by Andrew Baxter, New York USA
The Lenovo ThinkPad Z60t is a 14.1" widescreen (WXGA) notebook that can be configured with a high end 2.13GHz Pentium M processor or cost saving Intel Celeron M 1.5GHz processor. With this laptop the ThinkPad tip-toes gingerly into a more consumer oriented notebook space, but still maintains the business style look, build and features that ThinkPad notebooks are best known for.
Lenovo ThinkPad Z60t collapsed open view (view larger image)
Z60t and everything from in the box (view larger image)
ThinkPad Z60t specs as reviewed:
Competing Notebooks to the ThinkPad
It's always good to know what else is out there when looking at a particular style of laptop, if we consider 14" widescreen laptops then the ThinkPad Z60t comes up against the following competition:
That's not an exhaustive list, but covers the major brands. If you don't care whether your laptop is widescreen or standard screen then the amount of notebooks available proliferates, the ThinkPad T43 is of course available as a 14" standard screen and many buyers might end up being unsure of whether to go with the Z60t or T43 14" if they want a thin-and-light ThinkPad, but don't care what the screen shape is.
ThinkPad X, T or Z?
A lot of people that want a portable style ThinkPad for it's quality build might be unsure of whether to go with the current ThinkPad X41 (12"), X32 (12"), T43 (14") or Z60t (14"). I especially feel that the delineation between the T43 14" and Z60t is the closest and it's tough to decide which might best suit you. There are differences, so here's a quick run down on what I feel suits best for a style of user, but first lets look at comparison pics:
From left to right: ThinkPad T40, ThinkPad Z60t, ThinkPad X41 (view larger image)
Stacked from bottom to top with each notebook flushed and lined up at the front: ThinkPad T40, ThinkPad Z60t, ThinkPad X41 (view larger image)
Right side view, from bottom to top: ThinkPad Z60t, ThinkPad T40, ThinkPad X41 (view larger image)
Left side view of ThinkPad T40 on top of ThinkPad Z60t (view larger image)
Who Should Buy the ThinkPad X40 Series: If you want to stay as light as possible, the X40 is still by a long stretch where it's at. You'll absolutely want the larger 7-cell battery on the Z60t if you're travelling and if you get the titanium lid you're looking at a notebook that's twice the weight of the X41. I found the battery life on the X41 to be superior to the Z60t 7-cell, I easily get 4+ hours with my X41 at full brightness and wireless on, but with the 7-cell Z60t I could not get this type of life. You sacrifice screen size, a lot of power and having an optical drive with the X40. You gain the ultimate in portability with a weight of around 3lbs.
Who Should Buy the ThinkPad T40 Series: If you like to be portable with a thin-and-light but don't want to sacrifice power, the T40 series is great. The T40 does not have a widescreen and lacks somewhat in ports though. It only has 2 USB 2.0 ports, no FireWire, no media card reader, no extra buttons such as wi-fi on/off or a Windows key. If you prefer standard screen to widescreen the T40 is it. Also, I got better battery life with my T40 (about 4 hours when it was new) compared to the 3 hours I was getting with the Z60t brand new so you could say the T40 is slightly more travel friendly in regards to battery life. Usability is great with the T40 series, and portability very good (weight about 5.2lbs). You can get a dedicated graphics card and memory and higher than XGA resolution screen for the T43, you can not for the Z60t.
Who Should Buy the ThinkPad Z60t Series: If you like to be portable with a thin-and-light notebook and want a widescreen display coupled with a powerful processor, the Z60t gives you this. The Z60t is more generous compared to the T40 in terms of ports too, it has 3 USB 2.0 ports, a media card reader and FireWire -- all missing on the T43. A Windows key and more keyboard shortcut functions are available. The Z60t is a comparable weight to the T40, it's about 5.5lbs travel weight, so slightly heavier. The build and quality is the same as the T40 series, it has a newer SATA hard drive, but right now that means no 7200RPM hard drives are available to configure. For me it's a toss up between the Z60t and T40 series, if you like some of the more consumer oriented features of the Z60t it's the one for you. But you lose a slight amount of portability in terms of battery and tiny weight differential (and even that's dependent on your specific configuration).
Z60t Build and Design
The Z60t is as solid as any ThinkPad there has been, crushing any notion that the Lenovo takeover of IBM PCs would lead to an immediate change in build quality and the use of recycled plastic shopping bags to build ThinkPads. It's quite the opposite, Lenovo has placed a new sturdier chasis inside the Z60t that they claim offers 30% more shock absorbtion to internal parts. The keyboard spill proof mechanism and drainage system has been improved. Go ahead, spill two cups of coffee and not one. The hard drive area also has added protection via a guide rail pack. And there's an option for a Titanium lid that offers supreme protection (and cool looks) to the top of your ThinkPad.
Z60t right side view (view larger image)
Z60t left side view (view larger image)
Z60t front side view, notice the wi-fi switch, SD card reader and headphone/microphone jacks on the front (view larger image)
Z60t back side view (view larger image)
The hinges on the ThinkPad Z60 are actually much thicker than any other model I've seen, just look at the images of this laptop to see they're metallic and beefy, offering great support of the screen -- there's zero wobble. The screen lid on my review unit has a Titanium lid, this offers some nice extra rigidity and protection to the lid, there's no way to push in on the lid and cause ripples on the screen. The only thing better Lenovo could offer is a bullet proof lid, for those times you have to go to war. Right now the titanium lid is only available on the higher-end pricier models, many have asked when the Titanium lid will be configurable on lower end models, but Lenovo has no commitment to a date on that other than "some time".
ThinkPads are typically built to survive up to 3 ft. drops and have a built-in hard drive protection system called APS (Active Protection System) to make sure if the laptop doesn't survive then at least the data does. ThinkPads are not a true rugged notebook, look to $3,000+ Panasonic ToughBooks for the type of laptop that supports 150+ lbs of weight and sandstorms, but the ThinkPad Z60 is definitely highly durable. The body is a very thick and rigid plastic composite with little flex. There is slight flex on the right side palm rest, other than that none.
I did have a problem with the Z60t upon arrival, this is a review unit and as such was poked and prodded by folks at Lenovo that setup laptops sent out to reviewers. When I received the Z60t I found the right side palm rest to be loose and was able to lift the area easily. I later found a clip was not in place here, after corresponding with Lenovo I found that this Z60t had been taken apart to look at internals and was not put back together quite right. Rest assured, the people that put together the ThinkPad Z60t in China will do a better job than the higher paid American counterparts whose sometimes job it is to put together a notebook. The irony.
Design looks wise the Z60t breaks with tradition in 4-ways.
Despite those 4 differences, this ThinkPad looks very much the same as any other, it's black all over and looks professional and well built. Look at the image above with the X41, T40 and Z60t and you'll see the genetic code for a ThinkPad didn't change all that much with the introduction of the Z60. After all, there'd be riots in the streets of every city and longtime business channel buyers would end contracts with Lenovo if we saw a silver or white ThinkPad.
Z60t under side view (view larger image)
Processor / Memory / Hard Drive Performance
The ThinkPad Z60t is configurable with the latest Intel Celeron M or Intel Pentium M processor (up to 2.13GHz). The Celeron M configuration will save you money, a high end Pentium M processor such as the Pentium M 760 2.0GHz in the Z60t I have will give very good performance at a higher price. The Pentium M 2.0GHz with a 533MHz FSB and 2MB L2 cache using the latest Intel mobile chipset has proven itself worthy of belonging in high-end gaming rigs such as the Dell XPS and and Alienware machines, and you'll find it's a veritable overkill for any business application -- but nice to have nonetheless if you don't mind paying.
The 1,024GB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM in this configuration is nice, 512MB is probably okay for the average user, but more and more I like to see the 1GB amount as it does give you a boost of speed. Up to 2GB of RAM can be installed. If you use a database on your machine, the 1GB of memory is clutch. I often install SQL Server on laptops to run local databases and I found that the Z60t with its 2.0GHz processor and 1,024GB was very snappy returning queries even on tables with millions of records. So if you're a programmer or database developer, you'll appreciate the power this notebook can provide. If you're a business user with large Access databases you'll appreciate more RAM as well.
And what of gamers? The Z60t doesn't offer a dedicated graphics card, just Intel's integrated multimedia accelerator, but with a fast processor and lots of RAM you can still play a number of games, even newer ones, as long as they don't demand lots of polygon shading or include fast moving 3D objects that scale rapidly. I played a few demo games, one of which was a sports game named Pro Evolution Soccer 5 and had no issues running the games.
Arsenal and Real Madrid kickoff in a friendly soccer match - games such as the new Pro Evolution Soccer 5 that aren't demanding on the graphics processor run great on the Z60t, even without a dedicated graphics card
The hard drive in the Z60t is the first in a ThinkPad to be of the SATA (S = Serial) variety, which is the latest in hard drive technology as far as transferring information goes. The old standard was PATA (P = Parallel) . There's a slight performance increase with SATA over PATA, but it's nothing compared to the speed at which the hard drive spins. With the Z60t you get a standard 5400RPM hard drive, certainly more generous than the 4200RPM drive many other manufacturers stick with. You can get up to 100GB of storage. No 7200RPM drive config is available yet, and probably won't be until into next year.
Boot up time from pushing the power button to arriving at the desktop background that displays after loading profile settings (I had no user logon setup, just bypassed that) was almost exactly one minute and 10 seconds, timed 3 times for purpose of accuracy. I didn't disable any startup processes using msconfig, you could probably kill a few startup processes to win a second or two back.
Benchmarks are nice and all, but they vary greatly based on your configuration, the Z60t I have is high-end and priced at $2,299 and the good news is you can buy your way to top performance with the configurations allowed, but remember these numbers don't reflect what you'll be getting with a Celeron M, 256MB configuration.
We use Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed. The Super Pi program (download: ftp://pi.super-computing.org/windows/super_pi.zip) simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy. Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark:
Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):
|Lenovo ThinkPad Z60t (2.0 GHz Pentium M)||1m 44s|
|Fujitsu S6231 (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 6s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Pentium M)||1m 48s|
|Dell Inspiron 6000D (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||1m 52s|
|Dell Inspiron 600M (1.6 GHz Pentium M)||2m 10s|
|Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)||1m 57s|
|HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)||1m 53s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
PCMark04 and 3DMark04 were run to compare T43 numbers with the Z60t, notice that the processor based benchmarks put the Z60t ahead (as it was configured with a faster Pentium M) but as soon as you hit any graphics based benchmarks (starting with the Physics Calculations and 3D) the T43 wins because it has an ATI X300 dedicated graphics card.
|Futuremark PCMark04 Scores|
|ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)||ThinkPad Z60t (2.0 GHz, Intel integrated graphics)|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression||3.33 MB/s||3.45 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption||27.19 MB/s||29.11 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression||23.4 MB/s||25.29 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing||10.88 MPixels/s||11.44 MPixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning||1914.17 MB/s||1964.74 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check||2.82 KB/s||3.07 KB/s|
|File Decryption||54.11 MB/s||57.91 MB/s|
|Audio Conversion||2496.87 KB/s||2673.63 KB/s|
|Web Page Rendering||5.27 Pages/s||5.41 Pages/s|
|DivX Video Compression||51.71 FPS||55.18 FPS|
|Physics Calculation and 3D||159.19 FPS||73.92 FPS|
|Graphics Memory - 64 Lines||868.44 FPS||361.91 FPS|
|Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores|
|3DMark Score||727 3DMarks||224 3D Marks|
|CPU Score||3414 CPUMarks||2103 CPUMarks|
|GT1 - Return To Proxycon||3.3 FPS||0.9 FPS|
|GT2 - Firefly Forest||2.2 FPS||0.7 FPS|
|GT3 - Canyon Flight||3.4 FPS||1.1 FPS|
|CPU Test 1||1.18 FPS||1.3 FPS|
|CPU Test 2||2.9 FPS||1.5 FPS|
For those interested in hard drive performance, below is a screenshot of the output generated by the HDTune hard drive benchmark application:
Heat and Fan
The Z60t is a winner in terms of being quiet and keeping temperature down. It beats both the ThinkPad T43 and X41 in it's ability to stay cool. I was actually disappointed the other day when using the the Z60t in a Starbucks where they chose to blast the air conditioning, my hands got cold so I tried an often used trick of placing my hands next to the laptops vent for some warmth -- but no heat was coming out. The darn thing was dissipating heat fast enough that the vents simply weren't blowing warm air. But if you are in a warm room, as my office tends to be, it keeps it's cool too and is very quiet -- impressively so.
The story with the Z60 series is of course it's the first widescreen ThinkPad to come about, which is a popular feature in the consumer space especially. The Z60t has a 14.1" diagonal screen and the resolution is WXGA (1280 x 768), there is currently no option for a higher res screen. I again refer to the picture of the Z60t next to the T40 above for you to see how the screen differs in height and width. The widescreen feature is nice for fitting two vertical windows next to each other, or for spreadsheets and of course widescreen DVD movies.
Outside of the widescreen feature, there's nothing else different going on. No flexview (wide viewing angle screen), no glare type screen and no extra bright backlight. But also no dead pixels on the screen.
The screen is fine and without defects -- but it's not the brightest star in the sky in regards to brightness (view larger image)
The screen brightness is somewhat lacking, it's rated at 200nit, the upcoming Z60m screen will offer a MaxBright option of 300nit. Ignorance is bliss, if you don't put the Z60t next to another laptop that is bright and glossy, you'll likely remain content with the screen. But put the Z60t next to a bright glossy screen laptop and you'll get screen envy and wish the brightness level on the Z60t went up a couple more knotches. Don't try using this laptop outside, the outdoor lighting will overpower being able to see the screen. Kind of a shame since the built-in EVDO would make it possible to go to the park and get some work done while being connected.
Keyboard + Buttons / TrackPoint / Touchpad
The ThinkPad keyboard is the best keyboard available for a laptop. The Z60t gets a couple of extra buttons we're not used to seeing on a ThinkPad, the Windows key and an Application key are on the bottom between the Alt / Ctrl buttons. This will make many people happy, and if you don't care about the buttons it's not really going to upset you (that much). I found the reach between the Alt-Tab button combination I often use to be a bit more of a stretch than usual, but nothing you won't get adjusted to. Also added are media shortcut functions for stop, play, forward, back using the Fn + Arrow buttons. On the front of the laptop is a button added to turn all wireless on/off, switching this pops up an applet on the screen indicating all wireless is on/off.
The feel of the keyboard is as good as ever, keys are firm and there's no flex, the spacing of the keys is perfect and remains a textbook example of supreme usability.
In the middle is the Z60t keyboard, on the left is the T40 and on the right is the X41 (view larger image)
The excellent trackpoint navigation and pointing stick feel the same as ever too. They took off the red stripes from the buttons (which I kind of liked), but the feel and contour remain the same. If you prefer a touchpad it's there for you to use, I always favor the pointing stick and am such a fan of it that I'll often choose it over the mouse because the stick allows you to keep your hands on the keyboard and poised ready to strike the next key.
Sound and Audio
I was hopeful that with two larger sized speakers on either side of the Z60t keyboard there was potential for a decent listening experience. And while the speakers are light years better than the X40 speakers (speaker is on the bottom of that machine) and better than the T43 speakers, the volume still isn't all that great and neither is the quality, there's little bass provided. Whatever though, I always use headphones in an office environment and external speakers at home for listening across the room so really it's a non-issue in my book.
Battery and Power Adapter
Lenovo quotes up to 5 hours of life using the 7-cell battery on the Z60t, you can sacrifice battery life and get a 4-cell battery if you don't want the battery sticking out at the back. I easily get 4 hours of life on my X41 with it's 8-cell battery, and the T43 I once had could achieve 4 hours (on low power settings), so I was hopeful the Z60t would cruise to this length of battery life. But it didn't. I conducted two battery drain tests and here's what I got:
In the forgiving test scenario, I hardly used the laptop so I was hoping to get to 3.5 hours. With the torture test I was using the laptop for web surfing, email and editing a document -- no DVD viewing or external peripheral usage. Sadly it seems that a 2 hour long DVD played at full screen brightness might not make it to the end credits.
The power adapter is the same size as the T40 series adapter, with the Z60 we lose the IBM branding on the adapter and it goes to a white ThinkPad logo with red dot above the "i".
The power adapter is about the size of a standard sized optical mouse
And definitely a little shorter than the thickness of an optical mouse
Wireless and Connectivity
The Z60t has a cornucopia of communication options available. The built-in wireless 802.11 a/b/g card in my unit comes from Atheros. There are configs available with an Intel card inside so you get a Centrino notebook. The Atheros card works flawlessly, thanks in large part due to the ultra connect ThinkPad antenna located in the screen for better reception. Don't get too hung up on having an Intel wireless card -- although I know that those concerned about Linux compatibility will want the Intel card as it is tested and proven to work on that OS. Not sure about this Atheros card, and the Z60 is not Linux certified yet.
The Z60 can come with a built-in EV-DO modem and antenna for cellular communication from anywhere, or at least all major U.S. cities. Verizon provides this service to existing Verizon subscribers for $60 a month (with 2-year plan), or non Verizon customers for $80 a month (Verizon plan info). That buys you high-speed wireless internet without relying on a hot spot. EVDO performance does vary by location. In testing I get great speed from my office and decent from my apartment. The Z60t EVDO performance is much better than the wireless EVDO card I have in my X41, so that antenna being located on the side of the screen of the Z60t (it's on the right side) does make a difference. I'd still take wi-fi over EVDO if the two options are available, but EV-DO really frees you up and can give you near broadband performance (on the download at least, uploads are throttled by Verizon, so it is much slower). Mobile sales people can really benefit from this.
Check it out, you can connect via regular Wi-Fi or a Verizon EVDO connection (that costs $80/month for a subscription -- cough) (view larger image)
Bluetooth and infrared are also built-into the Z60t, Bluetooth is an option. It's definitely nice to have these short range communications at your dispense.
Input and Ports
The Z60t gives us more ports than we're used to having on a ThinkPad. Here's a rundown of all the ports:
Not bad at all, I have no complaints and would love to see the T series come closer to the Z60t in number of ports offered. If there's not enough ports here, you can purchase the new ThinkPad Advanced Mini Dock made for the Z60 series that offers such things as digital audio S/PDIF, DVI, 4 USB 2.0 ports and various legacy ports.
The Z60t comes with Windows XP Home or Pro. The nice thing about the Z60t is all the great IBM utilities for managing your laptop. The security, data and recovery tools you get with the Z60t is the most mature package on the market. For consumers the ThinkVantage features and number of security features will be more than you need, but nice to have. For business' up to enterprise size, the security features and data protection can be the main selling point. The Active Protection System included with the Z60t is a combination of software and hardware that detects any unusual motion and instructs the drive head to park and thereby protect data if there's any impact. It's too much to go into detail on the APS system here, but checkout the IBM white paper on it if you'd like to learn more: ftp://ftp.software.ibm.com/pc/pccbbs/mobiles_pdf/aps2mst.pdf.
The ThinkVantage system (formerly Access IBM) has been updated. Simply push the ThinkVantage button at the top of the keyboard and a clean looking applet pops up on the left side of the screen with a web style interface for clicking links to do everything from managing your wireless connections via IBM Access Connections, to turning on the ThinkLight (keyboard illumination light), to backing up and restoring your Z60t.
Pushing the ThinkVantage button brings up a software applet on the left sid eof the screen with easy links to many tasks for managing your laptop
You can setup maintenance tasks for your laptop through ThinkVantage so that they run in "Whisper Mode" and only kick in when you're not using the processor too much -- there's nothing more annoying than disk defrags or virus scans killing your notebooks performance, so the Lenovo software designers give you the power to control this.
I could go on and on with the features ThinkVantage provides and improvements with the Z60t, instead I'll refer you to the Lenovo site and documentation that covers this better than I can: http://www.pc.ibm.com/us/think/thinkvantagetech.html
The Z60t ends up being a great compromise between a business and consumer oriented notebook. It's perfect for a business user that demands a well built highly usable notebook and wants a few consumer features. The widescreen is great for spreadsheets and viewing two windows at the same time, or for watching a movie. The number of connectivity options is fantastic, built-in EVDO will be a real sell for certain business users. All the typical IBM APS security and protection is built-in and better than ever. The battery life and screen brightness leave some room for improvement, and the number of multimedia / consumer options (such as multi card reader, glossy screen, built-in remote and quick boot movie playing) might not be enough for some pure consumers. But if you're a business user first and need all the trappings of a business notebook, but would like a few consumer features thrown in, then the Z60t is perfect.
Pricing and Availability: Click here to see the ThinkPad Z60 Product Page at Lenovo.com
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