by Brian Bryce
Where, When and Why I choose this Laptop:
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For those who do not want a long explanation for why I chose the ThinkPad T60 wide screen (T60 WS), the terse answer is as follows: I wanted a reliable well built laptop that had a high resolution screen for productivity, so the ThinkPad was at the top of my list. I wanted to replace my laptop for the bulk of my work this semester as a grad student in Physics, so I wanted a laptop quickly. I purchased my laptop from Buy.com which was the best deal at the time ($1,478 USD).
I use my laptops for a few main tasks: simple office work, digital photography work/storage on the road, and technical computations (engineering/physics/math programs). The extra screen space of the T60 WS is particularly helpful in the last two tasks.
T60 Wide Screen Model 8744-5BU Specs as ordered:
Now for those of you who want more detail on my selection process:
My past laptops:
I started looking for a laptop in 2006. To understand why I went with the ThinkPad you have to understand my past experiences. My previous two laptops were both Dells. The first I got off eBay for a few hundred dollars, 4-5 years ago. It was a Latitude CPi, and had a 333 MHz Pentium II in it, as I recall. I just wanted something I could use for Internet and to type on at the time. It was a thick heavy beast, and started to develop cracks in the case near the hinges from the plastic flexing. While I was using it, the LCD lost a complete line of pixels horizontally 2/3 of the way up the screen. I changed the LCD myself for a new one which cost me nearly 100 dollars (it was only a few 100 dollars for the whole thing, remember).
Shortly after this, I sold it and got a Dell 300M ultra portable. I got this laptop from the Dell outlet, for a little over 1000 dollars. It is a 12.1 inch XGA laptop with first generation Centrino. With standard battery it weighed about 3 Lbs. It was also thinner than 1 inch. This laptop was a reaction to the heavy CPi. I had reliability issues almost immediately. Within a month the plug-in Ethernet port had died. I sent it into Dell for repair. They sent it back still broken. I returned it again to a very apologetic Dell, and they sent it back with a new motherboard in it (I guess they could not or would not desolder the jack from the motherboard). This repair was quite costly for Dell as the CPU, an Ultra Low Voltage (ULV) 1.2 GHz Pentium M was soldered directly to the motherboard as well. After this I had no problems with the laptop for at least a year. With its ULV CPU and a rather heavy 8 cell battery I could get at least 6 hours of work done on it.
However, it was not all rosy. The screen on the 300M was awful. My biggest complaint was the total lack of contrast. It was not a very bright screen either. In addition to this it had a horseshoe shaped light leak in the very center of the screen. A colleague of mine, at my undergraduate university, later told me that the light leak was common to all 300Ms and was one of the reasons he did not buy one.
Finally in 2006, the power adapter became flaky. At first I thought it was the AC adapter, but it later turned out to be the receptacle, on the laptop itself. It was long since out of warranty, so I did a repair on it myself (not recommended unless you are a pro at soldering. I also found out that people offer services to fix this plug problem, as it is apparently common.)
But it does not end there; while doing one of the many repairs on it, one of the LCD hinges sheared off, leaving the screen with very little support. This made the screen unstable, and prone to flopping.
To the 300M's credit, it did survive a drop from my unzipped backpack onto the sidewalk. This cracked open the 8 cell battery casing (heaviest part rotated down as it slid out), but everything on the laptop survived.
I use my laptop everyday for work. The XGA screen was small and cramped, and the whole machine was not very reliable. Sure, I always had been able to fix it, but what if a deadline was looming and it failed again, and all the work I had frantically been doing was on it? Not a pleasant thought, I started to look for a new machine.
The search started in late 2006. I almost got a Flexview 15-inch T60 during the big Christmas sale, but at the time I did not really have the money, and I was not sure I wanted something so big and expensive, with battery life that was not as good as I was used to on my 300M. I kept thinking, "well the 300M does work, I don't have to get one right now, and computers only get better and better in time." So I waited.
I thought about getting a Lenovo Z61T, HP ncXXXX type computers, Dells of a few types, HP dv2000t, and so on. I didn't like the TouchPad on the HP laptops (consumer ones) or the mouse buttons. It felt like it would be another 300M. A lot of my colleges have ThinkPads and MacBooks. I looked at both. Most engineering and science tools are not made for OS X, and dual booting XP seemed rather pointless with extra hoops to jump though with mouse button workarounds. I kept coming back to the ThinkPads. I kept asking questions in the forums on this site about the different screens. Finally, I found some objective measurements of the wide screen version of the T60 on the ThinkPads.com forum, and they looked quite good. There was plenty of talk about the screen not being good in the forum, but that seems to happen with every product.
After exhaustive looking in the TA book, I decided the wide screen would give me the most screen work space and be lighter than the Flexview option, and it might even be OK with respect to color and contrast. The objective measurements I had seen showed it was clearly better than the 14 inch SXGA+, screen. At the time I did not realize there were two screen sources for Lenovo for the T60 WS: Samsung and LG/Phillips. A careful read of the colorimeter measurements thread actually shows this, and the fact the LCD measured was of unknown make. However, I did not notice this before placing my order.
I ordered my T60 WS initially from Lenovo's site, as it was on sale. It was 1396.45 after tax. I was upset that I had to wait 3-4 weeks and still pay tax on something sent from China. The tax was about 100 dollars. (See the table below for the specs of my initial order).
Thankfully, someone in the NotebookReview.com forums asked if a Buy.com laptop was a good deal. I felt it was a good deal, so I canceled my Lenovo order and ordered one. It took 3 days for Lenovo to actually get the cancellation through on their online system, but in the end my order was canceled, no questions asked. If I had a choice, I would have picked GMA graphics (for better battery life) and Vista so the recovery partition on the ThinkPad would have come with a Vista image. Without the tax the Lenovo order would have been an OK deal. However, I think most people will agree that the specs made the Buy.com version a much better deal (see table). The biggest improvement in my view is the warranty.
My initial custom to order laptop:
Cost - $1,396.45 Shipped from Lenovo
The laptop I ended up getting (under review):
Cost - $1,478.33 Shipped from Buy.com
I had planned to add 1 GB of RAM to my original custom myself for those who notice the sparse RAM. It was less from Newegg than to have Lenovo do it.
My laptop shipped from CA the day after my order and was at my door in New York 5-business days later, just as FedEx estimated.
Build and Design
After opening the box I pulled out my fairly weighty and large T60 WS. It was what I expected as far as build and bulk, based on other T60/Z60 notebooks I had seen around the office, except it was a 15.4 inch wide screen.
That is to say: It has nice hinges, nice simple looks that won't wear badly over time. It had a solid keyboard. It was well put together. It would be possible to make it even better, but it was far more solid than any HP or Dell I had touched in many years. For those of you who do not like any flex, there is some in various parts, most noticeably in the panels on either side of the keyboard and in the area near the fingerprint reader. It does not really bother me though.
Some people might find the ThinkPad look boring or conservative, but consumer laptops that look nice on day one often look bad in a year from wear. I don't expect that to be true of this ThinkPad.
The laptop closes nicely and the screen is supported firmly as noted. The keyboard light is useful, and the whole layout is well thought out.
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This isn't a small notebook. It is a 15.4 inch wide screen. For a laptop with such a big LCD, it is small, that is, it is small for its class. It weighs about 6 lbs (with the 6 cell battery/optical drive in) but that is as accurate as I can crudely measure at home. The spec in the TA book indicates up to 6.06 lbs. That is probably accurate. While it is a large, wide notebook, it doesn't waste space for the most part. The bezel around the LCD is a reasonable thickness, and the notebook itself is thin. Thiner than many other notebooks, even ones with smaller footprints. If you need something smaller, the 14 inch T60 might be better suited. I suggest drawing out how large the notebook is on a large paper so you really can visualize how large it will be. Its not that this one is so large, rather, such a drawing simply gives a more concrete sense of how large objects actually are, so that you will not be upset when it gets to your door.
As it turns out, my T60 came with the LG screen (LP154W02-TL06, FRU #13N7020). It is not flawless, but it is very good. Far and away better than my 300M's screen, and better than most laptop screens I have used. It has no dead pixels and is evenly lit. It has minimal light leakage. Brightness is as bright as I really would want it to be. Contrast is acceptable. The color gamut is not bad, but its clearly not as good as my IPS based desktop LCD (also an LG panel).
It is very high resolution 1680x1050 for a screen that is only 15.4 inches. However, this is the resolution I am used to on my desktop's 21 inch display, and I don't have a very hard time with it, as my laptop typically is closer to my eyes than the desktop. Things do appear a bit small at times, but not hard to read, as I have good vision still. I got the laptop in large part for the high resolution screen, as it would let me do many things at once, particularly technical things, with lots of windows open. To date it has not disappointed in this regard.
A big part of screen choice today is glossy or non-glossy. I am fairly decidedly in the non-glossy camp. The reasons people like glossy screens are, in my view, the same as why people like glossy photographs. I have always liked luster finished prints best (I'm a photographer as a hobby). Glossy has its place; it can make lines look sharper and so on, but really semi-matte is more flattering for most subjects if you look in detail. Or at least that is how I feel, and I think this is carried over to the LCDs.
It is not to say I would not buy a glossy LCD notebook, but given the choice, I would pick non-glossy all other things being equal. As one would expect, the LCD doesn't have any annoying glare when I work in my office or at home.
Below you can see some pictures showing the backlight properties, both uniformity and leakage. The white balance is probably not correct in these photographs due to mixed lighting. This is really only an issue on the third shot, which is included to give some idea of the color gamut. It was taken with a Canon 400D using the neutral picture style and "daylight" white balance (~5200K), to ensure some sort of reproducible result. (The other two images have different WB). I advise taking the color image with a large grain of salt, as looks quite different than it does in real life. I considered not including it, but I feel it is better than nothing, and might give you some idea. Subjectively, the colors are fine, if somewhat undersaturated.
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|Backlight uniformity||Light leakage||Colors|
Heat and Noise:
As far as heat and noise go, this notebook gets hotter than my 300M did, which is understandable given the fact it does dissipate more power. However, it has not become uncomfortably hot to me. The fan does run a fair amount of the time, and is audible, if the room is quiet. It spins up and down as needed. I do not find it bothersome. One evening it also made a high pitched noise that was only audible when very close to the computer (< 1 foot). It turns out, this noise occurs when the laptop is on battery power, and is common on Intel 945 based laptops. Again, it is not very loud, but it is present whenever you are on battery power.
The speakers on the wide screen version of the T60 are placed differently from what I have seen in pictures from the T60 speakers on other models. I do not know if this also makes them different speakers, but they are fine for laptop speakers. Not very loud, of course, and lacking anything but high and mid-tones, but they are fine for a laptop. My 300M's speakers were probably a little better. These don't do well at the highest volume setting (some rattling).
It is also worth noting how good the sound is over the headphone jack. This is very acceptable. Objective measurements also bear this out. I used RMAA and recored output from the T60 via my desktop, which has a good ENVY based sound card (the T60 only has a MIC jack). Below is a summary table and the frequency response plot for those interested.
|Frequency response (from 40 Hz to 15 kHz), dB:||+0.02, -0.19||Very good|
|Noise level, dB (A):||-84.3||Good|
|Dynamic range, dB (A):||84.5||Good|
|THD, %:||0.0100||Very good|
|IMD + Noise, %:||0.023||Good|
The keyboard is pretty good on the ThinkPad. There are three suppliers of keyboards for ThinkPads. My keyboard was produced by Chicony. The word on the various forums is that this is the worst of the suppliers. I would claim that many loyal ThinkPad users are keyboard aficionados, so they want the best (generally NMB is considered the 'best'). However, the keyboard is still very good. This one gives pretty good tactile feedback, but is still light to type on. Some people might find it a bit clicky though, as it does have a significant sound to it.
One thing I do not care for about the keyboard is the position of the FN key. It is in the bottom left corner. This is the place where the CTRL key normally sits. When I switch from my laptop to my desktop I hit the windows key (second from left), when I swich back to this laptop I hit the FN key. I will no doubt get used to this, but for now copy and paste is awkward. The DEL key is also positioned differently from my last laptop, but that is less of an issue, as that moves depending on if you are using a desktop or a laptop in general.
The dual pointing devices are quite nice. I'm still much more used to the TouchPad than the TouchPoint, but I have found myself using the TouchPoint some already. As many long time users will tell you, the TouchPoint lets you move the pointer without moving your hands off the keyboard. If you are mostly typing and need to point occasionally like editing a text document, you might find the TouchPoint faster, but I think for continuous pointing and clicking (like web browsing) the TouchPad might be better (tap clicking). Still, they are both there whatever your preference. Configuring one for coarse motion, and the other for fine control could even be useful depending on your needs.
The T60 comes with a basic port selection: USB, VGA, Ethernet, Modem, and Headphone/Microphone jacks. It has CardBus, and ExpressCard slots. Things some people might find missing are IEEE 1394, and a card reader. I myself will miss having an SD reader, as I have one digital camera that uses SD. However, I already use an external card reader for my compact flash based cameras, so its only a matter of getting another 8 dollar USB reader for SD cards, and bringing it when needed.
Here is the only place I have a serious niggle. The wireless out of the box was buggy. Basically, it would lose the connection on a change of power state. I first noticed this when bring the laptop came out of hibernation. Sometimes the wireless card would not be able to find any wireless. Other times it would find all the networks but the one I had been attached to before hibernation. Other power state changes, such as just unplugging the AC, also seem to trigger the problem sporadically. The other thing I noticed was that upon removing the AC power, the wired Ethernet connection would disappear (unless it was physically connected to a CAT5 cable when the AC power was pulled).
It seems fairly clear that this is a software issue because it is intermittent, and rebooting always restores the ability to connect to wireless networks. Further, it seems highly likely that it is related to power management control, as it is highly correlated with changes in power states of the laptop.
After discovering this issue, I systematically attempted to locate the problem. The windows system error log indicated that a network device had been removed unexpectedly many times. The identifier string for this adapter was that of the Gigabit Ethernet. Setting "Deep Smart Power Down" mode to disabled in the driver appears to prevent the Ethernet from disappearing when the AC power is disconnected from the system. Since disabling "Deep Smart Power Down" I have not noticed any unusual wireless issues, and I am hopeful that this simple change is all that is needed to solve the problem. However, because I could not find a definitive test to reproduce the error, it is not possible to know for sure.
It should also be noted that I uninstalled the Access Connections software. However, this did not help alleviate the wireless problems. (Thus, if you need or like that software, you probably can leave it on). The turning point was disabling "Deep Smart Power Down" on the Intel Pro/1000 PL Network Connection.
(For those wondering, I have the latest BIOS and drivers that that were available on Feb 26th. I do not believe this issue is unique to my system as there are reports of similar issues in the ThinkPads.com forum. I expect this issue will be fixed at some point in the future via a driver update.)
I have not tested the Bluetooth, as I do not have any Bluetooth devices presently.
Battery life isn't spectacular. With a screen this big, and dedicated graphics, it would be hard to have great battery life on a 6 cell. Browsing the Internet and listening to music, with the screen turned down 2 notches from full (I enabled full brightness while on battery power in the BIOS), the battery lasts about 2.5 hours. I think these tasks are very light usage. Under stressful use it would no doubt be dramatically shorter.
If you want longer life and find the T60 appealing, it would be best to get GMA graphics, and a 14 inch and/or a 9 cell battery which should just add 50% to whatever battery life you would get with a 6 cell. If you find GMA 950 lacking, you might wait for the soon to be released Intel refresh of GMA with Santa Rosa in April 2007. It will have better performance, probably with similar power dissipation. I considered doing this myself, however two things stopped me. I wanted a laptop for my work this semester, and Lenovo might change the T60 when they have to design the motherboards for a new chipset. This could be good or bad; it is just an unknown.
I did not purchase this laptop for high portability or long battery life. If those are primary goals of yours consider, something with an ULV processor. I certainly would prefer longer batter life, however, I think the amount of battery life it gets is average for its class, and is thus acceptable.
(The 6 cell on the T60 is 56WH; compare that to “just over 4 hours of life [with the LCD dimmed]” for the Dell e1505 (a nearly identical spec laptop) with an 85 WH battery and you immediately see the power consumption seems similar).
This T60 comes with a fairly low amount of annoying software (relatively speaking of course).
One of the first things I did do, though, was remove all the Symantec software. I wanted access to my shared printer, via windows file sharing, and the firewall would not let me use it. The browser-based configuration script that allowed one to turn off certain blocked services would crash on opening (Error in script at line XX continue running scripts on page? type error.) Because of the error, it really wasn't configurable, and I didn't feel it was worth fighting, or looking in the registry. So I removed the firewall/virus scanner and installed my regular reliable anti-virus software.
The ThinkVantage software, on the other hand, looks quite useful. While I did remove the Access Connection software (as anything that controls network access when you have a network problem is suspect), most of it looks nice. The presenter stuff and rescue and recovery could be very useful. Most of it really isn't needed though, if you are already comfortable with configuring Windows XP, which I am. If you aren't, it might be a Godsend.
Windows XP is Windows XP Pro. It works like it always did. I would note that Lenovo had configured the appearance of XP in a non-standard way. Text was bigger on the icons, and icon spacing was larger; things of that nature. I reset it to normal Windows XP default settings, then turned off all the regular annoying sounds.
Vista will eventually come in the mail for me, but I'm not in a great hurry to move to it. It will run slower than XP, and for the moment nothing I do requires it.
I ran through some fairly standard benchmarks for this site, namely SuperPi, HD Tune (results bellow). In the case of SuperPi, the time is within 1 second of a previous T60 wide screen review with nearly identical specs. I expect the benchmarks for this system to be identical to that one, so I refer you to that review for the "normal" notebook review benchmarks. In addition to the "normal" benchmarks I also ran the T60 WS through ScienceMark 2.0 (Build 170000ZNOV02), and SPECViewperf 9.0.3 the results of these tests are also below.
SPECViewperf is a test of engineering CAD performance (while my engineering tools aren't the 3D CAD type in general, I thought these numbers might be of interest to some out there). I think SPEC is a common enough test that you will be able to find plenty of numbers out there for comparison.
ScienceMark on the other hand isn't as common. It seems to no long be maintained, however, the tests remain relevant. Both simulations I did (Molecular Dynamics/Primordia) are similar to some work I have actually done. The first test is what it sounds like, a molecular dynamics simulation. The second is a Hartree-Fock Quantum Mechanics simulation. ScienceMark is small and does not require an install, so I ran it on my other two systems as well, to give a point of comparison, as it is not as common a benchmark these days. Finally, I would note on the ScienceMark results that it may underestimate well-optimized code today as it hasn't been updated in 3 years, and uses SSE type instructions, which have been extended since that time. Nevertheless, the T60 WS does very well outperforming my other two systems by a healthy margin.
SuperPi (2 million places):
|This Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 04s|
|Previous Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 03s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Toshiba A100 (2.0GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 29s|
|Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 53s|
|IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
|HP dv5000z (2.0GHz Sempron 3300+)||2m 02s|
For your future and past comparison convenience, I have run the test for all amounts up to 4 million. I believe the 1 million test was the most common a few years ago; I expect 4 million will be the standard in a few years.
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HD Tune measures basic hard disk performance; here are the results for the 120 GB 5400 RPM Toshiba drive in this laptop:
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My understanding is that this is mostly an OpenGL stress test. As you can see, the X1400 is not an OpenGL powerhouse. Regular desktop cards turn in numbers at least 3 times as high as this. However, 3D rendering isn't a huge priority for me, so this level of performance is OK. If you need more there is always the T60P, which has FireGL that should perform better. The LCD was set to 32-Bit color at 1680x1050 (I doubt this matters), and I ran the benchmark with its default settings.
3dsmax-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 4.769
catia-02 Weighted Geometric Mean = 6.298
ensight-03 Weighted Geometric Mean = 3.829
light-08 Weighted Geometric Mean = 8.841
maya-02 Weighted Geometric Mean = 9.956
proe-04 Weighted Geometric Mean = 3.268
sw-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 5.462
tcvis-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 1.148
ugnx-01 Weighted Geometric Mean = 2.936
This is a scientific numerical simulation benchmark, very CPU intensive like SuperPi, but a little more broad in scope. I tested the following systems:
I think this benchmark is completely CPU limited, as ScienceMark never uses more than 20 MB of RAM. I have used the Desktop as the reference for the time-clock and percentage scores. The time-clock score is Time * (Clock/1800). This score might not be completely fair, as the T60 does have two cores, but it shows you perhaps how much that extra core helps.
Molecular Dynamics (Lower is better):
|Dell 300M (Pentium M 1.2 GHz)||154||1.52||103||1.02|
|Desktop (Athlon 1.8 GHz)||101||1.00||101||1.00|
|T60 WS (Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz)||74||0.73||82||0.81|
The T60 is 27% better than my current desktop in the raw score, not too bad. The extra core/architecture gives a 19-21% advantage here clock for clock
Primordia (Lower is better):
|Dell 300M (Pentium M 1.2 GHz)||774||1.60||516||1.07|
|Desktop (Athlon 1.8 GHz)||483||1.00||483||1.00|
|T60 WS (Core 2 Duo 2.0 GHz)||333||0.67||370||0.77|
The T60 is 33% faster this time in the raw score, again quite good. The extra core/architecture gives a 23-30% advantage here clock for clock
Sometimes the Everest tool is run on systems, however, the verbose nature of that tool's output is probably not very useful to most people. So instead of attaching it, here is a short list of parts/makers that are non-obvious from the specs:
So far the ThinkPad T60 15.4 inch wide screen has been exactly what was called for. It is bulky to carry when compared to my ultra-portable Dell 300M it replaces. However, it is not possible to have a nice big usable screen and perfect potability. For all the power and screen real estate the T60 WS is small. I can easily see this laptop lasting 5 years of heavy use and being retired for performance not reliability issues. The screen, keyboard, and build of this laptop are what make it a good laptop. One of these factors, the screen, is apparently more variable than the others. It should be noted that some people hate the Samsung screen that I do not have. Performance-wise it is exactly what you would expect from a laptop with this hardware: excellent.
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