Performance is one of the main selling points for a mobile workstation but is not the outright goal of the W550s. Buyers of this notebook trade the quad-core performance of a workstation like Lenovo’s ThinkPad W541 for a skinnier design and considerably better battery life. The 5th generation Intel “Broadwell” Core i7-5600U dual-core processor in the W550s is no slouch but is at best roughly 50-60 percent as powerful overall as a traditional 47W Core i7 quad-core processor, meaning the trade-off might be ill-advised if your primary application is CPU performance dependent.
There are of course other parts of the overall performance equation to consider where the W550s is up to par. It has 16 GB of RAM (its maximum; the W541 can take 32 GB), a speedy 512 GB Samsung SSD, and Nvidia Quadro K620M 2 GB graphics. The K620M is an entry-level card and not nearly at the level of the mid-range K2100M offered in the W541. Again however there are positive trade-offs with the W550s in the form of design and battery life. Buyers will have to weigh both sides of the equation.
Our review unit is maxed out with all of the available options and commands a haughty $2,433.60. A comparable W541 as of writing is actually about $150 cheaper and provides a lot more performance. The SSD alone in our W550s adds $580 over the base 500 GB 7200RPM hard drive; furthermore the i7-5600U processor provides a mere bump over the standard i7-5500U yet is a $140 upgrade. Needless to say, the W550s could be made into a much more economical purchase.
- 15.5-inch 3K touch display (2880×1620 resolution, IPS panel, anti-glare surface, 10-point touch support)
- Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit
- Intel Core i7-5600U dual-core processor (2.6GHz, up to 3.2GHz Turbo Boost, 4MB cache, 15W TDP)
- Nvidia Quadro K620M w/ 2 GB memory
- 16 GB DDR3L-1600 RAM (2x 8 GB; max. supported)
- 512 GB 2.5-inch SSD (Samsung MZ7TE512HMHP-000L1)
- No internal optical drive
- Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7265 wireless network adapter
- Integrated Bluetooth 4.0
- Integrated fingerprint reader
- 3-cell front battery (44Whr)
- 6-cell rear high capacity battery (72Whr)
- 1-year limited warranty
- Dimensions (touch model): 15″ x 10.2″ x 0.92″
- Weight (touch model): 5.47 lbs.
- Starting Price: $1,133.10
- Price as Configured: $2,433.60
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
Heat and Noise
There’s a single fan exhaust on the right side of the W550s’s chassis. The outlet is larger than would be found on a typical Ultrabook but this cooling system has the additional responsibility of dissipating the heat from the dedicated Nvidia K620M graphics card. Under typical usage such as office productivity and web surfing, the W550s’s chassis remains cool to the touch all over and the fan is either off or on at the lowest speed. The fan whines even at the lowest speed, so it’s noticeable in quiet rooms. Strangely enough we found it less noticeable when using the notebook than when we weren’t. The fan noise increases but minimally under stressful tasks. The whine however is still present which is hard to ignore. Functionally we can’t fault the cooling system since the chassis remains cool, getting lukewarm at best around the fan area after extended use while a steady stream of warm air is pushed through the exhaust vent. This demonstrates the cooling system is doing its job.
The W550s includes a 65W AC adapter (20V/3.25A). This is slightly more than a typical Ultrabook which have a 45W adapter. The power adapter and cables collectively weigh just 0.59 pounds. The cables measure nine feet, two inches when fully stretched out including the length of the brick. The brick itself measures 4.2” x 1.8” x 1.1”. The brick gets lukewarm under general usage though can get hot while charging the notebook’s batteries which is normal.
The W550s’s battery life with both the internally-mounted 3-cell 44Whr and high-capacity 6-cell 72Whr rear battery is in a word, epic. We measured one of the longest runtimes we’ve recorded since we started using our demanding Powermark benchmark some time ago. This test is a combination of automated web surfing, word processing, video playback, and 3D gaming. In other words the numbers are lower than then would be under typical operating conditions. Consider this battery life number the worst case scenario.
The W550s managed 10 hours, 11 minutes in this test which is outstanding. The W540 we tested (nearly identical to its replacement, the W541) managed just 3 hours, 53 minutes in the same benchmark with its 9-cell high capacity battery. Even most Ultrabooks struggle to break the six hour barrier. The W550s’s time creates quite the contrast by comparison. Under normal usage such as web surfing with reduced screen brightness, expect the W550s with its dual batteries to provide 15 or more hours of continuous usage. That’s called battery life.