Lenovo has redefined the once-boring workstation. More than just a beast of a 17-inch box for workers who need serious graphics muscle, the ThinkPad W700 features two firsts: a digitizer built right into the palm rest (great for Photoshop or CAD/CAM applications) and an integrated color calibrator that automatically adjusts the display’s color in about half the time as external solutions to ensure realistic images. At $3,802, the price tag is steep—and will get even steeper once Intel’s mobile quad-core processor becomes available—but even our configuration’s performance is tough to beat.
There’s no mistaking the clean lines and familiar matte black finish of a ThinkPad, and despite its size, the W700 maintains that look. Lenovo’s largest ThinkPad ever measures 16.1 x 12.2 x 1.6 inches and weighs 8.3 pounds, which is pretty much in line with other desktop replacements. However, the power brick is one of the biggest and heaviest we’ve seen, measuring 6.7 x 3.3 x 1.5 inches and weighing 1.8 pounds.
Lenovo makes good use of the W700’s spacious deck. The classic ThinkPad keyboard is roomy and comfortable and has a separate numerical keypad to the right. Long-time 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.
Under the lid sits an eye-popping 17-inch display with 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution. Color reproduction and viewing angles on this screen are excellent, thanks to the use of wide gamut technology, which allows the panel to display 72 percent of the NTSC color gamut (most notebook screens display around 45 percent of the NTSC gamut). Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam which uses Roxio’s Media Import application (included) to display and capture video and photos. The camera is adequate for video chats and e-mailing photos but its image quality was fairly grainy.
Built-in Tablet and Color Calibrator
To the right of the touchpad is a 5.1 x 3.2-inch Wacom digitizer pad, which comes with a stylus pen that can be stashed away in its holder on the right side of the system. The pad felt a bit too sensitive at first, but after using the Tablet PC Pen Training utility we used the pad and stylus as a mouse controller with relative ease. It also took a few tries to get the handwriting recognition feature to recognize our handwriting, but after 15 minutes or so of practice (also in the Tablet PC Pen Training utility) we could write full sentences without any recognition errors. Still, it’s a tedious process that requires patience to be used effectively.
We used the digitizer to touch up a picture in Photoshop, and to draw a sketch in Microsoft Paint. In both cases, the digitizer performed well, registering our inputs accurately both in terms of speed and pressure. However, we found it more difficult when using the lower part of the pad; its location on the deck made it impossible for us to rest our hand on the notebook itself. This isn’t an issue with a traditional digitizer, which has a low profile, but on the W700, it’s 1.25 inches above the desk, making it less comfortable.
For users who require a consistent and reliable degree of color accuracy, the W700 contains a built-in color-calibration device. Using a small sensor embedded in the keyboard deck and Pantone’s huey Pro color-control software, the device scans the screen while the lid is closed and sounds three tones when the calibration process is complete. We calibrated the screen in just under a minute and immediately noticed a marked improvement. Colors appeared much bolder and the panel displayed much deeper black levels than before the calibration.
Ports, Slots, and Security
Connectivity and expansion options are abundant and include five USB ports, a FireWire port, ExpressCard/34/54 and PCI Express slots, a 7-in-1 card reader, and Ethernet and modem jacks. The W700 has a DisplayPort connection in lieu of an HDMI port, and there is a dual-link DVI port as well as a VGA port. Our model was configured with an 8X DVD±RW optical drive, but you can order it with a recordable Blu-ray drive, a $382 option. 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. A Mini Dock ($279) is also available, allowing you to connect to a variety of external devices such as a keyboard, mouse, and eSATA storage devices.
Powered by a 2.8-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo (T9600) processor and 4GB of memory, the W700 churned out some very impressive scores on our performance tests. In fact, this delivered the best benchmark results we’ve seen yet in PCMark Vantage, which measures Vista application performance. Its score of 4,918 was more than 1,600 points above average for desktop replacements. Likewise, the system’s dual 160GB hard drives (set to RAID 0) managed a speedy throughput of 32.2 MBps on the LAPTOP Transfer Test—nearly 8 MBps above the average. Customers can also configure the system with dual drives up to 320GB in capacity, as well as 64GB SSDs.
The boot time of 66 seconds was disappointing but expected given the number of apps loading at startup—not crapware, but utilities such as the huey Pro calibration app, ThinkVantage Technologies including Access Connections, Intel’s ATM applet, Penflicks (tablet app), Power Manager, and Presentation Director, and Presentation and ThinkVantage Message Center.
To test the system’s multitasking prowess we encoded almost 2 hours worth of songs in iTunes, which required 3 minutes and 12 seconds to complete. The W700 needed only 21 seconds more to encode the files while running a Windows Defender full scan in the background.
Any workstation worth its salt must deliver speedy 3D graphics, and the W700 didn’t disappoint. Armed with a high-end Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M graphics controller with 1GB of memory, it scored a blazingly fast 10,428 on our 3DMark06 benchmark, which tests DirectX 9, CPU, and 3D features. That’s nearly twice as fast as the average desktop replacement notebook, and less than 2,000 points below the current gaming champion, the Alienware Area-51 m17x. Set to its native 1920 x 1200 resolution and with effects maxed out, the W700 managed 93 frames per second on our F.E.A.R. 3D gaming test, which confirms that this notebook can handle graphics-intensive applications with aplomb.
The integrated Intel WiFi Link 5300 (802.11a/g/n) provided good wireless range with throughput speeds of 20.5 and 17.1 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet from the access point, respectively. The W700 can also be outfitted with WiMAX.
Given the size of the W700 it’s doubtful you’ll venture too far from an outlet, but if you do you can expect decent battery life from the hefty nine-cell battery. On the LAPTOP Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi), the battery lasted 2 hours and 41 minutes, a little better than the desktop replacement average.
In the ThinkPad W700, Lenovo has incorporated some truly innovative features, but we’re not entirely convinced of their practicality. A built-in digitizer is a step closer to a dream that professional photographers and designers have had for years, but while it would do the trick for light work, we don’t see it replacing a larger tablet for everyday use. Regardless, if you’re into digital content creation, CAD/CAM engineering, or professional photo editing, the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 workstation—while not cheap, at $3,802—has all the power and amenities you’ll need to handle your graphics workload.