Lenovo ThinkPad W550s Ultrabook Mobile Workstation Review

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Lenovo W550s Design and Layout

The Lenovo ThinkPad W550s isn’t quite as thin and light as the Dell Precision M3800, but it’s plenty trim enough to make envious creative pros nudge their clunky old laptops a little closer to the edges of their desks. (And if the W550s’ sleek chassis doesn’t make you want to trash your beater, the keyboard and touchpad surely will, but we’ll get to that.) The ThinkPad W550s comes in at 4.92 pounds (our extended battery model is 5.47 pounds) and is just 0.92 inches thick.

lenovo thinkpad w550s 3K display

There are few notebooks for which a sturdy, well-designed keyboard doesn’t matter, but they’re especially important for business laptops like the ThinkPad W550s. A complete number pad sits next to the QWERTY section and all of the keys are large and sturdy, with decent resistance. It has large Backspace and Delete keys. The white backlighting is sharp and also easy to toggle off to conserve battery power.

thinkpad w550s keyboard leftthinkpad w550s keyboard right

Lenovo made good choices with the FN keys, too. You have volume controls, a Wi-Fi toggle (handy for frequent flyers) and mic and projector keys, among others.

The fingerprint reader sits off to the side of the touchpad, well out of the way. Speaking of the touchpad, it’s a welcome upgrade from the one in the older W540 that we looked at awhile back. We have no complaints about the sensitivity of the touchpad, even at the corners, and it has three discrete mouse buttons that are easy to reach and press. It’s worth noting that the buttons are at the top of the touchpad, which won’t surprise veteran ThinkPad users who are accustomed to the TrackPoint button that sits in the middle of the keyboard. As precise as this new touchpad is, we always like having the TrackPoint around as well for nitty-gritty mouse work.

W550s touchpad TrackPoint

When it comes to ports and connectivity, the ThinkPad W550s is reasonably well-equipped, especially considering its size. It has a Gigabit Ethernet port and Bluetooth and Wireless-AC comes courtesy of Intel’s Dual-Band Wireless-AC 7265 adapter. The system also supports a SIM card for additional connectivity.

closeup W550s mobile workstation

The 720p webcam is flanked by dual microphones for video chatting, which is a nice touch. As for the ports, there are three USB ports, one of which has always on charging capabilities for your smartphone. There’s also a smart card reader, a VGA port and a mini DP. The bottom of the W550s houses a dock connector, which connects to Lenovo’s optional, $269 Ultra Dock. If you connect it to the dock, you’re looking at three more USB ports and an array of video ports, including DVI-D.

thinkpad w550s ports1

thinkpad w550s ports2

Interestingly, the extended battery is barely noticeable. It has rubber feet on it to keep the notebook in place and it lifts the back end of the W550s just a bit, which tilts the keyboard just like a keyboard stand would. Most importantly, it doesn’t change the rectangular shape of the notebooks, meaning that it should fit fine in any standard laptop bag designed for a 15-inch device.

w550s dock connector

Durability is a hallmark of the ThinkPad line and the W550s certainly comes off as being tough enough for heavy travel. The MIL-spec chassis features carbon fiber-reinforced plastic and the notebook has very little give to it. Holding the notebook by a corner (to show the screen to others) didn’t result in any flexing and was surprisingly easy to do, considering that it’s wide enough to house that big keyboard. As for that keyboard, it’s spill-resistant too.

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