Review: Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 packs a punch despite being slightly boring

The brand has been around for nearly 30 years, so is it dated or a modern masterpiece?
The brand has been around for nearly 30 years, so is it dated or a modern masterpiece? Photo credit: Newshub

There's something reassuring about the Lenovo ThinkPad and it's black and red design, which harkens back to the days when it was owned by IBM.

Lenovo purchased the brand in 2005 but you can still see the bento lunchbox-inspired design that originated in the early '90s, including on the new P14s i Gen 2.

I think that retro feeling brings about a predisposition to be kind to it - there's not many laptops around that are as 'old' as the ThinkPad, so I consider it being nice to my elders.

But this isn't a computer that's on its last legs or even looking forward to retirement.

It's powered by a mighty Intel Core i7-1185G7 vPro processor, and with 32GB RAM onboard it's going to be faster than me and my credit card when new Lego sets are released.

Can it shake off that feeling of belonging to another age to take its place among the other high-performance machines on the market today?

I've been using the Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 for a couple of weeks and here are my thoughts.

The good

There's a reason ThinkPad laptops are common for businesses: They're undoubtedly durable and made to last, and they have one of the very best keyboards in the business.

That doesn't change with the P14s i Gen 2. The keyboard is simply a pleasure to work on. Touch-typing requires a certain feel and travel with the keys to make it natural, and this does it with aplomb.

I'm also delighted by how quiet the laptop is, in general. Of course when you've got lots of high-CPU intensive stuff going on the fans kick up a bit and you get some heat, but it never felt like it was getting ready to blow. That can't always be said about modern laptops.

I worried that the relative lack of noise might indicate performance was going to drop when I ran a suite of programs and multitasked, switching between them often, but this proved not to be the case.

There was the occasional moment when the laptop took a millisecond longer than normal to 'think' about what I'd asked it to do and respond, but this was a rarity and never a problem.

One thing I really liked was the introduction of a new privacy shutter for the webcam. I tend to leave my webcams uncovered because I'm pretty boring and there's nothing better than using Windows Hello! to log on to a computer.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2
Photo credit: Newshub

If you're a little more concerned about your privacy than me, however, then a little slider at the top of the webcam allows you to move a cover across to physically block it, meaning even if someone does manage to hack into your system they're not going to be able to see you.

The model also offers PrivacyGuard protection that, with the press of a couple of keys, makes your laptop screen much less visible by anyone walking nearby. 

The functionality isn't something I see myself using often, but it's a decent addition if you're working on something top secret in public and want to avoid scrutiny.

There are also plenty of ports on the side of the P14s, again bucking the trend for laptops to be smaller, lighter and ultimately less usable.

There's a couple of USB-A ports, two Thunderbolt 4s, an HDMI 2.0, a microphone/headphone combination jack, an ethernet port and a docking station port.

It means, even without docking, there's enough there you can plug in peripherals and charge your phone without having to resort to other options.

I didn't get to test out this laptop with a docking station, but for me they really show their value when plugged into an external monitor.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2
Photo credit: Newshub

Using a Thunderbolt connection I was able to get 3840x1600 resolution without stressing out the ThinkPad or with any noticeable slowdown. 

The 14-inch screen is fine for a bit, but with a maximum 1920x1080 resolution it doesn't quite have the same impact as a big display to make it easier to navigate and multi-task.

One thing I should note is that in a review of another Lenovo-branded laptop, I was furious at the amount of bloatware installed on it, along with being told it could perform better if you paid extra money for software to improve it. 

There's nothing like that with the P14s, perhaps thanks to it being aimed at a different audience. Nonetheless, I greatly appreciated that I was treated like an adult and didn't have a whole lot of extraneous programs on my device.

Overall, the P14s is light to carry and has a very good battery life. I got through an entire day of usage, albeit not with the CPU stressed out all the time, and still had juice left. It also does a good job of maintaining battery levels when you shut the lid to put it to sleep. 

The bad

So, there's a lot to like about the second generation of P14s laptops, but not everything is quite as sweet.

One of the great things about modern laptops and screens is the ability to decrease the bezel size and give you more viewable area in the same footprint.

The ThinkPad really doesn't do itself any favours here. The bezels are big and really contribute to that throwback look compared to more modern designs.

The TrackPoint controller is also part of that. The little red joystick with bumps on it that sits between the G, H and B keys has been a standard of the design, but now feels like it's there as some kind of in-joke.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2
Photo credit: Newshub

Yes, it moves the cursor on screen, but when you've got a very functional trackpad why would you bother? If Lenovo got rid of it, I wonder how long it would take someone to notice?

While I praised the privacy options for the built-in webcam the hardware itself is less than stellar.

It's a 720p camera that's simply not up to standard these days. It offers just 0.9MP 1280x720 stills.

With virtually everyone using video conferencing for professional purposes these days, it really is time to up the offering to at least 1080p for better clarity and quality on calls.

I also found the overall brightness of the screen a little underwhelming. It can operate at up to 500 nits, but I had it turned all the way up while using the battery and it wasn't bright enough for me to be happy with it.

That improved substantially when I plugged it into my monitor, even when a bug meant I couldn't change resolution when my external device was set as the single, main monitor.

I eventually got it fixed and the brightness and clarity I wish I had on the laptop screen were there.

It's also not a machine that's going to become an entertainment hub in a hurry. The audio sounded okay, with the screen itself helping direct the sound from the speaker bar in front.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2
Photo credit: Newshub

It also played some older games without question, but there was a noticeable stutter to the characters' movements when playing out Subnautica: Below Zero.

Then again, it's not what it was designed for.

The verdict

Every time I use a ThinkPad I'm transported back in time to when another company owned the brand and technology was a little simpler.

Whatever device I used back then however certainly wasn't the powerhouse that the P14s i Gen 2 is.

This isn't a laptop for people to use around the house for online shopping and a little bit of web browsing.

It's designed for power users who need performance on the go and are prepared to pay for it.

Lenovo ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2
Photo credit: Newshub

This laptop starts at $3559 for the lowest specification, and for that you're going to get a strictly professional-like experience.

It might be super quick, but it's not flash and it's certainly not sexy. It will look perfect tucked away in a leather briefcase on the train because it's not going to get admiring glances from passers-by.

If you need a dependable unit from a reliable brand that packs a real punch underneath the retro casing, then this is a winner.

And if you can get your business to pay for it? Then it's practically a no-brainer.

Newshub was supplied with a ThinkPad P14s i Gen 2 for this review.