Notebookcheck

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s Workstation Review

Tobias Winkler, Tanja Hinum (translated by Andreas Osthoff), 03/17/2015

Surprise! Lenovo expands its W-series with an ultra slim mobile workstation, which can set some new records right away. It benefits from components like the first professional chip from Nvidia's Maxwell generation, a generous battery capacity and many typical business features. Our review shows you what else we like about this workstation.

For the original German review, see here.

Following the current slimline trend, there are also more and more mobile workstations with very slim constructions. Stylish, thin and mobile is the motto here and supports the orientation towards mobility. A working device does not necessarily have to be bulky, ugly and in a giant chassis. Some manufacturers will accept a reduced port variety, limited expandability and a reduced performance in return. Lenovo wants to show that there is an alternative with the ThinkPad W550s. Unlike some rivals, which are based on existing products from the consumer range; it is based on the completely redesigned ThinkPad T550 chassis. As well as the slim exterior, it is consistently designed for business purposes and therefore avoids many pitfalls.

Our review unit is equipped with Intel's Core i7-5500U CPU, the Nvidia Quadro K620M (Maxwell chip), 16 GB of RAM, a 512 GB SSD as well as a 3K IPS display. The price is currently around 2200 Euros (~$2406).

Case

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s has a slim chassis.
The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s has a slim chassis.
The big gap above the power connector should be an isolated case.
The big gap above the power connector should be an isolated case.

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is a big step back towards old ThinkPad qualities. While the ThinkPad W540/W541 left rather mixed feelings, the slimline alternative can now once again meet the good reputation. The chassis leaves a very sturdy impression and can just slightly be deformed at a few spots. This includes the display cover and a thin stripe above the SmartCard reader. Still, a direct comparison with the recently reviewed Lenovo ThinkPad W541 shows that you will need much more force. Neither the palm rest, the keyboard area, nor the base unit reveal any issues. The overall build quality is generally on a good level. There are some uneven gaps at a few spots and our review unit had a gap right above the power connector. However, this seems to be a peculiar flaw of the review unit. We could not observe this problem in a ThinkPad T550 (same chassis).

The bottom consists of a large tray that has to be removed completely before you can access the components. This is actually an important factor for the sturdy construction. Maintenance hatches or other possible parts that could affect the stability are missing.

The price for the good torsion resistance is a slightly higher weight. With 2410 grams (~5.3 lb), the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is around 400 grams (~0.9 lb) heavier than the review configurations of the MSI WS60 and the Dell Precision M3800. However, this difference is just 200 grams (~0.44 lb) when you use the small 23 Wh battery at the back instead of the larger 72 Wh module. Our review unit weighs 2.08 kg (~4.6 lb) without the second battery at the back. As well as the big hole, this will also result in much shorter battery runtimes since you can only use the 44 Wh battery inside the chassis. According to our information, Lenovo does not offer any kind of dummy module.

Connectivity

Despite its slim construction, we can find all the important ports in the chassis. 3 x USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort, VGA and a card reader cover the most important areas. The ThinkPad W550s also has a real docking port at the bottom, so you can attach many peripherals in combination with a docking station when you use the notebook on your desk. The rest of the port layout is obviously affected by the slim base unit. The space between the ports could be somewhat larger so that attached cables, adaptors and expansions do not block adjacent ports. We do not really know why the Ethernet port is located that far in the front.

We were able to measure good transfer rates. We managed around 300 MB/s (read) and 330 MB/s (write) via USB 3.0 in combination with a Samsung T1 SSD. The card reader is quite fast  with a read performance of 83 MB/s (Toshiba Exceira Pro UHS-II, 16 GB) and 56 MB/s for write operations, but does not reach the performance of the card reader in the ThinkPad W541 because of the missing UHS-II support.

Front: No ports, only a draining channel
Front: No ports, only a draining channel
Right side: USB 3.0 with charging, USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort, Kensington slot
Right side: USB 3.0 with charging, USB 3.0, Mini-DisplayPort, Kensington slot
Back: No ports, large external 72 Wh battery
Back: No ports, large external 72 Wh battery
Left side: AC power, USB 3.0, combined stereo jack, card reader, LAN, SmartCard reader
Left side: AC power, USB 3.0, combined stereo jack, card reader, LAN, SmartCard reader

Communication

Our review unit is equipped with Intel's Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 WLAN module. It supports 2.4 and 5 GHz networks, has two antennas and reaches theoretical transfer rates of up to 867 Mbps. Bluetooth 4.0 is already integrated. Other supported features are Intel's Wireless Display technology and Intel's Hotspot Assistant. We were able to measure transfer rates of 3.1 MB/s up to 18.25 MB/s in combination with a Fritz!Box 7490 depending on the distance, but our individual setup environment should only be an indicator. We had no problems with connection drops or other anomalies during the review period. The communication features are rounded off with Gigabit-Ethernet, a dual-array microphone as well as a 720p webcam. The camera is sufficient for well-lit rooms, but the pictures will suffer from signal noise in darker environments, which will affect the quality significantly. However, the quality is decent for video calls in normal environments.

Other WLAN and WWAN modules (all M.2) are available. The integration of a WWAN card (HSPA+ or LTE) after the purchase is not a problem since all the necessary antennas are already integrated.

Security 

Fingerprint reader, SmartCard reader and a Trusted Platform Module (TPM 1.2) and the usual password and software protections are typical for a business device. A Kensington Lock preparation is obviously available to protect the notebooks against physical thefts with the corresponding cable lock. This theft protection will probably be especially useful at expos, lecture rooms or meeting rooms.

Accessories

One important aspect of expensive business notebooks is the comprehensive list of dedicated accessories. Docking stations, batteries and modular drive bays for some devices are typical expansion possibilities. Lenovo is traditionally well-prepared in this area and offers interesting products. Lenovo lists three different batteries for the W550s, which can be changed during operation thanks to Lenovo's Power Bridge technology. In addition to the supplied 72 Wh battery of our review unit, you can also get a 44 Wh module as well as a 23 Wh battery that is flush with the chassis. Docking stations are a good solution if you want to use the notebook on your desk to simplify the attachment of peripherals. For example, Lenovo's ThinkPad Ultra docking station (40A20170EU) has 4 display ports including DVI and VGA.

Maintenance

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s does not have traditional maintenance hatches, but the expandability and maintainability are still good. The screwed bottom cover can be removed in a few  minutes that gives access to all the major components. RAM, storage solution, wireless module, M.2 SSD or the fan can be reached easily. As usual, Lenovo's Hardware Maintenance Manual for the ThinkPad T550/W550s explains which components can be replaced by the user and a step-by-step guide. The models from the current T/W-series do not offer an optical drive or a modular drive bay.

Warranty

Lenovo offers a warranty period of 36 months for its W-series, which is quite the standard for business devices and workstations. No less important are several options to purchase additional services and warranty extensions. An extension of the basic protection to a 5-year on-site service (5WS0A22893) is currently available for around 170 Euros (~$186), and a 4-year on-site service on the next business days + accident protection + 3-year sealed battery (5PS0H20182) costs almost 280 Euros (~$306).

Accessibility of the components
Accessibility of the components
Docking port
Docking port
Large 72 Wh battery
Large 72 Wh battery

Input Devices

Keyboard

The chiclet-style keyboard is impressive with a good pressure point, large keys and a stroke that is not too loud. The keys have a spacing of 19 mm (~0.75 in) and the size is very functional. The arrow keys are also larger compared to many rivals and can be used very comfortably. Only the gap between the two vertical arrow keys could be slightly larger. The keyboard sits firmly in the chassis and provides a good feedback. The separate numeric keypad makes it easy to enter large rows of numbers, but also results in an asymmetrical positioning of the touchpad. The F-keys area includes  additional multimedia and special buttons that enable useful features without the Fn key. Traditionally the latter is switched with the Ctrl key in ThinkPads, but this can be changed in the BIOS.

Touchpad

The size of the touchpad surface has reduced, but unlike the ThinkPad model of the previous year, the TrackPoint now once again has dedicated buttons. This improves the handling, and the general usability of the well-working red dot is back to the familiar levels. It is also possible to assign the buttons with alternative functions. Controlling the cursor with the TrackPoint is precise and smooth. 

The touchpad itself is now slightly smaller with 100 x 56 millimeters (~4 x 2.2 in). This has a small negative effect on multi-touch gestures since there are 20 millimeters (~0.8 in) less room for vertical movements. The input surface provides good gliding capabilities and inputs are executed immediately. With an alternative configuration (right mouse button via 2-finger tip), you can also avoid the ClickPad buttons on the front edge. This is recommended since a hardware click is not always recognized in the center.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

The 3K IPS display in the review unit is familiar. We have already seen this panel in the ThinkPad W540 and recently in the ThinkPad W541. Lenovo also offers a Full HD display as an alternative, which has the same specifications (no IPS) of the panel that we evaluated in the review update of the ThinkPad W540.

343
cd/m²
323
cd/m²
331
cd/m²
312
cd/m²
360
cd/m²
312
cd/m²
293
cd/m²
323
cd/m²
310
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 360 cd/m² Average: 323 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 81 %
Center on Battery: 357 cd/m²
Contrast: 667:1 (Black: 0.54 cd/m²)
ΔE Color 3.45 | 0.4-29.43 Ø6.1
ΔE Greyscale 2.98 | 0.64-98 Ø6.4
86.3% sRGB (Argyll 3D) 56% AdobeRGB 1998 (Argyll 3D)
Gamma: 2.06

Once again, the 3K IPS display  delivers good results and is our clear favorite for ThinkPads from the W and T-series. The brightness reaches up to 360 cd/m² in the center of the screen and the measured contrast is good with 667:1. The display brightness can be adjusted in 15 steps; we measured a minimum value of 4 cd/m² and 156 cd/m² in setting 12. We also use the latter setting for our WLAN and video battery tests. The sRGB color space is covered by 86% (Correction 20.5.2015 due to a wrong sRGB-reference-profile) and the colors are already quite accurate for factory settings, there are just some exceptions with a DeltaE 2000 value over 5. This means you can work with a relatively accurate panel out of the box. However, this does not replace a calibration, which is common for professional devices, and should be done right away.

Grayscale
Grayscale
Color
Color
Saturation
Saturation
Colorchecker
Colorchecker
W550s vs. sRGB (86%)
W550s vs. sRGB (86%)
W550s vs. AdobeRGB98 (56%)
W550s vs. AdobeRGB98 (56%)

The viewing angle stability is generally very good and we can only see small color and brightness changes. If anything, you can only see diffuse reflections from light sources depending on the ambient light. Depending on the angle, these can affect the picture slightly. This effect is enhanced in the viewing angle picture where the panel is slightly angled to the front. However, this is not that obvious in practice.

Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad W550s with 3k IPS display
Viewing angles Lenovo ThinkPad W550s with 3k IPS display

Performance

You can no longer get conventional CPUs with the new thin slimline chassis  used in the T-series. Lenovo's Product Specifications Reference (PSREF) for the ThinkPad W550s only lists ULV CPUs that have a Thermal Design Power of up to 15 watts. Otherwise, you can order up to 16 GB of memory (officially), conventional hard drives and modern SSDs as well as the Nvidia Quadro K620M/Intel HD Graphics 5500 GPU combination, which is always integrated. The W550s was clearly designed with mobility in mind and not the highest possible performance.

CPU
Caches
Mainboard
HWinfo
GPU Intel
GPU Nvidia
HD Tune
DPC Latency Checker
System information Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE

Processor

Workstation with comparatively weak CPU
Workstation with comparatively weak CPU
Stress test 1 minute
Stress test 1 minute
Stress test 4 minutes
Stress test 4 minutes
Stress test 85 minutes
Stress test 85 minutes
Stress test 111 minutes
Stress test 111 minutes

We can test the Intel Core i7-5500U, which is one of the three Broadwell CPUs that are available for the ThinkPad W550s. It represents the medium solution in terms of performance, the smaller model is the i5-5300U and the faster chip is the i7-5600U. The two processor cores of the test CPU can execute up to four threads simultaneously and raise the nominal frequency of 2.4 GHz up to 3.0 GHz via Turbo Boost.

As expected, the raw CPU benchmark results are rather mediocre compared to other mobile workstations, which are usually equipped with quad-core CPUs. Compared to the "bread and butter" processor in the workstation segment, the Intel Core i7-4710MQ, the single-core performance is actually competitive with a deficit of just 10%, but it falls behind by around 50% in multi-core scenarios. It will depend on the actual software usage of the user and whether tasks can be handled by the efficient GPGPU computing. Both Intel's Quick Sync Video and Nvidia's CUDA can significantly reduce the CPU load during conversion, picture filters or compressions. If this is not possible due to missing software support, you can hardly compensate the comparatively weak CPU performance. This will result in longer waiting times and less headroom for parallel tasks.

For example, Cinebench R11.5 64-bit determines for our dual-core Intel Core i7-5500U 1.42 points in the single-core test (Core i7-4710MQ: 1.54 Points) and 2.85 points in the multi-core test (Core i7-4710MQ: 6.87 points). More comparisons are available in our CPU benchmark list.

The CPU performance is even lower on battery power, where the Cinebench R11.5 64-bit multi-core test can only determine 1.68 points.

Sustained maximum load of the CPU and the Nvidia Quadro K620M will result in 2.4 GHz at the start, but the clock then drops to 1.9 GHz after a few minutes and is even occasionally reduced to 800 MHz. The reasons for this behavior are the Thermal Design Power limit, reaching certain temperatures, and the Nvidia GPU that can maintain its maximum clock. The power consumption also fluctuates correspondingly between 54.5 watts, 48.9 watts and 37.7 watts.

Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
5261
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
8812
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
4503
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
5338 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
11616 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
6100 Points
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.85 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
49.18 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
1.42 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Multi 64Bit
260 Points
Cinebench R15 CPU Single 64Bit
124 Points
Cinebench R15 Ref. Match 64Bit
99.6 %
Cinebench R15 OpenGL 64Bit
60.62 fps
Help

System Performance

The system performance is usually sufficient for many scenarios. Thanks to the solid-state drive, 16 GB of RAM and the dedicated Nvidia Quadro K620M you get quite a balanced configuration. Depending on the task and software, the dual-core, which is not very stable under load, can reduce the performance and is actually the bottleneck of the mobile workstation. This drawback is not that noticeable during regular tasks with normal CPU load and in the system benchmarks. PCMark 8 Creative determines 2897 points and 4323 points in the Work test. The Fujitsu Celsius H730 with the Intel Core i7-4710MQ and the Nvidia Quadro K1100M is even slightly worse in the Work test with 4254 points.

The memory is officially limited to 16 GB, but you can use a total of 32 GB with two 16 GB modules from Intelligent Memory. This only works with current Broadwell CPUs and AMD chips that support it. Our review unit had no problems with the modules, we ran a 15-minute stress test and it worked well.

PCMark Vantage Result
12535 points
PCMark 7 Score
4474 points
PCMark 8 Home Score Accelerated v2
3061 points
PCMark 8 Creative Score Accelerated v2
2897 points
PCMark 8 Work Score Accelerated v2
4323 points
Help

Storage Solution

Our Lenovo ThinkPad W5502 still uses a 2.5-inch SSD, even though it already has a modern M.2 slot. This results in a moderate initial pricing with the possibility to upgrade later. At the same time, the Samsung drive has a generous capacity of 512 GB (gross) and the user can use around 411 GB ex-works. This is a lot of space for the system, applications and files, and you also get the internal upgradeability via the M.2. On the other hand, the performance figures of the SATA-III drive are not overwhelming. While the important read performance reaches more than 500 MB/s, we can see much lower write speeds of around 200 MB/s. However, thanks to the short access times and the pretty good 4K results, you will not really notice this issue in practice. More comprehensive comparisons are available in our SSD/HDD benchmark list.

Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
Transfer Rate Minimum: 134.4 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 459.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 369.8 MB/s
Access Time: 0.1 ms
Burst Rate: 184.9 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

Graphics

Currently, Nvidia's Maxwell generation is creating some negative news regarding the overclocking restrictions, but this model generation is actually a big success. The Nvidia Quadro K620M in our review unit is the first professional chip that we have reviewed and offers much more performance compared to the predecessor Nvidia Quadro K610M. The technical specifications suggest that the Nvidia Quadro K620M is a lower-mainstream chip and is very similar to the Nvidia Geforce 840M. 384 shader units, a 64-bit memory interface and 2 GB DDR3 video memory are the specs of the professional entry-level solution. The core clock is 1029 MHz and can be raised up to 1124 MHz via Turbo 2.0, which should also be the reason for the slightly better results in a direct comparison with the Nvidia Geforce 840M. The main advantage is not the raw performance increase, but rather the lowered power and cooling requirements.

We like the test results of the raw graphics performance. Even though the rather weak CPU is probably a limiting factor, the benchmark results can actually keep up with the Nvidia Quadro K2100M in some scenarios. Nvidia's Quadro K1100M is usually clearly beaten. This is good news for the upcoming transition of the more powerful mobile Quadro chips to the Maxwell architecture.

The comparison with AMD's inexpensive mainstream rival FirePro M5100 shows that the Nvidia GPU can reduce the deficit in many scenarios. The OpenCL performance with Ray tracing (LuxMark 2.0) in particular takes a big step forwards and can somewhat disenchant the dominance of the FirePros. The Nvidia Quadro K620M manages ten times the performance of the Quadro K1100M inside the ThinkPad W540 in the Sala test and at least double the result of the Room test.

As well as typical CAD applications, the SPECviewperf benchmarks also evaluate the performance of 3D construction scenarios, including 3D design, 3D visualization and oil and gas exploration. A medical MRT is also part of the test.

The Quadro K620M leaves a good impression in Catia, Tcvis, Pro/Engineer and Siemens NX in particular, where the performance difference compared to the predecessor is between 20% and 40%. It even has a big advantage over the Nvidia Quadro K2100M in the medical MRT and is only beaten by the AMD FirePro M5100. As always with workstations, you should know what applications you use. Different software and driver versions can also have a significant impact on the actual frame rates in practice.

All the DirectX benchmark results are slightly faster than the Nvidia Geforce 840. The tests evaluate the raw hardware performance of the Quadro K620M without OpenGL optimizations. 3DMark 11 determines a GPU score of 2434 points and 3DMark Cloud Gate 9092 points. Our review unit manages 21.9 fps in the Unigine Heaven test (DX11). More information is available in our GPU benchmark list.

SPECviewperf 11
1920x1080 Siemens NX (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
30.91 fps ∼22%
HP ZBook 15
20.54 fps ∼15% -34%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
30.87 fps ∼22% 0%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
23.1 fps ∼16% -25%
HP ZBook 15 G2
26.63 fps ∼19% -14%
1920x1080 Tcvis (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
39.52 fps ∼66%
HP ZBook 15
26.47 fps ∼44% -33%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
34.34 fps ∼58% -13%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
27.3 fps ∼46% -31%
HP ZBook 15 G2
21.43 fps ∼36% -46%
1920x1080 SolidWorks (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
41.78 fps ∼51%
HP ZBook 15
35.16 fps ∼43% -16%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
41.64 fps ∼50% 0%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
38.2 fps ∼46% -9%
HP ZBook 15 G2
56.14 fps ∼68% +34%
1920x1080 Pro/ENGINEER (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
15.68 fps ∼65%
HP ZBook 15
13.93 fps ∼58% -11%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
15.96 fps ∼67% +2%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
17.3 fps ∼72% +10%
HP ZBook 15 G2
10.64 fps ∼44% -32%
1920x1080 Maya (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
49.5 fps ∼37%
HP ZBook 15
42.44 fps ∼32% -14%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
52.03 fps ∼39% +5%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
46.6 fps ∼35% -6%
HP ZBook 15 G2
60.34 fps ∼46% +22%
1920x1080 Lightwave (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
46.82 fps ∼50%
HP ZBook 15
49.06 fps ∼53% +5%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
47.6 fps ∼51% +2%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
50 fps ∼54% +7%
HP ZBook 15 G2
75.79 fps ∼81% +62%
1920x1080 Ensight (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
20.68 fps ∼10%
HP ZBook 15
14.67 fps ∼7% -29%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
24.64 fps ∼12% +19%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
17.4 fps ∼8% -16%
HP ZBook 15 G2
25.07 fps ∼12% +21%
1920x1080 Catia (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
46.7 fps ∼57%
HP ZBook 15
28.72 fps ∼35% -39%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
39.12 fps ∼48% -16%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
34.5 fps ∼42% -26%
HP ZBook 15 G2
35.61 fps ∼43% -24%

Legend

 
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE Intel Core i7-5500U, NVIDIA Quadro K620M, Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
 
HP ZBook 15 Intel Core i7-4800MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K610M, Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 HTS725050A7E630
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE Intel Core i7-4910MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
 
Fujitsu Celsius H730 Intel Core i7-4710MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, Samsung SSD PM851 256 GB MZ7TE256HMHP
 
HP ZBook 15 G2 Intel Core i7-4910MQ, AMD FirePro M5100, SanDisk A110 SD6PP4M-256G-1006
SPECviewperf 12
1900x1060 Solidworks (sw-03) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
33.02 fps ∼16%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
32.9 fps ∼16% 0%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
22.41 fps ∼11% -32%
Dell Precision M2800
37.52 fps ∼18% +14%
HP ZBook 14
24.59 fps ∼12% -26%
HP ZBook 15 G2
39.72 fps ∼19% +20%
1900x1060 Siemens NX (snx-02) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
17.1 fps ∼7%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
15.5 fps ∼6% -9%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
21.35 fps ∼8% +25%
Dell Precision M2800
23.52 fps ∼9% +38%
HP ZBook 14
16.58 fps ∼6% -3%
HP ZBook 15 G2
29.69 fps ∼12% +74%
1900x1060 Showcase (showcase-01) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
6.32 fps ∼3%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
9.1 fps ∼5% +44%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
11.23 fps ∼6% +78%
Dell Precision M2800
12.75 fps ∼7% +102%
HP ZBook 14
3.93 fps ∼2% -38%
HP ZBook 15 G2
16.36 fps ∼9% +159%
1900x1060 Medical (medical-01) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
7.05 fps ∼8%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
4.9 fps ∼6% -30%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
2.16 fps ∼2% -69%
Dell Precision M2800
5.84 fps ∼7% -17%
HP ZBook 14
0.99 fps ∼1% -86%
HP ZBook 15 G2
7.82 fps ∼9% +11%
1900x1060 Maya (maya-04) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
12.03 fps ∼6%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
14.2 fps ∼7% +18%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
15.82 fps ∼8% +32%
Dell Precision M2800
22.75 fps ∼12% +89%
HP ZBook 14
5.4 fps ∼3% -55%
HP ZBook 15 G2
24.92 fps ∼13% +107%
1900x1060 Energy (energy-01) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
0.38 fps ∼1%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
0.33 fps ∼1% -13%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
0.17 fps ∼1% -55%
Dell Precision M2800
0.35 fps ∼1% -8%
HP ZBook 14
0.06 fps ∼0% -84%
HP ZBook 15 G2
0.44 fps ∼2% +16%
1900x1060 Creo (creo-01) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
16.28 fps ∼10%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
16.2 fps ∼10% 0%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
19.14 fps ∼12% +18%
Dell Precision M2800
18.8 fps ∼12% +15%
HP ZBook 14
13.97 fps ∼9% -14%
HP ZBook 15 G2
19.64 fps ∼12% +21%
1900x1060 Catia (catia-04) (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
18.72 fps ∼10%
Fujitsu Celsius H730
16.6 fps ∼8% -11%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
19.6 fps ∼10% +5%
Dell Precision M2800
19.33 fps ∼10% +3%
HP ZBook 14
13.43 fps ∼7% -28%
HP ZBook 15 G2
23.62 fps ∼12% +26%

Legend

 
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE Intel Core i7-5500U, NVIDIA Quadro K620M, Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
 
Fujitsu Celsius H730 Intel Core i7-4710MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, Samsung SSD PM851 256 GB MZ7TE256HMHP
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE Intel Core i7-4910MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
 
Dell Precision M2800 Intel Core i7-4810MQ, AMD FirePro W4170M, SK hynix SH920
 
HP ZBook 14 Intel Core i7-4600U, AMD FirePro M4100, Samsung SSD 840 Pro 256GB MZ7PD256HAFV-0Z000
 
HP ZBook 15 G2 Intel Core i7-4910MQ, AMD FirePro M5100, SanDisk A110 SD6PP4M-256G-1006
LuxMark v2.0 64Bit
Room GPUs-only (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
253 Samples/s ∼5%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
68 Samples/s ∼1% -73%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
103 Samples/s ∼2% -59%
HP ZBook 15 G2
375 Samples/s ∼7% +48%
Dell Precision M2800
256 Samples/s ∼5% +1%
Sala GPUs-only (sort by value)
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE
508 Samples/s ∼5%
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE
146 Samples/s ∼1% -71%
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW
48 Samples/s ∼0% -91%
HP ZBook 15 G2
675 Samples/s ∼6% +33%
Dell Precision M2800
462 Samples/s ∼4% -9%

Legend

 
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE Intel Core i7-5500U, NVIDIA Quadro K620M, Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W541 20EF000SGE Intel Core i7-4910MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K2100M, Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP
 
Lenovo ThinkPad W540 20BGCTO1WW Intel Core i7-4700MQ, NVIDIA Quadro K1100M, HGST Travelstar 5K1000 HTS541010A9E680
 
HP ZBook 15 G2 Intel Core i7-4910MQ, AMD FirePro M5100, SanDisk A110 SD6PP4M-256G-1006
 
Dell Precision M2800 Intel Core i7-4810MQ, AMD FirePro W4170M, SK hynix SH920
3DMark 06 Standard
10912 points
3DMark Vantage P Result
7880 points
3DMark 11 Performance
2526 points
3DMark Ice Storm Standard Score
28455 points
3DMark Cloud Gate Standard Score
6591 points
3DMark Fire Strike Score
1424 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Professional graphics chips are comparatively rare in our editorial office, so we also have a closer look at the gaming performance. Considering that the Nvidia Quadro K620M is still an entry-level solution, you get playable frame rates in almost all games. Only very complex games like “Ryse: Son of Rome”, “Alan Wake” or “Thief” are too demanding. At least low settings should result in smooth frame rates with some tinkering. Almost all tested games ran without problems. Only “Tomb Raider”, which is usually quite stable, refused to work in the Ultra-preset (1920x1080) and resulted in a crash. “Thief” on the other hand had problems with the low XGA resolution (1024x768) and crashed repeatedly during the load. We only managed one benchmark in the game, but the result was quite mediocre.

low med. high ultra
World of Warcraft (2005) 2511524926fps
StarCraft 2 (2010) 185795418fps
Total War: Shogun 2 (2011) 763619fps
Batman: Arkham City (2011) 101623616fps
Alan Wake (2012) 412513fps
Diablo III (2012) 72575942fps
Dirt Showdown (2012) 98755217fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 8844318fps
Torchlight 2 (2012) 12410598fps
F1 2012 (2012) 111969047fps
World of Tanks v8 (2012) 98623822fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 55372614fps
Assassin´s Creed III (2012) 232210fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 1346636fps
BioShock Infinite (2013) 73524215fps
Metro: Last Light (2013) 49382311fps
GRID 2 (2013) 128415820fps
Company of Heroes 2 (2013) 3531217fps
Saints Row IV (2013) 75592211fps
Total War: Rome II (2013) 61484010.5fps
Thief (2014) 21261310fps
GRID: Autosport (2014) 151763218fps
Ryse: Son of Rome (2014) 352310fps

Emissions

System Noise

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is generally a very quiet mobile workstation. It is often silent with light workloads and the quiet fan is just occasionally activated. The fan is not immediately activated when you stress the device and only starts spinning after 1 to 2 minutes. We were able to measure 30.4 dB(A) with medium workloads, and maximum load usually does not result in more than 31.8 dB(A). The absolute maximum value of 38.1 dB(A) is only audible at the start of the maximum load with the maximum clocks and a "warmed up" system. However, this is not usually the case in practice. We could not hear any high-pitched sounds or pulsating from our review unit.

Noise Level

Idle
26.9 / 26.9 / 26.9 dB(A)
Load
30.4 / 38.1 dB(A)
  red to green bar
 
 
30 dB
silent
40 dB(A)
audible
50 dB(A)
loud
 
min: dark, med: mid, max: light   PCE-322A (15 cm distance)

Temperature

As with the noise development, the chassis temperatures are very restrained. The maximum temperature of 51.2 °C (~124 °F) at the bottom is the result of our stress test for two hours. However, this value is not a problem when you use the device on your desk. The temperatures usually stay around the 40 °C (~104 °F) mark in practice. The large 72 Wh battery has a positive effect on the cooling because it results in a very big gap between the notebook and the surface, which enables a good air flow. This area is smaller with the other batteries and the results can be worse.

Max. Load
 28.4 °C
83 F
30.3 °C
87 F
35.1 °C
95 F
 
 28 °C
82 F
32.4 °C
90 F
36.5 °C
98 F
 
 27.5 °C
82 F
29.3 °C
85 F
32.1 °C
90 F
 
Maximum: 36.5 °C = 98 F
Average: 31.1 °C = 88 F
28.4 °C
83 F
26.5 °C
80 F
28.4 °C
83 F
47.6 °C
118 F
51.2 °C
124 F
28.9 °C
84 F
31.2 °C
88 F
29.8 °C
86 F
26.2 °C
79 F
Maximum: 51.2 °C = 124 F
Average: 33.1 °C = 92 F
Power Supply (max.)  49.9 °C = 122 F | Room Temperature 19 °C = 66 F | Fennel Firt 550
(+) The average temperature for the upper side under maximal load is 31.1 °C / 88 F, compared to the average of 31.1 °C / 88 F for the devices in the class Workstation.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 36.5 °C / 98 F, compared to the average of 37.1 °C / 99 F, ranging from 23 to 69.8 °C for the class Workstation.
(-) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 51.2 °C / 124 F, compared to the average of 40.4 °C / 105 F
(+) In idle usage, the average temperature for the upper side is 23.5 °C / 74 F, compared to the device average of 31.1 °C / 88 F.
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are reaching skin temperature as a maximum (32.1 °C / 89.8 F) and are therefore not hot.
(-) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 27.8 °C / 82 F (-4.3 °C / -7.8 F).

Speakers

TThe sound output is quite decent for a slimline business notebook. Overall, it is focused on the high tones, limited medium tones and bass, but you get an undistorted sound and a rather high maximum volume. The performance is actually sufficient for presentations in a small group. If you want more, you should use Bluetooth speakers. You can only use one combined 3.5 mm stereo jack for headphones and microphone, which means two separate devices can only be used in combination with an adaptor.

Energy Management

Power Consumption

The minimum idle consumption with a deactivated display is just 1.6 watts, and we can still only measure 4 watts with the activated panel (Intel HD Graphics 5500), which is pretty impressive. With the maximum luminance, the dedicated Nvidia GPU and activated wireless modules we can measure 10.8 watts with the high-performance power plan. The maximum consumption of 54.5 watts is limited to a short period before the processor throttles its clock to around 1.9 GHz under maximum load. The result is usually around 48.9 watts. The power adaptor is specified with a nominal output of 65 watts, so there is still some headroom in the worst-case scenario.

Power Consumption
Off / Standbydarklight 0.1 / 0.2 Watt
Idledarkmidlight 4 / 9.6 / 10.8 Watt
Load midlight 36.9 / 54.5 Watt
 color bar
Key: min: dark, med: mid, max: light        Voltcraft VC 870 Iso kalibriert

Battery Runtime

Lenovo now also uses its Power Bridge system for the W-series and combines an internal 44 Wh battery with three different "external" batteries. They do not only differ in terms of their capacity (23 Wh, 48 Wh or 72 Wh) but also in terms of size and weight. The major advantage of this 2-battery combination is that you can replace the secondary battery in operation, without shutting down the system.

Our review unit is equipped with the 72 Wh model, which results in a total capacity of 116 Wh in combination with the 44 Wh internal battery. You get correspondingly good battery runtimes. The Battery Eater Readers Test (energy-saving profile, display brightness at 4 cd/m², wireless off) determines almost 29 hours for the ThinkPad, which is nice for the statistics, but it does not represent a practical scenario at all. More important are our video and WLAN tests (display brightness at 156 cd/m², Intel GPU). They are impressive with practical runtimes of 11 hours and almost 12 hours, which means a normal 8-hour business day can also include load periods, a higher luminance or a presentation without a socket nearby. The clock reduction under maximum load has a positive effect on the runtime and we can determine more than 4 hours with the highest brightness, activated wireless modules and the high-performance power profile.

Replaceable battery
Replaceable battery
Capacity of 72 Wh
Capacity of 72 Wh
Compact power adaptor
Compact power adaptor
Battery Eater Reader's Test
Battery Eater Reader's Test
Video Test
Video Test
Battery Eater Classic Test
Battery Eater Classic Test
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
28h 48min
NBC WiFi Websurfing Battery Test 1.3
11h 55min
Big Buck Bunny H.264 1080p
11h 07min
Load (maximum brightness)
4h 07min

Verdict

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s

Lenovo's ThinkPad W550s is a successful addition to the group of slimline workstations and can even set several new records. System noise, temperature development and battery runtimes are on a reference level and impress right away. Other advantages for the professional target group are that you do not have to waive familiar business ports, a replaceable battery or good maintainability, despite the thin chassis.

However, Lenovo has not managed to realize this very mobile workstation without some compromises. The performance of the ULV CPU can hardly keep up with quad-core processors that are usually used for this product class. There is also an additional clock reduction depending on the load and operating mode, which results in further performance reductions. This drawback can only be partly compensated by the efficient Nvidia Quadro K620M. It provides a good performance for professional scenarios and has a clear advantage over the predecessor.

Otherwise, the ThinkPad W550s is equipped with a very good keyboard, a sturdy case, the great 3K IPS display as well as a long warranty period of 36 months. All things considered, the review unit is more of an ideal companion with good CAD performance and less designed for maximum performance.

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Lenovo ThinkPad W550s, test model courtesy of Notebooksandmore.
Lenovo ThinkPad W550s, test model courtesy of Notebooksandmore.

Specifications

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE (ThinkPad W550s Series)
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA Quadro K620M - 2048 MB, Core: 1029 MHz, Memory: 1001 MHz, Nvidia Turbo 2.0 up to 1124 MHz, Forceware 341.01, Nvidia Optimus mit Intel HD Graphics 5500
Memory
16080 MB 
, PC3-12800, 2x 8 GB, up to 32 GB with 16 GB modules.
Display
15.5 inch 16:9, 2880 x 1620 pixel, VVX16T028J00, IPS LED, glossy: no
Mainboard
Intel Broadwell-U PCH-LP (Premium)
Storage
Samsung SSD PM851 512 GB MZ7TE512HMHP, 512 GB 
, 411 GB free
Soundcard
Realtek High Definition Audio
Connections
3 USB 3.0 / 3.1 Gen1, 1 VGA, 1 DisplayPort, 1 Kensington Lock, 1 Docking Station Port, Audio Connections: combined audio in/out, Card Reader: SD, SDXC, SDHC, UHS-I, 1 SmartCard, 1 Fingerprint Reader
Networking
Intel Ethernet Connection I218-V (10/100/1000MBit), Intel Wireless-AC 7265 (a/b/g/n/ac), Bluetooth 4.0
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 23 x 381 x 259 ( = 0.91 x 15 x 10.2 in)
Battery
116 Wh Lithium-Ion, internal 44 Wh internally + external 72 Wh battery
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64 Bit) + Windows 8 Pro (64 Bit)
Camera
Webcam: 720p
Additional features
Keyboard: Chiclet with dedicated numeric keypad, Keyboard Light: yes, 36 Months Warranty
Weight
2.41 kg ( = 85.01 oz / 5.31 pounds), Power Supply: 350 g ( = 12.35 oz / 0.77 pounds)
Price
2200 Euro

 

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s complements the workstation W541...
The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s complements the workstation W541...
...as a very thin and mobile alternative.
...as a very thin and mobile alternative.
You still get typical business features and a good CAD performance.
You still get typical business features and a good CAD performance.
The chassis of the ThinkPad W550s is still noticeably sturdier than the ThinkPad W541 in some areas, ...
The chassis of the ThinkPad W550s is still noticeably sturdier than the ThinkPad W541 in some areas, ...
...despite the much slimmer construction.
...despite the much slimmer construction.
The processor performance on the other hand is a step back, ...
The processor performance on the other hand is a step back, ...
...which is a result of the ULV processors.
...which is a result of the ULV processors.
CPU-demanding tasks in particular will result in significant performance reductions.
CPU-demanding tasks in particular will result in significant performance reductions.
The complete opposite is the current Nvidia Quadro K620M.
The complete opposite is the current Nvidia Quadro K620M.
The change to the Maxwell generation improved the performance significantly.
The change to the Maxwell generation improved the performance significantly.
It is even powerful enough to beat the Nvidia Quadro K2100M in some scenarios.
It is even powerful enough to beat the Nvidia Quadro K2100M in some scenarios.
Three workstations in comparison: ThinkPad W541, ThinkPad W550s, HP ZBook 15 G2.
Three workstations in comparison: ThinkPad W541, ThinkPad W550s, HP ZBook 15 G2.
The chassis difference is really visible without the 72 Wh battery.
The chassis difference is really visible without the 72 Wh battery.
The case of the W550s is slimmer and more compact, ...
The case of the W550s is slimmer and more compact, ...
...but also sturdier than the ThinkPad W541 at the same time.
...but also sturdier than the ThinkPad W541 at the same time.
We can unfortunately once again find some smaller build quality issues.
We can unfortunately once again find some smaller build quality issues.
The keyboard is still very good and suitable for frequent writers.
The keyboard is still very good and suitable for frequent writers.
The Ethernet port is located very far at the front, which could result in collisions with attached cables.
The Ethernet port is located very far at the front, which could result in collisions with attached cables.
The display hinges do an excellent job and enable a wide opening angle.
The display hinges do an excellent job and enable a wide opening angle.
The size of the touchpad was reduced to integrate TrackPoint buttons once again.
The size of the touchpad was reduced to integrate TrackPoint buttons once again.
The numeric keypads improves the inputs of long number rows.
The numeric keypads improves the inputs of long number rows.
The power button is the only button outside the keyboard area.
The power button is the only button outside the keyboard area.
TrackPoint users will be happy about the returned buttons, but touchpad users will not benefit from the change.
TrackPoint users will be happy about the returned buttons, but touchpad users will not benefit from the change.
Webcam and dual-array microphones enable passable video call capabilities.
Webcam and dual-array microphones enable passable video call capabilities.
The external battery complements the integrated 44 Wh battery.
The external battery complements the integrated 44 Wh battery.
As usual, you can find the SIM slot for the optional WWAN card in the battery tray.
As usual, you can find the SIM slot for the optional WWAN card in the battery tray.
The speakers have a good maximum volume, but the sound is focused on the high tones.
The speakers have a good maximum volume, but the sound is focused on the high tones.
The W550s is stable even without the battery at the back.
The W550s is stable even without the battery at the back.
Underneath the large bottom cover are all components.
Underneath the large bottom cover are all components.
Antennas for a WWAN module are already integrated.
Antennas for a WWAN module are already integrated.
Both memory slots are equipped with 8 GB modules.
Both memory slots are equipped with 8 GB modules.
M.2 SSDs can be integrated by the user.
M.2 SSDs can be integrated by the user.
The cooling system does a good job and can be easily accessed.
The cooling system does a good job and can be easily accessed.
The power adaptor is compact and light, but only has a nominal power output of 65 Watts.
The power adaptor is compact and light, but only has a nominal power output of 65 Watts.

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Lenovo ThinkPad P71 (i7, P3000, 4K) Workstation Review
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Lenovo ThinkPad P51s (Core i7, 4K) Workstation Review
Quadro M520, Core i7 7600U, 15.6", 2.2 kg

Links

Pros

+Chassis
+Emissions
+Display
+Battery runtimes
+Mobility
+Expandability
+Keyboard
+Port performance
+System performance
+GPU
 

Cons

-Build quality in details
-Port layout
-Raw processor performance as a workstation

Shortcut

What we like

Lenovo consequently designed the ThinkPad W550s for mobility. This also improves the weight, the battery runtime, the emissions as well as a certain "companion" factor.

What we'd like to see

More powerful processors that satisfy the needs of mobile workstations.

What surprises us

That the thin slimline chassis of the Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is sturdier than the bigger siblings W540 and W541 in important areas.

The competition

Dell Precision M3800

HP ZBook 14

HP ZBook 15u (not yet reviewed)

MSI WS60

regular form factor:

Lenovo ThinkPad W541

HP ZBook 15 G2

Dell Precision M2800

Dell Precision M4800

Toshiba Tecra W50

Fujitsu Celsius H730 

Rating

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s 20E2-000PGE - 03/17/2016 v5
Tobias Winkler

Chassis
89 / 98 → 91%
Keyboard
93%
Pointing Device
88%
Connectivity
58 / 81 → 72%
Weight
60 / 10-66 → 89%
Battery
93%
Display
88%
Games Performance
76%
Application Performance
80%
Temperature
91 / 95 → 96%
Noise
97 / 90 → 100%
Audio
52%
Camera
53 / 85 → 62%
Average
77%
79%
Workstation - Weighted Average
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> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Lenovo ThinkPad W550s Workstation Review
Tobias Winkler, 2015-03-17 (Update: 2018-05-15)
Andreas Osthoff
Andreas Osthoff - Senior Editor Business
I grew up with computers and modern consumer electronics. I am interested in the technology since I had my first computer, a Commodore C64, and started building my own PCs after that. My focus here at Notebookcheck is the business segment including mobile workstations, but I also like to test new mobile devices. It is always a great experience to review and compare new products. My free time is filled with a lot of sports, in the summer mainly on my bike.