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BrendaEM
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Posts: 118
Registered: ‎08-11-2011
Location: US
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Message 1 of 16

W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

This is work in progress, but....

 

My W540 came in. I put my mear 550GB of files and software on it. So far, it's been good : )

 

Firstly, yes the trackpad is clunky, inconcieved and even noisy, but it is still usable. I also perfer the little nubbies that were on my X220 than the slick surface on the trackpad. I think that the fact that the trackpad actually rattles at all, is baffling. Still, this is a mobile workstation, and if you are Photoshop'ing, doing 3D design, CAD, video editing, you are probably going to be using a mouse much anyway. I feel that this computer is worthy of a better trackpad.

 

It's a subjective thing, but the keyboard feels great. Yes, I have used the old keyboards. They feel great too, but after a book or two the keycaps tilt under pressure. I have felt this kind of keyboard on an old X100/X102, and they seem to age well. I have written over 375,000 words, and have two books on Amazon, and another two in the oven. The keycap surface is slicker than what was on the old keycaps, but they are all going to end up smooth anyway. In the war beween the old keyboards and the new, the clear winnner--is ANY computer with mechanical Alps keyswitches. @Lenovo, I dare you do make an X240 with mechanical Alps keyswitches, you know, for writing.

 

The top row of keys default to media keys, but they can be locked into function keys, and the computer seems to remember my choice on reboots. I miss both of the caplock and numlock light. I also miss the Wifi switch too. To me, these are not deal breakers. IM(not so)HO, there's little furture in hard drive lights in machines with SSDs. The W540 has an on-screen numlock indicator that almost everyone will want to switch to the timed mode. The keyboard illumination is a good feature, but the underkey bleed from the media/function keys could be better controlled, as seen when the machine is in your lap. I do use the numpad when doing 3D design for typing in lengths and angles, as well as other things, so I like the numpad inclusion. The number keys could be narrower, and still work. This is a personal taste, but for me a 15.x" laptop with a numberpad works, but no smaller.

 

Subjectively, the computer feels wide and flat. These are plastic covered metal computers. Generally, the build quality is better than my old T61p, or X220. The drive/RAM door has too many tabs and not enough screws. I like the blackened hinges. I can flex the pastics a little in places, but changing it would add weight on my back. The battery is more secure than any other Thinkpad I've owned. The power-brick is appropriatly sized for something putting out 20 volts at 8.5 amps. The short AC and long DC cord lengths are agreeable. The outside of the computer appear not to be rubber coated but perhaps media-blasted, which I like because I used to tape the edges of my Thinkpads, so if I sold them they would not show wear. The plastics have a Bauhaus-inspired Porsche-dashboard look to them. If you changed the key font to italic, and lost it in a Porshe, you would have a hard time finding it.

 

There's an assortment of ports, but I miss the seperate audo jacks. I think it is time Lenovo trades the VGA port for an (extra) HDMI port. 

 

The 3K screen on this computer is the best I've seen on a laptop. The finish is semi-gloss--matte enough for coffee shop use. The dot pich is high enough where comprimises have to be made between reflection and resolution, and I think that this is the sweet spot. The screen scales down farily well to 1920x1080 if you choose. Calibrated with a Graetag color puck, the monitor was close. Color chart gradients show smooth for a laptop. Cencentric rings show no moirés which means nice square pixels.

 

The 4800QM, works well, and is in the sweet-spot on the processor price curve. On Cinebench 11.5, it pulls anywhere from 5.6 to 7.05, depending where you set the power management, from moderate to the two "turbo" modes. Currently, I only have one 8GB stick of memory, so with dual-channel memory, I might get a bit better performance.

 

Rhino 3D is amazing on this computer. I've found that because of the resolution, I can lower the antialiasing and still get a good view. Because of this reason, and with Optimus engaged, it runs about as fast as my 2600k/GTX570 desktop. For normal CAD/design the computer runs quiet. While the GPU is on, the computer quietly oozes warm air. Machines with SSD's should be quieter yet because a physical hard drive adds 1.5 watts of heat that has to be removed from the center of machine.

 

I've tried the W540 with a internet-based enviromental interaction simulator: Guild Wars 2. Once again, if you use the laptop screen there are choices to be made, as you can trade AA for resolution. Under gaming load, the fan is audible. I might try lowering the processor speed. I am wondering if the CPU affinity can still be set to 2.

 

The sound comes from the bottom of the computer, but the sound quality and volume is still more than adaquate for a 15" computer. We lose definition, but the sound is loud and not shrill.

 

Except for gaming or long-term raytracing the computer is quiet. While doing browsing and word processing, the fan is quieter than my X220, quieter than the traffic I hear outside.

 

With Optimus enganged in CAD, the left palmrest gets warm. Theroretically, and I would not do it, but filing a single notch somewhere inside or a hole for airbleed in front would let the stray heat that rises from the GPU and heatpipe vent the case. Under heavy loads, I wish I had a choice for still more fan speed, as the air exiting the machine is pretty warm, which means that the heatsink is working well, but it could go for a little more airflow. At it loudest settings the fan tambre/note is more of a low growl than a whine. I recently discovered PowerSwitch, to change between more than one power scheme, using the task tray.

 

With Optimus engaged, the CPU idles at 30-36C, with the GPU at 48C. Running Cinebench's raytrace a few times in a row in low-turbo, the CPU temps bounced at 70C. The chipset tempature bounced at 80C, which makes me I want more cooling options. I would rate the thermal management: average. In tunning Guild Wars 2 at 1920x1060, nothing over over 67C, so oddly, the GPU is cooled pretty well. I found that in doing my first (mechanical drive) defrag, the fan ran on medium, suggesting that a machine with a SSD would run cooler. Still we can never have too much cooling, nor too big a fan in these machines.

 

I have thrown down a lot of words on cooling because that affects longevity, and to some degree performance.

 

I have 16 more GB or memory coming which would give me a total of 24. I have to watch my money.

 

I have not done a battery run-down test, but it appears that the machine may get around 7 hours without the GPU running. There is a problem I've never run into with the laptop: I enjoy the monitor enough that, I do not want to lower the brightness. That will cost me battery life.

 

So far, I like the W540.

 

... (more to come)

 

[Present: W540/K2100/4800QM/24GB. Past: X220, S10, T61P]
Bauden
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Views: 1,118
Message 2 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

Brenda, give us an update in 6 months <g>, telling us about your applications. The lack of WiFi switch crashed my Photoshop, and Adobe support killed the machine trying to fix it via remote in my hotel room).  I had to reinstall upon return to the studio.

 

Adobe serial verification server thought I had CC, when in fact it was CS (due to residual registry entries from a trial CC),  The Adobe server will kill any and all PS it finds if there is a residual non paid licence to CC.  Absolutely terrible that there is no hard WiFi cut off (may have been mandated by the NSA, via MS).  The issue here, is that I do not have to to play games on the road.  I need to turn on WiFi for eMail and updates, but kill it for other work.  It's a rigmarole and a workaround scenario on this black box.

 

I see in a later message that you use Linux Mint.....  I have Mint Petra on a stand alone PC (a real workstation), I may try your set up on the W540 when I have some free time.

BrendaEM
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Registered: ‎08-11-2011
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Message 3 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

Adobe is no longer on my list of pleasant companies. I think that it's barbaric to require personal computer software to authenticate on every start.

What if there was a war, a real war?
[Present: W540/K2100/4800QM/24GB. Past: X220, S10, T61P]
BrendaEM
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Location: US
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Message 4 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

I've done some heavy Linux compiling, several times compiling OpenFoam CFD and Paraview with all its missing depends. The machine ran too warm for my tastes, so I lowered the maximum CPU to balanced in the Setup menu. I will watch it. In the setup, it says that the maximum performance (can't remember name) mode does reduced throttling, which means that it would run warmer. Still I want a "Run Cooler" option where we have a little more fan running.

 

I work my machines, but warranty or not, I try to take care of them.

[Present: W540/K2100/4800QM/24GB. Past: X220, S10, T61P]
Bauden
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Views: 1,062
Message 5 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

Actually, Adobe does not check for the license each time, and you can run PS as a stand alone for 30 days.

 

If you are off line, Photoshop CC will work fine, all you need to do is periodically launch with an Internet connection.  I think it's once a month.  A little bothersome if overseas on assignment.  In any event, the whole purpose of CC is to get the latest updates, so live connection is moot point.

 

However for me, that check was a problem, and Adobe is aware of the issue.

 

If you bought CS, then later try/install CC but cancel CC as I did due to W540 hirez issues, any boot turning on the computer will kill CS even if duly licensed and registered.

 

When I cancelled CC, the Adobe sales person told me I could keep CC until I decided to re-subscribe, as MS and Adobe are working on a resolution to the 3K and 4K display issues in Win 7.

 

I believe this even occurs when not launching an Adobe application.  Just the fact an Adobe product is installed, when connected to the Interenet, it calls home, both for license/subscription check and updates.

 

Hence on my trip, I had WiFi turned on when I left, and I wanted to turn off the WiFi on the W540 BEFORE turning on the machine - as I was warned by another pro,  but the machine has to be booted before you can software turn off the WiFi, then Poof, the Adobe server killed CS,  I should have booted in a bank vault (Faraday Cage)!  Thank you Lenovo engineers!

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Message 6 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

In the Nvidia Control Panel, you will find 3D Settings > Global Profile > Power Management

If you set Power Management to Adaptive instead of Driver Controlled that should also decrease temperatures of the GPU even further under load.

Also change the refresh rate of your display panel to something like 50Hz of 60Hz. If you don't play games you really don't need to refresh your display panel 60 times per second.

I set my W530 and all my other ThinkPads on 40/50Hz

Warm regards,
Jonas Hendrickx

Lenovo Insider - Windows Insider MVP

Personal website: ThinkScopes

BrendaEM
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Registered: ‎08-11-2011
Location: US
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Message 7 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

I upgraded the RAM to 24GB, which isn't in dual-channel, but I needed RAM, and that's all I could afford.

I went with the Kingston RAM for this machine. I tested it with mem386, included with the Linux boot menu. All is well.

 

When running a Linux OpenFoam case, on "On Demand" I am seeIing tempatures bouncing over 90C, which is unacceptable. I am running the machine on "Conservative" which seems to limit the processors to 2.5 Ghz. Please give us a little more fan table options in the BIOS/UFI. I don't want the fan on full-blast all the time, but I there's no reason why I should see anything over 90, when there are fan RPMs to spare.

 

On the Windows side I can monitor the temps closer. What I found with the (stock) driver controlled fan tables is that the chipset or chipset section of the processor gets hotter than the actual cores.

 

I did another gaming test with the CPU on low, and all is well with the tempatures, but they were okay with the cpu on the normal adoptive power scheme. (The GPU is on adoptive on both installs.)

 

I suspect that the machine would yield about 7 hours with Wifi on. I do not use 50Hz monitor refreshes because they bother me.

[Present: W540/K2100/4800QM/24GB. Past: X220, S10, T61P]
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Message 8 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

Hi BrendaEM.

 

I just received my W540, and spent some time upgrading it. You might want to check your RAM placement in the slots if it's not reporting it as dual channel. I got one pair placed in Slots 0-2 and the other one in Slots 1-3 as per this image here.

 

ThinkPad W540 RAM Slots

 

Subsequently, this is how HWiNFO64 reports the configuration.

 

W540 - HWiNFO64 RAM report

 

Cheers!

ThinkPad P1 - i7-8750H/32GB // ThinkPad P70 - Xeon E3-1505M/64GB
ThinkPad W540 (20BG) - i7-4800MQ/32GB // ThinkPad W520 (4282-W4Q) - i7-2720QM/32GB
ThinkPad T450s (20BW) - i7-5600U/12GB // Yoga 900 - i7-6500U/8GB
ThinkPad T61 (7665-CTO) - T7700/4GB // ThinkPad T60p (8741-C2G) - T7400/4GB
BrendaEM
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Posts: 118
Registered: ‎08-11-2011
Location: US
Views: 940
Message 9 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

AtliJarl, I should have made myself clearer. I only have 3 out of 4 sticks of RAM. According to Intel, the CPU is dual-channel, so I don't think it can run in dual channel with 3 sticks of RAM. It's nothing Lenovo did.

 

jonas_hendrickx, by default the nVidia proprietary automatic setting chooses "Adaptive."

 

The Bios/UEFI fan table should be patched so the CPU never sees anything over 90C while there is still fan RPM's left. Fortunatly, I have the 3-year depot warranty, and the W540 is "Linux Certified."

[Present: W540/K2100/4800QM/24GB. Past: X220, S10, T61P]
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Message 10 of 16

Re: W540 Initial Review - Positive, So Far

Linux certified probably means something else than you think.

 

LINUX CERTIFICATION - WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

 

I run Fedora in a dual boot setup on both my T440s and T440p, and yes, it took some tinkering to get the ClickPad just right in them, but I will be dual booting my W540 too. Running Fedora on these machines is an absolute joy, and I don't have any issues as you're describing here.

 

You might want to check this out regarding the touchpad.

Fedora 20 and the ThinkPad T440s touchpad

 

Cheers!

ThinkPad P1 - i7-8750H/32GB // ThinkPad P70 - Xeon E3-1505M/64GB
ThinkPad W540 (20BG) - i7-4800MQ/32GB // ThinkPad W520 (4282-W4Q) - i7-2720QM/32GB
ThinkPad T450s (20BW) - i7-5600U/12GB // Yoga 900 - i7-6500U/8GB
ThinkPad T61 (7665-CTO) - T7700/4GB // ThinkPad T60p (8741-C2G) - T7400/4GB

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