Bin is a helpful backstop. Instead of instant obliteration, deleted files are sent to the Recycle Bin where they sit in limbo. You can open the bin and recover any file. It is the most likely destination for any unexpectedly absent file.

Things get harder if you’ve emptied your Recycle Bin. The missing files are probably still on your hard drive – somewhere. However, they are not normally accessible. To get them back you need a undelete or file recovery application.

Commercial file recovery programs are often overkill for restoring the odd deleted document from a small office computer. PC Inspector (www.pcinspector.de) is one of the neatest free file recovery tools – be warned the website is in German but the English translations are good and the software can recover most lost documents in seconds.