Review Update Lenovo Thinkpad W500 Notebook
W500, Part 2
After we had reviewed a pre-release sample in our first review, we now got hold of an officially available model for this test, which was equipped with Core 2 Duo T9400 CPU and ATI FireGL V5700 graphics card. Read in the following review how this 15 inch workstation made by Lenovo performs compared to various competitors.
Note: This review, which especially covers the performance of the finally available hardware in detail, is an update of the already available review of the Thinkpad W500. Please read about about case, connectivity, input devices, and display in the original review of the Thinkpad W500.
The Lenovo Thinkpad W500 can be equipped with Intel processors up to the T9600 CPU with 2.8 GHz and 6MB L2-Cache. So, except of the Core 2 Extreme, all of Intel's most powerful processors are in principal possible. Because also the price raises significantly with the performance of Intel's Centrino 2 series, you should especially take care of a good price/performance ratio when selecting this component. Further information about the current Intel Centrino 2 processor series are available in this article.
Being a mobile workstation which was especially designed for CAD and 3D graphics applications the Lenovo Thinkpad W500 also comes with a CAD-optimized graphics card by ATI. The FireGL V5700 graphics card is in fact a Mobility Radeon HD3650 with optimized drivers, whose performance gain should especially be handy for professional OpenGL based graphics applications.
In the 3D Mark 2006 benchmark from Futuremark the W500 with ATI FireGL V5700 achieves about the same performance than the Lenovo Thinkpad T500, which is equipped with an HD3650 graphics chip from ATI.
However, the Cinebench R10 benchmark proves that the optimized drivers are more than mere formality. In the OpenGL shading test the W500 achieves with 5049 points about 10% more than the Lenovo Thinkpad T500 with HD3650 graphics. Also in the figure the performance gain of 10% of the T9400 CPU compared to the P8600 CPU in the T5000 gets evident.
The Dell Precision M4400, which is so to say the direct competitor of the Thinkpad W500, is clearly in front in this aspect. The Quadro FX 770M graphics from nVIDIA brings an excellent result of 6180 points in the shading test.
A very interesting result is brought about by the Viewperf 10.0 benchmark from SPEC. The figure shows a huge difference between T500 and W500, or between Mobility Radeon HD3650 graphics and CAD optimized FireGL V5700 graphics card. The professional graphics card is in all fields better than the consumer version and can outperform it by much. The biggest difference is thereby in the 3D graphics program Maya.
Furthermore, it turns out that the Quadro FX770M Grafik from the competitor nVIDIA looses more and more its top position in the practical tests of graphics applications. The nVIDIA solution is only in CATIA and EnSight still clearly better.
In the equipment that was available to us the Lenovo Thinkpad comes with two gigabyte DDR3 RAM provided by a single memory module. Thanks to the Intel Montevina platform the Thinkpad W500 can be upgraded to a maximum of 8 gigabyte RAM. Thereby it supports DDR3 modules up to PC2-8500 1066 MHz.
If you equip this notebook with more than 3 GB RAM, you should absolutely use a 64 bit operating system, because otherwise the additional RAM cannot be utilized.
Lenovo also offers a variety of built-in mass storage devices. Lenovo lists, e. g., 80-320GB models with 5400 rpm and 160-200GB hard drives with 7200 rpm or a 64 GB Solid State drive. All of them have a shock sensor, which recognizes shocks, and moves the read/write head off in time in order to avoid data loss. Of course SSDs do not require this, because they to not consist of mechanically parts and are so insensitive to shocks. Lenovo and also many other distributors also equip the W500 in terms of hard disk according to the individual customer preferences .
The Hitachi HTS722016K9S hard drive inside our test sample with a speed of 7200 rpm achieves a very good access time of 15.1 ms and an average transfer rate of 44.3 MB/sec in the HDTune benchmark test.
|3DMark 2001SE Standard||24429 points|
|3DMark 03 Standard||10864 points|
|3DMark 05 Standard||8624 points|
|3DMark 06 Score||2150 points|
|3DMark Vantage P Result||1017 points|
|PCMark 05 Standard||6150 points|
|PCMark Vantage Result||3240 points|
|Shading 32Bit||5049 Points|
|Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit||5246 Points|
|Rendering Single 32Bit||2798 Points|
If you occasionally want to play the one or other computer games, this workstaion with FireGL V5700 graphics card is a rather useful platform. But, your expectations in gaming performance should not be too high.
Unreal Tournament 3 ran on a resolution of 800x600 pixel absolutely smooth with about 50-62 frames per second on standard details (Stufe 3/5). Increasing the resolution to 1024x768 the frame rate fell to still playable 45-60 fps. From 1280x800 pixels the performance dropped to stuttering 35-60 fps.
The results of the Call of Duty 4 - Modern Warfare test are similar. While it achieves a still rather playable performance of 30-55 fps on a resolution of 1024x768 pixel and with deactivated anti-aliasing, the W500 was brought to its knees at the latest when you activate anti-aliasing, whereby the frame rate dropped to hardly playable 15-35 fps.
Once thing the designers of the Lenovo Thinkpad W500 have to be awarded for is that they made a good job in terms of noise emissions. Although the fan runs with hardly any interruption in idle mode and under moderate office load, its noise level of about 32.6 dB(A) is rather decent and absolutely not annoying.
So we got anxious to see how the Thinkpad W500 does under load and ran a lot of benchmarks and games. Nevertheless, the fan did still not get noticeable loud. Although the fan speed increased, we just measured a maximum noise level of only 35.0 dB(A). This also conforms to our personal impression that the noise level is definitely alright and only recognizable as a rustling from the background.
Finally, the Lenovo Thinkpad W500 also scores points in the noise emissions aspect while watching a DVD. A measured value of 35.8 dB(A) is also by all means in the green.
32.6 / 32.6 / 32.6 dB(A)
||35.8 / dB(A)|
||35 / 35 dB(A)|
min: , med: , max: (15 cm distance)
Also the recorded surface temperatures hint on that the W500 is indeed a powerful workstation. The top side of the base unit has a maximum temperature of about 32.4°C and, so, it feels only slightly warmer. Only the bottom side of the Thinkpad W500 gets with up to 42.9°C a little bit warmer. Considering that the W500 will be probably operated on hard surfaces anyway, this value can be neglected.
(+) The maximum temperature on the upper side is 32.4 °C / 90 F, compared to the average of 36.6 °C / 98 F, ranging from 21.1 to 71 °C for the class Multimedia.
(±) The bottom heats up to a maximum of 42.9 °C / 109 F, compared to the average of 39 °C / 102 F
(+) The palmrests and touchpad are cooler than skin temperature with a maximum of 30.5 °C / 86.9 F and are therefore cool to the touch.
(±) The average temperature of the palmrest area of similar devices was 28.9 °C / 84 F (-1.6 °C / -2.9 F).
Atypical, but rather good, was the quality of the integrated loudspeakers. Located left and right above the keyboard they radiate a rather passable sound with sufficient volume. So, the W500 is fit for listening to music at low volumes.
The weak basses can finally only be avoided by connecting headphones to the 3.5 mm stereo jacks. In the test the signal was perfect via these.
In the standard equipment the Lenovo Thinkpad W500 comes with a 6-cell 5.2 Ah (56.16 Wh) lithium-ions battery. Alike in other models of the Thinkpad series this can be replaced by a 9-cell battery, which could enhance the runtime by 50% in theory. Via the ultra-bay slot the W500 can also be equipped with a supplement battery, which can increase the runtime even more.
Because of the measured battery runtime of the 6-cell battery, it's easy to predict that these options will come into consideration especially if you plan an intensified mobile operation.
In the BatteryEater Readers test, which stands for the expected maximum battery life (minimum brightness, energy saving mode, WLAN off), the W500 achieves a runtime of 212 minutes. Under load in the BatteryEater Classic test (max. brightness, profile top performance, WLAN+BT on) the battery life shrinked even to 71 minutes.
If you watch a DVD with energy saving profile and with maximum display brightness, the test sample ran for 132 minutes on battery. This should be sufficient for a film of average length.
In WLAN mode (energy saving profile, maximum display brightness) we recorded a runtime of about 160 minutes.
So, mobile work with the Thinkpad W500 is limited. But, various upgrade possibilities allow for longer battery life, but at a high price. Because the display is only moderately bright it is also not really reasonable to save energy by dimming the screen.
|Off / Standby||0 / 0 Watt|
|Idle|| 14.4 / 22.6 / 25.6 Watt|
60.2 / 70.4 Watt|
Overall, the W500 is a worthy successor of the former T61p models.Lenovo delivers a famously robust chassis in the classic Thinkpad design, which can score points above all because of it's ability to resist the stresses arising from everyday use.
With the new digital display port an external screen with a high resolution can be attached to the notebook at the best digital transmission quality. Unfortunately, many ports are on the left side of the case, which might cause troubles for left-handers. Thanks to the docking port also this problems can be easily solved.
We liked the keyboard of our second test sample clearly better than of the first one, which was a pre-sample not intended to be sold. The flection criticized in the former review is now smaller and should not have any impact on the excellent typing feel.
The only advantage of the built-in WUXGA display is its high resolution and the generally good viewing angle stability. But, the provided display brightness was not very conving. Due to a minimum brightness of hardly above 100 cd/m² this display performed even slightly worse than the first test sample in this aspect. This is easily sufficient for working inside. But, if the environment is bright, 20-30 cd/m² would be rather helpful.
An advantage of the W500 is that its hardware is optimized for professional CAD and 3D graphics applications. The built-in FireGL V5700 brings first class results in the benchmarks run and defines therewith the designated fields of operation of the Lenovo Thinkpad W500.
The user will thereby especially like the low system noise of this laptop, which stays on a very low level even under load.
Depending on the load the possible battery life is relatively short to rather useful. Thanks to optional battery solutions, like bigger main battery and ultra-bay battery, the runtime can be increased. According to the benchmark results the Lenovo Thinkpad W500 is an absolutely interesting alternative to the Precision M4400 by Dell. Both notebooks are especially designed for mobile, professional CAD users, and differ much in some aspects, which will finally determine the purchase decision.