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Review: Lenovo's ThinkPad W700

The Test Center reviews Lenovo's highest-performing ThinkPad, which the company is billing as a portable workstation.

This offering from Lenovo comes with a few surprises - - including a digital pen and touch pad beneath the keyboard which allows for tablet-like note-taking directly into the computer.

The ThinkPad W700, announced last month, has a price tag to match its heft: $2,978. But a review of the system in the Test Center's lab finds it to be well worth it for the value it delivers. In the ThinkPad W700, Lenovo says it has built a workstation-class portable PC that outperforms any other in the industry; while we're not comparing it to other systems, head-to-head, in this review, the Test Center finds that the ThinkPad W700 lends itself to a compelling business case for those who need a combination of high performance and business readiness.

Our review system was built with an Intel Core 2 Extreme CPU Q9300 at 2.53 GHz, 4 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA Quadro FX 3700M card and pre-loaded with Windows Vista Ultimate. It also came with two, 149 GB hard disk drives that were configured to RAID, providing almost 300 GB of storage on-board. (With extra drive bays, the ThinkPad W700 is actually expandable up to almost a terabyte.)

Using Primate Labs Geekbench 2.0 benchmarking software, the ThinkPad W700 scored 4097 - - making it the highest-performing notebook the Test Center has reviewed so far this year. (It was also the third-highest performing Intel-based PC we've looked at this year, surpassed only by a quad-core system we custom built and a Velocity Raptor desktop gaming system from Velocity Micro.)

The graphic rendering on the ThinkPad W700 was quick and sharp with both Microsoft Live Earth as well as a flight simulator program, and the audio quality from the speakers - - built underneath the LCD panel - - was nice, although the bass could have been a slight bit stronger.

Using the Test Center's standard test for notebooks, which includes shutting off all power-saving options and running a video from the hard drive until it shuts down, the system managed to last two hours and two minutes before turning off. To completely recharge the battery took about two and a half hours.

Plugged in, it consumed between 60 watts of power while idling and 72 watts while running a moderate workload. As a notebook, it uses a little more juice than some of its peers this year; as a desktop, it's about on par with others.

This ThinkPad, like others we've seen this year from Lenovo, has been put together with very nice thermal management. After running for several hours, it registered only 83 degrees at its vents. Its noise never reached higher than the ambient sound in the lab.

Given its size and weight, it's more accurate to think of the ThinkPad W700 as a portable desktop than as a laptop.

The digital pen and touch pad feature was a nice addition. Located to the right of the track pad and right and left mice, the touch pad allows for the taking of handwritten notes directly into the PC itself; we found it worked fine for items like digital signatures and for note-taking via the free web service Evernote. For lengthier note-taking, we still prefer to type.

The Bottom Line: the ThinkPad W700 is no toy, nor is it an on-the-go fashion PC. It's a top-performing PC workstation that provides all the punch of a nice desktop without taking up the full real estate of one.

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