4.0
final rating

reviewed on
this review has been viewed 5788 times

Criteria Comments Rating
  • Speed and features No comments great!
  • Design and form factor Because kleyboard and touchpad makes it unusable for any serious work... poor
  • Battery life No comments good
  • Display No comments great!
  • Durability No comments great!
  • Expandability No comments great!
  • Noise No comments great!
  • Portability (size / weight) No comments good
Detailed review
Definitely W540 is a powerful machine, 4th gen Intel Core i7 good Nvidia GPU with Optimus and up to 32GB or ram is all You need to do serious work.
Best mobility for this kind of machine and very good battery life is another advantage. Stunning Full HD and 3K displays are perfect for multitasking with very good color reproduction You can do web design, CAD, Video editing and more. You can connect up to 3 external monitors which makes it perfect for software developer work.
All this things make W540 perfect work station You can use it every day for professional work from graphic design, science computations, CAD design to software developing.
But You HAVE to consider 2 major design flaws.
First off center keyboard with numpad, this is biggest mistake I could imagine on this kind of machine every professional working on this laptop is using keyboard for hours every day so Your hands are in unnatural position and Your writs start to hurt quickly... I can't understand what designers had in mind doing this kind of decision. Second major flaw is big clickable touchpad which is off center to the left so this makes whole keyboard situation even worse because while You're writing on the keyboard You will touch on the surface of touchpad and move around cursor on top of that from time to time making accidental clicks...
I can't understand how this design decision has been made? And how this wasn't changed during the tests... W540 is a powerful machine for professionals but because of the keyboard and touchpad it's impossible to use it in any serious work... So for time being only option for now is W530 but I hope in the next machine Lenovo will make it right.
I had to post my review here because Lenovo didn't post my review on their site which should be good indication for anybody considering to buy W540 how Lenovo is simple choose to ignore and hide this 2 flaws.
review history
2014-02-02
Updated detailed review
2014-02-01
Updated detailed review

Comments (11) subscribe to this review's comments

cjw27

I am typing this on my solid and reliable Lenovo w510 and I also have several other Thinkpads as well! Awesome machines! I have had nothing but good experiences with Lenovo/Thinkpad and plan on buying a W540 as soon as the touchscreen is available.

With that being said, 3 things really concern me.

1. Keyboard (if you are a true Thinkpad user you will understand this concern)
2. Trackpad integrated buttons
3. Lenovo censoring critical posts on their Forum board and NO replies from Lenovo on customer's concerns.

As for item 1: Keyboard - All of the negative reviews about the keyboard is really concerning me. I bought my wife a Lenovo Yoga 11s for Christmas and have tried to use the chicklet keyboard some but honestly I am having a terrible time with it. On my W510, I can out type most secretaries. On the Yoga, I have mistakes constantly and many letters even double typed. Ghostt how does your new W540 keyboard compare to other Lenovo's like the Yoga 11s?

Item 2: Trackpad - The negative reviews about this are scaring me too! I use the Trackpoint religiously and feel lost on any computers without it. So the trackpad itself is never used on my W510, just the trackpad buttons. Which are used so much they are even starting to wear down. Ghostt, did you have any experience on any pre-W series with the separate buttons? Is the integrated trackpad buttons really that bad now that you have used it some more?

Item 3: I too have seen posts removed from Lenovo's site with anything that seems critical of Lenovo or the W540. This really concerns me too. As a loyal Lenovo customer, it would really alienate me if they are not addressing customers concerns and only trying to silence them. True customer service is "communicating" with your customers. But nowhere have I seen anyone from Lenovo discuss the major concerns that are cropping up everywhere and the launch date bungle of supposedly having the W540 out in Nov when they are just now hitting the US in late Jan 14!

So in closing, where are you Lenovo? What is your response to all the negative buzz that is being generated about your flagship mobile workstation W series? All I hear from lenovo is someone at their company hitting the new "chicklet" delete key instead of addressing these concerns. I guess the new back-lite keypad makes it for Lenovo's censors to find the delete key in the dark. Because in the dark seems to be where their customer service and W Series Product Manager is at the moment.

By the way, Engadget! When do you expect to get a W540 review machine to test? I would love to hear a professional hands on review of the the W540 as well!
ghostt

So to answer Your questions:
1. My recent machine is W520 and I had W540 for tests because I was considering this machine, so I can compare those two keyboards. My W520 keyboard is perfect You can type on it for hours without any problems, after years of using there is no signs of any wear. But this new keyboard to me is unacceptable You will have You hands on the left so Your wrists are bent to the right after few hours You will feel the pain in the hands. About island style key aren't as comfortable as old one but this might be a matter of use to it... For me this keyboard is deal breaker I cant work like this:(

2. I use touchpad all the time so this is very important to me... New touchpad is off center to the left so You can easley imagine how often You will touch it and move cursor around (You can always turn of touchpad if You don't use it), and second off all clickable touchpad for me is not comfortable at all because off accidential click You will have during typing on the keyboard.

3. This is not first time when I experience shady behavior from Lenovo , when I bought my W520 it turn out that whole series had some serious electrical issues because of motherboards or/and CPU. I had bad luck and mine was faulty as well and it randomly restarted from time to time after few weeks from buying I had to send to to service... After service everything is working perfect for years. But reaction from Lenovo was simple to cover up it with some ridiculous excuses about BIOS updates. Maybe You heard about it but I can assure You it was big thing on Lenovo W520 forum. So I don't trust Lenovo as much You do.

So if You buy W540 is Your decision it's great workstation in performance regard and mobility You want find anything better. But form me usability is also very important because I spent hours working on my machine and I can't imagine doing this on this keyboard and touchpad simple as that.
cjw27

Thanks ghostt for the quick reply and insight!

I use my computer for both CAD (Revit and AutoCAD) work and some Adobe CC work in additional to a ton of proposal (MS Office 2010/2013) typing. I do not do day to day CAD work but when I do, it can be for several weeks at a time and can involve some complex Revit models. So the need for a PC to handle the Revit is a must.

Unfortunately, I travel a lot internationally and cay be overseas for months at a time. Like I am as I type this. So a portable workstation is a must for me which is why the "W" series has served me well through the years. I had a W500 before my W510 and several TP's before that. The W510 Thinkpad keyboard is nothing but a joy for me to use!
My normal setup is a docking station with an external Thinkpad (with trackpoint) keyboard and second monitor. When I am traveling, I am in pure laptop mode with no accessories other than my trusted Logitech Performance MX mouse. So your concerns of the keyboard and trackpad are a major concerns of mine as well even though I have an external mouse I use the trackpoint / trackpad just as much.

While the addition of the number pad on the W540 was a welcomed addition to me at first, your concerns with the off center placement of the keyboard seems to override the advantage and has me second guessing my W540 ambitions.

Before I was all gung-ho to get the W540 but now just not sure. What about you? Will you keep the W540 or go to something else? I have even considered looking at the Dell M3800. What would you switch to now that you have had some time with the W540 and seem to be from the same mindset as me.
ghostt

No problem I 'm glad I could share my experience and somebody find this helpful;)
I use my W520 for programming with docking bay and 2 external monitors I also travel from time to time so mobility is also important factor. For me W540 is not an option because of keyboard and touchpad:( So for now I will stay with my W520.
In my opinion if You buy workstation with very good configuration You should wait at least 2-3 years to buy new machine so You can feel any difference in power. In Lenovo W series this is 2-3 models after Your machine. So in my case W540 was first option which I took under consideration. In Your case You can think about W530 but I am not a fan of buying older technology than recent one.

So in my case I will wait at least one year more to make any changes of course if next gen of W series will be with this keyboard and touchpad I will have to consider other options...

At this point You have couple very interesting alternatives which I consider myself:
Dell M4800 - www.laptopmag.com­/reviews­/laptops­/dell­-precision­-m... is a very powerful machine no issues with keyboard and touchpad (this is my first choice)
Toshiba W series is a solid option (I had Tecra M9 worked on it for more than 4 years without any issues;)
Or You can wait for the next model from Lenovo maybe they will change the keyboard...

To sum up in my opinion take Your time with choosing right laptop, make a list of priorities then read some reviews so You can make conscious decision. I understand Your attachment to the company but let me assure You Lenovo is not an IBM so from my own experience You can't count on very good support when something will be wrong with Your laptop or You will try to post some constructive critic... But from the other hand BIOS and drivers are updated on regular basis so until something is wrong with Your machine You will be fine.
We both know how important this choice is so don't rush and base Your decision on facts not an emotion and even if You will choose W540 You can always say that You knew about issues but other advantages were more important.

So I wish You luck with Your decision, and let me know how it went;)

enga

Other option (instead of Dell M4800) would be W530 e.g. if you buy it with full blown specs, it should be as powerful as w540, unless you need new screen res. At least keyboard should be acceptable not off-center, although they changed keyboard layout, which sucks I know...but you are no better with Dell on that one....
very tricky....lenovo screwed up on this one big time....
bjodasso

Personally I won't be using the laptop a ton without it also being on a dock and using external keyboard and/or mouse with dual/triple monitors for work, so the keyboard doesn't bother me a bit, I do like how it has a numpad though. I've only just started using it, but I haven't found anything I don't like about it yet.
xinsnake

I am now typing with my ThinkPad W520, which I've been using for two years. I also own an X230 and both of the machines are perfect and I am very pleased with them.

I've been waiting for W540 for months and now I feel disappointed and also confused. I was imagining that there would be a lot of reviews for the W540 because it's one of the best mobile workstation you can get on the planet. Instead I Googled and Googled, but got almost nothing useful. It's like the world has forgotten it. That raised my doubt because if W540 was a good product, people would talk about it, I mean a lot.

I was trying to get it during this Chinese New Year's sale, but after read few reviews that I can find, I decided to wait. I love ThinkPad for its quality and reliabilty, but I don't want to work on only one side of the laptop where the keyboard is centred. Also I hate the fact there is no status LEDs, because you can't imaging how important that small little HDD light is for a professional user. That is probably the only thing I hate about Mac, so now maybe Mac is a good option for me. And also surprisingly they are about the same price.

Just like you guys mentioned, silent the customers is not a good idea because you will lose them. I can imagine if I post a review on Lenovo website and it got deleted, I would never, ever buy a ThinkPad again. As customers, and especially professional users who want to get a W series, I should tell Lenovo: don't try to fool us because we understand how computer works, and we know exactly what makes a mobile workstation worth buying. You silent your customer for bad reviews on W540, you will lose a lot of them even you correct your mistakes in the next generation W workstation.

Thanks for all people in Engadget who share their experience!
ghostt

@bjodasso
I understand Your position on W540 but I think most of professional like myself will use IBM/Lenovo keyboard a lot becuase it was really good until now. Second thing to consider is that Lenovo doesn't let to post reviews with any constructive critic on their website so censoring reviews beats whole purpose of having them in the first place. Lenovo should turn off reviews or don't censor them simple as that. This is not the first time when I experience this shady behavior from them.

@xinsnake
I couldn't agree more with Your opinion. Like I said earlier Lenovo is not IBM and this is especially true when there is any issues whith Your machine this is proof: forums.lenovo.com­/t5­/W­-Series­-ThinkPad­-Laptops­/W52... - even though Lenovo knew some of the sold W520 where faulty (W520 where restarting randomly) from the beginning they deluded community with false reasons so anybody whose bought faulty machine (including me) had to send it to the service. I was lucky motherboard replacement helped, my W520 is running perfect ever since. But many users didn't have so much luck and send their machines many times to the service...
One of the users revealed that he spoke to the friend working for Lenovo in Japan and he said that Lenovo knew about those electrical issues from the beginning it was something due manufacture process of the motherboards.
So in my opinion Lenovo could gain a lot of respect in this situation and become clean about it and say "we screwed up" offer replacement for faulty motherboards and everybody would understand them and give them credit for this.
Instead Lenovo denied for months that any of this problem is hardware, so they published some BIOS updates, give some useless advices and pretend They don't know about nothing more then users...
That's why I am not surprised You can't post any constructive critic in the review on their website.

ghostt

I have to give a little bit of credit to Lenovo becuase they finally published my review.
I found some Youtube review on W540 and You can see for Yourself how annoying some of the design decisions are:
www.youtube.com­/watch­?v­=jkGa7wa0sNk
sugarsmoking

I had to follow up on this and similar reviews.

I've bought my w540 several weeks ago and i have to admit that it felt a little wierd at the beggining. But now I absolutely LOVE IT!!

It is by far lightest mobile workstation i ever owned.

Keyboard is more-less ok when you get used to it. It is not perfect bet you can type really fast. I always prefered to have a numpad on my computer (had HP w8730 previously) and keyboard and touchpad being offset a little is just something you have to get a little used to.

For all touchpad haters: please go to setting and adjust to your preference. It works really good for me, but i had to get used to double tap for right-click. There is actually no need to use push-in function at all. Single tap = left - click; double tap = right - click. As easy as that!

I guess that w540 is going away from classic Thinkpad formula and this enrages faitfull followers, but this is actually a really good pieco of hardware.

People are complaining that there are no dedicated hardware buttons for volume etc. but actually Lenovo turned thing up side down and actually there are no F buttons, all rest are in top row. This works pretty good actually.

Major flaws are lack of HDD LED and on-screen CAPS and NUM LOCK marks.

I have Dell M4800 at work and it is good as well, I just kind of like w540 more.

Hope this helps.
spiralmike

I've had a w540 for approx 2 months. The machine is great, but the touchpad ergonomics are a disaster. My main complaint is the amount of force and travel required to left-click, which depresses the entire wedge. My hand gets sore so I'll probably just get an external mouse, which is a shame. My last thinkpad was a w500, which I used for 4 years without a problem like this. I would gladly pay for an aftermarket replacement part if it solved this problem. Ironically, one of my main problems with my old Macbook Pro is the force required to click the pad, but I don't use that machine all the time getting work done.

Another issue I've had is strange behavior- I had what seemed like a mouse buffer overflow where the computer would beep and the cursor would wander around after touching either the touchpad or the trackpoint, until I rebooted. I couldn't reproduce the issue. Just today I had to reboot because the touchpad spontaneously went into a mode where I had to click twice to make a single-click happen, and click-and-drag didn't work at all, until I rebooted. I hate rebooting, and I can't imagine how a company like Lenovo has managed to screw up such a fundamental, time-tested input vector as a pointing device. Even while I was writing this note, my thumb glanced the trackpad and somehow I ended up changing focus into the browser search bar, and this is after turning off most of the trackpad functionality (which has a problem staying off, btw).

As to the suggestion that we use the "single tap = left click, double tap = right click", when I did that I found myself accidentally clicking on things. Keys and buttons with the right amount of travel and resistance are critical. A choice between a tough push and no tactile feedback at all misses the usable realm.