The ThinkPad W510 is Lenovo’s 15.6-inch workstation notebook offering an Intel Core i7 processor and NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M graphics. New to this year’s model is an optional 1080P multi-touch screen with a 95% color gamut and built-in huey PRO color calibration system. In this review, we take an in-depth look at the ThinkPad W510 to gauge its performance as a mobile workstation.
Our Lenovo ThinkPad W510 Specifications:
Compared to the previous generation 15-inch ThinkPad, Lenovo has made many design tweaks with the W510. For starters, the screen hinges are the same width, whereas before the hinge on the right side was much narrower. Another change is when the ThinkPad is open; the screen itself is centered with equal width bezels on both sides. The uneven screen was found to be annoying by some ThinkPad users and it is nice to see Lenovo finally address that odd design element. As a whole, Lenovo has done a great job of keeping the newer ThinkPad models looking just like previous generations. Some changes have been made to update the touchpad, ThinkPad logo, and port layout over the years but anyone off the street would be able to instantly recognize the brand.
Screen and Speakers
Lenovo includes a brand new multi-touch screen option on the ThinkPad W510. This panel has a resolution of 1920x1080, a high color gamut of 95%, and bright LED backlighting. We measured a peak brightness of 215cd/m2 with the backlight turned to 100%, which is more than bright enough to be fully visible in bright office conditions. Compared to past ThinkPad screens, the W510 ranks just under the X200 Tablet we reviewed in terms of panel quality. Color saturation was well above average, making this screen great for designers but unpleasant for the average user. If you are accustomed to viewing a normal LCD which has a color gamut between 70-80%, viewing this screen will look pretty strange with most colors being over saturated. This isn’t a problem with the screen itself; it’s just an attribute of a high color gamut display. Viewing angles were average with most colors starting to distort or invert when tilted 15 to 20 degrees forward or backward. The high color gamut seems to extend the viewing range slightly, but only because colors still look “normal” even though they have lost most of their potency. Horizontal viewing angles were good to about 70 degrees before the touchscreen layer started to block the light output.
The multi-touch surface was easy to use and responded to a light touch. It supported two-finger inputs like scrolling and zooming. Compared to other touchscreen surfaces, the W510 had only a slightly hazy appearance and didn’t seem to distort the LCD beneath it unless you were viewing the screen from a steep angle.
Another cool screen feature of the W510 is a huey PRO color calibration system. With the screen intended for graphic designers and image editors, one important area is the screen’s color accuracy. The color calibration software helps to correct any color shift as a result of the backlight, color changes over time, or simple screen aging. We actually found that it helped take the over-saturated edge of the screen and helped bring a sense of balance back to the system. Pre-calibration whites had a mild red tint and after calibration they had a cooler look and closer to the normal spectrum. If you opt for the nicer screen, it’s well worth an extra $70 to get the color calibrator if you’re picky about your screen’s appearance.
Speaker quality is average compared to other business notebooks but rates below mainstream consumer notebooks. While the speaker grills might suggest large speakers located under the trim they are in fact very tiny speakers. Peak volume levels are fine for filling a small to medium-size room. Bass and midrange is weak, but this is common for notebooks in this category.
The ThinkPad W510’s keyboard is comfortable to type on and easily lives up to the well-known reputation of all ThinkPad keyboards. It has excellent support showing little flex even under strong pressure. Tactile feedback is great with a precise hinge mechanism and secure key top that doesn’t exhibit any wiggle. The keyboard is the newest design seen first on the T400s and now the T410. The layout changes the position of some of the function keys and adds a row of quick-access sound keys to change the volume level, and mute the speakers and microphones. Another subtle change is a decrease in spacing between each key that supposedly reduces the chance of crumbs getting under them.
The W510 offers a spacious Synaptics touchpad with multi-touch capabilities. Compared to past models, the touchpad surface is textured to reduce friction and prevent your finger from sticking as you slide it side to side. After using the older matte plastic finish version for so long, it is hard to choose my preferred model. Each has its advantages, but only the newer model is multi-touch enabled. The touchpad buttons are easy to use since they are located right along the sloped edge of the palmrest. Feedback is great with a soft touch and a long throw.
Ports and Features
The W510 offers a wide range of ports and features. The port selection includes two SuperSpeed USB3 ports, one USB 2.0 port, one eSATA/USB combo port, FireWire 400, LAN, modem, VGA and DisplayPort-out, and a combo headphone/microphone port. The notebook also features an ExpressCard/34 slot, a SDHC-card reader, and a Blu-ray player.
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