A week with Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen5

After more than two weeks with the Lenovo ThinkPad P16s AMD Gen1, I had the opportunity to try out the Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen5, specifically the pre-production configuration 21DDZA2PUS. The ThinkPad P1s are the workstation-version of the ThinkPad X1 Extreme, which is the bigger brother from the flagship X1 Carbon. Specialty machines aside, we’re moving to the very top of Lenovo’s lineup here.

The loaner machine was fitted with

  • Intel i9-12900H CPU
  • 64GB RAM (2x 32MB)
  • 4 TB SSD
  • no dedicated graphics card, only Intel Iris Xe integrated graphics

The goal was to make a direct comparison with the P16s, i.e. to conclude which of the two machines is the right one for me. I’m recalling my main conclusions on the P16s, as I’ll mainly describe the differences here:

  • The P16s goes beautifully for performance, the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 6850U processor with 28W TDP is a more caustic successor to the 5850U (15W TDP) and overall it is unfortunately noticeable on thermal-management (noticeably noisier cooling than my current T14 AMD Gen2),
  • The P16s is a bit of a pussycat; not quite a giant, but a slightly more subtle design would be deserved,
  • The P16s has a numeric keypad, and paid for it by shrinking the base keyboard slightly,
  • The P16s has a comfortable large 16″ display, which I find very comfortable.

First impressions of the P1 Gen5 (day 1)

Right out of the box, it’s obvious that this is a higher-end piece than the P16s

  • The machine is a bit more subtle (compared to the X1 Carbon it’s still a giant, but let’s just say that’s the sort of size I would expect from the P16s in my transition from the T14/P14s),
  • the touch-pad is nicer to the touch, and it’s precision-grazed (on the P16s I found it had a bit of a tendency to ding, though I’ve definitely experienced worse on older ThinkPads),
  • the machine doesn’t have a numeric keyboard section and so the base section is unreduced (it remains smaller in stroke than the previous ultimate Lenovo chicklet keyboard, but the layout fits and I had to get used to the new distance of the keys from the chassis edge rather than the stroke being an issue; the keyboard, on the other hand, is a bit quieter, supposedly the keys are foam-backed),
  • the loaner model, although it doesn’t have a dGPU, was fitted with two coolers, this may prove to be both an advantage and a disadvantage, we’ll see later,
  • The P16s has a cooling outlet to the right side, the P1 has a grille on the entire back (how the cooling efficiency is affected by the fact that when the laptop is open, the lid is placed in front of the back in the path of the air flow, I dare not guess).

The very first PassMark test showed a score of 4310, a good chunk lower than the P16s with the AMD processor (~5900). Don’t be fooled though, the whole score is thrown down by the very weak Intel Iris Xe graphics part, the performance of the rest is brutal on the contrary:

  • CPU Mark ~31500 vs. ~23600 (+33%)
  • 2D Graphics Mark ~400 vs. ~800 (-50%)
  • 3D Graphics Mark ~3430 vs. ~5800 (-41%)
  • Memory Mark ~3440 vs ~2260 (+52%)
  • Disk Mark ~31100 vs ~22050 (+41%)

Note: A machine without a dGPU was my specific wish, the vast majority of P1s instead come with a dedicated graphics card and there are several to choose from. I don’t need the graphics performance for development, so I’m looking for a configuration that won’t add additional TDP to my already stretched thermal-management.

After a week of use

I finally installed my work tools on the P1 Gen5 and used it for a week for a production workload.

Compared to the P16s, it’s actually pleasantly subtler, the classic keyboard layout is also easier to adapt to, but I spent the whole week practically not worrying about anything other than whether I could somehow tame the cooling. Gradually, I’ve come to realise that it’s a futile struggle, and that I’m really sitting at a machine in a different category, for a different target group than me.

With the P1, everything is obviously subordinated to maximum performance, and no compromises are attempted:

  • The Intel i9-12900H processor is just a level away. With its 45W TDP, it can continuously heat up the machine to the point where the P1 doesn’t even attempt a “no fan running” mode. There are also two fans and the cooling just makes itself known. How it would work with a dedicated graphics card I dare not even guess. Nor do I dare hope that the situation would be any significantly different with the more mundane i7-12800H or i7-12700H processors, which would be out of the question for me. They both have the same TDP of 45W and I don’t expect such a significant difference.
  • I was surprised that the P1, despite being fitted with a large 90Wh battery, only lasted around 2-2.5 hours on my lap (and that was just looking up flights in my browser). Initially I interpreted this as a non-correct condition and looked for a bug in the settings/firmware/drivers, but gradually I found other users’ experiences on the net and realized that this is just the way it is.
  • Similarly, I was surprised to find a hot machine on my desk every morning that had slept overnight in Modern Standby (S0). The fans weren’t running, but the heat production remained respectable.
  • Still, it must be remembered that the loaner is a pre-production model. Thermal-management tends to be more problematic with those, and one can expect a bit more restrained performance with production pieces. Likewise, it’s common for new models to take a few months for things to settle down and for cooling to find its optimum (either through driver/firmware updates or through Intel Dynamic Tuning Technology, which tries to find a tune for each machine using AI/ML).

Overall, I have come to the conclusion that the P1 Gen 5 is not for me. It’s a performance maximalist, and you have to be prepared to pay for that performance by sacrificing audio comfort, accepting significant thermal performance, and sacrificing battery life.

The P1 is such a formula. It roars, it shoots flames, it has power to spare, you’ll beat anyone by a class difference. I’ve decided I’m more comfortable with a regular sports car in the form of the P16s, it beats most rivals too, but you can drive it around town without leaving charred pavements and deaf pedestrians in your wake.

PS: Much to my delight, I got the chance to try out AMD’s brand new ThinkPad Z16. So you can look forward to the third installment of my selection anabasis.

1 thought on “A week with Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen5

  1. Pingback: A week with Lenovo ThinkPad Z16 | HAVIT Knowledge Base

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