Lenovo ThinkPad W530

28 Nov, 2012 By: Art Liddle

First Look Review: Lightweight mobile workstation offers heavyweight power at a midrange price.

Highly RecommendedIt has been more than two years since Cadalyst reviewed a mobile computer from Lenovo. In our Summer 2010 issue, we evaluated the ThinkPad W510. It was well received, and earned a Highly Recommended rating. This past summer, in "Budget Workstations: Professional-Grade CAD Power for $2,000 or Less," I looked at a desktop model, the Lenovo ThinkStation S30. We liked what we saw, and it too earned our Highly Recommended rating. So, when the opportunity presented itself, we jumped at the chance to review Lenovo's current top-of-the-line mobile workstation, the ThinkPad W530.

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Our ThinkPad W530 was configured with an Intel Extreme Edition Core i7-3920XM processor (four cores, eight threads) operating at a base frequency of 2.9 GHz; its Turbo mode, for running single-core operations, jumps to an impressive 3.8 GHz. The system had 16 GB of 1,600-MHz DDR3 system memory installed, filling all four DIMM sockets. It can support a maximum of 32 GB of memory.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad W530 sports a spill-proof, island-style keyboard and a uniquely textured touch pad.
Lenovo’s ThinkPad W530 sports a spill-proof, island-style keyboard and a uniquely textured touch pad.

The ThinkPad W530 measures 9.63" x 14.63" x 1.63". It weighs 6.19 lbs — considerably less than other mobile computers. Its 15.6" LED-backlit, thin-film transistor (TFT) panel supports full HD at 1,920 x 1,080 resolution with 32-bit color and offers a pleasant display, wide viewing angle, and 95% color gamut. The display panel includes a pair of hefty hinges at the rear and a lock at the front, which attach it securely to the base. Our system had the optional integrated Pantone (X-Rite) color calibrator, which reads the panel display and adjusts to maintain true color — a feature that should appeal to designers and graphic artists. To drive the display panel, Lenovo chose NVIDIA's newest mobile option, the midrange Quadro K2000M graphics adapter with 2 GB of 128-bit DDR3 memory, which uses a maximum of 55 W of power.

As configured for our review, the ThinkPad W530 included a 500-GB (7,200-RPM) hard drive for file storage. (Lenovo also offers a 1-TB HDD option for those requiring more space.) A 16x DVD+/-RW DVD optical drive and a 720P webcam are also included. As for external connections, the ThinkPad W530 provides a well-rounded selection, including two USB 3.0 ports, two USB 2.0 always-on ports, one mini-DisplayPort, one 4-in-1 multicard reader, one combination headphone/microphone jack, one network connection, one VGA port (requires a miniport adapter), and integrated Wi-Fi.

Notable Features

Several features stand out on the ThinkPad W530, including an island-style keyboard, in which the keys are positioned above a base panel with individual Lenovo ThinkPad W530cutouts for each key. This has the effect of separating the keys, providing a nice tactile experience. As a bonus, the keyboard is said to be spill-proof — although I did not actually test this feature. The touch pad is a bit unconventional; it has a textured surface (a tight pattern of tiny bumps) instead of the standard smooth surface. This gives your fingertips a mini-massage, and although it took a bit of getting used to, I soon found that I preferred it to the customary touch pad. Speaking of fingertips, the ThinkPad W530 includes a fingerprint reader for quick and secure system access. Alas, a dedicated numeric keypad is not included.

Like all current Lenovo professional workstation models, the ThinkPad W530 is thoroughly evaluated and certified by a variety of independent CAD software vendors (ISVs) to support nearly every popular CAD-related application.


Of course, we wanted to know how the ThinkPad W530 per­forms. I gauged CAD performance running Cadalyst's c2012 benchmark with AutoCAD 2012 on Microsoft Windows 7 Professional 64-bit. I set the screen resolution to 1,280 x 1,024 with 32-bit color, enabled hardware acceleration in AutoCAD, and turned off vertical sync for the graphics card. The ThinkPad W530's c2012 scores were as follows: total index of 463, 3D graphics index of 934, 2D graphics index of 404, disk index of 210, and CPU index of 305. That total index score is more than 10% faster than a competitor's similarly equipped, higher-priced mobile computer that we recently reviewed. In addition, it is on par with the average score of the three nonoverclocked desktop workstations I reviewed in the aforementioned roundup published this past summer — very impressive for a relatively lightweight mobile computer.

For your reference, we include the results from the SPECviewperf 11 suite of tests, single sample mode only. The scores were as follows: 34.05 for catia-03, 18.46 for ensight-04, 59.65 for lightwave-01, 60.17 for maya-03, 15.36 for proe-05, 37.94 for sw-02, 30.12 for tcvis-02, and 25.32 for snx-01.

Battery Performance

Our ThinkPad W530 included Lenovo's enhanced nine-cell lithium-ion (94Wh) battery, which extends almost an inch beyond the back of the case. To test its performance, we used the Battery Rundown Test option in the Cadalyst c2012, which runs the benchmark test in continuous loops on battery power. We ran the test four times, and found the battery lasted an average of 182 minutes. As is typical of mobile computers, system speed was drastically reduced when operating on battery power; in this case, each loop took three times as long to complete. As for recharging, the battery required 145 minutes to reach 96% of a full charge. Users' times for both discharging and charging the battery will vary, and battery performance will decrease with repeated charge/discharge cycles.

Bottom Line

As configured for this review, the price of the ThinkPad W530 mobile computer is $2,593 — nearly $200 less than the previously mentioned competitor's model. This price includes Lenovo's three-year limited warranty, which covers parts and labor. Thanks to its very good price-to-performance ratio, solid engineering, and handsome color-adjusted display, the ThinkPad W530 mobile workstation earns our commendation. Highly Recommended.

About the Author: Art Liddle

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