Needless to say, currently Lenovo’ is one of the most reliable, reputed and leading brand in the tech market. In the past, Lenovo came with different ranges of Lenovo ThinkPad and not a single one of them was a letdown. And their latest ThinkPad W550 is no exception. So, if you want to get a detailed review of this new ThinkPad W550 laptop from the Lenovo, just stay with us.
Sporting 5th generation Intel Core processor paired with NVIDIA Quadro K620M GPU and 3K (2880×1620) IPS display with optional touch panel, Lenovo has designed the ThinkPad W550 for a mobile workstation that would enhance their productivity which could be used both in the office and the field. If you are a professional user looking for a latest, trendy, affordable, smart yet beautiful, portable laptop, you must give W550 a shot! This monster will never fail you when it comes to performance and mobility. With a base price of $1133, it is one of the most innovative Ultrabook workstations available.
Durable and strong build
Amazing battery life
High quality display
Spill proof keyboard
Thick for an Ultrabook
Doesn’t support quad core CPU
Mediocre sound system
Sometime makes noise
Model: ThinkPad W550
Processor: 2.6 GHz Intel Core i7 5600U
Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro K620M
Memory: 16 GB DDR3 1600 MHz
SSD: 512 GB
Optical Drive: none
Display Type: IPS with optional touchscreen
Screen Size: 15.5 inch
Screen Resolution: (3K) 2880 x 1620
Audio: 2x stereo speakers
Keyboard: Island style full sized backlit keyboard
Navigation: 4 x 2.2 inches touchpad
Video Ports: VGA, DVI, HDMI and DisplayPort
Audio Ports: Combo headphone jack
Total USB Ports: 3
USB 2.0 Ports: 0
USB 3.0 Ports: 3
Media Ports: micro SD
Wi-Fi: dual-band Wi-Fi
Ethernet: Gigabit Ethernet
Battery: 3 cell internal and 6 cell 72 Wh external
Battery Life: 16 hours
Width: 15 inches / 38 cm
Depth: 10 inches / 25.5 cm
Height: 0.92 inches / 2.3 cm
Weight: 5.5 pounds / 2.4 kg
Operating System: 64 bit Windows 8.1
Warranty: 12 months Limited
Base Price: $1133 on Amazon
Price of the Reviewed version: $1669
Build and Design
The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is a big step back towards old ThinkPad qualities. While the previous ThinkPads left rather mixed feelings, but I personally liked this one very much. The chassis feels really sturdy and it has Lenovo’s classic matte black reinforced by carbon fiber body, with steel hinges and a silver ThinkPad logo on it. With one-third the weight of aluminum, the use of a carbon fiber shell kept the W550s light.
Now, if you open the lid, there is a keyboard deck and large 15.5 inch display. The lid is attached to the body with sturdy, square stainless steel hinges. Overall, the build quality and building materials are really good. By the way, not sure if I should consider this as a drawback, but this matte body is a magnet for dirt and fingerprints.
W550’s island style spill resistant backlit keyboard is really good. Compared to a desktop keyboard, the keys on the number pad are slightly narrower, but comparing with other Ultrabooks, the size of the keys is quite good. Lenovo also customized the keyboard layout, moving Print Screen to the lower right, while adding shortcuts above the number pad for commonly used tools and functions like Calculator and Internet. Moreover, because of the inclusion of the number pad, both the keyboard and the touchpad were skewed a little to the left in their placement relative to the screen. I had to move my body towards the left to accommodate for the off-center position of the keyboard.
With 4 x 2.2 inches size, the touchpad of the W550 is quite spacious and has additional mouse buttons. The performance of the touchpad is responsive and accurate and I was able to perform all Windows 8.1 and 10 gestures without any problem.
As a workstation laptop, the W550 sport a wide range of connectivity feature.
The left side has the power connector, VGA, headset, Ethernet, SD Card and one USB 3.0 slot.
While on the other hand, right side has only two USB 3.0 ports and a mini Display Port along with the exhaust vent.
Moreover, if you need more connectivity feature, you can get a ThinkPad Ultradock which costs $300 and has VGA, DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort, headset jack, 6 USB ports along with a pass-through charging port.
Unlike other Ultrabooks, the ThinkPad W550 offers both touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions. So, you can choose whichever you need. With 350 nits brightness and IPS feature, the screen of the W550 is surprisingly bright and vivid at a same time. The contrast of the display is also good with a 667:1 contrast ratio.
The display brightness can be adjusted in 15 steps. The sRGB color space is covered by 86% and the colors are already quite accurate for factory settings. However, for those who need color accurate work, the W550s doesn’t come with the color calibration tool like the previous ThinkPad workstation model.
If anything of the W550 should disappoint you, it is the audio quality. It spots two stereo speakers hidden behind grilles on the bottom of the laptop. The sound quality is mediocre at best. It is enough for regular workstation works and stuff, but if you want to enjoy music, you must consider an external second option.
Thanks to the 5th Gen processor, solid-state drive, 16 GB of RAM and the dedicated NVIDIA Quadro K620M, the W550 comes with quite a balanced configuration. 5th Gen processors are dual core which is not very stable under load, can reduce the performance and is actually the bottleneck of the mobile workstation, but this drawback is not that noticeable during regular tasks with normal CPU load. I didn’t notice any noticeable performance lag or delay while transferring large files, browsing the web and performing light Photoshop edits and I listened to the music all the time.
To be honest The NVIDIA Quadro K620M in the review unit is the first professional chip that I tested and it offers much more performance compared to the regular workstation GPU and Intel HD graphics.
Depending on what is inside, if you’re a light user who spends most of your time inside Microsoft Office and internet browsers with the occasional need to open Photoshop or Adobe Premiere, then the ThinkPad W550s has the perfect hardware combination for you.
Heat and Noise
There’s a single fan exhaust on the right side of the chassis. The outlet is larger than would be found on a typical Ultrabook but this cooling system has to take the head of the NVIDIA K620M graphics card as well. Anyway, under usual load such as web surfing and music/video streaming, the W550s’s chassis remains cool and the fan barely makes any noise. However, The fan noises come noticeable under stressful tasks. But still, the laptop never really overheats.
With a combination of a 3 cell internal and 6 cell 72 watt-hour external batteries, the W550s has a roughly 16 hours of battery life. It has one of the longest runtimes I’ve seen. Moreover, if you carry a spare battery, you can go even longer without recharging, which is great for travelers, or workplace where power outlets aren’t readily available.
The starting price of the W550s is $1130, and for that you get an Intel Core i7 CPU, 1920 x 1080 screen, 4GB of RAM, 500GB HDD and an NVIDIA Quadro K620M CPU.
The version I reviewed came with an Intel Core i7-5500U CPU, 8GB of RAM, 256GB SSD, NVIDIA Quadro K620M graphics card with 2GB of video memory and a non touch 15.5 inch 2880 x 1620 IPS screen and has a price tag of $1669.
And the most expensive version of the W550 costs $2460, sporting Intel Core i7-5600U CPU, 16GB of RAM, 512GB SSD, NVIDIA Quadro K620M GPU and a sharper 2880 x 1620 touch screen.
As I see, Lenovo’s ThinkPad W550s is a successful addition to the group of Slimline workstations. With durable design, long battery life, decent performance and a large high resolution screen, there is much to love about the ThinkPad W550s. However, Lenovo has not managed to realize this very mobile workstation without some compromises. But as I see, these drawbacks can be partly compensated by the NVIDIA Quadro K620M and the powerful IPS screen.
After all, any computer meant for field work has to be able to put up with a lot of wear and tear. And W550 got what it takes. If you’re in the market for a 15 inch workstation, you must keep ThinkPad W550 in your choice.