Lenovo ThinkPad W540: Who Needs A Desktop?

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Introduction and Specifications

Lenovo's Thinkpad 540 is a beast, but you didn't need us to tell you that. This professional-caliber laptop is probably more powerful than your average desktop PC. And if its price doesn't tip you off to the fact that this laptop is sporting some serious hardware—$1,600 for Lenovo's "ready to ship" iteration of the laptop; starting at $1,400 for the customize-it-yourself iteration—then the system's spec sheet will surely give it away.  When loaded up with the high-end hardware inside our the system, the Thinkpad 540 inches past $2,500, easily.

Yet, for all of this laptop's internal goodness, which includes a speedy Haswell processor and an eye-opening discrete Nvidia Quadro card, we're not all that sold on the whole package. This sounds a bit like nitpicking, we know, but the trackpad that Lenovo built into the Thinkpad 540 is a disappointment. And, yes, it's annoying enough—since it's also the primary way one interacts with the laptop—to detract from the machine's great attributes: killer speeds, crazy features, and strong connectivity.  To phrase it differently, we expected a better way to interact with a $2,500+ laptop such as this one.

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Lenovo Thinkpad W540 
Specifications & Features
 Display 15.5-inch IPS LED Backlit Anti-Glare Display (2880 x 1620), 300-nit brightness
 Processor
Intel Core i7-4800MQ 2.7GHz (up to 3.8GHz)
 Graphics
2GB Nvidia Quadro K2100M
 Memory
8GB DDR3 800MHz (1x8GB)
 Storage
256GB SATA Solid-State Drive
 Network Intel Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7260 + Bluetooth 4.0, Gigabit Ethernet
 I/O Ports Multi-Card Reader (including SD), Express Card reader, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 2x USB 2.0 ports, VGA, Thunderbolt, mini-DisplayPort, Ethernet, Headphone/Mic, Kensington Lock
 Battery 9-Cell Battery (9.21Ah)
 Software AccuWeather; Amazon Kindle; Evernote; Intel AppUp, Education Software Suite; Lenovo Companion, Cloud Storage, Settings, Solutions Center, Support; Rara-Music
 Operating System
Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
 Size and Weight 14.8 x 1.1 x 9.8 inches (Width x Height x Depth); 5.57 pounds
 Warranty 1 Year depot or carry-in
 Price $1,599 base; $2,519 as tested - Find It @ Amazon

That all said, this laptop's specs are worth buying a USB mouse for—and it's not like that'll make that much of a difference if you're already plunking down so much for the ThinkPad W540's excellent performance and feature set.  The laptop's discrete Nvidia Quadro K2100M card helps the system push a native resolution of 2880x1620. That's right in the ballpark of a Retina Display MacBook Pro, depending on the size of the MacBook you're comparing the Thinkpad 540 against. Lenovo's laptop uses an IPS panel for its display, which allows it to achieve better color accuracy (and viewing angles) compared to one with a lesser TN-based display. It's not a touchscreen, which is fine by us.  Save that for your tablet or ultrabook.

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Our review unit didn't ship with the fastest CPU Lenovo offers for those customizing their own 540 laptops, but that didn't stop our system from crushing the competition in a number of benchmarks.  Though we should preface that by noting that the system's Quadro card is also responsible for its awesome performance. The Nvidia Quadro K2100M makes the laptop a great mobile workstation that's also viable for gaming, though it's clear—at least, from our laptop's built-in colorimeter—that Lenovo's offering is more geared toward media professionals than anything else. Though its internal components are pretty powerful, the combination doesn't greatly affect the laptop's total battery life. We were surprised to see its total uptime hover right around middle of other laptops we've recently tested. We thought it would do a lot worse. Take a look...

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