Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen3 Review (with Linux)

I’ve used Linux for many years on servers, but still kept macOS as my main working environment for almost ten years now. A few months ago, I gave up on macOS and started using Fedora as my main operating system on the ThinkPad P1 Gen3 15”.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

I’ve posted this image to Reddit r/linuxmasterrace and redditors had a lot of questions about the experience with this device, so I decided to share it here.

Specs

Display: 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS Dolby Vision HDR
GPU: Integrated Intel UHD Graphics
CPU: Intel Core i9-10885H (2.40 GHz, 8 Cores, 16 Threads, 16 MB Cache)
Memory: 64 GB DDR4 2933MHz (2 x 32 GB)
Storage: Toshiba XG6 1 TB PCIe SSD
Operating System: Fedora Workstation 35

My Key Takeaways

Color meanings: green - good, yellow - mixed feelings, red - bad.

🟡 Design. The ThinkPad P1 is a really beautiful looking device with a high build quality. It’s functional and minimal looking at the same time.

Chassis is made from carbon fiber and magnesium, which makes it really light and comfortable to work with.

However, it’s a fingerprint magnet. Every single touch on the laptop will leave a visible fingerprint.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3 ThinkPad P1 Gen3 ThinkPad P1 Gen3 ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🟢 Keyboard is back-lit, responsive and pleasant to type with. It’s a really well designed keyboard, which gives an amazing typing experience with enough travel and a firm feel.

I don’t like that it doesn’t have the media control buttons, but I’ve mapped the F12 button as my play/pause button. Also, the Fn key is located in the very left corner, but the functionality can be swapped in the Lenovo firmware settings so it becomes the Ctrl key.

Other than that, I don’t have any issues with the keyboard. Lenovo is well known for their world-class keyboards and this one is not an exception.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🔴 TrackPad is terrible. I don’t know how Lenovo never managed to actually innovate and create a decent touch-pad. For me, the experience is just awful: gestures are not working, dragging stuff is almost impossible, accuracy is very low. I am not overstating it. ThinkPad users who switched from MacBooks can also confirm that. I only got used to the TrackPad after 3 months of usage.

Lenovo is famous for their TrackPoint (that little red thing on the keyboard), but I am not sure if I’ll take the time to learn using it. Some say it’s far more precise and comfortable as you don’t have to lift your fingers from the keyboard. I might give it a shot sometime.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🟢 Fingerprint reader. I didn’t expect it to work, but it did! It’s not as accurate as the one on the MacBook, but it’s pretty much close. It was harder to register my finger, but when I did, the experience was flawless.

I use it to unlock the laptop, confirm elevated permission prompts, unlock third party apps like 1Password and even authenticate sudo commands in the Terminal.

🟡 Webcam is not great, not terrible. The 720p camera produces a good enough image during my meetings.

I really like that the camera features a built-in ThinkShutter webcam privacy shutter. No more stickers, that can actually break your screen.

🟡 Speakers. A custom designed Dolby Atmos speaker system sounds good, but it’s still not as good as I would expect it to be. It’s good for work, but not for listening to music or gaming.

🟢 80 Wh battery is rated at 15 hours, but it lasts a bit less during normal usage. Anyway, the battery life is still great for such a powerful workstation:

🟢 Performance is exceptional. With specs like that, I could not expect anything else.

During a really heavy load, thermal throttling limits performance, but nothing substantial. I am not really doing a lot of multi-threaded workloads, so I rarely even hear a loud fan noise during normal day-to-day usage. I don’t remember ever experiencing any lag with this machine.

I think this is the strongest part of this laptop.

🟢 GPU. ThinkPad P1 supports Nvidia Quadro T1000 and T2000 4GB Max-Q cards, as well as integrated Intel UHD Graphics.

I opted for the integrated Intel UHD Graphics due to well known issues with Nvidia, which gives me a simple device without the need to deal with video drivers. On top of that, I am not planning to run anything more GPU intensive than Factorio.

Overall, I like how the Intel UHD Graphics performs. I didn’t feel any lag with an external monitor connected via the USB-C port.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🟢 Display is configurable from the base version 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS up to 15.6” 4K (3840 x 2160) OLED with Dolby Vision HDR.

I had to choose the 15.6” FHD (1920x1080) Dolby Vision HDR screen, because 4K options are not supported on the integrated GPU. It’s a HDR400 WVA IPS display panel with 16:9 aspect ratio, 800:1 contrast ratio and 72% NTSC color gamut.

I guess it’s a decent display that does the job for me, as someone who works with an external display most of the time.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🟢 Connectivity options are very extensive:

What else would you need?

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🟢 Expandable. If you still need better specs, no problem. Open the laptop and install new parts. No soldered memory or storage devices. Not like the competition.

ThinkPad P1 Gen3

🟢 Linux support. Good support for Linux out of the box. I only had to install some video/audio codecs so HTML5 video would play on Firefox.

Conclusion

Lenovo ThinkPad P1 Gen3 is a well built mobile workstation, which runs absolutely great with Linux. It’s a perfect choice for engineers who need enough computing power and a comfortable typing experience. The only major downside for me is the touch-pad.


Comments

Ernestas, 2022-05-03 12:49

I think it would be unfair comparison as I am using base FHD display, while MacBooks have Retina displays with superior pixel density. 221 ppi / 2880x1800 px / 15.4” display is visually better than 96 ppi / 1920x1080 px / 15.6”.


I use the same machine for work and the compatibility is horrible. (I use Arch) With wayland it kind of works but with X its just a mess. (And I have to use Teams … so X it is for me) If I use the hdmi port I have to switch to dedicated graphics. If I use only the integrated display I have to switch to hybrid graphics. Otherwise performance is really worse. Sometimes the integrated display just stays black after boot. Good to here that it seems to be possible to use the machine with linux. Hope it still works for you, I will switch to a Macbook :)

Ernestas, 2022-05-02 17:51

Did you try any other distro? Arch has a very minimal base system, so it all depends on how you configure things. Try something more polished like Fedora or Ubuntu and see how that works.

Did he really just call Arch unpolished compared to Ubuntu? Jeez.

Ernestas, 2022-05-02 20:52

Tiago, yes I called it that way simply because when you are getting started you have to install and configure everything yourself. Slight misconfiguration and you have unexpected issues. It’s not for beginners. You don’t switch back to macOS from Arch.

Ubuntu includes everything you need to get started right now: network manager, desktop environment and all other required services.

Yeah I tried Ubuntu before. It is slightly better but still all kinds of funny business with the nvidia driver. (the hdmi port just didn’t work) The only reason I switch to MacOS now, is the fact that my company only allows this Thinkpad or a MacBook for work. (And I will not go back to Windows :)

Ernestas, 2022-05-03 08:39

It is slightly better but still all kinds of funny business with the nvidia driver.

I assumed you use the same config with Intel graphics, so there you have the reason. Nvidia doesn’t have a good Linux support right now.


Do you use this as your machine for work? Is this provided by the company you work for or is is it “bring your own device” (byod)?

I’m curious because I’d love to use a “byod” Linux machine as my daily work machine, but alas my company does not allow that so I’m stuck with Mac.

Ernestas, 2022-05-02 15:26

It’s provided by the company, I don’t think I would use my own device just so I can run Linux. macOS is also great.


Ernestas, 2022-05-02 14:40

You don’t, but you can enable comment moderation if this gets out of hand. Here is a short article on the comment system used.


Thanks!

I had to chime in that, if 14” vs 15.6” is not a deal breaker, P14s Gen 2 with Ryzen 5850U, 32GB RAM and integrated GPU is the most performant, silent, portable and generally capable laptop I ever had (and I’ve changed a lot).

I got greedy and switched to a MBP 14 with M1 Pro, which is also great, but almost everything (speakers and trackpad excepted) on P14s was either on par or even better (perf, ports, weight, noise, keyboard, build, screen, battery…). MBP is excellent, but I miss my Arch setup a lot and don’t think I would miss anything from the MBP actually if I switched back.

I know Lenovo is going downwards with Thinkpad line, but P series seems to still hold well.

I would agree. My T14 Gen 2 with a 5850U has excellent performance and battery life and no need to compromise on not having a nice UHD display either, Intel really has lost the plot as well as the game.

In regards to your review, what surprises me is that if you spend most of your time using a large ext monitor, why do you even care about the touchpad?

Ernestas, 2022-05-03 07:59

In regards to your review, what surprises me is that if you spend most of your time using a large ext monitor, why do you even care about the touchpad?

Yes, it’s not a deal breaker for me, that’s why I still keep the device. But for someone who used MacBook before, the difference is huge, so I shared the full expierence.



I use a P1 Gen2 for work and also had multiple issues with the trackpad, at the end only way to get it working was to disable it while a mouse is connected, and to disable the left and right click buttons at all time. Dont know why such a premium laptop has such a weird issue with its trackpad. Otherwise its a great laptop.

Ernestas, 2022-05-03 08:53

Why did you need to disable buttons? I never had such issues.


Thanks! Those touchpad issues, would they be caused by the hardware or would they be driver-related? (Did you try the trackpad in Windows?)

Ernestas, 2022-05-02 07:04

I think they are hardware related as I was running Windows with dual boot on this laptop and the trackpad performance was the same.