Let’s talk about some of the W701ds’ special features. The integrated Wacom tablet isn’t quite as good as the company’s latest Intuos 4 products, but a sight more advanced than the Wacom digitizers commonly built into convertible tablet laptops like the HP TouchSmart tm2. It works beautifully and the provided stylus is comfortable in the hand, sporting the same soft-touch coating as the ThinkPad’s lid. It offers 1,024 pressure levels and tilt sensitivity, and is as close to the experience of drawing on paper as any laptop will give you. The only potential issue is that its fixed position means it’s biased towards right-handed users – trying to perform keyboard shortcuts if you’re using the pad left-handed is difficult at best.
As you would expect considering this ThinkPad’s price and target market, the main, 17in screen isn’t exactly your average affair either. Not only does it provide a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, matching most professional monitors in providing those extra few vertical pixels, but it’s RGB-LED backlit too, providing far greater colour accuracy, gamut and saturation, higher contrast and better viewing angles than your average laptop display. We first came across this type of technology with the Dell Studio XPS 16, and it hasn’t lost any of its appeal – the only thing that beats it is having an IPS panel, and HP’s maxed-out EliteBook 8740w is the only available laptop we know of that has one of those.
To get the best out of its screen, the W701ds features a built-in hardware colorimeter courtesy of HueyPro. Calibrating the screen couldn’t be simpler: start up the software and close the lid, and after about a minute you have a fully hardware-calibrated screen!
After calibration, the RGB-LED backlit display breezed through our greyscale and colour tests. This not only means that you’ll get great colour accuracy while doing graphically-intensive work, but also that viewing pictures, videos and games will be a more detailed and enjoyable experience, especially since the screen has such a small dot pitch and everything is razor-sharp.
Unfortunately, even the best backlighting in the world can’t completely disguise the fact that you’re dealing with a TN panel here, and while viewing angles are vastly superior to most laptops, they’re by no means perfect (and not even close to IPS). There was also some minor but noticeable banding on the screen and, more damningly, backlight bleed from both sides. However, these really are minor complaints compared to the benefits.
Getting to the slide-out secondary screen, it’s a 10.6in affair with a high 768 x 1,280 resolution. It’s also frankly rather rubbish, with TN’s inherent vertical viewing angle weakness (don’t forget, it’s essentially a standard screen turned on its side) ensuring everything looks washed out and colours are completely off.
But that’s not really a negative. After all, it’s only meant as a repository for all the tool bars, settings boxes, palettes and message windows that you don’t want cluttering up the main screen. For its purpose it does an adequate job, and the extra real estate it offers is invaluable in a multitude of situations.