HP ENVY 17-3200 3D Review

Being one of the first to enter the 3D gaming market, HP is no stranger to the new technology, having released several versions of the Envy 17 3D. Though they started with the first generation of Intel Core processors, HP now sells an Envy 17-3200 version with the latest Ivy Bridge CPUs and AMD Radeon graphics to power the big, bright 3D display. Starting at $1,599.99 on HP’s website, the Envy 17 3D can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7-3280QM processor, Radeon HD 7850M graphics, 16GB 1600MHz RAM, and 2TB of drive space.  With those kind of specs, the HP Envy 17 3D vies to become your one-stop shop for a home entertainment machine.

HP Envy 17-3200 3D

Before we go any further, we’d like to thank the HP Academy program for sending us the Envy 17t-3200 to evaluate.  Those students looking for a dorm room entertainment machine to replace a bulky TV, Blu-Ray and video game console setup will probably find this notebook of interest.  Engineering students might also find the dedicated graphics a real boon for 3D design work along with a productivity boost due to the generous Full HD screen that allows you to fit multiple windows at once.  You can get a discount on the ENVY 17 via the HP APP (Academic Purchase Program).

The Envy 17-3200 3D under review comes with the following specs:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3612QM
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7850M with 1GB GDDR5 memory
  • Display: 17.3” 1920 x 1080 resolution, glossy finish, 3D
  • OS: Windows 7 Home Premium
  • Storage: 80GB Intel 310 SSD + Seagate Momentus Spinpoint M8 1TB HDD
  • Battery: 6-cell Li-Ion, 87.9 Whr
  • Wireless: Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 b/g/n
  • Ports: Ethernet, HDMI, DisplayPort (x2), USB 3.0 (x4), headphone jack (x2), microphone jack, SHDC media card reader
  • Optical Drive: Blu-Ray/DVD/CD reader
  • Dimensions: 16.37 x 10.66 x 1.28 in (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 7.37lbs (3.34kg)
  • Warranty: Standard 2 year depot

Build and Design

At just over seven pounds, the Envy 17 3D is nearly half a pound heavier than the dv7t-7000 that we’ve previously reviewed. This is for the most part due to the extra metal used in the laptop, with the whole body being covered in a smooth, black metal finish on the lid and bottom, and light grey on the inside. There is no design pattern on the back like other HP laptops, just the glowing HP logo. Once a user starts using it though, the lid picks up fingerprints and smudges easily, so regular cleaning will be required to keep it looking new. Quality-wise, the Envy 17 3D is built like a tank when comparing it to other consumer-class laptops. There’s absolutely no flex on the palm rest and keyboard, the display will only flex by a millimeter or two when pressing between the hinges, and twisting the corners of the display only result in a few millimeters of distortion.

HP Envy 17t-3200 lid

Just like other Envy laptops, HP has a clear and simple design for the current Envy 17t-3200 3D. There are only two stickers on the palm rest, those being Windows and Intel.  There are no separate media buttons to crowd the area between the keyboard and the display, and the touchpad is only slightly recessed — there’s a very slight rise between the touch surface and the rest of the palm rest. HP has turned back to older laptop designs with the use of a volume dial located on the right edge of the laptop, this allows for finer control of the audio volume compared to rocker bar or up/down buttons for volume other laptops use.

Fingerprints tend to build up

Keyboard and Touchpad

HP Envy 17t-3200 keyboard, plain and simple

Sporting a light blue backlight, the Envy 17 3D is ready for use night and day. It’s bright enough to easily find your way around the keys, but not so bright as to blind the user. The keyboard is not too bad for one that has flat keys, and the number pad is sure to please users that work with numbers often (such as in Excel). One interesting feature of the backlit keyboard is that when not in use, it will turn off the lights in cascading order; the top two rows turn off, and then middle two, and finally the bottom two. The same happens in reverse when the backlight is turned back on. The Envy 17 3D uses the same keyboard as the Pavilion dv7t-7000, so many of the points made in that review will apply here as well.

HP Envy 17t-3200 backlit keyboard

What differentiates the Envy keyboard from the Pavilion the most is the touchpad. Unlike the mentioned Pavilion, the Envy 17 3D comes with no physical buttons to speak of. Instead, the whole touchpad is clickable, with the top portion being one giant left-click, the bottom-left corner also being left-click, and the bottom right being right-click. At the top left of the trackpad is a neat feature to turn off the touchpad. Double tap on this corner and an orange light turns on next to the touchpad to indicate that the touchpad is turned off; double tap again and it turns back on. Along with that, the touchpad supports several finger gestures, including two-finger scrolling (both vertical and horizontal), pinch zoom in/out, and three-finger, picture rotation, and more. They can be adjusted by going to Start, enter “mouse” in the search field, selecting the Mouse control panel > Device Settings > Synaptic ClickPad and then clicking on Settings.


All Envy 17 3D laptops come with a Full HD 1080p display that gives the user plenty of desktop real estate to work with. Images are crisp and colors pop out. Tilting the display as far back as it goes (120 degrees) means the display darkens slightly but colors do not invert. Tilt it forward and glare from the backlit keyboard and any surrounding light sources will make the display hard to see. Aside from glare from lights in a room, viewing from either side doesn’t suffer from any issues common on most laptops, which is good since HP intends this to be an entertainment laptop for not only the user, but as well as any friends around (as indicated by the dual headphone jacks). While the screen is not IPS quality, it’s better than the TN panels found in less expensive laptops.

Envy 17t-3200 displayEnvy 17t-3200 display tilted back
Envy 17t-3200 display tilted forwardEnvy 17t-3200 display side view

The major reason for buying this laptop is the 3D qualities of the display, so how does that perform? HP ships the Envy 17 3D with two 3D demos in CyberLink PowerDVD, one being the trailer for Madagascar 3 and the other being a video of wildlife in 3D, and also includes a pair of 3D shutter glasses with the laptop (separately, they cost $100). Watching the trailer with the laptop on my lap for the first time, the effects had hurt my eyes slightly due to vergence-accomodation (your eyes have to constantly adjust to both the distance of the screen itself as well as to 3D content that “flies” at you), though I haven’t used any 3D laptops or TVs personally, so I had to get use to the shutter. The second time around, there was no discomfort experienced. Ignoring that issue, the picture itself was great; multiple layers of 3D were in the trailer (especially evident in the pillow fight scene), words popped from the display, and the “circus afro” scene gave a good demonstration of the differences between character bodies in 2D and in 3D. To sum it up, the Envy 17 3D is a sort of personal IMAX Theater for the home.

The only negative I can think of about the laptop is that HP shipped the Envy 17 3D with no way to use Intel’s WiDi features, despite HP advertising that feature. However, that’s not the only outstanding flaw in this laptop.


Envy 17t-3200 Beats AudioThe Envy 17 3D uses the same Beats Audio system as most other HP laptops today, including the Pavilion dv7t-7000. Built with six regular laptop speakers and HP’s “Triple Bass Reflex” subwoofer, the Envy 17 3D pumps out sound like no regular laptop sound system, only facing competition with other branded speaker systems such as JBL. There’s a sound bar bordering the entire top side of the keyboard as well as two grills at the front edge of the laptop, which give off an experience that will impress all but the most demanding audiophiles. One odd feature of the Envy 17 3D is how many audio drivers are present in Computer Management: AMD High Definition Audio Device, Bluetooth Hands-free Audio, CyberLink WebCam Virtual Driver, HP Wireless Audio Adpater, and IDT High Definition Audio CODEC (which controls the speakers and bass). Why not have just one or two drivers to control audio? Even the Pavilion dv7t-7000 had two, despite also being a Beats-branded laptop.

Anyway, the audio experience on the HP Envy 17 3D is above standard for a laptop. Typical laptop speakers can sound shallow, weak, and don’t have much range, whereas the sound system on this laptop is the opposite. On top of that, if a user pushes down on the volume dial, a control center for sound appears on screen, where there are options to control master volume, set sound profiles (or use three pre-made ones), and microphone settings. For the most part, the default sound profile is sufficient for most uses, but for those that are bass lovers will want to adjust the sound profile to make the subwoofer really stand out. No matter what profile is used though, the Envy 17 3D can get loud when pumped up to full volume.


There are a myriad of ports located on this generation’s Envy 17-3200 3D. All USB ports found here are of the newer USB 3.0 SuperSpeed spec, a good move from HP as more and more USB 3.0 devices hit the mainstream market. What surprised me, however, is the lack of a VGA port; yes, it’s dated but it’s also extremely common and would have been useful for people who still own VGA monitors. HP did make up for it by giving the Envy 17 3D the ability to run up to four displays at once, thanks to the 7850M, HDMI port, and two DisplayPort connectors.

On the left, we have the slot-loading Blu-Ray player, two USB 3.0 ports, a microphone jack, two headphone jacks, and a Kensington lock.

HP Envy 17t-3200 left side

The right side houses the power connector, Ethernet port, the other two USB 3.0 ports, two DisplayPort connectors, HDMI port, and the card reader. Also on this side are the hard drive activity, power on, and battery level lights. The last one will glow orange when plugged in and the battery has a low charge and white when it’s nearly full.


The front contains nothing but two speaker grills and a Beats logo. The back of the laptop is the same, due to the lid covering it up when the laptop is in use.

HP Envy 17-3200 front side

Heat and Noise

After several hours of use which involved mostly Internet surfing, as well as YouTube and 3D video viewing, the Envy idles at around 46 degrees C, with the processor sitting at an average of 50 degrees C. The Samsung hard drive is at a cool 35 degrees C, and measurements for the Intel mSATA drive are absent since almost all SSDs come with no temperature sensor. During benchmarking, the highest temperature reached was 77 degrees C for the motherboard and 82 degrees C for the processor. Ambient temperature was 72 degrees F during testing.

For the most part, noise isn’t an issue with the Envy 17 3D. However, when booting up or when resuming from sleep, the optical drive (HP BDDVDRW CA30P, as named in Computer Management) becomes loud for a few moments as it powers up, becoming very annoying after a few boots and resumes as it’s not an isolated incident.


Besides the 3D Demo and the usual Norton Internet Security trial, HP bundles several free and trial pieces of software with the computer. CyberLink software includes with the Envy 17 3D include PowerDVD, YouCam, and Power2Go. HP ships their laptop with the HP Proximity Sensor (adjust when the backlit keyboard should activate based on your distance to the computer), HP Wireless Audio Manager, a link to HP Communities – The Next Bench (a discussion forum slash HP advertisement), and a trial of HP MyRoom (video conference software), as well as HP’s Help and Support folder in the Start menu (includes HP Documentation, HP Support Assistant, and HP Recovery Manager). Under the Intel folder, we have Smart Connect Technology (similar in function to Windows Update), Control Center, and Rapid Storage Technology, which allows a user to manage their Intel mSATA and the Samsung HDD). The last piece of trial software included with the Envy 17 3D is TriDef 3D Ignition, which “enables popular PC games to be played in stereoscopic 3D”, according to their website. From their website, they state that it works with a wide range of DirectX 9 through 11 games, using information that DirectX stores about the game to product 3D images, while Auto Focus manages the locations of objects in 3D space. One common issue of this software is that the gun sights in first-person shooters can be inaccurate in 3D space, so the TriDef software includes an optional laser sight to improve accuracy.

Two very useful pieces of software included with the HP Envy 17 3D are Adobe’s Photoshop Elements 10 and Premiere Elements 10. Both are somewhat stripped down versions of Photoshop and Premiere, and their goals are much the same (advance photo editing and advance video editing/DVD burning, respectively). Considering that full retail versions for both sell for $149 together, this is a great value to Envy purchasers that plan on using the laptop for A/V hobby or freelancing.

Battery Life

This is the Envy 17 3D’s Achilles’ heel. While there is supposed to be an ability to switch to the Intel HD 4000 graphics to extend battery life, there is no option to do so in either the BIOS or within the operating system as of the writing of this review (August 12th, 2012). Using Window’s Power Saver settings, dimming the display to half brightness, and using the laptop for lightweight tasks (Office, visiting websites, and one or two YouTube videos), the Envy 17 3D will only last 2 hours and 31 minutes before you need to find an outlet. Even giving the laptop a best-case battery scenario (just letting it sit at the desktop), it will only last for an extra 22 minutes at 50% screen brightness (and lower and the display is barely visible). Since the Envy 17 3D doesn’t currently ship with any way to switch the graphics, the 7850M is allowed to drain power from the battery, thus making this laptop a terrible choice if you need to use it anywhere outside the home.

The lack of Wi-Di in a high-end consumer laptop is due to the Intel GPU being locked out of the BIOS (WiDi depends on the Intel HD series of integrated GPUs to function). Maybe, just maybe this would have been excusable if this was the first generation of Envy 17 3D, but it’s not. Furthermore, the previous generation of the 3D version (HD 3000 + Radeon HD 7650M XT) has functioning graphics switching and WiDi, and both the Sandy Bridge and the current Ivy Bridge Envy 17 (non-3D) have said features as well. So why doesn’t the current Envy 17 3D have switching graphics and WiDi, HP?


Thanks to the powerful Radeon HD 7850M GPU and quad-core Ivy Bridge processor, the HP Envy 17 3D scored an impressive 3868 in PCMark 7.

Envy PCMark7

In 3DMark 11, it scores P2495 3DMarks, along with a high physics score (no surprise, considering it’s a laptop meant for 3D).

Envy 3DMark11

Windows Index Experience scores, while not as rigorous as stand-alone benchmarking software, gives a decent, generalized ballpark of how well a computer performs. The overall score for the HP Envy 17 3D is 7.3 (graphics), with the highest individual score coming from the laptop’s memory.

Envy WEI

Since there are two different drives in the review laptop (Intel mSATA SSD and a Seagate HDD), HD Tune was run twice, once for each drive. The solid-state drive performed fairly well, reaching a peak transfer rate of 184.1MB/s, though what users will notice the most is the extremely short access time that SSDs provide. In contrast, the mechanical drive is not as fast at transferring files and has an access time 181 times slower than the SSD. However, the HDD is meant to be a mass storage device in this sort of setup, with Windows and program installations going on the faster SSD.

Envy HDTune IntelIntel SSD HD Tune ResultsEnvy HDTune SeagateSeagate HD HD Tune Results


3D is looking as if it will have a bright future ahead, with not only TV manufacturers but also computer OEMs releasing 3D-capable products to the masses. The HP Envy 17 3D certainly delivers in this regard, providing a stunning 3D experience right in the comfort of your own home. With included software, it’s even possible to create your own 3D experience by converting your games to use the extra dimension. Even in 2D gaming, the Envy 17 3D promises to be powerful enough to handle all the latest games with the Radeon HD 7850M. Combined with a quad-core Intel Core processor and 8GB of RAM, a user can throw just about anything at this laptop and it wouldn’t break a sweat – except when traveling. While it is a 17” laptop and not exactly meant for traveling in the first place, users today expect at least several hours of battery life from their laptops. While the “lesser” Pavilion dv7t-7000 we reviewed manages to last six and a half hours on a single charge, the premium Envy 17 3D can’t even touch half that under the very best conditions. For whatever reason, HP doesn’t allow users to use graphics switching to turn off the AMD GPU and use the Intel integrated graphics for when long battery life is required. Not only does this leave Envy 17 3D customers glued to an outlet most of the time, but it also kills any chance of wirelessly displaying content to a WiDi-enabled TV or monitor, since the Intel HD 4000 seems to be disabled completely. So not only would watching 2D or 3D content be difficult when the user is comfortably in bed or anywhere else not close to a power source, but anyone thinking about using this laptop to host movie night on a larger television will be disappointed by this shortfall. So in conclusion, the HP Envy 17 3D makes for a great home entertainment laptop, just so long as you don’t use it as a laptop.


  • Bright, 3D-enabled display
  • Powerful AMD graphics
  • Photoshop Elements 10 and Premier Elements 10 bundle
  • Sturdy, all-metal body
  • Relatively lightweight
  • Can simultaneously power four displays
  • Better-than-average sound quality


  • Plenty of bloatware for a premium-branded laptop
  • Lack of Intel WiDi
  • Very short battery life
  • Lid is a fingerprint magnet

Apple MacBook Air 13” $999 at Best Buy this Week (Student Deal)

Best Buy is offering $100 off the 2012 edition of the 13” Apple MacBook Air this week on top of the already $100 off sale price of $1,099 so after the discount the total comes to $999 for a MacBook Air with Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB of memory and 128GB SSD.  Here’s a link to the model that’s on sale at Best Buy:

Apple MacBook Air 13” MD231LL/A (2012)

MacBook Air on Sale for $999 at Best Buy

To get the $100 off student deal go to the following web page on BestBuy.com and enter in your .edu email address.  They will then email you a $100 off coupon that you can then take into a Best Buy store.  It says you’ll need to present a Student ID along with the coupon so might want to make sure to bring that along as well.

While Apple is offering a free $100 off iTunes gift card to students and $50 off, that is not as good as this deal from Best Buy.  The total discount Best Buy offers is $200 while Apple is only $150.  Bottom line, you’re not going to get a MacBook Air 13” model for $999 anywhere else unless it’s used so if you’ve had your eye on this model this is definitely the deal to jump on.  The latest 2012 MacBook Air features a dual Core i5 processor from the Ivy Bridge 3rd generation lineup, Thunderbolt and USB 3.0, backlit keyboard, Mac OS X Lion with free upgrade to Mountain Lion and of course the under 3lbs and extremely thin design you expect.


HP ENVY m4 First Look

The HP Envy m4 is an upcoming laptop release that will likely go on sale to coincide with the Microsoft Windows 8 release in late October.  The Envy m4 will be a blend between the Envy 4t Sleekbook and Pavilion dv4t-5100 that are currently available from HP.  It’s a 14-inch premium style laptop that comes with a 3rd generation Intel Core i5 or i7 processor, built-in optical drive and all aluminum shell body.  In terms of design, the look is much like the Envy 4t, however unlike the Envy 4t it has a removable and upgradeable battery, standard voltage processor and the ability to easily upgrade memory or the hard drive via a removable panel on the bottom.


Before we go any further, we’d like to thank the HP Academy program for sending us the Envy m4 to evaluate.  This Envy m4 model will undoubtedly be appealing to the student crowd given the portable size and weight, you’ll be able to get a discount on the Envy m4 via the HP APP (Academic Purchase Program) when it goes on sale this Fall.

The specs for the Envy m4 we have on hand are as follows:

  • Processor: Intel Core i7-3520M 2.90GHz
  • Graphics: Intel HD 4000
  • Screen: 14.0” 1366 x 768 resolution, BrightView (glossy)
  • OS: Windows 8 64-bit
  • Storage: 1TB 5400RPM HD
  • Ports: Media card reader, three USB 3.0 ports, RJ-45 Ethernet LAN, headphone/microphone jack, HDMI, VGA monitor out
  • Battery: 9-cell (6-cell standard), removable and upgradeable
  • Optical Drive: DVD Burner
  • Weight:


The body of the Envy m4 features an all silver look with brush metal aluminum finish.  The screen has a black glossy bezel around it, the bottom area of the bezel is particularly thick.  Given the thickness of the bezel, you might wonder that HP couldn’t have reduced the overall size and footprint of this model.  The ENVY m4 model number is printed on the top right side of the screen:


The keyboard uses a chiclet style design and comes equipped with a fingerprint reader on the right side.  The touchpad has a metallic shiny finish, it’s slippery making it easy to guide your finger across and do gestures.  Given the number of multi-touch gestures that Windows 8 supports, that characteristic might be helpful in navigating the OS.  Speaking of Windows 8, that will be the default OS loaded on the Envy m4 when it launches in October.

As mentioned earlier, the Envy m4 isn’t going to get the Ultrabook or Sleekbook branding that the recently released Envy 4t and 5t have received, but it is still quite thin and light for a 14” screen laptop.  Without a battery in the Envy m4 weighs in at around 4.4lbs with a 6-cell battery and 4.8lbs with the 9-cell.  The thickness ranges from 1” at the front to 1.25” at the back, again that’s with the 6-cell battery.  When the 9-cell battery is installed it elevates the Envy m4 at the back to make it thicker.

The selection of ports is fairly standard, on the left side you get a VGA monitor out, HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports and a dual headphone microphone jack.

Envy m4 left side

The right side has a USB 2.0 port, RJ-45 Ethernet jack and power jack.  You also get an optical drive on the right side, a DVD Multi-burner in our case.

Envy m4 right side

You’ll see that the Envy m4 has a proper fan and vent on the left side, this allows it to house a standard voltage processor with better performance than the undervolted processors found in Ultrabooks.  In fact, the Envy m4 can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 processor such as the Core i7-3520M 2.90GHz variety in our model.  Graphics are provided by the Intel HD 4000 integrated GPU.  For the student set just looking to get some work done and not interested in gaming, this is more than enough power.

The screen on the Envy m4 is a pretty standard 1366 x 768 resolution glossy display variety.  There’s nothing to write home about here, the viewing angles are so-so but at least the colors and brightness are good.  It’s uncertain whether HP will provide any resolution upgrades but that’d sure be nice!


Stay tuned as we’ll have a more complete review of the Envy m4 coming up in the next week or two.  Until then, you can see more of this laptop by watching the following video:

HP Envy m4 Video Review

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Screen Comparison to Other ThinkPads

The ThinkPad X1 Carbon was just officially given a price and availability date yesterday and we’re lucky enough to have our hands on a review unit already.  While we’ve only had a few hours to use the X1 Carbon it’s pretty easy to see that the display on this model is a more premium one than that seen on other ThinkPad 14” notebooks.  We happen to have a ThinkPad T430s in our possession with the 1600 x 900 resolution screen and a ThinkPad X220 with IPS display so a comparison to both of those laptops is possible.  I think those that worried the screen might be another letdown given that it’s non-IPS will be pleasantly surprised.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Vs. ThinkPad T430s

First up we’ll compare the Thinkpad T430s to the X1 Carbon screen as the size and resolution are exactly the same for these notebooks.  A video is the best way to do this so first check out the YouTube video embedded below in which the T430s is on the left and X1 Carbon on the right:

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Vs. T430s Screen Comparison

Now moving on to the still image photos, the ThinkPad T430s is on the left and X1 Carbon on the right with both displays open to the homepage of the NY Times, the X1 Carbon screen is much brighter at 300 nits and the whites much more pure than on the T430s.  Reading is truly a treat on the X1 screen, the white background with black text has great contrast making it a much more readable display.  The fact it is matte helps to reduce eye strain even if you’re spending several hours browsing and reading on the web.

ThinkPad T430s on left X1 Carbon on right

With the lights turned off and a colorful picture on the screen you can once again see the X1 Carbon display is brighter and has more vivid colors.

ThinkPad T430s vs. X1 Carbon screen colors

Now comes the test of viewing angles.  Neither display has IPS technology that offers wide viewing angles, but higher quality TN display panels can offer better angles than others.  When pushed back the X1 Carbon screen clearly holds up better with colors than the T430s does.


Tilting the screens forward again shows that the X1 Carbon has a better viewing angle from this perspective as well, its screen holds pretty true with colors while the T430s starts to get washed out.

screens tilted forward

Finally, when viewing from a wide angle off to the side both screens hold up pretty well but once again the X1 Carbon (to the right and in the distance) has colors that pop more:

side view

Bottom line, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a much higher quality display than that seen in either the T430 or T430s ThinkPads.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Vs. X220 with IPS Display

Now comes the real test, the 12.5” ThinkPad X220 and X230 are well known for their high quality IPS display options that’s a $50 upgrade on Lenovo.com.  There is no such IPS display option on the X1 Carbon, but let’s see how the viewing angles hold up compared to the X220 with IPS screen.  In the images below the X1 Carbon is on the left while the X220 is on the right.  First note is that the X1 Carbon screen appears brighter than the X220, so in straight on viewing it is superior.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon and X220

ThinkPad X1 Carbon on left X220 on right

However, once you tilt the screens back the IPS panel on the X220 starts to show its colors (so to speak), even when tilted back to an awkward angle the X220 IPS display still looks the same while the X1 Carbon colors distort.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon on left X220 on right tilted back

When tilted forward you again get the same affect of the X220 colors being better, but the X1 Carbon is still not bad from this angle and you can really get a feel for its brightness when its adjusted closer to the eyes (or camera as it may be).

Screens tilted forward

When viewed from off to the side the X1 Carbon colors are just as good as the X220 colors, in fact I would say the viewing is actually better on the X1.

Side angle view

And again we’ll offer up some video so you can see a comparison of the screens:

ThinkPad X1 Carbon Vs. X220 Screen Comparison


The screen on the ThinkPad X1 is definitely a higher quality panel than that seen on the T430 or T430s.  While it is perhaps not quite up to par with the IPS display seen on the X230/X220, it still can hold its own.  At any typical viewing angle it looks great, and even at wide viewing angles the colors hold up pretty well.  The brightness of the screen is excellent at 300 nits and the colors appear very true.  Whites are white and blacks are black.  The 1600 x 900 resolution is just right in my book, if it were higher at 1920 x 1080 that might be a little too much for those of us losing our vision a bit.


New HP Coupons for $400 Off Pavilion dv6t Quad, $200 Off ENVY Ultrabook Laptops

HP has released more coupons for this week in addition to the coupons for the dv7t and ENVY 17 laptops released last Sunday.  A new $400 coupon works on the popular Pavilion dv6t Quad Edition, ENVY 15 along with another $200 off coupon that works on the Envy 4t, Envy 6t and Envy 6z.  Here are the details on the new coupons:

  • Use coupon code NBK4215 to get $400 off the HP Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition or ENVY 15 laptop. Coupon works through August 19, 2012 and can be used up to 1,000 times (1 use per address)
  • Use coupon code NBZ7654 to get $100 off the HP Envy 4t, Envy 6t or Envy 6z.  Coupon stacks with the current $100 instant rebate for a total discount of $200. Coupon works through August 19, 2012 and can be used up to 750 times (1 use per address)
  • Use coupon code NBF8752 to save $50 off the purchase of a custom HP Pavilion dv6z, Pavilion dm1z, or Pavilion dv4t.  Coupon works through August, 19 2012 and can be used up to 750 times.

Here are some examples of the starting pricing on some of these laptops using the $400 off and $200 off coupons:

Let’s take a look at what kind of specs you get with these prices for each laptop:

The Pavilion dv6t-7000 Quad Edition comes with an Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3GHz processor, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GT 630M graphics, 1366 x 768 screen and a 640GB hard drive for $749.99. This is a pretty good deal, you might consider upgrading to the Nvidia 650M and faster spinning 7200RPM hard drive for a faster overall machine.  The high resolution 1920 x 1080 screen is also highly recommended if you can afford it.

NBK4215 HP Coupon

The ENVY 15t-3200 comes with a standard 1366 x 768 display, Intel Core i5-3210m processor, AMD Radeon 7750M graphics, 6GB of memory and a 750GB 7200RPM HD for $949.99 after the NBK4215 coupon.

NBK4215 Envy 15 Coupon

Finally, the Envy 6t-1000 comes with an Intel Core i5-2467M processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB SSD Cache, and 500GB hard drive for $699.99 after coupon:


The other notable coupons currently available via HP is the $450 off the dv7t Quad Edition and Envy 17 and a Free XBox 360 with the purchase of any HP PC that’s priced $699 or more, here are the details on those coupons:

  • Use coupon code NBH9721 to get $450 off the HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition, ENVY 17-3200 or ENVY 17 3D. Coupon works through August 12, 2012 and can be used up to 1,000 times (1 use per address)
  • Get a Free XBox 360 when you select any HP laptop or desktop priced $699 or more. Use this link and then at check apply coupon code XBOX360 at http://shopping.hp.com/FreeXbox360 to get the deal. Expires on 9/8/2012. If you don’t need the free XBox you can always sell it on Amazon or eBay for around $160 and treat it like a discount!

Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon Pricing and Availability Revealed

For those that have been patiently awaiting the release of the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon business Ultrabook, your wait is just about over and some of the suspense alleviated as pricing and availability dates have been named.  The ThinkPad X1 Carbon will go on sale August 21st in the U.S. via Lenovo.com and will start at $1,399.  Here’s a table that includes the configurations available and pricing for each:

List Price
$1,399Intel Core i5-3317U128GB SSD SATA 3
$1,499Intel Core i5-3427U128GB SSD SATA 3
$1,649Intel Core i5-3427U256GB SSD SATA 3
$1,849Intel Core i7-3667U256GB SSD SATA 3


Processor Details
  • 3rd Generation Intel Core i7-3667U (2.0 GHz, 4MB L3, 1333MHz FSB) VPRO
  • 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3427U (1.80 GHz, 3MB L3, 1333MHz FSB) VPRO
  • 3rd Generation Intel Core i5-3317U (1.7 GHz, 3MB L3, 1333MHz FSB)
Memory4 GB DDR 1333 MHz
GraphicsIntel HD 4000
Screen14” HD+ Anti-glare (1600×900) (300 nits) Wide Viewing
Ports(1) Mini DP, (1) Combo Audio, (1) USB 2.0, (1) USB 3.0, (1) 4-in-1 SD card reader,
Ethernet via USB dongle
Weight & DimensionsStarting at 2.998 lbs (13.03” x 8.9” x 0.74”)
Battery45 Watt-hour, Up to 6.3 hours, sealed battery with RapidCharge
WirelessIntel Centrino Advanced-N 6205S
WWAN3G WWAN (Ericsson H5321gw) – (not available in i5-3317U)
CameraYes, 720P HD
OSGenuine Windows® 7 Professional 64
WarrantyThree (3) Years

ThinkPad X1 Carbon

The base price of $1,399 is before any promotion discounts so it’s possible that the MSRP isn’t what you’ll actually have to pay.  For the sake of comparison we’ll mention that the Apple MacBook Air 13” starts at $1,199 with a 128GB SSD, so it’s slightly cheaper starting out with a Core i5 processor and 4GB of RAM.  However, with that said, there are of course some advantages the ThinkPad X1 has over the 13” MacBook Air.  For starters, the ThinkPad X1 Carbon has a higher resolution 1600 x 900 screen with a matte finish, the matte finish is anti-glare and better for the eyes when staring at the screen for long hours.  The MacBook Air is made of aluminum while the X1 Carbon is made of a carbon fiber shell, so both are durable but the carbon fiber shell of the ThinkPad X1 should be more resistant to dents, dings and scratches.  The starting weight of the Carbon X1 is 2.99lbs while the 13” MacBook Air is 2.96lbs, but consider the fact the X1 has a 14” screen and the engineering feat appears to be on the side of Lenovo here.  And of course, as any good ThinkPad should, the X1 Carbon offers a pointing stick.  What the X1 doesn’t offer that other ThinkPads do is a docking station solution or the ability to remove and replace the battery, the bottom is sealed.

ThinkPad X1 Carbon left side

Other features worth mentioning in the ThinkPad Carbon X1 include a backlit keyboard with the usability you’d expect from anything emblazoned with a ThinkPad logo.  There’s a rapid charge feature that allows you to charge to 80% battery in 30 minutes, that’s 5 hours of charge.  There’s an option for built-in 3G WWAN, though that’s not available in the base model with Core i5-3317U.  Finally Lenovo is promising improved audio thanks to the Dolby Home Theater V4 the X1 is equipped with.

Where to Buy: Lenovo.com starting August 21st!


HP Pavilion m6-1000 Review — A Lighter dv6

HP introduced the Pavilion m6-1000 15” screen laptop as a thinner and lighter version of the popular dv6.  With a weight of 5.1lbs and thinness of around 1” it sits between the Pavilion dv6t and Envy 6t in regards to size.  The Pavilion m6-1000 is available in either an Intel or AMD configuration.  The Intel version sells as the Pavilion m6t-1000 on HP.com while the AMD version of the m6 is only available via Best Buy and sells as the Pavilion m6-1035dx.  Our review unit happens to be the Pavilion m6-1035dx that was purchased at Best Buy for the price of $579.

HP Pavilion m6-1035dx Specs

The specs of the Pavilion m6-1035dx are as follows:

  • Processor: AMD Quad-Core A10-4600M Accelerated Processor
  • Memory: 6GB DDR3 SDRAM (2 DIMM)
  • Graphics: AMD Radeon HD 7660G Discrete-Class graphics
  • Screen: 15.6-inch diagonal HD BrightView LED-backlit display (1366×768)
  • Storage: 640GB 5400RPM hard drive with HP ProtectSmart Hard Drive Protection
  • Optical Drive: SuperMulti DVD burner
  • Audio: Beats Audio with 2 speakers and a subwoofer
  • Ports: media card reader, 3 SuperSpeed USB 3.0, 1 Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0, 1 HDMI, 1 VGA (15-pin), 1 RJ-45 (LAN), 1 Headphone-out/Microphone-in combo
  • Dimensions: 14.94″ (L) x 9.87″ (W) x 0 .87″ (min H)/ 1.04″ (max H)
  • Weight: 5.2 lbs

Pavilion m6 Video

For those who like video reviews, you can check out the hands on video review we did via YouTube in Full HD or view the embedded video below:

HP Pavilion m6-1000 Review

Design and Build

The design for the m6 features a midnight black color lid with brush aluminum finish.  The edges feature a silver trim and then inside you again get an all black finish.  The look is nice and I think will appeal to a wide audience.  If black just isn’t for you then you can opt for a silver finish for $25 extra on HP.com with the m6t-1000 model, currently the AMD version m6-1035dx only offers black.

Pavilion m6

The lid of the Pavilion m6 has an HP logo on it that lights up which is a nice design touch.


The only indication of the model number of the laptop comes at the top right of the screen where  “Pavilion m6” is printed in white.


The only part of the design I ‘m not a big fan of are the glossy edges around the screen and between the keyboard keys.  The glossy screen bezel in particular picks up fingerprints at the slightest touch and you’ll have to use a microfiber cloth to wipe it down.

The materials used in the construction of the m6 are a mix of aluminum and plastic, this provides for a solid chassis.  While it’s not quite the same build quality as the more premium all aluminum body ENVY 15, it’s still good.  The top of the Pavilion m6 and palm rest areas are all made of aluminum and the sides use a durable plastic.  I tried pushing in on several areas and couldn’t find any particular spot that had excessive flex.  You can push in on the back of the screen lid and no ripples are produced, so this indicates the screen is well protected.


The Pavilion m6 comes with a 15.6” LED backlit screen with a 1366 x 768 HD resolution, there is no upgrade option.  The screen has a glossy finish, which means that while colors do pop and appear more vivid due to the glossiness (good for movie watching), the downside is that if you have a strong light behind you you’ll get a lot of reflections on the screen.  So basically the glossy screen can be good or bad, depending on your environment and personal preference.   There’s nothing special to say otherwise about the Pavilion m6 display, it’s bright enough for indoor usage and viewing angles are just so-so, which is what you’d expect on a laptop of this budget.  It’s a shame there is no screen resolution upgrade option, the 768p resolution is certainly on the low end for a 15” screen laptop.



Processor and Performance

As mentioned previously, the Pavilion m6-1000 can be found with either an AMD or Intel processor.  The Intel based m6t-1000 is customizable via HP.com and the AMD version is available at BestBuy.com or in store as the Pavilion m6-1035dx.  The m6 model under review is the AMD version and was purchased from Best Buy.  The processor that comes with the m6-1035dx is the AMD A10-4600M quad core processor and graphics are provided by the AMD 7660G.  The memory included is a generous 6GB of RAM.  With these specs you get a laptop that’s more than capable of multi-tasking and doing some light gaming, certainly for most typical work productivity needs such as using the web or typing a report the m6-1035dx is more than adequate.  To get an idea of how the m6-1035dx performs relative to other laptops I ran PCMark Vantage and 3DMark Vantage to generate scores and compare to other similar laptops:

3DMark Vantage – 4,621


Laptop3DMark Vantage
HP Pavilion m6-1035dx – AMD A10-4600M, 6GB RAM, 640GB 5400RPM, AMD 7660G4,621
HP dv6t-7000 Quad Edition, Intel Core i7-3610QM, Nvidia GT650M, 7200RPM HD10,108
Lenovo IdeaPad Y480 (Intel Core i7-3610QM, NVIDIA 640M LE, 8GB RAM, 5400RPM HD)5,587
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 – 5,898


PCMark Vantage Benchmark Results – Higher scores indicate better performance

LaptopPCMark Vantage Score
HP Pavilion m6-1035dx – AMD A10-4600M, 6GB RAM, 640GB 5400RPM, AMD 7660G5,898 PCMarks
HP ENVY 4t-1000 – Intel Core i3-2367M 1.4GHz, 4GB RAM, 500GB 5400RPM HD, Intel HD 30004,378 PCMarks
Dell XPS 13 (Intel Core i5-2476M 1.60GHz, Intel HD 3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)9,826 PCMarks
HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)9,026 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

These scores show that the AMD A10 on board is about on par with a 2nd generation Intel Core i5 processor from the Sandy Bridge family, but it is slower than current 3rd generation Core i5 processors.  Meanwhile, the 3DMark Vantage score of 4,621 is a solid number for a $579 laptop and shows you will be able to do some gaming on the latest games at medium graphics settings.

Battery Life

Here’s where we get to the jaw dropping part of the Pavilion m6-1035dx.  Battery life is a very important factor for those that need to be mobile, such as students or business travellers.  To test battery life I set the Windows power settings to “Power Saver”, set the screen brightness to level 3 of 10 (the screen was still easily viewable indoors), wireless was on and a browser was open and set to refresh every 60 seconds and then unplugged the m6.  Under these conditions the m6-1035dx lasted an amazing 7 hours and 40 minutes.  That’s fantastic battery life for a 15” screen laptop, obviously AMD has made some big improvements on the power consumption of their A series processors with the latest generation called Trinity.


Keyboard and Touchpad

The Pavilion m6-1000 uses a chiclet style keyboard and has enough space to accommodate a number pad on the right side.  The keys have a fairly short travel distance and unfortunately the keyboard suffers from mushiness, there’s a lot of flex especially in the middle.   Overall the keyboard feel is sub par and one of the weakest factors of this laptop.  On the plus side, a backlit keyboard is standard across all m6 models, the look is cool and it’s more usable in a dimly lit room.  Also included on the m6 is a fingerprint reader, this is useful for quick logins and saving passwords.

Pavilion m6-1000 backlit keyboard

The touchpad is a decent size and works well, it uses synaptics drivers and has all the scroll and multi-touch features you’d expect.  Unfortunately the touchpad area is not backlit like the keyboard, this is odd since on last years dv6t model the touchpad did have illumination.  The mouse buttons below the touchpad are a let down, while they work fine, they have very little travel distance and don’t give convincing feedback – the feel is pretty chintzy.

Input and Output Ports

The Pavilion m6-1000 offers a very good selection of ports. On the left side you have a monitor out port, HDMI, Ethernet LAN (RJ-45), two USB 3.0 ports, and a combined headphone jack and microphone jack:


On the right side, you get another USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, the power jack and the optical drive which is a DVD Multi-Burner in this case:


On the front left side is a media card reader:


The back of the m6 has no ports:


Speakers and Audio

The Pavilion m6-1000 has two speakers on top and a subwoofer underneath.  HP uses the Beats audio branding on this machine and touts its superior audio capabilities.  I tested the speakers out by playing “Fort Battle” from the soundtrack of Last of the Mohicans, it offers a lot of bass and treble to test speakers out.  The subwoofer did give some nice bass, better than you’d expect from a laptop.  However, the speakers on top were just so-so.  There was a good amount of tininess and nothing like the audio quality you’d get from using headphones, which is what I recommend to do if you’re an audiophile.



The highlight of the Pavilion m6-1035dx for me was most certainly the battery life of 7 hours and 40 minutes which is simply amazing for a 15.6” screen laptop.  The build quality and design of the Pavilion m6-1000 are certainly appealing, it’s quite light at 5.1lbs and only 1-inch thin so it’s very portable for the screen size.  The two downsides to the Pavilion m6 are the lackluster keyboard, no option for a screen resolution upgrade and the somewhat annoying glossy finish around the screen.   Bottom line, the HP Pavilion m6 is a nice alternative to the Pavilion dv6 if you were hoping for something thinner and lighter and like the design, build and reputation of that laptop.

[box type=”info”]Get a Discount on the HP m6-1000 Using the HP Student Discount[/box]


HP Pavilion dv6-7000 Vs. Pavilion m6-1000 Comparison, What’s the Difference?

HP has two very similar 15.6” laptops in its lineup, those being the Pavilion dv6-7000 series and Pavilion m6-1000 series.  Both have the exact same midnight black brush metal design, similar component options and the ability to choose either an AMD or Intel processor.  There are however important differences between these two laptops, HP isn’t just cranking out the same machine and slapping two different labels on them.  This article seeks to cover what the similarities and differences are between the Pavilion m6 and dv6 and offer video and pictures to compliment the write-up.

First off, check out the video I shot comparing the dv6-7000 and m6-1000:

HP Pavilion dv6-7000 and Pavilion m6-1000 Comparison Video

The video covers pretty much everything in this article, so if you prefer visuals to reading then feel free to stop reading now!

Design and Build

For those that are still with us and prefer the written word, first let’s talk about the design of these two laptops.  From a distance the Pavilion dv6 and m6 look exactly alike.  They both have a brush metal midnight black finish with silver accents around the edge of the lid and ports.  In the picture below you can see the m6 on the left and dv6 on the right:

dv6-7000 and m6-1000 side by side

And from above you can see that the same design is used on the lid and that you get an HP logo that lights up in the same spot, again the Pavilion m6 is on the left and dv6 on the right:

Pavilion m6 on the left, Pavilion dv6 on the right

The design difference between the Pavilion dv6 and m6 comes in when you consider the weight and thinness.  The Pavilion m6 weighs around 5.1lbs while the dv6 weighs a more hefty 5.6lbs, so it’s about a half pound heavier.  The m6 is also thinner at 1.04” thick versus the 1.28” thickness of the dv6, making the m6 about 0.25” thinner.  Needless to say, if you put a high premium on having a thinner and lighter laptop then this advantage of the Pavilion m6 could appeal to you.

Pavilion m6 on the left, Pavilion dv6 on the right

HP Pavilion m6 weight – 5.11lbs

HP Pavilion dv6 weight – 5.63lbs

Screen Options

The screen option on the Pavilion m6-1000 is limited to just a 1366 x 768 resolution glossy display while the dv6t-7000 offers a 1920 x 1080 matte screen upgrade option.  For those that like to watch  movies in Full HD or simply see more graphics and text on the screen the 1920 x 1080 screen could be a very compelling upgrade.  The higher the resolution, the more pixels on a screen, which leads to higher definition.  The fact the Full HD upgrade on the dv6t is a matte finish also means it is more conducive to getting work done as it limits reflections and glare.

Performance Options

Both the dv6-7000 and Pavilion m6-1000 come in either an Intel or AMD configuration. The Intel based dv6 is dubbed the Pavilion dv6t-7000 series while the Intel based m6 is dubbed the Pavilion m6t-1000 on HP.com.  The AMD version of the dv6-7000 is sold as the Pavilion dv6z-7000 on HP.com while the AMD version of the m6 is only available via Best Buy and sells as the Pavilion m6-1035dx.

Both the Pavilion m6t and dv6t can be configured with up to an Intel Core i7 processor, but the difference is that the dv6t-7000 Quad Edition can be configured with a more powerful Quad Core i7 processor.  For most such a powerful processor is unnecessary, but the option is there.  The real performance separator is the fact you can get a high end Nvidia 650m graphics card in the dv6t-7000 for the cost of $150.  This makes the dv6t a gaming capable laptop.  Meanwhile, the Pavilion m6 can be configured with up to AMD 7670 or AMD 7660 graphics, but neither are as powerful as the Nvidia option.  For this reason the dv6t-7000 is a potentially more potent performer.


Both laptops come equipped with Beats audio software and speakers.  You get a sub-woofer on the bottom of each model.  Sound quality and audio is exactly the same on each model.

Port Selection

The port selection and locations are exactly the same on the dv6 and m6 with just one slight variation, the Pavilion m6 has a combined microphone and headphone port while the dv6 has separate microphone and headphone ports.  That can be seen clearly here (m6 on the bottom, dv6 on top):


Other than that slight variation, the ports offered are the same on each and the locations are the same.  On the left side of each you get a VGA monitor out, HDMI, Ethernet RJ-45 port, two USB 3.0 ports, and then the headphone and microphone ports:


On the right side you get a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port and the power jack.



What it boils down to is that the Pavilion m6-1000 is geared towards those people looking for a well priced 15” laptop that’s fairly thin and light.  The dv6-7000 is heavier and thicker, but offers more options to upgrade from the base model.  You do end up paying a slight premium for the m6 due to its thinner and lighter profile, so if you don’t care about those factors then save money by going for the dv6.  Obviously if you want a gaming laptop and a Full HD screen then your best option is the souped-up dv6t-7000 Quad Edition.  Both laptops have equivalent sturdy build and appealing brush metal midnight black design, so neither one can be called “better”, you just need to decide which factors are more important to you in regards to performance (dv6-7000 wins) or thinness and lightness (m6-1000 wins) and then go with it!


New HP Coupon for August, $450 Off dv7t Quad Edition and ENVY 17

HP has just issued a new $450 off coupon that works on the high performance 17” laptops HP offers.  The Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition, ENVY 17 and ENVY 17 3D all qualify for the following $450 off coupon code:

  • Use coupon code NBH9721 to get $450 off the HP Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition, ENVY 17-3200 or ENVY 17 3D. Coupon works through August 12, 2012 and can be used up to 1,000 times (1 use per address)

Here are links to the three laptops that qualify for this $450 off coupon and the starting price after coupon is used:

Let’s take a look at what kind of specs you get with these prices for each laptop:

The Pavilion dv7t-7000 Quad Edition comes with an Intel Core i7-3610QM 2.3GHz processor, 8GB RAM, Nvidia GT 630M graphics, 1600 x 900 screen and a 1TB hard drive for $799.99. Not a bad deal at all, you might consider upgrading to the Nvidia 650M and faster spinning 7200RPM hard drive for a faster overall machine.

dv7t-7000 Quad

The ENVY 17t-3200 comes with a standard 1920 x 1080 Full HD Radiance display, Intel Core i5-3210m processor, AMD Radeon 7850M graphics, 6GB of memory and a 1TB 5400RPM HD for $1,124.99 after the NBH9721 coupon.

Envy 17t-3200

Finally, the Envy 17-3200 3D Edition comes with an Intel Core i7-3610QM, AMD HD 7850M graphics, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive for $1,399.99 after coupon.  The display is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 display with 3D capability.  You get a pair of 3D glasses with the laptop.


The other notable coupon currently available via HP is for a Free XBox 360 with the purchase of any HP PC that’s priced $699 or more, here are the details on that coupon:

  • Get a Free XBox 360 when you select any HP laptop or desktop priced $699 or more.  Use this link and then at check apply coupon code XBOX360 at http://shopping.hp.com/FreeXbox360 to get the deal.  Expires on 9/8/2012.  If you don’t need the free XBox you can always sell it on Amazon or eBay for around $160 and treat it like a discount!

Lenovo ThinkPad W530 Vs. T530, What’s the Difference?

It’s back-to-school season and you’re looking for a 15.6” ThinkPad to purchase, probably because you’ve heard a lot of good things about their reliability or some other quality that interests you. However, Lenovo offers two ThinkPads in this 15-inch size range, and you’re not sure which one is right for you. “Should I go with the T530, or spend more on the W530?” you may ask. Externally, the laptops look exactly the same, and the processor options are similar. So why is the W530 more expensive, and which one should you buy?

Here are links to the two laptops we are comparing:

ThinkPad T530 Vs. W530 Comparison

Background and History

In the past, Lenovo separated their workstation-class laptop lines from their regular laptop lines by adding a “p” to the end of a model name.  For instance, the 15” ThinkPad T61 became the ThinkPad T61p to indicate it was the workstation derivative. However, by 2008 this naming system changed, and Lenovo created a new series name to fit their workstation offerings: the W series. Instead of having the possible T61/T61p confusion, that year’s models were named the T500 and W500 (and W700 and W700ds, their 17.3” workstation offerings).  The W series is a naming convention that continues to this day.

ThinkPad T530 and W530 Similarities

Starting with the least expensive starting configurations, $779 for the T530 and $1,299 for the W530, there isn’t much difference to speak of.  If you opt for the 1080p display option on either laptop, both use the same 95% NTSC color gamut display, resulting in vibrant, accurate color reproduction. The T530’s base processor is the Intel Core i3-2370M, whereas the W530 starts off with the Core i7-3610QM (though oddly enough, you can “upgrade” to the less powerful dual-core i7-3520M for $50 more).  Both laptops offer a max of 16GB of RAM from the factory configuration, though we should note with a quad-core CPU and use of aftermarket 8GB RAM modules, the max is actually 32GB you could upgrade to.   Both the T530 and W530 have fingerprint readers and backlit keyboard options. Both offer an option to add an integrated web camera and have the same storage options (320GB to 1TB hard drives or up to 180GB solid-state storage). Either can be configured with the default ThinkPad wireless, Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205, or Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300.  Unsurprisingly, Lenovo offers the same warranty options on both systems. Construction-wise, both offer an internal magnesium rollcage to protect the motherboard and other internal electronics from accidental damage.

ThinkPad T530 and W530 Graphics and Display Option Differences

So far these laptops sound very similar, so besides minor CPU differences, what separates these two then? The answer to this rests in the markets for these two laptops. Regular business laptops, such as the T530, are meant to be used by businesses that give them to their office workers to write up reports, participate in video conferences, all the usual 9-to-5 cubical work stuff. Workstation-class laptops, such as the W530, are meant for a different task altogether. Typical buyers of this type of laptop include graphic designers, CAD users, engineers, GIS, anybody that needs a computer with the computational power to handle ISV-certified applications without issue. Typically, this means that a professional-grade GPU is required, such as the nVidia Quadro series or AMD FirePro series.

Starting with the integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU, it’s possible to upgrade the T530 to the nVidia Quadro NVS 5400M. Even though the upgraded GPU in the T530 is a Quadro, it’s one of the weakest on the market and isn’t much better than the Intel GPU in terms of raw performance; the only reason I see for buying a laptop with the 5400M is if a user needs CUDA support in an inexpensive laptop (while in the past a person could get away with using a GeForce card for CUDA, nVidia gimped the current Kelper GeForces to try to get customers to buy the more expensive Quadros). The W530 also comes with two GPU options: the Quadro K1000M and Quadro K2000M, the latter being a $250 option. nVidia’s Quadro K1000M is about twice as powerful as the NVS 5400M and comes with 96 CUDA cores, while the K2000M is even more powerful and comes with 192 CUDA cores. While the ThinkPad T530 by default comes with a 768p display and can be upgraded to a 900p display for an extra $50, the W530 has the 900p display as standard (and both can be upgraded to 1080p for $200).

On another topic related to the display, an option only available to the ThinkPad W530 is the integrated color calibrator (built into the palm rest). The Pantone color calibrator (+$10 plus a $70 upgrade to a compatible display) allows a user to calibrate certain color settings of the laptop’s display, such as color consistency, set the display to several pre-made color profiles, or manually control using Pantone’s alteration options.

Storage Option Differences

Another option unique to the W530 includes the option for a RAID setup, the RAID option is a $120 upgrade over the base option.  Lenovo will remove the optical drive to install a second hard drive to the system, shipping the laptop with either RAID 0 or RAID 1, and with dual 320GB 7200RPM mechanical drives, dual 500GB 5400PRM drives (+$20), or dual 1TB 5400RPM drives (+$340). While an end user could just buy an aftermarket color calibrator, RAID cannot be configured after shipping the W530; it must be enabled at the factory.


So what does this mean for college students looking for a ThinkPad to bring to school? Well, the T530 has similar specs to most other laptops on the market that come with an Intel Core processor, Intel graphics, and a 768p or 900p display. Of course, the ThinkPad lineup is more durable than the consumer-class laptops found at Big Box stores found in your town or city’s shopping district, so it’ll better withstand the bumps and drops that happen in the dorm and classroom. Upgrading to the 1080p display on either laptop will deliver a beautiful, high-definition display that’ll surely be noticed. Students that want to go into engineering programs would benefit from the W530’s ability to seamlessly handle programs such as AutoCAD, Solidworks, Pro Engineer, etc. The W530 also has the advantage in raw GPU power, making it an attractive option for those who want to have a business laptop with a decent GPU for gaming (especially for those who don’t like the styling of some gaming laptops on the market). For the typical student, however, the ThinkPad T530 should be more than enough power for four years of education. Other than GPU options and weight differences, both laptops are practically the same (albeit the W530 is more expensive, due to the better GPU options).

Sometimes, however, it can be cheaper to buy a W530 over a T530 with similar specs. For example, if you wanted to buy a ThinkPad with a quad-core processor and 900p display, the T530 (with i7-3720QM and 900p upgrades) comes to $1,289 with just the Intel GPU (compared to the W530’s $1299 base price for the i7-3610QM and 900p); the Core i7-3610QM, one of the least-expensive quad-cores on the market today, isn’t offered on the T530. Add the Quadro NVS 5400M, and you’d be better off just buying the base W530.

To make it easier to read, here’s a table with all the options and configurations for each ThinkPad model, with differences highlighted in red:


ThinkPad T530ThinkPad W530
Processor Options
  • Intel Core i3-2370M Processor (3MB, 2.4GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-2520M Processor (3MB cache, 2.5GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3210M Processor (3MB cache, 2.5GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3320M Processor (3MB cache, 2.6GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3360M Processor (3MB cache, 2.8GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3520M Processor (4MB cache, 2.9GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3610QM Processor (6MB cache, 2.3GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor (6MB cache, 2.6GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3820QM Processor (8MB cache, 2.7GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3320M Processor (3MB cache, 2.6GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3360M Processor (3MB cache, 2.8GHz)
  • Intel Core i5-3520M Processor (4MB cache, 2.9GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3610QM Processor (6MB cache, 2.3GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3720QM Processor (6MB cache, 2.6GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-2820QM Processor (8MB cache, 2.7GHz)
  • Intel Core i7-3920XM Processor (8MB cache, 2.9GHz)
  • 15.6” HD (1366 x 768) (220 NITS)
  • 15.6” HD+ (1600 x 900) (220 NITS)
  • 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080) (95% Gamut) (270 NITS)
  • 15.6” HD+ (1600 x 900) (220 NITS)
  • 15.6” FHD (1920 x 1080) (95% Gamut) (270 NITS)
Graphics Options
  • Intel HD 4000
  • nVidia Quadro NVS 5400M (w/ Optimus)
  • nVidia Quadro K1000M (w/Optimus)
  • nVidia Quadro K2000M (w/Optimus)
MemoryUp to 32GB RAMUp to 32GB RAM
  • Standard Chiclet
  • Backlit Chiclet (+$40)
  • Standard Chiclet
  • Backlit Chiclet (+$40)
Ports2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0 (1 Always-On), mini DisplayPort (w/audio), VGA, 4-in-1 reader, 1 ExpressCard 34mm, SmartCard reader (optional), 1 combo mic/headphone jack, Ethernet port2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0 (1 Always-On), mini DisplayPort (w/ audio), VGA, 4-in-1 reader, 1 ExpressCard 34mm, SmartCard reader (optional), 1 combo mic/headphone jack, Ethernet port
CameraOptional 720p HD camera (w/ microphone)Optional 720p HD camera (w/ microphone)
  • 320GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200RPM
  • 500GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400RPM
  • 1TB Hard Disk Drive, 5400RPM
  • 128GB Solid-State Drive, SATAIII
  • 180GB Solid-State Drive, SATAIII
  • 320GB Hard Disk Drive, 7200RPM
  • 500GB Hard Disk Drive, 5400RPM
  • 1TB Hard Disk Drive, 5400RPM
  • 128GB Solid-State Drive, SATAIII
  • 180GB Solid-State Drive, SATAIII
Ultrabay Options
  • DVD burner
  • 1TB 5400RPM Hard Disk Drive (w/ Bay Adaptor)
  • DVD burner
  • 1TB 5400RPM Hard Disk Drive (w/ Bay Adaptor)
Battery Options
  • 6-cell Li-Ion
  • 9-cell Li-Ion
  • 9-cell slice (optional add-on)
  • 6-cell Li-Ion
  • 9-cell Li-Ion
  • 9-cell slice (optional add-on)
  • ThinkPad 1×1 (b/g/n)
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 2×2 (a/b/g/n)
  • Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 3×3 (a/b/g/n)
  • ThinkPad 1×1 (b/g/n)
  • Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6205 2×2 (a/b/g/n)
  • Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 3×3 (a/b/g/n)
MobileQualcomm Gobi 3000Qualcomm Gobi 3000
Weight5.39lbs (2.45kg)5.95lbs (2.7kg)
Thickness1.25” (front) to 1.4” (back)1.25” (front) to 1.4” (back)


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