Lenovo ThinkPad W530 First Thoughts

The Lenovo ThinkPad W530 is the 2012 update to the popular W-series of ThinkPad workstation style laptops, it evolves upon and replaces the W520.  As many are aware by now, the biggest change to occur across the ThinkPad lineup is a new 6-row chiclet style keyboard.  The W530 has the exact same keyboard that shows up on the smaller 12.5” X230 and 14” T430, and when I say exact I do mean that – the keyboards are interchangeable and the same size despite the size difference between these notebooks.   A lot has already been said about the keyboard changes so we’ll skim over that by saying the feel is still about the same as before, the biggest difference is relocated or missing keys.  The Home and End keys are moved and the ScrLk and Pause buttons are gone for instance – for more in depth analysis of the keyboard changes please read the X230 review and everything you see there applies here.

Lenovo ThinkPad W530

Moving along, you’ll probably also be aware that the internals of the W530 have changed and you now get the latest Intel Ivy Bridge lineup of processors and Nvidia Quadro K1000 or K2000 dedicated graphics.  You can get up to an extreme quad core Intel Core i7-3920XM processor (2.90GHz, 8MB Cache) for those that run seriously demanding applications.   The W530 is intended for engineers and designers that have to push computing to its limits, as such you can configure options such as 32GB of RAM, Internal RAID, dual hard drives, SSD – Lenovo does not hold back on configuration ability.  The appeal of the W530 to many people is quite obviously the fact it is so easy to upgrade or configure to your specific needs, which is a common trait of ThinkPads but this is even more so the case with the W530.  Our particular W530 configuration comes with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3520M 2.90GHz
  • Screen: 15.6” 1600 x 900 resolution 220 nits brightness
  • Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K1000M 2GB VRAM
  • Memory: 8GB RAM
  • Storage: 500GB 7200RPM Hitachi TravelStar Z7K500
  • OS: Windows 7 Professional
  • Optical Drive: DVD Burner
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion
  • Weight: 6lbs
  • Dimensions: 9.65” x 14.68” x 1.25” – 1.40” (Width x Depth x Thickness)
The price as configured is $1,569 right now on Lenovo.com, that’s without any coupons or promotions at the current time.


The screen is upgradeable to Full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, that’s a $200 upgrade on Lenovo.com right now.  The 1600 x 900 screen we have is certainly not bad, it has decent viewing angles and accurate color reproduction, however the 1920 x 1080 is brighter, has wider viewing angles and has 95% color gamut so if you’re really into nice screens that’s the one to get.  Speaking of color accuracy, there’s a color sensor built into the W530 itself that enables you to easily calibrate colors so it’s consistent across programs.  More on how that color calibrator works in the full review.

The design of the W530 is, well, boring.  It’s black and boxy and that’s pretty much how ThinkPads have looked since 1990-something with tweaks here and there of course.  No matter, it’s a tried and true design and this laptop is all business and work, why pretend to be anything other than that if you’re not?   The thickness of the W530 comes in at 1.25” to 1.40” while the weight is about 6lbs with the 6-cell battery.  It’s light enough to carry around the office but this sure isn’t meant for using on an airplane.   There’s a reason the W530 is referred to as a desktop replacement workstation.

The ports selection of the W530 is of course excellent.  You get the following ports on each side:

ThinkPad W530 left side

On the left side is mini DisplayPort, VGA monitor out port, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, FireWire (IEEE 1394)

Lenovo W530 right side

On the right side is an ExpressCard 34mm slot, 4-in-1 SD card reader, dual headphone / microphone jack, Ethernet LAN RJ-45

W530 back

On the back is a powered USB 2.0 port

ThinkPad W530 front

There are no ports or slots on the front side, though you can see there’s a latch for opening the screen on the right side there

It might have been nice to see a ThunderBolt port on the W530, but then again ThinkPads are enterprise focused and such entities generally don’t want anything to do with new port technologies, it’s all about legacy ports.  That said, the ThinkPad T430s does offer a ThunderBolt port option in case you were looking.

To measure performance we ran a few benchmarks, the full suite of performance numbers will be published in the full review but for now we’ll reveal the PCMark Vantage and 3DMark Vantage scores so you can get an idea for how this particular configuration is able to score.

3DMark Vantage – Measures 3D graphics performance, higher scores are better

image (4)

Laptop3DMark Vantage
Lenovo ThinkPad W530 – Intel Core i7-3520M 2.90GHz , Nvidia K1000M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD5,218
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core  i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD3,165
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core  i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD1,611
Dell XPS 15 (Intel Core i7-2670QM, Nvidia GT 525M 1GB RAM, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD)4,211
HP Envy 17-3000, Intel Core i7-2670QM, AMD 7690M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD6,970
Dell XPS 17 (Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, Nvidia 550m, 6GB RAM, HD 7200RPM)4,747
HP Pavilion dv6t Select Edition – Intel Core i5-2410m, Intel HD 3000 Graphics, 6GB RAM1,845


PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results – Higher scores indicate better performance

image (1)

LaptopPCMark Vantage Score
Lenovo ThinkPad W530 – Intel Core i7-3520M 2.90GHz , Nvidia K1000M, 8GB RAM, 7200RPM HD9,934 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X230 – Intel Core  i5-3320M 2.60GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD7,603 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad X220 – Intel Core  i5-2410M 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, 7200RPM HD5,764 PCMarks
SONY VAIO SA – Intel Core i5-2430M, AMD 6750M, 6GB RAM, 7200RPM HD7,007 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM6,056 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM5,901 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM5,285 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM3,204 PCMarks

While those benchmark scores above are very respectable, there is of course room for improvement if you make some upgrades to your W530 configuration.  For instance, using an SSD or upgrading to a faster K2000M graphics card or Extreme Core i7 Quad Core processor will add a nice jolt.

Obviously this is just scratching the surface in regards to information and analysis of the W530, when we’ve had more time to use and test the W530 the full review will be published along with comparisons to the older ThinkPad W520 it’s replacing. Until then, I leave you with this video overview of the ThinkPad W530:

Lenovo ThinkPad W530 Overview

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5 responses to “Lenovo ThinkPad W530 First Thoughts”

  1. Matt says:

    Andrew, great overview but…oddly, no mention of total sticker price. You have me worried that I shouldn’t go to Lenovo and take a peek!

    • Doh, that would be good to mention woudln’t it? Just added that, it’s $1,569 as configured, though pricing can vary depending on how cunning you are at finding deals.

  2. Matt says:

    Ah, $1569…at least not as bad a retina-display Mac! But still, I think I’ll hold off on browsing for now. 🙂

  3. Tim says:

    Hi Andrew, I am choosing between the Thinkpad w530 and the HP dv6tqe-7000. I am starting college this fall as a computer science major.

    I only surf the internet, watch videos, and of course program. I rarely game. The prices for these two are about the same.

    I care most about build quality, performance, and durability. I’ve heard that the dv6t has high temperatures, and people say that Thinkpads trump HPs in long lastingness. The only worry about the w530 is that it lacks a numpad, which I don’t know if I’ll need.

    Here are the specs for each:

    HP Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition Entertainment Notebook PC
    -Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
    -3rd generation Intel(R) Core(TM) i7-3610QM Processor (2.3 GHz, 6MB L3 Cache, up to 3.3 GHz)
    -NVIDIA(R) GeForce(R) GT 650M Graphics with 2GB GDDR5 memory [HDMI, VGA]
    -8GB DDR3 System Memory (2 Dimm)
    -1TB 5400 rpm Hard Drive
    -9 cell Lithium Ion Battery
    -15.6-inch diagonal Full HD Anti-glare LED-backlit Display (1920 x 1080)
    -Blu-ray player & SuperMulti DVD burner
    -HP TrueVision HD Webcam
    -Intel 802.11b/g/n WLAN and Bluetooth(R)
    -Backlit Keyboard with numeric keypad
    -HP Home & Home Office Store in-box envelope
    -1 year warranty

    ThinkPad W530 2436
    -Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor (2.6 GHz, 6M Cache, up to 3.60 GHz)
    -Genuine Windows 7 Professional (64 bit)
    -15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) LED Backlit AntiGlare Display, Mobile Broadband Ready
    -NVIDIA Quadro K1000M Graphics with 2GB DDR3 Memory
    -4 GB PC3-12800 DDR3 (1 DIMM) – I will probably upgrade this
    -UltraNav with Fingerprint Reader
    -RAID HDD, 500GB, 7200rpm
    -RAID via Bay Adapter
    -9 Cell Li-Ion TWL 70++
    -Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN
    -Mobile Broadband upgradable
    -Backlit keyboard
    -1 Year Depot/Express Warranty

    Again, I am majoring in computer science and I want a high-quality and long-lasting laptop. Please tell me which I should get and why. Thanks so much for your help!

    • Tim, go with the W530 if it’s the same price and close in specs. Both are well built but the W530 has more internal protection such as the roll cage and spill proof keyboard, it’s truly built to take abuse. I also like the W530 keyboard ergonomics for programming and the track point. When I was a CS major and typing tons of code the trackpoint was handy because it allowed you to scroll through code easily and keep your hands on the keyboard. The gaming capabilities of the W530 won’t be the same as the dv6t-7000 with the 650M, but it sounds like your focus is on more practical considerations anyway. I’ll also add that if you plan to install Linux there’s generally better support on a ThinkPad than HP consumer machine. Good luck!

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