Thinkpad W550s
By   |  October 13, 2015

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is a mobile workstation for those who need high-end performance in a package that’s easy to carry and travel with. Featuring an Intel Core i7 processor, Nvidia Quadro graphics, and an impressive 3K display, the ThinkPad W550s is a good blend of mobility and performance. The balance between the two, however, clearly favors portability, with excellent battery life and a slim, semi-rugged design.

Weighing just under 2.5 Kg, the ThinkPad W550s is Lenovo’s lightest and thinnest workstation to date, but it’s also built to stand up to the rigors of regular business travel. It has a magnesium-alloy roll cage, a carbon-fiber-reinforced chassis, and stainless steel hinges, and is built to meet MIL-STD-810G standards, meaning it is designed to survive drops, shocks, vibration, and extreme temperatures.

The W550s features an impressive 15-inch display with 3K (2,880-by-1,620 pixels) resolution. With an In-Plane Switching (IPS) panel, the display looks sharp and vibrant from any angle, and it’s a 10-digit touch screen, so it supports all of the gesture controls found in Windows 8.

The ThinkPad W550s is well-equipped. On the right of the system are two USB 3.0 ports and a mini DisplayPort. The left side sports a third USB 3.0 port, VGA output, a Gigabit Ethernet port, headset jack, and an SD card slot. There is also an assortment of security and management features, ranging from a case-lock slot for physically securing the system to a built-in fingerprint reader for simple secure login. A docking connector on the underside of the system lets you dock it to the ThinkPad Ultra Dock, which provides additional connections for power, monitor, and peripherals. The system also boasts both 802.11ac dual-band Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, and supports Intel WiDi for wirelessly streaming HD video and audio.

The 512GB solid-state drive (SSD) is double the capacity of the drives found in the HP ZBook 14$1,599.79 at Amazon or the Lenovo W540. There also aren’t too many preinstalled programs taking up that space. The laptop comes with a free 30-day trial of Microsoft Office 365 for new customers, and a 30-day trial of Norton Internet Security, but otherwise you have one or two apps, like Evernote Touch, Skype, and The Weather Channel. But while there aren’t a lot of apps preinstalled, the system is made for broad compatibility, with independent software vendor (ISV) certification for a wide assortment of apps, with uses in engineering, design, and finance.

The ThinkPad W550s is equipped with a dual-core Intel Core i7-5600u processor, an ultrabook-class CPU is used here for its blend of processing power and efficiency. Paired with 16GB of RAM, it does help the system offer excellent battery life, but it also means that the raw performance may not be up to your expectations for a workstation. In PCMark 8 Work Conventional, for example, the ThinkPad W550s scored 2,736 points, lagging behind last year’s Lenovo W540 (3,105 points) and the HP ZBook 15u G2 (3,124 points), though it does outperform the Dell Precision M3800 (2,664 points). In Cinebench R15, which takes advantage of multiple processing cores, the system lagged behind, scoring 274 points, while quad-core-based systems like the Dell M3800 (599 points) and the Lenovo W540 (637 points) scored drastically higher.

In 3D rendering and other graphics-intensive tests, the laptop was good, but not great. Lenovo outfitted the system with an Nvidia Quadro K620M graphics card, which offers the ISV certifications and capabilities necessary for a workstation, but with significantly less muscle than the Nvidia Quadro K2100M used in other systems, like the Lenovo W540 and the HP Zbook 15. Instead, it’s closer in capability to the HP ZBook 15u G2, which is better suited to tasks like digital content creation and basic financial number crunching than traditional workstation uses like engineering and design.

The ThinkPad W550s has two batteries, an internal battery and a removable secondary one. In our rundown test, the system lasted 6 hours 44 minutes using the internal battery alone, outlasting both the HP ZBook 15u G2 and the Lenovo W540 (both 6:13) by a half-hour. With the addition of the second battery, the time is extended by more than 10 hours (17:21).

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s is a solid laptop for the user who needs basic workstation capabilities, but puts portability first. If you are frequently on the road, the ThinkPad W550s is a great choice, thanks to the thin and light design, combined with the extremely impressive 17+ hours of battery life. In terms of performance, however, the Lenovo ThinkPad W540 is still ahead of the game, offering more processing power and better graphics capability at the expense of portability.

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