Lenovo ThinkPad P17 Review


The ThinkPad P17 is the successor of the high-end workstation ThinkPad P73 & promises “Ultra Performance”. The key focus of this generation has been to improve the cooling system (capable of 13 percent additional airflow & has a 30% larger CPU heatsink & bigger vents to improve the cooling). Nonetheless, the exteriors are surprisingly familiar.
Priced for professionals, relative to the work they do, the cost is often insignificant (often the software run on the workstations could exceed the cost of the hardware & the downtime could be very costly). If you opt for the higher spec, especially the Quadro RTX or the i9/Xeon spec - it will be appreciated to be able to run them at closer to the advertised performance level (max TurboBoost).
Since the reintroduction of the 17.3” line with the ThinkPad P70 - it has been the goto model for the engineers, professionals who need power, reliability, and preferred the known ThinkPad ecosystem. The typical user might otherwise find themselves wanting for more performance than what a standard 15” P series workstation might provide. There will be some companies who only deploy Lenovo (that familiarity is invaluable). People who edit video and use it in the field will really enjoy the flexibility it provides (along with the 4K screen and the Panetone option).

Typical Configuration

  • Core i5 or similar with the entry range Quadro - some colleagues might just want a 17.3” ThinkPad & appreciate a more recent model. This might also suit the colleague who has only the minimal GPU requirement (eGPU upgrade option available anyway).
  • Core i7 with upto T2000: many machines will appear like this. Modest config without costing the bank.
  • i9/Xeon and a modest T2000 - more compute heavy. Have a nosey at the Intel 11th Gen H processor. AMD not on the roadmap anytime soon in 2021.
  • I7/i9/Xeon, RTX model - fully loaded - time is a valuable crowd.

Spec Upgradability

  • We’ve tested a higher end model:
    • Spec: Xeon W-10885M; 8 Cores; 16    Threads; 2.4GHz Base; 5.3GHz Turbo Boost 16MB    DDR4-2933 Intel Graphics; RTX 4000; 1TB SSD; 4K UHD Panel
  • Upgrade at the checkout:
    • If you need the WWAN slot to work, you’d need to config the WWAN model at launch (otherwise the antenna may not be available, and the sims slot may be sealed).
    • Screen: FHD 300nits standard option will be reasonable for the indoors; some will find the 500 nits 4K panel to be more agreeable. The latter, does carry a higher cost. This needs to be chosen at the point of purchase.
  • Customer accessible parts:
    • Upto 128GB RAM (2x slots really easy to access with 1 screw on the base cover);
    • 2 of the 4 RAM slots are under the keypad, the remaining 2 are under the mini service door on the base cover (secured by 1x screw).
    • There are other parts which can be swapped on the inside of the machine, but may not be considered user serviceable:
      • Wifi card
      • GPU is modular, but is not considered user accessible (Note: RTX 4000 and RTX 5000 are MAX-Q, though have a 110W TDP)


  • Straight FHD or 4K choice. 4K pre-calibrated. No touch option.
  • Display backlight leakage varies per screen
  • The panel is stunning. Just to say - if you’re frequently docked, then some people might grab a P15 instead.


Internal footage: appears to be a workable webcam with a mediocre quality. In the less well lit settings, expect some frame drops, and some audio lags if you move suddenly across the frame. An external webcam, in most cases with any laptop - will be a good spend, if you have space for it.


The volume has reached about 76db in our testing, which is respectable. The sound signature comes across as somewhat flat, although not too fatiguing. The speakers are upwards firing, the volume is sufficient to fill a small room - however, there is less bass in the output, than what you might expect from a high-end laptop ordinarily, had it not been a workstation laptop. Being a heavier workstation, imaginably some users will have it connected to external headphones, or speakers. Nonetheless, an improved speaker system, in the future with more bass, might be preferred.


The cooling system appears to be more powerful than the P73 cooling. The laptop runs more cool when it has the hybrid graphics mode activated in the BIOS (in comparison to the dGPU only mode). We’ve covered this in some detail in the 59mins review video which we’ve uploaded.
In short, when the screen is facing you, the palmrest and the keypad remain largely cool on the inside; the top left does heat up more. On the base cover, there are some spots which are distinctive warmer. Given that this is a heavier laptop, and that it does rely on the base cover vents to attract intake, it might be sensible to use this laptop on a desk, rather than on your legs, where possible.


Within the 3.5kg laptop, it houses a 94Wh battery (slightly down from the 97Wh on the P73).
  • During the hybrid graphics mode testing where the integrated graphics is enabled: the battery life as seen in our lighter battery test ranged from between 5-6 hours (YouTube 1080 playback + 5 news tabs refreshing each 30 seconds).
  • However, when you run the dedicated only graphics mode on the laptop, the battery life is expected to reduce significantly (to around 2-3 hours for the lighter workloads). The advantage of the dGPU mode, may be a more predictable application support, on some 3D softwares.
  • Integrated Li-Polymer 94Wh battery. Supports Rapid Charge (charge up to 80% in 1hr) with 230W AC adapter. Because it’s sealed within the battery - you’re able to purchase the “sealed battery” warranty, to ensure that you’re covered for longer.


  • From a workstation ThinkPad user’s perspective ThinkPad P73 has a passable keyboard, not exception, it’s functional. Arguably it’s moved from being class leading, to just similar to the other models from HP and Dell.
  • This will come across as a bit nitpicky.The keyboard is the same physical part, as the smaller ThinkPad P15. If you recall from our recent P53 vs P15 hands on - we found that keypad had room for improvements. We’ve picked up on having flex in the left side frame (in our hands on), which Notebookcheck (also observed later - screenshot). It’s more steady now, the rattling is less apparent on the P17. This indicates that the P17 has more support underneath for the keyboard. However, I was able to pick up some flex on the left hand side near the letter A, etc. If you remember the solutions on the earlier ThinkPads of having to jam something under the keypad to reduce that, it’s odd to be mentioning it again in 2021.
  • P17’s key action could do with more travel definition, before it’s movement is dampened at the bottom (when you initially use it to type fast, it feels a bit empty and results in incorrect key presses). This is partially because the key resistance is lacking a bit, and thus less resemble a proper key travel. P17’s keypad feels like playing the piano on a higher octave. Arguably a lighter key action is less fatiguing, but if you’re used to predictable feedback and have to switch to a keypad that requires a heavier press, you might not like it. The P73 passes the “pleasant test”. You’re only really able to notice this, if you’re coming from the P73 or an older workstation (e.g. Dell Precision M6800).

P17: TLDR Review Rating

What's great:

  • Decent performance for an Intel workstation laptop. Caveating this with the note that AMD has yet to launch properly on the workstation side, with a top-3 laptop OEM (Lenovo / Dell / HP).
    • The chassis appears solid & robust: let’s be honest, this isn’t the top choice for if you were shopping for an ultrabook. Customers have asked for more cooling, Lenovo delivered it. There is always the lighter ThinkPad P1 & P15 lineup for those use cases.
    • Wide range of upgradability: upto 128GB RAM, 2x M.2 SSD slots; 4K display options, upto RTX 5000, Xeon + i9 options.
    • Option for the premium support: upgrade from the starter depot repair to the onsite & Premiere option may help you to minimise any downtime. Accidental cover may also be available in some regions.  
  • Reasonable repairability: the modular GPU potentially allows for more accessible maintenance outside of warranty period, which is a bonus. The screen is still reasonably serviceable (not covered by the standard limited warranty anyway; but should you damage it outside of the warranty period). Other than the sealed sims slot in the non-WWAN model & the sealed battery, the repairability appears largely intact from the P73.
  • Good baseline screen spec (FHD). Optional 4K screen + Pantone Calibration
  • The array of ports which you would expect on the workstation
  • The noise seems well managed relative to the noise
  • WWAN option will be useful for some on-site work (provided that you opt for it at checkout).

Improvement areas:

  • Keyboard: less impressive feel than the ThinkPad P73. The key & click button action feels less satisfying than the P73; plus the removal of the bottom click button row could affect usability (some users could improvise with an external mouse).
  • The price as you’d expect is workstation level: although it could reach an eye wateringly high, very quickly. It will be sensible to work out what you absolutely need in the hardware requirement of the apps vs what you might want to keep the budget in check.
  • Physically bigger & heavier than some competitors: 10% heavier than Precision 7750); bigger bezel than the ZBook G7 (you retain the ease repairability of the screen)
  • Fewer M.2 slots than the competition (2x vs 4x on the Dell)
  • The battery works: it appears to range from between 1-3.5 hours in our testing, depending on the workload. The battery appears to work as an UPS. Hybrid Graphics mode enables a marginally longer battery life; dedicated graphics only mode appears to be more predictable in 3D apps.
  • Perhaps introduce a bigger charger e.g. 280-300W (to account for the dock power usage; Dell has a 330W option). If you use a dock on the P17 RTX model, then at the peak workload the laptop may leak battery % (because the dock supplies less than the charger’s 230W). Quadro T2000 and lower options aren’t affected.
  • Design & the feature set is on the safer side: vapour chamber cooling is the trend, it might be less feasible a feature set for the bigger workstations though.

Comparison of the ThinkPad P73 & the newer P17

Where the ThinkPad P17 is better (a step forward from the P73)

  • A more simple system to maintain (tiered maintenance: the small base service door & keypad covers all together enables the access to the customer serviceable parts: the 4x RAM slots & 2x M.2 slots; removing the larger base cover enables the access to the internals, this means an easier access for the technicians if you need to send the unit in for a service (e.g. the battery, GPU/CPU, etc).
  • The graphics card is modular, and plugs into the motherboard might make the maintenance /repairability more cost efficient, if/when the warranty runs out.
  • Overall a more powerful cooling solution: has a 30% protruding foot on the base cover enables more airflow to be pulled up; has a bigger vent too.
  • Higher burst & sustained power allowance on the CPU/GPU on paper.
    • The smaller ThinkPad P15 will enable 90W GPU TDP (up from 80 W), whereas the ThinkPad P17 will enable an impressive 110 W GPU power.
    • The RTX 4000 GPU was seen running between 90-110W; the CPU also has a high 90W PL1 and 135W PL2 power allowance (with the Xeon model at least), up from P73’s 70W & 107W.
  • Different material: The new casing material appears to enable more grip, and thus is harder to drop; the internal material is softer (although sometimes softer material might wear out sooner, it does feel better than the P73). The P17 appears to attract marginally less fingerprints.
    • P73: GFRP + PPS (Top), Magnesium-aluminum (Bottom)
    • P17: Case Material PPS695 + GF 50% (top), PPS + GF (bottom)
  • Marginally improved ports layout: 3.5mm audio jack no longer in the way (on the RHS); and ethernet has been moved to the back.

Where the ThinkPad P73 is better

  • More availability in the refurb channel, meaning that the entry / mid spec config pricing may be better. The real world performance, once you’ve factored in the likely cost difference to the newer model, might mean that the thinkPad P73 is still a very approachable option.
  • ThinkPad P73’s 9th Gen process could be undervolted (for better temperature); on the P17 - this appears no longer an option (however, that’s partially offset by a more powerful cooling system).
  • Better keypad feel overall (than the ThinkPad P17)
  • Has LED Disk activity /Wifi LED indicator under the screen (no longer available on the ThinkPad P17)
  • More storage slots (non RTX model: 1x 2.5" SATA & 2x M.2 x4 NVMe; RTX: 3x M.2 x4 NVMe slots); additionally, the P73 RTX model has 3x M.2 slots and thus may support RAID 5.
  • The P73 is lighter (0.1kg) & marginally more compact than the P17 (P73’s rubber feet is what accounts for some of its increased height, which improves cooling).
    • 416 x 281 x 25.9-31 mm; 3.4kg (P73)
    • 415.44 x 280.81 x 25.11-33.25 mm; 3.49kg (the new P17)
  • It has a marginally larger battery at 99Wh (vs the 94Wh on the ThinkPad P17); that said, looking for a longer battery life might not be as high a priority for some customers on the 17.3” workstation side.

ThinkPad P17 vs Dell Precision 7750

Strength of the Precision

  • The Precision has 4x storage slots, more than ThinkPad P73’s 2x M.2 slots.
  • The Precision will have a better speaker (though workstation laptops are likely to be used on a desktop, where setting up external speakers, or headphones might be sometimes preferred).
  • The Precision weighs in at approx 3.1Kg, vs the heavier ThinkPad at P17’s 3.5kg (without the charger).
  • There is a 330W Dell aftermarket charger option, which may be useful if you intend to run the higher end config, for sustained workload (the units are typically bundled with a smaller 240W charger though).

Where the ThinkPad P17 excels

  • Higher TDP allowance; the GPU is seen running between 90-110W; CPU also has a high 90W PL1 and 135W PL2 power allowance (with the Xeon model at least), up from P73’s. Dell Precision 7750’s TDP may lag marginally.
  • Has Pantone colour calibration option (whilst not as accurate as the external colour calibration softwares, it could still be still useful for the professionals who require mobility).

ThinkPad P17 vs HP ZBook 17 Fury G7

Strength of the ThinkPad P17

  • Larger power supply: standard HP charger option tops out at 200W (which limits the power head-room on the laptop).
    • Since both laptops are marketed with similar components, if the ThinkPad P17 is able to saturate the 230W charger (some docks enable you to plug a 2nd 65W charger to top-up), then it may be reasonable to assume that given ZBook’s lighter weight, and smaller charger, the sustained performance may be the area where it’s less strong as the ThinkPad P17.
    • Whilst aftermarket 230W and larger chargers may be available for the HP (small tip), it’s unknown if these will improve the sustained performance on the ZBook 17 Fury G7.
  • A more serviceable screen (HP’s screen appears to require a more intricate repair process to replace the screen).

Strength of the HP 17 ZBook Fury G7

  • The HP has better speakers internally.
  • The HP is lighter & thinner
    • 398.4 x 267.1 x 26.9 cm, from 2.76kg (HP ZBook 17 G7)
    • 415.44 x 280.81 x 25.11-33.25 mm; 3.49kg (the new P17)
  • DreamColour option - although the panel is typically similar to HP’s other 4K panels.
    • 17.3", 4K UHD (3840 x 2160), IPS, anti-glare, 550 nits, 100% DCI-P3, Next Gen HP DreamColor

Comparison Summary: Vs competitors (HP/Lenovo/Dell)

  • HP / Dell / Lenovo’s 17.3” workstation level products are marketed with a very similar set of components, looking beyond the marketing representation, there are some different approaches to their products. For this generation of the 17” product at least, it seems that Lenovo has produced a more performance focused product of the 3 OEMs (if you tend to value the performance over the form).
  • Dell’s 17” workstation line-up was arguably the leader in this category (e.g. it has more storage slots Dell Precision 7750 has 4x SSD slots); Lenovo was absent between 2011-2015 on the 17.3” form factor, and was perhaps perceived to catching-up since the ThinkPad P70. For this generation, Dell & HP’s products are increasingly focused on being thinner & lighter (3.1kg and 2.7kg, in comparison to the ThinkPad’s hefty 3.5kg). The unique selling point of the ThinkPad P17 - is the focus on the performance.
  • Whilst there are some innovative vapour chamber trends in the cooling system of the competing models (e.g. the HP ZBook 17 Fury G7 with RTX/AMD model), they’re somewhat let down by a smaller 200W out of the box charger (which reduces the sustained performance). An indirect cost of the thinner & lighter trend on the workstation line-up, arguably is the reduced repairability (e.g. the HP would have a more tricky to service screen, for example).
  • Looking at this laptop from the Spring 2021, it seems that AMD is still some time away from launching a mobile workstation level CPU for their Ryzen platform (e.g. 45W + TDP). This means that Intel will still be the go-to options for this generation. The 8-Cores mobile Tiger lake processor may be incoming soon, however, it’s unknown if/when they’ll appear in the ThinkPad P17.
  • Useful to define the caveat of the positioning of this laptop: this isn’t the fastest workstation laptop to date at the raw pace, but it might be the fastest ThinkPad laptop. This is because there will be the more niche Clevo or other 16-Core desktop replacement laptops (Ryzen options).
    • However, the ThinkPad is the mainstream powerhouse. The more specialist options are great on the performance front (when things are working) - but they often do not have as extensive an on-site support infrastructure as you’d expect from Lenovo / Dell / HP (if and when things go wrong, say if the computer doesn’t boot anymore). Suppose that you’re away in a different country - getting hardware support might be tricky with the smaller brands. Whereas going for a workstation from a top 3 brand, means that with international warranty, it could often be serviced promptly, locally.

Comparison Summary: Vs Older Lenovo P series

Diminishing returns if you have the higher end ThinkPAd P73; definitely worth a consideration, if you have P71 (global shortage). This is mainly due to the upgrade on the CPU/GPU side being potentially significant.



There are 3 typical levels of support with the Lenovo Think machines.
  • The depot is often the starter option, where you send it in for repair, get it back in a few days.
  • The onsite option will be preferred as the minimum by some customers.
  • The Premiere level support will be seen as the whiteglove option, with a local tech support team to assist you, along with prioritise parts/engineer allocation.
 If you run a very time sensitive workload on the laptop, where the downtime is costly - it could be noted that the Premiere level support is desirable. On the other hand, the on-site option will be seen as the standard option, acceptable in many workplaces (ability to justify the . For the simpler issues, the onsite resolution will be the preferred option; although in the more complex repair tickets, the Lenovo support team may ask you to send the laptop into the depot, even if you have onsite & Premiere.
It’s a large system, you might have to buy a new laptop bag.

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