Home / Engineering Computing / Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Lenovo ThinkPad W700 Mobile Workstation, 2 in a Series

Big, Bold, and Beautiful: Lenovo ThinkPad W700 Mobile Workstation, 2 in a Series

By David Cohn

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In addition, a pair of LED ThinkLights, located in the bezel above the display, can be turned on to illuminate the keyboard when you’re using the computer under less-than-perfect lighting conditions.

And that’s only the beginning of the features we found packed into the ThinkPad W700. While Lenovo offers the system with dual core CPUs ranging from a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T9400 to the 3.06GHz Core 2 Dual Core Extreme X9100, our evaluation unit came equipped with a 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9300, making this ThinkPad the first mobile workstation we’ve seen with a quad core CPU.

The Q9300 CPU, based on a pair of 45nm Penryn processors, has 6MB of L2 cache. The Intel Core 2 Quad Core Extreme QX9300, with 12MB of cache, is also an option. Lenovo is also serious about graphics, offering either the NVIDIA Quadro FX 2700M graphics accelerator with 512MB of dedicated memory or the more powerful NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M included in our system. That mobile GPU features a 128-core CUDA parallel processor and 1GB of dedicated graphics memory.

Our evaluation unit also came with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, installed as a pair of 1067MHz SODIMM memory modules. The ThinkPad W700 can accommodate up to 8GB of RAM and up to three hard drives. Two internal hard drives are supported in the drive bay on the left side of the system, while a third drive can be installed by replacing the optical drive in the Serial UltraBay on the right side. Our system came with a single 320GB 5400rpm SATA drive. Lenovo also offers 7200rpm drives and solid state drives and supports RAID arrays under Windows Vista on systems equipped with two identical hard drives.

All that power is matched by lots of expansion options. Along the right side of the system are three USB connectors, an RJ11 modem port, digitizer pen storage, the optical drive — which, in our system, housed an 8X DVD+/-RW drive (a recordable Blu-ray drive is also available) — and a slot for a security cable. The left side of the computer includes both ExpressCard and CompactFlash slots, the hard disk drive bays, two more USB connectors, and an IEEE 1394 (FireWire) connector. On the rear panel are the power jack, RJ45 Ethernet port, and no less than three display connectors: both Dual Link DVI-D and VGA connectors and a DisplayPort that combines HD video and audio into a single digital connector. A switch to toggle the system’s wireless features is hidden on the left front edge of the system. To the right is a 7-in-1 media card reader that supports SD, SDHC, xD-Picture, MMC, Memory Stick, and Memory Stick PRO as well as headphone and microphone jacks.

The ThinkPad’s nine-cell lithium-ion battery mounts from the bottom of the system and ran our evaluation unit for 2 hours and 15 minutes on our battery run-down test. An extra battery costs $179.

On the bottom you’ll also find a panel concealing the memory slots and a connector for an optional docking station. Lenovo sent us the W700 Mini Dock ($223 online), a port replicator that includes four USB ports, VGA and Dual Link DVI connectors, a DisplayPort, eSATA, RJ45 Ethernet, microphone, headphone, and S/PDIF ports as well as a cable lock slot. The Mini Dock itself locks with a key to secure the computer.

Fastest Mobile System Ever
With all the powerful features built into this mobile workstation, we couldn’t wait to see how the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 performed. To evaluate that performance, we ran our standard benchmark tests, including SPECviewperf to measure graphics performance and the SPECapc SolidWorks test to gauge how the computer performs running a typical MCAD application. We also ran our AutoCAD rendering test.

We had high expectations, but nothing prepared us for the actual results. Thanks to its NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M GPU, the ThinkPad W700 turned in some of the fastest graphics performance we’ve ever recorded. And we’re not talking just fast for a notebook computer, we’re talking fastest ever. This Lenovo mobile system surpassed even the fastest workstation — which just happens to be the Lenovo ThinkStation S10 — on several of the viewperf data sets and was nearly its equal on all of the others.

Lenovo ThinkPad W700
>Price: $3,524 as tested ($2,459 base price)
>Size: 16.12”x12.25”x1.75” (WxDxH)
>Weight: 9 pounds plus power supply
    (depending on configuration)
>CPU: Intel Core 2 Quad Core Q9300 2.53GHz
>Memory: 4GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz
    (8GB max)
>Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M
>Display: 17-inch WUXGA (1920×1200)
    with color calibration
>Hard Disk: 320GB SATA 5400 rpm drive
>Floppy: none
>Optical: 8X DVD+/-RW
>Audio: microphone  and headphone jacks,
    built-in microphone and speakers
>Network: integrated Gigabit Ethernet,
    ThinkPad 11b/g wireless LAN
>Bluetooth: Integrated 2.0
>Modem: 56K V.92
>Other: Five USB 2.0, one mini IEEE 1394
    FireWire, ExpressCard, CompactFlash,
    VGA, Dual Link DVI-D, DisplayPort, 7-in-1 card reader (SD, SDHC, XD, MMC, MS/Pro), 1.3 megapixel camera
>Keyboard: 88-key keyboard plus 17-key
    numeric keypad
>Pointing device: pointing stick, touchpad,
    Wacom digitizer

When we turned our attention to the SPECapc SolidWorks benchmark, which is more of a real-world test (and breaks out graphics, CPU, and I/O performance separately from the overall score), the results were still outstanding. The W700 actually edged out the Lenovo S10 workstation and every other laptop we’ve tested to date in overall performance, although the CPU and I/O performance fell a bit behind the recent Dell and HP mobile systems, which came with slightly faster CPUs.

But on the AutoCAD rendering test, the W700 proved to be twice as fast as the Dell and HP notebooks we recently reviewed. This test, which relies on AutoCAD’s multi-threaded rendering engine, clearly shows the benefits of multiple CPUs. The equivalent of four CPUs enabled the ThinkPad W700 to power through the rendering in just over 2.5 minutes, again matching the Lenovo ThinkStation S10.

Our evaluation unit came with Windows XP Professional. Lenovo also offers 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows Vista Business. The company backs each ThinkPad notebook with a 1-year warranty that covers parts and labor. You can also choose additional coverage of up to five years plus onsite service as well as next-day or same-day four-hour response, and 24×7 telephone access to technical support.

Based on the many superlative features, we expected the cost of our evaluation system to break the bank. But again we were pleasantly surprised. Prices for the ThinkPad W700 start at $2,459 based on a lesser CPU, graphics card, and 2GB of RAM. But even as configured, our evaluation priced out online at $3,524. Like its desktop sibling, that makes the Lenovo ThinkPad W700 a price/performance leader. Other than its weight — it’s a bit bulkier than some other mobile workstations — this system sacrifices nothing. The Lenovo ThinkPad W700 is a truly fantastic workstation that just happens to be mobile.

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Contributing Editor David Cohn is a computer consultant and technical writer based in Bellingham, WA, and has been benchmarking PCs since 1984. He’s the former Editor-in-Chief of Engineering Automation Report and CADCAMNet, and the author of more than a dozen books. Please send comments about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com. You can also contact David at david@dscohn.com.

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About David Cohn

David Cohn has been using AutoCAD for more than 25 years and is the author of more than a dozen books on the subject. He’s the technical publishing manager at 4D Technologies, a contributing editor to Digital Engineering, and also does consulting and technical writing from his home in Bellingham, WA. Watch for his latest CADLearning eBooks on AutoCAD 2015 on the Apple iBookstore, at Amazon, and on the CADLearning website. You can contact him via email at david@dscohn.com or visit his website at www.dscohn.com.