Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra Review (i9-12900/RTX A2000)
The Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra is a highly compact workstation that combines the portability of large workstation laptops with Desktop-level performance. The target audience is professionals working in the field, capturing or creating data on-site, or working in a mobile studio where it is possible to drive potentially large monitors but where engineers are still expected to travel with the computer.
Our specific review unit came with the following configuration: 12th gen Intel Core i9-12900 (8P + 8E cores), NVIDIA RTX A2000 GPU, 1x 1TB SSD M.2 2280 PCIe Gen 4×4, 32GB SO-DIMM DDR5-4000 RAM. At present, it costs $2833 at B&H Photo, and you can browse different configurations at Lenovo.com.
In its configurator, Lenovo has many CPU options, going all the way down to the 12th Gen Intel Core i3, and GPUs going all the way up to the NVIDIA RTX A5000 mobile GPU, so there’s a configuration for everyone, and prices start at $1200 for the base configurations.
Since it’s a workstation, it’s possible to install up to 128GB of RAM (ECC or not, easy access), and the SODIMM slots are pretty accessible. Storage-wise, it’s possible to install two M.2 SSD drives (2x 4TB max, RAID 0/1 possible) and one 2.5″ SATA drive (1TB) for a total of three storage devices.
There are a couple of PCIe expansion slots, in case you want to add additional cards (check if they fit): one PCIe 4.0 x 16 and one PCIe 3.0 x 4.
The compact nature of the ThinkStation P360 Ultra and its performance “per Lbs” or “per Volume” is the main attraction here. As we mentioned in the introduction, the ideal customer might be traveling with this computer, and it’s great because it can easily fit in a backpack or a small pelican case.
The computer has passed 10 MIL-STD-810H military transport tests, which most desktops are never subjected to. I’ve had situations where heavy desktop components like CPU heatsinks got damaged during shipping because they are not designed for transportation shocks after assembly.
That said, we’ve also heard about many potential users who like the idea of building a neat office and would use this computer to replace a powerful laptop as it has better upgradability and can drive more displays.
The ThinkStation P360 Ultra might be more affordable than a workstation laptop with a similar feature set and speed (like the ThinkPad P15). If you’re going to use a laptop as a fixed workstation, this could be a compelling argument.
As an ultra-compact desktop computer, the P360 Ultra features a massive advantage over particular laptops regarding cooling. As such, it can use powerful components such as the 125W TDP Intel Core i9-12900 CPU.
But like its laptop counterparts, it does use many mobile components, such as laptop DDR5 RAM, GPU chips, etc. A full-on desktop would come on top in sheer performance and cooling but would be less portable. Even SFF PCs are noticeably bigger, but they can use off-the-shelf GPUs and components, which is not always the case for this computer.
It’s possible to open the computer and access the internals without any tools, thanks to an ingenious lever that unlocks the outer shell from the main chassis. More details in this official video that shows it well:
One significant advantage of a desktop computer is the number of ports, and the ThinkStation P360 Ultra does not disappoint here. My only complaint is the lack of HDMI ports. In the front, you have the following ports:
|1x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A|
|2x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Thunderbolt 4 Type-C|
|1x Audio Combo Jack|
And in the rear:
|4x USB 3.2 Gen 2 Type-A|
|3x DisplayPort (integrated GPU)|
|4x mini-DisplayPort (discrete GPU)|
There’s also built-in WIFI access, and the computer comes with an antenna that you screw into the back. I would have preferred a built-in antenna in the chassis, but it’s okay. The wired option is there if you want maximum networking performance and lower latency.
It’s fair to say that the external PSU is one of the reasons why the ThinkStation P360 Ultra is so compact compared to a mid-size tower with an integrated PSU. The 300W PSU is pretty large and heavy. Its size is similar to high-wattage gaming laptops, so there’s nothing new here, and you must bring it wherever you go.
That said, there’s no question this form factor is much more suited for transportation than other desktop workstation designs, as it easily fits into a backpack. For example, the MSI GE76 Raider 12U high-performance gaming laptop is about 25% smaller than the Thinkstation P360 Ultra in total volume but weighs 61% more.
Laptops have an integrated display and a battery, so it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison. Still, the ThinkStation P360 Ultra is built for mobility use cases where monitors will be available on-site.
Also note that the TS P360 Ultra weight ranges from 3.96 lbs to 7.94 lbs depending on the selected configuration, add-ons, etc. This difference can be seen in the official product data sheet and the detailed specifications.
Since performance/size or performance/weight is a strong selling point, let’s run some key benchmarks to see where this laptop is positioned.
We have the 12th gen Intel Core i9-12900 CPU option (max. is the i9-12900K), but our GPU (the mobile RTX A2000) is far from the fastest one you can get in this computer (up to RTX A5000), so keep that in mind because it’s possible to tweak the price/speed ratio. The more affordable NVIDIA T400 GPU is also available.
For reference, the RTX A2000 graphics performance is between the RTX 3050 and 3060, while the RTX A5000 is roughly equivalent to the RTX 3080. We’re referring to the mobile version of these chips since that’s what Lenovo uses in the ThinkStation P360 Ultra.
From a CPU perspective, our unit performs well in benchmarks like Cinebench R23 and Geekbench 5. The MSI GE76 Raider 12U comparison shows what to expect if you upgrade our i9-12900 to the i9-12900HK, as found in the MSI computer.
At the same time, the TS P360 Ultra CPU performance “per Lbs” is even better than laptops, thanks to its compact design, devoid of display and battery. You could be carrying serious CPU power in your backpack or carry-on.
For graphics applications that are GPU-reliant applications, the PCMark 10 Creative benchmark is interesting to look at. They tend to be a mix of CPU and GPU workloads, mostly CPU.
For pure 3D performance, we can observe the mobile RTX A2000 performing below the RTX 3060 (Concept D5) and significantly slower than the RTX 3080 (MSI GE76). At the same time, it possesses all the features found in that generation of GPUs, including the ability to run the most recent AI workloads in today’s imaging and video applications.
The ThinkStation can drive up to 8 monitors via four integrated mini-DP on the discrete GPU and three full-size DP ports plus the USB-C connector linked to the integrated graphics unit. It is also important to remember that, unlike laptops, there is no passthrough between discrete and integrated graphics units. Therefore, you should plan on having your primary display connected to the discrete GPU via mini-DP.
The ThinkStation P360 Ultra’s SSD performance is excellent and on par with other workstations and Creative-oriented computers. The primary difference with high-end laptops is that you can pack up to 9TB of storage across two M.2 and one 2.5″ drive.
The Lenovo ThinkStation P360 Ultra offers a great solution with immense configuration flexibility for professionals and engineers who need a highly mobile workstation. Wealthy enthusiasts could also represent a small market but see this as an enterprise product.
The desktop nature of the chassis gives it significant thermal cooling and more expansion options than comparably portable laptops. This computer design is more attractive and nearly always more performant and cost-efficient than competing SFF workstations such as the HP Z2 G9 Small Form Factor Workstation or the Dell Precision Compact Form Factor.
The workstation components, such as the NVIDIA RTX A-Series or T-Series graphics units, also come with ISV-certified software that is a must-have for some workflows.
Enterprises will appreciate the usual Lenovo security features and management tools, which consumer-minded enthusiasts often overlook. Things like Premier Support, Accidental Damage Protection, and Warranty Extensions are potential sway factors for IT departments.
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