During its reign, IBM set the standards with ThinkPad series, when it comes to business computers. When Lenovo bought the PC division of this company, ThinkPad computers were a good and famous brand with a long history. Lenovo did its best to continue this successful tradition, further improving ThinkPad computers with each new iteration. ThinkPad series itself is segmented, so you have very portable X machines, affordable, business-oriented L models and T series, intended for professionals who value mobility and performances. Their best ThinkPad series model has designation W, which stands for Workstation models. These are the computers intended for most demanding users and are mostly equipped with powerful “bleeding edge” hardware. We had the opportunity to test one of these machines. It’s a W530 model.
1247523-lenovo-thinkpad-w530-3 cover

Recognizable

For several years, Lenovo didn’t make many adjustments to the ThinkPad series. Even though the new X series models have become a bit rounded, W530 clings to the well-known design that made these models famous. Sharp edges, square cover, matte black body, with a few red and blue elements, track pad in the middle of the keyboard and three corresponding buttons… all of this screams ThinkPad. Models of the Workstation series aren’t the most mobile of the bunch, namely because they are powerful machines with a long diagonal accompanied by strong hardware. This means that cooling system must be good, which in term, means that it requires more space and all of that affects the thickness of the casing. Still, Lenovo’s engineers did their best to keep the thickness as low as possible, when compared to the competition, and it also applies to the weight.

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Exterior

The aforementioned recognizable design is present in this model also, and minimalism is the logic that Lenovo engineers have been practicing for a long time. The screen cover got a rubberized texture, and aside from the fact that it won’t accumulate fingerprints, it’s very useful and durable. Cover also has ThinkPad and Lenovo logos, and also illuminating pictograms indicating battery life and sleep mode, marked with a crescent moon.

Under the cover is an anti-glare scree with 15,6” screen with impressive resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. Viewing angles are not on par with an IPS panel and colors are a bit overemphasized (which can be adjusted in OS), but the pixel size and picture sharpness are some of the best we have ever seen. On 15,6” Full HD resolution gives a lot of space on the screen, so it’s possible to keep two windows open, when you’re doing work that demands parallel attention to multiple things.

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Screen frame has a 720p web camera, capable of video recordings, which proved quite capable even under low lighting. Right next to it, there’s also a small lamp, intended for illuminating the keyboard, when you’re working in the dark. This is Lenovo’s old trick, and it’s a very practical solution, which elegantly eliminates the keyboard with backlighting, but is also a worse solution. The idea is good, but ir really can’t compare with keyboards with backlighting. We’ll describe it as a retro look, and because we’re expecting new models in summer, we sincerely think that most of them will come with a backlight keyboard. Massive hinges which connect the screen with the device have metal casing with a matte finish, so they don’t have an effect on the inconspicuous design. Lower part has two large speakers which extend as throughout the whole length of the keyboard and for another three centimeters on the sides, until the edges of the device. We would have preferred if this space was used for a numerical keyboard, but no luck. Newly-designed keyboard is truly perfect. Simply, keys are soft, space between them is is excellent, layout is just as it should be, and cursor keys are slightly separated, large Enter, Backspace and Shift keys… Above it, there’s space for volume control and Lenovo button which opens Solution center, which resembles a mini OS within Windows. On the right side there’s a power button, and above the aforementioned volume control button are indicator lamps for wireless networks and hard disk. The keyboard is filled with shortcuts, and Fn key is placed instead of Ctrl, which can be swapped in BIOS. Track pad is on the level that we’ve grown accustomed to from Lenovo, and there are also the accompanying keys which are located just above the touchpad. We wouldn’t have minded if touchpad was a bit more spacious and if the accompanying keys were a bit larger, but that’s compensated by its precision and multitouch functionality which works great.

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We should also mention that this business model also has an added level of protection in the form of fingerprint sensor, located on the right side of the handrest. We were also pleasantly surprised by the fact that Lenovo kept the small lock for opening of the laptop, which is an element that we increasingly miss.

Most of the ports that you will be using are located on the lower side, and the only thing we didn’t like was the fact that two USB 3.0 ports are placed above one another, while one USB 2.0 ports is very close to those two. This wasn’t a particularly intelligent idea, because if you have even a slightly thicker flash drive or 3G modem, the other slot will be unusable, and probably even the one next to it. There’s also a VGA port, a mini Display Port, FireWire (which nobody expected) and a wireless switch. The front side doesn’t have any ports and aside from the small lock, it doesn’t have anything else. Right side has the Express Card, 4 in 1 card reader, LAN, audio and optical drive. With the model that we’ve received for testing, the optics is swapped for additional hard drive, so storage subsystem forms a RAID 1 sequence.

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Lenovo ThinkPad W530
 
CPU Intel Core i7-3720QM 2.6/3.6 GHz 4C/8T
Chipset Intel QM77
Memory 1x 4 GB DDR3 1600 MHz
SSD 2x 500 GB Raid 1 SATA II, 7200 rpm
Optical device no
Graphics NNIDIA Quadro K1000M 2 GB DDR3 + Intel GMA HD4000
Display 15.6'' LED, 1920x1080, anti glare
Interfaces 2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, VGA, mini Display port, FireWire, LAN (RJ-45), audio in/out, 4 in 1 reader
Additional Wi-Fi 802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0, WiDi, fingerprint reader, keyboard lamp, dock connector, camera
Dimensions and weight 245.1 x 372.8 x 31.8 - 35.6 mm, 2.7 kg
OS Windows 7 Professional 64 bit
Battery 9-cell Li-Ion (93 WHr)
Warranty 24 months
Price 2,000 €
Contact www.lenovo.com

Interior

Inside of this laptop there’s a Core i7 3720QM mobile processor which has 4+4 cores and has a working clock which varies between 2,6 and 3,6 GHz, depending on the TDP. We were a bit surprised that Lenovo decided on only one slot of 4 GB of RAM, especially since now RAM was never cheaper. The aforementioned hard drives are of 500 GB capacity and are bound in a RAID 1, which enables a real-time backup. In this case, performances are not the priority, but rather safety of the data is. We would have preferred a SSD + HDD combination, which is a better option, because it’s possible to configure W530 to have that type of data storage. Of course, there’s also the option of single HDD or SSD optical drive, which are only a few of the options that Lenovo offers.

In terms of the graphic subsystem, we didn’t expect anything less than excellence, and W530 has NVIDIA Quadro K1000 M with 2 GB of DDR3 memory, and as support, bound into Optimus system, is an integrated HD4000 Intel processor GPU, which has great impact on battery autonomy.

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We should also mention that W530 has both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0 wireless connections, and there’s also Intel WiDi technology, through which you can wirelessly connect some of the supported displays with this laptop and directly stream the content on it.

In terms of battery, our version of W530 came with the extended version, or rather 9-cell battery with capacity of over 93 Wh which, aside from looking good on the paper, manages to achieve excellent results. If you take a look at the table, you’ll see that even at maximum load, laptop stoically lasts for over two and a half hours, while under medium load, the expected battery life is about seven hours, and you get another two if you turn on the power-saving mode.

Test results
 
SPECviewperf 11
CATIA (V5 R19 i V6 R2009) 22.95
EnSight 8.2 11.64
Lightwave 9.6 46.45
Maya 2009 39.33
Pro/ENGINEER Wildfire 5.0 11.94
Solidworks 2009 SP2 30.81
VisMockup 22.45
Siemens NX 7 17.47
Blender 2.60 [s] 195
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL [fps]/CPU/CPU (Single core) [pts] 26.54 / 6.79 / 1.49
HD Tune Pro 4.61 average [MB/s] 79.3
Powermark Entertainment / Balanced / Productivity 2h 35' / 7h 5' / 9h 16'
PCMark 7 2923
3DMark 11 Extreme 720p Score/Graphics/Physics X388 / 342 / 7.012
1920x1080 0xAA 0xAF
Street Fighter IV High [fps] 52.7
Resident Evil 6 High, blur off 1488

Everyday use

One thing we didn’t like was the way of resolving the HDD subsystem. With SSD version, whole computer would spring to life, while this way, you have rather average performance, which is something you wouldn’t want for the price of 2000€. Multimedia aspect of this computer, even though it showed great promise, resembles an excellent 2.1 system without the bass. We haven’t seen tweeters this good in quite a while. In their spectrum they don’t show any signs of low tones, which is a real shame because of the possibility of installing a quality resonance box which would enhance the lower spectrum of audio. Lenovo’s basic cooling system was additionally upgraded in this model, so there’s more room for air to come in and a few exits. Even at maximum load, video card and CPU don’t provide enough heat for somebody to notice. In accordance with that, the fan is rather silent, so it can be said that this is one of the more silent computers that we’ve seen lately.

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Some retro elements in this model which made Lenovo recognizable can annoy some users, who wanted the newest and the most powerful versions. Some other users will welcome them, while there are those who would just shrug and wait for the summer models.

When compared to the competition, Lenovo is far ahead in terms of the software, so aside from antivirus programs, there are custom changes to OS, out of which we most enjoyed battery icon, which shows the remaining charge time when you hover the mouse over it. There are also specific tools for ThinkPad and everything else that makes Lenovo Enhanced Experience 3 a pleasure that will prove enough for some people to decide to buy it, and we have to agree with them.
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If you don’t mind the somewhat larger dimensions and increased weight, Lenovo once again made a workstation that’s a dream come true for a business-oriented user who needs a powerful and specific hardware. There are few details that some users won’t like, but there are so many pros that will impress everyone and they make it a first pick for users that know to appreciate what ThinkPad is and what it represents for a long time.