Problems with the performance on the ThinkPad P14s Gen2 (Intel) finally solved?

The attentive reader will probably remember the story with programmer Josef, who was sad about his ThinkPad T480 and was not much happier after testing the newer ThinkPad P14s Gen2 with Intel processor and NVIDIA graphics card.

If you are interested in the whole story and other details, I will refer to the original review, in which I made a minor adjustment in the first and final chapter:

If you have no idea what it was and you don’t want to read the original review, the problem with this laptop is very simple. Some models with Intel processors have an optional NVIDIA graphics card, but because it’s a relatively small 14 “business-class machine, some large GPUs won’t fit in. Lenovo used a small NVIDIA GPU, such as the GeForce MX150 / 250 for older generations. This newer model has newer NVIDIA T500 graphics, which is only connected to the processor via four third-generation PCIe lines and has no monitor output, so all data from that GPU flows through PCIe to the iGPU, which must process the data and This will give us a bit of the processor’s power limit and its performance, and the graphics card shares a power limit with the processor, which changes to some extent.

The notebook does not have enough cooling to cool this Tiger Lake processor at 28W consumption and the GPU, which needs 15-18W for reasonable performance. This is also the reason for inconsistent performance and high temperatures. By the way, the AMD version does not suffer from this, as it does not have an additional discrete GPU, I assume that the model with Intel iGPU without additional NVIDIA graphics will be the same.

The problem with the power limit was unpleasant for the test piece, if NVIDIA graphics were used, for example just to display a program without the need for 3D power, the graphics took 15-17 Watts of power and there was some eight Watts left for the processor, which led to massive underclocking of the processor at some 800 MHz and thus the performance was really lousy. It was even enough to start a Zoom meeting and accelerate it with NVIDIA graphics, and the whole laptop went to its knees. For the most part, the power limit was on a roller coaster, so in places the CPU boosted even above 1GHz, but it was possible to get the notebook to a state where it remained underclocked permanently. The ThinkPad T480 with the GeForce MX150 suffers from the same problem, with which the fictional programmer Josef was dissatisfied.

In my opinion, this behavior is unacceptable for a mobile workstation, despite the other ailments I mention in the original review, and some of them also apply to the AMD version (for example, partially soldered RAM).

At the time of the review, I sent this issue to Lenovo along with the feedback, but I never received any response, so I perceived it as accepting it and everything is fine. However, there seems to be a problem and some information noise when my feedback did not reach the competent person solving the workstation. This person was not exactly thrilled with the final review, which is not very surprising.

In the end, everything turned out well, we met in person, the feedback may have reached as far away as China, and we agreed that Lenovo would provide another piece of the test and see if the problem turned out or resolved it by a change in power management in under the newer BIOS.

Virtually the same piece arrived me sometime in April this year, it differed from the original piece only by another SSD and 1x16GB RAM. I didn’t have a second 16GB module at hand, so I only tested in this way in a single-channel connection. The originally tested ThinkPad P14s Gen2 had a BIOS version of 1.44. The new piece had a flashed version of 1.45, I flashed an even newer version 1.49 through Lenovo Vantage. If the laptop had a “jingled” BIOS, I removed it.

The laptop annoyance test was simple, it was enough to set the NVIDIA drivers to run Blender through the NVIDIA T500 graphics card. Then it was enough to start Blender and rendering through it through the processor, so the graphics card only solves the display of the window, but it should not be practically busy. On the original laptop, this attempt was to achieve that the processor underwent massively and the performance was much lower. On the second model it turned out much better, the power limit of the processor never dropped below 13 Watts and very often ranged at higher values ​​around 24-35 Watts (the drop close to 15W was typically quite short-lived and the CPU ticked all cores around 1.7-2GHz) . The original test piece counted the scene in 42 minutes and eighteen seconds, this piece made it in 35 minutes, which is a significant improvement. Interestingly, the AMD Ryzen 7 PRO 5850U manages to calculate this task in 17 minutes and one second.

I did a few more tests and the laptop behaved much better if the NVIDIA T500 was used only as a display, it took just over 3 Watts, there was no 15-18W bike, the processor itself got extra Watts for better boost. However, this means higher noise than the AMD version and also significantly higher temperatures. On the other hand, we have more consistent performance and there are no crazy power drops and underclocking of the processor to the Pentium 3 level.

Basically, I kind of expected a repair of this type, nothing much better can be done, as it would require a redesign of the power supply and cooling. I’m glad that Lenovo has at least partially corrected this problem, so I’m willing to take the Deep In Shit award, while still standing by the fact that this model is not a good mobile workstation and does not deserve any awards.

In addition, new models with AMD Ryzen 6000 and Intel Alder Lake processors are appearing on the horizon, I hope that such stations will be happier and this will not happen again.

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