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By Frank Ohlhorst  |  Posted 2008-09-16
 
 
 

The notebook computer market has become an experiment in extremes. On one side of the equation, you have tiny Intel Atom powered "netbooks," which are becoming the darlings of traveling workers, while on the other side, notebook behemoths like the Lenovo W700 aim to make high-performance workstations portable. But, the question begs to be asked, "Why would anyone need a 9 pound notebook with a 17-inch screen?"

The answer is simple; any graphics professional, digital photographer or CAD/CAM engineer could find something to love about the W700. Lenovo designed the unit to be a "luggable," not so much portable, system that can replace a high-performance workstation and the W700 proves to be quite apt at that task.

The system offers a 17" LCD display, which rivals desktop monitors with its 1920×1200 (WUXGA) resolution and 400 nit brightness. That display is powered by a NVIDIA Quardro FX3700M graphics card with 1 Gbyte of memory, which helps to make short work of most graphics-intensive processes. Of course, a workstation must have more to it than a big display and fancy graphics card. Here, the M700 brings an Intel Core2 Extreme Q9300 CPU to the table, backed up by 4 Gbytes of DDR3 memory, to make sure workstation performance expectations are met. Lenovo also integrates 2 Gbytes of Intel Turbo memory into the W700, which further boosts performance for Windows Vista users. The Intel Turbo memory helps to boost the performance of the system’s pair of 160 Gbyte Seagate Sata hard drives, which are configured as a RAID 0 array of 300 Gbytes. The Intel Turbo memory uses Microsoft’s Readyboost and Readydrive caching technologies to boost hard drive access. The combination of high-speed drives, Raid 0 and Intel Turbo memory makes the W700 a real performer, especially for those looking to edit digital video.

Our review sample has a price point of about $5,300, making the W700 an expensive performer, to say the least. But, that big hit on the pocket book does buy a lot of capabilities. Our review unit came configured as follows:

  • Intel Core 2 Extreme processor QX9300 (2.53GHz 1066MHz 12MBL2)
  • Windows Vista Ultimate 64  
  • 17" WUXGA 400NIT TFT LCD Display  
  • NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M 128-core CUDA parallel computing processor 1GB (dedicated)
  • 4 GB PC3-8500 DDR3 SDRAM 1067MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM)
  • Ultranav + Fingerprint Reader + Pantone Color Sensor      1  
  • 1.3 Megapixel Integrated Camera      1  
  • Primary SATA RAID 0 - Dual 160GB 7200RPM Sata RAID Enabled Hard Disk Drives 3 Gb/s  
  • DVD Recordable 8x Max Ultrabay Enhanced (Serial ATA)  optical drive  
  • Express Card(54mm) + Express Card(34mm) expansion slots
  • Integrated WiFi wireless LAN adapters (Intel WiFi Link 5300 A/G/N)  
  • 9 cell Li-Ion Battery

 

 

The W700 also features 5 USB 2.0 ports, IEEE1394, VGA, DisplayPort with Dual Link DVI, Microphone/Line In, Headphone/line-out, 7-in-1 Multimedia card reader, SmartCard Reader, and a Compact Flash Reader.

Graphic artists will really appreciate the integrated Pantone Color Sensor and WACOM Digitizer pad, which is built into the palm rest. The digitizer pad works quite well and having it integrated into the system means there is one less device to carry or clutter the desk with. The pen for the digitizer is stored in the palm rest also. The Pantone color sensor should prove valuable to graphic artists who need to perform color calibration for artwork and other images.

 

 

The W700 is one of those systems that seems to add up to more than the sum of its parts. Lenovo has done an excellent job of integrating the hardware and selecting the appropriate components to maximize performance. Using the 64-bit version of Passmark Performance Test V6.1, the W700 was able to post an impressive PassMark rating of 1399.5, which is on par with some high-end workstations we have tested in the past. The unit also scored a Windows Experience Index rating of 5.9.

 

 

Users will find the usability of the system excellent. Lenovo has integrated a touchpad, as well as a track point into the system for pointing duties, while an excellent full-size keyboard, accompanied by a numeric keypad rounds out the input options. Users will appreciate the abundance of ports and the ability to plug in multiple monitors and other devices. While the 17-inch screen may not measure up to the 24-inch giants used on some desks, the brightness and high resolution should serve most graphics professionals quite well.

When it comes to converting a workstation into a portable offering, Lenovo has done an excellent job with the W700. For those not needing workstation-like abilities, the W700 still offers curb appeal that will have everyone around the office going "ooh and ahh." But that extravagance comes with a price and if your aim is to just impress, then the W700 is perhaps best at home on the CEO’s desk.