REVIEW: Lenovo ThinkPad W500

ThinkPad

Lenovo offers five series in its ThinkPad lineup. The entry-class comprises the SL-series, followed by the R-series, which currently boasts a larger equipment lineup. The T-series is a true multi-purpose machine due to a function that switches between integrated and dedicated graphics cards for both mobile applications and high performance needs, while the X-series focuses on mobility. The W-series is ultimately designed for professional graphic designers who want maximum performance paired with practical mobility. As workers in fields such as digital content creation, computer-aided design and manufacturing become increasingly mobile, they are demanding the full-featured performance of a desktop workstation in a mobile device.

Design

The wholly-black W500 (356x255x35mm, 2.78kg) is a typical ThinkPad laptop in terms of build and appearance―some will love its retro and understated appearance while others will want to put it in a museum. I’ve been a ThinkPad user for years and I’ve yet to come across a more practical and dependable machine for working on the move. Where other manufactures are adding shiny screens and high-end multimedia features to keep up with consumer trends, business users have a very different set of computing requirements.

The ThinkPad W500 is an amazing piece of engineering. The steel screen hinges are robust (they hold the display securely in place) and allow the display to fully recline. The rest of the chassis is just as robust, from the soft-touch feel of the lid to the tough, scratch-resistant matte plastic of the wristrest and keyboard surround.

The classic ThinkPad keyboard is roomy and comfortable, although there’s no room for a separate numerical keypad―that’s reserved for the W700. ThinkPad fans can enjoy the familiar pointing stick or opt to use the touchpad for cursor control. Both are responsive and easy to reach without having to adjust your typing position. The palm rest is big, which makes working for long periods more comfortable, and dedicated volume controls make light work of media playback. The greatest productivity feature comes by way of the ThinkVantage button which lets you access the fantastic system management tools.

Features

The ThinkPad W500 is one of the most powerful business laptops on the markets. Designed for processing and graphically-challenging applications such as spreadsheets and CAD/CAM/EDA, the machine makes light work of anything you throw at it.

In addition to the 15.4-inch (anti-glare, CCFL backlit, 16:10 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio) LCD display that has a native high-resolution resolution of 1920×1200 (WUXGA), the ThinkPad W500 can be loaded with an Intel Core 2 Duo processor T9900 (3.06GHz, 1066MHz, 6MBL2 cache), discrete ATI Mobility FireGL V5700 (512MB VRAM) graphics, and up to 8GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM (1067MHz). Those not needing a high-resolution display can opt for the WSXGA panel with a resolution of 1680×1050 pixels, which also comes with a matte non-glare display.

For those of you wanting to upgrade the amount to 8GB, keep in mind that means upgrading the operating system to 64-bit and finding some 4GB PC3-8500 1066MHz DDR3 204-pin memory sticks. Good luck! The good news is that these are the same sticks used by the ThinkPad W700.

Internal storage options are plentiful and you can either go for a maximum capacity of 320GB (5400rpm) using a standard hard drive, or opt for a 64/128GB solid state drive for the ultimate in speed and security. Optional dual hard drives with RAID 0/1 configurations allow for up to 640GB of storage capacity.

Lenovo says a popular configuration is the combination of a SSD and 320GB drive to provide high-speed system performance and large storage, giving the best of both worlds. You can also upgrade the DVD recordable drive (8x) to a Blu-ray recordable drive should you want to take advantage of the machine’s Full HD capabilities. Note, however, that Lenovo charges an astonishing £481.90 (ex. VAT) extra for the Blu-ray drive.

A range of wireless connectivity options are present, along with built-in 3.5G mobile broadband (locked to Vodafone). The mobile workstation includes 802.11b/g Wi-Fi wireless connectivity and you can connect to other devices wirelessly using Bluetooth. The 6-cell lithium-ion battery is good for around 4.5 hours, which is impressive for the amount of computing power on offer, and the standard pre-installed operating system is Windows Vista Business 32-bit (eligible for free Windows 7 upgrade).

Lenovo has shifted the ports around on the machine―compared to the ThinkPad T61p at least. The DisplayPort is a new addition and there are also three USB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA connector, and modem. A 7-in-1 multimedia card reader lets you quickly drag and drop files stored on flash memory, and the 34mm ExpressCard Slot is useful for the latest range of peripherals including TV tuner cards. Headphone and microphone jacks are conveniently located on the front of the system.

Security features include a fingerprint reader, integrated TPM 1.2 circuitry, and Lenovo’s ThinkVantage Client Security Password Manager utility. The system can also be ordered with an optional Smart Card reader for added protection. An optional mini-dock extends the mobile workstation’s capabilities with eSATA and digital audio ports as well as convenient cabling for power, external monitors and peripherals. There’s even a 1.3-Megapixel camera integrated into the lid, which although produces grainy images, is useful for video conferencing at work and fun for video messaging friends and family on the evenings.

The ThinkPad W500 delivers an above-par viewing experience. A super-crisp 1920×1200 resolution means acres of desktop space to spread your application windows around, and quality is up there with the best. The display isn’t the brightest or most colourful for designers and video editors, but colours are realistic, backlight bleed is all but non-existent and viewing angles are excellent. Significantly, ATI’s Mobility FireGL V5700 is ISV certified―unusual in a laptop―meaning the ThinkPad W500 has passed tests to ensure it works smoothly with a list of demanding professional applications including AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Catia and 3ds Max.

Conclusion

Lenovo has engineered a fantastic breed of mobile workstation with the ThinkPad W500. No other PC manufacturer has a mobile workstation that delivers the power, performance and productivity tools that Lenovo has packed into this beast. The mobile workstation flat out delivers the performance demanding users require at the desk as well as in the field, in a solution that’s comfortably portable.

Packed for extreme performance, the laptop is a serious piece of kit that should be treated as such. There are better looking and cheaper systems from the likes of Dell, HP and Toshiba that are more suited to casual business environments, but the ThinkPad W500 is built for those needing a huge amount of computing power, high-resolution screen and workstation certification. It includes everything you could want from a Windows-based laptop and is supported by the best management utilities on the market.

At just over £2200 (ex. VAT) for a top-end specification, the ThinkPad W500’s asking price is steep. You also need to ask yourself whether you are going to use all its features. Having said that, the base model (£974 ex. VAT) is very appealing. Lenovo’s ThinkPad W500 is a rock solid machine and comes with an impressive set of credentials. Buy with confidence.

  • http://bestdp.com/new-mini-3-5mm-voice-microphone-for-pc-laptop-skype-review.html Steven Olson

    I was looking for a very light weight notebook with good battery life for use on flights. This one has more than filled the bill. A great notebook, very portable and useful. Screen size is adequate for web cruising and it's powerful enough to handle Google Earth. Anyone looking for a lightweight notebook for traveling should check this out.

  • http://bestdp.com/pyramat-laptop-cooler-lapdesk-with-cooling-fans-review-pink.html Claude F. Thibeault

    Acer Aspire One AOD150-1165 10.1-Inch Netbook (1.6 GHz Intel Atom N270 Processor, 1 GB RAM, 160 GB Hard Drive, XP Home, 6 Cell Battery) Sapphire Blue

    I know there are plenty or reviews about the good and bad things about this tinny little piece of hardware. I will not be talking about how good it is but rather WHY it seems good.

    First a bit about me. I’m a mac user, love technology and are very critical of details that can make it or break it.

    The Acer Aspire One 150 is simply more of what I was expecting, for less that I thought I was paying. I will number the reasons WHY I think such to be the case:

    1) Quality. I know you can get them at walmart and they are quite on the cheap side. But that has nothing to do with the built, feel and performance of this device. Coming from my Macbook Pro early 2008, I cannot say that there is much room for improvement. Besides a backlite keyboard LOL.

    2) Performance. How many times will you hear a Mac user praising a Windows machine, specially running on an atom N270? Well here it is one. I did not modify the OS or got Linux on it (yet) because I’m review what you will be getting right of the box. The machine is very snappy, booting is a breeze and this is the first time I use a brand new windows machine without reinstalling the OS. I only downloaded AVG free anit virus and unistalled MacAfee and I’m running this baby. Video Playback is very decent. The 5800 mAmp battery 59 Watts rated is just wonderful.

    3) Design. They keyboard is just good, it could be better but I really don’t see much room for improvement. It is a 300 dollar machine for Christ sake. Screen, I have to use it in the lowest setting, the LED is great and resolution on the spot. Size and weight are very decent. I actually wish it was a bit wider, then again that is my macbook pro bias. Key layout it works wonders for me so far. Functions and commands are easy to execute on it and it is simply pleasent to use sitting, laying in bad or standing. Viewing angle is good, although video videos have a natural narrower viewing angle.

    3) Features. Great battery life (I would put it in the 7 hours range to be fair with real usage). The Audio card is fantastic, it is as good as the macbook pro, no exageration. The atheros WIFI card got reception where my macbook pro doesn’t have it and other computers as well. The HD is very fast, It copies data very quickly and don’t be fool by the 1 G RAM on it, it is plenty to handle netbook oriented computing tasks. The touchpad, in conflict with other reviews out there, there is advance calibration software included in the machine that will allow you to use all the single finger scrolling features and flicker in no time (need to be calibrated first). And just in case people didn’t know there are actually sensors that detect your hand on the resting pad in relation to the touchpad as to avoid unnecessary input.

    4) Personal Gripes: I know these are not really serious concerns but I’m pretty sure they will make the product better overall. First, dual booting. I mean come on how hard it will be to add ubuntu remix to this little wonder. Just as to get a taste of it. Touchpad buttons, I wish i didn’t have to go all the way to the very end of them to click and there was more feedback, maybe I need to get used to them. N280 processor, I know it does not make it or break it but it would be nicer to have the newer atom processor here. Although I know it is not a deal breaker at all. Last but not least, Intel GMA 950??? Come one, it works but this is by far the weakest point on the device. I know we are not doing high end graphics in here, but give me some better integrated graphic action LOL

    Overall, I give it 5 starts because I find no serious flaws with this product to reduce a single start. It is more that what I bargained for and I’m very sure that it will be a very good addition to my technological arsenal for years to come lol…

  • http://hotdealsorg.com Gregory Lopez

    Overview:

    Screen – GREAT

    Keyboard – a bit cramped, but good after some time

    Hard disk – ample size, no real performance issues even at 5400RPM

    Heat dissipation – GREAT – machine gets warm but not hot, even with the disk so close to the bottom

    Graphics performance – Great, considering the Atom CPU. NOT for gaming.

    Ergonomics – ports are accessible, kb is a bit cramped, otherwise great

    Weight – GREAT

    CONS:

    Performance – higher resolution/bit rate web content can drop frames

    Features – could have used one more USB port, no bluetooth, the camera is such a low resolution that I might never use it

    Touchpad – jumps a bit when tapping, not as intuitive for scrolling

    Detailed review:

    I did a lot of research before pulling the trigger and getting this netbook. I spent time in retail stores that had various models and brands available to see what I wanted as far as size, processing, ease of upgrade, etc. I also spent some time on the review sites, forums, etc to see what problems or issues exist for the various netbooks also. I finally decided on the Asus EEE PC 900HA.

    There have been a lot of comments about the keyboard, and it is a bit cramped. I don't intend to use it to write novels, however, nor even lengthy emails. It's a reading/browsing device, a video watching device, and an occasional IM machine for me, and in this capacity, the 900HA shines! The screen is outstanding! The small size could be off-putting if one only looks at the numbers, but looking at the 8.9" LCD is a pleasure. Some apps aren't terribly compatible with the 1024×600 resolution, but most work fine.

    The speakers are quite loud, and are very clear. The battery life is wonderful, especially given the weight of the thing. I am considering getting a 77WH battery, but so far it hasn't been needed. I am also considering a keyboard cover to prevent crumbs from getting into the keyboard. The problem with having something so handy, is that you tend to want to keep it, well, handy, and that can mean crumbs. I have seen silicon keyboard covers for around $10 though, so that should not be an issue.

    I did upgrade to a 2GB SODIMM, however. It's just nicer to have the extra RAM. I got an OCZ PC5400 stick at the suggestion of several forums, but that caused 5 lockups over a weekend, so in the end I returned the OCZ and went with one from PNY. Haven't had a single issue since that change.

    If you do buy this item, one of the first things you should do is to check the support site and make sure you are at the latest BIOS. Several important defects have been fixed in recent BIOSes, not the least of which is battery life and thermal handling.

    I find that the 900HA is easy to carry. I could easily see it getting thrown in a briefcase/bag/purse and kept with one at all times, especially if you upgrade the battery.

    The wireless works WONDERFULLY. It picks up signal better than my Toshiba P205D 17" laptop. Browsing the web is great, save for the resolution issues I mentioned above. I can easily check RSS/blogs and play web-based games, however. Few real issues arise, when using Firefox or IE in Full Screen mode.

    I did hook up a 20" LCD monitor and test higher resolutions, and with the exception of high def video, the 900HA handled things with ease. This unit could very easily satisfy a basic computing device requirement for a college student, if a 17" monitor, keyboard and mouse were kept at the residence.

    If you plan to do a lot of typing without an additional keyboard, however, you may want to step up to a larger netbook. Something like the EEE PC 904HA, Lenovo Ideapad, or even one of the Acer/HP/Dell models. If you just need Internet access or videos while you are passing the time stuck somewhere, you can't beat this netbook.

  • Bruce

    Great laptops, very solid build with excellent WUXGA screen and up to 8GB RAM which is excellent. Probably means 2x4GB memory modules which are expensive no?

    This seems to suggest its going to be 2x 4GB modules:

    http://www.laptopmemoryupgrades.co.uk/laptop-memo

    Bruce

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