Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Lenovo W520 for Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effects CS5 - Part 6

Laptop vs Desktop
After getting my plug-ins, codecs, fonts and little nick-nacks synchronized I was ready to do some test renders. To compare my desktop and new laptop I used a recent project that I edited using Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effect CS5. The results surprised me.

CPUCore i7 930
Cores: 4
Clock: 2.8 Ghz
Max Turbo: 3.06 Ghz
Cache: 8 MB
Core i7-2720QM
Cores: 4
Clock: 2.2 Ghz
Max Turbo: 3.3 Ghz
Cache: 6 MB
RAM24GB DDR3-1066 CL 7-7-7-20 Triple Channel16GB DDR3-1333 CL 9-9-9-24 Dual Channel
Graphics AdapterNvidia GeForce GTX 260
CUDA Cores: 192
Graphics Clock: 576 Mhz
Shader Speed: 1242 Mhz
Memory: 1792 MB GDDR3
Memory Interface: 448-bit
Nvidia Quadro 2000M
CUDA Cores: 192
Graphics Clock: 550Mhz
Shader Speed: 1100 Mhz
Memory: 2048 MB DDR3
Memory Interface: 128-bit
ChipsetIntel X58 + ICH10RIntel QM67
Primary DriveWD 3.5" 7200rpm
WDC WD1001FAES-60Z2A0 1000.2 GB
Intel 310 SSD
Secondary DriveSeagate Barracuda 3.5" 7200rpm
ST31000340AS 1002.2 GB
Seagate Momentus 2.5" 7200rpm
ST9500420AS 500.1GB

The Desktop which was purchased around August 2010 as a custom configured system is the baseline for this comparison. Its WEI is 5.9 overall with 7.5 processor, 7.5 RAM, 7.1 Graphics, 7.1 Gaming Graphics and 5.9 Primary Hard Disk. The Laptop was purchased in May 2011. It's WEI when Optimus is 4.8 overall with 7.5 Processor, 7.5 RAM, 4.8 Graphics, 4.8 Gaming Graphics and 7.7 Primary Hard Disk. The WEI increases to an overall 6.9 when Discrete Graphics is switched in the BIOS. The test was done in Optimus mode because I hadn't read the threads in NBR about stability yet.

The HPE-380t was upgraded recently with an NEC USB 3.0 PCI x1 card. It shows up as a Renesas USB Host Controller which is also what appears on the W520's system information.

Operating SystemPrimary DriveSATA 3.0
Target DiskSecondary DriveSATA 3.0
Project FilesSeagate Barracuda LP 3.5" 5900RPM
ST32000542AS 2000.3 GB
e-SATA on Thermaltake BlacX Duet (single-drive on HDD1)
Additional MediaSeagate FreeAgent GoFlex Ultra Portable 5400rpm
ST1500LM003-9YH148 1500.3 GB
GoFlex on USB 3.0

The Operating System contains Windows 7 Professional and applications. In the case of the W520 some executables were also stored in the Target Disk but those were not invoked for this test. The Target Disk is where I render the final output.
Project Media drive has most of the video clips, images and voice overs used for render. Additional Media contains Action Essentials 720p, Sony Motion Picture SFX and Stock20 music which I use across projects.

The same external drives were attached to e-SATA and USB 3.0 respectively. These external drives are the slower "Green" or portable versions which may limit the I/O speed somewhat. But this isn't an artificial test, I actually do store my media and work this way. It's not as optimized as a full-on RAID configuration but it is what it is. Also note that the BlacX only had one drive installed. I learned that the QM67 did not support port-multiplier so only one disk can be seen in the Disk 1 slot.

Sony Vegas Pro 10d Comparison 64-bit
I took a finished project, GoMilsim Evolution 9, and re-rendered it. The video was 08:21 long with some pre-rendered elements using a mix of 1080p and 720 clips in various formats. NeoScene was installed on the Desktop while NeoPlayer was on the Laptop. The Cineform license required disabling and reactivating when moving between computers but I didn't feel like doing it. Sorry.

2 Overlay Tracks with Text and Video
1 Main Video Track with JPEG, WMV, AVI-Cineform 720p 24fps, and MOV-Canon 7D 1080 24fps clips of mixed resolution/frame rate
3 Audio tracks

Resize from 1080p to 720p
Bit Rate Conversion
Color Corrector
Audio Envelopes

Render output used codec Sony AVC/MVC with 1280x720 resolution at rate 4,000,000 Mbps. This codec had options for CPU only and CUDA when available.

Sony AVC-CPU only22 Minutes 55 Seconds 21 Minutes 31 Seconds
Sony AVC-GPU if available25 Minutes 11 Seconds23 Minutes 55 Seconds

Oh my! The results were not expected. Not only did GPU acceleration take longer to render, this year's Laptop outperformed the Desktop. Just because GPU is used doesn't really mean it will be faster. What it does allow is for the CPU to do other work while render is in progress. Effects and transitions may not benefit from GPU acceleration depending on how they are programmed. Observing the CPU utilization, it seems to me that resize from 1080p to 720p and text overlay is all done in CPU. Transcode from Cineform to Sony AVC was level at about 33% with GPU. Windows was showing 4GB RAM used during render in both cases. That's quite a revelation to me as this Vegas is a 64-bit application. The original project was created using Sony Vegas Pro 10c 32-bit. I wonder if that has anything to do with it?

After Effects CS5 Comparison
The VFX in the closing scene of Evolution 9 was originally done with Adobe CS4 32-bit. It was re-rendered using Adobe CS5 64-bit.
The project was 00:00:14,53 long. Rendered output was to 1280x720 Lossless 60fps

Composition with 23 Layers with 8 MOV files (7 from Action Essentials, 1 Canon 7D 720p 60fps, 1 JPEG
4 Motion Tracks for Compositing

AVI-Lossless5 Minutes 33 Seconds4 Minutes 33 Seconds

It takes quite a while to render 14 seconds of VFX. The original render on a Q6600 with 3GB of RAM took 14 Minutes 6 seconds. The 64-bit renders consumed about 13GB! Both the 380t and W520 do much better than that but I didn't expect the Laptop to do better by a full minute. I know it's a mobile workstation but I was expecting it to be slightly slower than the Desktop. If you view it negatively, you could say my Desktop sucked. Hey! That Desktop served me well. Viewed positively, I'd say the Lenovo W520 is winning!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lenovo W520 and a Replacement Blu-Ray Drive

Getting a Blu-ray Writer

A Blu-ray drive is not a current option for the Lenovo W520. This deficiency can be alleviated by purchasing a slim drive after market. The Panasonic UJ-240 OEM SATA model is the cheapest one available at the moment. This is the bare drive capable of up to 6x BD-RE write and 8x DVD+/-RW DL. It's available from Amazon (paid link) and Ebay. To swap this with your DVD all you need is a screw driver and paper clip. Two rail guides and a bezel need to be transferred from the original. After that its plug and play.

The original Lenovo drive is a Matshita UJ8A0A which is manufactured by Panasonic so we can be confident of this replacement. Windows 7 automatically detects the new drive and finds the right drivers for it. Once you have replaced the bezels and installed it the only other reminder it's a blu-ray is the dark blue tray.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lenovo W520 for Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effects CS5 - Part 5

Patch Thinkpad and Windows 7
Now that you have cleared out good amount of space, let's use it! Run "Lenovo - Updates and Drivers" and Windows Update first chance you get. The Thinkpad update was done in about 10 minutes. The Microsoft update on the other hand took at least half an hour with four reboot cycles.

-> Control Panel
-> System and Security
-> Lenovo - Updates and Drivers

-> Run: Windows Update

Install CCCP, Lagarith, Quicktime, Avid and other codecs
It's a good idea to install your codecs before the NLEs. The Adobe installer will complain if you don't have Quicktime installed prior to starting.

Avid Quicktime
Cineform NeoPlayer

Install Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe Production Premium onto mSATA
I installed Sony Vegas Pro 10d direct into the SSD which occupied about 409MB. I skipped installing DVD Creator. For Adobe Production Premium CS5 I picked and chose which tools to install in C versus D. A full installation was estimating 16GB of the 45GB free. Yes, that sounds plenty but I wasn't sure yet what patch downloads and temp files would do. So I stored After Effects, Photoshop and Premier unto C:\Program Files\Adobe for 4.6GB. Then repeated the install process for the other tools into D:\Program Files\Adobe for 5.53GB. Even if you target D it will install some Common Files into C.

Create a Microsoft Backup of new configuration
Lenovo Rescue and Recovery program appears to only backup the C partition. Since I need to backup both C and D I opted to use Windows Backup for now.

-> Run: Backup and Restore
-> Create a system repair disc

Feed it a DVD for boot. The data can go to a USB drive.

-> Run: Bakup and Restore
-> Create a system image

Receive and test DP++ to HDMI cable

I'm going to be using this laptop for video work so I need HDMI. There is no separate HDMI port on this model because it has Display Port++ which can pass-through an HDMI signal via an adapter. I bought the StarTech DP2HDMIMM10 (paid link). It was no drama at all. I hooked it up to my 720p Sony TV and it just worked. Both video and audio were automatically displayed on the TV. Using the Fn-F7 I extended my screen. The audio mixer setup the TV as default. When I unplugged the cable the settings returned to normal.

Find a cold beverage, drink it.
Now it is time to take a celebratory drink. If said drink happens to spill on the keyboard its supposed to survive!

The 4.8 looks low because I have Optimus turned on. Switching to discrete graphics brings the average up to 6.9.

On to Part 6
On to Swapping in a Blu-Ray Drive

Lenovo W520 for Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effects CS5 - Part 4

Optimize mSATA + HDD Setup
There are a lot of articles and forum posts about optimizing SSD setup. Here the ones I read to decide what to do:

Quick guide Install Tweak Windows 7 After Installation mSATA
How to setup SSD boot drive secondary
Windows 7 Ultimate Tweaks & Utilities
How to Optimize your windows profile and media storage ssd
Move Users local profile from C: to another drive
Move the users directory in windows 7

It gets quite involved so here is an outline of this subsection:

(a) Define but do not login to the real administrator user
(b) Create folders for D:\Program Files* in D: (HDD)
(c) Copy C:\Users to D:\Users
(d) Edit registry to move Users from C: to D:
(e) Reboot
(f) Login to the real administrator user
(h) Switch Memory Paging to HDD to free space
(i) Deactivate Hibernation to free space
(j) Deactivate Indexing for C: to free space

I'm still researching the controversial ones such as superfetch, prefetch and moving the system TEMP directory.

Define but do not login to the real administrator user
Boot up in safe mode by tapping F8 after power on until you get a selection screen. Select, you guessed it, Safe Mode. Then login as your temporary 'pro' user:

Start -> Control Panel
-> User Accounts and Family Safety
-> Add or Remove User Accounts
-> Create a new account
-> Enter username
-> x Administrator
-> Create Account
-> Create a password (your new user selected)
-> Enter password twice
-> Enter hint
-> Create password

Do not login to this user yet. There's still some work to be done.

Create folders for D:\Program Files* in D: (HDD)
Go to the HDD in Explorer and create two new folders:

D:\Program Files
D:\Program Files (x86)

This will be the target for future installs that don't need to be on SSD. In other guides they also create D:\Users here. But I did it a different way.

Copy C:\Users to D:\Users
There is an alternate way to do this without a registry hack which involves booting off a Windows 7 Recovery disk and hard linking C:\Users to D:\Users. Outside of Windows 7 you might also accomplish it using a Linux liveCD. The point was you can only do the junction trick if you don't boot off the drive you're modifying. Because of this I stuck to the procedure used in the article.

-> Run
-> Command
-> right-click Run as administrator

cd \
robocopy C:\Users D:\Users /copyall /e /xj /xd C:\Users\pro

It should copy Default and Public at minimum. If Nvidia Optimus updates are wanted the UpdatusUser should be copied as well. "All Users" is a symlink to C:\ProgramData and is skipped by default. "Default Users" is a shortcut with no target and is likewise skipped. User "pro" we explicitly skip in the copy.

Edit registry to move Users from C: to D:
This is where it gets exciting and tedious. First make sure to backup the current registry in case something goes awry.

-> Run
-> regedit
-> File
-> Export
-> Give it a filename like "D:\preSSDDregistry.reg"
-> Export Range: x All
-> Save

Then navigate to the following path:

right-click Modify the Names "Default", "Profiles Directory" and "Public". Change %SystemDrive% to D:. Leave "ProgramData" alone.

Make another full backup of your registry at this point. Go back to the top of the tree to "Computer". Now every instance of C:\Users has to be change to D:\Users and C:\Users\pro to D:\Users\youruser. You could do this by hand by tapping F3 then editing manually. There are a lot of entries! I have a shortcut but it's not for everyone. It's downright dangerous. The only other alternative is to find an external program to do this. I didn't have one I could trust so I did it myself.

My downright dangerous method

-> Run
-> regedit
-> File
-> Export
-> Give it a filename like "D:\beforeDangerous.reg"
-> Export Range: x All
-> Save

Copy D:\beforeDangerous.reg to D:\downrightDangerous.reg. Open this file with notepad. Search and replace C:\\Users\pro with C:\\Users\youruser. Then C:\\Users to D:\\Users. If you don't understand the significance of double-backslash, its the escape character. Notepad may not respond for a few seconds as it does the mass replace.

Save your notepad file. Then right-click Merge D:\downrightDangerous.reg to apply the changes. It will give a few errors about keys that are open. This is okay. Just click through them.

Then go back to regedit and from Computer do a manual search for C:\Users. There should only be one (ProfileImagePath for the UpdatusUser) you can change. And another entry that can't be changed because it is a Name rather than Data (FP_AX_MSI_INSTALLER). When you get "Finished searching through the registry". You got them all.

I used a normal boot this time.

Login to the real administrator user
Login to the new administrator user. Check D:\Users and make sure the user directory is there. Check your environment variables to see that user TEMP and TMP point to the HDD as well.

At this point its safe to Delete the pro user.

-> Control Panel
-> User Accounts and Family Safety
-> Add or remove user accounts
-> Select pro
-> Delete the account
-> Delete Files
-> Delete Account

You should find that C:\Users no longer has pro. I rename C:\Users to C:\DeleteMe to be sure it's no longer used. If it was the system would have complained about an open file. I reboot again to be sure and login with my new real administrator. Since I'm positive the new user is working I go ahead and delete C:\DeleteMe. D:\Users is now the new location for User Profiles!

SWTOOLS may or may not have value. I don't want to take the chance of deleting it yet but it's hogging about 2GB of SSD. So I robocopy it across to D and hardlink it with a Junction like you would a Unix directory.

-> Run
-> cmd
robocopy C:\SWTOOLS D:\SWTOOLS /move /E

Check SWTOOLS in explorer to confirm it has moved from C to D. Then go back to your command line and execute this


Switch Memory Paging to HDD to free space
The system defaults to Automatic management of page file where C: is system managed. With 12GB installed it could use that much SSD. I'd rather use the space for programs so I'm moving paging to the HDD.

-> Computer
-> right-click Properties
-> Advanced System Settings
-> Performance
-> Settings...
-> Change
Uncheck "Automatically manage paging file size for all drives"
Select C: [Windows7_OS] System managed
x No paging file
-> Set
-> OK

Select D: [DATA] None
x System managed size
x Custom size
-> OK

I prefer a fixed file size rather than having it grow unpredictably. So I enter the recommended size as specified by Windows. Really though, if you paged a significant amount of your RAM you'd have a thrashing problem.

Deactivate Hibernation to free space
Here is another space eater. Hiberfil.sys is a snapshot of your RAM that the system can restore from Hibernation. I've not used Hibernation feature in years. Even on desktops I use the sleep option which is faster and more reliable (uses more power though).

-> Run
-> Command
-> right-click Run as administrator
powercfg -h off

Deactivate Indexing for C: to free space
Indexing is supposed to make it easier to search file contents for keywords like a search engine. Sounds nice in concept but I haven't warmed up to it in practice. I still prefer the Windows XP style of searching. On most of my PCs I use Agent Ransack instead.

-> Computer
-> C:
-> right-click Properties
-> Uncheck "Allow files on this drive to have contents indexed in addition to file properties"
x Apply changes to drive C:\, subfolders and files
-> OK

This takes a few minutes.

Update: Change Path of Memory Dump
If you get a BSOD you will find a complete memory dump the size of your RAM in C:\Windows\MEMORY.DMP. I found where it was set here. With still about 40GB free on the 80GB SSD I'm not too worried yet. But when space starts to get cramped I'd like to move this to the HDD.

-> Control Panel
-> System and Security
-> System
-> Advanced system settings
-> Advanced
-> Startup and Recovery: Settings
-> Change %SystemRoot%\MEMORY.DMP to D:\MEMORY.DMP
-> OK

Delete C:\Windows\MEMORY.DMP then reboot.

Other SSD optimizations
The factory restore should have turned the System Restore off on the SSD drive. the Disk Defragmenter service is defaulted to manual. It shouldn't be run on the C drive. Some prefer to have this service disabled entirely.

On to Part 5

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lenovo W520 for Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effects CS5 - Part 3

Install mSATA and SODIMM RAM; Uninstall HDD
All I needed was a set of small Philips screwdrivers. I bought a set from Walmart years ago when I had to take out my T40's hard drive. Lenovo has some excellent documentation on how to take apart each model of Thinkpad.

Hardware Maintenance Manual

Keyboard removal movie - ThinkPad T510, W510, W520

Keyboard removal and installation

The mSATA and two RAM slots are underneath the keyboard. Before that you have to get to the panel under the laptop containing the two other RAM slots and the screws holding the keyboard. This W520 is a quad-core model so four slots were available. The dual core version apparently only has two. The slot meant for WWAN doubles as an mSATA slot, which explains the wires. I think the mSATA is more useful than built-in wireless broadband.

Make sure your keyboard has seated properly or it will flex as you type.

Re-run Lenovo PC Doctor on Aftermarket Configuration
Pop-in the CD, make sure your CPU and RAM are good. This part takes about 20 minutes.

Re-run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
Give it a more thorough RAM check. This check takes a little over an hour.

Factory Restore onto mSATA
At this point the hard drive has been removed so the factory install will target the mSATA. It's also best to have tested this new configuration with PC Doctor and memtest86+. I wasted an entire day trying to diagnose what was wrong with Factory Recovery and USB Boot. If these variables are eliminated the restore process goes much smoother.

It's quite easy. Just load the Boot Media CD/DVD to start the process. Accept the prompts then pick where your Data Media will be coming from. Most likely it will be more DVDs. Over the course of an hour you'll be popping DVDs into the machine. Before I finished diagnosing the RAM problem I did try the DVD boot + USB Data Media process and it was much faster. I got stuck after a signature problem so when my root problem was resolved I went the DVD route. It was the safest for me because I created that set when the machine was still in stock configuration. All the other copies since were during the bad configuration. The HDD boot manager got corrupted, I wouldn't trust the USB/DVDs it wrote since.

Once the factory restore is done you can eject the last DVD. The W520 should boot from the mSATA. Go through the Windows 7 first time boot process. When it asks to define a user specify a temporary administrator name. You'll be discarding it later. I named mine "pro" like this guide I was following. You can follow all the prompts until it either asks for a reboot or gives you the Desktop.

Before you shutdown you should do a quick SSD alignment check.

-> Run
-> msinfo32
-> components
-> storage
-> disks
-> Partition Starting Offset

Boot - 1.17GB
1,048,576 bytes / 4096 bytes = 256 (no decimals, aligned)
OS - 57.93GB
1,258,291,200 bytes / 4096 bytes = 307200 (no decimals, aligned)
Recovery - 15.62GB
63,249,055,744 bytes / 4096 bytes = 15441664 (no decimals, aligned)

The factory disks were pretty good about handling the SSD.

Re-install HDD
Put the Hard Drive back in its bay and close everything up. Boot up again, it should have defaulted to the mSATA. Login then find your way into Disk Management.

-> Control Panel
-> System and Security
-> Administrative Tools
Computer Management
-> Disk Management

My HDD was Disk 0 while the SSD was Disk 1. It's easy to tell despite both having the same partition names because one is smaller than the other. I deleted the SYSTEM_DRV and Windows7_OS from the HDD by right-click Delete Volume. Then I reallocated the space as DATA. This is where I will be moving my users and some programs. The Q: and F: drives should both be good copies. In my case I had some doubts because the HDD was 15.63GB while the SDD was 15.62GB. This is probably due to SSD alignment optimization. But just to be sure I downloaded Clonezilla to copy the SSD partition over to the HDD partition.

If you decide to do the same make certain to download the testing release. Don't ask me why, but the stable release would just hang at reading the Bitmap. That step shouldn't take more than a few seconds. Go figure!


Clonezilla can boot off the CD. Pick local disk/partition option. Select the 16.8GB partition on the Intel drive as the source. Then select the 16.8GB partition on the Seagate (or Hitachi) drive as the target. It will ask you to confirm three times before starting to run. It's over in less than 10 minutes.

After the clone, or not if you're adventurous, you can delete the Q: partition from the SSD. Then change F: drive letter to Q: by right-click "Change Drive Letter and Paths...". The blue ThinkVantage button should work right away.

Extend the Windows7_OS partition into the unallocated space by right-click Extend Volume. Follow the defaults to allocate all the space previously occupied by the recovery volume.

With all the partition work done, the next step is to optimize for SSD operation.

On to Part 4

Lenovo W520 for Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effects CS5 - Part 2

Preparing the W520 with Intel 310 mSATA 80GB
I was a bit anxious to put everything together that I skipped some steps that I shouldn't have. This caused me problems later when I found that I had a bad SODIMM. It corrupted my Boot Manager and wouldn't let me recover from DVD. If I had to do it all over again I'd have stuck to the sequence I'm listing below.

My recommended sequence of tasks
1. Receive the W520 and check the Package Contents
2. Boot for first time and create Factory Disks
3. Download, burn and run Lenovo PC Doctor on Stock Configuration
4. Download, burn and run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
5. Receive aftermarket Intel m310 mSATA and DDR3-1333Mhz 204-pin SODIMM RAM
6. Install mSATA and SODIMM RAM; Uninstall HDD
7. Re-run Lenovo PC Doctor on Aftermarket Configuration
8. Re-run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
9. Factory Restore onto mSATA
10. Re-install HDD
11. Optimize mSATA + HDD Setup
12. Patch Thinkpad and Windows 7
13. Install CCCP, Lagarith, Quicktime, Avid and other codecs
14. Install Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe Production Premium onto mSATA
15. Create a Microsoft Backup of new configuration
16. Receive and test DP++ to HDMI cable
17. Find a cold beverage, drink it.

It took me about two days to go through all these steps. Half that time I was running around town picking up various packages and reading online instructions. Here I've compiled all the steps I took to prepare my mobile NLE.

Receive the W520 and check the Package Contents
Mine came in a cardboard box. The W520 sat in the middle with a smaller cardboard box tucked underneath it. That smaller box contained the power cord, quick reference guide and warranty guide. On the right side was the 180w power brick and the 55++ battery. Something heavy was shaking inside which happened to be the power supply. Being an old hand with Thinkpads I slapped the battery in, plugged it to an outlet then booted it for the first time.

Boot for first time and create Factory Recovery Disks
First Boot up took a few minutes with the Seagate 500GB 7200rpm drive. I registered my user then went through the usual option screens. I played around with the fingerprint reader but shouldn't really have bothered as I'd be going through it all over again. The important part was to get it to create a Factory Recovery Disk.

Start -> Lenovo ThinkVantage Tools -> Factory Repair Disk.

-> x Boot Media, x Data Media -> OK
-> Follow the prompts to use either DVD or USB

Four DVDs or one 16GB USB stick is necessary to create a good copy. This took about an hour to do each time. It's possible to reset the process should one method fail. To do this you simply reset the Q:\FactoryRecovery\service_done.ini from DONE=1 to DONE=0. That's the power of the internet for you! I ended up using the DVDs since the USB stick wouldn't let me boot.

Update: I was trying to boot off the blue USB 3.0 ports on the left side. Learned later that the always on/yellow USB port in the back is the one meant for boot devices. Confirmed it when my Ubuntu 11 USB stick worked on the yellow slot. Otherwise in the blue slots on the left it would complain that it can't find a writable filesystem

Download, burn and run Lenovo PC Doctor on Stock Configuration
Don't get too antsy like me! Stick to the stock configuration to establish a baseline where you know everything works. At this point the laptop boots, hard drive works, DVD burner works and the wireless/wire connects to the internet.

Lenovo Diagnostics

There are two executables in the link. I chose mediacreator_5521.02.exe to create my bootable disk. You could use either CD or DVD. Boot into it and run each of the quick tests at least once. On my non-stock configuration it flagged a memory fault in the 16GB onboard. The trouble was finding the offending DIMM.

Download, burn and run Memtest86+ on Stock Configuration
If I wasn't so thick headed I'd have stuck to the Stock Configuration. If I did I wouldn't have spent an entire day worrying about things such as heat, PCH, BIOS settings, slot placement, clonezilla and a bunch of other complicated things. Shame on me, I work in the IT industry. Doctors make the worst patients. Go figure.


Download the latest ISO in the zip file. Decompress then burn it unto a CD. Take out the PC Doctor disk and replace it with this one. It will boot straight into the test.

Anyway, Memtest86+ is a good way to burn in a PC. Within 5 minutes of running it gave me memory faults. I had to go through some SODIMM roulette to figure out which module was actually bad. If this doesn't happen to you be grateful. If unlike me, you had the fancy RAID option then screw y... I mean ... use an external DVD or boot from a USB stick.

Receive aftermarket Intel 310 mSATA and DDR3-1333Mhz 204-pin SODIMM RAM
There are other manufacturers like Renice and MyDigitalSSD for mSATA. Some of them come in higher capacities than 80GB. Intel's 310 Soda Creek comes in 80GB and 40GB. 40GB would be too small. 64GB, from the alternate brands, may just make it but there wouldn't be much breathing room to go three years I expect this laptop to survive.

As for RAM, I had ordered Crucial 4GB SODIMMs but wouldn't recommend them now. In forums there have been four of us reporting sending back defective DIMMs. Newegg just sent me a notice receiving my RMA. Hopefully the next one I get will be good. Some other users have Kingston and Patriot RAM fully populated. The Kingston 1866Mhz version has some issues associated with sleep. My suggestion is do some searches and find out which brands have good deals then keep your fingers crossed.

Update: Seems a BIOS update 1.25 is out to fix sleep issues with fully populated W520s.
Update2: Got my replacement Crucial DIMM back from NewEgg which appears to be working just fine.

On to Part 3

Monday, May 16, 2011

Lenovo W520 for Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe After Effects CS5 - Part 1

I'm on a plane twice a week taking me away from home most of the year. And home is where the desktop I use for editing resides. I can't lug my desktop with me where I go and I can't stay home otherwise I'd be out of a job. So for years I've been on a look out for a laptop that can handle current generation editing and effects software. It's the only way I can pursue my hobby in the field on my off time.

Enter the Lenovo Thinkpad W520 mobile workstation. With a name like that it builds confidence and doubt at the same time. I've had Thinkpads in my hands for work before but I've never previously considered them for personal use. Why? They're sturdy, reliable, unsexy, expensive for the features and ubiquitous in a business setting like a Ford Taurus in a rental car lot. My preconceptions had the names Sager/Clevo, MSI, Alienware and XPS firmly embedded. In fact I had considered all those brands before pulling the trigger on this laptop. But after reading various reviews I was firmly convinced this was the way to go.

My Situation
My home editing rig is a custom ordered HP Elite 380t with a Core I7-930. I bought it through Costco with 12GB of RAM installed. This configuration was meant to run Sony Vegas Pro 10 and Adobe Production Premium CS5 with a variety of footage coming from Canon DSLRs, GoPro HD and Vixia HDV cameras. Adobe After Effects is the most resource intensive application I use. The tracking and rotoscoping features were simply important for the videos I produce. And boy does this application eat RAM. At 12GB it was painfully slow to run through the rotoscope. After two months I upgraded the unit to its maximum 24GB. And to use more than 16GB of RAM I needed to upgrade Windows 7 x64 from Home Premium to Professional. Wow, now I'm a professional? Anyhow I was happy editing footage with this rig. Unfortunately it's not portable. My software licenses allow use of a second non-concurrent copy but I'm not happy installing/uninstalling it on borrowed hardware. I even tried sending an older Q6600 machine ahead of myself just to use Sony Vegas but it wasn't a complete solution. It's quite rare at the moment, maybe not so in a few years, to find a friend or relative equipped with more than 2GB of RAM and a quad core. So I still had to wait a few weeks until I got home to even begin the VFX. And remember, this is my hobby not my job. I have to snatch time here and there to work on it. More often than not the stars don't align. This makes me sad. But the good news, I received some cash which I would happily apply to this hobby. Hey, this could only have a positive effect on my overall well being thus enhancing the net value I can deliver to the customers.

The Choice
The Dell XPS 15 was my original choice. The Sandy Bridge i7 at 2.0Ghz would have been not to far below the i7 930 on my desktop. Off and on, a matte 1080p display would be available. The size was just right for my backpack and its airport weight was acceptable. The problem was it could only take 8GB of RAM on 4GB sticks. 8GB SODIMM aren't generally available yet. I could wait for that "perfect time" in the future but I've got an event coming in a few months. And there's the preparation time for any new rig.

When I started to look more at specifications I gravitated towards the MSI GT680R and Sager NP8150. Unfortunately, the MSI had a glossy screen and was thicker than would fit in my backpack. It was possible to get a custom matte screen from Xoticpc but it didn't solve the rest of it. I visited Fry's twice just to see if I could warm up to it. The Sager NP8150 looked like a nice balance for what I needed. My only misgiving was I couldn't find a store where I could see and touch a model. The specifications could only tell me so much. And the stated weight! It's a desktop replacement for sure. With my dual laptop traveling scheme I'd have to sacrifice my running shoes to carry it with me. I don't know about you, but a good pair of shoes is important too.

Of course would also be looking at the price. The Dell had the size and price wasn't too bad but not the specs. The MSI had the specs and the price was pushing it but not the size. The Sager was an unknown for size and the price definitely broke the bank. I was about ready to give up. Then I saw a post in DVInfo about a Sony Vegas user with a Lenovo W520. Business-class laptop!? I hadn't made the mental transition towards HP Elitebooks, Dell Precisions and Lenovo Ws. My image of them has always been big, heavy and too expensive for the features. What I hadn't considered were discounts!

There is a wonderful thread in on the W520. There are even tips on how to maximize your discounts. If you own IBM stock you were eligible for SPP. If you worked or had a friend at IBM and/or Lenovo you could get in with EPP. I had the fortune of working for a supplier to IBM so was eligible for the partner discount. It wasn't as extreme as the other discounts I saw on the thread but it was close enough. So one faithful sleepless night in a state far far away I opened the partner link to Lenovo and ordered the 4270-CTO.

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0A68535 SBB 15.6FHD (1900 X 1080) LED
0A68894 SBB NVQ2000M GR
45M4572 VBB 4GBPC3-10600DDR3 1333SODMM
0A68553 SBB 500GB HDD7200RPM
0A68529 VBB ECS+4IN1CR
41C9338 3YR ONSITE + 3YR TPP

I didn't know if I wanted RAID but I knew I'd need to read/write Blu-Ray disks later. Blu-Ray was not an available option but could be purchased aftermarket. If I need extra storage capacity I always traveled with external hard drives. The USB 3.0 and e-SATA ports had me covered. For going all internal I could swap out the burner with an 12.7mm ultrabay caddy. The one complaint I have with the W520, which I learned too late, is that RAID isn't available in the BIOS unless ordered from the factory. But it has a 95% Color Gamut which is supposedly NTSC. That sort of makes up for that disappointment. There was a colorimeter option but I skipped it to get an external one I could use across PCs. And there was the little mSATA option. This would let me have an SSD boot drive and HDD for storage. The W520 is about the size of the T520 which one of my coworkers had. I could see it everyday and compare it to the T410 I already use. This would work!

On to Part 2