Aimed at content creators and engineers, the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop could replace desktop workstations.

It's hardly fitting to call the massive Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop a desktop replacement; it's a workstation alternative, able to take your most demanding applications anywhere. In addition to ridiculously fast performance, this laptop offers a built-in Wacom drawing tablet, a colour-calibration tool and even a second LCD. If you crunch real-time data on oil rigs or if you design jet engines while flying over the Atlantic, this could be your new PC. Anybody desiring one of the fastest, most tricked-out and most costly portables around will find a great sidekick here.

This independent software vendor (ISV)-certified laptop crushes every application it encounters. In tests with professional-level content-creation tools, including 3D Studio Max 2011, Painter 11 and Avid Media Composer, all the programs ran smoothly. Demanding games can also bring down lesser laptops - but while gamers may not be the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop's target market, on this machine Battlefield: Bad Company 2, Crysis Warhead and Supreme Commander 2 all looked great at high resolutions and maximum settings.

The Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop rocked in our quantitative benchmarks, earning a WorldBench 6 score of 123. Our sample had an Intel Core i7 X920 running at 2GHz and 8GB of RAM, plus an nVidia Quadro FX 3800M graphics card packing 1GB of VRAM. To say this system is loaded would be an understatement - it's a full-on arsenal.

But there's always a catch. US prices for the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop start at $3,299; our test configuration, which includes almost every upgrade and extra possible, totals more than $6,000. The good thing is, you'll get what you pay for - if you demand the highest speed and lots of content-creation extras.

Graphics professionals will soak up the terrific 17in (1920x1200) main display. It shows off a bold range of colours, contrast and brightness. Colours pop whether you're working in an image editor or you're kicking back and watching a movie. Visual artists will appreciate the built-in Pantone HueyPRO hardware and software calibrator: start the process and close the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop's lid, and the sensor visually recognises the display's colours, perfecting their balance.

The second LCD steals a little focus from the main display. This 10.6in (768x1280) extra stashes inside the case behind the main screen; you simply push in to eject and retract the secondary screen. Once it's extended, you can bend it forward, angling the screen toward your face. The screen would work best on the left side, since your hands - and the touchpad - favour the left. When the extra screen is tilted, you can see it clearly, but it often looks slightly washed-out, especially next to the unwavering color of the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop's main display. The additional screen works well if you use it for text and button palettes, and you keep colour-sensitive work on the main display.

Image fans will also enjoy the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop's input-device extras, especially the 12x8cm drawing tablet embedded in the wrist rest. It's just big enough to sketch designs and edit photos on the go. Wacom's quality standard shines here, as the tablet includes 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity and comes with a stylus that you can flip over for an eraser end. When you're finished, the stylus neatly tucks into the laptop's base.

The Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop adds two more pointers to the mix: the classic TrackPoint eraserhead and a two-button touchpad. Both feel great, and the buttons seem precise and responsive. You can switch between the input devices on a whim, or customise one to activate only certain functions - such as scrolling - while leaving the other for general mousing.

The utilitarian keyboard complements the rest of the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop design. The classic, blocky key shapes and tight mechanisms feel responsive for touch typing, and the full-size numberpad can speed data entry. A few extra buttons control the volume and launch the snooze-inducing ThinkVantage software. Dedicated media buttons aren't missed; we prefer their absence over an attempt to cram them in unnecessarily.

Among the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop's weaker points, relatively speaking, are the speakers, which sit behind a grille above the keyboard. Music and movies sound okay, and the laptop can get loud without warbling distortion. However, the speakers favour high tones, thinning out for lower pitches - the typical originated-on-a-laptop sound. Unfortunately, this means that mobile audio and video producers will have to plug in speakers or headphones for most of their work.

The Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop has a bunch of ports and extras that can be useful in various situations. The fingerprint scanner unlocks the system without a password. Two LEDs mounted at the top of the display can cast light a little over and around the keyboard, allowing you to see papers in a dark room. Expansion slots include Express Card, CompactFlash, and a five-in-one card reader. It's loaded with other ports and connections, too, offering audio-in and -out, one USB 3.0 port, four USB 2.0 ports, eSATA, FireWire, gigabit ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a modem. The full-size Display Port, DVI, and VGA ports can connect up to two additional displays.

Disk options mostly meet expectations. Two hard-drive bays can accommodate Raid setups; our test unit included two 320GB disks. Regrettably, the Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop has only a CD/DVD burner, not a Blu-ray reader or burner. With a laptop of this level, mobile content creators might expect to read - and author - Blu-ray discs.


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Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds: Specs

  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM
  • Windows 7 Professional 64bit
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 320GB 5,400rpm SATA
  • 17in WUXGA + 10.6in WXGA LED-backlit LCD screens
  • 1GB nVidia Quadro FX 2800M
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • integrated Wacom digitizer
  • nine-cell lithium-ion battery
  • Display Port
  • DVI
  • VGA
  • one-year warranty
  • 8.97lbs
  • 1.6GHz Intel Core i7-720QM
  • Windows 7 Professional 64bit
  • 2GB DDR3 RAM
  • 320GB 5,400rpm SATA
  • 17in WUXGA + 10.6in WXGA LED-backlit LCD screens
  • 1GB nVidia Quadro FX 2800M
  • 1 x USB 3.0
  • 4 x USB 2.0
  • integrated Wacom digitizer
  • nine-cell lithium-ion battery
  • Display Port
  • DVI
  • VGA
  • one-year warranty
  • 8.97lbs

OUR VERDICT

The Lenovo ThinkPad W701ds laptop feels solidly built. You'll have to lug the massive 8.97-pound system between big desks, but it's like carrying a powerful workstation almost anywhere. The battery lasts for about 2hrs 10 mins, a reasonable length for a portable with this much power and speed. Considering this machine's complete roster of ports and extras for content creators - including the colour calibrator, the Wacom tablet surface and the extra LCD screen - this high-end laptop seems equipped to help you complete any challenging job.

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