I guess it would be overstatement to call any 17” laptop “small,” but the Lenovo P70 I’ve been testing feels almost compact compared to many other large laptops I’ve used lately. It certainly doesn’t skimp on features, though, including everything people expect on a laptop today and several nice surprises – and one Lenovo “exclusive” that might drive you nuts.
First, the guts: The P70 measures about 17” x 11” x 1.35”, and weighs just north of 7 pounds with a battery. This is the first Lenovo laptop to incorporate an Intel mobile Xeon processor. The E3-1505M is rated at 2.80 GHz, and has eight cores to crunch your data. My review unit came equipped with 16Gb of ECC RAM, and can be topped off with 64Gb. A 512Gb SSD provided storage for the machine, which was also equipped with a 720p HD webcam, a fingerprint reader for security, dual-band WiFi and Bluetooth. The unit had Windows 10 installed, whose touch-oriented operational style sometimes clashed with a non-touch screen. But more on the screen later.
The Lenovo-trademark pointing stick is nestled inside the keyboard, in the middle of the “G”, “H” and “B” keys. The full-sized keyboard is just about the best “chiclet”-style keyboard I’ve ever seen, with large, nicely contoured keys in a well-spaced layout.
However, the keyboard also contains the drive-you-nuts Lenovo “exclusive” of reversed control and function keys. This isn’t unique to the P70 – I still have an old Lenovo netbook (remember them?) with this totally quizzical combo. As a “mouse” editor that is trying to add as many keystroke combos to my repertoire as I can, this is HARD. Imagine hitting (what you think is) [ctrl]-[c], and then hitting [ctrl]-[v] and having NOTHING HAPPEN. C’mon, Lenovo! At least offer some kind of remapper!
<takes deep breath>
As you might expect, the P70 offers the whole gamut of modern connectivity, including two Thunderbolt/USB-C ports, four USB-3 ports, HDMI…
…and Mini DisplayPort for external monitors, and a headphone and mic combo jack. There is a slot to read SD/SDHC/SDXC/MMC cards, and the P70 even features an ExpressCard32 slot – better known to Sony videographers as SxS.
Once you have a look at the display, you may wonder how you can ever use any other laptop again. I apologize for not having an actual photograph of the screen in action, but in reality no mere JPEG can do justice to it. The 17.3”, 3840 x 2160 in-plane-switching LCD is bright, sharp and deeply colorful. And you know that the color is true, because just to the left of the trackpad is a little window labeled “Color By Pantone.”
Yes, this display tunes itself. In fact, the laptop will nag you once a week to run the app, whose official name is X-Rite Pantone Calibrator. Start the process, click a few buttons, and then close the lid. It beeps several times and bingo! You are calibrated. There are several presets in the app, but no official “video” version – maybe soon? The display is rated at 92% of the NTSC color gamut.
If you have done much editing on laptops, I’m sure the high-frequency part of your hearing is now impaired by the howl of stressed computer fans. It’s really quite striking how quiet the P70 is no matter what the load, due to what Lenovo calls “FLEX Performance Cooling.” Two fans inside the body of the laptop trade off depending on which components are being stressed at any given time. The silence is a wonderful thing. And Lenovo is rightfully proud of the fact that the P70 has passed eleven military-spec tests for shock, vibration, temperature extremes and other environmental factors that might bring a lesser machine to its knees.
One thing you never think about before you get a 4k display is that your normal text will get really tiny. Adjusting it up is a must. This box advising me that a hardware scan was about to begin was just this side of unreadable.
I installed several parts of the Adobe Creative Cloud group of video applications, including Premiere Pro 2015.2, Media Encoder, Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator, all of which installed without a hiccup. I spent quite a bit of time using Premiere Pro with both 4k and 1080 HD footage. Surprisingly, even though the program was specifically set up to leverage the power of the nVidia Quadro video card and the Mercury Playback Engine, I had some trouble achieving smooth playback from single clips of 4k footage in several different codecs, with all eight Xeon cores pegged to the top of the use graph. The P70 will definitely benefit from the use of proxy footage.On the other hand, 1080 HD footage played smoothly, and I edited 4-stream multicam HD – with different codecs on each stream – with little hassle.
Of course, the true value of the calibrated display really shines in Photoshop. No more guessing what your colors will really look like – the X-Rite Pantone app is a real confidence-booster, and the sharpness and depth of detail will delight the pickiest pixel-pusher. In fact, as much as laptops have come into their own as video editing platforms, I think the P70 just might find its highest use with our graphic arts brethren. I know several still photographers that keep their Datacolor Spyder5 color management devices close to their hearts and monitors. Well, here’s a laptop that has it built-in!
In summary, the Lenovo P70 is an impressive package. It may not chew thru 4K and 5K footage like a fully-loaded desktop, but in reality that is still a heavy lift for a computer you can tuck under your arm. But if you have a gig where you have to be sure your colors are 100% correct, this laptop offers unique functionality, and I guarantee you’ll never tire of gazing at the beautiful screen.
Special thanks to Jim Feeley for the RED footage and the folks at Lenovo for technical consultations in the creation of this review.