The ThinkPad P15 from Lenovo is a monster. With a Core i9-11950H processor and NVIDIA RTX 5000 graphics with 16GB GDDR6 RAM, this is about as powerful as a portable PC gets. It’s a mobile workstation, which means it’s built to handle heavy workloads like video editing and multi-threaded applications like 3D rendering.
I’ve been using it for almost two months now, as Lenovo also provided me its ThinkReality A3 augmented reality headset for evaluation a few weeks ago. It’s a virtual desktop solution when connected to the P15. Indeed, instead of an actual monitor, I’m writing this review while looking at a virtual screen projected onto glasses. It’s a bit of a whirlwind.
While this is what it does when linked into a ThinkPad P-series laptop, it can also see 3D models when plugged into a phone like the Moto G100 (in case you didn’t know, Lenovo owns Motorola). However, the question remains as to how practical it is.
Lenovo ThinkPad P15 Design, Display, and Keyboard
The ThinkPad P15 is the most powerful laptop in the ThinkPad range, along with the P17. As you’ve probably observed from the spec sheet, it’s costly, but that’s because it has so much power to back it up. It isn’t a laptop for everyone. It is designed for users who require the highest processing power possible on a portable computer, such as 3D modeling, CAD, 3D video rendering, and so on.
As a result, it’s no surprise that the P15 is large, thick, and cumbersome. It’s about six and a half pounds and over an inch wide, so it’s not precisely an ultrabook you can throw in your backpack. If you have the ThinkReality A3, this device can also power an augmented reality experience.
It’s available in any color you choose as long as it’s black, as is customary. It has the gray ThinkPad logo, rather than the black one used on the premium X1/P1 series, which you’ll find on common ThinkPads. While this is the most powerful, it does not fit under the premium category, which necessitates a thinner and lighter gadget.
It has a lot of ports, as you’d expect from a system like this. There are two Thunderbolt 4 connections on the back and a USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-C port, Ethernet, and an AC power jack. The AC port is the one that looks like a USB Type-A port, and Lenovo is still utilizing its proprietary cable because USB Power Delivery doesn’t support the 230W required for this machine, but that’s changing. It’s worth noting that the USB Type-C connectors aren’t even capable of charging this computer slowly.
As you can see, all three USB Type-C ports are close to each other, so you’ll have to figure out which is which depending on your needs. The two Thunderbolt 4 connectors require far more wire than the USB 3.2 Gen 2 port.
An HDMI 2.1 port, USB 3.2 Gen 1 Type-A, and a 3.5mm audio jack are all found on the left side. A slug is also present, which is more useful if you have the cellular model. I’m not sure why anyone still uses USB 3.2 Gen 1 for USB Type-A connectors, which only supports 5Gbps speeds. USB 3.2 Gen 2 has 10 Gbps speeds and appears to be more realistic.
Lenovo ThinkReality A3: The setup experience
The Lenovo ThinkReality A3 is a fantastic idea. You can set up up to six displays in front of you if you plug it into the ThinkPad P15. That means you can go on the road with just a laptop and a headset, which adds to a mobile desktop computer. It’s a bit of a whirlwind.
Because I had such a difficult time with the setup process, so I’m writing a separate piece. Not only that, but I only discovered a few troubleshooting resources online. I can’t imagine putting this in the hands of a user and having them set it up.
If everything goes well, the setup process is relatively straightforward. There’s a lovely carrying case for it, as you can see in the image above, and you can pull out the glasses and connect them in via a USB Type-C port.
The first thing you must do, though, removes the front glasses. In reality, much of this equipment may be disassembled so that you can use pieces that are more comfortable for you. All of the surfaces of the glasses are covered in the blue film out of the box, and you must remove the front piece to remove the film. There were no directions in the box on how to remove that item. I needed to consult the reviewer’s manual that Lenovo included with my machine. It turns out that each side has holes in which a pin can be inserted to remove the piece.
After that, I just plugged it in. It’s a single-cable solution that is used with any of Lenovo’s ThinkPad P-series workstations. It should automatically install and activate Lenovo Virtual Display Manager after you plug it in. It is the software you’ll use to add and remove displays, as well as zoom in and out on them.
After that, I just plugged it in. It’s a single-cable solution that with any of Lenovo’s ThinkPad P-series workstations. It should automatically install and activate Lenovo Virtual Display Manager after you plug it in. This software you’ll use to add and remove displays, as well as zoom in and out on them.
There was no single good idea for why this might not be working on Lenovo’s website. Again, I’m concerned about what will happen if an average user is forced to go through this.
By doing things that shouldn’t have worked, I was able to get it to function. I took the USB Type-C cable that came with the headset and turned it the other way. I reverted to Windows 10 from Windows 11. Both of these methods were successful.
Using the ThinkReality A3 for a regular workflow
It’s pretty nice if you have it set up, though I had some issues where it would just crash after an hour or two. It was also challenging to get back on track. Other than disturbing your workflow, the headset crashing has very few genuine repercussions. It’s the same as having numerous monitors set up, and one of them is turned off. All of the apps are crammed into the second monitor.
The Lenovo Virtual Display Manager tool allows you to add and delete desktops, but that’s not all. You may reposition and rearrange them, as well as modify the angle and zoom in and out. For example, I found that the virtual display was a little too close to my face when I first started using it, so I just moved it back a little. That’s all there is to it.
In the end, it’s the most space-saving option to have numerous monitors. The headset also includes cameras on the front, so you can easily switch from the webcam to the headset’s cameras if you want to show folks what you’re looking for on a call. It’s cool.
Performance and battery life
In Adobe Premiere Pro, I generated a four-minute 8K film in 13 and 48 seconds, against 21 minutes and 11 seconds on the new M1 Max MacBook Pro and 22 minutes and 41 seconds on the Surface Laptop Studio. It’s just an illustration of how powerful this machine is.
And, as I previously stated, this is the most potent weapon available, but it is also the most expensive. The point is that before you spend serious money on a ThinkPad P15, you should know what you want to do with it. Because this is a mobile workstation, we’re talking about jobs that require multiple cores in a processor, such as 3D rendering.
Aside from the size and weight, you’ll be sacrificing battery life as well. It will only last a few hours because it is the price you pay for solid hardware. Without a charger, I honestly can’t picture carrying this anyplace.
In my review, I didn’t spend much time on the ThinkPad P15 because it’s essentially a spec boost. You most likely already know what type of machine you require. Because it’s a novel concept, the ThinkReality A3 is significantly more intriguing.
I genuinely like the concept. This thought of having a laptop with a headset that I can expand to work like I would with my desktop is lovely for someone who frequently travels (that’s a complete lie because I haven’t been on a plane in nearly 20 months, but travel is starting to pick up again). It’s something I’d find quite handy on the road, as I regularly find myself constrained by a single, smaller screen.
The more significant issue, at least in my experience, is that it’s simply not stable. Furthermore, with the ThinkReality A3, there is simply no easy method to find solutions to your difficulties. While I enjoyed using it, I would never take it on the road since I lack the faith that it would function when needed.
The ThinkPad P15 from Lenovo is a monster. With a Core i9-11950H processor and NVIDIA RTX 5000 graphics with 16GB GDDR6 RAM, this is about as powerful as a portable PC gets. It's a mobile workstation, which means it's built to handle heavy workloads like video editing and multi-threaded applications like 3D rendering.