Lenovo ThinkPad W520 (428426M) mobile workstation
Lenovo ThinkPad W520 (428426M) review: A semi-rugged laptop that's designed for professionals
- Excellent screen quality
- Chassis is very sturdy
- Good performance
- Touchpad could be better
- Lid could be more rugged
- Only 1-year warranty as standard
The ThinkPad W520 isn't a typical laptop. It should only be considered if you're a professional in need of a strongly-built and well-performing laptop that can help you get your work done efficiently. It's not perfect, but it has stacks of features and supplies good overall user comfort.
Price$ 4,147.00 (AUD)
The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 (428426M) is a 15.6in workstation laptop that's designed for users who want fast performance for graphics, video, design or programming work. It has a typically squarish design and a lot of high-end features — including a 15.6in, Full HD screen and inbuilt colour calibration. It is an expensive investment, but if you need a powerful and well-built laptop with which to make your money then this might not be a hurdle for you.
Specifications and performance
While the ThinkPad W520 is available in different configurations, we looked at the 428426M, which is kitted with a Second Generation Intel Core i7-2620M CPU, a Full HD (1920x1080) LED-backlit screen, NVIDIA Quadro 1000M graphics (with 2GB RAM and Optimus switching technology), 4GB of 1333MHz DDR3 SDRAM (it supports up to 16GB) and a 500GB, 3Gbps, 7200rpm hard drive. Initially, this configuration didn't perform well at all in our tests and the machine delivered speeds that were under half what we expected. Changing power profiles didn't make things run quicker, but disabling and re-enabling Optimus graphics seemed to do the trick.
The ThinkPad W520's Core i7-2620M runs at 2.7GHz, and it has two cores and Hyper-Threading. It helped the laptop to a time of 38sec in our Blender 3D test (using four threads) and 46sec in our iTunes MP3 encoding test. Both of these times are slower than the Dell Vostro 3550, which we're comparing here because it uses the same CPU, but this doesn't mean that the W520 is sluggish. It was only 1sec slower than the Dell in Blender and 2sec slower in iTunes. However, the ThinkPad posted a much better time in our video transcoding test. Using AutoGordianKnot, our test DVD file was turned into a 1.45GB Xvid file in only 46min. This is 5min better than what the Dell achieved in the same test.
In our hard drive transfer test, in which we copy 2.12GB worth of 2-50MB files from one location on the hard drive to another, the 7200rpm hard drive recorded a rate of 31.64 megabytes per second. This isn't the fastest rate we've seen from a single 7200rpm, 500GB drive, but anything over 30MBps is generally a good result in this test. The hard drive is mounted in rubber dampers and it's monitored by a motion sensor, which parks the heads when it detects excessive movement. You can order the ThinkPad with a 160GB Intel SSD instead, which will boost the performance of the laptop, eliminate drive noise, as well as slightly reduce its heat and weight — but you'll have to fork over an extra $480.
The ThinkPad W250's NVIDIA Quadro 1000M graphics adapter has 2GB of GDDR5 RAM and it recorded a score of 8299 in 3DMark06. This shows that it has plenty of guts when it comes to processing real-time 3D graphics, but it's not designed for gaming. It's designed to accelerate design and graphics applications such as AutoCAD, Photoshop and 3dsMAX. A full list of certified applications can be found on NVIDIA's Web site.
We appeared to have some problems with graphics card's Optimus feature though. When we initially ran our benchmarks with Optimus enabled in the BIOS, all of our benchmarks ran a lot slower than we expected (despite choosing the maximum power profile). As soon as we disabled Optimus and then re-enabled it, the benchmark results were more along the lines of what we expected. You can customise Optimus through the installed NVIDIA driver, and tell it which programs should use the Quadro graphics card and which ones should use integrated graphics.
Join the PC World newsletter!
Gadgets & Things
Most Popular Reviews
- 1 Finally! LG OLED TV 2016 range review
- 2 Huawei Nova Plus smartphone review
- 3 Apple iPhone 7 Plus review: including Portrait Mode
- 4 Google Daydream View VR full, in-depth review
- 5 Google Pixel XL full, in-depth smartphone review: Phones just got smarter
Latest News Articles
- Dell: Mainstream laptops with wireless charging are still years away
- SSD adoption in laptops exceeds expectations
- Apple will refund you for your iMac hinge repair costs
- MacBook Pro teardown reveals pointless speaker grilles and hard-to-replace Touch Bar
- Apple leads tablet sales, but the iPad Pro is not its best seller
GGG Evaluation Team
First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.
For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.
The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.
The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.
My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.
- Time to ditch Foxtel and the iQ3: How to replace Foxtel packages with cheaper alternatives
- The top 10 best and worst tech gadgets and products of 2016
- TV of the year award 2016
- What's the difference between an Intel Core i3, i5 and i7?
- Laser vs. inkjet printers: which is better?
- FTBrand Marketing Manager - Premium Entertainment BrandNSW
- FTCheckpoint Firewall and VPNNSW
- FTUNIX / Linux EngineerNSW
- TPTechnical Business AnalystVIC
- TPICT - Contracts and Commercial AnalystQLD
- FTPERMANENT Business AnalystsACT
- FTSolutions Architect - Data Centre/ NetworkSA
- FTTechnical Account ManagerQLD
- TPDigital Business AnalystNSW
- FTJunior-Mid Level Implementation CoordinatorQLD
- CCBusiness and Change Deployment LeadVIC
- CCIT Risk Specialist (Assurance) - TelcoVIC
- FTMS Exchange System Engineer l PowerShell l Message LabsNSW
- CCSenior Developer - Appian/PegaVIC
- TPAndroid DeveloperSA
- TPSenior Analytics Analyst DeveloperVIC
- TPSoftware EngineerWA
- CCChange Manager - O365 Upgrade ProjectQLD
- CCPeoplesoft SpecialistACT
- TPTechnical WriterACT
- FTExecutive Sales ManagerNSW
- CCTechnical Business Analyst - Infrastructure - VirtualizationNSW
- CCMid-level Java Developer / Programmer (Contract) Finance CBDNSW
- CCSenior Business AnalystNSW
- FTLevel 2 Service DeskNSW