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Buying a W520 in 2019?

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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
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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.
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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.
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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).
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#16 Post by Sudevan » Sat Sep 28, 2019 11:01 pm

theterminator93 wrote:
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.
I recently picked up a very nice W520 off eBay. Specs: i7 2720 QM Quad Core, Full HD display 1920x1080p (looks and behaves very much like an IPS panel, although I have not checked), 16 GB RAM, 512 GB SSD, and a 9-cell battery. The screen looks absolutely splendid, and is flawless as far as dead/stuck pixels, pressure spots, etc., are concerned. The lid is almost pristine. I had bought another W520 before this one, but it had a terrible screen that had all sorts of problems -- dead pixels, pressure spots and grey lines, and even a scratch in a corner, in spite of my asking about these details with the seller! There were all sorts of tint changes with scrolling, and the colours were so bright they hurt my eyes -- probably badly calibrated. Needless to say, I returned it for a full refund and an apology from the seller. My second try turned out to be bang on target, as mentioned above. All this is to preface my experience with the machine and the screen: It runs Win 10, and I had no trouble getting used to the screen, either with colours or with brightness. And none of that business with tint changes while scrolling either. So, if the machine is properly calibrated, it will be fine on your eyes. I must add that my daily driver is a desktop Dell XPS of 2014 vintage, with a really nice Dell Ultrasharp U2414H monitor, so that may have something to do with my experience with the W520's FHD screen.

My uses are that of an ordinary chap, and not those of a specialist in areas like advanced photography, video production, CAD or medical imaging. If imaging is critical to your use, then you may want to re-calibrate the screen to your specs, either through the Win 10 system (most experts say not to do this!) or with an external calibration device. I am certain there are people in our Forum who have specialist knowledge of calibration and can advise you on these matters, if your needs are in imaging.

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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#17 Post by MikalE » Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:26 pm

I am still using a T520 spec'ed out with a 2760QM and 16 GB of ram. If it had a better GPU I would not have bought a new Dell G3, but the GPU in the T520 is not up to running a flight simulator program at a good frame rate. I'm not at all certain even the top of the line GPU in a W520 would be up to that task with as advanced as flight simulator graphics have become over the last eight years.

I love my T520 and would not at all hesitate to buy a W520, but other than the GPU, this T520 is spec'ed out better than most W520's on Feebay. In fact, I haven't found one better except for the GPU.

The case is near-new looking, the screen is pristine with no flaws or faults, and I have a great Deutsche keyboard. I do wish it was lighted, but...can't have everything with something this old.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#18 Post by Sudevan » Mon Sep 30, 2019 8:37 am

MikalE wrote:
Sun Sep 29, 2019 4:26 pm
I am still using a T520 spec'ed out with a 2760QM and 16 GB of ram. If it had a better GPU I would not have bought a new Dell G3, but the GPU in the T520 is not up to running a flight simulator program at a good frame rate. I'm not at all certain even the top of the line GPU in a W520 would be up to that task with as advanced as flight simulator graphics have become over the last eight years.

I love my T520 and would not at all hesitate to buy a W520, but other than the GPU, this T520 is spec'ed out better than most W520's on Feebay. In fact, I haven't found one better except for the GPU.

The case is near-new looking, the screen is pristine with no flaws or faults, and I have a great Deutsche keyboard. I do wish it was lighted, but...can't have everything with something this old.
My own needs are nowhere as demanding as yours. I looked up the Dell G3, is it the one with the NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1060 with Max-Q design technology? And is the Deutsche keyboard a special need -- do you write in German a lot?
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#19 Post by MikalE » Tue Oct 01, 2019 7:16 pm

My Dell G3 has the 1660ti card. The graphics are outstanding with excellent frame rates. Yes, I write a lot in German on several other websites.
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Re: Buying a W520 in 2019?

#20 Post by Sudevan » Wed Oct 02, 2019 7:05 am

MikalE wrote:
Tue Oct 01, 2019 7:16 pm
My Dell G3 has the 1660ti card. The graphics are outstanding with excellent frame rates. Yes, I write a lot in German on several other websites.
Fascinating! I know several languages to varying degrees of facility. It is amazing how far we have come in terms of complex scripts like Chinese and Japanese (I know neither of these). The Indian languages (about 29 of them now, and I know two or three) all have different scripts, but you can sit at an ordinary keyboard on a computer equipped with transcription/transliteration software, write in a sound-based Romanized form of the language, and with each tap of the spacebar after a word, the script appears! And this software has become extremely accurate. Given the fact that some of these languages, like Malayalam, have more than twice the number of letters in the Graeco-Roman alphabet (not to mention diacritical characters and liaising characters), this type of software is nothing short of a miracle. Most monolingual people do not realize what a huge advance this is in digital typography, typesetting, printing books, etc., in the numerous languages of the world.

As an aside, growing up in Colonial Malaya in the 1950s, I remember my Dad (although Indian, he spoke some Hokkien and rather more Malay) showing me a Chinese typewriter in the back of a shop run by one of his acquaintances. It was an enormous machine -- because there are so many characters in Chinese,I imagine. There is a great about Thinkpads by Arimasa Naitoh and William J Holstein which mentions the problems of digital characters in Japanese. It is called How the Thinkpad changed the World. Naitoh was chief engineer in the IBM Yamato Lab where that machine we are all rather fond of was first developed.

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