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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 mobile workstation

By Brady Betzel

The mobile workstation landscape is changing. These small-footprint computers are on their way to becoming as powerful as desktop systems. They are gaining desktop-level GPU, CPU and memory power with the addition of a screen. So other than the GPUs being throttled thermally, what sets a mobile workstation apart from a desktop? Other than portability, the screen is what is starting to convince me that mobile and desktop workstations are soon going to become interchangeable for a lot of people.

For this review, I’m going to focus on the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 2nd Gen mobile workstation. Top highlights include Intel Xeon E processors, a 4K UHD Dolby Vision HDR OLED multi-touch display and an X-Rite Pantone Factory Color Calibration option. The OLED display is amazing and can be set to super-bright (500-nits) but also calibrated with the X-Rite technology covering 100% of the Adobe color gamut.

I was sent a top-of-the-line Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 with these configurations:
CPU: Intel Xeon E-2276 CPU (2.8Ghz)
GPU: Nvidia Quadro T2000 4GB GDDR5
Memory: 1x32GB (DDR4 2667MHz)
Display: 15.5”-inch Multitouch Display (3840×2160 UHD OLED)
Storage: 1TB SSD M.2 2280 PCIe NVMe Opal2
WLAN and Bluetooth: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 160MHz
Ports: Two USB 3.1 Gen 1 (one always on), two Thunderbolt 3 (with Power Delivery and DisplayPort), Ethernet extension connector, HDMI 2.0, SD card reader (supports UHS-II SD cards) and microphone/headphone combo jack.
Camera: IR and HD 720p
Keyboard: Six-row, spill resistant, multimedia Fn keys; LED backlight; TrackPoint pointing device and buttonless glass surface multi-touch touchpad
Audio: 2×2 watt speakers, Dolby Audio Premium
Security: Power-on password, hard disk password, supervisor password, security keyhole, discrete TPM 2.0, TCG Certified, Intel vPro technology
Battery: 80Wh, supports Rapid Charge

Digging In
So, let’s get to the burning questions: What is there to love about the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 and what’s left for improvement? I will get to export times for Blackmagic’s Resolve 16 and Adobe Premiere Pro in a minute, but overall the design is great. I love the feel of the exterior, and it is extremely light weight — it weighs in at just under 4lbs and is thin, measuring .72-inches.

The slim 135-watt AC adapter is a must-have upgrade if you can afford it. It is relatively small (especially compared to other brands) and offers Rapid Charge technology, which is such a key feature for a mobile workstation. It weighs under a pound and measures 4.65 inches by 3.03 inches by .83 inches. While the battery itself might only last a few hours when the OLED brightness is up, it can charge up to 80% capacity in under an hour. In a pinch you can get a quick half-hour charge in just a few minutes. But when the screen brightness is cranked up, the battery does seem to drain — the price you pay for beauty, I guess. Other than the exterior, the keyboard buttons feel great. I did find myself confusing the “Ctrl” and “Fn” keys when typing a lot, but the tactile pushback on the keys is great.

The Display
The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 features an OLED display. The version I was sent had multi-touch capability — I don’t use touch screens much on a mobile workstation, but it’s there if I want it. The 500-nit OLED display with Dolby Vision HDR on the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 is one of the best-looking displays I have used in the past few years.

For a $10 upgrade (on the IPS and OLED displays only), you can add the X-Rite Pantone Factory Color Calibration. This is such a good deal for anyone working with color-critical work (which I assumed is 90% of the people reading this). This is the second mobile workstation I have tested that offers this option, and it makes a huge difference in color fidelity and image quality right out of the box.

The X-Rite app allows you to choose from different color profiles, including sRGB, Adobe RGB, DCI-P3, Rec. 709, custom and default. There is a tab that shows the chromaticity values associated with each color profile as well. The beauty is that if you tinker with it (like I did) and make it worse, you can click “Restore Profiles from Lenovo Cloud,” and you are back in business. It’s a feature I am learning to love.

The Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 houses high-end components like the 9th Gen Intel H-series or Xeon E processors, an Nvidia Quadro T1000 or T2000, and up to 64GB DDR4, dual-channel-capable memory.

The processors are good choices and can speak for themselves, but I want to drill down on the GPUs. II wasn’t familiar with the T Series before digging into the Lenovo ThinkPad. This led me to a Google search — it seems that the T2000 is based on the Turing architecture, which is based on the consumer desktop GTX 1650 Ti. I have to admit, I was a little disappointed because if Lenovo is targeting media creators with the ThinkPad P1 Gen 2, then it needs to allow for a higher-end GPU upgrade. Lenovo obviously has its reasons for not going with the RTX 2080 (including ISV certifications, I imagine), but the option would be nice..

A few months ago, I reviewed the Acer ConceptD 7 laptop with an Nvidia RTX 2080, and that is still one of the fastest and most robust GPUs in a laptop that I have ever used. The Nvidia T2000 GPU will definitely work, but as you will see from some of my export results, it shines a bit brighter when used for motion graphics.

Here are some results from UHD sequences I have used before. One includes Red 4K, 6K and 8K footage and another includes BRaw:

Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve 16.1
Red Footage
Export Test 1: Basic color corrections
Export Test 2: One minute of 4K, 6K (RedCode 3:1), 8K (Redcode 7:1) Red media in UHD sequence without audio — 110% zoom; spatial NR Faster, Small, 25; Resolve OFX Gaussian blur (default). No cached or optimized media. Force resize and debayer to highest quality.

Custom export H.264 as a QuickTime movie full-quality resize and debayer (essentially the YouTube UHD preset, but with forcing resize and debayer to highest quality).

H.264 encoding: Native
Export Test 1: 8:34
Export Test 2: 29:05

– Same export but changing “Native” to “Nvidia”
Export Test 1: 10:10
Export Test 2: Did not work!

– Same Export but changing “Nvidia” to “Intel Quick Sync”
Export Test 1: 21:32
Export Test 2: 10:02

Same export but H.265
Export Test 1: 5:04
Export Test 2: Didn’t work

Intel QuickSync
Export Test 1: 4:44
Export Test 2: 9:44

DPX testing:
Export Test 1: 4:19
Export Test 2: 9:23

BRaw Footage
Export Test 1: Basic color corrections
Export Test 2: one minute of 6K BRaw media in UHD sequence without audio — 110% zoom; spatial NR Faster, Small, 25; Resolve OFX Gaussian blur (default). No cached or optimized media. Force resize and debayer to highest quality.

Custom export H.264 as a QuickTime movie full-quality resize and debayer (essentially the YouTube UHD preset, but with forcing resize and debayer to highest quality).

H.264 encoding: Native
Export Test 1: 2:16
Export Test 2: 2:24

– Same export but changing “Native” to “Nvidia”
Export Test 1: :45
Export Test 2: 2:28

– Same Export but changing “Nvidia” to “Intel Quick Sync”
Export Test 1: :43
Export Test 2: 2:23

Same export but H.265
Export Test 1: :44
Export Test 2: 2:29

Intel QuickSync
Export Test 1: :44
Export Test 2: 2:25

DPX Testing:
Export 1: 1:05
Export 2: 2:25

ISV certified drivers for Premiere Pro

Premiere Pro 2020 (exporting from Adobe Media Encoder)
Sequence 1 (Export Test 1) for basic color correction only.
Sequence 2 (Export Test 2) with a few effects, including 110% zoom, sharpening 100% inside of Lumetri and a Gaussian blur of 20. I disabled any caching or optimized media and checked off “Maximum Render Quality” inside of Media Encoder.

Red Footage
– H.264 – UHD, no audio, 10Mb/s, max render quality (standard Media Encoder H.264 setting)
Export Test 1: 17:11
Export Test 2: 17:47

– H.265 – UHD, no audio, 7Mb/s, max render quality (standard Adobe Media Encoder H.265 setting)
Export Test 1: 17:43
Export Test 2: 24:37

– DPX testing: 10-bit video levels, UHD
Export 1: 34:52
Export 2: 48:59

BRaw Footage
– H.264 – UHD, no audio, 10Mb/s, max render quality (standard Media Encoder H.264 setting)
Export Test 1: 01:38
Export Test 2: 01:43

– H.265 – UHD, no audio, 7Mb/s, max render quality (standard Adobe Media Encoder H.265 setting)
Export Test 1: 02:06
Export Test 2: 02:31

– DPX testing: 10-bit video levels, UHD
Export Test 1: 2:03
Export Test 2: 2:48

PugetBench for AE

As you can see, the resulting export times are a little high, especially with the Red footage. The BRaw footage is a highly efficient codec when editing and color correcting, and the results show how easy it is to work with it, but the export times are not mind blowing.

I did some additional testing using standard benchmark apps. I really love Puget System’s benchmark apps that you can find and download here. Using the Puget System’s for After Effects Benchmark, the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 (2nd Gen) had an overall score of 85.6, which is actually pretty good and might point motion-graphics artists toward this laptop more than video editors or colorists.

One of the hardest processes on a computer is noise reduction, and one of the best noise reduction apps is Neat Video. Inside of Resolve 16.1, I ran the Neat Video benchmark and it found that using five cores along with the Quadro T2000 will get 12.2fps. Obviously, this isn’t a real-world result, but it can give you a sense of where it stands. It’s not out of the realm of possibility to get one to two frames a second on export with Neat Video applied.

Cinebench single core

Focusing on the 3D users only, Maxon’s Cinebench Release 20 gave a CPU score of 1812 points and a CPU (single core) score of 456 points with an MP ratio of 3.97x. And in the Corona Renderer 1.3 benchmark the ThinkPad had a render time of 5:01 and rays/sec of 1,613,800.

Another good 3D benchmark is a project called the Gooseberry Production Benchmark File for use in Blender (a free and open source 3D creation suite). You can download the Gooseberry file here. It essentially renders out a complex scene and it took a little over 45 minutes on the ThinkPad. Using Octane Bench the workstation scored an overall score of 72.07.

Finally  — and this is more of a gaming test — I ran the Superposition Benchmark from Unigine. It’s a few years old, but it gives a decent sense of scene building, lighting and higher-resolution playback. I selected the “4K Optimized” setting and the ThinkPad got a score of 2406, but more importantly it did a minimum playback of 14.9fps, average 18fps and max of 22.62fps. It was able to max out the GPU at 100%.

Superposition Benchmark from Unigine

What Does It All Mean?
The results mean that while the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 looks great and performs reasonably well, if you are looking for significant post power, it might not be right for you — specifically if you are doing a lot of full-resolution video and color correction work. But if you are an offline editor and/or are working with lower-resolution proxy files, like ProRes or DNxHR files, it will perform much more smoothly.

As mentioned earlier, the OLED screen is incredible, and when color correcting in Resolve, it is actually a somewhat accurate way to color correct. (I know, a real colorist uses a calibrated external monitor, but it’s OK everyone. Please don’t get too worked up.)

In Adobe’s Photoshop and Lightroom, the ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 excels and can easily switch color spaces between sRGB, Adobe RGB, Rec. 709 and even DCI-P3. It’s amazing how fast it can do that. That being said, you are paying a little more for the official “workstation” name. Workstations come with certain components, like the Nvidia Quadro T2000, that are meant to be run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and can output to up to four external monitors. Lenovo tests its products with certain applications like Adobe Premiere Pro and will supply drivers that are fully tested. You can find them here.

In addition, the standard one-year warranty included with the system will cover the machine against normal wear and tear. While I couldn’t find any info on upgrading to accidental damage protection or 24/7 support I believe it is offered.

Summing Up
Would I buy the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen 2 mobile workstation, which has a price tag of just under $3,200? If portability and military-grade durability outweigh very high-end performance, then yes. If you are looking to edit and color correct full-res 4K, 6K, or 8K video? Maybe not. I think my last answer would change if the GPU had a little more “oomph” behind it, but for now it is what it is.

It’s not a bad GPU by any means; it’s just not the RTX 2080, in my experience. I do love the sleek and understated design that is super-light and durable. That alone made me think really hard about this workstation Get more info from Lenovo including pricing and customization options.

Brady Betzel is an Emmy-nominated online editor at Margarita Mix in Hollywood, working on shows like Life Below Zero and The Shop. He is also a member of the Producer’s Guild of America. You can email Brady at bradybetzel@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @allbetzroff.

Sony at NAB with new 4K OLED monitor, 4K, 8X Ultra HFR camera

At last year’s NAB, Sony introduced its first 4K OLED reference monitor for critical viewing — the BVM-X300. This year, Sony added a new monitor, the the PVM-X550, a 55-inch, OLED panel with 12-bit signal processing, perfect for client viewing. The Trimaster EL PVM-X550 supports HDR through various Electro-Optical Transfer Functions (EOTF), such as S-Log3, SMPTE ST.2084 and Hybrid Log-Gamma, covering applications for both cinematography and broadcast. The PVM-X550 is a quad-view OLED monitor, which allows customized individual display settings across four distinct views in HD. It is equipped with the same signal-processing engine as the BVM-X300, providing a 12-bit output signal for picture accuracy and consistency. It also supports industry standard color spaces including the wider ITU-R BT.2020 for Ultra High Definition.

HFR Camera
At NAB 2016, Sony displayed their newest camera system: the HDC-4800 combines 4K resolution with enhanced high frame rate capabilities, capturing up to 8X at 4K, and 16X in full HD. “This camera system can do a lot of everything — very high frame rate, very high resolution,” said Rob Willox, marketing manager for content creation, Sony Electronics.

I broke the second paragraph into two, and they are now: The HDC-4800 uses a new Super 35mm 4K CMOS sensor, supporting a wide color space (both BT.2020 and BT.709), and provides an industry standard PL lens mount, giving the system the capability of using the highest quality cinematic lenses for clear and crisp high resolution images.The new sensor brings the system into the cinematic family of RED and Alexa, making it well suited as a competitor to today’s modern, high end cinematic digital solutions.

An added feature of the HDC-4800 is how it’s specifically designed to integrate with Sony’s companion system, the Sony HDC-4300, a 2/3 inch image sensor 4k/HD camera. Using matching colorimetry and deep toolset camera adjustments, and with the ability to take advantage of existing build-up kits, remote control panels and master setup units, the two cameras can blend seamlessly.

Sony also showed the second generation of its Optical Disc Archive System, which adopts new, high-capacity optical media, rated with a 100 year shelf life with double the transfer rate and double the capacity of a single cartridge at 3.3 TB. The Generation 2 Optical Disc Archive System also adds an 8-channel optical drive unit, doubling the read/write speeds of the previous generation, helping to meet the data needs of real-time 4K production.