I Ordered a ThinkPad P14s

March 2021 update: the production was significantly delayed by Lenovo, so I eventually cancelled the order. Nonetheless, the reason for purchase detailed in this post is still valid.

I'm a big ThinkPad lover, partly because I'm a nerd, and partly because of my wife's experience as she heavily used a ThinkPad T43 (or similar model) back in her teenage years. We (mostly I) started collecting classic ThinkPad models about 2 years ago off of Kijiji, the most popular flea market in Canada. I was albe to score a T61 and a X200 both in very good conditions. The T61 is a 32-bit machine, though, we are keeping it simply for nostalgia reasons; the X200, on the other hand, has been my fun little companion for the last two years. I showed it off to my professor at school (who is a Linux user), and brought it with me to Italy for school.

During the last couple of months, I bought and sold a few relatively modern ThinkPads. Currently I am rocking a T460s as my main machine, which features an Intel i5-6300U CPU. I have upgraded the RAM to 12 GB and storage to 1TB NVMe drive, however, the 2-core CPU is really showing its age. I could just add some RAM and not bother getting a new machine. At least that was my plan, until yesterday.

An incredible deal appeared on Lenovo's website: the P14s Gen 1 (AMD) model is on sale for only $747.15 CAD. The specs are shown below:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 7 Pro 4750U (Zen2, 8 Cores 16 Threads)
  • RAM: 8GB DDR4 3200 soldered (one empty slot up to 32GB)
  • Storage: 256GB NVMe SSD (M.2 2242 can fit a second SSD)
  • Wireless: Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX200 802.11AX (soldered)
  • Screen: 14.0” FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS, 250 nits, 45% NTSC
  • NIC: Realtek RTL8111EPV Gigabit Ethernet (why not Intel? possibly cost down)
  • OS: Windows 10 Pro pre-installed (RHEL and Ubuntu LTS certified)

Without much thinking, I pulled the trigger on this deal. Such a no-brainer, literally. Overall, the specs are decent and upgradable (RAM and SSD). The Ryzen Pro is just like vPro version of Intel CPUs for business market. The RAM's frequency is high enough and upgradable. The weakness come from the display: 45% NTSC is just garbage in 2021. Also, in 2021, I use it at home all the time connected to a beautiful 27 inch monitor. So who cares about the colour gamut of the built-in display!

Price-wise it is simply insane: normally, similar spec ThinkPad P series would sell for double the price. However, note that the P14s Gen 1 is the little brother of the P series and it is based on T14. Still, it has solid build quality with fiberglass plastic and magnesium alloy frame, the usual ThinkPad genes. The differences between it and T14 are as follows:

  • T14 (AMD) comes with Ryzen 5 or 7 Pro whereas P14s only comes with Ryzen 7 Pro
  • T14 graphics is the same as P14s (Vega 7), but T14 uses AMD normal driver whereas P14s uses AMD Pro APU driver (for Windows; AMD open source driver rules on Linux, although you can run AMD proprietary driver)
  • T14 max RAM is 32GB (8GB soldered and 16GB slot) whereas P14s (AMD) max RAM is 40GB (8GB soldered and 32GB slot)

Lenovo website says the shipping time is 5 weeks. I can't wait to get my hands on the new laptop! I'm happily dreaming about the performance and graphics capability of 4750U: maybe I can finally play Civilization VI without a dedicated gaming rig.

As for the T460s I'm currently using, it will be re-purposed as either a dedicated NVR (network video recorder) or a Proxmox box running virtual machines. Laptops make great servers: silent and low power (until the only hard drive fails and no backup). I will never complain about the number of computers at my disposal.

How I Got Into Computers (Part II)

First PC

I assembled my first PC in the summer between middle school and high school. Prior to that summer, it was a pro-longed period we had to study for the high school entrance examination. A gaming PC was sort of my reward after years of hard work.

The PC was built with budget in mind. In fact, I tried my very best to fit the most capable hardware within the budget. It has an AMD Athlon 3-core CPU, 4GB of RAM and Radeon HD6750 graphics card. Not a powerhouse, but it was good enough for 3A games to run smoothly on a 22 inch monitor with mid to high settings. I played tons of games that summer inside my room without A/C. Sweat dripped from my elbow to the floor like a waterfall. I couldn't care less about the heat and fan noise when I dived into games. I caught up with all the games I missed due to busy school work, or at least I think I did.

Besides gaming, it was a lovely summer all by itself. I hung out with friends to restaurants and shopping centres; tried a lot of things for the first time; even dated my first girlfriend.

High School

Summer quickly went by and high school was upon me. Since the campus was far from the city, nearly all student had to live in the student residence. It was essentially a boarding school experience. We would stay on campus for 5 days and go home for the weekend. The caveat is that I don't get to have a computer at school. Laptops are not forbidden in the residence per se, but we didn't have much free time to spend at residence. Computers became useless.

In the early 2010s, we saw the wake of smart phone. Almost all the kids had one, be it smart or not. My first phone was purchased within the first couple of months into high school. It was a Meizu M8, a highly customized Windows CE phone with iPhone 3GS as its design goal. It has a beautiful 3.5 inch screen and a home button, just like the iPhone. Software-wise, it was pretty barebone: basic utilities and a few third party apps like QQ and UC Browser. Beside texting SMS and chatting on QQ, I main used the phone to do social media in the browser, read news in text-based RSS feed, and listened to music (pre-loaded, of course). It served me well for 2 years in high school. I still miss the dense feeling of holding the M8 on hand.

O Canada

At the final year of high school, my family and I decided to continue my education in Canada. I arrived at Pearson International Airport alone, a month before my 18th birthday. Going from China to Canada is one of the biggest events in my life. It is a topic for another blog post.

As for tech equipments, I brought with me the trusty ASUS laptop I mention in Part I of this series. It was old and shit after years of tinkering, but still working. About 2 months into new life, I started to notice the rather frequent sales event on Dell website... hmm, capitalism began its work. Jokes aside, I really needed a more capable machine for everything I do, and some photography needs. I pulled the trigger: first time in my life, I spent one thousand Canadian dollars buying something without consulting my parents. It was the moment when I started to take responsibilities of my own finance. It was a Dell Inspiron 17-inch laptop with i7 and 8GB of RAM. It only had integrated Intel graphics: I tried to distant myself from gaming on this thing; honestly though, I didn't want to spend more money on a NVIDIA graphics card.

As it turned out, this big boy served me well for over 3 years. With a 17-inch 1080P screen, it acted like a desktop replacement. Sadly, I accidentally poured water over it while I was travelling in Xiamen, China, and it started to have weird issues ever since.

Early University Life: Google v. Apple

University life is colourful in terms of tech gears. As a freshman, I was tired of having to dragging my big Dell around the campus. So, I decided to try out Chromebook: I ordered a Toshiba 13-inch Chromebook some time in 2014 for around $300. It was a great purchase! Chromebook was a perfect balance between weight, price and functionality. I was able to write notes, collaborate on Google Docs and browse the web on this mighty little machine with hours and hours of battery life. The screen sucked, and so was the keyboard, but those things mattered far less to me back then than they are now.

I used to be a Google fanboy with Google tech equipped to teeth. Google's services were awesome and I took so much advantage of them. It wasn't until late 2018 I started to distant myself from Google ecosystem (and everything else that doesn't respect user privacy). My last Google hardware was the original Pixel phone, purchased only a few days after it launched in September 2016.

I went ahead of myself. Let's get back to 2015. That year, I got rid of my big Dell and moved onto a used MacBook Pro 13 (late 2013 model). It was beautiful and elegant. I couldn't tell if it's the retina display, but I felt so comfortable even after long hours of using it. I also bough an iPad Air 2 and iPhone 6, knowing that I would go to Germany for internship. I was very critical towards the Apple way of doing things, though. As a Google fanboy, I even engraved "Google Nexus" when I ordered my iPad, which I still use everyday. If it were a Nexus tablet, it would probably have become a pile of electronic trash after the last security update. How ironic.

I brought the MacBook Pro with me to Germany. During the first few months, I had bug bugs infested in my apartment (ouch). I moved a few times trying to get rid of those foul creatures. Eventually I figured out that I could freeze my luggage at -20 degC for over 48 hours to kill the eggs. So I did, with the help of my manager, along with the Mac inside my luggage. I did this treatment 2 times and it survived! The battery life wasn't even affected by much.

Along with the Mac, I also brought the Chromebook. What happened to this machine is worth mentioning. I gave it away to my roommate in Germany, who was a student from Syria, stranded financially because of the Syrian War in 2015. By gifting this laptop to him, I felt I did something good.