Lenovo continues to show that it wants to be a player in high-end computers, with new products in servers, workstations and now laptops.
At Siggraph 2015, Lenovo announced two new mobile workstations that offer serious production power on the go. We recently had the chance to meet with Lenovo executives in New York to get a close look at these new machines and we came away impressed. It’s pretty obvious that these machines will deliver the level of performance needed to run the most demanding production and post software you can throw at them today.
The market for high-end workstations is valuable. While consumer desktop PCs continue to drop in popularity, high-end servers and workstations are big markets that receive steady investment. According to Jon Peddie Research, however, the first quarter of 2015 did see a drop in sales of graphics-oriented workstations, but the computer research company attributes that to the popularity of the new Grantley platform that debuted in 4Q 2014, the time of year that budgets finish and sales are made.
While HP and Dell still have the lead in terms of total sales (we’re including servers here), Lenovo is becoming a serious contender in the high-end workstation desktop and, as you’ll see, the laptop workstation market as well. Earlier this year, the computer company rebooted their ThinkStation line of workstation towers, two of which I’ve reviewed.
The top-of-the-line ThinkStation P900 is a powerhouse of a machine that is capable of handling the most intense and demanding production challenges. It contains two Xeon processors packed with 20 physical cores (that’s 40 virtual cores), as well as lots of other features that may dazzle you. For those just starting out, the ThinkStation P500 is an entry-level workstation with a single Xeon processor that provides solid performance at a price everyone can afford. In between the two are the P500 and P700.
According to Lenovo, their new ThinkPads are among the most powerful notebook computers ever. We’re looking forward to put them to the test in the studio and see how they fare in real world production environments. By all indications, however, these look like stunning machines.
The ThinkPad P70
Let’s start with the new ThinkPad P70, a 17-inch mobile workstation that, according to Lenovo, is configurable with more memory and storage than any machine in its class — 64GB of DDR4 ECC memory and four internal drives at a time. If you’re involved in computer graphics, the more memory, the better. That beats the memory capacity which offerings from HP, Dell, Boxx can currently deliver (32GB RAM) while Apple’s MacBook Pro tops out at 16GB RAM.
Turns out that these new machines can handle all that RAM because they are the first announced laptops equipped with Intel’s new Xeon Processor E3-1500M v5 product family. These are the first mobile machines with what has been, up to now, a powerful server-class CPU.
The machines can also handle up to a terabyte of SSD storage, and instead of the current SATA technology you’ll see in other devices, these utilize the latest PCIe technology for speeds up to five times than SATA. That’s smokin’.
For speedy transfer to external RAIDs, the ThinkPad P70 also comes with two blazingly fast Intel Thunderbolt 3 ports which deliver an astonishing 40Gbps transfer rate. That kind of speed will easily handle 4K editing challenges.
On the display side, the ThinkPad P70 doesn’t disappoint either as it comes with an impressive 4K UHD design. That seems remarkable on a mobile computer, and now that Windows 10 is out, you don’t have to worry about tiny little menus and control palettes in the user interfaces of your favorite software. Screen fonts will scale to the proper size and remain readable as the new Windows not only automatically adjusts to any display, but can be customized to exactly the size you like. If you prefer, you could optionally get an FHD (1920 X 1080) touch display. With all the graphics work I do, however, I’d personally stick with the 4K display.
The ThinkPad P70 is a superbly designed and engineered product. This will be one of the most advanced and highest performance mobile workstations when it’s available.
The ThinkPad P50
For those who prefer a smaller and lighter machine, the ThinkPad P50 is just that: Lenovo’s thinnest and lightest full-function mobile workstation yet. The P50’s slightly smaller 15.6in display also sports a 4K resolution.
Compared to what we’ve all had to live with before, a 4K display on a mobile machine makes me feel giddy. For starters, you can work on high-resolution cinematic effects shots without having to constantly zoom in and out. Remember when laptop displays used to be 800 by 600 pixels? Thank goodness that’s over. Now we’ve got 4k resolution on a 15.6in laptop. Bring it on baby, bring it on!
The ThinkPad P70 and P50 are tough too, which is a relief for anyone going on location, with a mil-spec rating that offers maximum durability. Along with the new Xeon Processor E3-1500M v5 CPUs we’ve mentioned, both systems also feature best in class NVIDIA Quadro GPUs.
One of the unique features that I really appreciate on Lenovo mobile workstations is the built-in X-Rite Pantone color calibration system. I first discovered this tool when I wrote a review of the ThinkPad W540. I was glad to see that it has found a place in the new machines as well. After all, what’s even better than a 4K display? A 4K display with accurate color.
This cool feature will automatically color calibrate your monitor, keeping consistent colors through the life of the product. Just fold down the display, and a small sensor built next to the computer’s trackpad does the work, taking the screen through X-Rite’s tests. No need to purchase additional hardware or software.
To help keep things running cool, the ThinkPad P50 and P70 feature the innovative FLEX Performance Cooling System; it’s basically a dual fan design that allows for cooler, quieter operation. That’s important because this Xeon CPU is no longer sitting in a rack server, so heat dissipation is critical. Less heat means the ability to push the system harder and comes in handy for those long and arduous rendering jobs.
Lenovo’s new ThinkPad P Series mobile workstations will be available starting in Q4 2015. (You can visit the ThinkPad P70 site here.) The base P50 starts $1,599, while the base P70 starts at $1,999. Lenovo also offers a variety of support services for companies and large facilities.
I’m enthusiastic about these new machines. It looks like Lenovo decided to hit it out of the park, daring the other manufacturers to keep pace. If you’re involved with high-end production and post – whether it’s 3D animation, editing, compositing, color work or matte painting – the powerful new ThinkPad P Series of mobile workstations may be the perfect balance of price and performance for work at home or on location.