Lenovo Thinkpad W520 Review

I’ve been using Thinkpads since since the T32 model was released. And since then I have owned a T41p, T60, T61p, R61, and now the W520.  Before getting the W520 I was looking for a powerful laptop to consolidate my old desktop and laptop. So I had to find one that was not only powerful but it had to be portable as well. After several weeks of reading reviews and hands-on demoing I pulled the trigger picked up the W520.

My W520 Specs:

CPU: Intel Core i7 2720QM 2.2Ghz
Video: Nvidia Quadro 2000m 2GB DDR3
Screen: 15.6 FHD (1920 x 1080) LED
Memory: 16GB 10600 DDR3
Storage: 320 GB 7200
Weight: 5.75 lbs

Anyone who is familiar with the Thinkpad brand knows that it’s all about business, but in my opinion the matte black and minimalist design is pretty sexy and a joy to use. But underneath all that no nonsense facade is some serious hardware. With the new Core i7 processor and the Nvidia Quadro 2000m it is a CAD and photo-video editor’s dream machine. Editing pictures on Photoshop and HD videos on Adobe Premiere CS5.5 was effortless. If you’re into encoding videos I ran a VOB to MP4 file in High Profile on Handbrake and the W520 churned it out like nobody’s business at well over 100fps.  If you’re into gaming the Quadro 2000m is more than enough to handle your most demanding games. Keep in mind the Quadro card is optimize for CAD and application that can take advantage of Nvidia’s CUDA.  I ran GRID at max resolution and settings without any hiccups. I don’t play video games much but if this Thinkpad can run that game silky smooth I’m sure it’ll handle whatever you throw at it.

With all that hardware one would think the battery life is abysmal, but it’s quite the opposite. Since the W520 utilizes Nvidia’s Optimus technology the system will switch between the integrated and discrete graphics. This seriously saves battery life. With my experience I was able to squeeze out a little over 7 and a half hours with web browsing, YouTubing, and RDPing before the system hit 5% battery life. The W520 will use the integrated graphics until you use an application that requires the additional horsepower of the discrete graphics. You also get the option to have the application choose which graphics card.  In addition, there’s a BIOS setting that will force the use of either graphics card exclusively.  Either way you get plenty of choices on how you use it.

As an IT Admin I spec’d out my Thinkpad with 16GB of RAM.  Being able to virtually run a small Active Directory domain environment with a database server is invaluable. This Thinkpad can hold up to four RAM modules; two on the bottom of the system and two right underneath the keyboard. If you want, the system can go up to 32GB of RAM if you’re willing to dish out that kind of cash.

With over a week of use on this system I’m convince that the W520 is the best all-around laptop to date. Anyone looking for a powerful mobile workstation with great battery life then look no further. The W520 is the machine for you.


Amazing Thinkpad Keyboard
Decent battery life
Very Powerful
Vibrant screen
Competitive Price

Giant power adapter
No option for Blue-ray drive
No Ultrabay battery option
Pre-installed bloatware

Rating: ★★★★★★★★★☆

6 Replies to “Lenovo Thinkpad W520 Review”

  1. I read from other forums about the W520 CPU/GPU are running hot doing video rendering which can take over an hour to complete. Seems you are happy with no major issue?

  2. Quote : “If you want, the system can go up to 32GB of RAM if you’re willing to dish out that kind of cash.” It turn out to be wrong. It should be : even you are willing to dish out that kind of cash for the 32GB RAM, the memory chips are not available yet.

  3. Hi Huy, thanks for sharing your experience. I am almost in the same situation. I have a T61P now but I am not happy with it’s display. I am an IT man also and the quality of text is very important for me. After using my iPad I have realized that the LCDs can be much better. Then considering the fact that you had T61p, may I ask you how good is W520’s display regarding text quality? I have no access to a store to check it myself and I should order it blindly so your opinion is very important for me. I am sure that the X220t is using an IPS panel, but I am not sure about the W520. Are you happy with text quality? Is it in par with iPAD for example? I had buy an ASUS Pro Art PA246Q to use it as an external monitor, but I completely disappointed. The text (using VGA cable, that is only option for T61p) are not clear as I expected and this thing is too bright and also emits a lot of heat.

  4. I order w520 with i7 extreme, 160GB ssd and 8gb memory. estimated ship date 12/5/2011 today is 12/02/2011. No other ideas from lenovo …..order status showing still processing

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *