Ramblings from another nerd on the grid
NIC teaming, also known as Load Balancing/Failover (LBFO), allows multiple network adapters to be placed into a team for the purposes of bandwidth aggregation, and/or traffic failover to maintain connectivity in the event of a network component failure. This guide describes how to deploy and manage NIC Teaming with Windows Server 2012 R2.
Get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40319
I posted this to my facebook page, but I thought it was appropriate to share here. Rewind to the week before 9/11. I was in New York and New Jersey the week before calling on customers and talking with them about the Microsoft Trusted Solutions Platform (TSP). What happened after will forever be etched in my soul. The actual images are too horrific to repost. If you must see, click the image below but they are painful.
“Keith Combs The place I sat was joyous. Sitting, sipping a glass of wine, eating Italian goodies, watching and listening to some great music on an elevated stage. Vivid. Etched in my mind... It's now a memorial. Customers and friends gone. I cry.”
Remote Server Administration Tools for Windows 8.1 includes Server Manager, Microsoft Management Console (MMC) snap-ins, consoles, Windows PowerShell cmdlets and providers, and command-line tools for managing roles and features that run on Windows Server 2012 and Windows Server 2012 R2. In limited cases, the tools can be used to manage roles and features that are running on Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows Server 2008. Some of the tools work for managing roles and features on Windows Server 2003.
Go get the bits @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39296
In this post we’ll examine two critical aspects of hybrid cloud operations: Health monitoring and self-service, including how to identify and troubleshoot some of the most common maintenance questions and obstacles. To successfully operate your Hybrid Cloud, both of these factors will need to be planned for and actively executed on a regular basis. MORE
This download includes Group Policy Administrative Template files and Office Customization Tool files for use with Office 2010 applications. It also includes an \Admin folder with an Office Customization Tool, and ADMX, ADML, and ADM versions of Office 2010 system Administrative Template files.
For administrative template files, you may use the ADM files for any Windows operating system, or the combination of ADMX and language-specific ADML files on computers running at least Windows Vista or Windows Server 2008.
This download version contains updates to support Office 2010 SP2. For the latest information about policy settings, please refer to the updated Microsoft Excel 2010 workbook, Office2010GroupPolicyAndOCTSettings_Reference.xls, which is available in the Files to download section of this download page. The updated workbook, Office2010GroupPolicyAndOCTSettings_Reference.xls, contains settings changes that were made after the download package was built.
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=18968.
See http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/thinkpad/t-series/t440s/ for the details and specs. I ordered the base model with an upgraded CPU. I will add more memory and storage later. Looking forward to seeing the new IPS screen. Did Lenovo finally get a clue? We’ll see. I should have it around Thanksgiving. Gobble Gobble.
This Microsoft Test Lab Guide (TLG) provides you with step-by-step instructions to create the Windows Server 2012 R2 Network Virtualization with System Center 2012 R2 Virtual Machine Manager (VMM) test lab, using computers running Windows Server 2012 R2. This test lab is based on four physical computers, each hosting multiple virtual machines. Updated September 2013 to include forwarding gateway and NAT functionality.
This is core learning. Read, build and learn at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39284.
For you visual creatures, we have some new posters that will help you understand some of the new Windows Server 2012 R2 components, the architecture under the covers, and some key Hyper-V mini posters. Highly recommended for your reference library.
Go get them @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40732.
This download package contains Word and PDF versions of the technical documentation for Windows Azure Pack. The following guides are available:
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40792
Tis the season to spend money and if you are considering a notebook or slate, you should consider the popular Lenovo Yoga. Lenovo just released the Yoga 2 Pro with the latest generation Intel Haswell processors. This form factor device works in a variety of configurations from standard notebook mode, to a slate or tent mode. Very nice.
See the features, technical specs, and ordering links at http://shop.lenovo.com/us/en/laptops/ideapad/yoga/yoga-2-pro/.
Check out the 411 on Windows 8.1 at http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows-8/features.
Hold on to your butts. http://cars.mclaren.com/p1.html
I am proud to be part of the team providing information on the innovation Microsoft is delivering to support our Cloud OS vision. Today some of the best products in the industry are “generally available” meaning you can download them and start testing them against your unique technical requirements. Here’s a recap of the blog posts we have written and posted on the Server and Tools Blog Network today:
We have a ton of technical information coming over the next weeks and months. Deeply technical “How-To” posts and videos to help you build technical muscle and competencies on the products.
In the meantime, be sure and explore the TechNet Evaluation Center to grab some bits. Windows Server 2012 R2 is at the core, so head on over to the TechNet Windows Server 2012 R2 hub for information and videos on the server roles and technologies.
Microsoft Monitoring Agent monitors computer infrastructure and application health. It collects diagnostic data, such as performance metrics, event logs, and traces. Microsoft Monitoring Agent can be used as a standalone tool or together with System Center Operations Manager. When monitoring .NET applications, you can direct the agent to save application traces in an IntelliTrace log format that can be opened in Visual Studio Ultimate. When connected to System Center Operations Manager, the agent calculates the health state of the monitored computers and objects, and then reports back to the management server. The management servers centrally distribute the configuration to agents and store data received from the monitored computers.
More information and the download @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=40316.
Nokia took the wraps off some new devices today on the other side of the world. See the press release for details on their new slate form factor computer and smartphones. I don’t normally dig huge screen smartphones, but the list of features in the Lumia 1520 is rather impressive. 6” IPS 1080p display, 20 megapixel camera, Snapdragon Quad Core 800 processor and much much more. Dig it!
More information on this lovely phone at http://www.nokia.com/global/products/phone/lumia1520.
Get the 411 @ http://www.microsoft.com/surface/en-us/pre-order
The Office for Mac 2011 training downloads include Portable Document Format (.pdf) and PowerPoint (.pptx) versions of all Office 2011 tutorials and videos. I pulled down the Outlook zip file and took a look at a couple of the videos. These are tastefully done and informative. Short and sweet.
Go get them @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=19790.
Black Carbon fiber. Only $3,000,000.00 USD. I got this.
The August 2013 update of the Windows Azure Training Kit includes updated versions of Introduction to Access Control Service 2.0 to the latest portal experience and MVC 4; Getting Started Windows Azure Storage with two extra exercises that go deeper on each storage abstraction security; and 4 new labs showing brand new portal functionalities. Content Updates:
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=8396.
It is the holiday season. Cool weather, leather jackets, the sound of the leaves shaking to old man winter. Then there is the fall parade of cameras, gadgets and computers vying for your hard earned dollars. Today the parade begins. Windows 8.1 is officially available and our OEM partners are taking the wraps off a slew of devices.
Samsung has one of the best laptop designs on the planet and the machine they released today is no exception. The Samsung ATIV Book 9 Plus NP940X3G-K04US is a crowd pleaser. Next generation Intel i7 4500U dual core CPU with integrated 4400 GPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, a mind blowing 13.3” 3200x1800 resolution screen, backlit keyboard, and much more. I had the pleasure of owning the previous generation machine and you literally could not tell it was in my backpack. Look at the technical specifications carefully.
If you need a state-of-the-art light weight computer, this should be on your list of candidates. It isn’t cheap so look for a deal. Let me know if you have any questions. I have owned both the 13.3” and 15” versions of the previous generation.
We are pushing the boundaries of our data platform with breakthrough performance, cloud capabilities and the pace of delivery to our customers. Last year at PASS Summit, we announced our In-Memory OLTP project “Hekaton” and since then released SQL Server 2012 Parallel Data Warehouse and public previews of Windows Azure HDInsight and Power BI for Office 365. Today we have SQL Server 2014 CTP2, our public and production-ready release shipping a mere 18 months after SQL Server 2012. MORE
The Microsoft Test Lab Guide (TLG) provides you with step-by-step instructions to create the Windows Base Configuration test lab, using computers running Windows 8.1 or Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview, With the resulting test lab environment, you can build test labs based on other Windows Server 2012 R2 Preview-based TLGs from Microsoft, TLG extensions in the TechNet Wiki, or a test lab of your own design that can include Microsoft or non-Microsoft products.
For a test lab based on physical computers, you can image the drives for future test labs. For a test lab based on virtual machines, you can create snapshots of the base configuration virtual machines. This enables you to easily return to the base configuration test lab, where most of the routine infrastructure and networking services have already been configured, so that you can focus on building a test lab for the product, technology, or solution of interest.
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39638.
This reporting workbook provides you with a detailed view into the email protection data that is available in the Office 365 Reporting dashboard. This workbook is available to all Exchange Online and Exchange Online Protection customers. The workbook provides summary graphs for a number of different types of email message filtering. This includes messages identified as spam, malware, or good mail (mail that cleanly passed all filtering). It also shows graphs for messages that were identified by either a transport rule or DLP policy (Exchange Online customers only).
The data for the summary graphs is pulled locally via a web service call. After loading the summary data into the workbook, you can perform deeper analysis through the use of data slicers. These allow you to change the view of the data in order to identify trends or unusual activity. When such a condition is found, you can click through from the summary to the detail data. Another web service call will be made to pull the detail data that you can use to identify the actual messages that caused the condition seen in the summary graph.
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=30716. I really need to try this with my accounts.
It occurs to me that “The Security Realm – A Microsoft Map of the Known World” picture at http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39706 is quite possibly the largest pic I’ve downloaded. The detail is impressive and fun. The picture original size is a massive 13500 x 10800 and the filesize is a whooping 81 MB. Pretty kewl.
As we set out to further invest in Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials, we wanted to build upon the great primary server experience that exists today with Windows Server 2012 Essentials, while at the same time providing a new level of flexibility in terms of how your server can be deployed. The Windows Server Essentials team is excited to announce the availability of the Windows Server 2012 R2 Essentials Preview, and the Windows Server Essentials Experience server role for the Windows Server 2012 R2 Standard and Datacenter editions! MORE
As noted in my earlier post about the availability dates for the 2012 R2 wave, we are counting the days until our partners and customers can start using these products. Today I am proud to announce a big milestone: Windows Server 2012 R2 has been released to manufacturing! MORE
This guide is the third edition of the first volume in a series about Windows Azure. It demonstrates how you can adapt an existing on-premises ASP.NET application to one that operates in the cloud by introducing a fictitious company named Adatum that modifies its expense tracking and reimbursement system, aExpense, so that it can be deployed to Windows Azure. To illustrate the wide range of options and features in Windows Azure, this guide and the code examples available for it show a step-by-step migration process that includes using Windows Azure Web Sites, Virtual Machines, Cloud Services, and SQL Database. Together with useful information on developing, deploying, managing, and costing cloud-hosted applications, this guide provides you with a comprehensive resource for moving your applications to Window Azure.
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=29252.
I still remember the magic of touching my first fibre HBA. Releasing the server form the shackles of SCSI chaining and throughput issues. It seems like a long time ago, but improvement continues to march on and one of our teams just released a nice article called the “Hyper-V Virtual Fibre Channel Design Guide” written by Microsoft Consulting Services Senior Consultant, Jason Dinwiddie. Be sure to check it out. Definitely worth the short read. See http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/hh831531.aspx for other articles on Hyper-V.
The Microsoft Cloud OS solution provides a modern datacenter with enterprise class virtualization, greater resource utilization, end-to-end service management and deep insight into applications so organizations can focus on delivering business value. Together with Windows Azure or a Microsoft Service Provider, you can also create advanced hybrid cloud deployment scenarios where seasonal spikes in demand can be easily managed through the public cloud.
Our web-based tool provides a quick comparison of the TCO and benefits of deploying a Microsoft hybrid cloud vs. a VMware private cloud solution for your new workloads; or migrating your existing VMware workloads. Check it out!
Welcome to TechEd Europe 2013 being held in Madrid, Spain June 25-28, 2013. We have a lot of information to share this week on Microsoft products and services that comprise our Cloud OS vision. In addition to the great session content, we also have announcements as well as partner and customer information we think you will find valuable. It’s going to be a busy week with a lot of great information.
See http://blogs.technet.com/b/server-cloud/archive/2013/06/25/teched-europe-2013-launches-with-cloud-os-product-previews-partner-announcements-and-customer-case-studies.aspx for the 411 on the announcements, downloads and on-demand viewing.
People have been asking me for years in my presentations what that icon on my desktop called “RichCopy” was. I would of course tell them all about it. That was always followed by a request for the utility. Well, it only took nine years to fulfill that request, but it’s finally here.
I didn’t even know we were going to release it, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it prominently displayed right at the top of the April TechNet Magazine. The cover pic on the website is too small for you to see the box next to the TechNet name, but fear not. Head on over to the column from Joshua Hoffman called, “Utility Spotlight: RichCopy”
Joshua gives you some of the background, history, and other information in the column. But you’ll want to head right to the download link and grab one of my favorite utilities. Here’s a screenshot of this bad boy in action. In the job below, I am uploading the content for the Interop Road Show to a server in Seattle. RichCopy has ten upload threads going and as you can see, I am uploading the very beginning of the self extracting archive.
This brings me to an important point. If you are supplying people a big fat .ISO image or zip file, please rethink your strategy. WinRAR from RARLabs is a great archive utility and when combined with a tool like RichCopy, it’s a match made in heaven. With WinRAR, I took the entire set of content and archived it into 100MB chunks. People that use multi threaded download tools like RichCopy are going to love me for that.
My team standard for FTP is the wonderful FileZilla. Like RichCopy, FileZilla is also multi threaded. I have never used RichCopy for FTP because until the public release, you were required to be connected to our corporate AD forest to use it. And the last thing I want is a FTP client that is running across the VPN connection. That has all changed now, so I need to run some tests with both of them and see if there’s a clear winner. Today I am using RichCopy for SMB and FileZilla for FTP. Using a single util for both may make more sense now.
Get RichCopy @ http://download.microsoft.com/download/f/d/0/fd05def7-68a1-4f71-8546-25c359cc0842/HoffmanUtilitySpotlight2009_04.exe.
[UPDATE for 5/1] Ken Tamaru was/is doing development and maintenance of RichCopy. He recently started a blog at http://blogs.technet.com/ken/. There is the place to ask RichCopy questions. Keep in mind however he has a day job and it’s completely different than being a developer for the RichCopy utility.
Boot from VHD is a new technique for installing and maintaining operating system environments. Unlike virtual machines, the operating system that is running from a “boot from VHD” environment is using the actual hardware instead of emulated hardware. This means a developer could easily use WPF and the full GPU processing power of a high end graphics card. In another scenario, this technology makes it easy to setup and run Windows Server 2008 R2 with the Hyper-V role, thus supporting 64 bit virtualization workloads.
The Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) is the container for the installed operating system. Because everything is inside a single file, there are a number of benefits that can be realized for data center server environments, as well as managed desktop environments. The following article dives into the technical details of implementing two operating systems. Both are installed in a VHD file and can easily be booted by selecting the preferred environment at power on. This could easily be scripted and automated.
The Installation Foundation – Windows PE
The Windows Preinstallation Environment (WinPE) has been updated for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2. One of those improvements is the ability to use a Virtual Hard Disk (VHD) file as the target for an installation of the operating system (OS).
This has some interesting implications. Booting from a .VHD file that contains an entire OS seems rather magical. I mean think about it. You go to look at a hard drive and there’s a single file but Windows Server 2008 R2 is installed inside it. This would certainly simplify the ability to boot your servers on a completely new environment with little effort. This is going to turn change management on its ear.
The same is true for the desktop OS, Windows 7. You can install Windows 7 inside a .VHD file. Again, the OS is installed inside a single file and thus makes it rather easy to move or change out and bring up a completely different version of the environment. This will make test environments for developers super easy to construct and test discrete sets of applications or components.
One thing that is not well known is how easy it is to create the initial .VHD file and install the operating system into it. The supported and documented ways are geared towards very well defined support scenarios. You can see the supported scenarios in the Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK). Most people have been reluctant to take the time to learn this because it involves the use of imagex captures and applies.
What if you could install with just the DVD?
You can. All you need is a hard drive with disk space and the DVD for Windows 7 RC or Windows Server 2008 R2 RC. In fact, when I was investigating the tools for this article I used a brand spanking new Hitachi 2.5” 320GB 7200rpm hard drive and both DVDs to create a dual boot environment. Nothing more. And it’s much simpler than I thought. The key is WinPE and DISKPART. Here is the screencast demonstration of the tools in action.
The Screencast Video – 23 minutes – Win7 and R2 Dual Boot via VHD
The Command Sequence Used in the Video
Other References and Articles
Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 RC – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=60a07e71-0acb-453a-8035-d30ead27ef72. This is the bible for the supported methods of using “Boot from VHD”. Windows Virtualization Blog – see their VHD boot post at http://blogs.technet.com/virtualization/archive/2009/05/14/native-vhd-support-in-windows-7.aspx. Particularly interesting is the performance area of the post. Knom’s Developer Corner – another nice post at http://blogs.msdn.com/knom/archive/2009/04/07/windows-7-vhd-boot-setup-guideline.aspx.
Windows Automated Installation Kit (WAIK) for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 RC – get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?displaylang=en&FamilyID=60a07e71-0acb-453a-8035-d30ead27ef72. This is the bible for the supported methods of using “Boot from VHD”.
Windows Virtualization Blog – see their VHD boot post at http://blogs.technet.com/virtualization/archive/2009/05/14/native-vhd-support-in-windows-7.aspx. Particularly interesting is the performance area of the post.
Knom’s Developer Corner – another nice post at http://blogs.msdn.com/knom/archive/2009/04/07/windows-7-vhd-boot-setup-guideline.aspx.
So What’s Next ???
Tomorrow I am going to backup my existing Windows 7 production hard drive. Windows 7 is installed in the traditional fashion on a 200GB drive right now. I am going to restore the backup to a larger disk then install Windows Server 2008 R2 RC into a .VHD and test mixing them. That’s a bit of a hybrid and one I think a lot of developers might be interested in. It would certainly demonstrate you can have a traditional implementation of your production OS, but flip to any other Windows Server 2008 R2 or Windows 7 testbed very easily. I’ll follow-up here or another post when I get that implemented. Enjoy.
[UPDATE for 5/23/2009] As I indicated just above, I wanted to run an extension of the test I recorded. I backed up my 200GB Windows 7 RC environment then restored it to a 320GB drive. After that, I booted from the Windows Server 2008 R2 RC DVD and created a bootable VHD with R2 inside. The VHD is stored in a folder at the root of my 320GB disk. The R2 setup program fixed up the bcdstore area and I now have a dual boot hybrid. Windows 7 is installed in the traditional manner. R2 is booting from the VHD. Both are available on the selection menu at power up. Interesting stuff for sure.
[UPDATE for 5/25/2009] Since I received a couple of questions out of band on how I captured the demo, let me explain. The demo was captured using Camtasia v6.0.2. The demo was a Hyper-V virtual machine, not native hardware. I had mentioned that in some of the preliminary takes but I guess I didn't make that clear in the final take. Therefore, the booted OS in the screencast is actually using the emulated hardware of the virtual machine. Everything you see in the demo works on my native hardware, a Lenovo ThinkPad T61p.
One other thing, the VHD that is being booted from will expand to the maximum size specified at creation. It will revert to the used size when you shut it down. Keep this in mind because that buffer must exist at boot time or else.
[UPDATE for 6/14/2009] Although this article was originally written using a blank hard drive, I have received a few suggestions for adds, so here they are.
High end portable workstations are a special class of computer. The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 belongs to that class and in many ways sets the bar. As a daily user of a ThinkPad W510, I was certainly interested in seeing and testing the new W520 to see what improvements were made.
Keep in mind I don’t have a lab with instruments to scientifically measure power draw, consumption, clock speed of the cpu or gpu, etc. But I do like to put notebooks through their paces with an interesting application mix. This is why I call it a “mini” review.
W510 owners should stop reading here. It’s that much better. Really. I’m not kidding.
The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 is twice as fast as my ThinkPad W510 at certain chores and eclipses it on battery life. The ThinkPad W520 has superior battery life over the W510 and reaches 6-7 hours of battery life at a moderate screen brightness. Lenovo continues to provide excellent thermal management cooling in the W520 workstation. See the performance and battery life sections below for more detail. In short, the ThinkPad W520 with the new Intel Sandy Bridge chipset is a strong improvement to the Lenovo W Series of portable workstations.
The unit I received isn’t the top of the line ThinkPad W520 but it has some of the top tier components. It’s a model 4284-A58. It has the Intel Core i7-2720QM processor (quad-core, 2.20GHz, 6MB Cache), DDR3 memory controller (up to 1600MHz), Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 (3.30GHz), with Hyper Threading (HT) technology. This particular W520 is loaded with 4x4GB 204-pin SO-DIMM PC3-10600 1333MHz DDR3, non-parity, dual-channel memory. The screen is 15.6" (396mm) FHD (1920x1080) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 270 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio, 95% Gamut. The video chipset is NVIDIA® Optimus™ technology, which will auto-switch between discrete and integrated graphics. The integrated graphics is the Intel HD Graphics 3000 in processor, and the discrete chip is the NVIDIA Quadro® 2000M, PCI Express® x16, with 2GB memory.
The primary drive bay is a full height (9.5mm) 2.5” hard drive bay and will accommodate standard laptop hard drives as well as full size SSD drives. It’s still bottom access and I don’t like that much. I prefer side load like the previous generation ThinkPad's. The Ultrabay is still the same as the W510 and is 12.7mm in height. The W520 received included the Seagate Momentus 500GB 7200rpm drive in the primary bay. I tested the W520 with it and the Intel 160GB SSD.
The W520 with the 9-cell battery is slightly lighter than the W510, but only slightly. The port configuration around the machine is the same as the W510 though they changed the USB 3.0 chipset to another supplier. This did have an impact on flattening the machine and using an external USB 3.0 enclosure. You must install the USB 3.0 driver before you use those ports. The new USB 3.0 chipset provider is Renesas. I am not sure what happened to NEC but this is a change from the W510.
The chassis dimensions are 14.68" x 9.65" x 1.29-1.44"; 372.8mm x 245.1mm x 32.8-36.6mm. This is exactly the same as the W510. The W510 and W520 aren’t massive in size but it is a large 15” notebook computer. It fits perfectly in the Wenger Synergy backpack which I have been using for the past 5-6 years. Highly recommended.
Although my W520 didn’t come with a mSATA drive, I have confirmed it is capable of using one in the PCI-E WWAN card slot. In essence, you can put a tiny Intel Series 310 SSD drive in the slot and use it for OS boot. This would allow for three drives total in the W520. Lenovo is promoting RapidDrive for the usage of the mSATA drive but I think OS boot is more interesting. Although the Sandy Bridge chipset in the ThinkPad W520 has SATA III 6Gbps support, I don’t have the new SATA III SSD drives yet to prove it works. Sorry, but that’s a big budget line item so it will have to wait for later. I intend to purchase some Intel Series 510 SSD drives when the price is right.
The model I received has the Intel 6300 WIFI and Intel 82579LM Gigabit Ethernet chipset.
Front - in this picture and the following shots, I have the ThinkPad T410s on top of the stack, the ThinkPad T410 in the middle and the ThinkPad W520 on the bottom. There isn’t much to comment on for the frontal view. Sorry I don’t have the T420 and T420s yet for comparison. I use Windows 7 lid stickers for my machines so you’ll see that already slapped on the W520.
Right - the W520 ports are positioned exactly like the W510. On the right side you’ll see the memory card slot, 34mm ExpressCard slot with a plastic filler, the 12.7mm high fatty DVD burner in the Ultrabay, and the Ethernet port. I don’t like the placement of the Ethernet port here. I would rather have it in the back where the silly modem is, and have a USB port instead like the T410 above it.
Back - the one notable change on the back of the W520 is the power connection port. It has a new design to accommodate the 170W power supply connector and is different from several generations of ThinkPad's. You can still use the ThinkPad W510 135W power adaptor with this port. You cannot however plug the 170W power supply into a W510 or W510 dock. See the connector close up macro shot below.
Left - the left side of the W520 is no different from the W510. I will however point your attention to the eSATA port which is a combo port also known as a powered eSATA port.
Open - I believe the W510 and W520 key layouts are the same although I haven’t examined them close up. I did notice in this picture some of the keys are a slightly different color. I think this is due to inconsistencies in the manufacturing process for those keys unless it’s actually supposed to be that way. You wouldn’t normally see the color difference unless you were looking really hard for it. It just shows from the flash photography.
Thin - I usually take a lot of different shots of a machine from different angles and I thought this picture was interesting because it makes the W520 look thin like the T410s. It’s an optical illusion.
Power brick top - some people are freaking out about the 170W power supply brick. It’s rather large and for comparison I have it lined up with the 135W power supply for the W510, and a 90W power supply for the T410. It’s actually lighter than the 135W brick. 770 grams to 830. It appears in my testing the 135W brick works fine so if you are short on cubic centimeters you might travel with the 135W. You cannot use the 90W with the W520.
Power brick side - here’s another view of the bricks from a different angle.
Power connecter - here’s a close up macro shot of the 170W power connector compared to the connector on the 90W and 135W power supplies.
Power Management and Battery Life
I mentioned in the executive summary above that the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 has significantly improved power management and battery life. It appears from my testing that it’s at least twice as good as the W510. After some initial testing, I quickly posted some information. W510 owners everywhere are crying.
Why is battery life important on a portable workstation? In my opinion, it really shouldn’t matter too much. Almost everyone one I know that uses a machine in this class probably has a smartphone and a slate device or they will soon.
In the meantime, battery might be important in some situations but this isn’t a machine you’d be lugging from class to class, or meeting to meeting and taking notes on battery. You could, but it isn’t designed for that. It’s designed to run high performance workloads and you’d better be plugged into the wall for those. Enough of the lecture already.
For the consultants in the crowd that have a single machine, you’ll be happy to know the battery life is dramatically improved. In the tests at the blog post link above, this machine appears to get six hours of battery life quite nicely on the configuration I was sent. That’s pretty darn good and welcome relief for the workstation crowd.
Now you can watch a movie or two on that long flight home. Assuming of course the guy in front of you hasn’t pushed his seat all the way back. That’s where the T410s or a slate device will come in handy.
Performance, Gaming and Thermals
I do a considerable amount of work with high definition video. This seemed like the perfect test to see how much of an improvement the Sandy Bridge pipelining and chipset had improved over the W510. I was shocked at the results. So shocked in fact I ran the tests several times with different drives to verify what I was seeing.
For the encoding tests I used Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum 10. I encoded to a 720p Windows Media Video profile at a 6MB data rate. This is a rich high definition format and it will tax every system I have including the ThinkPad W520. The source video is from my Sony high def video camera and I have a variety of subjects. I decided to use last years Fort Worth Mayfest footage.
The W520 completed the encoding job in 1.5 hours. The machine did of course kick the fan up on high but wasn’t obnoxiously loud. I was also pleasantly surprised to learn it didn’t fry the machine either.
In fact, although the machine was warm on the bottom, it wasn’t scorching hot. You wouldn’t want it on your bare legs, but it wasn’t bad at all. That’s a real good sign. During the encoding the four cores and four hyper threads hovered around 72% CPU utilization. Plenty of head room to do other stuff if this is your only machine.
The W510 completed the same exact encoding job in 3 hours. You read that correctly. The W520 was twice as fast as the W510 in all of the encoding jobs. I even used a variety of drives internal and external to rule out I/O bottlenecks. Yea, my jaw is still on the floor.
I don’t know yet why the W520 is soo much faster. I ran these tests six different ways on both machines and every time the W520 sliced through the work in half the time the W510 took. I checked all of the BIOS, Power management and performance settings three different times to make sure everything was nearly identical except the hardware. Hardware matters.
After the encoding jobs, I decided to do some testing of the graphics for gaming. I haven’t really done any PC gaming in a while since we use the XBOX 360 for that type of entertainment. However, I still have Half-Life 2 Orange Box and it’s a pretty well known entity. It was either use it or buy a modern game. I took the cheap route and used Orange Box.
I installed Steam and all of the games then cranked up HL2. I made sure to set the video settings in HL2 to 1920x1080 and all of the shading and stuff on high. The game performed remarkably well. I was getting some tearing and artifacts on quick turns and such but it wasn’t laggy or gross. That was with the BIOS set to NVIDIA Optimus mode. I changed it to NVIDIA discrete only and tried the game again. Now we’re talking. Smooth as glass and no tearing. I haven’t checked frame rates but they are high.
The W520 does an amazing job of cooling. It spins the fan up under load and after things simmer down, spins back down. When the machine is being used under light load, you can use the notebook on your bare skin. It runs nice and cool. At least mine does. My W510 also runs cool so they are pretty even on that count. I’ve seen quite a few W510 reports where that wasn’t the case so I’m hoping Lenovo really has this nailed for the ThinkPad W520.
Virtualization and RemoteFX
Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 installed on the ThinkPad W520 with complete ease. In fact, some of the nagging little workarounds I’ve been documenting for years have disappeared, finally. I installed R2 SP1 using the usual boot from VHD techniques documented all over my blog.
For those of you looking at the Lenovo Drivers and Download area, you’ll notice at the time of this review there aren’t many drivers. Fortunately, everything you need is on the hard drive that came from the Lenovo factory under the SWTOOLS area. The Ethernet and WIFI adaptors install correctly now with setup. Everything else is straightforward.
I installed the Hyper-V role and imported several virtual machines and confirmed everything was working as expected. Boring. My colleague Robert Larson asked me to look into making sure the W520 would run RemoteFX. Now there’s something new and interesting to try.
RemoteFX is a fascinating technology that lets you run a thin client machine from your desk, but take advantage of advanced graphics on the Hyper-V server. There are a number of ways to take advantage of RemoteFX but I decided to try something that would really prove it works.
Hmmm, what 3D application running on the VM would really prove RemoteFX is working? Aero Glass is already running but you can do that with the right RDP clients so that isn’t good enough proof for me. I need a game. Duh. How about installing Half-Life 2 into the VM and playing it across the wire from another machine on my network? Muuhaahaa.
Here’s a screen shot of me using the Windows 7 SP1 RDP client and RemoteFX to install the game. You can clearly see the Aero Glass effects in the RDP session. All of those graphics are being handled by the GPU in the NVIDIA discrete chipset on the W520, not the machine I am using to run the RDP client. I was pretty shocked at this point that Steam actually installed and worked.
When I launched HL2, Steam complained about not having the RemoteFX virtual machine emulated 3D card in it’s card database. I guess I was first. It let me continue and play the game. Since I had the RDP client session above set to 720p (1280x720), I ran Half-Life 2 with the same video settings. HL2 suggested medium shading and such for the settings so I went with that.
Actual gameplay was better than I expected. I expected this to completely fail but much to my amazement the game actually worked. The mouse control was really erratic and hyper sensitive, but movement forward and back or side to side was pretty decent. Certainly proof RemoteFX was working properly on the Lenovo ThinkPad W520. I’ll go back later when I have time and look more closely at framerates native on the W520 and inside the VM. I am out of time for this week.
The Screen and Multimon
Like the W510, the FHD screen on the W520 is fabulous. It’s bright and has good contrast. The high Gamut screen has good color support and it’s probably the smart choice for anyone considering a portable workstation. As with most if not all of the business computers Lenovo makes, it’s a matte screen. I don’t think I will ever buy a glossy screen laptop. Well, I haven’t yet. Anyway, the screen is very nice and I haven’t seen any complaints with it on the W510.
I am unable to run a test I wanted to run. Although the W520 can be used in the 135W dock designed for the ThinkPad W510, it won’t drive more than two monitors. You are going to need the 170W powered dock designed specifically for the W520. So I could not test driving 3-4 external monitors. I use three on a daily basis and have a fourth I could have used for the test, but until I have the right dock, it isn’t going to happen.
Here’s a picture of what I am talking about. In the pic above my Lenovo ThinkPad T410s NVIDIA Optimus notebook is driving three Dell LCD panels. That’s a cheap 24” on the left, a new refurb Ultrasharp U2711 27” in the middle, and an aging Ultrasharp 24” on the right. It’s funny that the middle panel color differences are so pronounced in the pic. I haven’t calibrated all three together on the T410s and this shows why you should. Looking at this in person is different. Your brain calibrates them real time. More optical tricks.
Because Optimus based machines have two active video chipsets, you can drive up to four external LCD panels with the Lenovo dock. I think most people won’t need more than three but four is possible. It’s the very first test I did with the T410s. Sorry I could not prove it works with the W520.
OS and Software
The ThinkPad W520 I received came with Windows 7 Professional x64. I was a little surprised to see it show up without SP1 already installed. Not only that, it isn’t patched to current levels or at least reasonably close levels. It’s sitting here waiting for me to install 29 important updates. This is pretty inexcusably in my opinion. Lenovo should really take the time to engineer an image that is more up-to-date than that. Make sure you update your machine to SP1 as soon as you get it. Hitting the update button on mine now.
As for the software that is pre-loaded, I give Lenovo a lot of credit for NOT loading the machine will a bunch of software I don’t want. On first boot you will be presented with some promotions for Norton AV, Bing, Office, etc. but you can politely skip those and move right on.
Lenovo has added some interesting programs I haven’t fully tested yet. Skype is installed and configured to use the dual mic and 720p camera built into the LCD panel bezel. Lenovo spent a lot of time tuning their new systems to work well with VOIP and other conferencing providers like Microsoft Lync so you road warriors could attend meetings. Lucky you.
In addition you’ll find facial recognition software for security. I am soo going to test this. I’m actually thinking of testing that with my Chihuahua Elvis to see if I can use him to unlock the machine. That should be fun.
Office 2010 Starter is pre-installed and there are options to purchase an upgrade at any time. Office Start 2010 includes Word and Excel Starter editions. Pretty clever. Give you some core features and provide an easy way to upgrade if you so desire.
Biztree Business-in-a-Box is there for installation along with Skype, Norton Internet Security, Windows Live Essentials, Corel WinDVD, Corel Burn.Now, Corel DVD MovieFactory, and a few other miscellaneous programs.
If you intend to use Windows Server 2008 R2 SP1 as your primary OS, make sure you save the SWTOOLS directory on drive C:. You’ll want WinDVD and other apps that don’t come with R2. I haven’t yet verified the location of WinDVD in the lower level directories but I will.
I didn’t think the Lenovo ThinkPad W520 would be much of an improvement. It’s the same keyboard, chassis, screen, etc. as the ThinkPad W510. But the beauty is below the surface and in this case, the Sandy Bridge chipset offers much better performance while managing energy use much more efficiently.
You’ll certainly want to watch for more scientific testing by the professional review blogs and organizations but it sure looks like a super machine for your consideration. I look forward to seeing how it fairs against the competition in the shootouts. This is a sweet machine ready to do some hard work. Let me know if you have any questions.
[UPDATE for 3/29/2011] Lenovo.com just lit up the configuration wizards for the ThinkPad W520. Here’s a sample configuration and price from the US public buying site. Man, they have some nice new options. I’d really like to test the RAID support. Enjoy.
[Update for 4/3/2011] Todays project was to flatten the Lenovo factory image and install SLED 11 SP1 x86. The install worked well enough though SLED installations are really slow from DVD. GNOME and KDE are both working with the inbox VESA drivers. I downloaded and installed the NVIDIA accelerated graphics driver from NVIDIA.com without issue. To be clear, I have the BIOS set to discrete only. I don’t believe NVIDIA has Optimus drivers for linux. The accelerated drivers appear to be working pretty well at 1920x1080 with 16 million colors. Menu fades, app movement, and moving graphics objects around on the screen is fluid. Transparency effects are working.
You also might have noticed I removed my “buy with confidence” remarks from the body of the blog post. The main reason is due to the outstanding question on the support for SATA III SSD drives. I don’t know if the W520 supports the SATA III 6GB standard. Hopefully an answer is clarified by Lenovo in the documentation, an official blog post at the http://lenovoblogs.com site, or something soon. Eventually someone will benchmark the machine and provide some insight. I won’t be in a position to do that for several weeks.
I rather doubt the mSATA slot will be SATA III and I don’t think there are any SATA III mSATA devices anyway. The Intel Series 310 devices are SATA II 3GB speed. So the questions remain for the primary and optional Ultrabay drive interfaces. I supposed this also includes the Lenovo ThinkPad Serial ATA Hard Drive Bay Adaptor III since that is the currently supported hard drive adaptor. I will be surprised to hear the 43N3412 adaptor is SATA III 6GB capable.
So until the answers emerge, I would suggest making your decision carefully. I certainly wouldn’t pay a premium for the new 6GB speed SSD drives until you know for sure the system can fully exploit them. The machine is still a killer machine and if it fully supports 6GB speeds in all three of the possible SSD bays (mSATA slot, primary bay, Ultrabay), then it would certainly move it into the bad ass category of machines. It’s unlikely that all three bays support the 6GB speeds.
[Update for 4/5/2011] Good news. A number of people out there in the wild have received T420’s, T520’s and W520’s. Several of them have run SSD tests with the Crucial and Micron drives and are reporting jumps in throughput that would be indicative of a SATA III 6GB speeds in both the primary bay, and ultrabay. I’ve read this now at http://www.storagereview.com/lenovo_thinkpad_t520_review_first_thoughts and from three or four different people in the various ThinkPad forums.
I’m cautiously optimistic now. Some of the test results I’ve seen lack detail but at least there are a handful of reports. I’ll feel better when I’ve run my own tests but I thought some of you might be interested.
Here’s a nice infomercial on the ThinkPad W520. It also covers a few features not normally mentioned in the reviews. Notice it says battery life increase of 100% over the previous generation. See, they put that in writing.
[UPDATE for 4/6/2011] A little over a week ago I sent some questions into Lenovo around the drives and storage for the new Sandy Bridge based notebooks. Here are the questions and the answers I received.
1. Are the supported SATA interface speeds on the new ThinkPad's SATA III 6GB? Specifically, is this true for the T420, T420s, X220, X220t, T520, and W520?
[Lenovo] Yes, The new Huron River ThinkPads will support 6Gb/s, but our current drives that have been certified are only 3GB/s drives. The current roadmap is showing Late 3Q or early 4Q is when we'll qualify 6GB/s drives. This is true for the T420, T420s, X220, X220t, T520, and W520.
[Lenovo] Yes, The new Huron River ThinkPads will support 6Gb/s, but our current drives that have been certified are only 3GB/s drives. The current roadmap is showing Late 3Q or early 4Q is when we'll qualify 6GB/s drives. This is true for the T420, T420s, X220, X220t, T520, and W520.
2. What SSD drives have been tested and are recommended for the new Sandy Bridge based machines?
[Lenovo]These are all 3.0 Gb/ps. ThinkPad 160GB Intel X25-M Solid State Drive II - Released ThinkPad 128 GB SS Drive II - Released Intel 320 Series - Not Released. Lenovo engineering has completed testing/certification of the Intel 320 Series.
[Lenovo]These are all 3.0 Gb/ps.
3. What is the hard/ssd drive bay height and size for the new machines? I need this for the primary bay, and ultrabay for each machine. I understand some of the bays will only take 7mm height drives so if you provide a table of information on the machines above I would appreciate it.
[Lenovo] Primary bay height for each system: T420, X220-X220T, W520 approx. 10.5 mm. Ultrabay height for each system: T420, X220-X220T approx. 10.5 mm. W520 Ultrabay is 12.7mm. Machines with 7mm height drives: Yes The X220/ X220T, T420s will only take 7mm drives in their primary drive bay.
[Lenovo] Primary bay height for each system: T420, X220-X220T, W520 approx. 10.5 mm. Ultrabay height for each system: T420, X220-X220T approx. 10.5 mm. W520 Ultrabay is 12.7mm. Machines with 7mm height drives: Yes The X220/ X220T, T420s will only take 7mm drives in their primary drive bay.
4. Which machines support the mSATA drive in the WWAN mini PCIE slot? Do all of the machines support this? For the machines that do, is OS boot support supported?
[Lenovo] W520, T420, T420s, X220, X220T. Yes, boot is supported for all of them.
[Lenovo] W520, T420, T420s, X220, X220T. Yes, boot is supported for all of them.
[UPDATE for 4/20/2011] I have confirmed with Lenovo that although the W520 has Optimus, it does not have Hybrid Optimus and thus cannot support four external displays like my T410s (see that test). Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but there you have it. On the bright side, I will test the T420s before too long and see if it really works.
See http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?lndocid=MIGR-76617 for the official support document on the Hybrid Optimus technology and supported configurations.
[UPDATE for 9/19/2011] It’s pretty rare for me to come back to update a review or comment six months after I wrote something but it seems there is a facet of this machine I didn’t really test fully back in March. I still haven’t but I wanted to bring some information to your attention.
First, you notice in my blog post above I’m pretty wild about the new battery life for the ThinkPad W520. That’s easily understandable because the battery life from the W510 isn’t nearly as good.
What you may not know is that the Quad Core CPU is limited to a certain performance level when running on battery power. The term many people use is “throttled”. I guess that term works. Throttling is a well known way to govern something. Cars and motorcycles have governors to prevent them from going over a certain MPH. ISP’s and wireless carriers throttle connections when you’ve used a certain amount of data. In that case of the W520, the CPU is throttled while on battery power.
I haven’t seen an official Lenovo statement on why this is. Some speculate they are doing this to prolong battery life. That’s a pretty noble cause, unless you really need max performance on battery power. I have seen other speculation that it was done due to some engineering challenge with supplying a hungry CPU with power when it is coming solely from battery. Until Lenovo explains what is going on and why it’ll be open for speculation.
Lenovo appears to be working on the problem. They have already published one BIOS that improves the throttling and I assume they are still working on further improvement. They have their senior Social Media folks and moderators involved in the threads. See Lenovo W Series Forum area. There is quite a bit of activity in the threads there.
I installed the v1.30 BIOS at the end of last month and can’t really tell much different on my machine with my typical usage models. I haven’t traveled the past few weeks so I haven’t been running on battery power. I did do a few quick tests three weeks ago and on my machine the CPU clock speed range is 800-1500 MHz on battery. I did notice some bugs are still present on sleep/resume so I assume Lenovo is well aware of them and the reason I think they aren’t done with further improvement.
There are couple of other rather large threads at the Lenovo site. Thankfully I am not seeing any issues like those that are being reported.
Each of you has likely used one of the world’s most popular Wiki’s known as http://wikipedia.org. The English section of that site has 3.2 million articles and there are many more supported languages. An excerpt from the mission of the site is “to empower and engage people around the world to collect and develop educational content.” We have a similar TechNet mission.
As you’ll recall from TechNet 2.0 – Episode 1 – Core Scenarios and Branding, three big things we focus on for all TechNet scenarios are Content, Discoverability, and Participation. We really want to invite participation from everyone and what better way to combine that with discovery and content than to use Wiki technology?
Later this year TechNet and the Server & Cloud Division will partner to launch the new TechNet Wiki.
There are a number of interesting features that are part of the Wiki implementation. You’ll notice a very visible tag cloud. If the pic is hard to read, click it or any of the remaining screenshots for a larger version. Tag clouds are great for navigating large number of articles as well as seeing at a glance where activity is taking place. The Wiki has different views depending on whether you are logged in or not. You’ll notice I am not logged in above and we can see quickly the activity taking place, contact information, and how to use the Wiki.
Once I login, I can see additional information. In fact, I decided to click the Windows Server tag cloud and I get a listing of tagged articles as seen in the following screenshot.
I immediately spot an article I am interested in. You can see the one I am referring to above with the Event ID 3112. It’s the third article down. I click the article link and I am presented with the following information. As you can see, Tony Soper is writing about how to go through the process of troubleshooting a Hyper-V virtual machine issue. If you don’t know Tony, he’s one of our virtualization subject matter experts.
This particular article and condition was interesting to me because after modifying the Boot Configuration Data (BCD) for my machine, I inadvertently dropped the parameter to start the hypervisor on the Windows Server 2008 R2 boot entry in the BCD store. Tony’s article details this and how to fix the issue or points you to an article for additional help. Been there done that.
Another interesting aspect of the Wiki is the ability to see the changes that have occurred leading to the current version. You have the ability to run a compare if you like to see the revisions. In the screenshot below, I am getting ready to run the compare against the current version and version # 16.
After I click the Compare Versions button, I can see the revisions that have occurred as depicted in the screenshot below.
As you can see, Tony is correcting his own article but one of you could be adding or changing information as well. In this particular article’s case, you might add some information about using “Boot from VHD” technology and how to be careful not to step on a BCD entry and lose the hypervisor autorun parameter. Wiki’s are great for collecting knowledge like that and we are anxious to get this in your hands soon.
We believe a public wiki for technical content on TechNet has the potential to be a big step forward in all three areas:
I used the word "potential" above because Microsoft cannot succeed with the TechNet Wiki on its own - success ultimately depends on the direct engagement, support, and ongoing feedback from the IT community.
It’s a "big bet" for all of us, but one we believe in and are ready to take.
So, let's start with your feedback - what do you think of a TechNet Wiki? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks !
[NOTE] The screenshots are of our internal beta staging server so there may be some subtle differences by the time we provide access. Enjoy!
Friday afternoon I received two Lenovo ThinkPad W510’s. The one I decided to look at first is the model with the 1920x1080 Multi Touch screen. Let me first say I am not a big fan of this high a resolution on a screen that is 15.6”. I have two other laptops with 15.4” screens that have native resolutions of 1920x1200. But this machine is very different.
Here are specifications for the machine I am currently reviewing. It is a ThinkPad W510 Model 4389-2UU. It has a Intel® Core™ i7-820QM quad-core processor 6MB Cache. I loaded the machine with 4x4GB PC3-8500 1066MHz SoDIMM memory sticks for a total of 16GB of RAM. The machine arrived with a Seagate 500GB 7200rpm hard drive. I pulled that drive and set it aside then installed my Intel 160GB Generation 2 SSD drive.
The screen is 15.6" (396mm) FHD (1920x1080) color, anti-glare, LED backlight, 242 nits, 16:9 aspect ratio, 500:1 contrast ratio, 95% Gamut, MultiTouch (touchscreen supports two-finger touch). To keep the screen calibrated, this model includes a Pantone huey™PRO X-Rite® Colorimeter. The color calibration sensor is in palm rest near the fingerprint reader.
The video chipset is the NVIDIA® Quadro® FX 880M with 1GB of discrete memory. The chassis has a VGA DB-15 connector which is typical. It also includes a DisplayPort connector (supports single-link DVI-D via cable 45J7915); and has a Maximum external resolution: 2560x1600 (DisplayPort)@60Hz; 2048x1536 (VGA)@85Hz; 1920x1200@60Hz (single-link DVI-D via cable 45J7915).
The W510 is 15.6W" (WxDxH): 14.68" x 9.65" x 1.26-1.41"; 372.8mm x 245.1mm x 32-35.8mm. The 6-cell weight starts at 5.66 lb (2.57kg); 9-cell: starting at 6.01 lb (2.72kg). For those of you keeping score, this machine is slightly wider than a T61p, and slightly heavier. If you are used to carrying around a T61p or W500, you aren’t going to get bent out of shape by the difference. This isn’t a T400, T410 or T410s so don’t bother comparing them on size and weight. This is a bigger and heavier machine. But it isn’t a huge, fat, 17” pizza box either.
The eval unit I have includes the 5-in-1 reader (MMC, Memory Stick, Mem Stick Pro, SD, SDHC), Two USB 3.0, one Powered USB 2.0, one USB 2.0/eSATA combo port, modem (RJ-11), Intel Gigabit ethernet (RJ-45), and an IEEE 1394 FireWire 400 (4-pin connector; 1394a-2000 standard). I have no idea why Lenovo still includes a modem and connector. In fact, I’m a little perturbed with it’s placement because it’s in the location where I would expect a couple of USB ports.
Under the Covers
I needed to go pretty deep into the case right away because I wanted to change the memory configuration and hard drive. The W510 has four 204 pin DDR3 memory slots. Two are easy access from the bottom of the machine, and two are underneath the keyboard. In case you are wondering, the ThinkPad T61p uses 200 pin DDR2 SoDIMMS that are not compatible with the W510. I have other machines that use the 204 pin DDR3 sticks so I pulled the memory out of all of them and loaded this machine with 16GB of memory. In the next 30 days I’ll put all of that memory to use with virtualization.
Lenovo also changed the primary hard drive bay. It’s underneath the machine and accessible from the bottom. It isn’t hard to swap drives, but it’s nowhere near as easy as the T61p, W500 or T400. I don’t really like the new design because I do a lot of drive swaps, but I can live with it. It certainly isn’t a deal breaker. The machine is designed for people that don’t swap drives often so you need not be concerned. Be happy there is relatively easy access.
Multi Touch Screen
Touch interfaces are the rage. They’ve been around for years and thanks to Apple and the iPhone, people have started to discover them en masse. The model I received for evaluation has the 1920x1080 resolution Multi Touch screen. I was eager to see he brightness and color of the screen because I fell in love with the screen on the W700. I plugged in the laptop and fired it up. The first time I saw the screen it had a slight rose colored hue to it. I just grinned.
I launched the Pantone hueyPRO X-Rite application and started the color calibration process. That is so kewl. You shut the lid, it does it’s thing then beeps on completion and you get to see the results. MUCH better. I am not a Pro photographer so I’ll let the Pros chime in on the screen from their reviews, but it looks pretty good to me. Extremely good for a touch screen device. The screen itself is listed as an anti glare screen but I noticed more glare on it than my T61p or other laptops. It appears there are some anti glare coatings on the screen. I’m not really sure.
I do know this, I would not order the multi touch screen. I don’t have a big use for multi touch applications on a device like this so I would order the FHD 1920x1080 without the multi touch option. For developers, it would seem to be a no brainer to get this option, but I’m planning on getting a slate style device this year so I would forgo the option on this laptop.
The FHD is super bright. That is the biggest gripe I have with the other 15.4” 1920x1200 based laptops I have. Those screens don’t have nearly the brightness and contrast as this screen. I still detect a slight graininess but I believe that is due to the touch screen. The other W510 evaluation unit I have has the HD+ 1600x900 screen and it is bright and extremely clear. However, that screen dropped the resolution below the tolerable limits for me, so the 1920x1080 FHD screen is going to be the one I get when it comes time for a purchase. Windows 7 and the DPI settings allow fine adjustments to font rendering to suit your preferences. I run 1920x1080 at 115% or 125% DPI. Looks great and it’s easy on my eyes. Lenovo has a winner with these screens.
My manager, John Martin, will snicker at the next comment or two. You see, I was in Seattle a couple of weeks ago and we were reviewing some data I had on my T61p. I turned the machine so he could see the screen and he had a surprised look on his face. I said, “What?” He remarked at how clean the screen was. I must admit I do like my screens fingerprint and dust free. I cleaned the screen just before I flew to Seattle. You can imagine my shock of all of those fingerprints on the W510 screen after just a few hours of use. Not sure I could live with that. Clean freak.
Let me tell you about a couple of minor things I thought were pretty cool before I get into a Windows 7 re-install and the tips and tricks associated with that. First up is my favorite new button. The Microphone mute button. Press it an it kills the microphone and lights up a nice, bright, amber orange. Because I use my computer now for a lot of phone calls, this is a life savor. If you’ve ever done or said anything you wished you had not on a live mic, you know what I mean.
I also like some of the power management that has gone into this machine. I will fully explore it in testing over the next 30 days, but I really liked how the management software just shuts down power to the DVD drive until you need it. Nice. I’ll be testing the power management for real at the MVP Summit. I haven’t decided if I am taking this machine because I can’t use my data card in this machine (it’s PCMCIA).
The W510 seems to be running fairly quiet and cool, especially for such a powerhouse machine. I have not taxed the system yet. I have also not tested battery life. I did observe one thing I am going to re-test. I noticed if I put the Microsoft Wireless Mobile Mouse 6000 micro USB transmitter in the USB 3.0 port, the machine fails to boot. In fact, it seemed to overheat the machine. Strange. I am going to try a repro on that tomorrow or the next day.
The machine has two cool looking blue colored USB 3.0 ports. I was going to trek down to Fry’s today and see if they have any USB 3.0 hard drive enclosures, but I never made it over there. I am going to try and make the trip after I work out in the morning.
I have a gripe about the Ultrabay. Once again Lenovo has changed it so that you cannot use hard drive adaptors from a previous generation of ThinkPad's. Therefore, the T400/W500 Ultrabay hard drive adaptor will not go into the W510 bay. I looked closely at it, and it appears I could make it work, but I would have to use an exacto knife on the W500 hard drive adaptor I have. I guess I’ll have to wait and see if the come out with one. I don’t see it listed yet.
Installing Windows 7 x64 – Tips and Tricks
This is going to be a relatively short section but let me give you some advice. The eval unit I received came with the 32 bit version of Windows 7 Professional. Strange. Nobody in their right mind is going to fill four slots with 1GB DDR3 sticks so everyone has the potential to go well over the 4GB limit for x86 versions of operating systems. I know, people have 32 bit app compat concerns. This machine wasn’t designed for them. This is a power user work horse. Use 64 bit operating systems.
When I started looking at the drivers at the Support and Download area, my sixth sense told me something was missing. My sixth sense was right. Fortunately I paid attention to that and instead of flattening the original drive, I pulled it from the machine and set it aside.
I had to go back to that drive and get some files in the SWTOOLS directory. The SWTOOLS directory has all of the drivers and software that is factory installed. Be sure to copy this directory to a safe place. Be sure to use the installed ThinkVantage tools to create a factory disk set. It’s always the first thing I create when I get a new machine. It takes three DVDs.
The Lenovo W510 Support and Downloads area currently doesn’t have the power management driver for the W510. Huge oversight. This is a key requirement for the Pantone color calibration sensor and software. It’s also a key prereq for the MIC mute button and other components in the machine.
You’ll also find out most of the USB ports don’t work well with some external enclosures until the power management and NEC USB 3.0 drivers are installed. My external 2.5” Vantec NexStar 3 enclosure would only work in the combo eSATA/USB port. It would not work on the powered USB port or either of the USB 3.0 ports until the drivers were installed. Thankfully it worked because there were some key drivers needed on it.
I had already downloaded all of the 64 bit drivers I could find and had them stashed on the NexStar 3. Good thing. Windows 7 Enterprise x64 doesn’t recognize the ThinkPad W510 Intel(R) 82577LM Gigabit Ethernet or Intel(R) Centrino(R) Ultimate-N 6300 AGN wireless chipsets using the driver base in the RTM build of Windows 7. That means you cannot talk to the internet and Windows Update until you download and install them from the Lenovo Support and Downloads area.
Fortunately, nearly everything you need for a 64 bit install of Windows 7 is on the download area. The rest is in the SWTOOLS directory including software for burning DVD’s and other stuff. The ThinkPad W510 I received did not come loaded with “crapware”. In fact, there was very little pre-loaded. Thanks Lenovo !!!
Some Final Thoughts and What’s Next
So far I am very impressed with the physical build of the machine, fit and finish, and performance. I have a lot of planned testing coming the next 30 days including running Windows Server 2008 R2, Hyper-V, Red Hat, and Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop if I have time.
I like the layout of the ports with the sole exception of the RJ-11 port. Dump that. I’m glad the USB ports are now horizontal instead of vertical. I am planning on getting a USB data card soon so that will be helpful for it.
That’s it for now. I wanted to give you some first impressions in the first 24 hours of having the machine. I went a little over that because it took some time to back up other machines, move memory and SSD drives around, research the missing drivers, etc. I have not hit any show stoppers so far and Windows 7 Enterprise x64 is flying (as evidenced in the screenshot above). Click on the screenshot for a larger view of the data.
[UPDATE for 02/10/2010] I have gone through the process of installing Windows Server 2008 R2 and documented the steps I took at http://blogs.technet.com/keithcombs/archive/2010/02/10/install-windows-server-2008-r2-on-a-lenovo-thinkpad-w510.aspx. I hope you find this useful. Please ask W510 R2 comments there.
Make sure you memorize the following if you decide to interview for a technical position here. Ok, I’m half joking. If you were going to interview for something that doesn’t involve Exchange Server, then you can save a few brain cells. If however you are interviewing for a Support, TS or MCS position that involves Exchanger server, you’d better be intimate with this poster.
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39102.
This update fixes critical issues and also helps to improve security. It includes fixes for vulnerabilities that an attacker can use to overwrite the contents of your computer's memory with malicious code. For more information about this update, please visit the Microsoft Web site.
Applies to: Office 2011, Office 2011 Home and Business Edition, Word 2011, Excel 2011, PowerPoint 2011, Outlook 2011, Office for Mac Standard 2011 Edition, Microsoft Office for Mac Home & Student 2011, and Microsoft Office for Mac Academic 2011.
Go get it @ http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/download/details.aspx?id=39142.
Kingston Technology was kind enough to sent some evaluation 4GB SoDIMMs to me for installation and testing. They arrived a little later than expected this week but were sitting on the front porch when I got home tonight. They are now installed and I thought a quick screenshot might be in order. As you can see, the overall speed rating from the Windows Vista WinSAT assessment test is the same, but I have twice the capacity as before.
I’ll be putting them through their paces as much as possible over the next few days before I head to TechEd 2008. I need to finish getting through some UNIX interop content first thing in the morning then I’ll start building out an environment with some teeth.
What’s the current laptop world record for the number of Windows Vista virtual machines that are executing? Might be fun to put up a number before my flight.
See http://shop.kingston.com/partsinfo.asp?ktcpartno=KTL-TP667/4G or click the pic above for the Kingston ecommerce store price on the memory I received.
I’ve had the Lenovo ThinkPad W510 for nearly a month and it’s time to send my evaluation units back next week. I completed nearly every test I could think of so I thought I would run down some impressions on the machine. I really couldn’t decide on my approach to this, so I am going to start with a run down on the chassis then get into the nitty gritty details of some test results. The ThinkPad W510 faired very nicely but there were a couple of areas that need work. More on those later.
Photos and Comments on ThinkPad W510
I took a number of pictures of the ThinkPad W510. Nearly all of them turned out really well. I wanted to capture some shots of key areas of the machine. I also stacked one of my ThinkPad T61p’s on top of it so you could compare the dimensions, port layouts, thickness, etc.
When looking at the top down view, you can clearly see the new little bumps on the trackpad at the bottom of the pic. I prefer the smooth trackpad on my T61p. You can also see the color calibration eye sensor next to the fingerprint reader. I believe this will be present on all of the FDH screen models. Moving up the unit you can see the speaker grills left and right of the keyboard. I believe this is also an air intake because the grill is larger than the speakers. Further up the pic on the bottom of the LCD bezel you can see two microphones. They work really well though not well enough for podcasting in my opinion. The webcam is present in the top of the bezel.
The back shot is interesting because you can see the W510 is wider than the T61p (or W500). Sorry the pic is a little blurry. You can see the yellow powered USB 2.0 port on the left side with the analog modem RJ-11 port. Who uses a modem in this day and age? They should have dropped it and moved the RJ-45 Ethernet port there. Notice the 9 cell battery on both units is roughly the same size and extends the same amount. The right side of the back shot shows the differences in the cooling grill and it’s pretty obvious the W510 is slightly thinker than the T61p above it.
Following around to the left side you can clearly see the difference in the cooling exhaust. The W510 does a phenomenal job of cooling. Items of interest on this side include the DisplayPort port, two blue Superspeed USB 3.0 ports, a combination USB/eSATA port, IEEE 1394a port, and if you look real close, the location for a smartcard reader if the option was ordered. My units didn’t have that, but it would certainly be an option I’d want. Therefore, the Lenovo smartcard reader wasn’t tested. The little switch is the wireless kill switch. Notice on the T61p stacked on top that it has both the mic and audio out jacks.
There is nothing along the front of the unit other than the lid release switch. The right side of the W510 is however very interesting in good and bad ways. Again, the T61p is stacked on top for reference to the W510 underneath. Notice on the right side that the two USB ports the T61p has were replaced by the Ethernet RJ-45 port. I am not very happy with that particular change. As I mentioned, I would have moved the RJ-45 port to the back and dropped the RJ-11 all together. Another peeve is on the right side. The audio out and mic jacks were replaced with a single combo jack. That particular change rendered all of my headsets useless. More on digital audio later. Also present on the right side is the 34mm ExpressCard slot just above the memory card reader. And last but definitely not least is the 12.7mm Ultrabay. More on it with some close-up shots in a minute.
The bottom of a laptop is always interesting to me. In years past you would see makers use the bottom for intake or exhaust cooling. That’s a real bummer when you are using a machine on your lap, the couch or other surfaces that aren’t conducive to airflow. The W510 has lots of little slits in the chassis for airflow but it all appears to be intake only. I could not discern any exhaust. We’ll talk more about cooling later. Notice on the bottom is the access to the primary hard drive bay. I prefer the side access for the prime hard drive that is the standard in the T61p, W500 and T400 but it isn’t a show stopper. Now that hard drive capacity is at 500GB, I don’t need to swap the primary drive as often for a demo drive, or when using Windows Server 2008 R2. Also present on the bottom is access to two of the four SoDIMM memory slots. The other two slots are underneath the keyboard. You can also see in the pic of the bottom that I took pictures of the 4389-2UU model which is the 15.6” FHD Multi-touch screen model.
It seems every generation of a 15.x” ThinkPad requires a new set of peripherals for the Ultrabay and the ThinkPad W510 is no exception. It’s probably for the better in some cases because there are differences in the SATA speeds and this generation has new goodies up it’s sleeve.
Take a look at the picture of the Ultrabay. In this pic I pulled the DVD burner and placed it on top of the W510. On top of the DVD drive is the Serial ATA Hard Drive Bay Adapter III Part number 43N3412. This hard drive adaptor gives you the ability to add a second hard drive to the machine. Notice the thickness of the 43N3412 adaptor. It is not 12.7mm. Instead it is designed to be used in both the W510 and a host of other machines that have 9.5mm slots. See the pic of it inserted in the W510. It works but I would have preferred Lenovo created a hard drive adaptor specifically for the W510 that fills the gap and fits more snuggly.
Now that we’ve seen the outside and did a little tour of it, let me give you a few impressions of the rest of the machine, performance, etc. My impressions of the screen since the first day hasn’t changed much. It’s a really nice screen. Bright and clear. It’s actually slightly brighter than the HD+ 1600x900 resolution screen present in the other 4389-23U evaluation model I have. Not drastically so, but it’s ever so slightly noticeable during the day time.
You’ll probably be disappointed I did not test the multi-touch screen extensively. I don’t have a need for it on a laptop at this time so I had to make some cuts in the stuff I wanted to try. Therefore, you’ll need to find another review that can give you a better idea of the accuracy of the screen. If I was still a developer, this would be a no brainer. Get the multi-touch screen.
With that in mind, I wish the machine they sent me to look at was the FHD 1920x1080 screen without the multi-touch. The HD+ screen appears to cut glare slightly better than the FHD multi-touch screen. I’m sure this is due to coatings and screen construction. If all things are equal, I’m sure the non multi-touch FHD is killer.
I have had several 15.4” 1920x1200 resolution Dell and Lenovo laptops. Not a big fan of that high a resolution on a 15.4” LCD screen. This creates a preference predicament. Should you or I buy the 15.6” screen with a 1920x1080 or 1600x900 resolution? 1680x1050 on a 15.4” screen is my preferred res. I guess I’m thinking I would end up going with the 1920x1080 FHD screen and just set the DPI to 110-125% to deal with font sizes and such. Not perfect for my eyes, but it’s better than locking myself to 1600x900 and losing vertical resolution. This is a REALLY subjective decision and I would highly recommend looking closely at machines on the market before you choose.
One other thing on the screen and the video supported by the W510. The ThinkPad W510 lets you create a dual monitor extended desktop very easily without having to buy an expensive docking station. I purchased a DisplayPort to DVI cable that allowed me to connect the W510 to 27” and 24” LCD panels and drive them both at 1920x1200. The cable at $22 seems like a no brainer until you save enough pennies for a dock. If you have a desk at home and your company office, this will definitely be something you’ll want to consider.
I have read a few reports of displeasure with the keyboard on the W510. ThinkPad fans are not forgiving when it comes to the legendary keyboard on ThinkPad models and why should they be? We use them all the time. I was watching an unboxing video from one owner on the internet and the very first thing he tested was the keyboard. In that particular video the person doing the testing seemed a little dismayed at some slight flex under the new oversize ESC key. This appears to be by design. That location draws air in for the CPU and GPU cooling. The flex is barely there. Nothing to worry about in my opnion.
The 4389-2UU unit I received had a defective keyboard and I am apparently not alone. The keyboard on my unit was dropping characters I typed. Since that was the model of the two I was using most, I just swapped the keyboard with the 4389-23U. Problem solved. If your W510 exhibits this behavior, don’t worry. A quick call to Lenovo for replacement should gets things resolved asap. Other than that, the keyboard is great.
One other thing for you developers, you can now swap the functions in the BIOS for the CTRL and FN keys. A lot of developers I know use the CTRL key for macros and such in Visual Studio and get annoyed that on the ThinkPads this key isn’t bottom left. The FN key is bottom left so it’s a source of frustration for them. No more. Easily solved now.
The new Calpella laptops really have it all. I would always recommend in the past that if you do a lot of HD video encoding work, you need to purchase a Quad Core desktop machine. That decision is no longer cut and dry. As you can see in the Windows 7 WEI I captured at the beginning of the eval period, this machine really flies with the right equipment inside.
When I did that screenshot I had my Intel SSD drive in the 4389-2UU along with 16GB of DDR3 RAM. The GPU isn’t going to get you top honors on the laptop scene but it’s still a very respectable GPU. I have not tested any games or Blu-ray playback because my eval unit didn’t come with the Blu-ray drive option.
One thing I did pay particular attention to is the speed of the drives and their interfaces. I did a lot of testing moving data back and forth with the latest rotational drives from Hitachi and Seagate as well as my Intel Gen 2 SSD. I tested from the primary hard drive bay to the Ultrabay hard drive adaptor and back. I tested the eSATA connection. I tested the USB 3.0 ports. I was very happy with the results. The I/O I observed was 2-5 times faster than my ThinkPad T61p depending on the hardware combination used. The fastest combination was the SSD drive in the primary bay working with the USB 3.0 enclosure and drive. But the Ultrabay hard drive adaptor and drive was right there in the game as well. So if you want two drives to use with your W510, it’s probably a logical choice for most people.
The Quad Core i7 really shines for CPU intensive chores like video encoding. It actually beat my Dell XPS 630i in some tests I ran and the Dell has the Intel Core 2 Quad Q9400 in it. It only beat the Dell by a couple of minutes in each test. However, the Dell final results were superior. The ThinkPad W510 video captured from my camera was faulty. I’m suspicious of an issue with the IEEE 1394 connector at this point. There are a couple of other strange unresolved issues I observed as well. More later on those.
It’s only appropriate to discuss battery life right after talking about the performance because they are certainly intertwined. I don’t use battery power much but I did several full cycle tests with the W510. This was after setting the CPU performance settings in the BIOS to AUTO instead of max performance. I also used the Lenovo Power Manager to set the performance profile to Maximum Battery Life. This of course sets the screen brightness so low it’s nearly unusable so I did crank it back up to about 12 so I could still use the screen and machine comfortably.
In all of my tests I was getting about 3 hours of battery life. This is doing normal stuff like using email, web browser, Word, Excel, etc. The battery in the W510 has a FRU P/N of 42T4799 with a ASM P/N of 42T4798. It also has 55+ inside a red dot. I assume this is a 9 cell battery but I could not find any information to confirm this.
So there’s a trade-off. You want a powerful machine? Be prepared to pay for it in a couple of ways. Battery life seems to be one of those areas. This isn’t a 10” netbook but the specs in the tabook.pdf do say the 9-cell battery gives you 4.9 hours of battery life. It would be good to know if the battery I have is a 6-cell or 9-cell. If it is a 9-cell, I would sure like to know how to get 1.9 more hours of life, or how 4.9 was arrived at.
There were very few surprises with the ThinkPad W510. Most of what I learned and wrote about in the first twenty four hours remains true today. At that time I reported some strange issues with the USB 3.0 ports. So far I have discovered three different devices that prevent the W510 from booting if they are plugged into the USB 3.0 ports at power up. This was reproduced on both of my W510’s as well as another in Seattle. The case is open with Lenovo engineering. The current workaround is to not have anything plugged into the USB 3.0 ports at power on.
Let’s talk about my headset adventure next. Because Lenovo combined the mic and audio out jack, I could no longer use the headsets I’ve been using the past four years. I figured this was not a big deal and it was time to move to the digital age of USB headsets.
I tried a couple of different headsets from Plantronics and Creative but they didn’t work well. I kept getting this buzzing feedback in the recordings. So I tried a different approach. I picked up a SIIG Soundwave Pro 7.1 USB card that allowed me to connect the headsets I’ve been using for years. Same problem. Buzzing in the podcast recordings. I tried everything I could think of for a couple of days. I tried all four of the USB ports and a variety of settings in software. I ran out of time before the MVP Summit trying to resolve that so I returned the headphones and hardware to Fry’s.
The third oddity seems to be the 4 pin IEEE 1394 port. I cannot capture from my Sony HD video camera across firewire to the W510 without the video getting garbled with artifacts. I confirmed the source tape is good. I tried two different i.Link 4 pin to 4pin firewire cables to rule that out. I tried the video capturing product that came with the W510 and Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum Edition 9. The same camera and tape worked fine with my Dell XPS 630i. The Dell has a 6 pin connector for it’s IEEE 1394 interface so the only difference was the cable. Considering most of the video cameras today use an internal hard drive and don’t need to be captured from a raw tape, this probably isn’t a huge issue. If you use firewire devices, be sure to test them.
I haven’t reported the sound and firewire issues to Lenovo but will soon. Hopefully they can reproduce the problems and provide a fix or workaround.
Oh, and I did install SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 11 so see how that went. As expected, it installed but the NVIDIA video chipset wasn’t recognized, nor were the Intel network cards. With no time left to track those down, I reset the machine back to the factory image for return.
Things Not tested
Since I don’t yet have a 30” LCD flat panel monitor, I could not verify the claim in the specs the machine supports a resolution of 2560x1600 using DisplayPort @60Hz. I have seen at least one report from a twitter follower that indicates he was unable to achieve that resolution across Dual Link.
I didn’t test the ExpressCard slot. I don’t have any 34mm ExpressCard devices and probably won’t have a need for one. With the improvements in Superspeed USB 3.0 throughput, and a built-in eSATA port, I don’t have a big need for anything else in that slot.
I no longer use Bluetooth so that was not tested with mice or anything else. The W510’s I received didn’t have built-in WWAN cards so that was not tested.
The model W510’s I received didn’t come with RAID support although according to the specs and the hardware maintenance manual, the feature does exist. This was really disappointing to me when I noticed it because I would love to test RAID 0 or 1 in this bad boy. Looks like you need to order the W510 4389-24U model or some derivative to get the RAID support.
Since the models I received didn’t have the smartcard reader or blu-ray drive, I obviously couldn’t test them. The smartcard reader compatibility with my Microsoft card is a necessity since they dropped the PCMCIA slot. I would probably need to move to a USB key FOB if the reader doesn’t work. We aren’t yet allowed to use fingerprint scanners as a sole source of multi factor authentication so I didn’t test that either.
The Lenovo ThinkPad W510 is a solid machine. The case and construction are awesome as usual and the engineering around the cooling is unbelievable. Performance is killer with the exception being the video chipset. The NVIDIA® Quadro® FX880M GPU certainly turns in a respectable score but it isn’t going to be the top of the food chain in the laptop market.
This machine runs Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 with Hyper-V very well. Windows Server will install and run from the Ultrabay drive so the W510 certainly meets most of my technical needs. There are a few improvements I’d like to see, but all in all it looks like the new Calpella based platform is off to a good start.
I’m due to replace my ThinkPad T61p in the July timeframe but I certainly won’t make a decision until I get my hands on the ThinkPad T410s. I’m considering a thinner and lighter machine for my next full time production machine and on paper the T410s looks attractive. But the W510 has USB 3.0 and other goodies. Decisions decisions.
I hope you found this and the previous two blog posts on the ThinkPad W510 informative. Happy hunting. Let me know if you have any questions.
As is tradition on this blog, I like to write about my first impressions with new hardware. Yesterday at about 8am I received the HP Elitebook 8440p. This machine is HP’s high end professional 14” laptop and I was eager to tear into it and see how it handles the duties of my normal mix of operating systems and applications. Unfortunately, I have a day job so the “24 hour” report is a little late. About the only time that is going to ever really happen is when I get a delivery on Friday afternoon.
When I unpacked the HP 8440p, I instantly recalled the cold steel feel of my MacBook Pro. Sleek and cool to the touch. I really like the chassis. It feels like it’s made for business and will hold up well. Slightly heavy but solid.
The top LCD panel is brushed metal and looks very professional. The bottom of the machine is a combination of plastic and metal and feels very solid. I haven’t yet cracked open the case to see the innards, but I expect to see a solid frame on the inside because the machine feels very rigid.
I will take pictures of the machine later, but for now you should know the 8440p has a DVD drive, eSATA/USB combo port, RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports, and a smartcard reader on the right side. The back has power, DisplayPort and VGA. The left side has 3xUSB 2.0 ports, IEEE 1394 4 pin, mic, audio out and 54mm ExpressCard slot. The front has a Ricoh multi card memory stick reader slot and speakers. I must say I like the layout all the way around the machine. The bottom includes access to the primary hard drive bay, one of two SoDIMM slots, and access to slots for wireless modules.
You know that saying, know your audience? I roared with laughter when I hit the power button and the top-of-the-line HP Elitebook 8440p started booting through the Windows XP setup process. Where’s my magnet? I played along and let the machine do it’s thing because I was busy on conference calls anyway. About halfway through the process I decided to check the box and see if a disk set was there. Sure enough, there was a disk set for Windows XP and Windows 7 Pro. Both 32 bit. I knew I wasn’t going to create a x86 disk set to I let the install complete. I sniffed it and it smelled like a 32 bit OS so I hit the power button and grabbed my Windows 7 Enterprise x64 DVD.
When the going gets tough, the tough head to the downloads area for the OEM. Fortunately HP has been doing a great job for years in this department. Better than most OEMs in fact. The HP 8440p drivers and software area is well organized and easily understood. I downloaded all of the Windows 7 x64 drivers in anticipation of the install for Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2.
The BIOS and Windows 7 x64 Clean Install
As you might have guessed, I wasted no time in throwing in the Windows 7 DVD and nuking the factory installed WinXP x86 image. Before installing Windows, I took some time reviewing the BIOS settings to confirm they were set the way I prefer. I made subtle changes. I enabled the TPM chip, RAID controller, and tweaked a few more settings like boot order.
Windows 7 installed without issue although I made one change after the fact. I decided to shrink the Win7 partition and create a 40GB partition for a Windows Server install. I didn’t get the HP Upgrade Bay hard drive adaptor so I wanted to checkout R2 in the meantime.
As expected, Windows 7 installed without issue but the ethernet and wireless card devices weren’t working using the Windows 7 DVD inbox drivers. The downloaded drivers resolved that issue. This is beginning to become a familiar theme with the machines that came out six months after Windows 7 released. Keep in mind that the image you receive from HP works, and the drivers for custom images are on hp.com so there’s no real problem here.
I did hit a couple of issues with Windows Server 2008 R2. First, you must manually install the ethernet driver using the .inf file that was unpacked. This is the same process I documented with the ThinkPad W500 and T400 Windows Server instructions on my blog. Nearly Identical. Hint hint.
Second, don’t bother trying the NVIDIA video drivers with Windows Server. The will install but they don’t work on my machine. I have reported it to HP and will update this post, or my final post if I get a resolution. This has important implications. Windows Server video support is really required for the Microsoft field employees so we have control over multimon and projector scenarios. I’m sure it will get resolved, but I don’t know if it will happen before i return the machine.
Likes and Dislikes
I’ll document the specs of the HP Elitebook 8440p eval unit in a minute, but I am going to deviate from my normal modus operandi for a bit. The reason is simple. I have some pretty well defined notions of what I like in a machine. The 8440p has some. It’s missing others. And considering my wife took a place to Florida and back today and left her ThinkPad T400, you can imagine I am doing a side-by-side comparison while I backup her machine.
The machine I received has the Intel® Core™ i7-620M Processor (2.66 GHz, 4 MB L3 cache) CPU, the Intel Mobile Intel® QM57 Express chipset, I assume 4 GB 1333 MHz DDR3 SDRAM although the score didn’t seem like 1333MHz memory, 320 GB 7200 rpm SATA II hard drive, 14.0-inch diagonal LED-backlit HD+ anti-glare screen, NVIDIA NVS 3100 graphics with 512 MB dedicated gDDR3 video memory, 6 cell battery and weighing in at about 6 pounds.
First up, the keyboard. I could get used to the 8440p keyboard, but the trackpad is offset too far to the left. It throws me and everything else off. I also want a backlit keyboard. Or at least the ability to light the keyboard without a USB accessory. If you live on the laptop keyboard, this is a serious consideration. The key placements around the keyboard are very foreign to me right now. I am having a hard time finding the END, DEL, FN and other keys.
I’m pretty spoiled with the ThinkPad keyboards I’ve been using for the past five years. Evaluate this aspect of your purchases carefully. If you plan to use the keyboard a lot, choose carefully. If you plan to use the machine in a docking station with an external keyboard, this may not be a big deal.
Next is the screen. I really dig the 1600x900 resolution on the 14” widescreen. However, the HP screen isn’t bright or clear enough. That needs to be resolved with a better LCD panel in my opinion.
By comparison, the ThinkPad T400 1440x900 screen is awesome. Super bright (250 nits) and clear. HP should improve the screen to that level. At the current screen brightness and quality, it’s too grainy and I’m not sure I would be happy long term. Reminds me of the 1920x1200 T61p screen I have. I have never been satisfied with that screen either.
The Calpella based laptops are knocking down some pretty good performance numbers. The 8440p is no exception but you can see, a couple of areas could use improvement.
First, the memory score at right isn’t that good. A DDR3 machine should be scoring in the upper sixes or lower 7’s range if you are using good memory. See my W510 score for an example. I had the W510 loaded with Kingston memory when I ran that test to get that WEI score.
Second, notice the GPU scores. They aren’t exactly stellar. I don’t know if this is the hardware or the driver but either way it’s a little disappointing to see a score lower than my ThinkPad T61p from two chipset generations ago. This might have been a conscience decision to reduce heat and battery consumption. I’ll know more when I test the 8540w. It was certainly the case for the ThinkPad W510. Lower than expected GPU scoring.
The hard drive score is very normal for a 320GB 7200rpm rotational disk. The HP Elitebook 8440p model I received included a Seagate Momentus 320GB drive. The SATA controller in the 8440p is a Intel SATA RAID controller with support for RAID 0 or RAID 1. When I receive the upgrade bay hard drive adaptor, I will tear the machine down and drop two 500GB drives in the machine and see what it can really do. If you don’t want to go the RAID route, plan on using a good SSD drive for improved I/O performance.
Power and Sound
Power management and fan noise is becoming increasingly important. The HP Elitebook 8440p lasted for 3.5 hours last night on the balanced Windows 7 power plan. I didn’t tweak the plan at all. I didn’t use the LCD panel on full brightness. I had it knocked down a couple of notches from the top brightness setting.
The fan noise throughout the day yesterday was more than acceptable. It’s nowhere near silent, but it isn’t loud either. You should get used to having fan noise on a Quad core laptop. I haven’t performed any seriously taxing chores like encoding HD video, but even when the fan did spin up to higher levels it wasn’t obnoxious.
That’s it for now. I’ll test more stuff as long as I have the machine, but at soon as the 15.6” 8540w shows up, I’ll probably shift to it for longer term testing. Whenever that happens I’ll write a closing post on this machine and include some pics.
[Update for 3/11] I discovered the keyboard light at the top of the LCD panel. Very similar to the ThinkPad lights that shine down on the keyboard. I would prefer backlit keyboard keys.
[Update for 3/15] I decided the likelihood of me keeping this machine for 30 days is slim to none. I am supposed to receive the HP Elitebook 8540w this week so if that happens, I am going to return the 8440p and let someone else play with it. There hasn’t been any changes in my opinion of the machine. The keyboard is too foreign to me and I really don’t want to get used to it unless I decide to have Microsoft buy me one for my refresh in July.
This evening I was playing around with my new Canon G11 and I decided to take some pictures of the HP Elitebook 8440p. The pics started out as large widescreen RAW pictures. I then converted, cropped and compressed them. Hope you like the result. Someday I’ll buy some lighting systems and drapes so the hardware porn is better. In the meantime, these will have to do. Like I did for the Lenovo ThinkPad W510, there’s some commentary to go with each pic. As before, your browser will likely give you a scaled view of the pic. Click the picture to zoom in for the actual detail and dust particles.
If you look closely at the top of the LCD bezel, you can see the webcam, the little square light button and two shiny things. Those shiny things are protrusions that are used by the lid fastening and clamping mechanics. They go down into the gray round slots just to the left and right of the trackpad bottom.
If you look closely at the top of the LCD bezel, you can see the webcam, the little square light button and two shiny things. Those shiny things are protrusions that are used by the lid fastening and clamping mechanics. They go down into the gray round slots just to the left and right of the trackpad bottom.
That’s it for now. Thought you might enjoy the photo tour of the device since it seems the hardware vendors never seem to provide good hardware porn these days.