The ThinkPad W510 is Lenovo’s 15.6-inch workstation notebook offering an Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M graphics. New to this year’s model is an optional 1080P multi-touch screen with a 95% color gamut and built-in huey PRO color calibration system. In this review, we take an in-depth look at the ThinkPad W510 to gauge its performance as a mobile workstation.
Our Lenovo ThinkPad W510 Specifications:
- 15.6-inch multi-touch FHD (1920 x 1080) LED Backlit 95% Gamut (matte finish)
- Windows 7 Professional (64bit)
- Intel Core i7-920XM (2GHz, 8MB Cache)
- 8GB DDR3 RAM (4GB + 4GB)
- 500GB Seagate 7200.4 HDD (7200rpm)
- Intel 6300 802.11AGN, Bluetooth, Gobi 2000 WWAN
- NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M with 1GB DDR3
- 94Wh 9-cell, 135W 20V AC adapter
- Dimensions: 14.68″ x 9.65″ x 1.35-1.57″
- Weight: 7.2 pounds
- Retail Price: $2,059 Starting (Exact configuration price unavailable)
Build and Design
Compared to the previous generation 15-inch ThinkPad, Lenovo has made many design tweaks with the W510. For starters, the screen hinges are the same width, whereas before the hinge on the right side was much narrower. Another change is when the ThinkPad is open; the screen itself is centered with equal width bezels on both sides. The uneven screen was found to be annoying by some ThinkPad users and it is nice to see Lenovo finally address that odd design element. As a whole, Lenovo has done a great job of keeping the newer ThinkPad models looking just like previous generations. Some changes have been made to update the touchpad, ThinkPad logo, and port layout over the years but anyone off the street would be able to instantly recognize the brand.
Build quality is very good on the Lenovo ThinkPad W510. Out of the box, this model has a stronger feel to it than most of the smaller ThinkPad models and is fairly hefty. Our model weighed in at just about 7 pounds and is built like a tank. The newer palmrest and keyboard design is solid as a rock with a strong support structure underneath the plastic. Even with a strong grip or a lot of downward force, we saw minimal flex around the palmrest and keyboard. Following with its overbuilt (in a good way) trend, the screen hinges are strong enough that it required two hands to open the notebook and even to tilt back the screen once the lid was opened. When fully open, the screen did not have loose wobble or other problems staying firmly positioned. Considering this model offers a multi-touch screen, we found its overbuilt quality to be essential because the entire panel might otherwise push back when pressing on the touchscreen.
The easy access to all serviceable components might appeal to W510 users looking to upgrade. The bottom of the notebook has two covers which houses the hard drive and RAM slots three and four. Removing two screws lets you pop off the keyboard, giving you access to the wireless cards and RAM slots one and two. One point I want to make clear is even with models configured with fewer than four total sticks of memory, Lenovo still includes two open memory slots. We have seen models like the HP EliteBook 8540p that have the spots on the motherboard for two additional memory slots, but don’t solder them in place if the notebook isn’t configured with the additional memory from the factory.
Screen and Speakers
Lenovo includes a brand new multi-touch screen option on the ThinkPad W510. This panel has a resolution of 1920×1080, a high color gamut of 95%, and bright LED backlighting. We measured a peak brightness of 215cd/m2 with the backlight turned to 100%, which is more than bright enough to be fully visible in bright office conditions. Compared to past ThinkPad screens, the W510 ranks just under the X200 Tablet we reviewed in terms of panel quality. Color saturation was well above average, making this screen great for designers but unpleasant for the average user. If you are accustomed to viewing a normal LCD which has a color gamut between 70-80%, viewing this screen will look pretty strange with most colors being over saturated. This isn’t a problem with the screen itself; it’s just an attribute of a high color gamut display. Viewing angles were average with most colors starting to distort or invert when tilted 15 to 20 degrees forward or backward. The high color gamut seems to extend the viewing range slightly, but only because colors still look normal even though they have lost most of their potency. Horizontal viewing angles were good to about 70 degrees before the touchscreen layer started to block the light output.
The multi-touch surface was easy to use and responded to a light touch. It supported two-finger inputs like scrolling and zooming. Compared to other touchscreen surfaces, the W510 had only a slightly hazy appearance and didn’t seem to distort the LCD beneath it unless you were viewing the screen from a steep angle.
Another cool screen feature of the W510 is a huey PRO color calibration system. With the screen intended for graphic designers and image editors, one important area is the screen’s color accuracy. The color calibration software helps to correct any color shift as a result of the backlight, color changes over time, or simple screen aging. We actually found that it helped take the over-saturated edge of the screen and helped bring a sense of balance back to the system. Pre-calibration whites had a mild red tint and after calibration they had a cooler look and closer to the normal spectrum. If you opt for the nicer screen, it’s well worth an extra $70 to get the color calibrator if you’re picky about your screen’s appearance.
Speaker quality is average compared to other business notebooks but rates below mainstream consumer notebooks. While the speaker grills might suggest large speakers located under the trim they are in fact very tiny speakers. Peak volume levels are fine for filling a small to medium-size room. Bass and midrange is weak, but this is common for notebooks in this category.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ThinkPad W510’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and easily lives up to the well-known reputation of all ThinkPad keyboards. It has excellent support showing little flex even under strong pressure. Tactile feedback is great with a precise hinge mechanism and secure key top that doesn’t exhibit any wiggle. The keyboard is the newest design seen first on the T400s and now the T410. The layout changes the position of some of the function keys and adds a row of quick-access sound keys to change the volume level, and mute the speakers and microphones. Another subtle change is a decrease in spacing between each key that supposedly reduces the chance of crumbs getting under them.
The W510 offers a spacious Synaptics touchpad with multi-touch capabilities. Compared to past models, the touchpad surface is textured to reduce friction and prevent your finger from sticking as you slide it side to side. After using the older matte plastic finish version for so long, it is hard to choose my preferred model. Each has its advantages, but only the newer model is multi-touch enabled. The touchpad buttons are easy to use since they are located right along the sloped edge of the palmrest. Feedback is great with a soft touch and a long throw.
Ports and Features
The W510 offers a wide range of ports and features. The port selection includes two SuperSpeed USB3 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one eSATA/USB combo port, FireWire 400, LAN, modem, VGA and DisplayPort-out, and a combo headphone/microphone port. The notebook also features an ExpressCard/34 slot, a SDHC-card reader, and a Blu-ray player.
Front: Screen release
Rear: One USB, modem, AC-power
Left: DisplayPort, VGA, two SuperSpeed USB3 ports, one eSATA/USB combo port, FireWire 400, and wireless on/off
Right: ExpressCard/34, SDHC-card reader, optical drive, LAN, Kensington lock slot
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