Sunday, 23 April 2017

New Thinkpad P50

It's been a while, but true to our 4 year hardware refresh cycle, I've just received my latest laptop - a Lenovo P50.  I've been installing it with Fedora 25 since Friday and configuring and copying data over this weekend ready to swap laptops first thing this week.  I'm looking forward to trying out the new machine although I'm not quite sure why as the specs are barely different from the machine I was given 4 years ago.  It's certainly the best indication yet I've personally experienced of Moore's Law coming to a complete halt as well as many of the other specifications not improving a huge amount either.  The two most noticeable differences are likely to be the more powerful graphics chip and the inclusion of an SSD.  That said, there is twice as much RAM in this machine and I had upgraded my previous machine with an SSD as well so that particular upgrade isn't going to be noticeable for me at least.

My previous machine was a W530 and the one I had before that was a T61p (with a T41p before that) and so I'm well used to this particular line of Thinkpad laptops.

Here's the specifications of the machine I've got, as ever there are variants of the P50 so if you have one or are thinking of getting one the specifications could be a little different but will be broadly similar to this:

  • Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-6820HQ CPU @ 2.70GHz (5433.79 bogomips in Linux)
  • 32GB DDR4 2133MHz
  • Samsung MZNLN512 (PM871) 512GB SSD
  • 15.6" 1920 x 1080 IPS (non-touch)
  • 6 Cell Battery
  • Wireless A/C
  • NVIDIA Quadro M1000M 4 GB
  • Front Facing Web Cam, Mini Display Port, HDMI Out, Headphone, 4x USB3, Smart Card Reader, GBit Ethernet, Thunderbold, Fingerprint Reader
So looking at those and comparing in more detail to what I had before it seems my gut feeling was pretty good.  The CPU benchmarks are more-or-less exactly the same and certainly within tolerances of error as well as other performance increases that will effect the benchmarks such as the memory clock speed.  Here's the comparison between the W530 CPU and the P50 CPU:


The same can't be said of the GPU benchmarks though so it looks like GPUs are continuing to gain in power even when CPU speed increases have run out of steam:

The other noticeable difference I hadn't spotted before is the battery size.  That's very apparent when you pick the machine up as it's actually a little bit thinner (probably also due to the lack of DVD/combo drive) as well as not as deep i.e. it doesn't have the big battery sticking out of the back that has been common place on this line of Thinkpad machines over the past decade or so.  I'm guessing (without having done any research on the matter) that this is probably due to improvements in battery technology so I'd think Lenovo have probably moved over to Li-ion or Li-po batteries.

In terms of running and using the machine, it does seem very nice so far as one might expect.  It's running Fedora 25 very nicely and hasn't caused me any issues at all during setup.  I'm not really expecting any either as most if not all of the hardware seems pretty well support by Linux these days.  I think, in fact, Lenovo even offer to supply this machine pre-installed with Linux if you want.  That said, there looks to be one possible sticking point in terms of hardware support at the moment but this is very minor.  That is, the build-in fingerprint reader doesn't seem to have a driver available on Linux yet.  I did some very brief research into this yesterday and it's not clear why vendor support is lacking for the device at the moment although I did find at least one effort that has gone a fairly long way towards reverse engineering it and starting to write a driver so I would guess within the next year we'll see some sort of support for the fingerprint reader too.

All in all then it's a good machine even though it's not a huge upgrade over my 4 year old laptop!

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