by Alex Chiu
Thinkpads. They are the Hummers of business laptops. Only until recently did the Thinkpad name come from IBM. In 2004 Lenovo, one of China's biggest PC makers, took ownership of IBM's "Think" PC division, including the ThinkCenter and ThinkPad business. Ever since then, Lenovo has been changing the existing lines while also introducing their own. They have still maintained to keep IBM's level of quality, performance, and ruggedness to maintain the Thinkpads’ legendary status.
Reasons for Buying
As a college student, I wanted something that would last me through my education as well as through the daily tasks and environment of a college dorm. While I would be mainly using it for simple tasks like note taking and internet usage, I did want to have the power and capability to do more if necessary.
Being an employee of Best Buy, I had seen many of the multimedia laptops that we carry and decided that I would not want one that had the fancy webcam, dual mics, and special media controls that were mainly seen on laptops such as HP and Dells. I essentially wanted a business laptop - a no-frills laptop that has plenty of power and ruggedness to last. After looking around at HP's nc8430 (I had heard that the fan on this laptop stays on quite often due to the X1600 video card), Dell's Inspiron 6400 (I did not like the asthetics / bulkiness), I finally landed on Lenovo's website, and immediately became attached to the T and the Z series. The Z series was most interesting because it had an option for a titanium lid, which appealed to me as I have a few titanium products that have proved to be very durable. However in the end I decided on the T60 Widescreen as it was more inclined to my needs and it was also lighter/thinner as well.
I bought my T60 Widescreen laptop direct from Lenovo on their website. The buying process was very easy - I went into the notebooks section, chose the Thinkpad line of notebooks, then the T series. From there it is very much like any other CTO website - you have options which you choose and the price gets updated. After ordering I found out that I wouldn't be getting my laptop for nearly a month! While I was somehwat disappointed in that (HP and Dell had both quoted delivery within 2 weeks), I did learn that all of the system building / parts will be coming from China. The funny thing is that in the end I received my laptop only FOUR days after leaving Hong kong, China. My laptop consisted of the following specs: (Note: Just like any notebook manufacturer, Lenovo does not use one exact brand for some of the parts. I will be listing the brands of specific parts, as they are "the best" according to feedback I have received in learning from the forums)
While it took nearly three weeks for the laptop to be built, it took only four days to come all the way from Hong Kong, China to my university in Merced, CA. Talk about fast!
It’s here! (view large image)
Accessories Box: 9-cell Battery, manuals, phone cable, AC adapter, misc manuals/documentation, screws for securing UltraBay, and UltraNav eraserhead caps (view large image)
UltraNav eraserhead caps – default cap not shown. (view large image)
The T60 Widescreen. (view large image)
Left ports, from left to right – Exhaust vent, VGA, modem, Ethernet, Kensington Security slot, Microphone, Headphone, USB, and Expresscard/PCMCIA slots (view large image)
Right Side: 8x DVD DL Burner, 2 x USB Ports (view large image)
Laptop open (view large image)
Top View: You can see the 9 cell battery poking out the back. (view large image)
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UltraBay: The LED to the left of the 2 USB ports lights up when the unit is powered on and there is a device in the UltraBay, which in this case is the DVD Burner. Pressing the switch to the left of it releases the lever underneath the burner, allowing you to hot-swap and pull out UltraBay devices with the laptop still on.
Closeup View: Infrared and Wireless Switches. Note that the green is painted, and not an LED, although there are LEDs for the Bluetooth and WiFi on the lower part of the front screen bezel. (view large image)
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Underside of the laptop – Note how there are no direct vents for the fan, but rather several vents located throughout the laptop’s underside to help cool the entire laptop.
This is one spot that I believe that there is a bit too much. There was a lot of software on here from Lenovo, while it may not have been as excessive as some other manufacturers, there was still quite a lot. Because I use my computer a lot I did not want to bog my computer down with so many programs, and therefore proceeded to uninstall nearly everything that came with the laptop except for Lenovo's Access Connections, Active Protection System, System Update and ThinkVantage software. I kept these programs as I thought that they were the most useful for my needs. Lenovo did include other software, such as Client Security Solution (a solution designed in part with Symantec, giving you Symantec Antivirus Corporate edition, which is a nice touch, as well as Symantec Personal Firewall), and Rescue and Recovery. Another note about the software - a majority of the Lenovo software was outdated! I had to update and restart several times to be fully updated with the software that I had chosen to keep on the laptop. Lenovo does constantly improve and update its software, though, as nearly 4 updates have been released since I received my laptop. The one gripe I have is the video card drivers. ATi's Catalyst drivers are not the latest on the T60, and while I probably can simply download Catalyst 7.2 directly off of ATi's website, their online tool says that I should stick with Lenovo's drivers instead.
Rescue and Recovery
There is a 4.5GB hidden partition on the hard drive that contains restore information as well as other tools offered by Lenovo as part of the ThinkVantage technologies. By pressing the blue ThinkVantage button upon startup, you can backup, restore, and even browse the Internet through a limited version of Opera! One thing I did like is that even though I uninstalled Rescue and Recovery from my laptop, it is still part of the hidden partition, meaning that despite it not being accessible through Windows I can still access it through the bootup ThinkVantage. Being a computer enthusiast, I use Acronis True Image Home and had no problems backing up / restoring my laptop using the full image that I made, which took about 8 minutes to create, and 20 minutes to restore.
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If there's one thing that Thinkpads are extremely well known for, it's the keyboard. They are supposedly the best keyboards in the world for laptops, and I have to agree. As I am typing this review right now on my laptop it is very comfortable to type on. It is not noisy and provides ample amount of feedback. In particular, the keyboard that my laptop came with was made by NMB. Lenovo uses three different manufacturers for their laptops, NMB, ALPS, and Chicony, and best to worst is in that order.
As for the mouse, the UltraNav system is excellent. I have become accustomed to using the eraserhead and was surprised to find out that there is a feature for the eraserhead similar to the tapping mechanism available for touchpads - simply tap the eraserhead and it will register as a click! The touchpad is also equally as useful, although I seem to be using the eraserhead more as it is more convienent from a layout perspective. I would have to agree with the popular opinion that the touchpad is a little bit on the small side. I have a roommate who has a Dell Precision M65, which is built to a similar grade and caliber to my T60, and his touchpad is substantially bigger. However, his is also bigger and heavier. The laptop also came with two other caps for the eraserhead, although I am using the default one. Carrying the laptop around is very easy due to its slim size and weight. While I carry it in a slip case picking it up and taking it with me is not a problem at all.
Heat and Noise
I always use my laptop on a flat surface and not directly on my lap. Even so, the laptop barely gets warm, even after extended use. The only moderately warm areas are the lower right palmrest (hard drive underneath) and the upper left, where the vents are located. One interesting note is that unlike most laptops, there is no direct vent in which the laptop's fan sucks air in from. There are a multitude of intake vents located all across the underside of the laptop from which the fan pulls air in from and then expells it out both on the left upper side as well as out the back vents. The vents themselves are very open and free flowing. As for fan noise, there is very little. The fan comes on only every now and then, and even when it does it is barely audible even in a near silent study room. So far I have only been able to distinguish two different fan speeds, and again both were very quiet. I would like to make a point that I am very sensitive to noise, and therefore a quiet fan to me is most likely near silent to others.
In the wireless arena, Atheros is one of the best. I can say from both experience as well as opinions from many users that Atheros does easily beat the Intel wireless chipsets in performance. That said, my laptop easily accesses the university's A, B, AND G networks without any problems, especially with the help of Access Connections, a client utility from Lenovo that manages profiles and adapter settings. The only problem that I have yet to solve is that one of my friends owns a 5 month old Gateway tablet PC with a Intel 3945ABG wireless chipset, and when we are both on the A network with our laptops next to each other connected to the exact same access point he is able to get nearly 25mbps down whereas I am only able to get 6. I have tested with several other laptops running Intel 3945ABG and Broadcom chipsets and they have produced results similar to mine. Maybe my friend is running a hacked firmware, I don't know ;)
I went with the 9 cell for my laptop as I knew that I would be using my laptop for long periods of time without being able to plug in. That said, the battery on my laptop lasts about 6 hours on medium brightness with the wireless on and using mainly Word, Excel, and Firefox. I believe I could probably get about 7 or 8 hours if I dimmed the screen to its minimum and disabled the wireless (and maybe even undervolted), however those options make the laptop uncomfortable to use as the screen becomes *very* dim towards the lower settings. One good thing about Lenovo's Power Manager utility is that it does have an option to optimize charging for maximizing battery lifespan. It also includes the usual settings for dimming the screen after a set amount of time of inactivity, turning off the screen, sleeping, turning off the hard drive, and even has a PowerPoint presentation mode.
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I am exceptionally happy with my choice to go with the WSXGA+ resolution for my laptop. I have become so accustomed to the WSXGA+ resolution that anything less makes me feel as if everything is extremely large. Even after using my laptop for a while returning to my 21" LCD makes me want to get a 1920x1280 24" LCD! The contrast is excellent, there were no dead pixels on my laptop. There is minimal light leakage along the bottom, and is overall a great LG Philips panel compared to the Samsung panel that I have heard so many bad stories about.
There is nothing really much to say about the speakers here. As most have said in the forums, the speakers are a bit on the quiet side. Even at maximum volume they are similar to desktop speakers at normal volume. As with most laptop speakers, they lack bass, but still do sound pretty decent for playing music with nearly no distortion at maximum volume.
Thinklight in broad daylight with display off. (view large image)
Thinklight at night with lights off and display showing blank screen. (view large image)
One thing that I was not aware of was the ThinkLight. It caught me off by surprise when I first opened the laptop. I had thought that it was only an option on the Z and R series, and that I believe one of the series uses an orange LED whereas the other uses a white. In my case, mine uses a very bright single white LED to illuminate the keyboard, and does a very good job of doing it. Granted, some may see it as a gimmick, but it has come in handy every now and then, especially in some of the classrooms with very dim lighting or no lighting while the instructor is giving a presentation via projector. The picture makes it look brighter than it really is, but needless to say, the ThinkLight is a great feature.
Another surprise was the fact that the T60 comes with BOTH an ExpressCard AND a PCMCIA card slot. Granted I do not think I will ever need to use either slot, it is exciting to know that the laptop has support for both expandability options for laptops available nowadays. One last thing about the laptop that is somewhat of a letdown is the lack of FireWire / few USB ports. Granted, the T60 is designed for business users who would not have a need for FireWire at all, and would also use very few USB devices, it is still somewhat of a letdown.
Performance and Benchmarks
The Seagate 7200 RPM HDD is extremely repsonsive and quick. It is also very quiet in comparison to the Hitachi 7K100 that my roommate has in his Precision M65. The Active Protection System is also responsive, parking the heads of the hard drive to prevent damage when it detects any sudden movements. Following is the performance results from HDTune for the hard drie:
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3DMark06 Graphics Results
I ran 3DMark06 at the default ATi driver settings and default 3DMark06 settings:
|Notebook||3DMark 06 Results|
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0 GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||923 3DMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||827 3DMarks|
|Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB)||1,528 3DMarks|
|Dell Precison M90 (2.16GHz Core Duo, nVidia Quadro FX 1500M)||3,926 3DMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800GTX)||4,085 3DMarks|
|Compal HEL80 (2.0GHz Core Duo, nVidia Go 7600 256MB)||1,654 3DMarks|
|Dell XPS M1710 (2.16 GHz Core Duo, nVidia 7900 GTX 512MB)||4,744 3DMarks|
PCMark05 System Results
PCMark05 was also run with the default settings:
|Lenovo T60 Widescreen (2.0 GHz Intel T7200, ATI X1400 128MB)||4,189 PCMarks|
|HP dv6000t (2.16 GHz Intel T7400, NVIDA GeForce Go 7400)||4,234 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)||2,994 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400)||3,487 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60, Nvidia Go 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Intel T2300E, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
|Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400, Nvidia Go 7400)||3,646 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO FE590 (1.83GHz Core Duo)||3,427 PCMarks|
Detailed results from PCMark05:
|PCMark05 Detailed Results|
|HDD – XP Startup||7.554 MB/s|
|Physics and 3D||166.419 FPS|
|Transparent Windows||335.116 Windows/s|
|3D – Pixel Shader||41.410 FPS|
|Web Page Rendering||3.311 Pages/s|
|File Decryption||54.410 MB/s|
|Graphics Memory – 64 Lines||777.755 FPS|
|HDD – General Usage||4.645 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Audio Compression||2200.313 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 1 / Video Encoding||349.557 KB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Text Edit||134.284 Pages/s|
|Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Decompression||26.836 Mpixels/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Compression||4.647 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / File Encryption||25.940 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / HDD – Virus Scan||28.171 MB/s|
|Multithreaded Test 3 / Memory Latency – Random 16 MB||7.825 Maccesses/s|
In closing, I believe I made the right choice in purchasing a Lenovo. It has performed beautifully to my standards and surpassed my expectations. After customizing it to my preferences, I believe that this laptop truly is one of the best laptops out there overall. While it may not be appealing to the gaming community, for everything else this laptop has it. I finally have my dream laptop. :)
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