Lenovo W700

As someone who used to work in the field as an Adobe Photoshop Technician, I know all too well how hard it is to work with some equipment. Sometimes, the computer just doesn’t want to be friendly with you, the technology hates you, and you can generally get a bad day with uncooperative hardware that you know should just be working.

We technicians – also going under the title of “Digital Operators” – are usually using high speed Apple Mac laptops on shoots in random locations. Sitting in a field or on a set, our jobs are to check images as they come in from photographers for focus, colour, and quality.

Because of this, those silver coloured aluminium & titanium shelled Apple notebooks have become staples in this field. We’re rarely seen without them or with a few extra batteries in a heavy work-case next to us.

But I think that might just change with the release of the Lenovo W700, a new laptop that truly redefines the workstation laptop.

The Lenovo W700. Just try finding a better portable workstation than this.

The Lenovo W700. Just try finding a better portable workstation than this.

A 17-inch laptop, the machine balks at the concept of a portable computer. It’s not just the screen size here, but also the overall dimensions of the machine. Think of the screen as being a 17-inch display with a resolution of 1920×1200 and then add almost an inch to either side of the display, rewarding you with a housing that makes it just amazingly big.

Perpendicular to that screen and attached by hinge, you find the guts of this laptop and everything that makes it tick. Our unit had an Intel Core2 Duo Extreme processor, but if you so choose you can go for something with even more meat on it including a Core2 Quad Extreme.

Memory is maxed out too with anywhere between 4- and 12 gigabytes of memory able to be installed in this Windows Vista Business 64-bit system. You also get a DVD burner, modem, 5 USB ports, Firewire, SD card reader, WiFi, and two little white LED’s that sit above the monitor to let you use the laptop in a dark space.

As an interesting size comparison, here's a 10-inch MSI Wind (right) sitting next to the 17-inch Lenovo W700 (left). Shot while we were on the air.

As an interesting size comparison, here's a 10-inch MSI Wind (right) sitting next to the 17-inch Lenovo W700 (left). Shot while we were on the air.

But none of that even remotely tips the iceberg as the Lenovo W700 has some truly special pieces in its design.

No less than three different mice can be found on the W700 chassis. When using the laptop, you can take your pick between the red nipple membrane that Toshiba & IBM have all used on their computers, the industry-standard of a touchpad (albeit a smaller one than you might expect), and a cherry-on-top Wacom tablet measuring 3 by 5 inches. These all work well especially the Wacom which comes complete with the pen, a slot on the right side of the computer armed with a spring to push that pen in and out with ease.

If you’re into your 3D work or want to get your Adobe Photoshop or Premiere thing on, the insane graphics card underneath is enough to get you into a working fit. The model used for this review came equipped with the beautiful design that is the Nvidia Quadro FX3700, a card that can best much of what’s out there and really does a terrific job, especially for a laptop.

If that’s not enough, how about a biometric fingerprint scanner on the side, an inbuilt screen colour calibrator for the truly fussy image editor, the ability to set up hard drives in a RAID array, and just about every monitor connection under the sun on the back: VGA, DVI, and even DisplayPort.

Just in case you had no idea where the inbuilt colour calibrator was, it's right there (where the red outline is).

Just in case you had no idea where the inbuilt colour calibrator was, it's right there.

In tradition set forth by Lenovo’s IBM Thinkpad roots, almost every feature on the W700 has been thought through and well designed. As a result, there’s very little you can do to complain about this computer.

Personally, I thought the speakers weren’t very good and yearned for more volume to come out, eventually realising they were probably one of the things left out from the design when this computer was on the drawing board.

So too was the keyboard combination or button that let you turn off the various mice you have at your disposal. This comes as an issue because of the tablet, mind you, because if you’re using the inbuilt Wacom digitizer, you might accidentally hit the touchpad while you’re using it and mess up your work. As a lefty, this happened all too frequently for me and I questioned whether this had been designed from a right-handed point of view. While it obviously has, it still doesn’t excuse a lack of a touchpad deactivation keyboard combo, something which graces laptops that cost a fraction of what the W700 does.

Another failing of the W700 is the battery. Lasting a little bit more than two hours when the graphics card isn’t used for anything heavy, this is not a machine to rely on out in the field for battery power. If you’re doing that, you might want to carry 2 or 3 extra batteries and then still sit yourself near a power socket in case the inevitable happens a little bit too early.

A weaker battery, mind you, is hardly a surprise when you weigh up just how much power this thing is pushing out. With a high-end CPU and everything else on board that makes it just this fast, it should come as no surprise as to why it suffers in the power management department.

Even with those minor downsides, the W700 is still remarkable and there isn’t anything else in the industry that I can see – not from HP or Toshiba who also do workstation class laptops – that can attempt to compete with it.

It's one hell of a computer.

It's one hell of a computer.

A couple of years ago, HP released the Dragon, a 20-inch “laptop” that barely worked with any understand of what we think of a laptop. This thing was designed to be incredibly powerful and would cover your lap in the way a tablecloth covers your table.

The Lenovo W700 is a lot like that in size as the sheer size that this thing carries is enough to make you question any sense of portability without a desk to stick it on. In power, however, the Lenovo trounces anything that old HP could do. Because this has been designed with the multimedia section in mind, it’s not hype for the overpriced consumer in the way the Dragon was.

No, between the high-speed processor, the ridiculous amounts of memory it can take, the workhorse video card underneath, and the amazing array of features that the Lenovo W700 has under its hood, you know that this is truly the Dragon. And in a new year where you want to be the best of the best, that makes this the dragon I truly want at my side.

Rating: ★★★★½

Product: Lenovo W700
RRP: $6399