ThinkPad W510 Review: First Impressions


[Update: 15 March 2011: I finally caved in and got a 13″ MacBook Air. I just got it yesterday and am already up and running. I love the low-throw keyboard and massive multitouch touchpad. And the (lack of) weight.

Today, I got rid of the W510. That’s all it took — one day. I haven’t used a Mac since 1992, but it is, in fact, pretty easy [though I was perplexed by the extension cord, which like many of Apple’s products, is completely non-obvious.] Luckily, I do know Unix and the Mac OS is easy to learn with their online tutorials.

The Air’s hardly a desktop replacement, though I’d probably buy one even if I wanted to run Windows on it. Alternatively, I might consider a MacBook Pro, which a year after Lenovo came out with a machine with roughly similar specs to the W510.]

[Update: 25 September 2010: After six months or so, the machine’s developed a serious looseness on the lower right side of the keyboard/case that makes typing on it even worse. It rattles, and I can feel the lower right side of the case moving along with the keys. Typing, I notice it on the whole right side of the keyboard, but it’s most pronounced with keys in the lower right. Wah! My favorite part of the IBM Thinkpads was the keyboard.

Does anyone have other suggestions out there for a high-performance notebook with a good keyboard? It’s not something most reviewers even mention. At Best Buy, I hated pretty much all the notebook keyboards I tried, but they hardly had a full range, and mostly consumer models.]

I’ve had my Lenovo ThinkPad W510 for a week [update: I’ve now had it for nearly a month and my opinion hasn’t changed]. Long enough to transfer all of my work, install everything I need, and use it for a couple days for work.

My previous machine was a Lenovo ThinkPad Z61P with a Core Duo, 4GB of RAM and a 1920×1200 15.5″ monitor. I’ve had ThinkPads going back to the late 1990s.

The Specs

Here’s the most info I could find from Lenovo:

CPU and Memory

I got the cheapest CPU, an Intel Quad Core Processor i7 720QM. Intel gave it a slow 1.6GHz clock for when all four cores are engaged, but then uses “TurboBoost” to max out at 2.8GHz under less load. The step up to the 820QM at 3GHz max didn’t seem worthwhile, much less the step to the extreme version.

The W510, unlike the T series notebooks, has 4 DIMM slots. I got 8GB of DDR3 memory in 4 DIMMs, but only at 1066MHz. I figure I’ll upgrade to 16GB of DDR3 at 1333MHz when it gets a bit cheaper or when I have a job for which I need 16GB.

128MBGB Solid State Drive

I have to say that the SSD isn’t the life-changer I’d been led to believe it would be. It may just be all the over-hype for desktop use.

What it does do is make startup from sleep super-duper fast, as in almost instant. And I have to keep checking that my gzipped tar files really have unpacked. Lots of random file access is way faster.

It’s also startlingly quiet. So the notebook doesn’t thrum any more when in use. Very cool.

I think it’s also more energy efficient than traditional disks, but I’ve only been plugged in w/o a power meter so far.

The Monitor

Why don’t other manufacturers release higher definition monitors in smaller sizes? Apple’s 17″, not to mention HP and Sony’s 18″ plus monsters are just too big. But I want high res in a smaller size, which pretty much leaves me with Lenovo.

I opted for the 15.6″ FHD Display (95% Gamut) with LED Backlight. I didn’t get touch screen, and the option for FHD without touch screen seems to have gone away. They’ve already had supply issues with these machines.

It took some digging to decode FHD into “full HD”, meaning 1920 x 1080 native resolution. I think this is a huge mistake; I want my 1920 x 1200 back. I’m a programmer and I like my vertical buffer space in both the shell and emacs and web docs/PDFs.

The brightness and color balance are nothing short of amazing. From across the room, the screen with an emacs window up reminds me of my white-balanced photo light box. My old ThinkPad screens look green compared to the new one. After working for an hour or two in emacs, I find the incandescents in our house look out of balance. Photos look way better on this screen than on our previous ThinkPad screens and better than on our Samsung 24″ LCD monitors at work. Did I say “amazing” yet?

It’s so bright I can’t leave it on full brightness indoors.

Speaking of monitors, it also has a DisplayPort output, which I haven’t tried yet. That’ll mean yet another dongle — DisplayPort to HDMI. No idea if the W510 sends out sound on that or not.

The Keyboard

What Lenovo have done to the ThinkPad keyboard is nothing short of criminal. I type really quickly, and I loved the old ThinkPad keyboards. I’m using a ThinkPad USB keyboard on my workstation at work as I type this.

Over the last three ThinkPads (over a period of 6 or so years), the keyboards have just gotten worse. Basically, the keys are longer throw, less definitively clicky, and much much stiffer.

The new keyboard size for escape and delete keys was a good idea; at least they left all the keys I use in the same place as before.

Does anyone know if the T410 and T510 use the same keyboards?

Lenovo — give me my old keyboard back. I’m willing to pay in both US$ and weight!

I tried all the other brands out there, and there’s nothing out there like the old ThinkPad keyboards. And Sony’s and Apple’s are just dreadful (though I like the compact iMac keyboards more than any notebook keyboards out now).

[Update: After a month of use, the keyboard strikes me as even worse than it did on first impressions. I’m consistently dropping keystrokes because the force required is so much greater than my old ThinkPad. Argh!]

The Battery and Power Supply

WTF? There’s a 9-cell battery which sticks out of the back of the machine a good ways and is really heavy. I almost never get stuck relying on battery power, but then I don’t take many long flights any more. What’s annoying is that there’s no 6-cell option, so at least for now, I’m stuck with this unsightly thing.

The 135 watt power supply is enormous and also heavy. It’s more amps than the previous power supply. I have no idea if I could get away with a less powerful one.

Thankfully they’ve kept the same power-supply connector (what they call a “tip”). IBM used to swap them every model so I had to keep buying new secondary power supplies.

I don’t see any lighter model that’s compatible with my machine, which is a real drag.

Useless Built Ins

No, I don’t need a 2MP video camera (though who knows, I may Skype with video now), and I don’t need a fingerprint reader, and I don’t need memory card readers.

I also uninstalled the MS Office trials, but the machine was otherwise free of preinstalled crap.

Windows 7 Pro 64 bit

This machine came with Windows 7 Pro 64-bit version (it was $70 cheaper than “Ultimate”, whatever that is).

I was burned on my dual quad core workstation by not getting Windows Vista Pro (which is required to run two physical cores — I hate crippleware, of which Windows Home is a prime example), this machine came with Windows 7 Pro. Of course, 64 bit.

All I can say is “seventh verse, same as the first”. I’m a Windows user and can’t tell the difference here. But then some of the speed may be the new Windows instead of the new machine.

I put everything back to Windows Classic mode. I just can’t get used to the fat translucent title bars.

I turn off ClearType because I prefer my fonts to be crisp.

I put everything back to normal size (100% zoom), because at 125% zoom, the fonts all look yucky. It’s tiny, but then I can see a lot. As I get older, it’s tougher on my eyes. I wish Windows resized everything more gracefully so I can keep emacs and shell at native res, but crank up icons, windows, menus, etc., to something more manageable without them looking ugly and unbalanced.

But what’s with not letting me resize windows near the bottom of the screen? It just exacerbates the loss of 120 vertical pixels with the “FHD” format. If anyone knows how to turn that off, let me know. [Update: Windows 7 snaps the window to full height if you let it go in this region, which is really useful.]

The Optical Drive

Alas, “Multi Recorder Optical Drive (12.7mm)” did not mean Blu-Ray. You get Blu-Ray at this price on other mainstream computers other than the Apple. C’mon, they’re not that expensive, and I’m paying the premium to Netflix because I love 1080p.

Graphics Card

This thing comes with an “NVIDIA Quadro FX 880M Graphics with 1GB DDR3 memory”. I don’t really use it to play 3D games. It seems to have more memory assigned to it — I’ll have to look into that.

I’d probably have preferred a lower-power built-in solution.

The Design

Are you kidding me? It was like there was a contest for plain and Lenovo put their entire brain trust behind it.

I kind of like it. It sort of reminds me of something Cayce Pollard, the protagonist of William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition might like.

Performance Evaluation

I actually care more about the subjective performance than the kinds of charts they print in most online computer reviews. Having said that, here’s the “Windows Experience Index” for the machine, with components assessed on a 1.0 to 7.9 scale (I’m not making that range up):

  • Processor: 6.9
  • Memory: 7.3
  • Graphics: 6.4
  • Gaming Graphics: 6.4
  • Disk: 6.9

Two-Day Shipping

Sure, that was two day shipping. Not including the trip from Shanghai via Korea and then the days it took clearing customs in Kentucky. I’m not sure why customs takes so long. Overall, it was torture watching the shipping tracker.

Lenovo’s Call Center

I’d just ordered a T400 a week before the new models came out, and they let me cancel that order, no questions asked and no hassle at all. Their call center is awesome. From the accents, I’d guess it’s in India. It’s one of the best call centers I’ve ever called. I’ve had two interactions with them over the last few years; one to change a complicated order and one to cancel the T400. Both were extremely fast, effective, and clear.

70 Responses to “ThinkPad W510 Review: First Impressions”

  1. D Says:

    128MB drive? Fantastic!

  2. Annabell Says:


    Would it be possible to find out if the W510 get overheated at all? Would you mind posting the temperature of the processor when it is overloaded with multiple software? Thanks so much!

    • lingpipe Says:

      I’m running multithreaded stats software on it full out and it’s still reasonably cool. The fan’s really quiet, but clearly pumping out some heat.

      If you can tell me how to monitor system temp, I can look.

  3. Runi Thomsen Says:

    Nice to hear that someone actually got the w510. Gives me hope that mine will arrive at some point in time.

    How about the battery? I heard 18 hours somewhere – that is surely too good to be true. Do you have any insight on how long the 9-cell battery lasts for normal programming-work related tasks?

  4. Sal Says:

    hmmm..I am a little dissapointed with the numbers you received from Windows experienced index – I was at least expecting an overall score of 7.5 (minimum) as I currently have a 5.5 on my T61p. Here is my T61p scores:
    » Processor: 5.5
    » Memory: 5.5
    » Graphics: 5.7
    » Gaming Graphics: 6.1
    » Disk: 7.1
    I have a T7500 CPU, 8GB (upgraded Ram for $200), and a 80GB SSD that is not fully utilized as T6xx are capped at 1.5Gb/s Sata. The latter is the primary reason why I was looking to upgrade, but looks like your 128GB SSD received a worse score than mine? How could that be since you have 3.0GB/s sata? If I upgrade, I will be loosing my 1900×1200 to 1900×1080, gain marginal Graphics performance, unrealized SSD speed, shorter battery life – the only redeeming factor is the new CPU – I just don’t see anything else besides the CPU that will be a “wow” factor over my current T61p…perhaps having the capability to add 16GB ram..but is it worth it? Do you see much of a difference between a T61p 1900×1200 LCD panel and the new LED panel? I am having second thoughts about upgrading at this time…

    • lingpipe Says:

      I wouldn’t put too much stock in Windows numbers.

      I had a Z61P with a dual core CPU (don’t recall which one). Running Java builds and multi-threaded apps is way faster on this machine — almost four times as fast. I don’t think that’s just SSD vs. spinny disk, but I haven’t micro-benchmarked everything. I’m expecting a bigger bump with faster memory, as lots of what I do with large statisical models is front-side bus bound.

      And the screen color balance and brightness is mind-bogglingly good compared to the Z61P or my wife’s R51 (which is about to get upgraded). And I didn’t even get the color balancer.

      If you need 16GB of RAM, you need 16GB. Otherwise, I don’t imagine it’ll make anything go faster unless you have lots of really big processes you’re switching among.

      The real bummer is the seriously worse keyboard. If anything, that downgrade’s even worse than the loss in screen resolution.

  5. Archie Says:

    I would disagree with the call center, very disorganized. You have to keep on top of your order. My order was placed on hold because they no longer offered Windows7 ulimate for the W510 in Canada and they did not inform me at all. I redid my order because I decided to get the SSD drive, they had to cancel the original order and summit a new one (4 week wait for the W510 with the SSD drive). Problem was the original order was never canceled and the new one was placed on hold. The people I talk to were located in the US, very pleasant and helpful, but that is were the service ends.

  6. Peter Says:

    Nice review, I enjoyed it. I found your blog cause I was trying to find out if a “Multi Recorder Optical Drive” included Bluray or not. Guess not.

    “It was like there was a contest for plain and Lenovo put their entire brain trust behind it.”

    Funny!!! :)

  7. Perry L Says:

    It would be great if you could update your review with battery life numbers. It’s kind of important in a notebook review.

    • lingpipe Says:

      I don’t know how to do that fairly. It really depends on what you’re running through the CPU/memory/graphics chips and how much you’re accessing disk (especially if you have a spinny disk).

      I run lots of multi-threaded stats jobs that tend to deplete batteries faster than the power-remaining monitor thinks I should.

      For the record, the power monitor only reports 3.5 hours of time left at full charge even though it’s set to some kind of energy-saving mode.

  8. Gaurav Sharma Says:

    Thanks for your impressions.

    Note that the T510 model will give you double the battery life. The 9-Cell battery gives 94Whr of juice, 3.5 hours indicates it’s draining around 27W, which is quite high – how hot does it get when used on the lap?

    FYI, most notebooks drain in between 8-14W – the T510 with discrete graphics will be in the upper range of that – so if you don’t use the graphics or quadcore CPU much, you may be better off with the T510, it should give about double the battery life and less heat.

  9. jro Says:

    Thanks for the review, glad you’re enjoying your w510! I’ve been stuck choosing between the t410 and w510 for the past 3 weeks.. I think I’ve changed my order maybe 3 times?? (good thing both are back-ordered @cdw)

    I finally decided to go with the t410 in the end (i7 620m). While they may be completely different beasts, if I’m going to go with a 15″ I’m going balls to the wall. Turns out my biggest concerns ended up being weight, mobility and performance; which will be different for everyone.

    While I don’t plan to be super mobile, I’m sure there would be that one time when I’m on the road, or somewhere remote, where I’ll be stuck without power. Aside from being pretty hefty, the thing runs incredibly hot when under load which means it’s really not a “lap” top. Also, when the w510 (w/ i7) isn’t hooked up to a 135w PSU, it runs in a slow “saver mode” which would drive me nuts.

    In the end I think it comes down what you really plan to use it for, a mobile desktop (w510), or a laptop (t410).

    • lingpipe Says:

      I think my wife’s going to go with a T410. How’s the keyboard? Do you have any older ThinkPads to compare it to?

      I mainly need a workstation that doesn’t take up much space and can be put away when we have company over, because our work table’s also our big dining room table. Being able to take it on the road’s a plus, but if I traveled as much as I used to for presentations, I’d consider a netbook thingy.

      The W510’s actually cheaper than the T510 as a workstation because it has more memory slots. So the T510 seems to be at an odd price/performance point.

  10. cristian Says:

    Nice review, thanks. Do you have any idea if that Ultrabay (you know, the dvd slot) runs sata1.5 or 3? The spec isn’t very clear as “DVD Burner SATA 1.5Gb/s” may may refer to the dvd burner itself, not the interface.
    On the other hand, the same spec says “SATA disk: 320GB8 (7200 rpm) / SATA 3.0Gb/s, removable, upgradable, supports second disk […]”.
    I’m interested in this “supports second disk”… Do you think they’re referring to a 2nd disk in the Ultrabay? (as you guessed, I’m looking to create a configuration with a SSD in the main bay and the original HDD in the Ultrabay. And I’d like other kind of SSD, not the one Lenovo sells).
    Please, take a look in system properties and see if there’s really a separate SATA1.5 controller for the DVD. Thanks.

    • lingpipe Says:

      Where do I look that up in system properties? Under IDE ATA/ATAPI controllers in the device manager, there’s an Intel 5 Series 6 Port SATA AHCI Controller. There are a gazillion system devices.

    • cristian Says:

      Device Manager, View > Devices by Connection, but as there’s only one SATA, then it’s clear the DVD (and my SSD) connects to the same. Thanks.

  11. Dave Says:

    I’m looking for powerful 15″, high res. laptop & the W510 seems like a good fit. One issue I have with laptops these days is the proliferation of glossy screens. How does the W510s’ screen stack up, can you see your face in it?!

    • lingpipe Says:

      I can only speak for the 1920×1080 95% gamut screen, which is not at all glossy. I’m writing this from a very sunny train and having no problems at all with glare.

      It’s also very bright and has a fantastic color balance — photos look brilliant. Every other monitor I have looks green next to it.

      I just wish it were 1920×1200, because I spend most of my time in text editors and command shells.

      And I really really really wish they’d stuck to their previous keyboards. Ever since Lenovo took over from IBM, the keyboards have gotten cheaper each generation.

  12. codethief Says:

    Sorry that I have to ask you these questions again (and probably get on your nerves) but there are especially two things which I’d like to be sure about:

    1. The heat the W510 develops.
    Gaurav Sharma already asked “Does it get hot when used on the lap?”.
    At that time, your answer was: “It’s actually not as hot as my Z61p was, but it’s definitely venting heat out the fan on the back of the left side of the case when running intensive jobs. Ask me again after a long plane flight.”
    So, what does this mean exactly? Can you comfortably use it as “laptop” or were there times when you had to put it on a table to continue working because it was getting too hot?

    2. The battery life.
    Now, you already mentioned the battery life the Lenovo software estimates. But that’s still an estimation. So, how many hours do you usually manage to squeeze out of the battery when doing “normal programming tasks”, i.e. surfing the web over WLAN (or 3G if your W510 supports it) and, surprise surprise, programming? If you can’t elaborate on this exact case, feel free to provide numbers for when performing other tasks.


    • lingpipe Says:

      I’m afraid I just haven’t put the thing through the kind of paces you’re looking for. I’ve used it for hours at a time plugged in on my lap with no discomfort. It doesn’t get hot enough to fry your lap. But then I haven’t set up four threads hammering away on anything yet. The fan does tend to turn on after five or ten minutes of running stats software, so it’s not perfectly quiet, either. For what it’s worth, I’ve never had a laptop that ever got too hot to use on my lap.

      I finally usedit on battery a few days ago on a train and it lasted about 3 1/2 hours of wireless web surfing, writing e-mail, and running simple programs. The machine has very elaborate power-control settings, but I was using the default “maximum runtime mode”, but with the screen at one less than full brightness to deal with sun streaming into the train. I wasn’t running DVDs.

      I have to add that the machine weighs a ton with the 9-cell battery and the 135 watt power adapter. If I start traveling a lot again, I’m going to get a light netbook-type computer and leave this machine at home.

      • codethief Says:

        Thank you very much. This was exactly the insight I was looking for. :)

        I finally ordered one with the i7-720QM CPU, a 500 GB HDD, 4 GB RAM and the FHD screen. Delivery time: 4 weeks. *grrr* Apparently, the U.S. and Canada aren’t the only countries where Lenovo experiences supply shortages… (I’m from Germany.)

  13. cristian Says:

    This machine starts at 2k EUR, looks like nobody has a problem paying such amount. Do you (like every one of you) make like 7-8k net income per month? From programming? If so, mabe I’m just plain stupid and don’t know the job market that well.

    • codethief Says:

      Well, actually, the W510 starts well under 2000€. For example, I found the NTK24GE model for 1679€.
      As for me, I’m going to pay exactly 1488€ for an even better machine but I also have to admit that this price is only available for students in the Lenovo4Campus program.
      Either way you take it, it’s not much more compared to regular (consumer) laptops. Plus, you don’t buy a new notebook every month. Thinkpads are known for their long-term quality and are often used for more than 3 or 4 years.

    • lingpipe Says:

      I paid about US$2500 for the 95% gamut screen and 8GB memory when they came out. Less than a similarly equipped Macbook pro, but expensive for a Windows/Linux notebook.

      Why would you need 7-8K€ net income to afford a 2€ tool? Some of us get notebooks from our employers. Or spend a disproportionate amount of our disposable income on gadgets. Or run businesses where they’re deductible expenses, so they’re cheaper net.

      7-8K€ monthly net in the US, with current exchange rates is roughly US$9-10K/month, or US$110K-120K net per year, which would require around US$150-175K gross salary/year (depends on city or state of residence here). That’s unrealistic for junior generalist programmers, but not unrealistic for senior specialists.

  14. leo Says:

    thanks, nice review; ‘m in the market for a new laptop and the w510 is on top of the list, but i have a few minor concerns maybe you can help. one, is there any flexing around the return key? it seem that the t510 has this issue, and second, how is the thinklight – i.e. is it worth even using?
    the other laptops with same specs in the list are the 15 inch mac pro (i7), and the sager (clevo w860cu).

  15. ChadGarion25 Says:

    I’m considering buying, so I’ve been doing research. They do have a lighter battery, and if you don’t like the jut out, there is also a battery that fits into the ultra bay

    Click to access W510_W701_W701ds_Top_Options_January_10_2010.ppt.pdf

    Under batteries

    Let me know if that helps., thanks for the information you provided.

    • lingpipe Says:

      When I ordered right after they were announced, the 9-cell battery was the only option offered (though it wasn’t clear if the 6-cell or 9-cell was the only option, as it wasn’t specified). I haven’t ordered a 6-cell spare, but may do so before I travel again.

      You can also plug in one of the lighter power supplies than the 135W beast it comes with. I’ll definitely be traveling with the 90W one from my old Z61P, which uses the same plug.

    • codethief Says:

      Unfortunately, the W510 does NOT support ultrabay batteries as I was told by my local Lenovo retailer. On the site you posted there is no mention of the W510. (W500 != W510)

      I would really like to know why Lenovo dropped the support for ultrabay batteries as I would love to use one.

  16. thePCxp Says:

    About the keyboard: Are you kidding me? Current ThinkPad keyboards are as just as good as the old ones. This is a new keyboard design. Read about it on the Lenovo Blogs.

    • lingpipe Says:

      Yes, it’s a new keyboard design. I’m not complaining about the design in terms of the layout. It’s the key action that’s terrible now. I had my computer at a conference and someone with an old T series (T41 or something) tried it and agreed with me about the difference in the keyboard.

      I also go back and forth between home, where I’m using the W510, and work, where I’m using an old IBM Thinkpad-style travel keyboard. And it’s a night-and-day difference in terms of key throw and feedback. I can also do this side-by-side with my wife’s old ThinkPad R51. They’e really different in terms of feel. The old ones are much clickier and require less pressure to register a keystroke, so you get much better feedback with much less finger action. I can type much faster/much more accurately on the older models. Of course, I’ve been working primarily on Thinkpads for 12 or 13 years now, so I’m pretty well trained on the older keyboard action.

  17. Kenta Says:


    Nice to read your shared opinions/review. If I may correct some information in your reviews, W510 supports up to 16GB of 1066MHz or upto 8GB of 1333MHz of DDR3 RAM. This states in user’s manual.

    The 135 Watt power adapter is standard for W510. You can however use e.g. 90 Watt version but W510 will prompt that the power source does not match the requirement and underclock the system around 75%.

    I personally own W510 4389-W1B and am extremely happy with it. I might complain one thing. Since I move my laptop offen from the power adapter into battery mode. I would love to have a dedicated button to change the power management profiles. Thinkpad’s solution is not bad but compare to some of the other brands, this kind of implementation is familiar.


    • lingpipe Says:

      What user manual are you looking at?

      I’m looking on page 129 of the reference manual for the 4389 model (linked above) and it shows up to 16GB at PC3-10600/1333MHz. The footnote on p. 191 just says that if you use more than 3GB, you need a 64-bit OS.

      I think someone already mentioned you can use the 90 watt supply. I’m taking my old one with on the next trip; the 135 watter’s super heavy and bulky.

      P.S. How do you like the keyboard and do you notice any diffs with previous Thinkpad keyboards?

    • codethief Says:

      I don’t quite get what you don’t like about the way the Thinkpad manages the power?

      • lingpipe Says:

        I don’t have a problem with the power management. It’s complicated, but very configurable.

  18. Sri Harsha Says:


    I am planning to order my W510 beast this week. Thank you very much the nice review. I just wanted to know whether this laptop gets heated very quickly? Bcoz, I tried lenovo ideapad y560(with i7 720M quad core processor) and it gets heated like hell. I was wondering if you can throw us some info regarding this in W510.

    There is a certified software called “CPU Hot tester” ( It runs some algorithms so that all the core will be utilized in I7 720M. Could you please let us know if there are any heating issues with W510. Thank you!

    – Sri Harsha

    • codethief Says:

      @Sri Harsha: I apologize for the late reply. I hope it still comes in time for your purchase decision. If not you could maybe let us know what led to your decision? :)

      Unfortunately, I’m on Linux and can’t give the tool you suggested a try. What I can say, however, is that the W510 runs quite hot as soon as it is plugged it. (When it’s on battery it’s absolutely no problem.) By “quite hot” I actually mean “really hot” – I always get to feel very uncomfortable after a while when having it on my lap, no matter if I do every-day stuff like surfing or some CPU-intensive tasks. To prevent this I usually put my Zeroshock sleeve (I can only recommend those!) in between. But after a while this usually gets hot, too, so I put the W510 on a table then or have a break to cool down.

      HOWEVER, I suppose this has largely to do with Linux and is because Linux doesn’t provide the same power-management tools as Windows does. Unfortunately, I don’t have any real world experience with Windows on this machine. Besides, there are still ways on Linux to increase the fan speed (but I prefer to keep it rather silent) and also settings in the BIOS to throttle the CPU and control the fan.
      All in all, the heating issue probably wouldn’t prevent me from buying this machine again.

    • karthick Says:

      sri harsha, lingpipe:
      I am trying to purchase a laptop for my programming needs. I have a hp pavillion dv9000. I got it 2 years back and now its very slow. here are my needs:
      1) good processing power.
      2) large RAM ( looking to get into sharepoint development, need for hosting huge Virtual machines. Micorosft recommends 8GB ram for sharepoint development).
      3) Should not be stuck in a corner, and have to upgrade 2 years down the line. ( or should i get i cheaper one now and upgrade 2 years with better specs and upto date hardware at that time)

      So i was considering buying lenovo ideapad Y560 06462bu.

      1) cheap cheap cheap.
      2) has 8 GB RAM and i7.
      3) standard consumer bells and whistles.

      1) cannot upgrade ram
      2) not as sturdy as W510?? ( got to this by reading lots of forums)

      So i am stuck between choosing ideapad Y560 and thinkpad W510.
      for W510:

      1) Ram capacity upto 16GB
      2) i7
      3) build quality

      1) pricey pricey
      2) dull colors.

      as far as sharepoint development goes, i also read that, the VMs should be hosted in a seperate hard drive than the host OS. that means, i have to connect an external hard drive (which will run the VM).

      Can you guys share your opinions with the above requirements in mind?
      thanking you from crossroad.

      • codethief Says:

        Go for the W510.
        Google for W510 and virtualization and you’ll see that many people use it for this purpose.

        >>2) dull colors.

        Erm, what? I think I’ve never seen a display as good as the W510’s.

      • lingpipe Says:

        If you’re doing DB development and it’s NOT all going to fit in RAM, then you might want to think about solid state drives. Also, you can always develop for a subset of the data on your notebook and then deploy to a real server.

        You should think not just about RAM size and CPU speed, but also about memory bandwidth.

        The full gamut screen, particularly, has the best notebook color balance I’ve ever seen. And it’s very bright — so bright I can’t even use it turned all the way up indoors. For a point of reference, I’m picky enough to have gotten my LCD TV profesionally color calibrated.)

        It’s a bummer you can only get 1920×1080 (1080p) and not 1920×1200 as in my last machine and my 24″ desktop monitor. The Ideapads have lower res, which some people are OK with.

  19. karthick Says:

    when i meant colors, it was not the display but the actual lid color. I believe w510 has only gray or black. its not a big deal per se. I was looking at lenovo forums and it looks like W510 has some BIOS driver problems and Y560 has lot of bad pixels/dead pixels issues going on. But after including a 3 year warranty and protection, the difference between the two comes to $ 800+. Its making me think.
    I even considered building my own desktop for my needs. it came to around $ 2000, but of course, it was much more future proof than W510 and Y560.

  20. Photographer Says:

    95% Gumat of what color space ? Adobe RGB, sRGB or ProPhoto RGB (highly doubt it)? There’s a big difference.

  21. Photographer Says:

    Also, have you tried the Light sensor /calibrator ?

    • lingpipe Says:

      Good quetion — I have no idea what it’s 95% of. Typical marketing BS. Having said that, it’s the best LCD I’ve ever seen.

      I’m out of the semi-pro photo biz, so I didn’t get the calibrator.

      I just wish it was 1920 x 1200 instead of the much less useful (for programming) 1920×1080.

  22. Seven Says:

    Hi, Thanks for your reviews. I am looking for a powerful laptop for a computational fluid dynamics software for analysis purposes. W510 seems to fit the bill. I have saw some reviews that there are lots of noise issue with this laptop. Do you encounter this type of problem? Is this laptop stable so far? Any major issues besides the keyboard? I need a reliable machine. Thanks! :)

    • lingpipe Says:

      I’d also be interested in recommendations for scientific-computing appropriate notebooks. When I was shopping 10 months ago, there wasn’t really anything else competitive specification-wise.

      I haven’t had any stability issues.

      Funny you should ask about noise. The fan’s just started buzzing. It’s making that high-pitched whine you get from small fans at high RPMs. I’m guessing that Lenovo’s just downgraded all the little parts that used to make the IBM Thinkpads so much better than the competition. The main thing that led me to look for a new computer was the fact that my last Lenovo Thinkpad (a Z61P), started failing to boot because the fan would get stuck.

      It used to be really really quiet. I have the solid-state disk, so there’s no disk noise or vibration, which is nice.

      I’ve been toying with the idea of buying a Mac notebook to run Windows. Or getting an iMac for home (still easy to move when we have dinner parties in our Manhattan apartment), and a cheap netbook for travel.

  23. Seven Says:

    Thanks for your prompt reply! Nice to hear that there is not any stability issues so far. Is the high-pitched whine bearable? Many reviews that it’s very noisy and disturbing.

    Having this machine for over six months, will you recommend me to get one? Have you solve the issue of the loosening of the right side of the keyboard?

  24. Seven Says:

    From Keith Combs’s reviews and the videos from You tube, seems like the flex is more of a design than an issue. There are also fix to the flex from one of the video. Please do let me know whether the new keyboard does solve the problem. I may have a look at T410 or Dell before making any decision. Thanks once again for sharing with me your thoughts and info.

  25. Willie Says:

    I’ve read all the comments on this page. Thanks for your thoughts. I did have one question for those who own the W510.
    It doesn’t look like the keyboard lights up at all when in a dark room. Does it at least have the light that will shine down on the keyboard like my older Thinkpad does? These come in useful when working in a dark room, or during a presentation.

    • lingpipe Says:

      This review wasn’t intended to act as a Thinkpad discussion board.

      The answer to this and every other question like it is in the hardware maintenance manual linked at the top of my review.

      Just so I don’t seem rude while trying to discourage more of these kinds of questions, the answer to your particular question is yes.

  26. Bob Says:

    Nice blog, just what I was looking for to get more insite on the W510. I have read one of the reviews on PCWorld that one of the cons was 3D not so good. I’m not a gamer or play games, so I’m not sure if he or she was refering to 3D games or 3D programs. Since this will be my designer tool, CS4 photoshop & illustartor, 3D Max and Solidworks so that being said, 3D productivity is improtant to me. Before I finish my order I need to know this, I tried calling Lenovo direct to get some answers and the agent I spoke to wasn’t sure. My typing is okay (50 wpm) and not a big issue, as long as it doesn’t fail, stick or double type I’m okay. Speed, graphics, open GL is my main concern and 3D. If I can’t use the 3D features in photoshop and my digital tablet, I’m going to keep on shoping. Any input would be greatly apprecaite.

  27. Atle Says:

    Thanks for the thorough review of the W510.

    I have a T61p (T7800, 4GB, Win7 32bit) and really appreciate the 1920×1200.

    I do mostly development for industrial machine controls (using industrial control IDEs), but also SQL and VS (C# and VB).

    A couple of questions: Is the W510 speed much different than the T61p? The T61p gets a very respectable 5.7 Windows Experience Index score. I wonder if $2k justifies the upgrade mostly in terms of speed.

    Any thoughts?

    • Bob Carpenter Says:

      I don’t know about W510 versus T61p. I had a Z61p, and the W510’s much faster. The solid-state drive makes bootup much faster and the processor is faster for running statistical apps in Java or C or Fortran. I haven’t quantified all of this. The OS is also more responsive with lots of computing in the background.

      I’m so sick of the keyboard, the weight, and the rattle on the right-side of the machine that I’m about to order a 13″ Mac Air. I haven’t used a Mac since the early 1990s, but if I hate the Mac OS, I’ll just run Windows on it. I tried the Mac keyboards recently and really like them compared to anything else out there these days.

  28. Atle Says:

    PS – read somewhere that the International Space Station has something like 30+ T61p computers flying on it – apparently NASA has good taste too :-)

  29. sher dil khan Says:

    I need some help regarding the matter that i need that software when i power on mylaptop it ask to show me my picture and when i show my picture to it it automatiically on.
    Kindly give me a repply as soon as possible

  30. Darre Langdon Says:

    I am in the process of buying a ThinkPad as I have become a bit of a fanatic after seeing them a few months ago. When I saw the W510 I fell in Love, seriously but have never actually used one. So thank you for your review above and will be definitely referring back to this blog before I make my decision

  31. Rodney Sparks Says:

    Regarding the keyboard not working well: I read another review online that mentioned a bios update that improves keyboard performance. Might want to look into that, if you haven’t already!


    • Bob Carpenter Says:

      The issue with the keyboard is physical flex, not software! Check out the video linked above in the comments.

  32. Jeff Says:

    Won’t own another, I think. The x61 is a great (if older) laptop, but the W510 constantly disconnected the hard drive, Windows/Linux- didn’t matter the OS. Sadly, Lenovo said they didn’t find anything, so refused to fix the machine. I have video of the hard drive disconnecting in Linux and Windows- but Lenovo insisted is was not their problem.

    Getting more money from me won’t be, either.

  33. product reviews Says:

    product reviews…

    […]ThinkPad W510 Review: First Impressions « LingPipe Blog[…]…

  34. Andrew Says:


    […]ThinkPad W510 Review: First Impressions « LingPipe Blog[…]…

  35. lenovo disapointed Says:

    I rarely use the w510, because it is very heavy, after the 3 years, after the warranty expired, the keyboard failed.

    I had to remove 2 keys, or they are detected as turned on at boot strapping, they are too sensitive, they are activated with a very soft touch.

    The worse thing is that now, it randomly opens the DVD, maybe due to the keyboard failure. Some times because I touch the wrist rest near the finger print reader.

    I want to replace the keyboard.
    There are several variants, which seems that differ in the color of the hinge mechanism that support the keys. Mine has white, others have black and white, others a translucent white.

    The keyboards that you like more, what kind of mechanism use? where are they made?

    After all this time, did you have a similar issue with your Thinkpad? If you still own it?


    You said that you never play, so you could prefer a simpler video card, than the nvidia.
    I used to think in the same way, but, I noticed that fast computers are those in the line of gaming computers. That’s maybe a marketing policy.
    Now that you have 32 GPUs, you may want to experiment with OpenCL or OpenMP, two standards to ease parallel programming.
    I do not program too often, but some time ago, I saw OpenMP, it has pragmas to use with C/C++ or Fortran, while OpenCL, as far as I remember has an special C like language.

  36. lenovo disapointed Says:

    Tanks for sharing your experience.

    I rarely use the w510, because it is very heavy, after the 3 years, after the warranty expired, the keyboard failed.

    I had to remove 2 keys, or they are detected as turned on at boot strapping, they are too sensitive, they are activated with a very soft touch.

    The worse thing is that now, it randomly opens the DVD, maybe due to the keyboard failure. Some times because I touch the wrist rest near the finger print reader.

    I want to replace the keyboard.
    There are several variants, which seems that differ in the color of the hinge mechanism that support the keys. Mine has white, others have black and white, others a translucent white.

    The keyboards that you like more, what kind of mechanism use? where are they made?

    After all this time, did you have a similar issue with your Thinkpad? If you still own it?


    You said that you never play, so you could prefer a simpler video card, than the nvidia.
    I used to think in the same way, but, I noticed that fast computers are those in the line of gaming computers. That’s maybe a marketing policy.
    Now that you have 32 GPUs, you may want to experiment with OpenCL or OpenMP, two standards to ease parallel programming.
    I do not program too often, but some time ago, I saw OpenMP, it has pragmas to use with C/C++ or Fortran, while OpenCL, as far as I remember has an special C like language.

    I apologize if this post is repeated, but I don’t see a confirmation message after posting it.

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