Lenovo ThinkPad W520 (428426M) mobile workstation
Lenovo ThinkPad W520 (428426M) review: A semi-rugged laptop that's designed for professionals
- Excellent screen quality
- Chassis is very sturdy
- Good performance
- Touchpad could be better
- Lid could be more rugged
- Only 1-year warranty as standard
The ThinkPad W520 isn't a typical laptop. It should only be considered if you're a professional in need of a strongly-built and well-performing laptop that can help you get your work done efficiently. It's not perfect, but it has stacks of features and supplies good overall user comfort.
Price$ 4,147.00 (AUD)
The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 (428426M) is a 15.6in workstation laptop that's designed for users who want fast performance for graphics, video, design or programming work. It has a typically squarish design and a lot of high-end features — including a 15.6in, Full HD screen and inbuilt colour calibration. It is an expensive investment, but if you need a powerful and well-built laptop with which to make your money then this might not be a hurdle for you.
Specifications and performance
While the ThinkPad W520 is available in different configurations, we looked at the 428426M, which is kitted with a Second Generation Intel Core i7-2620M CPU, a Full HD (1920x1080) LED-backlit screen, NVIDIA Quadro 1000M graphics (with 2GB RAM and Optimus switching technology), 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM (it supports up to 16GB) and a 500GB, 3Gbps, 7200rpm hard drive. Initially, this configuration didn't perform well at all in our tests and the machine delivered speeds that were under half what we expected. Changing power profiles didn't make things run quicker, but disabling and re-enabling Optimus graphics seemed to do the trick.
The ThinkPad W520's Core i7-2620M runs at 2.7GHz, and it has two cores and Hyper-Threading. It helped the laptop to a time of 38sec in our Blender 3D test (using four threads) and 46sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test. Both of these times are slower than the Dell Vostro 3550, which we're comparing here because it uses the same CPU, but this doesn't mean that the W520 is sluggish. It was only 1sec slower than the Dell in Blender and 2sec slower in iTunes. However, the ThinkPad posted a much better time in our video transcoding test. Using AutoGordianKnot, our test DVD file was turned into a 1.45GB Xvid file in only 46min. This is 5min better than what the Dell achieved in the same test.
In our hard drive transfer test, in which we copy 2.12GB worth of 2-50MB files from one location on the hard drive to another, the 7200rpm hard drive recorded a rate of 31.64 megabytes per second. This isn't the fastest rate we've seen from a single 7200rpm, 500GB drive, but anything over 30MBps is generally a good result in this test. The hard drive is mounted in rubber dampers and it's monitored by a motion sensor, which parks the heads when it detects excessive movement. You can order the ThinkPad with a 160GB Intel SSD instead, which will boost the performance of the laptop, eliminate drive noise, as well as slightly reduce its heat and weight — but you'll have to fork over an extra $480.
The ThinkPad W250's NVIDIA Quadro 1000M graphics adapter has 2GB of GDDR5 RAM and it recorded a score of 8299 in 3DMark06. This shows that it has plenty of guts when it comes to processing real-time 3D graphics, but it's not designed for gaming. It's designed to accelerate design and graphics applications such as AutoCAD, Photoshop and 3dsMAX. A full list of certified applications can be found on NVIDIA's Web site.
We appeared to have some problems with graphics card's Optimus feature though. When we initially ran our benchmarks with Optimus enabled in the BIOS, all of our benchmarks ran a lot slower than we expected (despite choosing the maximum power profile). As soon as we disabled Optimus and then re-enabled it, the benchmark results were more along the lines of what we expected. You can customise Optimus through the installed NVIDIA driver, and tell it which programs should use the Quadro graphics card and which ones should use integrated graphics.
Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 2016 Ford Mustang EcoBoost review
- 2 Review: TCL C1 series 4K TV
- 3 Tech21 Evo Xplorer iPhone case review
- 4 LG 55EG960T OLED UHD TV
- 5 Microsoft Lumia 640 review: Honouring Nokia's legacy
Latest News Articles
- Hands-on with Asus ROG G752 and GeForce GTX 1070 (or holy crap this thing is fast!)
- Surface Pro 3's massive battery drain is a software problem, Microsoft says
- Early Android app support rolls out to two more Chromebooks
- Microsoft's pricey Surface Book is getting stomped by the ancient Surface Pro 3
- Alienware's tiny Alpha gaming PC gets bigger muscles... in the US
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- CCSAP Program Manager - CBDNSW
- CCSenior Technology Specialist - Back-end Java/JEENSW
- CCFront End DeveloperNSW
- FTBusiness Development ManagerVIC
- FTIT Manager - Infrastructure Strategy and OperationsNSW
- CCContract Systems Analyst (Loutus Notes) 160815/SA/102Asia
- CCContract Systems Analyst (Cognos/JAVA/J2EE) 160831/SA/122Asia
- CCAnalyst Programmer/Snr. Analyst Programmer 20160817/vedAsia
- CCABAP DeveloperVIC
- CCSolution Designer - Windows UpgradeNSW
- CCSolutions Architect - Office 365/Sharepoint/Project OnlineQLD
- FTPMO SpecialistACT
- CCProject Coordinator (Paying $400-$450 per day)NSW
- FTSenior Full Stack .Net DeveloperNSW
- CCAgile Business AnalystNSW
- CCDeployment CoordinatorNSW
- CCSr. Project Manager- Infrastructure- Data Centre,VirtualizationNSW
- FTIT Release CoordinatorWA
- CCNetwork Engineer - TelecomVIC
- FTMicrosoft Solution ArchitectACT
- FTNational ICT Senior Technical Support EngineerACT
- CCContract Systems Analyst (JAVA/MySQL/PHP) 160819/SA/173Asia
- CCAutomation Test Engineer with Baseline clearance (or higher)VIC
- CCSenior Server and Storage Support EngineerNSW
- FTProject ManagerNSW