Lenovo's ThinkPad P50 is a capable workstation that will last through the end of the workday and beyond. The 15.6-inch workstation impressed me on our battery life test, outlasting nearly all rivals. You also get a best-in class keyboard and killer graphical performance, all in a package that starts at $1,322. Commuters and travelers might want to opt for something a little more portable, though.
The ThinkPad P50 is a hefty slab of a laptop computer, measuring a full 1.16 inches thick and weighing a hefty 5.8 lbs. That makes it noticeably beefier than competitors like Apple's 15-inch MacBook Pro (4.4 lbs., 0.71 inches thick), Dell's Precision 5510 (4.6 lbs., 0.66 inches thick) or HP's ZBook Studio G3 (4.6 lbs., 0.71 inches thick).
On the other hand, it's a lot more mobile than 17-inch workstations like Lenovo's 7.6-lb. ThinkPad P70. The P50 will actually fit into your work bag, and is actually light enough to carry on the occasional commute.
The P50's modest black design looks classy and professional. The soft-touch finish on its lid, meanwhile, feels luxurious, and makes the system easy to grip when you're carrying it around the office.
If you do accidentally drop it, the P50 can probably take it. Lenovo says it was designed with business-class durability, so it can withstand dings, short drops, shocks, vibration, extreme temperature and humidity. It definitely feels extremely sturdy and durable in my hands.
The ThinkPad P50's 15.6-inch 4K display isn't just stunning to look at – it's also really roomy, and the super-high resolution makes more of that screen space usable for productivity. I felt comfortable even while viewing and editing two large spreadsheets side by side.
Meanwhile, text looks crisp, and colors pop on the P50. Viewing angles are also extremely wide, so the picture doesn't wash out when the display is viewed from an angle. And I'm a big fan of the screen's matte finish, which curbs annoying reflections from windows and overhead office lights.
Keyboard and trackpad
Laptop keyboards don't get any better than this. The P50 represents the best the ThinkPad brand has to offer on that front, with deep, cushy keys that are ideal for marathon work sessions. The keys feel snappy and provide an extremely generous 1.95 millimeters of travel on each stroke, which is well above the 1.5mm we look for in a laptop computer. Deeper keys are better because they provide a more comfortable, desktoplike typing experience.
You get two different ways to control the mouse pointer with the P50. The basic 3.9 x 2.1-inch touchpad feels good, with a nice matte texture that lets my finger glide easily. Cursor control was responsive, and gestures like two-finger scrolling were responsive.
A red TrackPoint pointing nub is located between the G, H and B keys. It's a perk for workers because it lets you accurately control the cursor without moving your fingers from home row. Buttons above the touchpad give you easy access to left, middle and right clicks while you use the TrackPoint nub.
If you've got one, your IT manager will be pleased by the ThinkPad P50's security features. Independent business users will also benefit from the system's security credentials, which include vPro-enabled hardware encryption and a single-touch fingerprint reader, located just below the arrow keys.
The fingerprint scanner worked very well in my test, reliably whisking me to my desktop in moments with a quick touch. That's good news for workers who want to keep their laptop locked down without resorting to a cumbersome password screen.
There's also the option to add a Smart Card reader to the P50, which will let you unlock the system with a physical key card.
The P50 comes equipped with all the ports a worker could want. Unfortunately, most of them are located on the system's back, which is good or bad depending on how you plan to use the machine. The ports aren't particularly easy to reach, so mobile workers will have some trouble plugging things in on a regular basis. On the other hand, workers who want to leave the P50 at their desk the majority of the time will appreciate that wires stay hidden away at the system's rear.
The back edge includes an HDMI out port, an Ethernet jack, a Thunderbolt/USB Type-C port, and two USB 3.0 ports.
The right side adds an extra two USB 3.0 ports, and a mini DisplayPort.
The right edge, meanwhile, has an SD card reader and an optional Smart Card reader.
What really sets the P50 apart from rival Windows workstations is its long battery life. The system ran for a full 8.5 hours on our battery test, which simulates continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi. That's really impressive considering the powerful hardware, especially compared with competing machines like the Dell Precision 5510 (5:34), the HP ZBook Studio G3 (5:08), and the ThinkPad P70 (5:53). Apple's MacBook Pro lasted just about as long as the P50, though.
Engineers and graphics professionals will really benefit from the power the P50 has under the hood. Our review unit came decked out with a 2.8-GHz Intel Xeon E3-1505M v5 processor with 16GB of RAM, 512GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage, and Nvidia M2000M graphics. That setup is more than powerful enough to handle graphically intensive workloads like 3D modeling and editing multiple 4K video streams at once.
On the Geekbench 3 test, which measures overall performance, the P50 cranked out an impressive score of 13,378. That beats out the category average among desktop replacement laptops, as well as some similar systems like the ThinkPad P70 (13,158) and the Apple MacBook Pro (13,352). It's not the most powerful workstation we've tested, though; the Dell Precision 5510 (14,316) and the HP ZBook Studio G3 (14,276) were faster.
The ThinkPad P50 also performed well on our spreadsheet test, matching 20,000 names with their addresses in just 3 minutes and 23 seconds. That beats the category average of 3 minutes and 43 seconds, and it also edges out the Dell Precision (3:40). Apple's MacBook Pro was quicker by about 20 seconds, however.
Lenovo sells the ThinkPad P50 in a huge variety of hardware configurations. The baseline model sports an Intel Core i7-6700HQ processor with 8GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a 1080p touch display and an Nvidia Quadro M1000M GPU. All for a relatively affordable $1,322.
Our review unit, meanwhile, came equipped with a sharper 4K touch screen, a speedier Xeon E3-1505M processor with 16GB of RAM, Nvidia M2000M graphics and 512GB of solid-state drive (SSD) storage. Price: $2,515.
Lenovo's ThinkPad P50 can handle the most graphically demanding workloads, thanks to its powerful hardware. And it has just about everything else that business users could want in a workstation, including a top-tier keyboard, excellent security and really long battery life. If only it weren't so thick and heavy.
Apple's MacBook Pro is a good alternative, since it offers similar performance and battery life in a much thinner and lighter shell. However, it lacks the P50's business-class security and durability credentials, and its keyboard isn't quite as nice. Those features help the P50 stand out, despite its hefty design.