ThinkPad W700 Notebook Announced

Today Lenovo announces the ThinkPad W700 notebook. To me, this is the most exciting ThinkPad announcement all year. Not because it is our first 17" ThinkPad notebook ever. Not because this is one of the powerful machines on the planet (Awe inspiring levels of powerful). No, what has me excited is that this machine was designed from the ground up for photographers. I know many out there consider Apple to be the standard for photo work, but I think our company has shot a significant salvo across the proverbial Macintosh bow that challenges that dominance. Let me tell you a bit about the ThinkPad W700 and then you can let me know in the comments if you agree or not. First – you'll notice the new letter designation. A few weeks ago we announced our first W series, the ThinkPad W500 mobile workstation. Previously we used "p" to designate our mobile workstations. The workstation category of machines has grown significantly in the last few years – so much so that Lenovo decided it needed its own category. Now when you think "ThinkPad W Series" from Lenovo, we want you to associate "W" with "workstation." A workstation has these attributes: top bin CPUs, ISV software certification, OpenGL graphics solutions, as well as gobs of memory and hard disk space. Our solution doesn't disappoint. It features next generation Intel Quad Core Extreme Edition processor choices. It has space for integrated dual HDDs, configurable in RAID 0 (data striping), or RAID 1 (data mirroring) setups. (Yes there are SSD options too). Main memory is expandable to 8GB and the nVIDIA graphics solutions have up to 1GB of graphics memory. So there is definitely plenty of power. In fact, you can see that its Windows Vista experience score is nearly off the charts. Today, 5.9 is the absolute maximum score possible in any one category. We hit that and bump up against it in several other categories as well.

So it has brawn, but you can rightfully say at this point that I've mentioned absolutely nothing about what it offers for photographers. In other words, "So what's the big deal?" The big deal starts with a beautiful 17" Widescreen 1920x1200 display with 400 nits of brightness. What's more, this display displays 72% of the possible color gamut of the Adobe RGB color space. In comparison, most normal laptop displays only show 45% of the Adobe RGB color space, and for this photographer, are absolutely inadequate (read: SUCK). This means that this display is capable of showing more colors than most nearly every other display available – laptop or desktop. A 19" 72% color gamut display for a desktop costs north of $700, so you aren't likely to find it at your nearest Best Buy. High end displays like these are usually reserved for graphics professionals. In fact, many of these professionals are still using CRT tube displays because most LCD displays just aren't good enough. This ThinkPad display is more than good enough. (Now I know at this point many of you are going to bemoan our lack of IPS display options for your notebooks and will use this post as a catalyst to comment further. Think of this new announcement as adding a high quality display option which we haven't had in a long time and a step in the right direction. For those of you who don't know what I'm referring to, here's my earlier post on the subject.) Any photographers who are serious about getting their colors right will calibrate their displays so that the colors match what they expect. You want your reds or greens to look exactly as you envisioned them. Without color calibration, you are at the mercy of your lab to get it right. Sadly, most often, they get it wrong. To help these people, we are introducing, to my knowledge, the industry's first integrated color calibration equipment on a notebook PC. This isn't a "cheapest rules" color calibrator, but is Pantone's X-Rite calibrator with HueyPRO software. These are well respected names in the industry. On this ThinkPad, calibration is very easy and is done with the lid closed. You also can see the before and after images so that you get visual confirmation that everything is correct. I have never done any photo editing on any laptop before precisely because of the lack of a wide color gamut or color calibration. This will now change. The next goodie is an optional WACOM digitizer. WACOM is the same company that makes the digitizer for our ThinkPad X Series Tablet PCs and is again, a well respected industry leader in digitizer technology. The digitizer is especially useful in Photoshop for defining selections, creating masks, or any of about a thousand other tasks. You can map it 1:1 with the entire notebook display, or using a control applet, can map it to a selected area of your screen. It is really cool. I've never used a digitizer tablet before when photo editing. The amount of precision control is just amazing compared to a standard mouse. When you're at your desk, you will find it integrates well with your workflow. This machine has three ways to connect external displays – VGA, Dual Link DVI, and DisplayPort all built into the side. I wish it could drive three displays at once using each one of those ports, but sadly only two simultaneous displays for now. Perhaps a future version will have this capability. There is a 7 in 1 card reader built in, and you can also add an integrated Compact Flash reader as an option to replace the Smart Card or Express Card 54 slot. There's also an optional port replicator with an eSATA port so that you can backup to your network storage device at your office or home. Admittedly this isn't our lightest weight machine, but think about what it can do to reduce the clutter in your bag. You can leave behind your color calibrator and USB cable. You can leave behind your digitizer. Since there is support for a second built in HDD, you can have instant backups and leave your external USB HDD at home. This saves time because for the first time you can actually edit in the field or on the airplane ride home vs. having to wait to get to your "real" machine later. And to top all of these great features, it's a ThinkPad. It has rock solid design and is built like a tank, not a fragile toy. Just like you buy professional cameras for their build quality, you choose a ThinkPad for the same reasons. It has thoughtful design touches that are designed for people who actually want to use this system day in and day out. Things like our legendary keyboard, thoughtful ergonomics, and ThinkVantage Technologies designed to help make your life easier, not complicate it. It has the best service and support in the business. Can you tell I'm excited? This is a phenomenal piece of equipment unlike anything that has ever been done before in the industry. But of course, I have a few wish list items to improve the next version.

  1. I'd like to have a Photoshop overlay template option for the keyboard. Photoshop has a myriad of keyboard shortcuts that are nearly impossible to remember unless you use them every day.
  2. I'd like to have an integration bundle with Adobe that includes Photoshop and Lightroom preloaded on the system – preferably at a bundled price.
  3. I'd like GPS capability. Geotagging is about the only option I can think of for us mere mortals to care about integrated GPS devices.
  4. For a machine this big, a carrying handle would be quite useful, though I think my esteemed colleague, Mr. Hill and fellow members of the Corporate Identity team would heartily disagree.
  5. Wi-Fi software tuned for wireless camera sync. Many of the newer SLR cameras have Wi-Fi capabilities in them to wirelessly transmit photos as they are being shot. I can easily imagine a wedding photographer who brings his/her assistant with them. While the ceremony is going on, the assistant is sitting in the back of the church, editing in real time as the images flow into the PC. How cool would it be to have ceremony pictures already available for viewing at a slide show at the couple's reception? The WOW factor would be HUGE and great for future business. (Or even repeat business if you happen to be a Hollywood celebrity.)
  6. I'd LOVE to have a built in battery charger for four AA batteries. This way when I'm out and about with my SB-600 and SB-800 external flashes, I could leave one more thing at home and always be sure of having a source power for battery hungry flashes.

Now it's your turn. Are you as excited as I am about this machine? Did we get it right? What would YOU like to see on version 2?

UPDATE 8/30/08 Our ThinkPad team has been able to do some more performance tuning of the W700 system since I last posted.  Now it gets straight 5.9s for the Vista Experience Score.  As you may recall 5.9 is currently the highest possible score available on a Windows system. For the naysayers, yes, this is a cherrypicked configuration with maxed out specs, however, aren't all benchmarks?  It just shows what this system is capable of.  I'd argue that if the scores went higher, this system would probably score better still.