Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Mobile Workstation Review: Only Professionals Should Apply

By Patrick Moorhead - January 11, 2021

Earlier this summer, Lenovo updated its mobile workstation lineup with the Lenovo ThinkPad P17 and P15 notebooks. Lenovo launched the ThinkPad P17 as its largest mobile workstation focused on durability and packed full of high-performance hardware to create a no-compromise solution. Every company talk about a desktop replacement, but this design tries to replace a real workstation. This system is built with professional creators and engineers in mind and will run complex programs like AutoCAD, Creo, 3dsMax, Adobe Premiere, Photoshop, Lightroom, and many other rigorous ISV applications.   

For the past week, I have been using the Lenovo ThinkPad P17 mobile workstation as my primary productivity device. Lenovo sent me a high-end configuration of the system to test, and I ran it through my typical productivity workloads and some content creation simulations and benchmarks. I will preface my review by saying I doubt my ability to stress this system to its absolute limits as my workloads are more conducive to a 15" ultrathin or creator notebook, but it doesn't mean I didn’t attempt to.  

Lenovo ThinkPad P17

Initial impressions and design   

Out of the box, the Lenovo ThinkPad P17 packs the looks of a serious workstation. The system's exterior looks rugged and ready to take on any application or environment. My hunch was confirmed when I learned that Lenovo ran the ThinkPad P17 through 12 military-grade requirements and testing in climates ranging from the artic to the desert. I can tell that system was designed for longevity and durability and not for style. The entire exterior of the notebook is coated in black and looks minimalistic. The ThinkPad P17 isn't a mobile workstation that feels sleek and premium but instead is rugged and functional. Initially, it looks like the engineering team at Lenovo sacrificed sleekness for raw compute performance. The system is cumbersome at 7.7 pounds and you won’t want to move it every day but every once a while from office to home will be fine.  You see, many of the thinner “workstations” don’t have the This workstation was quite a bit heavier than the other mobile workstations that I have tested this year, but none of those compared to the specs and performance of the ThinkPad P17. I will also mention that the system was too long to fit into my backpack and fully zip. I have fit other 15" and 17" mobile workstations in my bag recently, which shows how large this system is.  

Immediately, I notice that the number of ports and I/O on this mobile workstation is impressive. The ThinkPad P17 has 3 USB-A ports, 1 USB-C port, 2 USB-C Thunderbolt 3, an SD-card reader, micro-SD reader, ethernet jack, Kensington lock slot, HDMI port, and a headphone jack. Lenovo left nothing to be desired in terms of ports and I/O.  

Lenovo Thinkpad P17 

The keyboard on the ThinkPad P17 looks functional and like other ThinkPad notebooks. One difference is that Lenovo included a full-size number pad on the right side of the keyboard. The number pad was a welcomed addition to the keyboard, and if you are going all out on a workstation design, it makes sense. Naturally, this shifted the layout of the keyboard to the left side of the system. The notebook's keyboard was punchy and responsive, and I quickly wrote this blog post on the system. The keyboard's orientation took some getting used to for typing, but I quickly adapted. The signature red dot in the middle of the keyboard is still present on this ThinkPad model. The trackpad was extensive and responsive, while I used it to drag files and scroll through web pages. I used the fingerprint reader to sign in after I set up my password and pin. It took less than 15 seconds to set up and less than a second to login.   

My ThinkPad P17 had a 17.3" UHD display and 4K, 3480 x 2160 resolution at 500 nits of brightness. There are thick black edges on all sides of the screen, which was noticeable at first, but I got used to them being there, and it didn't affect my workflow. The system's display was great for splitting between web browsing, streaming Longmire on Netflix, and running Webex, Teams, and Skype. I used one side of the screen for Microsoft Teams meetings while using the other side for taking notes in OneNote. I also plugged in an additional 1920 x 1080P monitor for multitasking, and it powered the display with ease. The ThinkPad P17 didn't come with a touch screen option, which was disappointing for the system at this price point.  

Testing configuration and pricing   

The loaner ThinkPad P17 system that I tested was a top tier version of the system. My system came outfitted with the Intel's Xeon W-10885M CPU, NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 16GB GPU, 128GB of RAM, and 4TB's of M.2 storage. The system's display was a 17.3" UHD and 3,480 x 2160 resolution at 500 nits of brightness. The ThinkPad P17 also came with Intel Wi-Fi 6, Bluetooth 5, 720P HD webcam, and a fingerprint reader. Some of the hardware above may seem like a type for a mobile workstation, but I can assure you it is not. This system packs a server-grade CPU and GPU combo and enough RAM to power eight gaming desktops. I customized this configuration on Lenovo.com, and the final price was $11,574. Lenovo is running a holiday deal now, so after that coupon, the system's price dropped to $6,712. The base price of the ThinkPad P17 is $1,524 and scales up from there as you outfit it with better hardware and software packages.  

I acknowledge that the price may seem outrageous for a notebook, but for professional creators who charge clients by the hour for editing, each second spent encoding and not editing is money wasted.  

Lenovo Thinkpad P17


I want to preface my performance statements by saying my personal use case will not push this workstation to anywhere close to its performance ceiling. I evaluate performance on how well a system performs in my particular use case. My use case typically includes running 20+ Microsoft Edge browser instances, video conferencing within Microsoft Teams, WebEx, or Skype, manipulating some data in Excel, editing presentations in PowerPoint, and communicating insights and analysis across social media platforms. I split between presentations, web browsing, and conferencing with ease on the large display. Running all these applications simultaneously can cause lag on a typical notebook, but the ThinkPad P17 showed no signs of lag or slowing down. Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge are typically very taxing on the system's RAM, but with 128GB of RAM, you will likely never run into this issue while using my configuration of the ThinkPad P17.   

I used the ThinkPad P17 to encode 15 minutes of 4K footage that I shot on my Panasonic GH5. The footage was edited on Adobe Premiere Pro and encoded in Adobe Media Encoder. The system blazed through the footage and completed the project in 3 minutes and 58 seconds. The put this into context, my Dell XPS 17" with an i7-10875H and NVIDIA 2060 Max-Q completed the same task in 4 minutes and 46 seconds, and my HP Zbook G7 Create with Intel Core i9-10885H vPro and NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Max-Q completed the job in 4 minutes and 12 seconds.    

The video playback on Premiere Pro is notoriously slow when editing 4K 10-bit footage. Before I start a project, I have to use proxy files to speed up the editing process and ensure the footage will be viewable on the video playback screen. Using the ThinkPad P17 was the best experience I have ever had while using Premiere Pro. Dragging clips, snipping, and playing the clips back was easy. For every request I made in the application, the system responded instantaneously. I was able to configure videos quickly, and the responsiveness significantly sped up my work process. The fans did kick on while the system was encoding, but it was bearable.   

I also ran the system through PudgetBench for Photoshop. I ran the benchmark several times with an average score of 883. For context, the HP Zbook Create G7 I mentioned above scored an average score of 638, and the Dell XPS 17" mentioned above scored an average of 646. The fans did kick on heavily while running the benchmark, but I expected that. 

Puget Systems

With the impressive Photoshop benchmark scores and fast encoding on Premiere Pro, the ThinkPad P17 is an excellent creative application solution. The system should perform well in engineering applications like AutoCAD, Crea, 3dsMAX, and many others, but I cannot speak to the experience.   

Battery life   

Lenovo claims users will get anywhere from 9-14 hours of battery life out of the ThinkPad P17 during everyday use. These battery claims are a derivative of MobileMark 2014 and 2018 scores, so take them with a grain of salt. Those scores almost always represent a light workload and best-case scenario, and my experience was different. Battery life will always depend on your specific use case, and I can only speak to my experience.  

I was getting 5-7 hours on average while browsing the web, streaming video, video conferencing, using Microsoft 365 apps, and encoding videos in Adobe Premiere Pro. For more productivity types like browsing, conferencing, and using Microsoft 365 apps, I got the higher end of that range at around 7 hours. When I mixed it with video editing and more streaming, it dropped to about 5 hours. I wasn't expecting incredible battery life on a system this large. The ThinkPad P17 puts out serious performance, and I will sacrifice a little battery life to get that.   

When the system is on low power, it beeps several times at a loud volume to notify the user. My ThinkPad P17 also came with a 230W slim charger for replenishing the system. The charger was long enough to sit 6+ feet away from the system while it remained plugged in. The charger is big, really big.  

Wrapping up  

All in all, the Lenovo ThinkPad P17 is a monster of a mobile workstation. In my opinion, this system will outperform the average desktop in most creative applications. However, this system isn't going to be my go-to for travel, but rather for severe productivity and creative apps. The ThinkPad P17 mobile workstation leaves very little to desire in a mobile workstation. It has a large, high-resolution display, plenty of ports and I/O, and the high-performance hardware that any creator or engineer needs to stay productive. I enjoyed my time with the system, and if it fits your use case and budget, I assume you will as well.  

 Note: Moor Insights & Strategy writers and editors may have contributed to this article. 

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Patrick founded the firm based on his real-world world technology experiences with the understanding of what he wasn’t getting from analysts and consultants. Ten years later, Patrick is ranked #1 among technology industry analysts in terms of “power” (ARInsights)  in “press citations” (Apollo Research). Moorhead is a contributor at Forbes and frequently appears on CNBC. He is a broad-based analyst covering a wide variety of topics including the cloud, enterprise SaaS, collaboration, client computing, and semiconductors. He has 30 years of experience including 15 years of executive experience at high tech companies (NCR, AT&T, Compaq, now HP, and AMD) leading strategy, product management, product marketing, and corporate marketing, including three industry board appointments.