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Lenovo ThinkPad W500 review

Verdict

A super-fast workstation laptop with a great screen - but it's only worth buying if you need the ISV certification.

Review Date: 4 Feb 2009

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: £1,217 (£1,400 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
3 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

Lenovo has been prolific of late producing, like a stage magician, a seemingly endless string of laptops from its copious pockets. Last month we had the company's first netbook - the IdeaPad S10e - and the excellent, low-cost ThinkPad SL500, and before that we had the rather more swanky 15in T500 with its high resolution 1,680 x 1,080 screen and switchable dual graphics.

Now it's the turn of the W500, which to look at is as inseperable from the T500 as an identical twin. Both bear the same dimensions at 356 x 255 x 35mm, both weigh almost exactly the same - to within a few grammes - and both have precisely the same chassis.

That's no bad thing, of course. As with the excellent T500, the W500 boasts a typically high quality keyboard, with positive key travel and plenty of space to spread out your fingers. The mouse controls are just as good, with the traditional red Lenovo trackpoint set into the centre of the keyboard and a roomy, accurate trackpad below it.

Build quality is as good as you'd expect from a Lenovo laptop. The screen hinges feel as solid and smooth as those on a bank vault door. The screen backing is stiff and sturdy and feels as if it would take plenty of abuse. And the rest of the chassis is just as stubbornly robust - high-quality plastics abound, from the soft-touch rubbery feel of the lid to the tough, scratch-resistant matte plastic of the wristrest and keyboard surround.

So far so similar - the same comments could just as easily apply to the T500, but the latter comes in at around £300 cheaper than the W500. So where's the extra money been spent? The first and most noticeable area for improvement is the screen. And though the T500's was very good, the W500's is simply superb. Its resolution is even higher - a super-crisp 1,920 x 1,200 - which means acres of desktop space to spread your application windows around.

The quality is very good too: in side-by-side comparisons with the T500's display, the W500's screen is of a similar brightness - so not as eye-popping as on the Sony VAIO VGN-Z21M/NB - but colours have less of a red push and are a little more realistic as a result. Backlight bleed is all but non-existent and viewing angles are good too. Unlike some laptops, you don't have to keep repositioning the screen to get the best performance.

Since the W series is intended to represent the pinnacle of Lenovo's workstation range of laptops, performance is top drawer as well. The W500 is equipped with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400, 2GB of RAM, ATI's Mobility Radeon FireGL V5700 512MB graphics and a 7,200rpm 200GB hard disk. The hard disk is disappointingly small for a workstation machine, but the performance is anything but: the W500 scored a scorching 1.34 in our application-based benchmarks - a score that's right up there with the fastest laptops we've ever tested.

What's possibly of more interest than the blistering performance, or even that gorgeous screen, is the ATI Mobility FireGL V5700's ISV certification. This label, though common in desktop workstations, is unusual in a laptop.

It essentially means the W500 has gone through a series of tests to ensure it works smoothly with a list of demanding, professional software. Titles such as AutoCAD, Solidworks, Catia and 3ds Max make up part of a long list of applications. Another feature aimed at graphics professionals is DisplayPort output.

Despite its workstation credentials and 2.78kg heft, though, taking the W500 out on the road is far from an impractical proposition. As well as an integrated 3.5G modem (locked to Vodafone) it's equipped with dual graphics - the ATI chipset for deskbound use and Intel's integrated GMA 4500MHD chipset for use on the move.

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