Bigger, Faster, Stronger
The large size of the ThinkPad W701ds also makes the top-of-the-line Lenovo system a bit of an oddity in the otherwise size-conscious ThinkPad family. The outside dimensions of 16.25 by 12.25 by 2.25 inches provide a lot of space and result in a bit of slosh in terms of overall fit and finish. For example, the full-sized numeric keypad has a spacer to fill in a gap between the keypad and speaker bar. Even with acres of space, the touchpad is oddly small and the auxiliary mouse buttons are awkward to use, with a trough in between them that is easily mistaken for part of the touchpad. The keyboard-usually the no-questions-asked quality center of a ThinkPad system-has a bouncy feel that led to typing errors during normal use. Fortunately, the extra space has been used to good advantage when it comes to dissipating heat from the Intel Core i7 processors and the beefy Nvidia Quadro FX 3800M graphics processor. The ThinkPad W701ds keeps heat away from the wrist rest, and the large fans and inherently more energy-efficient Intel processors kept running noise whisper-quiet during my tests.The ThinkPad W701ds was preceded by the W700ds and differs most notably from that system by offering more powerful processors, an increase from two to four memory slot, and the incorporation of a top-end Nvidia graphics chipset. The ThinkPad W510, which was released at the same time, is Lenovo's single-screen, touch-enabled, 15.5-inch mobile workstation. With a product family ranging from the thickest and heaviest ThinkPad W701ds to the established (and much thinner and lighter) T and X series ThinkPads, Lenovo can easily accommodate IT administrators with a range of user needs.The Dell Precision M6500 is the chief rival of the ThinkPad W701ds. IT managers would do well to look for specific ISV certifications for third-party application support on both platforms to help make a buying decision, since the products are so closely matched in components. Of course, the ThinkPad W701ds has an optional second, built-in screen, which is not offered on the Dell system. Both PCs offer a variety of specialized color calibration systems to tune the screen output for more accurate display of creative and scientific work. The ThinkPad W701ds offers a built-in Wacom digitizer and stylus for performing detailed pen-oriented work on the workstation. The ThinkPad W701ds scored a respectable PCMark score of 7832 using the Futuremark PCMark Vantage x64 benchmark. I ran the PCMark Suite including the Memories, Communication, Productivity and HDD (disk drive) suites at a screen resolution of 1024 by 768 with no anti-aliasing. I tested the ThinkPad W701ds as shipped from Lenovo. The system was running Windows 7 Professional and was running on wall power during the test. During test runs, which generally lasted 26 minutes, the system was consistently quiet, with very little fan noise.