Workstations – powerful, sturdy, reliable computers you buy to get work done. Serious work, the kind that requires massive processing power and latest-generation technologies.
For the last decades, the Lenovo ThinkPads have been one of the norms in this class of computers, next to HP’s ZBooks and Dell’s Precision lines.
In this article, we’re analyzing Lenovo’s latest iteration available as of the second part of 2019, the Lenovo ThinkPad P73. Much like its predecessors, this is a hefty and sturdily built 17-inch notebook, available in multiple configurations and options. Our unit sits towards the top of the range, with a UHD wide-gamut display, a Core i9 processor and a latest-generation Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000 professional GPU.
We’ve gathered our thoughts down below, with the strong points and quirks of this generation. We’re especially taking a very close look at the performance, thermals, and acoustics, as these are what primarily set the P73 apart from the older P72.
Specs as reviewed – Lenovo ThinkPad P73
Lenovo ThinkPad P73
Screen 17.3-inch UHD (3840×2160 px), 500 nits, Dolby Vision HDR, non-touch, matte
Processor Intel Coffee Lake Core i9-9880H (8 core/16 thread, 2.3 GHz base, 4.8 GHz boost)
Graphics Intel UHD 630+ Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000 90W with 8 GB GDDR6 (Nvidia 440.97 drivers)
Memory 32 GB (16 + 16) DDR4-2666 ECC (4x DIMMs)
Storage 1 TB M.2 NVMe SSD (Samsung PM981) – 3x M.2 PCIe slots with RAID 0/1/5 support
Connectivity Gigabit LAN (Intel I219-LM), Wireless 6 (Intel AX200) 2×2, Bluetooth 5.0
Ports 3x USB-A 3.1 Gen 1, 1x USB-C 3.1 Gen 1, 2x USB-C with Thunderbolt 3, 1x RJ-45 LAN, 1x HDMI 2.0, 1x SD card reader, 1x Smartcard reader
Battery 99 Wh, 230 Watt charger
Size 416 mm or 16.37” (w) x 281 mm or 11.06” (d) x 25.9 mm or 1.02” (h)
Weight 7.5 lbs (3.4 kg)+ 2.05 lbs (.93 kg) charger and cables, EU version
Extras backlit keyboard, HD webcam with ThinkShutter, IR camera, fingerprint scanner, TPM, Intel vPro, NFC (optional)
As mentioned earlier, the P73 remains highly configurable. Base models start with a Core i7 processor and Quadro T2000 GPU, while at the top you can opt for Xeon or Core i9 processors, up to 128 GB of RAM, triple storage and an RTX 5000 GPU.
Given the size of this laptop and the portable competition out there, I’d say a lower specked model won’t’ make that much sense in this kind of a chassis. Higher tier would, but there are still some aspects to consider in your decision, as you’ll find by the end of the post.
Design and build
This year’s ThinkPad P73 is identical to last year’s P72, so I’ll refer you to that article for
more of our thoughts on the design, build and ergonomics.
In fewer words, though, this notebook is built like a tank and doesn’t creak or bulge with everyday use, which is pretty much what I’d expect from a workstation. Materials like glass-fiber-reinforced polymers and magnesium-aluminum alloys are used for the various chassis elements, and they help achieve the excellent overall build quality.
At the same time, this is also a big and bulky computer, and it’s up to you whether that’s an issue. Most of the other professional 17-inch workstations are just the same, but some of the newer launches have started to take a more compact approach, though, like Asus with their StudioBook Pro X.
Asus’s StudioBook Pro or the Razer Blade Pro Studio Edition might also be interesting options if you’re after a more portable form-factor and mid-tier specs. I’ve added some pics below, they’ll help you understand the size-difference between some of these options.
I for one don’t mind the bulk of this kind of computers, I’m OK sacrificing size for performance and cooling. However, I do believe that even this industry will move forward to smaller builds in the years to come.
That aside, the P73 is also a fairly ergonomic computer, if you look past its limited portability, large footprint and tall profile, which can be hard to get used to for someone coming from smaller laptops. The materials are known to age well and the rougher texture of the interior does an excellent job at hiding scratches and smudges. I haven’t cleaned up this sample before taking the pictures, so that’s what it looks like after about two weeks. Not bad at all.
The screen is held in place by two sturdy hinges and can go flat to 180 degrees, and you’ll find a complete set of ports around the sides and on the back, smartly positioned to declutter your work-space. As of 2018, the ThinkPad P7X series is only compatible with Lenovo’s newer Thunderbolt 3 docks and no longer gets the physical connector on the bottom for legacy flat docks. That spurred complaints last year, but Lenovo chose to stick with their decision. They stuck with all their controversial design decisions, and we’ll get to that in a bit.
All in all, if you’re familiar with the Thinkpad design lines and build quality, this P73 won’t disappoint. Some of you might not appreciate its chunky size, especially with the multitude of ultra-portables available out there these days, and I do agree it’s starting to look a bit dated. At the same time, I feel that’s a sacrifice worth taking by its professional audience and compensated by the sturdiness, reliability and the power/thermals you’d expect from such a machine.
Keyboard and trackpad
One of my major gripes with last year’s ThinkPad P72 was with its redesigned keyboard that replaced some of the important function keys with narrower, shrunk-down versions. That hasn’t changed this year, as the P73 gets the same keyboard, so I’m still going to complain about it.
It might not seem like such a big deal, but these impacted keys (Home/End/Insert/Delete, PgUp/Pg|Dn, Ctrl, arrows) are the ones professionals use for various shortcuts, so they shouldn’t be compromised in any way. Especially when the only reason I can think off is cost-cutting, by pretty much implementing the same keyboard across the entire 15/17-inch ThinkPad line. Or perhaps there’s something that I’m missing? In the past, the P70/P71 got a different keyboard layout from the smaller options.
Layout aside, ThinkPad keyboards are supposed to be the norm for laptop keyboards or one of the norms. I for one am not sold, though, there’s just something about them that I can’t get used to, and you’ll find this feedback throughout most of my ThinkPad reviews over the years, even with the slight variation between models (or even within the same SKU).
I do like the speed, the way the keys feel to the touch and their quiet mechanism, but I struggle with the accuracy when typing quickly and never got to adjust my style to this specific feedback on these recent ThinkPad laptops. Or perhaps I’m salty for those old-style ThinkPads with the pre-chiclet keyboards, those were awesome. I still have the X220 around to remind me of that typing experience.
Nonetheless, most users swear by these Thinkpad keyboards, including Doug and Sam, two of our team members. That means most of you should also find them pretty solid options.
As for the touchpad, aside from the fact that it’s perhaps a little small by today’s standard, it’s otherwise pretty good. It feels like plastic to me, but it’s still smooth and comfortable to use, and the non-clickable surface seems sturdy and doesn’t’ rattle with taps. Clicky and quiet physical buttons are implemented underneath, as well as on top. Those top ones pair with Lenovo’s Trackpoint, an iconic reminiscence of the past and something die-hard ThinkPad users swear by.
The P73 also gets a finger-sensor, placed beneath the arrow keys, and an optional IR camera at the top of the display.
You can get the Lenovo ThinkPad P73 with two 17.3-inch matte screen options: FHD IPS 500-nits with 72% AdobeRGB coverage or UHD IPS 400-nits with 100% Adobe RGB coverage and Dolby Vision HDR. The latter is a roughly 250 USD upgrade and its the one we have on our review unit.
With our Spyder4 sensor, we measured peak-brightness levels of around 330 nits in the middle of the screen and fairly washed black, which resulted in a poor contrast of around 500:1. The panel was also slightly tilted towards Blue, with the White point at 7200K and DeltaE 2000 color variation of 3.9. Details below:
Panel HardwareID: Lenovo LEN4124 (B173ZAN01.0);
Coverage: 100% sRGB, 97% NTSC, 99% AdobeRGB, 88% DCI P3;
Measured gamma: 2.3;
Max brightness in the middle of the screen: 330 cd/m2 on power;
Contrast at max brightness: ~500:1;
White point: 7100 K;
Black on max brightness: 0.65 cd/m2.
Calibrating the screen lowers the DeltaE variation below 2 and also addresses the White Point, black-level and contrast, to some extent. Out calibrated profile is
available here, in case you want to give it a try or don’t have a calibration tool.
Our tests still signaled a fairly high brightness and color variation in the top and mid-low quadrants, which is not what I’d like to see in a premium panel. We also noticed some light bleeding around the frame, visible on black backgrounds.
On top of that, the brightness curve is aggressive towards the top, which means you’ll normally have to keep the display set-up at 60-80% for a higher than 100-nits brightness. There’s no PWM modulation at any brightness, though, so flickering is never going to be a potential issue.
Finally, I’d add that Lenovo used to advertise this panel as 10-bit on the older P72, and that’s no longer mentioned in the P73 listing. That’s good, as this has always been just an 8-bit + FRC panel, as
explained in this long thread.
All in all, while I’d prefer deeper blacks, this UHD panel has the potential to be a great tool for those of you who need a color-accurate display. Just make sure to test for uniformity issues and light-bleeding, and ask for a replacement if you get a sample that doesn’t meet your expectations. I’ve seen quite a few complaints from P72 owners, but most have been addressed by Lenovo changing the display, as part of
their pretty solid post-sale support and warranty services.
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Our ThinkPad P73 sample is a higher-end configuration with the eight-core Core i9-9880H processor, 32 GB of RAM, a fast 1 TB Samsung PM981 NVMe SSD and the Nvidia Quadro RTX 4000 90W graphics chip with 8 GB of GDDR6 VRAM.
Multiple lower-tier configurations are available, from the Core i7 processor and Quadro T2000 60W dGPU at to bottom to a Xeon CPU option (6 Core – Xeon E-2276M) and the Quadro RTX 5000 90W GPU at the higher end. Surprisingly, both the RTX 4000 and RTX 5000 GPU options are Max-Q variants with a 90W TDP (more on this below). That’s not clearly explained in the configurator, or something I would have expected in a full-size 17-inch workstation. However, you’ll understand why Lenovo went this route by the end of this section.
More on this matter, the driver does not report the chip as Max-Q, so you might argue that this is not a Max-Q chip. However, this is nonetheless a 90W implementation and not the 110W variant expected from the full-power mobile RTX 4000, which is exactly what Max-Q was supposed to signal. For some reason, it looks like Nvidia moved away from this moniker on the Quadro mobile chips, and I for one consider that this confuses potential buyers.
Before we get to that, you should know that our test model came from Nvidia and was running BIOS 1.15 and Nvidia 440.97 Graphics drivers, the latest available at the time of the article.
Lenovo also offers two working modes for the P73, and you can switch between them in BIOS:
Hybrid, which enables Optimus and allows the system to choose between the Intel iGPU and the Nvidia dGPU, like on most current laptops;
Discrete, which disables the Intel iGPU.
The latter is supposed to improve the graphics performance, but based on our tests, there’s little to no difference between the two modes in real-use and benchmarks. Of course, you will get much longer battery runtimes on Hybrid, which allows the Intel iGPU to take over in lower-tier tasks.
Before we get to talk about the performance, I’ll mention that the P73 gets the same bottom design as the P72, with an access bay that allows easy access to the storage drives (2x M.2 and the 2.5″ bay), two of the RAM slots and the battery. This laptop does not get a swappable battery, like the older ThinkPad P71/P70 used to. There are also 4x RAM slots inside, but two of them are hidden above the motherboard and would require to take out the keyboard to get to. Getting to the thermal module is an even more complex procedure, but you’ll find instructions on Youtube if you have to. We haven’t torn down our sample.
Anyway, let’s talk about performance. The first part of this section looks at the CPU’s ability to sustain 100% loads. We simulate that by running Cinebench R15 for 10+ times in a loop, with 2-3 seconds delay between each run.
Our P73 configuration gets the eight-core Core i9-9880H processor, which Lenovo allows to run at a fairly high 60W Power Limit, up from its default TDP of 45W. That translates into a pretty good performance.
With stock settings (on High Performance in Windows), the CPU settles for around 3.0 -3.1 GHz after several Cinebench runs, scores of 1350+ points, a TDP of 60 W and temperatures of around 92-95 degrees Celsius. You’ll notice that the performance drops after the initial runs and that the cores run hot, but Power Limit Throttling is the primary limiting factor. Still, the system favors low-noise and barely ramps up the fans in this load, which is why the CPU runs in the mid-90s.
We proceeded to improve this behavior by
undervolting the CPU. Our Core i9-9880H ran stably at -125 mV, and that translated in speeds of around 3.4 -3.5 GHz, scores of 1540+ points, a TDP of 60 W and temperatures of around 92-95 degrees. That’s a solid 15% gain over stock, but with the same high temperatures. The i9 can theoretically sustain up to 4.1 GHz Turbo Boost on all-core loads, so there’s still a 10-15% extra potential head-room on this sample. It would have to run at an even higher TDP, though, which would require improved thermals, thus faster fans and most likely a different thermal design.
Of course, the i9 scores much higher than the six-core Core i7 and Xeon E alternatives, but that doesn’t mean it can’t score better. The same processor fared better in this test inside the MSI GS75 Stealth, which is a much slimmer notebook with a more compact cooling solution.
Our sample performed well on battery too (details below), running at up to 60W and returning scores of above 1400 points in Cinebench, but with wider frequency/temperature variations.
Given the nature of this sample, we also stress-tested our sample with Prime95. You’ll notice that the CPU constantly runs at 60W in this test, but the frequency drops to keep temperatures in the 90-95 degrees Celsius.
Next, we’ve run the entire suite of tests and benchmarks, on stock settings.
We ran these on both the Hybrid and the Discrete BIOS modes, but we haven’t noticed major differences between them, so we’re only going to post the Discrete results in the article.
3DMark 11: 21928 (Graphics – 25655, Physics – 15803);
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 16764 (Graphics – 19093, Physics – 18423);
3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 7272 (Graphics – 7418, CPU – 6546);
3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 4372;
Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 4614;
GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5459, Multi-core: 28370;
GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1245, Multi-core: 7370;
CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1460 cb, CPU Single Core 192 cb;
CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3058 cb, CPU Single Core 457 cb;
x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 213.82 fps, Pass 2 – 85.64 fps.
x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 45.62 s.
Then we reran some of them on the -100 mV undervolted profile. We lowered our undervolt to -100 mV for the rest of our tests in order to prevent any sort of stability issues that won’t be acceptable on a workstation:
3DMark 11: 22149 (Graphics – 25862, Physics – 15846);
3DMark 13 – Fire Strike: 17166 (Graphics – 19210, Physics – 19778);
3DMark 13 – Time Spy: 8431 (Graphics – 7335, CPU – 7397);
3DMark 13 – Port Royal: 4477;
Uniengine Superposition – 1080p Medium: 4663;
PCMark 10: 6556 (Essentials – 10113 , Productivity – 8015 , Digital Content Creation – 9434);
GeekBench 4.4.2 64-bit: Single-Core: 5739, Multi-core: 30440;
GeekBench 5.0.1 64-bit: Single-Core: 1255, Multi-core: 7651;
CineBench R15 (best run): CPU 1646 cb, CPU Single Core 198 cb;
CineBench R20 (best run): CPU 3448 cb, CPU Single Core 468 cb;
x264 HD Benchmark 4.0 32-bit: Pass 1 – 213.68 fps, Pass 2 – 88.28 fps;
x265 HD Benchmark 64-bit: 41.88 s.
We also ran some Workstation related loads, some of them on both profiles and others on just the -100 mV undervolted settings:
Blender 2.80 – BMW Car scene- GPU Compute (CUDA): Time – 1:00.95 (UV);
Blender 2.80 – Classroom scene – CPU Compute: Time – 15:58.01 (stock), 14:11.61 (UV);
Blender 2.80 – Classroom scene – GPU Compute (CUDA): Time – 3:36.46 (stock), 3:46.56 (UV);
Blender 2.80 – Pavillion scene – GPU Compute (CUDA): Time – 5:50.45 (UV);
Luxmark 3.1 – Luxball HDR – OpenCL CPUs + GPUs score: 24681 (stock), 25995 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – 3DSMax: 189.08 (stock), 186.45 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – Catia: 269.32 (stock), 270.85 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – Creo: 266.85 (stock), 262.78 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – Energy: 39.17 (stock), 39.22 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – Maya: 280.09 (stock), 282.87 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – Medical: 80.97 (stock), 81.18 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – Showcase: 100.49 (stock), 100.73 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – SNX: 328.01 (stock), 325.3 (UV);
SPECviewerf 13 – SW: 155.13 (stock), 159.81 (UV).
The i9 CPU helps in most of these tests, where the P73 scores much higher than the six-core Xeon power
StudioBook Pro X we’ve reviewed a while ago (with earlier drivers, though). This also scores higher than the Core i7/ RTX 5000 ThinkPad P53 we’re also reviewing, which suggests a major influence of the extra cores, especially in the SPECviewperf 13results. We’ll be referring to the StudioBook Pro X throughout this article, simply because that’s the only other high-tier RTX Quadro laptop we’ve tested so far.
Back to our sample, undervolting the CPU helps boost the CPU scores in certain tasks, but not as much as I was expecting in combined CPU and GPU loads, which might seem a little odd.
But it’s not, and you’ll understand what happens from these next tests that put both the CPU and GPU to work at the same time.
First, we ran the 3DMark Stress Test. This sample did not pass-it with either stock or undervolted settings, but it was close. That suggests the first loops return higher scores than the following loops, so the performance slightly degrades once the heat builds up. The logs show average to high temperatures for both the CPU and GPU in this test. The system remains quiet, though.
Then, we moved on to our Luxmark CPU+GPU stress test, and that shows something interesting: the GPU runs well at its designed 90W TDP for the entire duration of the test, but fairly hot as well, in the low 80s. The CPU, on the other hand, kicks-in hard at 60+ W, but quickly drops to 45W and eventually stabilizes at 30W after less than two minutes. That’s corroborated with a drop in speeds below its core clock, or in other words, throttling.
Unplugging the laptop while running the same test instantly throttles the CPU and caps the GPU at around 30W, so don’t expect much in terms of performance when not plugged into the wall.
Finally, we ran the gruesome prime95 + Furmark test and confirmed the behavior mentioned above. While plugged in, the CPU drops to 30W and the GPU runs smoothly at 90W, albeit at fairly low frequencies. Both components average around 80 degrees Celsius in this test. Undervolting the CPU helps, allowing it to run at roughly 15% higher clocks within the same 30W TDP limit. Unplugging the laptop bottoms the CPU at under 25W and the GPU at 30W and 300 MHz.
That aside, we also ran a few games on this P73, just to see what you can expect in terms of performance and get a grip of the actual performance and CPU/GPU behavior from the logs. We tested these titles at the screen’s native UHD resolution or FHD, in the eventuality you’re getting the P73 with the FHD screen option.
Far Cry 5 (DX 11, Ultra Preset, SMAA) 99 fps
Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor (DX 11, Ultra Preset) 177 fps
Rise of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Very High Preset, FXAA) 60 fps
Shadow of Tomb Raider (DX 12, Highest Preset, TAA) 93 fps
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (DX 11, Ultra Preset, Hairworks On 4) 86-122 fps
Battlefield V, The Witcher 3 – recorded with Fraps/in-game FPS counter in campaign mode;
Far Cry 5, Middle Earth, Tomb Raider games – recorded with the included Benchmark utilities.
The HWinfo logs below show the CPU and GPU speeds and temperatures in Farcry 5 and Witcher 3 on the stock profile. You’ll notice that the CPU runs at above 90 degrees Celsius and 30W, while the GPU sits at around 80 degrees and full-power. Undervolting the CPU lowers temperatures to 80-84 degrees Celsius and allows constant high-frequencies in all our tests. The GPU still runs at 80 degrees, though.
However, raising the laptop to allow for improved air-intake underneath greatly lowers the GPU and the outer shell temperatures. That suggests a potential design flaw: the fans can’t pool in enough cool air in this slower-spinning setting that Lenovo uses for this machine (and also for the P53 or the older P52/P75 models).
I also noticed something else while playing games. Be careful not to bump the laptop or move it around, as on our sample that caused the Lenovo Active Protection to somehow interfere and limit the GPU to 30W. It eventually gets back to regular speeds after a few minutes, but the performance is limited during that time. I can’t tell whether this is a feature or a bug, I’m waiting for more details from Lenovo, but I’m inclined towards a bug of this sample.
We didn’t experience it on the P53 we’re testing on the side, but we ran into other issues with that one while running on the Hybrid mode.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity, speakers, and others
As per the
service manual and suggested by the overall design, the ThinkPad P73 gets a similar thermal module to the one on the P72.
It’s a basic design with a two fan setup, a single heat-pipe for the CPU and two heat-pipes for the GPU. It’s also a design that has been reported to
throttle the CPU in last year’s P72. On top of all that, the fans are set to run quietly, and they only ramp up to 41-42 dB at head-level in games and other taxing chores. They can’t draw enough fresh air in, that’s why raising this laptop from the desk lowers the temperatures by a significant amount, but internally and at the case level. Details below.
I’m not an expert in thermal design by any means, but out tests show that this is not entirely on-par with the thermal demands of this configuration.
The GPU runs fine in all our tests, but fairly hot, which is probably why Lenovo went with Max-Q implementations of the RTX 4000 and 5000 chips in the P53 and P73, the kind of hardware other OEMs put on much more portable chassis, like the
StudioBook Pro, MSI WS75 or the Blade Pro Studio.
The CPU, on the other hand, runs hot with stock settings, and although undervolting greatly helps, the i9 still doesn’t run at its maximum potential in short demanding tests, and clocks down to lower frequencies and Wattage in longer demanding loads. It does run faster than an i7 in tasks that primarily load the processor and don’t use the GPU much, but the difference gets much smaller in combined CPU and GPU loads, as explained in the previous section.
On a more positive note, I haven’t noticed any coil whining or electronics noise on this sample. However,
Sam encountered serious coil whine on the P53 he’s reviewed and users have reported similar issues on the P52/P72 models, so make sure to listen for anything unusual.
*Load, Flat on the desk – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes (fans ~ 41-42 dB)
*Load, Raised – playing Far Cry 5 for 30 minutes, laptop raised from the desk (fans ~ 41-42 dB)
Could faster-spinning fans improve the performance of this laptop? Maybe, but there’s still only so much that single CPU heatpipe can do. As for the GPU, that already runs smoothly on this laptop. It gets hot, true, but the performance is good, so perhaps faster fans would help with long-term reliability allowing to keep temperatures lower. Whether that update will happen or not, make sure to raise the laptop from the desk in the meantime, this little trick has a significant impact on the CPU/GPU temperatures.
For connectivity, the ThinkPad P73 gets Intel’s latest Wifi 6 AX200 chip in a 2×2 implementation, as well as Gigabit Lan through an Intel module. We’ve mostly used our sample on wireless, and it performed well both near the router and at 30+ feet away, with obstacles in between. Other WiFi 6 implementations performed better with our test-setup, though.
That the Lan cable in the middle of the right sidebar, next to your mouse, might bother you if you plan to use the wired Internet. I wish Lenovo would have put this anywhere else: on the back, on the left edge or at least towards the rear-part of this right side.
The speakers are hidden behind the mesh at the top of the laptop and they’re front-firing, so can’t be muffled with daily use. Their volume is only about average at 73-75 dB at head-level and the sound quality is rather tinny and lacking in the lows. ThinkPads are known for their poor speakers, as this one is no exception. I’m surprised that Sam found much nicer speakers in his P53, so perhaps the quality might vary between sources? Either way, take our findings with a grain of salt.
The webcam is nothing to brag about either, but it should do for occasional calls. It’s placed at the top of the screen and gets a physical privacy cover. Microphones and an IR camera is also placed there, which you can use for Hello or to track your eyes and automatically move the cursor when using multiple monitors.
The Lenovo ThinkPad P72 gets a 99 Wh battery, the upper limit for laptops according to air-travel regulations. We’ve tested runtimes on the Hybrid profile, which allows for the iGPU and Optimus, and here’s what we got, with the screen set at 60% brightness, roughly 120 nits:
25 W (~7 h of use) – text editing in Google Drive, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
17 W (~8 h of use) – 1080p Youtube fullscreen in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
16 W (~8 h 20 min of use) – 1080p Netflix fullscreen video in Edge, Better Battery Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON;
30 W (~5 h of use) – browsing in Edge, Better Performance Mode, screen at 60%, Wi-Fi ON.
Keep in mind our configuration gets the UHD screen, you’ll get longer runtimes with the FHD variant or if you lower the screen’s brightness and op to the Energy Saving profile in Windows, albeit this tends to make the computer sluggish.
We haven’t tested gaming or other taxing chores on battery due to the performance limitations that make these tasks hardly even possible in this case.
Our model was bundled with a 230W power brick, which is fair compact and about average in weight. A full charge takes a little over 2 hours.
Price and availability
The ThinkPad P73 workstation is available in stores in most regions of the world as of November 2019.
The base version starts at around $1450 in the US at the time of this post, but £2000 in the UK and €2000 in Germany, for fairly similar configurations with the i7-9750H processor, 8 GB of RAM, a 256 GB SSD, the Nvidia P620 GPU and the FHD screen. Higher tier models can easily go past 4000 USD/EUR, etc. This is nonetheless a business laptop, and they take this kind of pricing differently than the regular folk.
Now, if you’re looking into putting your own money into this product, those lower-tier configurations make no sense. You can get the same specs for less in smaller and lighter laptops.
The best value is in the Core i7 variant with the RTX 3000 80W (Max-P) graphics and the FHD screen, which starts at around $2000. The UHD screen is a $255 option, and you’ll also have to pay for RAM and storage based on your needs. But even in this mid-tier segment, you’ll find much smaller and nicer devices with the same specs and performance.
As for the Core i9/RTX Quadro 4000 configuration, that’s not as widespread. It starts at $3100 though and you’re only getting a 90W (so-called Max-Q) version of the RTX chip, as well as an i9 that beats an i7 in real-life use but can’t run at its full-potential inside this build. You’d expect it would at this price range and in this kind of a bulky chassis, won’t you? You’d expect uncompromised performance and thermals as well, won’t you? Well, I know I would…
Follow this link for updated configurations and prices at the time you’re reading the post, as well as potential discounts that might help you shave some off those list prices.
Much like all the other beefy 17-inch workstations out there, the ThinkPad P73 is a computer made for a specific niche of customers who need configurability, reliability and strong performance in demanding loads, all in a pack that’s built to last and won’t break easily. It’s also backed-up by Lenovo’s warranty and post-sale services, some of the better in this class.
The ThinkPad P73 is primarily meant for enterprise, where budgets don’t matter as much, but if you’re paying for it with your own money, you’ll want to consider that aspect as well.
However, the fact that this gets expensive is the least of my concerns here, especially since it’s not more expensive than other similarly specced options. Nor is the bulky construction, perhaps a bit dated by today’s standards. I can accept these on a work computer, but I expect excellent performance and thermals in return, and here’s where the P73 is a mixed bag. It performs OK in most tasks, but the CPU struggles in taxing combined loads, and the thermal module cannot keep the components cool with these kinds of demands. Undervolting the CPU and raising the laptop from the desk to improve airflow underneath help with the temperatures, but not with the i9’s performance.
On top of that, you only get lower-power variants on the RTX 4000 and 5000 chips inside the P73, and I’d expect full-power chips from a workstation of this size. 80/90 W chips are also available in ultraportable workstations, which perform similarly and run just as hot, so why not get those instead?
In conclusion, as said earlier, this laptop proposes the potential buyer with a bargain: you’re supposed to accept the form-factor, but the laptop needs to compensate with top performance and thermals. Based on our test, the P73 fails to meet the last part of this bargain, at least in part, that’s why I find this a tough sell in its class. The Core i9 doesn’t reach its potential, and the top-tier RTX chips are lower-power implementations, not the full-size variants available with some of the competition.
Of course, the mid-tier configurations are going to perform excellently in this chassis, but then again, you can get a Core i7/ Quadro RTX 3000 in a much more compact chassis, so why get it in a P73?