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The first Skylake laptops are Lenovo's Thinkpad P50 and P70 graphics workstations

Gordon Mah Ung | Aug. 11, 2015
Your chance to get a laptop with Intel's newest Skylake CPU is almost here. On Monday at the Siggraph show in Los Angeles, Calif., Lenovo announced two new mobile workstations stocked with the 6th-gen mobile chip and a dream checklist of advanced features.

Lenovo says the big P70 will also support up to four storage devices and up to 1TB of SSD storage. That means one M.2 slot and two SATA trays, along with the option to remove the optical drive and install a drive caddy for a fourth drive. Even better, the storage options now support booting to PCIe-based M.2 devices, which offers a huge improvement in performance. In fact, Lenovo claims up to five times the performance of an M.2 SATA or standard SATA-based device.

Most people know Intel's new Skylake chip supports DDR4, but there's also the capability to run DDR3L. Lenovo skips the older memory standard in favor of DDR4, which lets the P70 run up to 64GB in its four SO-DIMM slots. If you're curious as to what DDR4 looks like, I snagged a shot (below). The P70 can run up to 64GB of ECC DDR4. I'm not sure if the use of ECC DDR4 is a requirement for the density right now, or if Lenovo does that because workstation users like the warm comfort of ECC RAM. 

Dual cooling solution

That's not the only nifty trick Lenovo said it pulled off in the P70. The company showed off the motherboard in the laptop with its cooling system attached. Here's a shot I grabbed of it.  

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The motherboard from the new ThinkPad P70 shares cooling to increase performance, supposedly. Credit: Gordon Mah Ung

You can see the pair of DDR4 slots (another two are mounted on the other side. More interesting is the shared cooling. On the left you have the Quadro GPU and on the right you have the Skylake Xeon. In a lot of laptops, the cooling is segmented to keep the GPU from overheating the CPU. Lenovo says its research shows the vast majority of workstation applications either heat up the GPU or the CPU, and it's rare for both to be under heavy loads simultaneously.

With this cooling design, when the GPU isn't using up the thermal budget, more can be used to keep the CPU cooler--and presumably running at higher clock speeds. Likewise, when the CPU isn't creating a thermal load, it's cooling can be used to keep the GPU cooler. In theory it's a good idea, but I'll have to see it in practice first.

Swiper, stop swiping!

And yes, there's even more. Lenovo's other new piece of hardware on the P70 includes a new fingerprint reader that you press rather than swipe. This is welcome, as those swipe-style readers have been finicky for a long time. Full-pad, fingerprint-style biometrics on a PC have kicked around for more than a decade, so it's making its way back again. 

 

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