At SIGGRAPH in Vancouver, Lenovo launched a sleek new addition to its ThinkPad mobile workstation portfolio aimed at animators, VFX teams and motion graphics artists who crave more stylish and lightweight options when working on set, at home or on the road.

The new deepest black carbon fiber and magnesium alloy ThinkPad P1, which arrives in a bespoke black-and-red box akin to a fashion accessory, is a long way away from Big Blue’s original PC ThinkPad workhorse. StudioDaily spent the afternoon watching some in action just before the show at New York’s Nice Shoes, where editors, directors, producers, animators, VR designers and colorists have been putting them through their paces for several weeks. Weighing just 3.76 pounds and featuring a glass touchpad (we love touching glass on our smartphones, so why not?), this stealth-mode laptop is only 18.4 mm (.72 in.) thick when closed. Color geeks will also appreciate the 10-bit 4K UHD display — a rarity on a 15-inch laptop — representing 100% of the Adobe color gamut. It will be available at the end of August starting at $1,949.

The ThinkPad P1 with its slim power supply and bespoke box.
Beth Marchant

What’s inside this wafer-thin laptop is what will matter most to the graphics crowd. Certified for key applications like Adobe Creative Cloud and Autodesk Maya, the ThinkPad P1 features 8th Gen Intel Xeon and Core processors, including support for the Core i9 CPU. It also delivers ECC memory support and has been clocked up to 4.6GHz. Nvidia Quadro P1000 and P2000 professional graphics cards ensure it will keep up with complex data-intensive renders on the go. It’s hard to believe 4 TB of M.2 PCIe storage and 64 GB of memory at 2667 MHz are also embedded in this sleek beauty. 

Even the power supply has been refined in Lenovo’s new line. The power cord and its typically bulky circuit box is noticeably smaller and lighter — by some 35 percent — than those offered with the laptop’s predecessors. The glass touchpad also has a purpose beyond smooth moves: glass resists skin oils and greasy lunches, which means it will last longer. The full-size HDMI 2.0 port, two Thunderbolt 3 (Type-C) ports, Mini Gigabit Ethernet port (and an included dongle in the box to get you to full size), SD card reader, and mic/headphone port bring relevant I/O options for most applications. 

“The P1, with its lightning-fast NVMe SSD storage and our Gig Ethernet, finally makes quality work from home possible in a secured environment,” Nice Shoes CIO/CTO Robert Kreske told those of us gathered to learn more about the new Lenovo line. “That work-life balance is really important to us here, and we’ve had lots of complaints about the weight and battery life of laptops we sent home previously with our artists. “This thing can also handle 5K and 6K workflows, which are an increasing reality for us. But it’s also great for on-set editing and augmented reality and VR.” 

Two back-to-back P1s showing I/O ports on both sides.

Nice Shoes director Harry Dorrington and creative editor Dana Bol tested the P1 on a recent commercial shoot that featured a practical set of the inside of a store they then disassembled piece by piece and shot in reverse. In the final spot, the quick-cut layers assemble the environment, stop-motion style, before your eyes. Bol had the P1 on set and was able to work with a pre-grade during the rough cut to keep clients in the loop. “It was really great to be able to do a remote color grade with the client right then and there,” Dorrington said. “I could play back 21 layers of video in real time,” added Bol. “No issues whatsoever. It was pretty awesome.”

A splitscreen of the P1 running Autodesk Maya showing build and render views.

Nice Shoes creative director Tom Westerlin is spearheading the studio’s VR and AR work and confirmed Keske’s assessment about whether the P1 was up to the task of data-heavy VR and AR. He then put this writer into a headset to experience Mio Garden, an experiential VR game Nice Shoes originally created for Sapporo that was concepted and directed by Dorrington and led by Westerlin. Running off the workstation, it was eye-popping, soothing and very engaging all at once; I didn’t want to leave the animated Zen space. You can imagine how a client would feel being able to see a future VR application in progress over lunch with a headset and P1 in tow.

For those who need it, the P1 also comes with an optional ThinkPad Thunderbolt Workstation Dock and ThinkShutter, which is a sliding security cover for the built-in webcam. And although it may be deep charcoal with just a hint of red, it is also very green: the laptop is Energy Star 6.1, EPEAT, Greenguard and RoHS compliant.

The Mio Garden, a VR game created by Nice Shoes, puts the viewer inside an animated Zen garden complete with gentle challenges and an interactive samurai statue.