Hands-on with Lenovo's Monstrous W700 17" ThinkPad -- Photos and Impressions


When we first walked into our meeting with Lenovo last week, we thought it was an oversized mockup. Sure, it looked like a ThinkPad. But it was huge! We're used to small, slim, no-nonsense ThinkPads; we were unprepared for this. Who would want a 17" ThinkPad?

Once we took a closer look at the just-announced W700, though, we got our answer: We want one.  Maybe it's the integrated Wacom digitizer. Or the onboard HueyPro color calibrator. Or maybe we like the idea of a 640GB RAID array in a laptop.  Or the 1GB of dedicated graphics memory. This is a big, powerful system, aimed at digital content professionals: photographers, videographers, animators, CAD/CAM engineers, and the like.

Looking closely at the specs, we can see that Lenovo’s not pulling any punches. The W700 will be the first notebook to ship with Intel’s not-so-secret Core 2 Extreme mobile quad-core CPU (officially launching at next week’s Intel Developer’s Conference), and the first with Nvidia’s just-announced Quadro FX3700M GPU, which has 1GB of video memory (Lenovo claims internal testing yielded over 10,000 in 3DMark06). Oh, and they’ll also put in up to 8GB of DDR3 memory.

The onboard HueyPro color calibrator will be especially handy with the professional-quality 1920x1200 WUXGA screen (a 72% Gamut 400 NIT display). To calibrate, you simple activate the program and clamp down the laptop lid – the software does the rest. With such a high end display, Lenovo recommends that users calibrate once a week.

And that integrated Wacom tablet? It’s a sizeable 12cm by 8cm digitizer that’s activated with a magnetic pen that hides in the side of the notebook. You can use it with digital content applications like Photoshop or Illustrator or configure it to map to the entire screen to manipulate your cursor.

The W700 also boasts a 7-in-1 media card reader, integrated camera, 5 USB ports, and plenty of display outputs – Dual Link DVI, VGA, even DisplayPort. Unfortunately, you’ll have to look to the optional port replicator dock for eSATA support (priced at $279).

The whole thing weighs about 8.3lbs, and Lenovo says it’ll get between 2.5 and 3 hours of battery life, which is hardly earth-shattering but a lot better than we’d expect from such a big machine. Placed next to a slim Thinkpad X300, the W700 dwarfs the ultraportable in comparison. We can’t imagine lugging it on business trips across the country, but we could see professionals using it as a desktop replacement at the office and bringing it home to work at night.

Prices will start at about $3K, and the machine will be pretty customizable – you can leave out the Wacom, calibrator, or both, and choose between normal hard drives (up to 320GB each at 5400RPM in RAID, or 200GB each at 7200 RPM) and SSDs (up to 128GB). Expect to pay upwards of five grand for a fully kitted-out notebook.

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