Keyboard and Touchpad
The keyboard lives up to great ThinkPad quality standards, following in the footsteps of its predecessor. It?s very comfortable to type with and does not make a much sound. As mentioned previously, the keyboard shows no flex when typing and very little flex when pressing down hard on the chassis. I still think it?s a little strange that the main function (?fn?) key is in the bottom left corner instead of the control key, but that?s just personal preference and will probably not be a problem for most people. I say ?still? because Lenovo didn?t change the keyboard layout or design at all from last time, which is fine; if it?s not broken don?t fix it. The keyboard also provides great, way above average tactile feedback for real-life support for overall typing performance.
Above the keyboard lies a small quick access panel with mute/unmute, volume up and down, microphone mute/unmute, Lenovo ThinkVantage Toolbox quick access (security/support, etc), and the power button. Features include spill resistance, enlarged escape and delete keys, and a TrackPoint stick which is quite easy to use due to its size and texture. Home row typists and hunt-and-peck typists should both be greatly satisfied with the thought Lenovo put into the keyboard.
The ThinkPad UltraNav and Synaptics multi-touch touchpad is quite responsive and is large enough for regular usage. Additionally, I never once had a problem with the cursor bouncing randomly around the screen, even with the pointer speed set at its quickest. Lenovo changed the texture from smooth to bumpy in the W510 design and kept it with the W520. The change was made to better suit users who dislike both the grime that will sometimes easy collect on smooth touchpads and to make grazing across easier. While the bumpy touchpad indeed carries a ?no-stick? formula, some users will probably find that it can tickle their fingers, making it unpleasant to use even if it is responsive. The sturdy left and right-click buttons do not make much sound when pressed.
Screen and Speakers
As far as details go, the ThinkPad W520 has a FHD 1920 x 1080 resolution, LED backlit, matte screen display with a color gamut of 95% and an aspect ratio of 16:9. Lenovo has tried, largely, to make everything about the display appeal to graphic artists and others need more of the color spectrum. The high color gamut and FHD will attribute, however, to a huge difference in what opinions users have about the display. Because of the added color range and default display settings, some people will think that it?s too saturated and in effect colors look distorted, or as one editor here put it, ?way too saturated.? But others (particularly graphics artists) will revel in the wide range of color and find it to be useful. To see an example, check out the straight forward shot of a current standard multimedia notebook with lower resolution and color setting here and compare it with the straight shot seen below.
The top luminance (brightness) measurement we received upon testing was 219 nits and the average was 207 nits. This means that users should have no problem viewing the notebook while in bright conditions, but may still have a problem working in bright and sunny outdoor areas. The darkest reading measured in at .36 with the average being .33; when compared to the average 207 nits luminance, the contrast ratio is 627:1. This contrast ratio makes for an extremely crisp and clear screen?the darkest dark and brightest bright will appear to be just that by the human eye. Compared to the W510, the prior ThinkPad workstation, the contrast and FHD statistics between to two appear to be just about the same; the W510 had a peak luminance of 215 nits.
Horizontal viewing angles aren?t better than average and start to distort images when the workstation is around 20-25 degrees tilted backward or forward from the straight position. This actually surprised me given the high quality display. Vertical viewing angles, however, are significantly different?they do not visibly distort at all until the notebook is too slanted for proper viewing. All things considered, users shouldn?t have too much of a problem viewing a film with a friend or working with the screen off-center.
Lenovo again included the Pantone huey PRO color calibration system and application just as it was included with the W510. Windows will alert you to re-calibrate whenever a change takes place in the display or may alert you on a set schedule (as monitors will deteriorate over time). Otherwise, if you feel the color display has changed over a time, you just can pull the application up and do it yourself. The program is quite easy to use. Simply choose a white point setting for the display (D50 for graphic arts, D65 for photo, D75, and native), choose a tone response when the system is done calibrating, and then close the laptop lid. The program will then take over?giving users an added usefulness and readily-calibrated display.
The W520?s speakers with Conexant 20672 SmartAudio HD are located directly to the left and right sides of the keyboard. One would imagine that the audio would reach high levels (get decently loud if turned all the way up) considering the size of them. However, when testing the same song against a standard business notebook, the business notebook actually outperformed the W520 in terms of volume decently. After tweaking the audio enhancement settings by turning on bass boost and virtual sound and then testing the same song, it did make a slight difference, but not enough to outclass the business notebook. I would suggest purchasing an external set of speakers. Overall, the sound quality ranks somewhere between average and below par for most consumer notebooks?you won?t be able to notice the subtleties entertainment and media have to offer. It seems like Lenovo did not upgrade the speakers from the W510 much; we said about the same thing about the audio seeming average at best and muffled in our review last time.
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