Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds Review

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Over the last couple of weeks I’ve had the opportunity to test and review the Lenovo ThinkPad W700ds mobile workstation – a computer designed with creative types (like graphic artists and photographers) in mind.

Lenovo-ThinkPad-w700ds.jpg

I’d heard about the W700ds when it first was announced – it was hard not to take notice with some of the features in the specs sheet:

  • 17 inch 1920 x 1200 screen
  • a secondary 10.6 inch 768 x 1200 slide out screen (the DS stands for ‘dual screen’)
  • built-in 5? Wacom digitizer
  • Intel Core 2 Extreme 2.53 ghz
  • 4 GB RAM
  • 64 bit Vista
  • 460gb hard disk storage
  • NVidia Quadro FX3700M Video Card

Disclaimer from a Mac Guy

Lets start this mini review with a disclaimer – I’ve not used a PC for years. I’m a Mac fanboy – to the point that this is my first experience of Vista! This of course impacted my use of the W700DS – but I’ll try to be neutral!

Also worth noting is that I’m reviewing the W700 DS more from a usability point of view than writing a hardcore tech review. There are plenty of other reviews of this machine around that drill down more into speed tests etc – let me just tell you about how I found using the W700 DS in everyday use.

First Impressions of the Lenovo W700DS

This is no small laptop! Unboxing the W700DS the first thing I noticed before even opening it up was the size and weight of this machine. The first thought that came to mind was that I didn’t think I’d be taking this laptop far away from my desk and certainly wasn’t going to spend a lot of time with it on my actual lap or using it on a flight any time soon.

This is unmistakably a ThinkPad machine – it’s black, square and solid looking. It weighs in a 4.96 kg (around 13 pounds). Closed up it’s around 5cm (2 inches) thick. The word ‘sexy’ doesn’t really come to mind.

It has a full sized keyboard with full numeric keypad, trackpad with 5 buttons, track stick in the center of the keyboard, Wacom tablet built into the front right hand area of the machine and a digital pen to use it.

Overall it’s big and it’s heavy but with the secondary screen extended it’s an impressive looking machine that is bound to turn heads.

Features Reviewed

Main Screen

The main 17 inch screen is fantastic. Colors were excellent, brightness was great and visibility even looking from off to the side was good. This is a high quality screen.

Secondary Screen

The 10.6 inch secondary screen adds about 40% more screen real estate to the W700 (the combined screens can show up to 3200×1968). While not as large as a secondary screen on your desktop this is handy if you are out and about with your laptop.

I used it mainly to run email and other communication programs while working on main documents on the main 17 inch screen. In photoshop I positioned toolbars on the smaller screen leaving the main screen for the image I was working on.

The smaller screen is in the portrait format while the larger one is landscape – I quite liked having those two different formats.

Once extended the secondary screen can be angled in slightly or left to extend out flat from the main screen. I used it angled in as it improved brightness and image quality. At times I did worry a little about having the screen extending out beyond the computer – while it seems solid it is in a bit of a vulnerable position to anyone walking past the right hand side of your computer (including almost 3 year olds who go running by not expecting to see their father’s Gmail account open before them).

The image quality of this smaller screen is not as good as the larger primary one but it is a useful addition to have when you need the extra screen real estate.

Keyboard/Touchpad

Roomy is the word that comes to mind as one uses the keyboard. The footprint of this machine is significantly bigger than my Macbook Pro.

Small is the word that comes to mind as I used the touchpad. My MPB’s touchpad must be 2-3 times larger than the W700’s.

The other thing I’ll say about the layout of this machine is that I felt a little off-center using it. The number keypad off to the right is handy – but it does throw the rest of the keyboard off to the left a little. That’s where I spend most of my time so I constantly had a feeling of having my hands off to the left a little.

Once I got used to the differences in size I found both the keyboard, touchpad and pointing stick to be comfortable to use and responsive – although…. the touchpad really is small.

Wacom Digitizer Pad

I was particularly looking forward to testing the 5 inch Wacom digitizer. Having not used one before there was a bit of a learning curve to go through but overall the experience was quite good and I enjoyed the option to use the digitizer in photoshop.

I found it very responsive (almost too responsive at first) and the only beef I had was that at times it felt ‘wrong’ to have my right wrist leaning against it as I typed as it is placed directly in front of the keyboard area.

Other Features

Color Calibration – this will be important to many readers of DPS who are looking to make sure the colors in their images are accurate. The calibration process was simple and showed improvement when I ran it. It uses Pantone’s Pro Color Control software and a small sensor integrated into the palm rest of the machine. To run it all you do is start the calibration program, shut the laptop wait around a minute for three beeps and you’re done. The only downside is that it’s just the primary screen you’re really calibrating here not both.

Webcam – I only used this once to do a call on skype but it worked seamlessly and the person I was chatting with remarked that I looked good (not sure if that was because of the camera or if it was just a good hair day. It’s only 1.3 megapixels so you won’t be taking any shots or video that are too amazing – but it being attached to an almost 5kg machines kind of rules that our anyway.

Connectivity – The W700DS has plenty of options when it comes to connectivity with five USB ports, VGA, 1394 FireWire, CF card reader, Express 64, dual-link DVI, DisplayPort, 7-in-1 card reader, ethernet and wireless.

Fingerprint Reader – I didn’t use it but if you’re concerned about security a useful feature.

Performance

As mentioned above – I did not run any speed tests on the W700 DS. That’s not my style so I wanted to keep this review authentic.

What I can tell you is that the W700 DS is fast and barely skipped a beat when running a variety of programs at once.

The words ‘Grunt’ and ‘Power came to mind as I used the W700DS.

Start up time was good, I’m yet to see any errors or crashes – all’s been smooth sailing for me and the only problems I’ve had have had more to do with getting used to using Vista as a Mac user.

The only thing I did notice with performance was that using the W700DS on battery alone only lasted a little over and hour and a half. I suspect this could have been improved by not using the secondary screen while not connected to the power outlet.

My Verdict on the W700DS

My lasting impressions of the W700DS are positive. It’s a powerful machine with loads of innovative features – many of which will be suited to serious photographers.

It’s not the cheapest laptop going around (Lenovo currently have them on starting at $2869 USD on their website) and may not be high on portability but if you’re looking for a mobile workstation with grunt and features like secondary screens and the built in Wacom digitizer then this is a machine you’ll want to seriously consider.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • The firewire connection, is it a 4-pin (much smaller than USB) or 6-pin (slightly larger than USB)?

  • Very Nice Post

  • That thing is a monster. If the price wasn’t so steep, I’d be all over it in a heartbeat.

  • I have haved two Thinkpads: a t42p that is now my mother’s and a x61 that now my main machine. The t42p worked without a hitch (I bought it when it was still sold by IBM). However I have had several problems with the x61 (sold by Lenovo) like a faulting battery that went up to 90ºC and it caused the laptop to crash almost everyday when room temperature was a little high, a bending case (I have to put a folded paper in one of the corners of the laptop to prevent it from bouncing up and down when I type) and there are some RAM errors that cause sporadic system crashes. If you can ignore those problems the x61 works fine and it has been carried hundreds of times but still I find it lacking compared to the t42p.

    Darren, did you get used to the mouse’s right button after being on mac for so long?

  • Ben

    Impressive machine. Nice review. I’m quite like this site for another type of article as well as this review section. Keep going!
    I just noticed that combined resolution of two screen should be 2688×1200 rather than 3200×1968?
    I’m not likely buy this one but if I need to move with my entire workstation, it may be a good desktop replacement – only if price is right :-).

  • Wow what a machine. Tempting, if not for that steep price tag on it. I’m over Windows though I have to say. I’ll stick with my macbook pro tyvm 😀

  • It look’s like quite a nice laptop, good review as well. 😀

  • Nice review, even from a MAC guy 🙂

  • You should definitely throw a Windows 7 RC 64bit to it. You’ll see, why Vista got so many bad reviews.I have a Thinkpad T61 and never had any problems with it. Nice review.

  • Lara

    I’m drooling ova hea…. I want!
    Thanks for the great review, Darren!

  • I’m surprised you didn’t mention the tablet being on the right– you must be a righty 😉 As a lefty, I can’t imagine that being very comfortable to use, having to be twisted to get to it. That would be a deal-breaker for many left-handed people. And considering how there’s more lefties in creative fields than the average population, that should be a bit of a concern I’d think.

    Good review otherwise, though I as well will stick to my MackBook Pro and wouldn’t touch Vista again with a ten foot pole.

  • I have the lenovo W700 and love it. The built in color calibrator is great… I use it on a regular basis. The screen is amazing…WUXGA montior ….one of the best I have seen. It is great for photos & graphics…..but with the detail it shows it can be tiring when reading text for long periods. I was soooo close to getting a Mac instead but didn’t want to have to invest in new software (about 1500$ worth) and learn the new operating system. This is a very stable system compared to every laptop I have owned before and it is as fast as my desktop…..
    anyway…
    just my 2cents worth……

  • I use ThinkPads at work and they are great… solid machines and if you have an issue one call to support and they send you the part that needs to be replaced without making you go through the whole “reboot,” “format,” “reinstall the OS” baloney that you get from some other vendors.

    As for my photography, I use a MacPro and a separate Wacom tablet — I’m a lefty and I can have the mouse on my right, and the tablet on the left.

    My final verdict? Mac OS on my Mac Pro is far superior to XP or Vista because it is easier for me to just get started with my workflow without having to deal with registry issues, etc.

  • Daniel*1977

    Great machine! Wish to have 17″

  • aljim

    It look’s like quite a nice laptop.

  • I have read the review and as a windows user would say it was a fair review. I have put an order in for one to use for with Photoshop and Autocad. The digitiser and 2nd screen loook to be ideal for my needs. It should be arriving within the week … SO I will let you all know how it goes. If it lifes up to my expectations. and how i get on with it. I have read several reviews all saying it is a beast and big and heavy, it may be but it you look at it again say a Dell 6400, 17″ screen 16 gig ram terrabyte drive, then it is comparable. For workstation replacements, you are not looking for a dainty item to tote around. I need a power horse, capable of running photoshop at the same time as mail and chat and sometimes autocad thrown in for good measure. I have ordered an 8 gig mc. 2 gig turbo. and 1 TB drive. the 3700 graphics card with 1 gig dedicated mem. so there should be enough there to do what I want. as said will let you know.
    M.

  • Opt-out is instruction, promote different recourses?Will cover up, whos serious about.Excerpt of the, the senior managers.Problem will be Ronny fickt sie alle, t Credit terms the playing conditions.Out and strategically, the dollar They.,

  • Update on my comments:
    I have now upgraded to windows 7….now this thing is rock steady and blazing FAST! I love it now even more than when I first got it over a year ago.

Some Older Comments

  • Carole Jeffs February 20, 2010 06:39 am

    Update on my comments:
    I have now upgraded to windows 7....now this thing is rock steady and blazing FAST! I love it now even more than when I first got it over a year ago.

  • Ronny fickt sie alle February 20, 2010 05:20 am

    Opt-out is instruction, promote different recourses?Will cover up, whos serious about.Excerpt of the, the senior managers.Problem will be Ronny fickt sie alle, t Credit terms the playing conditions.Out and strategically, the dollar They.,

  • mark Nuttall November 9, 2009 02:14 pm

    I have read the review and as a windows user would say it was a fair review. I have put an order in for one to use for with Photoshop and Autocad. The digitiser and 2nd screen loook to be ideal for my needs. It should be arriving within the week ... SO I will let you all know how it goes. If it lifes up to my expectations. and how i get on with it. I have read several reviews all saying it is a beast and big and heavy, it may be but it you look at it again say a Dell 6400, 17" screen 16 gig ram terrabyte drive, then it is comparable. For workstation replacements, you are not looking for a dainty item to tote around. I need a power horse, capable of running photoshop at the same time as mail and chat and sometimes autocad thrown in for good measure. I have ordered an 8 gig mc. 2 gig turbo. and 1 TB drive. the 3700 graphics card with 1 gig dedicated mem. so there should be enough there to do what I want. as said will let you know.
    M.

  • aljim July 11, 2009 09:28 am

    It look’s like quite a nice laptop.

  • Daniel*1977 June 26, 2009 11:50 pm

    Great machine! Wish to have 17"

  • Sheldon Reich June 5, 2009 08:49 am

    I use ThinkPads at work and they are great... solid machines and if you have an issue one call to support and they send you the part that needs to be replaced without making you go through the whole "reboot," "format," "reinstall the OS" baloney that you get from some other vendors.

    As for my photography, I use a MacPro and a separate Wacom tablet -- I'm a lefty and I can have the mouse on my right, and the tablet on the left.

    My final verdict? Mac OS on my Mac Pro is far superior to XP or Vista because it is easier for me to just get started with my workflow without having to deal with registry issues, etc.

  • carole June 5, 2009 05:58 am

    I have the lenovo W700 and love it. The built in color calibrator is great... I use it on a regular basis. The screen is amazing...WUXGA montior ....one of the best I have seen. It is great for photos & graphics.....but with the detail it shows it can be tiring when reading text for long periods. I was soooo close to getting a Mac instead but didn't want to have to invest in new software (about 1500$ worth) and learn the new operating system. This is a very stable system compared to every laptop I have owned before and it is as fast as my desktop.....
    anyway...
    just my 2cents worth......

  • Jessie June 3, 2009 12:45 am

    I'm surprised you didn't mention the tablet being on the right-- you must be a righty ;) As a lefty, I can't imagine that being very comfortable to use, having to be twisted to get to it. That would be a deal-breaker for many left-handed people. And considering how there's more lefties in creative fields than the average population, that should be a bit of a concern I'd think.

    Good review otherwise, though I as well will stick to my MackBook Pro and wouldn't touch Vista again with a ten foot pole.

  • Lara June 2, 2009 01:29 am

    I'm drooling ova hea.... I want!
    Thanks for the great review, Darren!

  • gerdez June 2, 2009 12:44 am

    You should definitely throw a Windows 7 RC 64bit to it. You'll see, why Vista got so many bad reviews.I have a Thinkpad T61 and never had any problems with it. Nice review.

  • SEO Melbourne : Aranez Media June 2, 2009 12:29 am

    Nice review, even from a MAC guy :)

  • Alex Brooks June 1, 2009 10:27 pm

    It look's like quite a nice laptop, good review as well. :D

  • Eric D. Greene (artist) June 1, 2009 08:57 pm

    Wow what a machine. Tempting, if not for that steep price tag on it. I'm over Windows though I have to say. I'll stick with my macbook pro tyvm :D

  • Ben May 31, 2009 06:30 pm

    Impressive machine. Nice review. I'm quite like this site for another type of article as well as this review section. Keep going!
    I just noticed that combined resolution of two screen should be 2688×1200 rather than 3200×1968?
    I'm not likely buy this one but if I need to move with my entire workstation, it may be a good desktop replacement - only if price is right :-).

  • slnc May 30, 2009 06:46 am

    I have haved two Thinkpads: a t42p that is now my mother's and a x61 that now my main machine. The t42p worked without a hitch (I bought it when it was still sold by IBM). However I have had several problems with the x61 (sold by Lenovo) like a faulting battery that went up to 90ºC and it caused the laptop to crash almost everyday when room temperature was a little high, a bending case (I have to put a folded paper in one of the corners of the laptop to prevent it from bouncing up and down when I type) and there are some RAM errors that cause sporadic system crashes. If you can ignore those problems the x61 works fine and it has been carried hundreds of times but still I find it lacking compared to the t42p.

    Darren, did you get used to the mouse's right button after being on mac for so long?

  • Josh Cordner May 30, 2009 04:35 am

    That thing is a monster. If the price wasn't so steep, I'd be all over it in a heartbeat.

  • Ayesha May 30, 2009 04:28 am

    Very Nice Post

  • Sybren A. Stüvel May 30, 2009 04:15 am

    The firewire connection, is it a 4-pin (much smaller than USB) or 6-pin (slightly larger than USB)?

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