Lenovo ThinkPad W550s review

Workstation-grade performance with Ultrabook-class battery life

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s review

One of the ThinkPad W550s's biggest selling points is the optional 3K display. Given that the W550s is marketed to those who work with media and entertainment, manufacturing and design, and 2D and basic 3D CAD design work, the higher resolution screen may be a worthwhile splurge from a standard 1080p panel.

Adding a non-touch 3K panel bumps up the price of the ThinkPad W550s by $200, while the touchscreen option adds another $220 on top of that premium.

Read more: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Extreme

Here's how the unit sent to TechRadar for review was configured:

Spec sheet

  • Processor: 2.6GHz Intel Core i7-5600U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.2GHz with Turbo Boost)
  • Graphics: Nvidia Quadro K2100M (2GB GDDR5 video memory), integrated Intel HD Graphics 4600
  • Memory: 16GB RAM (DDR3L, 1,600Mhz)
  • Storage: 512GB SSD
  • Screen: 15.5-inch, 2,880 x 1,620 (3K), multi-touch display
  • Camera: 720p webcam
  • Battery: Three-cell internal with optional external batteries
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.0; 802.11ac (B/G/N), dual-band Wi-Fi
  • Ports: VGA, mini DisplayPort v1.2, 3x USB 3.0 (one always-on charging port), Gigabit Ethernet, memory card reader, optional fingerprint scanner
  • OS: Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit

Although the ThinkPad W550s starts at a modest $1,133 with a standard 1080p display, our review unit is priced at $2,433 (£1,645, AU$3,185) after web discounts. Adding the optional mobile broadband modem and a high capacity rear six-cell battery would take the total to $2,667 (£1,805, AU$3,490) after discounts, making it the most expensive configuration for the model. You're literally touching close to $1 per pixel on the gorgeous 3K touchscreen.

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s review

The ThinkPad W550s has several independent software vendor (ISV) certifications, so leading industry applications should run seamlessly. This is a big reason for organizations to get a business-class workstation over a consumer notebook, as there are hours of testing to ensure application compatibility on the hardware.

With military standard (MIL-SPEC) testing, the ThinkPad W550s has been rated to perform in humid conditions, extreme low and high temperatures, and high altitude. It could also withstand solar radiation, high vibration, mechanical shock, temperature shock, fungus, and sand. Although the W550s isn't classified as a rugged notebook, it's been constructed with durability in mind.

Display

Unlike on Apple's MacBook Pro series, the display both on the touchscreen and non-touchscreen versions of the ThinkPad W550s has a matte coating.

Under bright office lights and outdoors, the matte coating is useful in reducing reflections and glare. I found that under bright conditions, I didn't have to turn the brightness up with Lenovo's matte display as I would have with a Surface Pro 3 or MacBook Pro.

Lenovo ThinkPad W550s review

Compared to the 300 nits on Lenovo's ThinkPad T450s, the 315 nit-rated screen on the W550s looks a lot brighter. I found screen brightness to be most comfortable between 50 and 70%. Without the touchscreen configuration, the 3K panel is even brighter with 350 nits.

Colors are vivid and blacks appear inky on the 15.5-inch display of the ThinkPad W550s. Unfortunately, for those who need color-accurate work, the W550s doesn't come with the color calibration tool found on the ThinkPad W540.

Like on the ThinkPad T450s, the downside with the matte display is that text and images appear grainier than on a glossy display. The W550s's high resolution panel compensated a little to keep things crisp, but content on the glossy MacBook Pro with Retina display appears sharper to my eyes.

Finally, even though the bezels aren't as slim as Dell's XPS 13, they're not so distractingly large as to dwarf the screen as on the MSI WS60.