Lenovo ThinkPad W520 Review

by Reads (351,553)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Software & Support
    • 9
    • Upgrade Capabilities
    • 8
    • Usability
    • 9
    • Design
    • 7
    • Performance
    • 9
    • Features
    • 9
    • Price/Value Rating
    • 7
    • Total Score:
    • 8.29
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


  • Pros

    • Excellent all-around performance
    • Beautiful 95% color gamut FHD display
    • Solid build quality
    • Comfortable keyboard with great tactile feedback


  • Cons

    • Collects dust and grease easily
    • Below par audio quality
    • Expensive for some configurations and options


Quick Take

A true 15-inch ThinkPad mobile workstation, the W520 delivers serious performance for professionals who need it.

The Lenovo ThinkPad W520 is Lenovo’s upgrade to the W510 mobile workstation notebook. This 15.6-inch notebook is powered by up to an Intel Core i7-2920XM processor and equipped with up to a discrete NVIDIA Quadro 2000M GPU, switchable to Intel HD integrated graphics. Like last year?s model, the full HD (FHD) displays on the 1920 x 1080 resolution models have a 95% color gamut and a huey PRO color calibration system application. At the time of writing this review Lenovo has not yet announced if there will be an upcoming multi-touch screen option like last year or not.

In this review we will measure the ThinkPad W520 up with other workstations in its class by putting every specific detail of it to the test. Read on to find out if this is the laptop for you.

Our Lenovo ThinkPad W520 Specifications:

  • 15.6-inch FHD (1920 x 1080) LED backlit display, 95% color gamut, matte, 16:9 ratio
  • Microsoft Windows 7 Professional (64-bit)
  • Intel Core i7-2920XM quad-core CPU (2.50GHz, 8MB cache), Intel Turbo Boost 2.0 (3.50GHz)
  • NVIDIA Quadro 2000M w/2GB DDR3 VRAM GPU switchable to Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • 8GB DDR3 RAM (4GB + 4GB)
  • 500GB at 7200 RPM SATA hard drive (Seagate Momentus)
  • Multiburner combo drive
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 (802.11 a/b/g/n wireless) and Bluetooth
  • 9-cell Li-ion battery (94Whr), 170W and 20V adapter
  • Lenovo Fingerprint Reader
  • Dimensions: 14.68″ x 9.65″ x 1.29-1.44″
  • Starting at 5.75 lbs with 9-cell battery and at 5.40 lbs with 6-cell battery
  • Retail price: starting at $1,299, as configured: $2,969
  • Warranty: 1-year for parts

Build and Design
ThinkPad workstations have always been known to be top-of-the-line, updated systems in terms of performance, FHD display, build quality, battery and power consumption, and carry a host of features such as the Fingerprint Reader, nice upgrade options, and a great port selection. This workstation is expected to live up to those who have high ThinkPad standards and expectations.

From the looks of it, the outer build of the W520 is about the same as the previous generation workstation model, the W510. Lenovo stuck with the same ultra sturdy hinges, still evenly built width-wise due to a build fix to the older models. The hinge and display cover are so well-built that it takes a good amount of force to even tilt the screen back or forward (which is reassuring of course). The palm rest and keyboard are both extremely tough as well?showing no flex when typing regularly and only a minimal amount of flex when trying to press down extremely hard.

Some minor outer design changes include the newly-added Lenovo company label on the front of the screen casing, new carbon fiber mixed with the glass fiber onto the display cover (no more reinforced plastic), and the absence of paint over the glass fiber/reinforced plastic on the base. On that note, some consumers may find that the finish on the base and display cover to be disconcerting because it easily collects dust, grease, and fingerprints. In short, the finish may prove to be high maintenance throughout the daily usage of the notebook. Even though most black-colored notebooks will seem to show dust more often just because of the color, this laptop seems to carry grease from the fingers more so than most other business notebooks I?ve had the pleasure of using.

Lenovo made the bottom upgrade panels and keyboard easy to remove, for the most part, and labeled each screw spot appropriately. For example, if you?ve had even just a little bit of experience with upgrading notebooks you will most likely know right away which screws to remove to get to the RAM under the keyboard due to Lenovo?s icons. The bottom of the workstation provides simple access to the first two memory slots and another simple access panel for the hard drive. There is one screw you?ll have to remove to get to the hard drive and two screws to remove to reach the bottom RAM panel (and two to open up the keyboard). The wireless card under the keyboard should not take very long to locate and remove if you?re looking to swap it out. One other thing I?d like to mention is that the W520 has a potential capacity of up to 32GB of RAM, but for now you will only be able to upgrade to 16GB at the time of purchase.

Ports and Features
The W520 offers an impressive, extensive span of ports. Just as the W510, this workstation has two USB SuperSpeed 3.0, one USB 2.0, one USB 2.0/eSATA, VGA, DisplayPort out, FireWire 400, ExpressCard/34, SDHC-card reader, and a headset combo jack. Work professionals will be pleased at the two USB 3.0 ports and 4-in-1 card slot included and will have the option of adding a Smart Card Reader. At this point Lenovo has not yet released an option for Blu-Ray as they did last time. Our system has a multiburner optical drive.



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