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Buying a W520 in 2019?

W500/510/520 and W700/710 series specific matters only
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TPActivator1511
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Buying a W520 in 2019?

#1 Post by TPActivator1511 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:57 pm

I'm curious if it would be a good idea to be a ThinkPad W520 as my main laptop computer in 2019. The prices are reasonable, and they can be specced with quad-core CPUs, and "okay" GPUs, with the capacity for reasonable memory upgrades. Seems reasonably fast, good keyboard, solid ThinkPad.

So would it be a good idea to go out and buy a W520 these days?

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#2 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:07 pm

Depends on your workload. Also consider a W530, especially with a classic kbd swap. Ivy Bridge is significantly faster and more power efficient than Sandy Bridge.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#3 Post by theterminator93 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:10 pm

I love my W520. I don't notice any sluggishness or lagging doing day-to-day computing. I also use it to encode Blu-rays on occasion. Make sure you get a quad-core model and upgrade it to 8GB+ RAM and an SSD and you'll be good to go.

Also - Ivy Bridge is not significantly faster clock-for-clock compared to Sandy Bridge - about 3-5% is the number I see most often. It is slightly more efficient (better battery life/less heat) and they are available in slightly higher frequencies than their Sandy Bridge counterparts... but the integrated GPU is about 50% faster than the one on Sandy Bridge. Because Ivy Bridge runs cooler and uses less power it may also run at higher turbo frequencies under load contributing to better benchmark scores. \ If that's worth the price premium and if you don't mind the newer keyboard (or can do the classic keybaord swap) then have at it!

Consider these similarly clocked CPUs' benchmarks: https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/In ... /1784vs884

And the iGPU benchmarks: https://www.videocardbenchmark.net/comp ... 3000/2vs26
Daily: T25 | W520 i7-2860QM·Quadro 2000m·IPS FHD | T420 i7·NVS·IPS FHD | X220 i7·IPS FHD | T601F T9900·NVS·LED UXGA
Wife's: T61p T9500·FX570m·WUXGA | X220T i7-2640M
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#4 Post by TPActivator1511 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:41 pm

theterminator93 wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:10 pm
I love my W520. I don't notice any sluggishness or lagging doing day-to-day computing. I also use it to encode Blu-rays on occasion. Make sure you get a quad-core model and upgrade it to 8GB+ RAM and an SSD and you'll be good to go.

Also - Ivy Bridge is not significantly faster clock-for-clock compared to Sandy Bridge - about 3-5% is the number I see most often. It is slightly more efficient (better battery life/less heat) and they are available in slightly higher frequencies than their Sandy Bridge counterparts... but the integrated GPU is about 50% faster than the one on Sandy Bridge. Because Ivy Bridge runs cooler and uses less power it may also run at higher turbo frequencies under load contributing to better benchmark scores. \ If that's worth the price premium and if you don't mind the newer keyboard (or can do the classic keybaord swap) then have at it!

Consider these similarly clocked CPUs' benchmarks: https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/In ... /1784vs884

And the iGPU benchmarks: https://www.videocardbenchmark.net/comp ... 3000/2vs26
Thanks for your advice. Should I buy one, I'd probably spec it out with a hard drive and an SSD (removing the optical drive) and 16GB of memory. Preferably it'd have one of the Quadro GPUs so the iGPU speed would be no issue.

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#5 Post by theterminator93 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:27 pm

All of the W520s will have a Quadro and the iGPU. The lower end models will have the Quadro 1000M, the higher end ones will have the Quadro 2000M, which is about 35% faster than the 1000M.

You can also install an mSATA SSD and keep the 2.5" HDD and ODD. There is a slot for one (or a WWAN module if so desired) under the access door on the underside of the machine.
Daily: T25 | W520 i7-2860QM·Quadro 2000m·IPS FHD | T420 i7·NVS·IPS FHD | X220 i7·IPS FHD | T601F T9900·NVS·LED UXGA
Wife's: T61p T9500·FX570m·WUXGA | X220T i7-2640M
Others: T61p·61·43·42p|X41T·24·23·22|G41|A31p·22m|i1200|TransNote|380D|365XD|701C|755C|760EL

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#6 Post by Thinkpad4by3 » Mon Jul 08, 2019 11:34 pm

theterminator93 wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:10 pm
I love my W520. I don't notice any sluggishness or lagging doing day-to-day computing. I also use it to encode Blu-rays on occasion. Make sure you get a quad-core model and upgrade it to 8GB+ RAM and an SSD and you'll be good to go.

Also - Ivy Bridge is not significantly faster clock-for-clock compared to Sandy Bridge - about 3-5% is the number I see most often. It is slightly more efficient (better battery life/less heat) and they are available in slightly higher frequencies than their Sandy Bridge counterparts... but the integrated GPU is about 50% faster than the one on Sandy Bridge. Because Ivy Bridge runs cooler and uses less power it may also run at higher turbo frequencies under load contributing to better benchmark scores. \ If that's worth the price premium and if you don't mind the newer keyboard (or can do the classic keybaord swap) then have at it!

Consider these similarly clocked CPUs' benchmarks: https://www.cpubenchmark.net/compare/In ... /1784vs884

And the iGPU benchmarks: https://www.videocardbenchmark.net/comp ... 3000/2vs26
My point was that given the same range CPU,i5-2320M vs. i5-3320M, i7-2640M vs. i7-3520M, i7-2920XM vs. i7-3940XM, the Ivy may not beat Sandy in a clock for clock race but Ivy is about 800Mhz faster on all cores across the board. That ain't a negligible change...and its noticable. My X220 with its i7-2640M gets its butt kicked by my T430 with a i5-3380M(effectively a i7-3520M). Also the graphics improvement really shows...well atleast in my dGPU T430 that ain't a fair comparison but my T430s when it still was kicking and alive did show a really nice improvement over Sandy. And the battery life really shows on Ivy....well nothing compared to Haswell but still.

Anyway, let's not derail this any further than I've already put it.
Thinkpad4by3's Law of the Universe.

The efficiency of two screens equally sized with equal numbers if pixels are equal. The time spent by a 4:3 user complaining about 16:9 is proportional to the inefficiency working with a 16:9 display, therefore the amount of useful work extracted is equal.

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#7 Post by exTPfan » Tue Jul 09, 2019 12:42 pm

It depends on what you are doing. For example, the i7-2640M used in the T520 has somewhat better single-core performance than the i7-6500U found in many 2016 laptops, and somewhat worse mult-core performance. Not everything can use multiple cores.
http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i7-6 ... e-i7-2640M
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#8 Post by dr_st » Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:42 pm

Thinkpad4by3 wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 7:07 pm
Also consider a W530, especially with a classic kbd swap. Ivy Bridge is significantly faster and more power efficient than Sandy Bridge.
This.

Even though I am not sure how "significantly" it is, it still allows you to push one generation ahead with virtually no losses, only gains (assuming you do the classic keyboard mod, or simply don't care about the 7-row keyboard).
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#9 Post by ajkula66 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:01 pm

TPActivator1511 wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 5:57 pm

So would it be a good idea to go out and buy a W520 these days?
The real question here IMO is what your intended uses for the system are. I know that I could get away with W520 for at least another 5 years. But usage scenarios differ greatly amongst people.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#10 Post by ZaZ » Wed Jul 10, 2019 1:31 am

You'd probably help your cause if you said something about your intended usage and budget.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#11 Post by MikalE » Wed Jul 10, 2019 6:24 am

Prices on W520's on ebay have not budged much over the last three years or so. I keep tabs on these machines as I would like one too some day...when the price on them comes down.

My T520 is currently better spec'ed than anything I've seen on ebay, however, they do have more potential for upgrading than my T520 as far as memory capacity. The Nvidia 4200M is not the best either, but better than Intel's integrated GPU.
T500 T9600 2055-BE9
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T510 i7 4349-A64
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T520: i7-2760QM(2.40GHz),16GB, 500GB SSD/250GB SSD, 1600x900, 1GB NVIDIA, DVDRW, Smartcard, media card, FPR, Win7 Pro64, XP Pro64 whitelist BIOS, N 6300 AGN, German KB, BT 4.0.

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#12 Post by jcvjcvjcvjcv » Thu Jul 11, 2019 6:57 am

Well, if you want to get used to a nice keyboard you will probably never ever get again in a newer laptop; by all means by a 8 year old Thinkpad. If you can get used to the current useless keyboards; do that, it saves you the agonizing that you cannot get as good a keyboard as you are used to in the future.
theterminator93 wrote:
Mon Jul 08, 2019 10:27 pm
All of the W520s will have a Quadro and the iGPU. The lower end models will have the Quadro 1000M, the higher end ones will have the Quadro 2000M, which is about 35% faster than the 1000M.

You can also install an mSATA SSD and keep the 2.5" HDD and ODD. There is a slot for one (or a WWAN module if so desired) under the access door on the underside of the machine.
The underside door only gives access to two SO-DIMM slots. The mSata slot can be reached by taking out the keyboard. :wink:
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#13 Post by theterminator93 » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:24 pm

Duh. I've been working with too many T420s lately. :)

Worth mentioning is the fact that the mSATA slot is limited to SATA-II speed, whereas the Ultrabay and 2.5" SATA bay are SATA-III. I have never really noticed any negative side effects of on any of my *20 series machines, but it is a technical limitatio nonetheless.

Also, the FHD equipped W520 has a high gamut panel. It takes some getting used to if you haven't used one before. I opted to retrofit an IPS panel into mine.
Daily: T25 | W520 i7-2860QM·Quadro 2000m·IPS FHD | T420 i7·NVS·IPS FHD | X220 i7·IPS FHD | T601F T9900·NVS·LED UXGA
Wife's: T61p T9500·FX570m·WUXGA | X220T i7-2640M
Others: T61p·61·43·42p|X41T·24·23·22|G41|A31p·22m|i1200|TransNote|380D|365XD|701C|755C|760EL

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#14 Post by ZaZ » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:04 am

theterminator93 wrote:
Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:24 pm
Worth mentioning is the fact that the mSATA slot is limited to SATA-II speed, whereas the Ultrabay and 2.5" SATA bay are SATA-III.
Only running tasks that place a heavy load on the controller would there be any discernible difference.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#15 Post by Shredder11 » Fri Jul 12, 2019 2:49 am

That's good I did not realise that about the Ultrabay port on the W520. My older Thinkpads like my Z61p have the SATA to IDE conversion limitation, and therefore a lot slower.
Z61p x3 (C2D T7600, 3GB, 500GB SSD, BCM70015, Advanced Dock x1, Mini Dock x2)
W520 (C2Q i7-2720QM, 8GB, 60GB SSD)
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