Lenovo recently announced an interesting machine line-up, composed of extremely powerful CPU and GPU offerings in the P70 line of workstations, some more modest ones in the P50 and P50s lines, and an interesting blend of performance/features in the fresh P40 Yoga line.
ThinkPad Yoga P40 is a more professionally oriented version of the ThinkPad Yoga 460, now with ISV certification, Quadro graphics card with certified drivers, and other goodies.
These workstation serve a variety of processing and communications requirements, but aren’t limited to that type of workload.
From the ultra high-end ThinkPad P70’s – equipped with mobile Xeon CPU’s and nVIDIA Quadro GPU’s up to the M5000M, through the middle-end segment by way of the ThinkPad P50 and P50s machines, Lenovo have provided machines useful for a variety of tasks ranging from hardcore render or GPGPU compute to the simple use of spreadsheets. These machines are great for work, but not so great for a specific demographic: the mobile creative professional.
The Yoga P40 series is a lightweight, feature-packed machine, with very little focus on raw performance, and much more on portability, virtual real estate, display quality, connectivity and interface.
The machine was first unveiled at Autodesk University 2015, where Kyle Runciman, industrial designer and strategic content manager for Autodesk, had this to say about the machine:
“Sketching is the foundation of everything we do. Designers can sketch for months to hone their ideas, and when they do get them to a point where they feel they’re ready for prime time, they can benefit from a separate, ISV-certified mobile workstation to visualize the designs. The ability to perform all of these capabilities on a single machine is huge for our industry.”
So Lenovo are hitting the creative professional market pretty strongly, which is especially great insofar as there are very few machines on the market taking this segment seriously. To drum this up, the machine is built to standards, such as Mil-SPEC compliance for the manufacturing process (who doesn’t want to sketch and draw on military-grade hardware?), ISV Certification to guarantee compatibility with the more popular professional software applications, four usage layouts, a high-quality, high-resolution IPS display, a Wacom Active ES Pen and digitizer, and the list of features just goes on and on.
So what does this mobile workstation look like?
The Yoga P40 case is sturdy, sleek and black, with an ever-so-slightly granular finish. It looks very much nondescript until you open up the screen.
The review piece is a test sample, and as such has some minor differences from what will be in the retail version. There were some hang-ups involving driver installation for the Quadro M500M chip, but we expect this won’t concern retail owners.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga P40 technical specs are as follows:
As you can see above, Lenovo offer two CPU’s for the Yoga P40. One is the i7-6500U CPU running at a maximum frequency of 3.1GHz, and offering no vPro support. The other is Intel’s Core i7-6600U chip – a dual-core Skylake with two hyper-threaded cores running at a top clock of 3.4Ghz, manufactured on a 14nm process node, and includes 4MB of Smart Cache memory. It also includes an Intel HD Graphics 520 iGPU, and vPro support.
Intel HD Graphics 520 is a „GT2” version of the Skylake integrated GPU, running 24 Execution Units at a clock-rate of 1050MHz. The chip’s performance is like that offered by the GT-640M LE or AMD Radeon HD 8670M.
nVIDIA Quadro M500M is the Yoga P40’s dedicated GPU offering. It’s a Maxwell-architecture GM108 chip, manufactured on a 28nm process by TSMC. The chip offers DirectX 12 support at the 11_0 feature level. General performance is similar to that of nVIDIA GeForce 930M.
The motherboard is an interesting bit of tech. Lenovo specify this as being an Intel SoC platform. The SoC features an Intel Skylake-U chipset and Skylake-Y PCH. Interconnecting the various PCI Express devices is accomplished by an Intel 100 Series Chipset, offering one PCI bus, two PCIe 3.0 x1 buses, and one PCIe 3.0 x4 bus.
The 16GB of DDR3-1600 memory is produced by Micron. In our test system the memory operates in single-channel configuration, which is not optimal. We expect retail machines to be shipped running dual-channel RAM.
Lenovo offers two display options for the Yoga P40. One is a 14″, glossy, LED-backlit IPS panel advertised as having 300 nits’ luminosity, featuring WQHD (2560×1440) resolution. The second option features a FHD (1920×1080) matte display, providing 250 nits’ brightness. The IPS panel of our test device is reported as having 13.9″, and is produced by LG.Display under the LP140QH1-SPE1 code-name, the same used for the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon’s display.
Multi-touch ability is offered through a capacitive touch screen, advertised as supporting 10-finger gestures.
Storage: The specifications of the retail Yoga P40 version feature 512GB of SSD storage, in M.2 format. Our test model uses a Samsung MZ7LN256HCHP-000L7, GPT-partitioned, 256GB SSD.
Wireless LAN as well as Bluetooth connectivity is ensured through the Intel 8260, 2×2-compatible (featuring two radio streams) card, also in M.2 format.
Wireless WAN connectivity is offered through two options. One is Sierra Wireless’ EM7455, the other is one of Qualcomm’s unnamed 4G LTE-Advanced chips.
Dimensions: 338mm Length / 236.3mm Width / 19.9mm Height (13.3″ x 9.3″ x 0.78″). The P40 Yoga’s weight starts at 1.8Kg.
The design and build-quality created by Lenovo for the ThinkPad P40 Yoga are one of the major strengths of this workstation.
The Yoga P40 design is aesthetically pleasing, the housing is quite firm on both the body and the screen. Carbon-composite is used for the case, with a magnesium-alloy frame holding everything together on the inside. While the machine itself is quite light, the Mil-SPEC certification underlines the effort made to meet solid build quality.
The case is rigid and inflexible, and the screen itself offers a balance between rigidity and flexibility so that heightened pressure won’t crack either the bezel or the screen. There is some give when choosing relatively ridiculous one-handed grips to hold the machine by the screen, and very low levels of distortion – the user would have to squeeze really hard to get distortion feedback on the panel itself.
The screen features an interesting finish – the panel itself has a half-matte coat, where the protective glass has some gloss to it. The result is a mixed experience – on the one hand, reflections are always present on the glass, even in very low-light conditions. On the other hand the screen reflects less light than I expected. Specifically, dark backgrounds will reflect, white backgrounds will not. Thus, the screen is quite suitable for work in most environments, including outdoors.
The TrackPad and its surroundings, like the palm rest area, are well designed. There is ample space to rest your palms, and it’s in fact possible to write using comfortably relaxed wrists and fingers. The edge of the case does not cut into skin after long use, as is a very common problem across a wide array of manufacturers and laptop lines (including Macs).
The TrackPad design is like that of the Lenovo ThinkPad W541. The TrackPad is sensitive, with plenty of space, and features a welcome design decision – Lenovo has inserted a dead-zone between the top of the TrackPad and the buttons above – not only avoiding the extremely common problem of accidentally touching the TrackPad when using the TrackPoint, but also compensating for accidental left-palm touches when writing.
Once the screen is opened, we get a good look at the keyboard, which appears rather identical to that used for the Yoga 460. This is a business keyboard, with a good layout and no flex. The key-press feedback is excellent, and I don’t recall having to correct any input due to accidental key-press repetition, or missed presses.
Also noticeable once the screen is open, are the abilities of the Multi-mode chassis. It’s designed so that the P40 Yoga can be set into one of four distinct usage layouts: Laptop, Stand, Tent or Tablet. Individual layouts are supported software-side by Windows, with the user having the option of enabling automatic re-adjustment of the UI, or being presented with a manual choice on each re-adjustment.
Communications and connectivity options of the ThinkPad Yoga P40 are varied.
The ThinkPad Yoga P40 ports choice is good. The 1.8Kg device features 3 USB 3.0 ports (one of which always-on), one full-size HDMI 1.4 port, one DisplayPort 1.2, an SD Card reader, a headphone/mic combo jack. In addition, there’s the OneLink port, which offers either the Gigabit Ethernet option through a dongle, or more interestingly, the ThinkPad OneLink Dock, which we’ll detail below.
Optional adapters extend the available ports. These are the HDMI-to-VGA adapter, the mini-DisplayPort-to-VGA adapter, the OneLink+-to-RJ45 adapter, and the OneLink+-to-VGA/RJ45 adapter.
The test machine offers a fingerprint-scanner but not the Smart Card reader mentioned by various outlets. We double-checked with Lenovo’s Product Specifications Reference sheet for the P40 Yoga Platform, and confirmed there is no Smart Card reader.
The machine offers a 4G LTE modem, providing high-speed mobile Internet, an essential need of any aspiring modern mobile workstation. Wireless connectivity is provided by an Intel 8260 chip, offering dual-band IEEE 802.11 a/c signal along Bluetooth 4.1 support, in versions with and without vPro.
On paper, the availability of HDMI 1.4 and DisplayPort 1.2 could mean the machine supports a total of up to five, maybe six external displays, depending on resolution or frequency. That’s without making use of the extra HDMI port on offer by the OneLink Dock. We would have liked to see a setup involving two or three 4K displays, but that might not be likely – the spec sheet advertises 4K support through the mini-DisplayPort exclusively – limiting the HDMI ports to FHD.
We may not speak about a professional workstation in 2016 without talking about security, and Yoga P40 offers plenty of security features.
A fingerprint scanner, power-on password, hard-disk password, supervisor password and a security keyhole (didn’t these use to be called Kensington locks?). A TCG 1.2-compliant Trusted Platform Module, with TPM 2.0 Software. And optional vPro. We won’t take the time here to detail each feature, as we’re mostly assuming that users are more interested in knowing the features are available or not.
Not outright specified, though we suspect available, would be the SSD auto-encryption feature based on OPAL 2.0, offered with Samsung SSD’s.
The accessory choice on offer is also an important consideration when purchasing a business machine.
The ThinkPad P50 and P70 series boast an impressive choice of accessories, including bags, batteries and docks. The available accessories for the Yoga P40 are now limited limited by the lack of availability. We can, however, offer some speculation.
The most relevant accessory, to start, would be the ThinkPad OneLink Dock.
For $120, the dock offers two frontal USB 3.0 ports and two USB 2.0 ports in the back, along another Stereo/Mic combo port, a second HDMI port, a Gigabit Ethernet port and a power connector, alongside a second security keyhole.
An interesting aspect of this dock is the claim that the OneLink port can transfer data, uncompressed video, as well as power, simultaneously, greatly expanding the connectivity options of the laptop.
We’re not too cheerful about the proprietary slot, though we at least hope there is some level of backward and forward compatibility in the dock. That being said, extra functionality is good to have, and so long as the functionality is excellent at an affordable price, we won’t waste air crying.
Another aspect worth mentioning is Lenovo’s warranty and support service – extremely important offerings in business markets.
Warranty is extremely important, and covers a lot of services, some of them more and some less obvious. In the case of PC’s, this is further complicated by driver choice, supported operating systems, and easy and intuitive access to information, diagnostics and other related services, so let’s take a glance at Lenovo’s technical support.
Lenovo offer a dedicated technical support portal. On it you can find drivers, manuals, instructions and useful applications for most Lenovo products, grouped by business line, along with support forums, live chat and scheduled phone calls.
Once the product’s serial number is inserted, the system shows a list of specific information, including product-specific drivers, part and warranty details, user guides, access to advice and solutions, diagnostics and a contact form.
The live-chat function is useful, though call waiting times are reported to vary from short to very long. There’s also a phone-support line, where you want to have your PC’s serial number on hand for easier identification.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga P40 offers a limited warranty, in the form of a one-year depot repair service, or a 3-year depot repair service (with just one year for the battery).
When using a business machine, it’s important for the user to have varied, useful options for interfacing with the device in an intuitive and useful fashion.
So let’s look over the ways you might interact with your brand-new Yoga.
The Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga P40 features the ThinkPad Keyboard, UltraNav TrackPad, and the TrackPoint for use in Laptop mode. I’ve tested the machine in a variety of scenarios, and it was interesting for me to check out how I used the machine over time.
Though I had a perfectly good and usable office desk with a keyboard and mouse near me, often I took to putting the Yoga on my knees and switching between the TrackPoint and the touchpad for my navigational needs, with the occasional finger-tap for switching between windows.
The capacitive touchscreen comes into play often when scrolling up or down with precision. It’s simply easier and more intuitive than using touchpad gestures.
Along with the – rather gorgeous – IPS screen, the system includes Wacom’s Active ES Pen, offering 2048 levels of pressure. This is the cornerstone of Lenovo’s marketing strategy for the Yoga P40, making the device an interesting and useful tool for professionals in the digital art and/or design business.
This feature places the ThinkPad Yoga P40 in an interesting market position. On the one hand, the device is cheaper than Wacom’s Cintiq Companion 2 – in a similar configuration – by roughly $1,100, offering a larger screen, superior computing performance and specific mobile workstation features that Wacom simply can’t touch.
On the other hand, Lenovo have not specifically targeted the Yoga at artists – and this quickly becomes obvious due to the lack of dedicated buttons in tablet mode.
I suspect, however, that the number of digital artists willing to try the Yoga P40 will be noticeable. Should Lenovo be inclined to offer a version of the Yoga P40 featuring dedicated hardware buttons, it might make the Yoga even more attractive.
Moving on, let’s talk about the ThinkPad P40 Yoga’s Keyboard.
The F1-F12 keys double as control keys using the Function (Fn) button. This allows volume control, microphone mute, brightness control, airplane mode, a shortcut to Windows Settings, a Search button, a dedicated Task Navigation button (basically Alt-Tab functionality) and a Tiles button (which really only opens the Start menu).
The Home, End, Insert and Delete keys are nice, big and conveniently positioned. Especially the Delete key. After tens of laptops with horribly designed and horribly placed Delete keys, you grow to love the simple things. The machine doesn’t include a simulated NumPad, which between you and us would have been an unnecessary complication.
Thus, it’s rather unfortunate that Lenovo has decided to place the Fn key to the lower left corner, as common as that may be, especially in the ThinkPad business line. This placement neutralizes many extremely common shortcuts used with the CTRL key, which could be triggered by using the little finger. The current placement of the CTRL results in moving the palm to execute shortcuts, coupled with the delay required in looking down to make sure one presses the right buttons. This is an inconvenience that can be somewhat compensated for with experience, and the only downside of an otherwise excellent keyboard.
The good news is, the CTRL and Fn keys can be inverted inside the BIOS, so I suppose the point is moot.
The TouchPad and TrackPoint are a well-tuned Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga P40 combo. The TrackPoint is sensitive and precise, its corresponding buttons are large, accessible, responsive and easy to differentiate through touch.
We mentioned bits and pieces about the ThinkPad Yoga P40 display, but it merits going into detail a bit.
The screen is somewhat glossy, in part due to the Wacom digitizer. It’s a real pleasure for me to be able to use the 14″ screen at native resolution and enjoy the virtual real estate – especially text crispness – without effort. I use two browser windows at once, split vertically, and can easily work in this way.
I’ve not detected any light leakage, color distortions, dead pixels or other issues. Similarly, I’ve noticed no color banding. We don’t have the hardware to test the panel itself, but the panel itself has already been documented in the ThinkPad Carbon X1, and we know some things about it. For one, brightness distribution is very even, rating an average 245 and 252 nits, revealing a brightness distribution of 95% – nearly perfectly uniform, which is excellent.
Contrast is rated at 700:1 in the spec sheets, but the panel itself has been reviewed to give a contrast ratio of 592:1. Color quality of the panel is not impressive, covering just 69% of sRGB. However, the color accuracy is quite good with an ideal Gamma value when calibrated (2.2), a grayscale deltaE average of 2.15 and a deltaE2000 average of 3.4. This renders the device rather less suitable for color-sensitive photography work where precise coverage of AdobeRGB is usually desired, but quite suitable for any other kind of work.
Let’s talk now about P40 Yoga’s system performance, and how Lenovo’s offering ties in with user requirements. Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga P40 highlights a careful compromise between function, style and performance.
The Intel Core i7-6600U CPU is a Skylake chip, based on a 14nm fab process, providing 3.4Ghz on two hyper-threaded cores.
Idle CPU temperatures are generally low, somewhere between 113F to 122F (45C to 50C). Under intensive usage conditions, the fan speed increases (or starts spinning in the first place, because the system is almost silent at low temperatures).
We’ve been unable to raise CPU temperatures above 177F (81C) no matter what we tried – the cooling system for the CPU is well done. Attempting to force temperatures upwards by using Furmark and the ThrottleStop benchmark simultaneously resulted in some GPU throttling, with use ranging between 45% and 78%. Removing the load from the CPU resulted in GPU usage spiking to 99% – we speculate there is some form of power throttling limiting GPU power when the CPU is stressed. The power brick is rated for 20V output at 3.25 Amps, averaging about 61W, which should have been enough for both components.
We expected the GPU to run hotter, but it actually refused to go past 149F (65C), which is excellent. We were pleasantly impressed with the cooling. As such, the Yoga P40 strikes a fortunate balance between size, temperature and power consumption.
Of course, CPU performance is not exceptional, to the extent that a 15W ultra-low-voltage CPU can be expected to offer high performance. We scored 310 points in Cinebench R15 CPU. Futuremark’s 3DMark Sky Diver 1.0 Physics test awarded 3861 points, with the Cloud Gate test awarding 3568 points and 4498 points in Fire Strike 1.1 Physics.
On the one hand, these results are on average lower than those of Nehalem or Sandy-Bridge era quad-cores. On the other hand, this is enough performance for the workloads expected from the demographic this laptop is targeted at, and allows the careful balance between power consumption, weight and heat which Lenovo so carefully put together.
Let’s talk about the nVIDIA Quadro M500M GPU featured in the ThinkPad Yoga P40.
We have on hand a revised version of the Quadro K620M, providing DirectX 12 driver support (at a hardware 11_0 feature level). The memory bandwidth is slightly lower than the K620M it’s derived from. The GPU offers certified drivers, optimized for performance and reliability in various professional applications.
We had many difficulties installing the drivers for the M500M. The main issues related to identification of the chip – Lenovo’s published drivers did not play well with our test device, and we had to manually reference device strings in the .inf files and enable Test Signing to get the drivers to install. This is almost certainly due to the test nature of our device.
Coming back to the GPU, performance is not exceptional. More to the point, Quadro M500M is the weakest offering in the current Quadro mobile line-up. Its’ primary purpose is less about providing any kind of meaningful performance, and more about providing certified GPU acceleration for supported applications (and specifically for all those layers, viewports and userspaces). The ISV certification process guarantees compatibility and support for professional applications such as those from Adobe, Autodesk, Altair and others.
As such, the laptop is primarily equipped for some programmers, web designers, graphic artists, 3D modelers, journalists and other similar roles.
The ThinkPad P40 Yoga’s battery is a three-cell internal battery, rated for 53Wh.
Lenovo claims that the battery will last for up to 8 hours. Our test machine has realistically offered between 5 and 6 hours of web browsing, text processing and some multi-tasking. This could be due to the test nature of the system and the components inside.
In conclusion, Lenovo’s ThinkPad Yoga P40 is a true mobile workstation, offering acceptable performance in a light, durable and versatile form, aided along by adherence to standards, such as the Mil-SPEC design, ISV certification and the Quadro certified drivers.
The size and weight are perfect for on-the-go professionals. The screen offers generous virtual real estate and is very pleasing on the eyes; the device offers plenty of connectivity options, including options for multiple external displays.
If performance is what you’re looking for in a workstation, we recommend you move on to looking at other systems, such as Lenovo’s P50 and P70 product lines. On the other hand, if you are a professional looking for a truly mobile workstation, for frequent use which involves little to no compiling / transcoding / rendering, but more in the way of mobility, connectivity, screen space and the use of a digitizer and Wacom Active ES Pen, then we recommend you try out Lenovo’s ThinkPad Yoga P40.