Let’s face it, the only real difference between a mobile workstation and gaming notebook has been the sticker and GPU drivers. Lenovo’s ground-breaking W700 changes that with a slew of features that truly make it worthy of being called a workstation notebook. But it’s not just about the W700’s 2.53GHz Core 2 Extreme Q9300 quad core or its Quadro FX 3700M with 1GB frame buffer alone.
To us, it’s the integrated Wacom tablet that tells us Lenovo just didn’t take a big-ass gaming notebook and stuff a Quadro in it. It doesn’t hurt that the W700 boasts a 400nit daylight readable screen either. The screen is bright but not as brilliant as the dual-tube displays that Toshiba used to use in its home theater PCs.
The 1920x1200 panel Lenovo uses 72 percent color gamut screen (of Adobe color gamut) which is much higher than previous designs. Most other notebooks can display only about 42 percent of the Adobe color gamut. Only Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming DreamColor panel in the EliteBook 8530p is likely to give the W700 a run for the money in color gamut.
Workstation, does mean “work” though and the W700 is more than capable. We’ve seen comments on our forum where readers questioned if a quad-core was needed in a notebook. In our book, hell yes. Unless, that is, you like sitting around waiting for things to happen. For example, the W700 takes 831 seconds to complete our Premiere Pro CS3 test. The dual-core Gateway P-7811 FX that we reviewed in our October issue takes 2,143 with its 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo. The W700 also takes half the time to spit our HD slideshow using ProShow Producer than the P-7811 FX.
The Quado FX 3700M’s large 1GB frame buffer may make you think that it’s made for gaming, but many content creation apps actually need the large frame buffer more than games. While it’s not intended as a gaming part, it does OK but it won’t outpace the Gateway P-7811 FX gaming notebook and its GeForce 9800N GTS part. We also fired up Crysis and tried to push it at very high at 1920x1200 and the results weren’t pretty. It ran but we wouldn’t play the game that way. It’s better suited for playing Crysis at 1024x768 or 1280x1024 instead. The W700 is more than enough to play Unreal Tournament 3 and is capable of 48 fps at 1920x1200 resolution. So while it’s capable of gaming, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy the W700 if that’s your only purpose. The Gateway P-7811 FX is a better fit and far cheaper.
You’re probably saying that it’s not fair to compare a 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo versus a 2.53GHz Core 2 Extreme but our experience with desktops tells that even if the dual core was running at 3GHz the quad core would still stomp it good. The short story is that if you care about performance and you use multi-threaded apps (and most content creation apps are today) you need a quad core. To believe anything else is simply wrong.
In amenities, the W700 has almost everything you need – a Gigabit Ethernet port, five USB 2.0 ports, dual-link DVI-D, VGA, DisplayPort and a card reader. An ExpressCard 34 is included a second slot can be added with either a ExpressCard 54, smart card or Compact Flash reader. One thing that’s notably missing: eSATA. That can be run via ExpressCard, of course, but why not include it Lenovo?
We’re also not sure you need to have Windows Vista Ultimate, but that’s what Lenovo configured this box with. Fortunately, it’s the 64-bit version and to take advantage of that, Lenovo installed 4GB of DDR3/1066 DIMMs.
The W700 comes with a 9-cell battery that you gives you just above dismal in runtime. Let’s just say that you won’t finish watching Return Of The King without running for an outlet. That’s without cranking up the quad-core.
In storage, our W700 came configured with a pair of 160GB 7,200 RPM drives in RAID 0. While fast for a notebook, it’s not our top pick. If we needed read speed, we’d run Intel’s new X25-M in one bay and a 500GB drive in the other. If drive speed can be sacrificed for safety, a pair of 500GB drives in RAID 1 would make us feel a whole lot better about our data.
One really nifty feature of the W700 is the built-in HueyPro color calibrator. If you do any serious image editing, video editing or work that must have strict color control, calibration is a must have. With the W700, you fire up the HueyPro applet, hit the start button and close the lid. The W700 beeps when the display is properly calibrated.
Now for what’s going to hang up most people: the size. This sucker looks huge. In some ways, it even looks bigger than those huge Pentium 4-based notebooks that were the rage three years ago. That’s because it is actually a little bigger by about an inch. We compared the W700 to very old Clevo D900T and the W700 is about an inch deeper than the Clevo. The good news is that it’s lighter. As large as the W700, it’s actually only 8.3 lbs. That makes it a two to three pounds lighter than the Clevo D900T notebooks.
If we were to fire up the W700 alongside those old P4 notebooks of yore, the performance differences would be astounding. Ultimately that’s what it comes down to with mobile workstations – performance. And if performance matters to you for your job, we think you should check out the W700.
Color calibrator, Wacom tablet, quad-core and high color gamut screen!
Big and bulky and the power brick is truly a brick.
Intel Core 2 Extreme Q9300 (12MB L2)
160GB Seagate Momentus 7,200 RPM in RAID 0
Nvidia Quadro FX 3700M (1GB)
Premiere Pro CS3
1, 860 sec
831 sec (123.8%)
138 sec (71.7%)
1025 sec (135.7%)
1908 sec (83.3%)
74 fps (428.6%)
122 fps (319.2%)
Best scores are bolded. Our zero point notebook uses a 2.6GHz Core 2 Duo E6700, 2GB of DDR2/667 RAM, an 80GB hard drive, a GeForce Go 8600M, and Windows Vista Home Premium.