Review and video: Lenovo's ThinkPad W700ds -- two displays in one notebook

Lenovo's latest ThinkPad doesn't only offer a second screen, but sets a new standard in mobile productivity.

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More than the displays

The ThinkPad W700ds is more than a one-trick pony. It's the first traditional notebook to include, along with the usual 2.8- by 1.4-in. touchpad, a second 5.0- by 3.2-in. touchpad that can be used for controlling the cursor, signing digital documents, sketching a map or just doodling. There's even a handy place on the side for stowing the included stylus.

Although visuals dominate the scene with the W700ds, letters, symbols and numbers matter as well. The notebook has a keyboard that is on a par with that of a desktop PC -- it offers 18.7mm keys that have a generous 2.4mm of depth and a separate numeric pad. As a night owl, my favorite keyboard feature is the pair of LED lights that illuminate the keys.

For those who prefer a pointing stick over a touchpad (or vice versa), the system has both; there is also the now-expected fingerprint scanner.

Around its edge, the W400ds has an array of ports that's second to none in the notebook world. In addition to the expected connectors for USB (five of them), FireWire and audio, the W700ds also includes three ports for external monitors (VGA, DVI and the newer DisplayPort) as well as two Express Card slots.

Dock of the day

For those who split their time between the road and an office, the W400ds has a convenient docking station that can power the system, has a good variety of ports and adds four USB ports as well as a SATA connector for hooking up a hard drive. A bonus is that it uses the same -- albeit large -- AC adapter. On the downside, neither the system nor the dock has an HDMI connector for mating it with a large-screen monitor (as is the case with HP's HDX Pavilion 9203 notebook).

It's no surprise that the W700ds is a communications powerhouse with Gigabit Ethernet as well as 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless networking. There's a 1.3-megapixel webcam on top of the display.

As far as software is concerned, there's Lenovo's usual group of helpful utilities -- software for connecting to Wi-Fi networks, creating a recover DVD, managing power use, updating software and more. There are also apps for using the stylus, videoconferencing (using Skype) and calibrating the color on the system's monitors. The system uses Windows Vista Business with Service Pack 1 updates and has a one-year warranty.

All this adds up to the most powerful notebook I've seen. It attained a phenomenal score of 1,210.9 on PassMark's Performance Test 6.1, about 50% higher than HP's Pavilion HDX 9203 and closer to a gaming desktop PC or high-end workstation. The system's 7,800 milliamp-hour battery pack was able to power the system for a reasonable 2 hours and 34 minutes on a charge while working on a wireless network. While the Wi-Fi is able to move only a middling 12.3Mbit/sec. of data over an 802.11g link five feet from the router, it had an exceptional range of 150 feet.

While vendors such as Acer, Toshiba and HP employ big-screen notebooks in the name of entertainment, the ThinkPad W700ds is all about business, making it perfect for everything from editing video to working with high-end computation and visualization programs.

It's true that, at a price of over $5,000, the notebook is about as expensive as it gets these days. (You can drop the price to $3,600 if you're willing to accept a single screen one with one hard drive, but what fun is that?) However, if your work (or play) requires this level of power and performance, it's well worth the price and weight.

Brian Nadel is a freelance writer based near New York and is the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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