For many office types, the combination of Lenovo, ThinkPad, and 15in screen will be the sweet spot for a business laptop.
The ThinkPad laptop brand – originally created by IBM then sold to Chinese-owned Lenovo eight years ago – is renowned as the conservative but familiar Windows laptop.
The ThinkPad W530 is billed as a workstation-class notebook, featuring high-specification processors, nVidia Quadro graphics and options for up to 1TB of disk storage, as well as 32GB of memory.
We looked at a midrange model, the Lenovo ThinkPad W530 2447, with a 2.3GHz Intel quad-core processor, 500GB hard disk, 4GB memory and Quadro K1000 graphics.
The chassis is reasonably tough-feeling, with the usual trimmings of rubber-tipped pointing stick in the keyboard in addition to a small but high-quality trackpad.
The widescreen display has a 1600 x 900 pixel count, with an option for full-HD 1920 x 1080 and better colour gamut to order, to 92% Adobe RGB. The LCD has a matt anti-glare finish and viewing angles were still usefully wide.
Lenovo understands that a decent keyboard is an essential component of a good laptop, and here uses its familiar concave top and shield-shaped keys. In the interest of removing less essential clutter, there’s a reduced count of obscure legacy Windows buttons. You won’t see SysReq, Pause or Break here, for example.
Twelve Function keys range across the top, some serving double duty through the Fn key, such as F8 and F9 for screen brightness. Speaker volume adjustment is through three dedicated buttons, beyond and to the left of the keyboard.
The top deck itself had some plasticky flex to it, bending when pressed, although you’ll be unlikely to feel this when just typing.
On the underside are separate access hatches for memory and storage, a desktop dock port, and catch to release the optical drive from its bay. Our sample had a DVD±RW drive installed. There are also drain holes to be found here, which help evacuate liquids spilled on to the keyboard above.
Other configurable options include a smart card reader and 3G cellular modem, its SIM card slot hidden in the battery bay.
To combat the long-standing problem of fleeting battery life from Windows laptops generally, and workstation models in particular, Lenovo has applied nVidia’s Optimus switching technology. This should let the notebook use low-power Intel graphics whenever possible, switching to nVidia Quadro only when demanded by pre-arranged programs.
There’s a choice of three batteries – a six-cell 57Wh removable battery, nine-cell 94Wh (as fitted here, and which juts out from the rear), as well as an add-on ‘slice’ battery of 62Wh capacity. Lenovo states that you’ll get up to 22 hours use when the latter two batteries are combined.
For real-world-like battery life estimates, we were using MobileMark 2007 until Windows 8, which cannot run this software, and MobileMark 2012 also failed to run here. So we set the Lenovo with an easier task of just playing looped video from BBC iPlayer over Wi-Fi until the battery expires.
Lenovo ThinkPad W530 2447: Performance
Despite the huge 94Wh battery, the Lenovo W530 lasted only 5 hours 30 mins. That suggests that the same test with an added slice battery would have run the machine down in fewer than 10 hours – less than half the advertised 22-hour runtime.
Overall system performance was not especially fast: helped along by the decent 2.3GHz Intel Core i7-3610QM processor, and hindered by the relatively slow hard disk. PCMark 7 rated the notebook with just 2554 points. You can elect to have an SSD pre-installed, but only up to 256GB capacity.
The nVidia Quadro K1000 graphics processor is here accompanied by 2GB of video memory. This is tuned principally for powerful CAD applications, but we gave it a spin with the FEAR game, where it turned in a healthy 98fps at Maximum detail settings.
In use, the laptops fans could be clearly heard whirring all the time, becoming even louder when the system was loaded with work.
Lenovo ThinkPad W530 2447: Software
If you want your laptop rammed full of software, the ThinkPad W530 won’t dissappoint. It arrived with the largest wedge of pre-installed bloat we’ve seen for a while, most of it seemingly intent to drive us to distraction with pop-ups and spawning windows whenever the laptop was booted up.
Among the more annoying programs that interrupted our workflow while testing this machine, we saw Adobe AIR pestering to be updated; SimpleTap 3.1 doing the same; Lenovo Solutions Center telling us we needed its solution solving; VIP Access – a Symantec program of some irritating and indeterminate kind; Lenovo Solutions for Small Business; and Intel Management & Security Status.
More unwanted bloat was paid for by Microsoft, Adobe, SugarSync and Symantec, and Google Chrome has been installed as the default web browser.
The Lenovo ThinkPad W530 2447 is packed with useful ports and high-specification components. Build quality is more than adequate, but more bendy than we remember of ThinkPad workhorses. The out-of-the-box software experience is quite laughable but still par for the course for sponsored PCs. Our system did not impress with great responsiveness so if you’re spending this much we’d advise solid-state drive for storage. Battery life was poor, given the huge battery.