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.
Thank you for the great advice on dealing with overheating laptop. My macbook also burns hot on my wooden desk, and the Belkin cooling fan helps tremendously.
I have two additional odd question:
1. Have you ever tried to install window XP on this W510? I need to install XP on W510 because lots of statistical software still runs on XP. Would XP be able to run on this?
2. HP is currently running a deal with the exact same configuration as this Lenovo laptop, at a fraction of the price (http://www.techbargains.com/news_displayItem.cfm/198291). In your opinion, how does HP stack up against Lenovo? thank you so much!
Keith according to Lenovo web page the W510 comes with Blueray drives, but I've been hearing otherwise, is this true. Also can you find out why Lenovo stopped giving the option for Windows7 Ulimate in Canada for the W510.
Any update on the keyboard situation? Did swapping the keyboards fix your dropped keystrokes? I've noticed at several other forums people are reporting similar trouble on thinkpads equipped with this same keyboard (mostly t410). Sorry about the long URLs:
Also interesting is that people are having related trouble with the thinkpad usb keyboard, that appears to use the same keyboard in an external housing. (see comments below review)
Yes, swapping the keyboard made the issue disappear.
I was planning to buy the Thinkpad W510 and i heard from my friends that the video quality isn't as good as it seems. Just wondering if that is the case because i watch a lot of movies and stuff.
Since the eval unit I received didn't have the blu-ray player, I didn't test HD playback from glass. I also didn't test SD DVD playback but I have no doubt it's fine.
I did play some WMV HD movies and they played just fine. They were pretty dense bit rates (6MB and 9MB).
Bought this system, couldn't get without the touch screen. I also bought an IBM SSD to put in the main drive, and will move the 500G to the ultradrive bay (good idea?) any tips on how to do that most effectively would be greatly appreciated. One other thing, ordered the system with 4GB in 2 Dimm, can I put another 8 Gig the 2 remaining slots or will that break the dual channel nature or do you think the 4 slots can be put at 4GB and 8GB?
great review, thanks. Lenovo should be beat for not producing enough pictures or specs of this beast, I wouldn't have bought without this review. thanks!
Yes, SSD in the primary bay and moving the 500GB drive to the ultrabay is a nice configuration. That's exactly how the T61p I'm using right now is setup.
It's really easy to do this. First, make sure and create the factory recovery disks. This is three DVD's and takes a little less than an hour to create. Pull the 500GB hard drive out and install the SSD. Recover the factory image to the SSD. Done.
After you are comfortable with the operation of the SSD, then you can re-format the 500GB and start using it for data in the ultrabay. Just don't get in a hurry to do that. Make sure you've installed your apps on the SSD with the factory image and it works as expected before you destroy the original hard drive contents with formatting.
As for the memory question, yes, you can add two more 4GB sticks to your existing 4GB for a total of 12.
Glad you enjoyed the reviews and more important, hope you enjoy the W510 for many years to come.
Thanks again for the quick response and excellent review. I was reading over at the thinkpad forums on lenovo's website and someone basically said that the FHD+ screens are all on backorder until May, having already ordered and waited a few weeks already, I'm a wee bit concerned :) do you know anything about a shortage/stoppage of the FHD touch screens?
here is the link. Thanks!
Lenovo doesn't sell a "FHD+" screen. They sell the HD+ which is a 1600x900 native res screen. And they sell the FHD which is the 1920x1080 native res screen. The FHD comes in two varieties with one being a 2 point multi-touch screen. Which one do you have on order?
Regarding lead times for parts, it's pretty normal to see lead times fluctuate with supply and demand. The worldwide demand for the new Intel Calpella based laptops appears to be pretty high and this is likely being driven by numerous factors. 64bit computing and the ability to use more than 4GB of memory. In the case of the W510 with 4 slots, up to 16GB of memory with 4GB SoDIMMS.
The OEMS switched to 16:9 ratios screens. I’m told the reason was to cut cost but it appears the global demand for new machines has outstripped supply and it doesn’t appear to be unique to Lenovo. This is all hearsay on my part from reading various articles on the internet. I don’t have any firsthand knowledge.
This leaves you with a decision. If you have a machine that crapped out and you need a new machine yesterday for work or school, then it’s probably prudent to buy a machine in stock at a retail store. If you have a perfectly viable machine that will hold you over, I would keep your order in the queue and go about your day with no worries.
In my case I won’t have budget approval until July 1st so I can’t order anything until then anyway. In the meantime, I have a T61p for work that will get me by until my new hardware refresh devices arrive. Even if that means waiting until well after July.
Lenovo did ship a number of orders to people in the past couple of weeks as has been reported in the http://forum.notebookreview.com/forumdisplay.php?f=2 area. There are actual owners in the W510 owners thread now. But those orders were from January.
I want to now that the new w510 designed around tough ABS plastic or Metal.It is necessarily an important change
Again thanks for the very thorough explanation and advice!!
I really want this machine, so I'm definitely in for the long haul
Keith, up to answering some stupid questions?
What is the FSD, don't see it anywhere on IBM sight?
How is average battery life?
How does the seperate graphics card work? Do you have to manually switch?
In generally, what does w510 have that the T410s does have or vice a versa? except for some ports, looks the same to me.
Fred, no problem answering questions. They aren't stupid.
FSD is a typo. FHD is the correct acronym for the screen resolution (1920x1080).
Looks like most people are getting 3-3.5 hours of battery life according to the threads I've read and my personal test results.
The W510 doesn't have switchable graphics. The T410s I ordered does. Prior ThinkPads that has switchable graphics could be switch manually using the Lenovo ThinkPad Power Manager application.
I have been reading about the new capabilties where this is dynamically switched on the silicon based on computing demands. I really don't know yet if this automatic on the T410s or not. Manual is fine with me but if the automated methods work well and conserve more power, I'm game for letting the hardware and software do it for me.
As for the differences bewteen the W510 and T410s, there are some pretty major differences.
Thickness is the first most obvious difference. The W510 is pretty think and the T410s is rather thin.
Second is the amount of memory possible. The W510 has four RAM slots. Today that means you could have 16GB of RAM in the W510. Before too long that number will double with 8GB SoDIMM availability. The T410s only has two slots which is the norm in the industry.
Third is Superspeed USB 3.0. The W510 has it and the T410s doesn't.
Fourth is the CPU difference. The W510 allows for the higher end Intel i7 Quad core processor. The T410s is limited to a dual core CPU.
So the W510 is bigger, heavier, thicker, more powerful and gives you less time on the battery.
When I get the T410s, I'll write more detail.
wow looks like a wicked blog for this laptop , I'm a bit of a novice with PC's tho last laptop was an Acer TM5730 .
I lookn for a laptop to buy soonish have my mind made up either the W510 or W700 . Live in new zealand so its 240V & plan to buy one from the US & sent out as its "ALOT" cheaper than here even with the taxs's/frieght landed here . I have started learning Autodesk Inventor pro & other demading 3D graphics CAD programs for a career & will use it for general use ( internet/emails ,etc )few questions >>>
1/ The charger brick that comes with either , is it 110V or runs both 110V/240V , can u get 240V chargers in the US ( would lenovo & other companys have them ? )
2/ what type or memory can you run with w510 , w700 (PC3-8500 1066MHz ) , can you get faster speed DDDR3 ram for them like with destops ? whats the fastest around ? plan to run min 8Gb
3/would the w510 keep up with the most demading 3D CAD programs ? my last laptop crashed at times ( shut itself off )
4/ how much bigger is the W700 - hear it massive , bulky & not really portable & does the W510 seriously lack the speed of the W700 ( margin in price is not that big , has me thinkn w700 )