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ThinkPad W700 Resources page:

FEEDBACK: If you have any suggestions on how to make this page more useful, please click here on the Comment Page link to submit a message. I may not have time to reply to each message, but I'll carefully read and consider each one. Thanks in advance for your help in making this a more useful resource!

What's New:

  • 01-30-2010 - Updated information on switchable graphics.


  • ThinkPad W700 reviews
  • System description and manuals
  • Other competing laptops
  • Customer satisfaction survey: here's the score
  • Memory: How much do you really need?
  • Switchable Graphics: The ThinkPad T400, T500 and W500 have it, the W700 does NOT
  • Built like a tank
  • W700 Buying tips & options guide:
  • If my W700's serial number is i.e. LV00010, does that mean I have the 10th W700 to roll off the assembly line? (No, but here's what it does mean.)
  • Books that'll help you make better use of Vista and your W700
  • Before doing anything else, back up your system
  • Before going online, install anti-virus software
  • Prevent Disaster: the most cost-effective surge protector
  • Bulletproofing your W700
  • Installing an internal hard drive in the W700 with drive rails/caddy
  • What's the best carrying case for this monster?
  • Will it fit on a plane?
  • Alternate Wacom-ready pens you can buy to improve the range of control options for the W700's tablet
  • Improving upon the W700's speakers
  • Surfing, printing, and backing up, all wirelessly
  • WARNING: what you don't know about WiFi hotspots can hurt you

    ThinkPad W700 reviews

    Here are descriptions and links to all of the ThinkPad W700 reviews I've found, to date. If you're considering buying a W700, you definitely want to start by reading these reviews:

    "Lenovo Thinkpad W700 Mobile Workstation" - from "Almost every major notebook provider out there has a mobile workstation product, although for graphic artists, the only truly well respected product lineup has been Apple's MacBook Pro series. Even with the most high-end MacBook Pro, however, you're limited to what you can physically stuff into such a small form factor. The solution? Go bigger. That's just what Lenovo has done with their massively large (and equally impressive) Thinkpad W700 model - the first laptop we've seen which not only meets, but surpasses what Apple's MacBook Pro can offer to the graphics professional..."

    This is probably the best and most thorough W700 review to date. It tests a W700 having the T9600 processor, with two Hitachi 160GB 7200rpm hard drives in a RAID-0 configuration. It talks in detail about the power requirements and performance of the unit's Nvidia QuadroFX 3700M graphics processor, comparing it with the W700's lesser QuadroFX 2700M option. It also tests gaming performance, comparing it to desktops, and provides scores in graphics benchmarks. It tests operation while connected to a Dell 30" LCD at full 2560 x 1600 resolution, while simultaneously driving the laptop's built-in 1920 x 1200 display. It discusses the speed vs. reliability tradeoffs of using RAID-0 disks, and what Lenovo has done to improve such reliability. It measures transfer rates of the RAID-0 (100 MB/sec), comparing it with high-speed desktop hard drives. It describes the three partitions that come pre-installed on the hard drive, and what each is for. It praises Lenovo's Wi-Fi connectivity software. It discusses how the trackpad, keyboard, and graphics tablet interact with each other. The author was surprised at how cool and quiet the laptop was during prolonged CPU and GPU tests. The article provides many detailed benchmark results. It describes performance using various content-creation programs.

    2. "Lenovo W700 Review" - from "...the display is smooth and crisp with more brightness and appreciably better contrast than we're used to in a laptop screen...A light reflective coating protects the screen, but glare is well controlled (the screen's native brightness certainly helps in this regard...Viewing angles are excellent side-to-side, though only acceptable on the vertical axis...For what most of us do, even at a fairly demanding level, the panel's gamut is more than sufficient -- not to mention excellent contrast and brightness that's superior to just about anything else out there...After a little more time with the tablet, I've adapted to its size quite well. The idea of integrating a digitizer into a graphics-focused machine is an excellent one that I'm betting will find acceptance among photographers, graphic designers, CAD techs, and architects...After heavily loading the processor for nearly an hour, I couldn't get any area of the case to register at or above 100 degrees Fahrenheit..."

    This is another excellent and thorough review of a W700, having a quad-core processor with two 160GB 7200rpm hard drives in a RAID-0 configuration. This review was written by a digital photographer, so it does a superb job of evaluating the display, color calibrator, graphics tablet, and the graphics and image processing performance of the laptop. Performs a number of grueling tests in Photoshop, with stellar results. Includes side-by-side image comparisons on the W700 and an X-Rite profiled, IPS-equipped Apple Cinema display. It compares the keyboard on the W700 with expectations from previous ThinkPads. Covers the feel and function of the trackpad and its scroll and click buttons. Provides an excellent and very thorough set of benchmark results. Covers gaming performance, and quality of audio from the built-in speakers. Note that this review, with the quad-core processor, mentions more fan noise than do reviews of W700s with the T9600 processor. If you're a digital photographer looking for a new laptop, this is definitely a review you want to read.

    3. "Round Up: The Lenovo W700 and the perfect photo laptop" - from "But beyond the W700 specifically, the whole process of putting a photographer-focused system through its paces has made me think a bit more about what it is that photographers really need in a notebook. Drawing from the ThinkPad as a starting point, then, I've begun forming a vision of what the ideal photographer's laptop -- in my opinion, at least -- would look like. And it goes something like this..."

    This is another article about the W700 from the same digital photographer and author of the above review, and is very interesting. Again, if you're a digital photographer looking to buy a laptop, this article is a must-read.

    4. "Lenovo ThinkPad W700" - from pdn GEAR GUIDE "Lenovo tries to attract Apple users with this fully stuffed mobile photography workstation... It may be bigger and bulkier than a MacBook Pro but this powerful photo laptop from Lenovo gives new meaning to the term "all-in-one."... a gorgeous, super-bright 17-inch display... you could call the W700 a "desktop replacement" but it would be more accurate to describe it as a "digital photo studio replacement."... Apple, be forewarned. A day may soon come when more photographers start seeking other vistas. The W700 is the first of what could be many PC-based options on the horizon."

    This review looks at the W700 from the perspective of a digital photographer. It tests a W700 having a quad-core processor. The author recommends the dual 200GB 7200 RPM hard drives in a RAID-1 configuration, and this was apparently the configuration he tested. [Note that such a RAID-1 configuration will give you the same storage capacity as a single 200GB drive, but nearly double the transfer rates for disk reads (writing speed is unchanged). And the two drives are mirror-images of each other in terms of the data they contain, thus allowing recovery if one drive fails.]

    It mentions problems pulling the tablet's pen out of its little rabbit-hole in the side of the laptop -- a common refrain from reviewers. It talks about the convenience of using the tablet for photography tasks, about the built-in 7-in-1 card reader, plus the CompactFlash card reader option. The reviewer describes the 400 nit display, saying that it's his favorite feature on the W700, and compares it to the display of a MacBook Pro. He describes the operation of the built-in color calibrator, its ease of use, and quality of results. He talks about the amount of heat produced by the laptop, and the sound level of its fans. He compares the speed of generating a batch of HDR (High Dynamic Range) images in Photoshop with both a W700 and a MacBook Pro. He describes his adoption of 64-bit Vista after being a Mac user. (Mac users in particular should look at the "Windows Vista Annoyances: Tips, Secrets, and Hacks" book, listed in the books section of this page, to help them turn off some of the eccentric "features" of Vista. You'll also definitely want to check out "Alan Simpson's Windows Vista Bible" listed in that same section.) This is another must-read review for digital photographers.

    5. "Lenovo ThinkPad W700" - from LAPTOP Magazine "This high-end mobile workstation offers incredible 3D performance, a built-in digitizer, and a dazzling high-res display...Color reproduction and viewing angles on this screen are excellent, thanks to the use of wide gamut technology, which allows the panel to display 72 percent of the NTSC color gamut (most notebook screens display around 45 percent of the NTSC gamut)...this delivered the best benchmark results we’ve seen yet in PCMark Vantage, which measures Vista application performance..."

    This is a very thorough review a W700 having a T9600 processor, and a RAID-0 consisting of two 160GB 7200rpm drives. It describes using the graphics tablet, the Tablet PC Pen Training utility, and the the handwriting recognition feature. It describes using the display color calibrator. It provides detailed performance benchmark results, including tests intentionally performed while other tasks were running. It tests graphics performance, comparing it with other desktop replacement notebooks, and their current gaming champion, the Alienware Area-51 m17x, and describes 3D gaming test results. It discusses bootup time and the impact of bundled applications on that time. This is one of the few W700 reviews to specifically test WiFi performance with the new Intel WiFi Link 5300 (802.11a/g/n) card that ships inside the W700. They obtained above-average battery life compared to other desktop replacments.

    6. "Lenovo ThinkPad W700" - from Computer Shopper " the comfort of a desk, the W700’s full-size keyboard, bright 17-inch LCD, and desktop-like performance will have you forgetting you’re using a laptop...In most of our productivity tests, the W700 matched or beat Alienware’s Area-51 m17x gaming notebook, even though the m17x is powered by a Core 2 Extreme X9000 CPU...Even during stress test, the W700 remained cool, and the only noticeable sounds were from the somewhat noisy DVD’s a particularly good choice for photographers and artists looking for a mobile workstation..."

    This is a review of a W700 having a T9600 processor, and a single 5,400rpm 320GB drive. It seems to indicate that the display's backlight is an LED backlight, but this is definitely not the case. The display instead has two fluorescent backlights. It talks about how luggable the laptop is, and the feel of its keyboard, It gives detailed performance comparisons with Alienware’s Area-51 m17x gaming notebook. It talks about 3D performance in gaming tests, providing frame rates, graphics benchmark scores, and compares the W700's high-end graphics processor option with the ATI Radeon HD 4850 desktop GPU. Talks about ports and the mini-dock. It also talks about the W700's durable construction.

    7. "Lenovo Thinkpad W700" - from Maximum PC "Only Hewlett-Packard’s upcoming DreamColor panel in the EliteBook 8530p is likely to give the W700 a run for the money in color gamut...The Quado FX 3700M’s large 1GB frame buffer may make you think that it’s made for gaming, but many content creation apps actually need the large frame buffer more than games...while it’s capable of gaming, it probably doesn’t make sense to buy the W700 if that’s your only purpose...The short story is that if you care about performance and you use multi-threaded apps (and most content creation apps are today) you need a quad core..."

    This review tested a W700 having a quad-core processor, with a pair of 160GB 7,200 RPM Seagate Momentus drives in RAID-0 configuration. The article tests the W700's performance on games, includes frame rates, and compares it with a dual-core Gateway P-7811 FX gaming laptop running at 2.26GHz and having a GeForce 9800N GTS graphics processor. They also test it with various content creation programs.

    8. "Review: Lenovo's ThinkPad W700" - from CRN online "Weighing in at 9 pounds, eight ounces with its battery installed, the ThinkPad W700 really doesn't fit the bill of a "laptop." Think of it as more of a "portable desktop" or an all-in-one...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.)...To completely recharge the battery took about two and a half hours...Its noise never reached higher than the ambient sound in the lab..."

    This is a review of the W700 with a quad-core processor and a RAID-0 consisting of two 160GB 7200rpm hard drives.

    9. "Lenovo W700: The Ultimate Portable" - from PC Magazine " comes with more features than any notebook I've ever seen... The list of ports is also very long, and they wind up making the machine incredibly flexible... So how fast is it? Very fast. It's almost unfair to compare the W700 to any other notebook I've used... Overall, the Lenovo W700 is a stellar performer... It simply does more than any other portable computer I've ever used."

    This article previews a W700 having the quad-core processor and a 320GB hard drive. It discusses the advantages of the 17" high-resolution screen when running spreadsheets. It briefly mentions the competing Dell Precision M6400 and the HP Elitebook 8730w.

    10. "Review: Lenovo ThinkPad W700" - from "...the W700 should be blowing through renders like very few notebooks that we have seen in the past, and rivaling pretty considerable desktop workstations."

    This article reviews a unit with the T9600 processor, includes benchmark test results, and compares its Cinebench 10 benchmark performance favorably with a computer having a dual 3.06GHz Xeon processor.

    11. "Lenovo ThinkPad W700 Review" - from LAPTOP-LOGIC

    This review tests a W700 having a quad-core processor, and does not mention which hard drive(s) the laptop contains. It focuses mainly on the look and feel of the laptop, and incorrectly says that the W700 has an HDMI port. It mentions problems installing a program under 64-bit Vista. The article also provides a small number of benchmark results, and reports an unusually high (for a W700) 3DMark06 score of 12038. It reports results from two battery life tests, one for non-computationally intensive tasks, and the other for DVD play.

    12. "ThinkPad W700: Lenovo Intros Biggest ThinkPad Yet (videos)" - from NOTEBOOKS.COM "The ThinkPad W700 is an impressive piece of engineering and offers the notebook market some much-needed innovation...Combined with the Wacom digitizer and color calibrator, the W700 may just be the perfect workstation for engineers, photographers and design professionals..."

    This article is a hands-on preview (vs. a review) from when the W700 was initially released. The article's main value at this point is the video that it shows of the W700, including viewing the display at various angles, and showing the display color calibrator in action. The article also contains the orignal press release from Lenovo introducing the W700.

    13. "Lenovo's Giant Notebook Aims to Seize the Desktop" - from eWeek CHANNEL INSIDER "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..."

    This article tests a W700 having a quad-core processor, and a pair of 160 Gbyte Seagate hard drives, which are configured as a RAID-0. It also says that you can configure the laptop with both a RAID and Turbo Memory, but that is incorrect. The current storage drivers from Intel for the W700 do not allow Turbo Memory to be used with RAIDs, nor for them to even exist in the same machine. The review discusses how well the built-in graphics tablet works. It provides a number of benchmark test results.

    14. "Review: Lenovo's Mega Notebook Crushes Benchmarks, Femurs" - from WIRED "A gorgeous LCD that's by far the brightest 17-inch model we've ever tested...All this goodness powers the W700 to record-setting benchmarks, blowing away all comers at general apps (though not quite offering the highest gaming scores we've seen)..."

    This article briefly reviews a W700 having a T9600 processor, and dual 160GB 7200rpm hard drives, although it doesn't mention whether those hard drives are configured as a RAID. No specific benchmark numbers are presented. The reviewer had problems with DVD playback, although this has not been mentioned in other reviews. The article also compares the keyboard to those of previous ThinkPads. It mentions that the fan is "blaring," which has not been mentioned in other reviews of W700s having T9600 processors. This was one of the very first reviews or previews written about the W700, so it may have covered very early versions of W700 software and drivers.

    15. "Lenovo ThinkPad W700 mobile workstation" - from Animation Artist "The tablet has 512 levels of pressure sensitivity..."

    When I read this article, it had some significant typographical errors, such as the model number of the tested laptop's CPU. It does, however, go into details of the graphics tablet from an artist's standpoint.

    A failing of all of the reviews I've read so far, is that they never mention which graphics processor (GPU) they're using during battery life tests. Both GPUs are capable of playing Blu-ray discs. I plan to run such tests using the 3700M graphics processor, and the integrated graphics processor, and will report the results on this page.

    A number of reviewers also seem to equate the 170 Watt rating of the power brick that comes with the W700 as representing the amount of power that the laptop draws from the battery. This is simply not the case. The W700 comes with an 84 Watt-hour battery. If the W700 drew 170 Watts continuously from that battery, then you'd only obtain a half-hour of battery life. I haven't seen anyone claim less than an hour of battery life under even the most extreme conditions of intense processing. If you total up all of the thermal-design-power (TDP) figures from the different components of the laptop, then you may end up with something approaching 170 Watts. But, in practice, you never end up with those components drawing that much continuous power. In reality, the laptop draws much less than that.

    System description and manuals

    This is the definitive listing of the ThinkPad W700's features, as written by Lenovo. It also tells you what features Lenovo plans to add to the W700 in the future. It's essential reading for anywone who's considering buying a ThinkPad W700:

    ThinkPad W700 Technical Specifications

    This is what's called Lenovo's "tabook" for the entire ThinkPad line of laptops. It describes all the configurations, their options, part numbers, and detailed specifications for those configurations (i.e., dimensions and weights, speeds, interface details) that are very difficult to find anywhere else:

    Personal Systems Reference Lenovo ThinkPad Notebooks

    This is the Hardware Maintenance Manual for the ThinkPad W700. This detailed manual tells service technicians how to troubleshoot problems, the steps for replacing parts, lists part numbers, etc.:

    ThinkPad® W700 Hardware Maintenance Manual

    Forums containing useful ThinkPad W700 discussions

    The following is Lenovo's own forum that covers all W-series ThinkPads, which have many features in common. This forum is particularly useful for getting more action from Lenovo, should you have a warranty-related problem:

    W Series ThinkPads - Lenovo Community

    The following is an informative ThinkPad forum that's independent of Lenovo, and which focuses on the W-series ThinkPads:

    ThinkPad W500/W700 Series - from Support Community

    Here's another set of forms that are independent of Lenovo, covering Lenovo/IBM, news and reviews, and discussions of what notebook to buy:

    "Notebook Forums and Laptop Discussion > Notebook Manufacturers > Lenovo / IBM" - from

    "Notebook Forums and Laptop Discussion > Notebook News, Reviews and Deals > Notebook News and Reviews" - from

    "Notebook Forums and Laptop Discussion > Hardware, Software and Accessories > What Notebook Should I Buy?" - from

    Individual ThinkPad W700 discussions of particular interest

    The following two threads describe how to put a very fast Intel X-25M solid-state-drive (faster than those offered in Lenovo's configurations) into the W700's optical drive bay, to serve as a system boot drive. Then two 320GB 7200rpm Seagate 7200.3 drives are installed into the W700's two hard drive bays, to form an extremely fast RAID-0 disk. This is all done in a W700 having a quad-core processor. The performance benchmarks resulting from this combination will be particularly interesting:

    "Extremely Fast W700 Drive Configuration 'Cookbook'" - from Support Community

    "My W700 has arrived, here's some initial observations" - from Support Community

    Other competing laptops

    The main laptops that compete with the ThinkPad W700, from the standpoint of graphics power, are the following (note that none of these offer a built-in display color calibrator or graphics tablet):

    Dell Precision M6400 - The main pluses for the M6400 are that, in addition to having many of the features the W700 has, it has a maximum memory capacity of 16GB instead of 8GB, and is available with an RGB LED-backlit display. Dell does not yet offer it with a Blu-ray drive of any kind, however.

    "Dell m6400 or HP 8730w? Notebook Forums and Laptop Discussions" - from

    HP Elitebook 8730w - The main plus of this laptop is its DreamColor RGB LED-backlit display. As of this writing, this laptop is apparently not yet available with the DreamColor display and NVidia Quadro FX 3700M graphics processor. Check the above link for this laptop for availability.

    News release: HP Brings DreamColor Accuracy to Mobile Power Users

    HP EliteBook 8730w Mobile Workstation - Technical Specifications

    "HP Launches Elitebook Series of Mobile Workstations - We Get Hands-On with the Vibrant 17” 8730w" - from MAXIMUMPC

    Sager NP5796 - This laptop comes with the optional NVidia GeForce 9800M GTX, which is the gaming equivalent of the W700's NVidia Quadro FX 3700M graphics processor. The 3700M is more tailored to professional applications, such as CAD, Photoshop, etc. Being primarily a gaming machine, the Sager NP5796 has a glossy screen, which is not as well suited to graphics and imaging professionals. Also, the screen is not nearly as bright as the W700's 400NIT display. Sager does offer a built-in Blu-ray reader (no burner), but no quad-core processor. And they offer an ATSC HDTV / ANALOG TV TUNER.

    "Auburncoast's Sager NP5796 Review" - from

    "emike09's NP5796 (M570TU) Review" - from

    In terms of market niche (but not raw graphics power), the W700 also competes with the MacBook Pro as a machine for graphics professionals:

    MacBook Pro - The MacBook Pro employs a slim 1"-thick (or less) laptop housing which limits the speed of both its central-processing-unit and graphics-processing-unit. Thus, MacBook Pros currently don't offer quad-core processors, or a high-speed graphics processor such as the W700's NVidia Quadro FX 3700M option (which is approx. twice as fast the new MacBook Pro's NVidia Geforce 9600M GT graphics processor). Because of their slim and lightweight design, the MacBook Pros also lack the space to hold a second hard drive, and thus can not support internal high-speed RAID-0 drives. They also appear to have a maximum memory capacity of 6GB (the officially-supported capacity is 4GB) -- which is 2GB less than that of the W700. Macs also have much more limited warranty options than the W700.

    So, basically, you can configure a ThinkPad W700 that has twice the central-processor power, twice the graphics speed, RAID storage capability, a memory capacity that's 2GB larger, a significantly brighter screen, a built-in display color calibrator, a built-in graphics tablet, a one- to two-year longer warranty, and a warranty that includes accidental damage protection -- all features that the MacBook Pros lack.

    On the plus side, the MacBook Pros run the Mac OS X operating system, which many people prefer. You can install Microsoft Windows on them as well. And they're certainly easier to carry around.

    Note that Apple recently released new 15.4" MacBook Pros, which omit Intel's Centrino 2 chipset, and in its place use a newly-released NVidia 9400M G (MCP79MX) chipset. They do use Intel's Centrino 2 processors, however -- just not Intel's supporting chipset. The new MacBook Pros also sport a carved-from-aluminum housing. These new laptops are commonly referred to as "late-2008" or "unibody" (due to the aluminum housing) MacBook Pros. All of these new machines have a highly-reflective glass screen, however, which graphics professionals tend not to prefer (the reflections make shadow details much harder to see). Note that Apple did not release a new 17" MacBook Pro -- the new 17" model will reportedly be released within the next few months. Because the new MacBook Pros use so many new elements in their construction, they have been beset with a wide range of introductory gremlins. You can read user-reports of those gremlins here:

    "Mac Forums > Apple Hardware > Notebooks MacBook Pro, PowerBook" - from MacRumors:Forums

    Ironically, Apple just began airing a new round of Mac ads that talk about Windows Vista being unreliable. ;-)

    Laptops Having High-Color-Gamut Displays - The following is a good article comparing, at least on paper, the displays of the ThinkPad W700 - 72% NTSC color gamut, Acer Aspire 8920G - 90% Gamut, HP EliteBook 8730w - approx. 96% Gamut, Dell Precision M6400 - 100% Gamut, and Sony VAIO AW - 137% Gamut:

    "Top 5 Laptops for Displaying the Color Gamut" - at MARKZWARE Preflight and Data Conversion News

    Sony Vaio VGN-AW190 - The configurable version of this laptop is the VGN-AW190, and the pre-configured version is the VGN-AW180Y/Q. In case you're wondering, the chances of anyone being able to run Mac OS X on this laptop may be slim. The AW190 uses the same discrete graphics processor as the new MacBook Pros. But it uses the supporting chips of the Centrino 2 chipset, which Apple bypassed in favor of those of the new NVidia chipset. So you may be missing a number of essential drivers.

    "Sony VAIO AW Series (VGN-AW180Y/Q)" - from LAPTOP: MOBILE SOLUTIONS FOR BUSINESS & LIFE, 10.01.08

    "Sony VAIO VGN-AW190" - from PC Magazine, 10.03.08

    "Sony VAIO VGN AW190" - from Best Laptopz, 10.12.08 (more of a description than a hands-on test)

    Compared to the W700, the AW190:

    - has an 18.4", XBRITE-FullHD™, 137% NTSC color gamut, LED-backlit 1920x1080 display, vs. a 17", 72% NTSC color gamut, 400 nit, dual-CCFL-backlit 1920x1200 display for the W700

    - has an Nvidia GeForce 9600M GT/512MB graphics processor that PC Magazine tested as roughly 60% as fast as the W700's NVidia Quadro FX 3700M/1GB option (the 9600M GT's drivers are more tailored to gaming, and the Quadro FX 3700M's drivers are more tailored to workstation applications, such as AutoCAD, Photoshop, etc., although you may be able to use hacked gaming/workstation drivers to change that)

    - does not have the W700's color-calibrator and graphics tablet option

    - does not have a quad-core CPU option like the W700 does

    - uses 800MHz DDR3 RAM instead of the W700's 1067MHz DDR3 RAM

    - has Intel®'s Wi-Fi Link 5100 AGN card instead of the W700's Intel® Wi-Fi Link 5300 AGN card (for 802.11n draft, the 5300 card supports faster and more reliable connections, and has greater range) -- the card is not user-upgradeable, since the 5300 requires more built-in antennas in the display than the AW190 has

    - in its default configuration, has a 53 Watt-hour battery vs. the W700's 84 Watt-hour battery, although Sony does offer an extended battery at extra cost

    However, the AW190's display has a wider color gamut than the W700's display. And because the AW190 uses slower RAM, it offers a less expensive 8GB memory option than what you can buy for the W700. And it comes with a built-in TV tuner, and better speakers than the W700.

    Customer satisfaction survey: here's the score

    At the end of July of 2008, PC Magazine released the results of The 21st Annual Service & Reliability Survey. Of particular interest is the subsection of that survey entitled The Best (and Worst) Tech Support in America: Notebooks. Click on the link entitled "See the survey results." A chart will then pop up on your screen that will show you which computers are reliable, and which aren't, which companies provide great support, and which companies provide terrible support.

    This is a must-read for anyone who's considering buying a notebook computer.

    You'll be much happier if you find this out BEFORE you buy your notebook, rather than experiencing terrible reliability and support AFTER you buy it. You'll see that Lenovo does very well, and some of the other well-known manufacturers do very poorly. You might be very surprised.

    Memory: How much do you really need?

    One of the nice features of the ThinkPad W700 is that it has a maximum memory capacity of 8GB. Most of the new Centrino 2-based laptops have this capacity. But previous-generation laptops were instead limited to a supported maximum of 4GB of RAM. The Dell Precision M6400 laptop is interesting in that it has a max memory capacity of 16GB.

    But how much memory will you need over the planned life of your laptop? To answer that, you can use Moore's Law, which has been very accurate for decades. The result is essentially that you'll need twice as much memory in two years as you need now. You'll need four times as much memory in four years as you need now (doubles every two years).

    So, figure out how much memory you need now, figure out how long you want to use the laptop, and you'll have your answer. Of course, this can vary from one user to the next, depending on what you do on your computer. Most users require 2GB of memory right now to run applications within Windows Vista. That translates to 4GB in 2 years, and 8GB in 4 years.

    Another way to look at it is, if you double the maximum memory capacity of a computer, then its useful lifespan will be two years longer. That's assuming that memory is the limiting factor in lifespan. For machines running Windows for example, it is, because they become unstable if you don't have enough RAM. On the other hand, if your graphics chip overheats and burns out two months after your warranty expires, then that's the limiting factor in lifespan. (Fortunately, the W700 has an excellent cooling system that should prevent anything like that from happening.)

    Switchable Graphics: The ThinkPad T400, T500 and W500 have it, the W700 does NOT

    UPDATE: I had previously thought that the ThinkPad W700 had switchable graphics, just like the ThinkPad T400, T500 and W500. But the W700 does NOT have switchable graphics. Switchable graphics was mentioned in a footnote in Lenovo's original spec sheets for the W700, but apparently did not apply to that machine. And Lenovo's own sales staff seems confused about the matter, as at least some callers have been told that the W700 does have that feature.

    The key to the issue is the chipset used by the W700. The W700 is based on Intel's PM45 chipset, whereas the T400, T500 and W500 are instead based on Intel's GM45 chipset.

    The PM45 chipset does NOT support integrated graphics, and thus switchable graphics, whereas the GM45 chipset does (see Compare Intel® Products). Thus the W700 does not support switchable graphics.

    I verified this on my own W700. My understanding is that, to use switchable graphics, it has to be enabled in the BIOS (Lenovo presumably enables it by default). And then, within Windows, you must close all running applications, then left-click on the green battery icon in the system tray, and a switchable graphics menu item should then appear. I went through all of the options in my W700's BIOS, and all the options in the Power Manager on my W700. No option or menu for switchable graphics was available.

    "Switchable Graphics" is a new feature in Intel's Centrino 2 chipset that lets you switch between a slow "integrated graphics processor" and a fast "discrete graphics processor." You can do this without rebooting, but you first have to quit any open programs. The reason for switching is that the slow integrated graphics take a lot less battery power than fast discrete graphics. So if you're just surfing the web and want to stretch your battery life, then you switch to the slow graphics. But if you're instead plugged into an AC outlet and are running Photoshop or AutoCAD, then you switch to the fast graphics.

    So you actually have two separate graphics processors inside a laptop that supports switchable graphics. Very few Windows laptops on the market have two graphics processors to be able to do this.

    However, some of the current MacBook Pro laptops have two graphics processors and can do something similar. But they're instead doing so using their new NVidia chipset under Mac OS X, and users have to log off in order to switch. (The plain MacBooks just have the slower processor -- not the faster one.) Technically, what happens within Windows Vista is that there's a single Intel video driver that services both the fast and slow graphics processors. When you tell it to switch, then the driver itself internally switches from one graphics processor to the other. That's why you have to quit any programs that are using the graphics processor -- if a program was in the middle of using one processor, and you suddenly were to pull the rug out from under it and switch to the other processor, chaos would result.

    One interesting feature of Intel's new slow integrated graphics processor for Centrino 2, is that it is specifically designed to play Hi-Def video (i.e., Blu-ray discs).

    To find out more about the relative speeds of the different graphics processors, see the What's the real difference between graphics processors? section of this page.

    Why didn't Lenovo decide to include switchable graphics in the W700? Lenovo may have decided that W700 users would buy the machine as a desktop replacement, that they'd mainly want to use discrete graphics even on battery power, or that the machine's size and weight meant they wouldn't spend much time carrying it around or using it on battery power. Also, the dual fluorescent backlights that give the W700's screen its high brightness draw a large amount of power, thus reducing the impact of any switchable graphics (although you can always turn down the screen's brightness to improve battery life).

    Personally, I haven't been limited by the W700's battery life, because it's too heavy to carry around all day every day. Plus it's too big to fit on smaller restaurant tables. So I carry a netbook when I'm on the run and don't need the W700's big screen or processing power. I've also noticed that while the machine's left-hand fan (CPU fan) very quiety runs when surfing the web, reading email, etc., the right-hand fan (graphics processor fan) at such times does not seem to run or make discernible noise. This may indicate that the W700's NVidia Quadro FX 3700M graphics processor has some kind of low-power mode that mimics the operation of switchable graphics.

    On a sidenote, in order to hear the CPU fan (with the dual-core Intel T9600 CPU) when just surfing the web or reading email on the W700, I have to turn off everything else within my building that makes noise. Otherwise, the sound of nearby desktop computers, ventillation systems, refrigerators, etc., in that situation drowns out the noise of the W700's fan.

    Built like a tank

    Lenovo ThinkPads share a number of features that make them particularly reliable and robust.

    Most of the ThinkPads have a display housing made of Super-Elastic Polycarbonate, with an internal magnesium roll-cage for added strength. This provides stronger wireless signals than laptops having metal display housings. The reason is that most laptops place their WiFi and other antennas inside the display housing for best performance. And display housings that are made of metal absorb part of those signals, so the speed and reliability of wireless connections are reduced. The ThinkPad W700 has a slightly different housing which is instead made of a magnesium-plastic composite, with no roll-cage. This composite material provides added strength, while still letting wireless signals pass.

    The base of the ThinkPads is made of carbon-reinforced plastic, again with a magnesium roll-cage for added strength.

    The ThinkPads also have what are called spill-resistant keyboards. If you spill liquid on the keyboard, it's designed to drain the liquid out through holes in he base of the laptop to help prevent damage. Other computers, like the new Mac laptops, take the opposite approach: they instead contain moisture sensors that void your warranty once they become wet.

    Another advantage of the ThinkPads is their efficient cooling system. The integrated circuits (chips) in a laptop become hot, and that heat needs to be vented to the air outside laptop to prevent damage to the chips. To do this, the ThinkPads use copper heatsinks connected to fans. The copper runs in strips from the top of the chips to the fans, and absorbs the heat which is then blown outside of the laptop by the fans. Other laptop manufacturers instead use aluminum strips which are lighter and cheaper, but only half as effective as copper. If you want to see some great photos of the ThinkPad W700's internal construction, including its copper heatsinks, click here (kudos to tinkererman for posting his excellent photos).

    Lenovo ThinkPads have better warranty options than many other laptops. One of the likely reasons why Lenovo can afford to offer such warranties is that their laptops hold up better than those of other brands.

    W700 Buying tips & options guide:

    Comparison of Centrino 2 processors

    The following article provides a great comparison of the most common Centrino 2 processors. The different processors were individually installed, one at a time, into the same computer for testing:

    Notebookcheck: Comparison of Intel Centrino 2 CPUs

    The article compares the following processors:

    P8400 2.26 GHz 3MB L2 cache 25 Watt TDP $ 209
    P8600 2.40 GHz 3MB L2 cache 25 Watt TDP $ 241
    P9500 2.53 GHz 6MB L2 cache 25 Watt TDP $ 348

    T9400 2.53 GHz 6MB L2 cache 35 Watt TDP $ 316
    T9600 2.80 GHz 6MB L2 cache 35 Watt TDP $ 530
    X9100 3.06 GHz 6MB L2 cache 44 Watt TDP $ 851

    Note that the quad-core QX9300 (2.53GHz 1066MHz 12MBL2) processor is not reviewed in the article, but should have roughly twice the processing power of the P9500/T9400 in situations where at least four threads are running. The QX9300 has a TDP of 45 Watts, and costs $970 in large quantities.

    People often misinterpret TDP (Thermal Design Power), and think that it's the amount of power that a processor continuously draws. That's incorrect.

    The Centrino 2 processors actually only draw that much power when they're working full-bore on computational problems. Otherwise, they spend most of their time at much lower power levels. For example, when you're typing a document, the processor doesn't really have much to do. So most of the time it can be in a much lower-power state.

    TDP simply tells engineers how much heat the laptop's cooling system must be prepared to disappate from the processor in the worst-case, meaning busiest, scenario.

    Then how much difference exists between the P9500 and T9400 processors, which seem to be identical aside from their power consumption? The benchmarks seem to give a slight performance edge to the P9500. In terms of power consumption, the P-series processors improve battery life by about 10-15% over the T-series processors. In the ThinkPad W700, however, the difference in battery life would probably be less than that, due the large amount of power drawn by the laptop's bright 400NIT display. Hence, Lenovo doesn't offer the P-series processors as options for the W700. With the W700, Lenovo offers the T9400, T9600, X9100 and quad-core QX9300 processors. And, based on the "ThinkPad W700 Technical Specifications" document, that's all they intend to offer in the foreseeable future.

    Which operating system should I buy, and what good is 64-bit?

    Microsoft Windows comes in two versions: 32-bit and 64-bit. The 32-bit version can only use up to 3GB of memory, whereas the 64-bit version can use up to 8GB and more. The ThinkPad W700 has a maximum memory capacity of 8GB. So if you want to be able to take advantage of that capacity, then you'll need a 64-bit version of Windows.

    Next you have to choose between Windows XP and Windows Vista. The 64-bit version of Windows XP is not very well-supported, meaning a lot of programs and peripherals won't work with it. Windows XP has been replaced by Windows Vista. So if you want to be able to use the W700's 8GB memory capacity, you'll want to have the 64-bit version of Windows Vista installed on your laptop.

    Lenovo offers two editions of 64-bit Windows Vista for the W700: Windows Vista Business 64, and Windows Vista Ultimate 64. "Ultimate" comes with some graphics and multimedia programs that don't come with the "Business" edition. (You can find other, perhaps better, graphics and multimedia software, in some cases for free.) On the other hand, Microsoft has said that it will provide support for the "Business" edition further into the future than any other edition of Windows Vista.

    So you'll have to choose between Windows Vista Business 64, and Windows Vista Ultimate 64. But whatever you choose, MAKE SURE THE SOFTWARE AND PERIPHERALS YOU NEED TO USE ARE COMPATIBLE WITH THAT OPERATING SYSTEM, BEFORE YOU BUY IT! I can't emphasize this strongly enough. Otherwise, you may not be able to accomplish what you need to do on your new computer.

    By the way, you may have heard that Windows Vista requires faster processors and more memory than Windows XP. But that's always the case as you move to a new version of an operating system. You may have also seen Mac ads claiming that Vista has lots of problems that still need to be fixed. Well, the latest Mac laptops have lots of problems of their own. Microsoft has already released their first "service pack" for Windows Vista, which fixed various bugs. That service pack will come installed on your W700.

    Can I put more than 4GB of memory in the W700 right now and, if so, where can I buy it?

    Lenovo currently only offers the W700 with up to 4GB of memory, but you can add more if you wish. To do so, you have to purchase one or more 4GB memory modules. The 4GB modules just recently hit the market but, unfortunately, they're currently about twice as expensive per gigabyte as the 2GB modules. That, and the fact that production levels are still low, are reasons why Lenovo doesn't list 4GB modules as a configuration option. In accordance with Moore's law, they should drop in price per gigabyte to that of the current 2GB modules in two years.

    But you can order them right now from

    Computer memory upgrades for Lenovo ThinkPad W700 Series Laptop/Notebook from

    What if I order the W700 with one 2GB module, and then add a 4GB module myself?

    One concern that people have about doing this has to do with what's called "dual-channel" memory. The W700 has two slots for memory, and dual-channel memory lets the system access modules in both slots simultaneously. This speeds overall system performance by about 10%.

    The concern is that having two modules, each of a different size, will prevent dual-channel memory access. Well, years ago, this was a problem. But not anymore. The Intel Centrino 2 chipset uses something called "Flex Memory" mode to simultaneously access modules of two different sizes:

    Hee's a quote from p.60 of the Mobile Intel® 4 Series Express Chipset Family Datasheet, August 2008: Intel Flex Memory Technology (Dual-Channel Interleaved Mode with Unequal Memory Population)

    The GMCH supports Interleaved addressing in dual-channel memory configurations even when the two channels have unequal amounts of memory populated. This is called Intel Flex Memory Technology.

    Intel Flex Memory Technology provides higher performance with different sized channel populations than Asymmetric mode (where no interleaving is used) by allowing some interleaving.

    The memory addresses up to the twice the size of the smaller SO-DIMM are Interleaved on a 64-B boundary using address Bit 6 (including any XOR-ing already used in Interleaved mode). Above this, the rest of the address space is assigned to the remaining memory in the larger channel. [The document then shows a diagram of how this works with different memory configurations.]

    So you obtain dual-channel memory access for the first 4GB of RAM, then single-channel access for the last 2GB. So you preserve the benefit of dual-channel access for 2/3 of the memory.

    The other concern about mixing modules of different sizes has to do with the "timing" of the individual memory modules. The basic idea is that, if one module has slower timing than the other, then the system defaults to the timing of the slower module when accessing both modules. So, the best way to deal with that is try to purchase high-quality memory with low-latency timing.

    Display decision: no contest

    If you're going to buy a W700, then buy it with the 400NIT display option. That particular screen is unusually bright -- it's one-third brighter than what you need to view a display in direct sunlight. The other option, which is a 200NIT display, is only half as bright.

    The only downside of the 400NIT display is that it contains two flourescent (i.e., cold-cathode fluorescent light, or CCFL) backlights in the display. On the one hand, that's why the display is so bright. But those two backlights use a lot of battery power, particularly when your display is cranked up to full brightness. I don't yet know the exact power requirements of this display, but it should be on the order of 10-15 watts at full brightness.

    LED-backlit displays, on the other hand, only require about 2 watts. And they don't age (become dimmer) as quickly as fluorescent-backlit displays do. The last thing you want to do is leave your LCD display turned on overnight, every night, which will quckly age the backlight. And screensavers are worse than useless for LCD displays, since they leave the display's backlight on.

    If you'd like to see what the W700's 400 nit display looks like in direct sunlight, click here. You'll see the worst-case scenario: the Sun is nearly perpendicular to the surface of the screen on a bright clear day just before 4 p.m. The laptop's "power plan" was set to "High performance" so that the screen would stay at maximum brightness (you set this by clicking on a battery/AC-power-plug icon in the system tray at the lower-right corner of the screen, and you set the brightness directly via the "Windows Mobility Center" which is accessible when you click on that same icon). The photo was taken by a digital camera, and no processing was performed on the image other than to resize it (i.e., reduce both the width & height by a factor of two) for use on the Web, and then to put it in jpg form.

    If you zoom into the image at 200%, you can read the text on the display. In the screen, you can see a fuzzy reflection of the brightly-backlit person who was taking the photo. When indoors, with the display brightness turned up all the way, you can feel a very slight warmth if you place your hand on the backside of the display housing. But when the display is in direct sunlight, it can become fairly hot because the display is absorbing sunlight. So it's probably a bad idea to have the sun shine perpendicular to the surface of any laptop LCD display for any significant period of time, especially on a hot day. All of that heat is probably not the best thing for the LCD's lifespan. The display should absorb much less heat when the sun is instead at more of a glancing angle.

    Here's a great tutorial on the ins and outs of LCD (liquid crystal display) technology:

    "Understanding LCD Monitors: Brightness and Contrast"

    Take a tablet, and correct your color

    If you do any graphics or image processing, you definitely want to order your ThinkPad W700 with the combination display-color-calibrator/graphics-tablet option. It's inexpensive, and is one of the main reasons to buy a W700 versus other laptops.

    If you do end up ordering the color-calibrator/tablet option, be sure to visit the Alternate Wacom-ready pens you can buy to improve the range of control options for the W700's tablet section of this page.

    Buying hard drives from Lenovo and elsewhere
    Coming soon...

    Buy now or later?
    Coming soon...

    RAIDs: the good, the bad, and the ugly
    Coming soon...

    Are Solid State Drives ready for primetime?
    Coming soon...

    To Blu-ray or not to Blu-ray?

    If, over the lifespan of your laptop, you plan to play, load data from, or burn Blu-ray discs, then you'll probably want to order the W700 with the Blu-ray burner option. You can later buy the Blu-ray burner separately, but it may cost you about twice as much as buying it with the laptop:

    ThinkPad Blu-ray Burner Ultrabay Enhanced Drive (Serial ATA) - Model 43R9150

    You could instead buy an external Blu-ray burner, but that would be much less convenient to use with the laptop.

    DVDs hold approximately 4.7GB of data (for single-layer discs) or 9GB (for double-layer discs), whereas Blu-ray discs can hold about 25GB (single-layer) or 50GB (double-layer). Blu-ray BD-R discs are not rewritable, whereas Blu-ray BD-RE discs are. Note that an error in writing a BD-R disc thus means that you've just paid for a coaster, whereas a BD-RE disc gives you another chance. What follows are discs that support up to 2x write speed, although I haven't yet found anything on Lenovo's site specifying the write speed of the W700's Blu-ray drive. The cost of Blu-ray media will drop rapidly over the next several years.


    Verbatim 25GB 2X BD-R(Blu-ray) Single Jewel Case Branded Disc - Retail

    Verbatim 25GB 2X BD-RE(Blu-ray) Single Jewel Case Branded Disc - OEM

    SONY 50GB 2X BD-R(Blu-ray) DL Single Jewel Case Disc - Retail

    Based on the lowest prices above as of this writing, for 25GB discs in single quantities, BD-R media is about 32 cents/GB, and BD-RE media is about 64 cents/GB. For 50GB discs in single quantities, prices for BD-R and BD-RE media are similar at about 75 cents/GB. I've focused mainly on Verbatim discs here, because user reports so far indicate that LG Blu-ray burners seem to work best with Verbatim media (and I believe that some of the W700's Blu-ray burners are from LG).

    STAY TUNED FOR FURTHER INFO: I've seen a user report that some versions of the UDF disc format, used for burning Blu-ray discs, can only be read by computers running Windows Vista. If that's the case, then you definitely want to know about that before burning discs. I plan to do further research on this, so stop by the ThinkPad W700 Resources page later for more info.

    If you do end up buying your ThinkPad W700 with a Blu-ray drive, then you'll want something that shows off your W700's dazzlingly bright and accurate display:

    Or, if you've already broken the bank with your W700 purchase, and need to save some dough:

    (When you click on any of the above Blu-ray discs, you'll go directly to's page for that disc.)

    What's the real difference between graphics processors?

    The following page at shows a great chart of notebook graphics processor performance, listed in order of decreasing 3DMark06 scores:

    Mobile Graphics Cards - Benchmark List

    The FutureMark 3DMark06 test is a synthetic benchmark that measures the DirectX9 performance of 3D hardware (although CPU performance can be a significant contributor to 3DMark06 as well). In other words, the fastest graphics processors are near the top.

    The very fastest graphics processors in the list are all "dual-graphics-processors." In other words, they consist of two separate graphics processors working in tandem.

    The next fastest graphics processor in the list is the NVidia Quadro FX 3700M, which is the high-end option for the ThinkPad W700, with 1GB of video RAM.

    At about half of that performance is the NVidia GeForce 9600M GT, which is the fast discrete graphics processor used by the new MacBook Pro laptops from Apple, with 512MB of video RAM.

    Also at that half-way mark is the NVidia Quadro FX 2700M, which is the mid-range graphics option for the W700, with 512MB of video RAM. At least, that's what claims in their review of the W700, "Lenovo Thinkpad W700 Mobile Workstation" - from

    "The QuadroFX 3700M is the high-end option, adding an additional $340 to the base cost. If you want to drop a little bit of the GPU power, you can go for the QuadroFX 2700M GPU, which effectively halves your GPU computing power and cuts your memory size down to 512 MB..."

    As we travel further down the list, to about 20% of the performance of the W700's 3700M processor, we find the NVidia GeForce 9400M (G). That's the slow integrated graphics processor of the new MacBook Pro's, as well as the only graphics processor in the new MacBook.

    Then, as me move toward the bottom of the list, to about 10% of the performance of the W700's 3700M processor, we see the Intel Graphics Media Accelerator (GMA) 4500MHD. This is the slow integrated graphics processor of the W700.

    So there you have it. I don't list memory for the integrated graphics processors, because they don't have their own video memory but instead share the system's memory with the rest of the computer. (That's part of the reason why they're slower.)

    Note that the competing Dell Precision M6400, and the HP Elitebook 8730w, will be available with the same NVidia Quadro FX 3700M graphics option and 1GB of RAM as the W700. Also, the Sager NP5796 is available with the NVidia GeForce 9800M GTX and 1GB of RAM. This processor is the twin brother of the W700's 3700M processor, and you'll find it just below the 3700M in the performance list.

    You see, NVidia sells both a workstation line of graphics processors, and a gaming line. The processors themselves are very similar. But one line has drivers tailored to programs like Photoshop and AutoCAD, whereas the other has drivers tailored to games. I've read that you can run hacked gaming drivers on the workstation processors, and vice versa, if you want.

    Also note that neither the Dell Precision M6400, the HP Elitebook 8730w, nor the Sager NP5796 have switchable graphics. They only have a discrete graphics processor, and no slower integrated graphics chip. So they're not able to switch to a low-powered integrated graphic chip to increase battery life.

  • The hidden tiger in your laptop
    Coming soon...

    Is Turbo Memory worthwhile?
    - WARNING: what you need to know if you buy Turbo Memory
    Coming soon...

    WiMAX: What is it, and can I add this to my W700 myself? Yes, you can!

    WiMAX is essentially a DSL-speed service that blankets entire cities, wirelessly. It has already been rolled out in Baltimore, MD, and is in the process of being rolled out in other cities across the nation.

    Yes, Lenovo documents explicitly say that users can install a WiMAX card themselves! (assuming the documents are correct)

    Lenovo sales told me you can't add a WiMAX card yourself, but a little booklet that comes with your W700 says differently. Page 3 of the booklet, entitled "ThinkPad Regulatory Notice," Part Number 44C4114, says:
    "iii) Installation of approved wireless module: If no integrated wireless LAN/WiMAX Mini PCI Express Card has been preinstalled in your ThinkPad computer, you can install one, provided by Lenovo as an option. Put the wireless card option into the Mini PCI Express Card slot. For the installation procedure, see the "Installing and replacing the PCI Express Mini Card for wireless LAN/WiMAX connection" section in Access Help."

    But then it says:
    "Attention: The ThinkPad computers contain authentication mechanism. If you install an unauthorized wireless LAN Mini PCI Express Card that is not approved for use in your computer, the computer will not start, but only displays an error message and emits audible beeps."

    By authorized they mean an Intel 5350 WiMAX/WiFi card that Lenovo sold you (to replace the 5300 WiFi-only card that came with your W700). In other words, you can buy the Intel 5350 card online for probably $65, but putting it in your W700 will prevent the computer from booting. If you instead buy the same card from Lenovo for $200+, then your computer will boot. So be forewarned. Also note that only one WiFi or WiMAX antenna module is listed in the Hardware Maintenance Manual. That would imply that the same antenna that comes preinstalled in your display with the Intel 5300 card, is also the antenna that Lenovo uses for WiMAX. Lenovo eventually plans to offer the 5350 card with the W700 (or so they've told me), although they're only offering it with their lower-end laptops right now. You can later add a little WiMAX dongle if you want, but the built-in antenna in your display will work much better than any tiny antenna on a dongle or external card.

    BTW, the booklet also mentions that you can't simultaneously be connected to networks via WiMAX and WiFi. That makes sense, because WiMAX and WiFi both use the same antenna in the display housing. But it also means that you can't use your laptop to relay data from a WiMAX connection to other nearby computers via WiFi. Such a function would be useful to have in a home wireless router, if you want to distribute your WiMAX connection to older, WiFi-enabled computers on your LAN.

    More coming soon...

    What about Ultra Wideband?
    Coming soon...

    How to save big bucks on Office

    Before you order your next laptop, go to and download Open Office 3 and see if it meets your needs. Open Office is a free, open-source program that's compatible with Microsoft Office and which contains replacements for many of the programs that form Microsoft Office.

    Warranty ins and outs
    Coming soon...

    The W700 Mini-Dock

    One shortcoming of the ThinkPad W700 is that it has no eSATA port, which would provide a very high-speed interface to external hard drives. However, you can buy a ThinkPad W700 Mini Dock which adds an eSATA port and an S/PDIF digital audio output, and replicates many of the other ports on the W700.

    The ThinkPad W700 Mini Dock includes:

    - analog VGA port, duallink DVI-I port, and DisplayPort
    - stereo headphone out and microphone in analog ports and S/PDIF digital output port
    - eSATA port - for connection of high-bandwidth eSATA storage devices
    - Four USB 2.0 ports
    - Gigabit Ethernet
    - Includes cable lock slot to secure dock to workspace and convenient key lock to protect notebook while it is in the dock
    - Ships with 170-watt AC adapter

    Here's Lenovo's page for the Dock in their store:

    ThinkPad W700 Mini Dock

    And here's a Google Product Search for the W700 Mini Dock. I would go for a vendor having a 4+ star rating with lots of seller ratings:

    ThinkPad W700 Mini Dock - Google Product Search

    One drawback of using a dock is that it covers part of the bottom of the laptop, and thus the laptop runs slightly hotter. But the dock helps to reduce wear and tear on some of the connectors on your W700, such as USB ports (I've worn them out before on other non-ThinkPad laptops). Another way to reduce wear on those connectors is to use a WiFi connection to a wireless router or access point attached to your network.

    Using coupons for dramatic savings, besides being a nice site, has a good "Coupon Pages" section on its site. Just go to the front page of the site (you can use the above link), scan down the left column, and you'll see "Coupon Pages" near the bottom of that column. There you'll find links for coupons for Dell, HP, and ThinkPads. has a very useful ThinkPad W500/W700 forum, and has an eCoupons link at the top of its forum pages, where you can find discounts for ThinkPads as well as other computers.

    I've noticed before that ThinkPad coupons sometimes apply to the W700, even though the coupons don't themselves mention the W700. It doesn't hurt to try them. Just put a W700 configuration in your shopping cart, then try coupon codes in the appropriate box in the cart.

    Do you qualify for an institutional discount?
    Coming soon...

    21 Days: the secret price guarantee that can save you money

    From the day you order your ThinkPad, through the 21st day after it ships, check Lenovo's price for your configuration each day. If the price drops, then you get a credit for the difference, so that you get the lower price. But YOU have to check -- they won't do it for you! As soon as you find a lower price, call Lenovo.

    And be sure to check for any coupons that can help you reduce the price.

    Buying a W700 on a shoestring

    Let's say your budget is tight, and you really want a W700 but feel that you can't afford such a magnificent machine. But, wait a second, maybe you can! Here's a way that you might just be able to do it.

    Choose the lowest-end processor, then for about $50 select the Turbo Memory option. This is a very inexpensive way to obtain about the same level of performance as the next-faster processor. This will also compensate, to some extent, for buying a lower amount amount of RAM.

    Be sure to buy the laptop with the 400NIT display, because without it you might as well buy some other computer. And if you're involved in graphics, include the color calibrator and graphics tablet option, which are fairly inexpensive. These are some of the main reasons to buy this particular laptop.

    You can always later buy more memory and hard drives, so just choose 2GB of RAM consisting of 2x1GB SODIMMs. And buy the 160GB 7200rpm hard drive, which is fairly fast but inexpensive. You can always add external USB drives as time goes by to expand disk space, an internal drive in the second hard drive bay, or use networked storage. Adding memory and hard drives will become cheaper as time goes on, because their prices are constantly falling. And you can always sell your old memory on eBay, for instance, to recoup some of your costs.

    The big decision points are whether to go for the high-end vs. mid-range graphics processor, and whether to buy a Blu-ray vs. a DVD burner. Think of how you'll be using the computer 2-3 years from now, and whether you'll be sorry at that point about the decisions you intend to make now. In other words, make choices you can live with in the long run. You can always add an external Blu-ray drive in the future, although that's a less convenient arrangement. It will be much more difficult, however, to change the graphics chip or later add the internal Blu-ray drive (Lenovo tends to charge a huge amount of money for such add-ons after you've already received your computer).

    Buy the longest depot warranty you can afford, without the ThinkPad Protection (accidental damage protection). To compensate for the lack of accidental damage protection, you might instead purchase a low-cost insurance policy from, which will cover you for up to 3 years from the date of purchase OF YOUR LAPTOP. Note that you don't have to insure the laptop for its full value. It may be useful, for instance, to insure your laptop only for up to $1000 or so, which should cover replacement of the motherboard if it cracks due to a fall, or if it's damaged by a liquid spill. The safeware policy has the advantage that it also provides theft coverage. And you can buy the safeware policy at any time before the end of the third year after your laptop purchase (but it won't cover you beyond that time).

    If you're in a temporary bind for cash, just buy the laptop with the 1 year depot warranty. Then, before that year is over (be sure to mark it on your calendar!), you can still purchase an extension of that warranty. If you're a student, for example, you might ask your parents to provide the cash for that as a birthday or end-of-year holiday present. The same goes for buying more memory and hard drives.

    To save the most amount of money, track the price of your configuration each day before buying the laptop. Also check the coupons listed at each day. Even if a coupon says it's for some other Lenovo computer, try it out anyway on the W700. You might just be pleasantly surprised, as I was one day. I'm not going to tell you to use CPP prices, as other sites describe. But certainly take advantage of any educational discounts for which you qualify.

    Once you've made your purchase, be sure to check the price of that same configuration each and every day through the 21st day after your shipping date. If the price drops below what you paid at any time during that period, immediately call Lenovo to have the drop credited to your account. Good luck!

    If my W700's serial number is i.e. LV00010, does that mean I have the 10th W700 to roll off the assembly line? No, but here's what it means. (As best as I can deduce.)

    First find the "type" code for your laptop. For example, if your computer is identified partly by "2758-28U" then "2758" is your "type" code.

    Then find your laptop's serial number, which is in the form (i.e., "LV00010"):
    LV {ch5} {ch4} {ch3} {ch2} {ch1}

    where {ch5}, {ch4}, {ch3}, {ch2}, and {ch1} are individual characters. Note that the following characters are not used in the serial number, because they're easily confused with other characters:

    I (this is an "eye" and not a "one")
    O (this is an "oh" and not a "zero")
    S (this is an "es" and not a "five")
    U (this is a "you" and not a "vee")

    Now, convert each of the above character ( {ch5}, {ch4}, {ch3}, {ch2}, and {ch1} ) values of the above serial number to a number ( {n5}, {n4}, {n3}, {n2}, and {n1} ). Use the following list to perform the conversion:


    So you now have: {n5}, {n4}, {n3}, {n2}, and {n1}

    Now calculate your "machine number" as follows:

    "machine number" = {n1} + ({n2} x 29) + ({n3} x 841) + ({n4} x 24389) + ({n5} x 707281)

    So, if your "machine number" equals 1007, then your laptop was the 1007th W700 of your particular "type" to roll off of the assembly line.

    Here's a web page at which you can type in your laptop's "type" and serial number, to see which parts were shipped with your computer, and to see which of those parts are serviceable:

    Lenovo Support & Downloads - Parts lookup

    If your computer goes in for repair, and they have to replace the motherboard, then I believe they remove your old serial number from the database, and give you a new one.

    Books that'll help you make better use of Vista and your W700

    For advanced users who are familiar with other vesions of Windows, I recommend buying the above two books together as a very fast way to find your way around Vista. Windows Vista: The Missing Manual, quickly brings you up to speed by walking you through Vista's user interface. If something is new to you, then you can read about it in more detail -- if it's something you already know, then you just skip to the next thing. That way, you can swiftly skim through the book and just fill in any cracks in your knowledge of the new OS.

    Windows Vista: Administrator's Pocket Consultant, on the other hand is a comprehensive hardcore reference guide. This is the book you'll pull off the shelf, for example, when you need to solve an arcane problem you're having in managing file security and resource sharing. And William B. Stanek is renowned for his informative and thorough administrative guides.

    I own nearly all of Alan Simpson's Windows Bible books. What I like about them is that they can take a user at ANY level of expertise, and walk them through just about any task that most people would ever want to perform in Windows. When people ask me "how do I do ...?" I just hand them the Windows Bible and say "look at section such-and-such of chapter 14." When you just need to get something done and don't want to screw around, this is the book you want in your hands.

    The above book helps you to exorcise the evil gremlins that Microsoft just can't seem to resist putting into their operating system. Linda Blair ain't got nothin' on Microsoft. This book should be particularly helpful to users migrating from the Mac.

    Before doing anything else, back up your system

    As early as possible, you need to back up the partitions on your hard drive. Acronis True Image is the best program for doing this, in the opinion of many people. I prefer to run the backups via a boot CD, particularly for the first backup. When running Acronis from the boot CD that comes with the product, you may have trouble getting it to properly recognize a pair of drives configured as a RAID. See:

    That thread mentions a work-around (you need to create a boot CD containing the RAID controller drivers).

    Note that a newer version of this program, Acronis True Image 2009 is being released. But I would be very hesitant to use a brand new major release of such a program. It's probably best to stick with the older version for the time being.

    Before going online, install anti-virus/internet security software

    It's not safe to go online without first installing firewall and antivirus software. The advantage of Kaspersky Internet Security 2009 is that it's very effective, plus it uses a relatively small amount of memory.

    Prevent Disaster: cost-effective surge protectors

    I highly recommend the above two surge protectors. You can't afford to have a power surge wipe out your investment in your ThinkPad W700.

    The first (larger) unit is very nice in that it has widely-spaced outlets. Thus, plugs that contain power transformers don't cover up adjacent outlets. I recommended this to my parents, and it has worked out very well.

    The second is a small surge protector that's great for carrying around with your laptop. It protects your W700 wherever you go. I have one, and it's very convenient.

    Bulletproofing your W700
    Coming soon...

    Installing an internal hard drive in the W700 with drive rails/caddy
    Click here for what you need to know!

    What's the best carrying case for this monster?
    Coming soon...

    Will it fit on a plane?
    Coming soon...

    Alternate Wacom-ready pens you can buy to improve the range of control options for the W700's tablet

    The article "Lenovo W700 Review" - from states:

    "The W700's included pen, which stows away into a silo in the right-hand side of the notebook isn't particularly enjoyable in use. It's small, and the buttons feel cheap, but compatibility with most Wacom-ready pens means the range of control options for the W700's tablet are nearly unlimited. In fact, if you don't own another compatible pen, go ahead and order one with your ThinkPad purchase: the included stylus really is an option of last resort even more so than the small tablet itself. Plus, a degree in mechanical engineering and very strong fingers are required to retract the pen from its silo -- it takes a stout push on the spring-loaded release, which, interestingly, doesn't seem to get easier with either time or practice."

    I would be extremely interested in hearing of anyone's experience of using other pens with the W700's tablet. Specifically, (1) what pen model(s) did you try, (2) how well did they work with the W700's tablet, and (3) do you prefer them to the pen that came with the W700, and why?

    Please click here on the Comment Page link to submit those experiences. Many thanks in advance!

    I will post that information here in this section (and in my RSS feed), along with links to preferred pens.

    Improving upon the W700's speakers

    The article "Lenovo W700 Review" - from states:

    "The W700 also suffers from a pair of tiny, top-mounted speakers that could be described as minimally effective at best. Even with a good EQ for tweaking, the W700's audio playback lacks everything but midrange; the resulting sound quality is somewhere between what you'll get out of a pair of overdriven headphones from ten feet away and a weak AM radio broadcast. To their credit, the ThinkPad's speakers were surprisingly clean all the way up to their top power setting, and put out plenty of volume besides. There's just no life -- no bass response or treble sparkle -- to the sound at all."

    Here are some appealing options:

    • the USB port provides power and digital quality audio--no other cables are necessary
    • you can change the volume with the buttons on the speaker
    • there is no software to install - just plug them in to a USB port and you are up and running (no separate power supply or batteries needed - they only need USB power)
    • they're compact and come with a great hardshell carrying case that's a little smaller than a typical text book
    • have a lightweight, portable design that folds away easily in the protective travel case
    • have braces in the back to tip them to the desired angle
    • 6.44" tall x 6.25" wide x 1.5" deep (combined)
    • 1 lb. 3.6 oz. (combined)
    • 2 Watts (1W + 1W), so they don't use up much battery power

    • stereo mini jack connection
    • Touch Volume Control--Just a touch increases or decrease the volume. A touch on both pads mutes or un-mutes the system. JBL On Tour also remembers your last volume setting even after the system shuts down.
    • automatic battery saving shutoff. The AEMS will automatically put the system into sleep mode when the cover is closed or when there is no audio input. The JBL On Tour awakens with just a touch and resumes at the same volume level when the cover is opened or the input resumes.
    • designed to use most types of AAA batteries. Four fresh AAA batteries provide over 24 hours of continuous play at normal to high listening levels. An amber LED flashes when the battery protection circuit senses the batteries are low. JBL encourages the use of rechargeable types of batteries (i.e. NiMH and Lithium).
    • sliding cover protects your sound system and serves as a stand when open it
    • runs on 4 AAA batteries or with an AC adapter, voltage input is 100-230 VAC, 50-60 Hz, for use around the world.
    • 3.5 x 7 x 1.4 inches ; 1 pound

    Amazon reviewer comments on these portable speakers:
    -I am an ex-musician and an electronics engineer. I have heard a lot of speakers that sound better than these - that go on a bookshelf. These little fellows deliver undistorted, well-imaged sound out of a package that folds small enough to (almost) fit in a pocket... To give a concrete example: at the volume level these speakers were designed to handle (they are not very loud) they sound better than any boombox or portable I've heard. And these poratables were 10-20 times the size of these speakers.

    • the speakers feature an impressive 10W output per channel
    • 3 Flexible Power Options: Plug it into the wall (for louder volume), use batteries (it can optionally run on 4 AAA batteries), or runs off your USB power
    • system can connect to a PC via a single USB cable with no separate audio cable required
    • or you can use the speakers completely independently of the computer if you want to plug in a media player
    • there is a volume control, an on/off button, and a jack for aux input on the unit.
    • The unit itself has a cover over the power bay that opens up and doubles as a stand. It even comes with a tiny rubber foot to keep the unit from slipping when set up (and they give you a couple extras too).
    • 1.3 x 9.8 x 3.9 inches ; 2 pounds
    • You get an A/C adapter, a battery cradle (plugs in nicely to the power bay when you want to use battery power and is easily removable when you do not), a usb cable, a cloth bag, a patch cable for your mp3 player, and the unit itself. Everything is compact, quality is good, and setup takes only a couple of minutes.

    Amazon reviewer comments on these portable speakers:
    -I heard about this unit from a Home Theater newsletter of all places. The reviewer just had to share this item with those of us concerned about the quality of sound.
    -When I travel with my laptop I use it to watch DVDs and listen to my music collection and it sounds great - way better than any other portable speakers I've tried.
    -I'm amazed at the audio frequency range of these speakers considering the size.
    -The computer sound is great with just the USB if you don't have to crank it for a big room.

    Surfing, printing, and backing up, all wirelessly

    Here's a way to eliminate most of the cables or dock that you'd otherwise have to connect to your ThinkPad W700. The D-Link DGL-4500 is a very good dual-band Draft-N wireless router. Dual-band is important, because the old 2.4 GHz WiFi band is fairly congested and prone to interference. So this wireless router can use the newer 5 GHz band which has much less interference, and many more available channels. Draft-N is important because it provides connection speeds that are several times faster than that of the older 802.11a/b/g standards. Note that the DGL-4500 can only use one WiFi band or the other. It can't use both at the same time because it has only one radio. Two-radio units are generally more expensive.

    The DGL-4500 is fairly unique in that it has a USB port via which you can wirelessly access USB printers and hard drives. The problem, however, is that D-Link has not yet written 64-bit drivers for this feature, which they call Shareport. So it won't work with Vista 64. But it should still be possible to wirelessly access hard drives and printers connected to a computer on a wired network attached to the DGL-4500.

    One other option is to use the second device listed within the above box, the Belkin F5L009 5-Port Network USB Hub. Note that the Belkin device is NOT a wireless device. It's simply a USB hub that you can connect to any wireless router via an ethernet connection. The Belkin USB Hub is then able to share its USB devices (i.e., printers and hard drives) over the ethernet with wireless clients of the router. This would be particularly convenient for wireless backups and printing.

    Note that, with either of these products, a USB device can be connected to only one client at a time. Many people haven't understood this before buying the products, which has led to confusion. One other thing to note is that D-Link released a firmware update for the DGL-4500 in early October that fixed some serious bugs in the unit. So, whenever you look at reviews of the DGL-4500, you have to acertain whether the reviews were written before, or after, the firmware update.

    I will be exploring different ways to set up wireless printing and backups, and will report back on this page with the results. One possibility may be to use Acronis True Image 11 Home to run the backups in the background.

    WARNING: what you don't know about WiFi hotspots can hurt you

    Many people assume that their computer activity, email passwords, etc., are secure at public or home Wi-Fi networks. That assumption is often wrong -- a nearby eavesdropper using a laptop and off-the-shelf software can break into your connection within a matter of minutes. Do you think that the secure logon page of your email service will save you? In many cases, no. Many email services have a secure logon page, but send your emails to and from you without encryption, making them fodder for nearby snoops. Plus, many "secure" web sites send you "tokens" within a cookie, without encryption, which allow interlopers to literally take over your accounts. That's commonly called sidejacking.

    In fact, in 2005, a security professional decided to use her laptop and off-the-shelf software to see how many passwords she could capture at hotels, airports, and other public networks. See:

    "A constant state of insecurity: Passwords are in the air, and it isn’t even spring" - from InfoWorld

    She collected, for example, an average of 118 passwords per night in overnight hotel stays (she collected them on hotel networks that were both wireless AND WIRED!). She was surprised that many supposedly secure web sites didn't implement their security protocols correctly, leaving their visitors open to hackers. She also found passwords to people's TiVos, online poker games, and online chatting communities. What disturbed her was that often these personal passwords were identical to the user's corporate passwords.

    WEP is the weakest protocol for wireless security, but is the highest level of security you're likely to find at public hotspots. WEP was cracked long ago, and hackers can download off-the-shelf software that will crack it within minutes. So your best bet at public Wi-Fi hotspots is to log into what's called a Virtual Private Network (VPN). A VPN encrypts your connection to hide your data. You can use a VPN that you subscribe to, or is from your school, business, built into your router at home, etc. Or you can install the following program on your laptop, and use it to log into Hotspot Shield, which is considered the best free (ad-supported) VPN:

    Hotspot Shield by AnchorFree

    Now let's talk about your wireless network at home. I've seen the tech service from major electronics stores install wireless home routers for people using default or blank passwords, so don't rely upon those guys for your security. I set up a wireless network for my parents recently, and all but two of the 6 or 7 neighboring networks visible from within their house had no passwords at all. So all of the email passwords and traffic on those unprotected networks was sniffable and could be watched. Plus anyone could log onto those neighbors' wireless networks and carry out illicit activity over the web, leaving the neighbors holding the bag when the activity was traced to them. Or someone could just log onto those networks and slow them to a crawl by downloading songs or movies.

    So make sure that your wireless home or office network uses at least WPA security, and preferably WPA2, and that you're not using any blank or default passwords.

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