07-08-2012 04:01 PM - edited 07-08-2012 09:54 PM
I received my W530 about a week ago and wanted to jot down some notes for anyone interested in this machine. I owned a W500 before and upgraded once the video card burned out and it was out of warranty. I had it for 4 years and was very happy with it. I am hoping this might help someone decide whether the W530 is a good choice.
Intel Core i7-3820QM
15.6" FHD (1920 x 1080) LED Backlit AntiGlare Display
NVIDIA Quadro K2000M Graphics with 2GB DDR3 Memory
Keyboard Backlit - US English
720p HD Camera with Microphone
Express Card Slot & 4-in-1 Card Reader & Smart Card Reader
Bluetooth 4.0 with Antenna
Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN
4 GB PC3-12800 DDR3 (1 DIMM)
320GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200rpm
Lenovo charges an arm an leg for memory upgrades, I paid $110 for 16GB vs $1000+ from Lenovo. I liked the DDR3L (low voltage) offering from Mushkin. However any 1.5v DDR3 1600 will work just as well. I use VrtualBox a lot and having the ability to upgrade to 32GB of RAM in the future is a great feature of this laptop.
The mSATA card will run at SATA II speeds (Intel QM77 chipset provides 2 SATA III interfaces, 1 is provided for the main drive and the next for the Ultra Bay drive) which is ok with me. It is still exceptionally fast and suitable for most needs. I use it mainly for a for Linux partition so I can dual boot.
One of my main concerns was the keyboard, coming from the traditional legendary Thinkpad keyboards the change, as many others as well, appeared as a very strange design choice. I am glad to say that I am getting used to it. It feels sturdy, the tactile feedback is good and I greatly appreciate the backlit. This is something I need constantly. The 2 intensity levels are excellent and the fact that the LED light was not remove it is fantastic. There is no substitute to the light when reading papers or needing a wider spread. My only compliant with the backlit keyboard is that the light is not evenly distributed and the top right corner is completely dark, even on high intensity.
The keys distribution is something I am adjusting to. I prefer the older distribution. I miss the INSERT/HOME/PGUP on the top right corner. Currently everything is on the same row as the function KEYS and evenly spaced which makes it more difficult to fins orientation when fast typing.
Coming from 1920x1200 resolution on the W500 I miss the extra vertical space. I am a developer and the vertical real estate is much appreciated. However, the extra brightness, thanks to the LED Backlit is quite welcomed. The screen is sharp, viewing angles are excellent and color reproduction are all better than on the W500. On 12/15 brightness everything is well balanced on normal indoor lighting conditions. I have not tried the laptop outdoors but I imagine than even on 15 it will not be sufficient to sufficiently light up the screen for normal work.
The Bluetooth 4.0 is a great improvement. However, I was unable to use the Broadcom drivers directly, only the Lenovo driver worked. I always try to use generic driver whenever possible. I paired phones, headsets and other devices without a glitch. The provided drivers worked perfectly and the range is exceptional. I was able to get more than 150 ft of range from a Bluetooth barcode scanner.
The 3 antenna Centrino 6300N is exceptional. Range is amazing and worked perfectly with the Intel native drivers. This is a great upgrade to include, it you rely extensively on Wifi you will appreciate the outstanding connection quality and the speed gains that come as a result of that.
Ivy Bridge (Intel's 3rd Generation Core i CPU)
Not much to say here. Intel continues to improve multicore systems and the advances in power consumption really show. The battery life on these systems are noticeably better than on the Sandy Bridge counterpart. As far as raw performance, expect 10-15% improvement at the same freqeuncy level vs the generarion 2 Core i7's.
I am not a gamer but I appreciate a decent video card when I need to do CAD and use other design driven applications.
The NVIDIA K2000M is a great performer for a laptop. Unless you have very specific needs, this card will fullfill all your needs.
My only complaint here is the choice of DDR3 vs GDDR5 which essentially doubles the memory frequency.
This is my current performance from the Intel 520. I should probably be getting better sequential write performance but the 4k write numbers are impressive. In terms of feel, everything opens instantly.
The mSATA drive since it is operation at SATA II speeds scores a bit lower but it is still very impressive. It caps the SATA II interface and its performance in real world scenarios is superb. I currently have a 60GB NTFS partition for Windows and the remaining 60GB allocated to Linux in various paritions (/, /home, /swap, /boot)
The battery life is excellent. I run my system is a mid-high performance level and I am getting around 4.5hrs of battery life with a 6 cell battery.
One thing I hate is the power brick. The 170W is not travel friendly at all, it is big, heavy and an eye sore. I tried using the 90W ps from the W500 and it will charge the battery when the laptop is powered off but you cannot use it while in operation it will NOT maintain the charge of the battery and the BIOS will complaint at you saying you are using an insufficient power supply. I hope Lenovo uses a more aesthetically pleasing power supply in the future. I was excited to see in the invoice that the sku said "slim power supply" but it is the same size as the older W520.
On AC power I chose the Turbo setting instead of the Maximum Turbo setting. Setting it to Max causes the fan to be running constantly (quite annoying) and the core frequency ratio to oscillate between 12x - Max(x) constantly.
Noise and Heat:
After disabling the Max Turbo setting the noise factor was significantly reduced. Furthermore, now that the laptop is running all SSD's, there isn't anything audble but the fan. The W500 had an electrical buzzing sound when on battery power. I am happy to say that the W530 does not emit this sound and it is virtually silent when in passive cooling. As far as heat, it is surprinsigly cool, even when charging. However, this has always been a great attribute of the Thinkpad series. The laptop stays very cool to the touch underneath.
I am personally not a big fan of all the bloatware. The only tools I leave are the Power Manager w/Driver, On-Screen Display and the Thinkpad Ultra Nav.
Overall I am extremely happy with the purchase. This laptop is a workhorse. Performance is top notch and the build quality is the traditional Thinkpad build. In terms of some other misc things like sound, the speakers are decently powered and are much louder than the W520. Sound reproduction is good and very acceptable for listening to podcasts and other presentations. The mic is great, I used Skype on multiple conversations and everyone was able to hear me perfeclty without any background noise (not a very scientific statement, I know. All I can say is that the mic works just fine for all the typical scenarios).
Here you can see the Windows WEI score for this system. This is the reason Lenovo calls the W series their workstation machines, it rivals many high performance desktop systems.
07-08-2012 04:41 PM
07-08-2012 05:13 PM
07-08-2012 06:52 PM
07-08-2012 10:26 PM
This is the reason Lenovo calls the W series their workstation machines, it rivals many high performance desktop systems.
I'm sorry, but the graphics processor in the W530 is strictly mid-level, and doesn't come close in performance to GPUs on higher-end laptops (e.g., GPUs like the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680M and its workstation equivalent NVIDIA Quadro K5000M, Radeon HD 7970M, etc., available now/soon in laptops like the dual-fan 15.6" Sager-NP9150/Clevo-P150EM, and in 17.3" laptops like the Sager NP9170, HP Elitebook 8770w, Dell Precision M6700, etc.), much less high-performance desktops.
3DMark 11 Scores
GTX 680M (Schenker XMG P702) 6025 Points (1334 shaders, 4GB GDDR5 memory)
HD 7970M (Schenker XMG P702) 5645 Points
HD 7970M (Alienware M17x R4) 5514 Points
GTX 675M (Schenker XMG P702) 3272 Points
HD 6990M (Schenker XMG P701) 3227 Points
Quadro K2000M (ThinkPad W530) 2025 Points (384 shaders, 2GB DDR3 memory)
(for more GPU benchmarks, see Laptop Video Graphics Cards - Benchmark List )
07-08-2012 10:37 PM - edited 07-09-2012 07:49 AM
Thanks Ivan. The difference between a 7.1 and 7.7 is not very noticeable in any real world application. WEI scores are not linear and once within the same base score (7), the difference is small. If you are asking if it is worth upgrading, my opinion is definitely not worth the money. You have a great system that is by no mean obsolete.
However, the Ivy Bridge is an exceptional platform and when you combine the new core with the upgraded graphics (the K2000M is significantly faster than the Quadro FX880M) the difference in certain types of application could be substantial. For you, as a .NET developer, I don't think you will notice a huge leap, your system can handle Visual Studio 2010/2012 with its hardware accelerated WPF engine quite well.
If you are interested I could run some compilation benchmarks that you can compare against (compiling RavenDB, for example or other substantial projects available on GitHub).
07-08-2012 10:55 PM
07-08-2012 11:55 PM - edited 07-09-2012 12:29 AM
Dterza01, I'm glad to see that "rivals many high performance desktop systems" is now migrating to "a great comprise between performance, heat dissipation and power consumption," which is more supportable by real-world evidence.
CUDA and OpenCL are independent of graphics, and are often used to offload computationally heavy tasks to the GPU, since it's usually so much more powerful than Intel's mobile CPUs. I think the millions of Mathematica users appreciate having long tasks run many times faster, for example. Mathematica, being just one of many CUDA/OpenCL applications, is used by many engineers (including this one). Throw in the millions of scientists and engineers who use Matlab as well, for example.
Also, as someone who does a lot of processing of photographic images, the faster Photoshop can run filters on large images, and the faster I can run software like DXO Optics Pro (like many photographers do) to correct geometric distortion, chromatic aberration, perform noise filtering, etc., on large batches of images, the faster I can get my work done. And that's not to mention all the people who run dynamic range processing software on images, stitch panoramas, etc., all of which takes significant time.
So, I don't know if you're privvy to Lenovo's sales data or marketing surveys, but there are plenty of users who require fast GPUs, because their time is worth money.
07-09-2012 12:42 AM
Jimbo, I am an engineer as well. I use Matlab, Mathematica, and many discrete event simulation packages like AutoMod. I also do C# development (WPF)
To be precise, I said that the video card choice was a good compromise between those attributes. The machine as a whole offers little compromise. The video card is obviously the weakest link but not the lackbuster you make it to be. It certainly handles Photoshop quite well which has limited 3D accceleration. (http://helpx.adobe.com/photoshop/kb/gpu-opengl-fea
For the record, I am not privy to Lenovo's marketing. I have not regurgitated any of their marketing statements. I am simply trying to provide an objective assessment that covers most usage cases. Obviously there are several edge cases in which there might be better options, including some of the heavy 17" gear you mentioned that costs $3200+.
07-09-2012 01:35 AM
The Windows Experience Index is not a linear benchmark. In other words, the difference between a 7.1 and a 7.7 does not necessarily mean that the processor with the higher score is 8% better than the processor with the lower score. I would look at more accurate comparative benchmarks to compare processors, such as Passmark or Geekbench.