Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2
The Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 delivers the goods as a mobile workstation, well, if you put some parentheses around “mobile.” The 17.3-inch screen will relieve most owners from looking for an external monitor, and the bevy of ports will also keep most dock requirements at bay. But all this power comes at the price of a bulky, old-school design aimed more at the USCSS Nostromo aesthetic than that of the USS Enterprise.
Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 Review
Serious computing on the go. And a strong back. And strong arms. You’ll need all of those things to justify and carry the Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 behemoth of a mobile workstation. Some configurations of this massive “laptop” run over $9,000.
Lower-end, i5-based units of a device this big don’t seem to make sense, if they are more affordable than their i7, i9, and Xeon counterparts. Those looking to buy a machine of this size should maximize its reason for being by outfitting it with enough CPU, GPU, RAM and storage for its existence to make sense.
The Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 huge 17.3-inch 3,840 x 2,160 IPS screen dominates this gigantic platform. Unfortunately, large bezels betray that there might have been room for either a smaller footprint or an even larger screen. At 500 nits and sporting factory calibration, the P17 G2 gains its video prowess from an Nvidia 16GB A5000 processor.
The screen does not support touch or pen input.
A large mobile device creates plenty of space for a roomy, back-lit keyboard and Lenovo takes advantage of the restate with a keyboard full of extras, including a 10-key pad and an assortment of function keys. The keyboard picks up Lenovo’s highest design language with sculpted keys and the ever present red dot of TrackPoint, which again, I find more confusing than useful. Get the trackpad right and there is no need for a secondary input method.
Unfortunately, Lenovo does not get the trackpad right. The rather smallish trackpad (4.53″ x 2.40″) sits to the left of center, and, with its pointer integration, offers multiple ways to select and click. An expansive input space with a small trackpad feels like a missed opportunity.
The six-core 3.2Ghz Xeon W-11855M and 32GB of RAM sit at the mid-performance point of the P17s upward limit of 128GB of RAM. Core i9 versions including an i9 vPro® are available.
There was certainly nothing sluggish about the P17, but general Windows operations sometimes lagged.
I found the battery life less than desired. There is a reason it comes with a 230W power supply, as it sucks power throughout its design. That said, it’s usually easier to find power than a monitor or a dock—no one is going to use this laptop on a plane to watch a movie—so battery life will likely not be the gating factor on a purchase, and Lenovo knows that.
Hardware security relies on standard Microsoft biometrics and passwords, including both fingerprint and facial recognition Hello support. The camera cover employs a very small notch, which can be hard to use without at least one well-grown-out thumbnail.
In the ruggedness department, Lenovo claims Mil-spec ratings around dropping and vibration but does not assign any IP rating for water dust. This is especially interesting as Lenovo also claims a spill-resistant keyboard, but again, without a listed IP water resistance rating.
Any device with this power profile and amount of bezel deserves at least a 1080HD camera if not better. The 720HD camera disappoints. The technical specifications suggest a higher quality camera is available, but none of the currently shipping models include it.
Two far-field microphones support good voice input for video conferencing and telephony.
The sound, however, is horrible. Although the technical specifications state Dolby Atmos® speakers, the tinny, small, 2W up-firing stereo speakers prove the most embarrassing of features. They are OK for voice only, but for video or music, they are unlistenable. Thankfully the P17 supports audio out via a standard jack and Bluetooth so users can easily upgrade their audio experiences.
Between CPU, display, and connectivity, the Lenovo P17 G2 doesn’t disappoint. No one will complain about too few ports. Like the keyboard, Lenovo packed the bulky edges of this device with connectivity aplenty.
- 2 x USB-C Thunderbolt™ 4
- 2 x USB-A 3.2 Gen 1 (one always on)
- HDMI 2.1/2.0
- Headphone/mic combo
- RJ-45 ethernet
- SD card reader
- Optional: Smart card reader
The review version included a nano-SIM for 4GLTE connectivity.
The P17 also sports the latest in wireless with Bluetooth® 5.2 and WiFi 6E.
The Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 will not win any design awards. It isn’t ugly, but it isn’t pretty either. The fiber-reinforced plastic over magnesium case would look much more at home on the USCSS Nostromo than on the USS Enterprise. If you like industrial-looking industrial design, then the P17 might work well, especially after sprucing it up with a few dozen stickers.
The P17 arrives with a number of sustainability certifications, including Energy Star. The mostly cardboard box also demonstrates a move away from plastic in packaging.
There isn’t a lot of software, though it does come with Windows 10 for Workstations, and reports being ready for a Windows 11 upgrade. It also comes with Microsoft Office 365 preinstalled for a trial, but if you own it, just log in. No need to download to upgrade. A trial of McAfee Livesafe also ships with the unit.
What we like
Sometimes you just need the computer you need when you need it. The Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 falls into that class. Most power users will not want to carry this hefty device anywhere beyond the desk where they first open its box. But if they do need relatively high-end processing power on the road, then this might well prove the computer they need in that moment.
The P17 is also upgradable, with RAM and with PCIe Gen 4 for storage, an increasingly rare feature.
The main thing to like is the P17’s all-in-oneness. Close the lid and it becomes a safe, albeit heavy, package for transport. It might not fit in most backpacks, but those who need to take it on the road will find a way. Open it up, and it becomes a completely self-sustained workstation with little need for docks or displays. Sure, a bigger display might be helpful, or a second one and the P17 can certainly accommodate that, but for a lot of work, it won’t need those peripherals.
What could be improved
The ThinkPad P17 is very heavy. And so is its power supply. With USB-C now designed for 240W output, the power supply, while perhaps necessary at the time of the P17’s design, seems archaic. Not only does it force owners to lug around a massive power supply, but it also forces the device to accommodate a proprietary charging port. The P17 will accept power from its USB-C power port, but won’t charge as fast as it does with the proprietary block. Perhaps a G3 device will remedy this transitional design necessity.
Despite all the port goodness, this device would benefit from more Thunderbolt ports so it won’t require a dock any more than it does a monitor in heavy media workloads.
Lenovo knows how to make beautiful devices. The P17 isn’t one of those, but it could be. This utilitarian box needs a facelift so it can appeal on its looks as well as its performance.
Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Gen 2: The Bottom Line
There are people who need the power of a device like Lenovo’s ThinkPad P17. It will sit on a desk and churn away, challenging most of the desktops in its vicinity. If taken on the road, it will burden back and arms, but when it arrives, it will provide comfort to the person who needs to edit video, manipulate high-resolution images, co-create designs with a partner, render design animation for a customer, run a simulation, or jug through a data set for machine learning.
The massive 17-inch screen will eliminate most searches for a display to connect with, leaving more time to share or work. The P17 generates a kind of computing gravity, as its users orbit the device to reap benefits from its potential.
The expense and poor speakers will never make this a consumer-first device. The ThinkPad P17 is clearly a work device with competition coming mainly from the 15.6-inch camp rather than the ever-smaller population of rival 17-inch devices. If the bulk and weight worry you, and you don’t need a 17-inch screen, look to smaller thinner devices that will get close, perhaps even exceed the P17’s performance. But for those who might need more RAM or terabytes of PCIe Gen4 storage, then the P17 is a solid bet.
Lenovo provided the ThinkPad P17 Gen 2 for review. Images courtesy of Lenovo.
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