3D Artist

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P52

News & Features
Orestis Bastounis

More than just a performance upgrade – the P52 makes mobile a serious alternative to a desktop PC for rendering

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P52

• Price at time of review: £2,730 including VAT
• Website: lenovo.com
• CPU: Intel Core i7-8850H processor
• Memory: 32GB DDR4 memory
• Hard drive: 512GB Samsung SM961 nVME
• SSD Graphics: Nvidia Quadro P3200

The Lenovo ThinkPad P52, which is the first mobile workstation we’ve seen that offers a choice of a six-core, 12-thread Intel Core i7 or Xeon-E processor, isn’t just a standard laptop with the extra cores crammed into it. In many ways, the specification and features amount to a rethink, and redesign, of what a professional-grade laptop has to offer, capable of serious 3D work that makes it a serious portable alternative to a full-sized desktop rig.

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P52

Besides the processor, the customised review specification we’re looking at has 32GB of DDR-2400 memory, which is upgradeable to 128GB, an Nvidia Quadro P3200 graphics card and a 4K (3,840 x 2,160) colour-accurate 15.6-inch display with 100 per cent sRGB coverage, every bit as gorgeous to edit renders on as a desktop monitor, with brighter and more vivid colours than a standard LCD panel that you’ll notice as soon as the P52 boots into Windows. There’s internal space for plenty of storage too, as there’s support for two M.2 SSDs, in addition to a hard disk.

Weighing 2.57kg, and just under 3cm thick, the P52 isn’t exactly as portable as a Macbook, but compared with some of the brick-like designs of yesteryear, it’s relatively slim and can still be carried without causing discomfort.
A mention must also be made of the comfortable keys and spacious trackpad, which (optionally) supports 10-point multi-touch.

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P52

The power adapter pushes into to the rear of the laptop by way of a custom Lenovo connector, where it’s joined by two USB-C/Thunderbolt ports, HDMI and wired ethernet. A DisplayPort, headphone jack and two standard USB 3.0 ports are on the right, with an SD card reader and a third USB port on the left side. A separately sold dock lets you drop the P52 into a desktop configuration with an external display and mouse, with charging and data all handled via USB-C. On the road, the 90W/hr battery delivers approximately nine hours of usage, although this presumably assumes light use rather than running computationally complex final renders when on battery life.

The Intel processor in our review sample is a Core i7-8850H, based on the Coffee Lake design generation – with a 2.6GHz base, 4.3GHz Turbo clock speed and the aforementioned six cores that can execute 12 threads. The Nvidia Quadro P3200 is one of the more high-end mobile Quadro graphics cards – sporting 6GB of dedicated GDDR5, 1792 shaders and a 1.2GHz base clock, which is one of the best mobile graphics cards for 3D use.

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P52

As a basic indicator of relative performance, a Cinebench 15 CPU result of 1046 is in line with desktop six-core processors, with the 170fps OpenGL result putting the P3200 graphics card slightly below the P4000. A solid showing in SPECViewPerf 13, especially the score of 165 in the Maya-05 test, reveals results that challenge mid-range desktops, although coming in lower than the most high-powered desktop rigs. An OpenCL result of 13,583 points in the Luxball benchmark reveals a score that indicates great GPU-accelerated computation.

Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P52

The overall picture from the benchmarks indicate desktop-class raw performance in 3D apps which will only struggle when faced with the heaviest workloads.

Until now, the age-old question of desktop vs laptop was firmly in favour of desktops for 3D work, as even the best mobile systems were left with hardware that lagged far behind the hardware you could get in a tower filled with desktop components. The P52 goes a long way to changing the status quo, with a top-notch display, oodles of memory and storage expandability and very capable performance.

Features: 5/5
Performance: 5/5
Design: 5/5
Value for money: 3/5
Final score: 5/5

The P52 is strong competition for a desktop system, if your budget can meet the cost of these extras.