The quad-core laptops are here . . . sort of

The quad-core laptops are here . . . sort of

Summary: Back in August Dell, HP and Lenovo all announced mobile workstations that offer Intel's first quad-core chip for laptops. Those systems are now available for order and reviews of at least one model--the Lenovo ThinkPad W700--are giving a glimpse of the performance you can expect from these 17-inch powerhouses.


Lenovo ThinkPad W700Back in August Dell, HP and Lenovo all announced mobile workstations that offer Intel's first quad-core chip for laptops. Those systems are now available for order and reviews of at least one model--the Lenovo ThinkPad W700--are giving a glimpse of the performance you can expect from these 17-inch powerhouses.

The ThinkPad W700 and Dell Precision M6400 are both available for order with the 2.53GHz Intel Core 2 Quad Extreme QX9300 (though it looks like you'll have to wait a few weeks for them to ship). HP announced that its EliteBook 8730w will also offer the Core 2 Quad Extreme processor, but the pre-configured models currently available top out at the 2.53 GHZ Core 2 Duo T9400, a dual-core chip.

The Core 2 Quad Extreme is a pricey part--Intel charges more than a $1,000 for the processor--and it will only help with multi-threaded applications, though many of the typical workstation applications (high-end image editing and video editing, and computer-aided design) fall into that category. But there are other high-end features on these workstations that boost performance across the board including lots of fast DDR3 memory (up to 16GB on the Precision M6400), Nvidia Quadro GPUs with up to 1GB of memory and dual hard drives (including SSD options) that can be configured in RAID 0 for best performance.

The 17-inch widescreen displays on these mobile workstations are also a step up. They are high-resolution, brighter and can display a much wider color gamut--more colors--than a typical laptop display. The ThinkPad W700 also comes with an integrated color calibration utility.

The obvious drawback to these mobile workstations is size and weight, or as puts it, "Lenovo's Mega Notebook Crushes Benchmarks, Femurs." That's obviously an exaggeration, but at nearly 10 pounds these systems are really semi-portable--you can occasionally move them from one workspace to another, but you won't want to take one on the road regularly. Then again, these mobile workstations outperform many desktops and even the fastest gaming laptops such as the Alienware Area-51 m17x and Gateway P-7811FX.

Lenovo ThinkPad W700 reviews:

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Laptops, Lenovo, Processors

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  • Oh yeh, I have one of these. It's ok.

    D T Schmitz
  • We only need 1.6 processors

    Otherwise, having more cpu means slower speed for most programs.
    • Software will change this

      Multi-threaded software development is challenging but it is doable. Once we get used to it, more opportunities will arise that no one thought of. Software always lags behind hardware.
      • You do need more study on this issue ...

        I had done more than enough in 1990s and put aside altogether that area!
  • RE: The quad-core laptops are here . . . sort of

    What? Are you nuts? With parallel processing, more cores
    equals FASTER results. I can tell you that from my
    computer with a single core, compared to my other two
    with a dual core and quad core, respectively.

    The speed goes from good to better to AWESOME! with the
    more cores in the machine.
    • Your are quite nut!

      Learn more about Amdahl's law.

      Multi-core is useful for your web-servers.
      Not for most of your laptop programs.
      You don't use laptop for web services.
  • What a consultant wants

    These days all the consultants I speak to have the same desire...they want a Quad core system with 16 GB of RAM and at least 2 drives.

    Why? Because we all want to run a Hypervisor and multiple VMs so we can do our jobs. Also on the leading edge, we want our own laptop OS to be portable from one system to another so we can stop the perpetual reinstall of all our apps every year or two that we upgrade our laptops.

    If I could find my ideal laptop it would run Windows Server 2008 Core with the hypervisor and then have a Windows Vista client (my main work VM) and a Windows 2008 DC and probably a couple other Windows Servers so I could do my testing and my build docs and all the other things I would normally need to go to some desktop VMs for.

    Are any of the hardware vendors listening? And where's AMD in all of this??? Personally I only buy systems with AMD's.
    • Ironically you may get the half the speed ...

      More processors means slower per processor speed due to sync. After all your computer still has single bus system and slow disk drives which will dictate the speed. Overall you will get slower computer!

      I suggest you to consider main frames that give you real parallel processing with multiple channels and real parallel disk drives. This will solve your problems.
      • This is multi-core, so some of those issues are not there.

        The chips have multiple cores, thus allowing true multi-
        tasking. As per virtualization, this allows one to run
        (depending on the number of cores, allocation per VM,
        etc.) multiple virtual systems, each one with a certain
        number of cores that it utilizes. This is similar to what
        mainframes and midrange Unix boxes, as well as some
        other mid range servers.

        What he is getting at is that when you virtualize an
        environment, it gets allocated a core (or 2 depending on
        how it is provisioned). This allows true multitasking
        (similar to a mainframe) and thus you can run multiple
        hosts on a single machine, even using virtualized storage
        and memory (among other aspects of the machine). For
        blade servers, 1U and 2U servers, this means that you can
        run more machines in less (physical) space.

        When you do this on a laptop (as per what consultants do),
        you can then virtualize environments that you are working
        on, or virtualize multi host infrastructures, though with a
        minor performance loss. This means that the consultant
        can deliver in a more timely manner, as they can take their
        environment/infrastructure or a similar one and work on it
        or adapt it to multiple clients before implementing it for
        the client.
  • RE: The quad-core laptops are here . . . sort of

    Great battery life too. When you are getting something this heavy, hot, and short-lived, why bother paying up for a "laptop" (love to see this on your lap).
    • Agreed!

      We need faster single (maybe dual) processor laptops!
      • Dual core is the equivalent of dual processor.

        Here is the deal, as you appear to not understand what this

        Dual core means that you can actually run 2 processes
        concurrently without swapping to RAM. Having 4 cores
        (quad core) is the equivalent of having a 4 CPU system.
        Having multiple cores means that you have symmetric
        multiprocessing on a single chip wafer, plus faster
        interconnects between the cores. Typically, this also
        means that the CPU (physical) has more cache memory in
        the chip to accommodate the processes (L1/L2/Ln caches).

        Having 2 of these quad-core CPUs is the equivalent of
        having up to 8 CPUs for a given system (See Dell 2950,
        etc.). Even current Sun SPArc chips are multi-core, thus
        allowing faster processing of data and offering true

        This is only bringing that level of consolidation into a
        laptop (granted, a heavy one) and gives people the option
        (if using virtualization) to run multiple systems or
        applications (not actually requiring virtualization) that can
        run in their own threads of execution (look up the Mach
        kernel or other multi-threaded systems).
        • I used to use tens of thousands of processing elements ...

          Of course, back in 1990s!

          I have been using two laptops with 1.6Ghz exact. Dual core a bit smooth on GUI rendering. But it us a bit slower data crunching operations. I think that's the cost for synch! Normally average people will expect twice faster! Turned out to a bit slower. They will ask questions!
        • For another spin....

          ...over on the Mac side, the Mac Pro (dual quad-core Xeon
          processor, 1600 MHz FSB, 32GB RAM, 4x1 TB HDD) is
          (rightly) known as a "personal supercomputer". Persistent
          rumor has it that the next MacBook Pro refresh will offer
          Core2Extreme quad-core processors in place of the
          Core2Duo used now. A lot of us are quite curious to see
          how they'll solve the thermal issues (MBPs are usually
          pretty toasty sitting on your lap cross-country) and
          battery-life issues. Mac folk are less price-sensitive than
          Windows usees [i]provided that[/i] they see value/features
          going up proportionally to the price, so this is more of a
          battery technology/size/weight issue than anything else. I
          expect to get 8 hours' battery life on a MBP at least two to
          three years before I get 6 on my (existing or replacement)
          Lenovo or Acer laptops. Which reminds me, I need to buy a
          spare battery....
          Jeff Dickey
    • not neccesssarly

      By chance, not choice I now own a Dell Precision with the QX9300[2.53ghz,12MB] quad core. I wanted the QX9100 dual core at 3.06 I think it was. Was advised that the quad was 'future proofing' as more and more software is built with multi threading or whatever it is that cores do. Using it for work using multithreaded engineering programs or flying my flight sims, the processor rarely goes above 110 degrees farenheit (43 C. or thereabouts.) The highest temp. ever was 136 or around 50 Celsius. To me that sounds high but I'm told it's not at all. And along with the Samsung SLC SSD main drive and 8GBs RAM this thing is a barnburner. I'm not very educated about the nuts and electrons that make computers run but do have a pretty good feel for the micro mechanical end of it and again, this is possibly the fastest laptop on earth. I run a stripped version of XP Pro and the quad is easily as fast and probably faster than the X9000 dual core extreme on my other Precision if you want to get picky. I really don't. People that do all this for a living have told me that quad is the coming standard for multi threading applications and games and there already are programs that make use of them. I got the rig new for a price too good to let pass and if not that I might have waited for the X9100 but am glad the way it turned out. And sorry if I sound like a Dell employee (not) but it's as sleek as a 17" 'laptop' can be, is easy on the eyes in it's orange aluminum case and though I don't use the battery much I at least run it dry monthly at my desk and 2 and a half hours is the norm. And that's with the screen brightness up a couple notches from default. Which is pretty good considering the load it must bear. To me it's more a battery backup for power failures. It's a workstation and is portable in the sense that you move it from desk to desk. But it will run a HD movie for you in the plane if you feel like it. And lastly, for people that seem to feel they're important numbers about overall performance, from hitting the power button till everythings loaded and internet connected is 42 seconds usually. After a boot defrag or registry defrag it's longer. And a thing that even I notice is the shutdown speed whick I just timed. From "Shut down" to lights out is 6 seconds. Isn't that impossible? It has to shut down BitDefender, CounterSpy, Threatfire and WinPatrol and about 40 or so others whose names I'd have to look up and I keep doing it and though it might take 7 seconds now and then the average is six seconds. I got off track on answering your points but most of the answers are burried in my little story that does have to do with quad core laptops. I like em.