Ramblings from another nerd on the grid
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.
If you are trying to run VMWare Workstation or another product like it on R2 with the Hyper-V role installed, that isn't possible.
Most people create (add) a BCD entry that disables the Hyper-V hypervisor so they can run other virtualization products.
Is that what you are trying to do?
Linux compat is usually the last thing I do before shipping the eval machine back to Lenovo. In other words, it will be several weeks before I try anything.
In the meantime, Windows 7 and Windows Server 2008 R2 rock. Give them a try. :-)
I didn't enable Hyper-V, but yes, I am trying to run VMWare workstation 6.5 because you can put it into stand by.
I will make sure the hyper-v is not there, but the weird thing is I just install 2008 R2 on my W500 like a month ago without an issue.
I just got my w510 in a few days ago. I am coming from a t60. I have a couple of concerns.
1. The keyboard is giving me fits. When I type at the rate that I did with my t60 there are letters getting mixed up. For instanced when I type the word "the" I keep getting "teh". I am not sure if there is a break-in period for the keyboard or if my typing will eventually get used to the key board.
2. The location of the speaker out port is on the right side closest to the front. This right beside where I have my external mouse. Thus if I have an external speaker or non-usb headset plugged in it interferes with my external mouse. Bad location in my opinion.
3. I don't see any input for an non-usb microphone. Why?
4. My biggest concern of all is the screen resolution. I was concerned that the FHD resolution was too large for a 15.6 screen so I went with the 1600x900. No I am concerned it the 900 on the vertical is too low. I was using a 1440x1050 resolution on my t60 which I loved. So do you think the 1920x1080 is too high and thus making the type to small or do you like it?
Thanks for your post.
1. The T6o keyboard alignment is ver similar to the W510. The T61p and W500 are however slightly differently position relative to the front edge of the palm rest. I'm sure what you are seeing will change as you get used to the new board. I can't detect a significant different in key pressure or rebound on mine.
2. I haven't decided if I like the location or not.
3. The output jack is also a microphone jack.
4. 1600x900 is pretty nice but I believe if you want the highest degree of flexibility, the FHD screen is the way to go. With the FHD screen, you can always set the 1600x900 resolution but that is slightly blurry. Another option that I prefer is to set the DPI percentage somewhere from 110-120%. 125% is a little too big for me but other people are going to like it just fine and everything is much clearer.
The challenge you have with DPI is that all of the applications are coded to support those changes. The one we use a lot is. IE and Firefox let you easily increase the zoom size for a pleasant experience.
I still say the 15.4" screen at 1680x1050 is perfect.
I agree with the 15.4" screen at 1680x1050! I am surprised that it is not offered.
I noticed that lenovo is not offering the non-multi touch FHD at this time. I guess they are running low on supply.
In the tech specs there is a description of SATA for the W510 model I ordered. "Secodary hard-drive supported". Does that mean there are 2 slots for HDD's in there? Or do I need to buy an UltraBay Adapter? And which one will work with W510? Was anyone able to proof the "ThinkPad Serial Hard Drive Bay Adapter III" #43N3412 as working for the W510?
Thanks a lot!
If it weren't for the snow, I would have a 43n3412 adaptor delivered today. Given we had the largest recorded snow fall in history yesterday, I am not sure FEDEX will show up today. We'll see.
The 43N3412 adaptor was delivered and as suspected it will not insert into the W510 Ultrbay slot.
I have notified my Lenovo Engineer and will report back when they resolve the question.
And FYI, I modified my T400/W500 Ultrabay II hard drive adaptor the other day so it would insert. All that was required was to remove the little plastic tab. This allowed me to insert the adaptor along with a hard drive and it locked into position. However, it would not keep the drives I tested powered so it is obviously not engineered to use the Ultrabay II or III hard drive adaptors.
Again, when I get a definitive answer on this I'll let you know. I would imagine they have a 12.5mm hard drive adaptor coming specifically designed for the W510. At least I hope so. It's a deal breaker for me considering the BitLocker and Boot from VHD implications.
this information will save money for me and some people in germany who also thought about purchasing the type II or III for testing.
For me this would also be a deal breaker. As a web and operating systems developer I need lots of HDD space and a really fast HDD. Which means for me I would need a bigger SSD (I already have 128 GB SSD) if there is no solution for a secondary HDD. And bigger SSD's are more expensive :)
Here in germany we also have W510 machines delivered where the users report a "CPU whining" effect. (A low tweeting sound) Did you encountered something like that too?
They also report that the display is calibrated "to brilliant" and they dont find a solution to calibrate the display manually. Maybe you know where an option for manual display color calibration can be found?
Thanks & regards,
It's too early to rush o any judgment on this (ultrabay hard drive adapter). I have provided my Lenovo reps information and they are tracking down some answers for me.
I don't have a CPU whine.
As for the calibration, I have not looked into doing anything manually. You might look into the product and site at http://www.pantone.com/Pages/products/product.aspx?pid=562
The Lenovo team looked at the pictures I sent them and they believe the vendor that administers the loaner program sent me the wrong Ultrabay hard drive adapter in the right box. They have ordered another one for me and I believe I'll have it next week.
Hey, is there a noticeable difference in color rendition between the HD+ and the FHD?
I would prefer FHD but no touch screen and I need one now. The 95% NTSC Gamut is only advertised on the FHD screen so I'm unsure if the quality of the HD+ is very much inferior to the FHD beyond resolution
I too have noticed intermittent dropped or transposed characters with the W510's keyboard. It usually happens only when typing quickly, and often affects words that I type frequently. And I'm certain that I'm not typing them incorrectly this often. For example, "Google" appearing as "Googel" or "Gogle".
This does not seem to be an issue with other keyboards or systems that I use. And I've had a week or more to adapt to the W510 and its keyboard, yet this hasn't helped with the dropped/transposed characters. I must assume that I have a defective keyboard, or the keyboard controller is doing something that it shouldn't (scanning rate too slow, etc). I'll be contacting Lenovo about obtaining a replacement keyboard.
Also, I order an ultra-bay hard drive adapter a week ago... but it hasn't shipped yet. They may be out of stock on these.
I noticed the keyboard was dropping the letter t on me the other day. I've seen this at other times as well (other letters).
I don't think it's the keyboard placement or that they closed the gaps between the keys.
Starting to look like a defect in my typing or the keybard. And by the way, I acctually typed the missing o in keybard but it got dropped three times during the course of writing this comment.
Maybe I just can't type the word keyboard
FYI, those mistakes just above aren't my fault. It's dropping o and k strangely on that word.