Lenovo ThinkPad W700 (Quad-Core) Review

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$4949

Pros: Outstanding 3D performance; Built-in Wacom digitizer; Beautiful display with color calibration

Cons: Expensive; Bulky power brick

Verdict: In addition to an integrated Wacom digitizer and a large, gorgeous screen, this workstation is one of the first notebooks to boast Intel's mobile quad-core processor.

Editors' Note: Parts of this article were taken from ouroriginal Lenovo ThinkPad W700review.

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Barely a month after Lenovo redefined the ho-hum workstation with an integrated digitizer and color calibrator in the ThinkPad W700, it now looks to shake up the computing world once again with a quad-core version. That's right, quad-core. This iteration of the W700 is the world's first notebook to feature Intel's blazing-fast 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300 mobile processor. This chip specializes in steamrolling through multi-threaded applications (programs designed to utilize multiple cores to enable faster processing) by utilizing four complete execution cores within a single processor. The turbo-charged W700 may require deep wallets with its $4,949 price tag, but with the high cost comes performance that few machines can touch.

Design

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 8.8 pounds, which is pretty much in line with other desktop replacements. Its power brick, too, 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 number pad to the right. ThinkPad fans will appreciate the familiar pointing stick or opt to use the touchpad for cursor control. Both are responsive and easy to reach, but the touchpad is quite small.

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 penmanship, 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 1.3 inches above the desk, making it less comfortable.

Display

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-ranging technology, which allows the panel to display 72 percent of theNTSC color space, resulting in a more colorful image (while most notebook screens display around 45 percent of theNTSC color space). When we started up our There Will Be Blood disc in the 8X DVDRW drive, we were treated to bright and crisp images but were disappointed to see uneven, stuttering playback when we expanded the InterVideo WinDVD 5 window to full-screen. However, the movie played flawlessly in Windows Media Player 11. If high-definition video is more to your liking, Lenovo offers a Blu-ray burner for an additional $382.

Above the display is a 1.3-megapixel webcam, which uses the included Roxio Media Import application 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.

For photographers, graphic artists, and the like who require a consistent and reliable degree of color accuracy, the W700 contains a built-in color-calibrator. 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; it 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 exhibited much deeper black levels than before the calibration.

Ports, Slots, and Security

Connectivity options abound on the W700: it houses five USB ports, dual-link DVI, VGA, FireWire, DisplayPort, ExpressCard/34 and Compact Flash slots, a 7-in-1 card reader, and Ethernet, modem, headphone, and microphone jacks.

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, for connecting to a variety of external devices such as a keyboard mouse and eSATA storage devices.

Quad-Core Performance

Powered by Intel's Q9300 quad-core engine and 4GB of memory (expandable to 8GB), the W700 obliterated all previous PCMark Vantage scores with a mark of 5,352, which is 2,000 points above the 3,351 desktop replacement average. In fact, only the previous W700, which scored 4,918, came close to touching this configuration's performance.

Putting Quad-Core To The Test

We decided to push the capabilities of the W700's quad-core processor and compare it to the 2.53-GHz dual-core MSI GX720 by performing a battery of tests. Ripping a 12-track CD into 192-Kbps MP3s using iTunes 8 took 4 minutes and 16 seconds on the W700 versus 4 minutes and 22 seconds on the GX720--a small difference.

It was when we converted a 39.2MB 1080p M2TS video file (an HD file format used in Sony camcorders) to WMV using Nero Vision (which supports multi-threading) that the quad-core CPU flexed its multi-threading muscle. It converted the video in 2 minutes and 19 seconds, which was 1 minute and 31 seconds faster than the GX720. Lastly, we decided to stress the CPU by ripping a CD and converting a video file simultaneously. The quad-core engine completed its task in 4 minutes and 22 seconds, which beat its dual-core counterpart by an even 50 seconds.

Take note that there aren't many programs that currently make use of four cores. Intel counts more than 30 programs (and growing), including mainstream content-creation applications (Corel Video Studio X2, Cyberlink Power Director 7), professional content-creation apps (Adobe After Effects CS4, Adobe Photoshop CS3, Sony Vegas v8.0b), and games (Hellgate: London, Far Cry 2, Unreal Tournament 3).

Hard Drive Performance and Boot Time

The system's dual 7,200-rpm, 160GB hard drives (set to RAID 0) managed a speedy throughput of 28.9 MBps on the LAPTOP Transfer Test (copying a 4.97GB folder of mixed media)--just over 5 MBps above the category average. Customers can also configure the system with dual drives up to 320GB in capacity, as well as 64GB SSDs. Windows Vista Ultimate's 69-second boot time was disappointingly on a par with other notebooks in this class.

Graphics Performance

Workstations are expected to be graphics dynamos, and the W700 didn't disappoint. Packing a high-powered Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M graphics chipset (with 1GB of dedicated video memory), it crushed all other non-gaming desktop replacements with a super-charged 11,083 on our 3DMark06 benchmark, which tests DirectX 9, CPU, and 3D features. That's twice as fast as the category average, but 959 points less than the current GPU champ, the Alienware Area-51 m17x. On our 3DMark Vantage test (which measures DirectX 10, Shader Model 4.0, and multi-threading capability), the W700 produced a score of 5,052.

As expected from the benchmark numbers, the W700 came up aces when we fired up F.E.A.R. In autodetect mode (1024 x 768-pixel resolution), it managed an amazingly smooth 100 frames per second. When set to its native 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution and with effects maxed out, the W700 managed 44 fps. The W700 also maintained a silky 87.3 frames per second on World of Warcraft, so if you want to game on, this is a more-than-capable machine.

Wi-Fi and Battery Life

The integrated Intel WiFi Link 5300 provided good wireless throughput with speeds of 19.8 and 18.9 Mbps at 15 and 50 feet from the access point, respectively. 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 50 minutes, which is 6 minutes longer than the average desktop replacement.

Verdict

Like its dual-core twin, the quad-core Lenovo ThinkPad W700 incorporates several innovative features, but its Q9300 processor is the most impressive. It will give professional digital artists or multimedia hobbyists the power to crunch data faster on a mobile platform faster than ever before. Although the $4,949 price tag stings a little in the current economy, you can configure the machine with lower-end specs, such as an Nvidia FX 2700M GPU and a single 160GB HDD, bringing the price to $3,729. But the Lenovo ThinkPad W700's quad-core processor has all the power and amenities you'll need to handle your graphics workload, while giving you a glimpse at the future of mobile computing.

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Laptop Mag & Tom's Hardware
CPU 2.53-GHz Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300
Operating System MS Windows Vista Ultimate (64-bit)
RAM 4GB
RAM Upgradable to 8GB
Hard Drive Size 160GB
Hard Drive Speed 7,200rpm
Hard Drive Type SATA Hard Drive
Display Size 17
Native Resolution 1920x1200
Optical Drive DVDRW
Optical Drive Speed 8X
Graphics Card Quadro FX 3700M
Video Memory 1GB
Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/draft-n
Bluetooth Bluetooth 2.0+EDR
Ports (excluding USB) Firewire
Ports (excluding USB) Ethernet
Ports (excluding USB) Docking Connector
Ports (excluding USB) VGA
Ports (excluding USB) DisplayPort
Ports (excluding USB) Modem
Ports (excluding USB) DVI
Ports (excluding USB) Microphone
Ports (excluding USB) Compact Flash
Ports (excluding USB) Headphone
USB Ports 5
Card Slots ExpressCard
Card Slots 7-1 card reader
Warranty/Support One-year limited/24/7 toll-free phone
Size 16.1 x 12.2 x 1.6 inches
Weight 8.8 pounds
Company Website http://www.lenovo.com/us