Review of Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m With Pentium M 2.0GHz and ATI X600 (pics, specs)

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by James Lee, Singapore

Overview and Introduction

The laptop being reviewed here is the IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m. There are many variations and configurations for this model, and the one I have chosen is meant to be a replacement for a desktop. In this review, I will tend to focus more on the flaws rather than the advantages, but don’t think that this is a bad laptop. It’s far superior to many models which I have seen elsewhere.

Configuration:

  • OS: Windows XP Professional
  • CPU: Intel Pentium M 760 2.00GHz, 533MHz Front side Bus, 2MB L2 cache
  • RAM: 1GB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz
  • Communications: Intel PRO/Wireless 2915 ABG/Bluetooth, Integrated Gigabit Ethernet and 56K v.92 designed modem. Integrated infrared 4Mbps
  • PCMCIA support: 1x Type I/II and 1 ExpressCard/54 or 34
  • Pointing devices: Touchpad and trackpoint
  • Connections: 3x USB 2.0 ports, 3-in-1 card reader, external display, line-in/out, IEEE 1394, Infrared, RJ-11, RJ-45, S-Video out
  • Hard Disk: 80GB SATA 5400RPM
  • Graphics Card: 128MB ATi Mobility RADEON x600
  • Monitor: 15.4″ widescreen, max. resolution of 1680×1050
  • Optical drive: Supports DVD+-RW, DVD-RAM, CD-R, CD-RW reading/writing.
  • Security features: Fingerprint reader, usual password features, encryption of data
  • Weight: About 3kg
  • Width x height x depth: 357mm x 37.3mm x 262.5mm

You can go to this page for the whole list of specifications.

Reasons for Buying

I’m about to go overseas as an international student, and I will be living without a desktop for about 3 years, so I’m looking for a laptop which is powerful enough not to be obsolete in a few years, and also powerful enough for me to play games on.

It has to meet the following criteria (minimum requirements):

  • 3 USB 2.0 ports
  • 14″ monitor
  • 128MB dedicated video card
  • Intel Pentium M CPU 2.00GHz
  • Cost less than USD$2500

I actively considered the following and decided by elimination.

  • Dell Inspiron 6000
  • Dell Inspiron 9300
  • IBM/Lenovo T43
  • HP Presario v2000
  • HP dv1000
  • IBM/Lenovo Z60m

I looked at a few other models from Fujitsu, HP/Compaq and Sony, but they’re either too expensive, too big or did not meet the criteria stated above and were taken out of my list.

Frankly speaking, Lenovo wasn’t on the top of my list when I first started sourcing for the “ideal” laptop.  Before even looking at Lenovo, I went straight to Dell. Dell was my top priority as I was really happy with the former laptop I was using (the Inspiron 5000), and it’s the only popular brand which offered 4 USB ports on laptops (Inspiron 6000 and 9300 models), which I would really like to have as I intend to plug in at least 2 external hard disks and a mouse. Unfortunately, the 6000 had design problems (one laptop exploded and caught fire), and the 9300 was quite bulky with quite a lot of problems with its LCD display.

So, Dell was put out of the race, as I wanted a stable laptop which would last me for at least 3 years. I considered the Lenovo T43 too, but it only has 2 USB ports, and the same configuration which I wanted would cost me twice as much as a Z60m would, so it was eliminated as well.

I stumbled upon HP while looking around shops which sold laptops. I was really impressed by the build quality and materials used in HP laptops I saw. However, they suffered from heat problems, so they were quickly put out of the race, as heat management is of utmost importance to me (I tend to leave my laptop on for months on end).

Which kind of left me with the Z60m as being the machine that met all my needs and, according to reviews I’d read, supposedly has good heat management.

Where and How Purchased

As this model is relatively new, no retailer in Singapore wanted to bring it in until someone proves that this can sell, so I had no choice but to purchase it online. I bought it for SGD$4250.40 (roughly USD$2550.95), with an additional 512MB ram and 3 years extended warranty. Without the two additional stuff (resulting in a 512MB RAM model), it would cost USD$2360.

It’s kind of expensive, but it’s worth every cent from what I have seen so far.

Build and Design

I’ve got to clarify some things first. The white stickers you see below the screen are stuck on by myself, and are not there upon delivery. They state the MAC address of the various networking components built in the laptop.

IBM ThinkPad Z60m (view larger image)

First, I’ll touch on the build and construction. At first glance, the Z60m looks like a very solid laptop. It’s great looking, especially from the back, as the titanium lid looks really cool. However, upon closer inspection, the body case is made of common plastic (albeit rugged strong plastic), and not something really classy and good like the magnesium frame used by HP. I have also found two parts which flex a little when I exert pressure on them (the hard disk cover and the area between the ThinkVantage and the power button), so it’s really disappointing, especially when I have expected standards to be a lot higher for an established brand like IBM.

Apart from that, it’s really a sturdy laptop with lots of screen protection thanks to the titanium lid I got in my configuration. The screen doesn’t wobble much when you push it, you can’t twist the frame, and no matter how hard I push, I can’t get ripples to appear on my screen. I still think a titanium cover is excessive, and a design failure because the colors between the lid and the body just don’t match. Either they should make it all black, or they make it all silver colored. Making the lid silver colored and the rest black just seems so wrong, and the titanium puts on additional weight too (if you want to vote on whether you think a titanium lid ThinkPad is good or bad visit the site Lenovo setup www.whichsideareyouon.com and vote to let them know!)

Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m above view of titanium lid (view larger image)

If you’re a left hander like me, think twice about getting this model. All the networking, audio, video and card slots and connectors are found on the left hand side of the notebook. Only the USB ports, power and S-Video connectors aren’t. Which means, if you’re actually going to sit down and use it (typically with an Ethernet cable (RJ-45) and a line-out cable connected to a speaker set), it’ll be quite cramped.

It’s okay if you can use your mouse with all the cables obstructing you unless you like to stretch your hand out a bit more, but I find it a little inconvenient. You’re lucky if you’re a right-handed person, as the only things found on the right are 3 USB ports (1 at the back, 2 at the side), and the optical drive.

There is also a 3-in-1 built-in card reader, which supports the SD, Memory Stick and MultiMedia Card. It sounds good, but prepare to have a fun time taking out your SD card if you don’t have fingernails, as the spring doesn’t fully eject out the card.

Another gripe I have is that the DVD-ROM isn’t perfectly designed to fit into the media bay for the Z60m, resulting in a little gap. It’s not very aesthetically pleasing, and I expected something better from a company so reputable for its quality built laptops.

Lastly, the battery takes up the majority of the back, leaving no space for any connectors except for 1 USB and the power cord. What a waste of good space. It does look good without all the connectors at the back though, but I’d prefer functionality and convenience than to “look good and feel bad”.

Now that we’re done with the flaws, let’s move on to the advantages.

The Z60m comes with an integrated fingerprint reader. This is extremely convenient, and your fingerprints are stored by encryption. Login and authentication at power-on and windows can be integrated together so you only need to scan your finger at boot-up once, and it’ll do the rest. No passwords required and you’re cleared in less than a second. Assigning different profiles to different fingerprints are possible as well. You can choose to key in a password to login if you so wish to though.

Apart from this, there is a switch which allows you to turn on/off your wireless connections, such as Bluetooth and the Wireless LANs. I find this extremely convenient too.

Screen

ThinkPad Z60m displaying 3D game scene (view larger image)

The Z60m has no backlight leakage at all (view larger image)

The screen is, in one word: perfect. It’s the epitome of good LCD technology, and I’m not exaggerating. It’s wide-screen, and the highest resolution it can go is up to 1680×1050, but any note-worthy laptop would have these features by now.

The real reason why it is so good is because you can tell that it is of a really superior quality. No light leaks whatsoever at all. No dead pixels. An even spread of backlighting, and the screen appears extremely bright, even with a window right behind me and the sun shining through.  The black background when the laptop is on almost has no difference as the black seen for a powered off screen. It’s a true work of art.

If there’s one complaint, it would be the high resolution. It makes the fonts too small, and if you have bad or ageing eyes you may have trouble reading them. This can be overcome by changing the DPI settings, but it’ll make some of your programs’ windows look funny, especially those which you cannot resize (like HD Tune). Lowering the resolution makes the screen look blur too, which is a characteristic of LCD screens, so it’s really no fault of Lenovo here.  If you have poor vision, just make sure to opt for an WXGA screen

Speakers

The Z60m comes with two speakers beside the keyboard and just about as long. The sound quality is passable, as in; you can listen to speech and music, but don’t expect true quality here. I’m used to listening to music and watching movies on my 5.1 digital speaker set, so this really failed me. I haven’t seen a set of good laptop speakers yet though. It’s just one of the limitations of speakers on laptops.

Processor and Performance

Here’s the configuration I have chosen for my laptop.

  • CPU: Intel Pentium M 760 2.00GHz, 533MHz Front side Bus, 2MB L2 cache
  • RAM: 1GB DDR2 SDRAM 533MHz
  • Graphics Card: 128MB ATi Mobility RADEON X600
  • Hard Disk: SATA, 5400RPM.

It took less than about a second or two from the moment I pressed the power button for it to be ready to accept my fingerprint scan. Upon scanning, everything, including all the automated authentication based on my fingerprint and startup sequence, took about 49 seconds to display my desktop background, and a further 40 seconds to load everything up, from firewall, MSN and Winamp, and a few more seconds to settle down, resulting in a 94 second boot-up timing from power-off to be ready for input. It took about another minute for it to stop all activity though, but from the 94th second, you can start clicking around and start start applications already, but it won’t really settle down until about about one or two minutes more.

For normal administrative purposes like using Microsoft Word or browsing the web, this laptop is overkill. However, for gaming purposes, this laptop is just nice. It runs Final Fantasy XI a fair bit faster than my desktop, which has 1GB RAM, an Intel equivalent of 2.2GHz CPU and 128MB ATi RADEON 9200 graphics card. No regrets over processing power with this guy here.

Benchmarks

Below are the results gained from running Super Pi (ftp://pi.super-computing.org/windows/super_pi.zip), a program that forces the laptop’s processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy:

Notebook Time
IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 Dell XPS M140 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 41s
 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
 HP Pavilion dv4000 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 39s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

Below are the results gained from running PCMark04 and 3DMark05 on the ThinkPad Z60m (Pentium M 2.0GHz, ATI X600) the numbers are compared to the Toshiba M40 (Pentium M 2.0GHz, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600).

Futuremark PCMark04 Scores
  Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m (2.0GHz Pentium M, ATI X600 128MB) Toshiba Satellite M40 (2.0 GHz Pentium M, NVIDIA GeForce Go 6600)
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 3.8 MB/s 3.8 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 29.24 MB/s 29.7 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 25.35 MB/s 25.5 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 11.57 MPixels/s 11.8 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 1693.92 MB/s 2136.4 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 3.06 KB/s 3.0 KB/s
 File Decryption 58.4 MB/s 59.4 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 2698.98 KB/s 2746.9 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 5.46 Pages/s 5.8 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 53.86 FPS 54.9 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 184.47 FPS 202.6 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 1612.95 FPS 1012 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 1659 3DMarks 2470 3D Marks

You can see from above that the Z60m does well with both graphics and processor performance, it’s not close to high-end gaming notebook scores, but far and above the poor performance from an integrated shared memory graphics solution that many notebooks have.

Below are the results gained from running the hard drive benchmarking tool HDTune (www.hdtune.com):

Keyboard and Touchpad

ThinkPad Z60m keyboard and touchpad (view larger image)

If you notice, Lenovo has decided to do away with the traditional keyboard and implement in the Windows buttons. This is nice and all, but I find there to be a design flaw with the new ThinkPad keyboard layout. On most well designed laptop keyboards, you can comfortably press CTRL-ALT-DEL all using your right hand alone, with your thumb holding on to the CTRL and ALT keys and your finger pressing the DEL key above. However, with the implementation of an extra key strategically placed between the ALT and CTRL keys, you can no longer do that, unless you have a super long thumb. You can still press them using your right hand only, but it requires some skilful hand acrobatics, and three fingers.  So I am not a fan of the introduction of the Windows key.

Still on the keyboard is the location of the Fn button. It’s placed on the bottom left side of the keyboard. Those who are used to pressing shortcuts would be familiar with shortcuts involving the CTRL key, e.g. the frequently used CTRL-F4 shortcut. As a left hander (I don’t know about right handed people), I tend to press shortcuts all using my left hand, and I “source” out the CTRL key by feeling for it through habit. The CTRL key is typically the bottom left-most key on most keyboards, and I have accidentally put my system into Standby mode more than once, which incidentally happens to be the Fn-F4 shortcut. However, getting the laptop back online from standby mode just takes a few seconds, so it’s not a huge deal; just a tad irritating, if your downloads can be resumed, and you’re not doing something funny.

Both touchpad and trackpoints are available on the Z60m, so regardless of your preference, you can use them both here. You can also disable either or both of them if you don’t like them too.

ThinkPad Z60m with mouse plugged into USB port on the back right side and ethernet and line-out wires plugged in on left side (view larger image)

The keyboard is quite sturdily built; it does not flex upon use. However, it’s similar to all other laptop keyboards; if you type too fast, your nail may get caught between the keys, and it could be quite painful.

Input and Output Ports

The Z60m comes along with line-in/out audio connectors, a Gigabit RJ-45 (ethernet) and a normal RJ-11 (modem) connector for your networking needs, S-video out, PCMCIA support of 1x Type I/II and 1 ExpressCard/54 or 34, 3x USB 2.0 ports, a 3-in-1 card reader supporting Memory Sticks, MultiMedia Cards and SD cards, external monitor out and one IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port, not to mention a fingerprint reader.

That’s a lot of ports, I would say. The Gigabit RJ-45 connector is really something extra unless you’re running a server or something using this laptop, but it’s good to have for the future when technology advances and obsoletes the 100MBps (which I don’t see happening). The 3 USB ports aren’t enough though, I’d prefer to see 4. As I intend to plug in a keyboard, a mouse and two external hard disks, I’ll need to get a USB splitter.

ThinkPad Z60m right side view (view larger image)

ThinkPad Z60m left side view (view larger image)

ThinkPad Z60m back side view, notice the Titanium lid (view larger image)

Bottom of ThinkPad Z60m (view larger image)

The card reader is a plus. It’s really useful when I need to transfer images from my digital camera to my laptop. No messy wires and docking cradle needed. Just take the card out and pop it in like a diskette.

The fingerprint reader is nice. It’s by far my favorite feature so far as it’s very convenient.

I don’t like the design and placements of the ports though. Read the “Build and Design” section for more details on that gripe.

Wireless

The Z60m comes with Intel PRO/Wireless 2915 ABG/Bluetooth and an infrared which supports transmission of up to 4Mbps.

Reception wise, it can detect several of my neighbors’ wireless LANs, so its signal strength isn’t bad. By supporting A, B, G and Bluetooth, you can literally bring it anywhere today and it’ll connect to the network there. The antenna is located at the monitor, so reception should be better than the other models out there where the manufacturer leaves it at the base.

Battery

By not playing games and just doing normal work using Microsoft Word and surfing the Internet, I managed to survive for about five to six hours consistently, which basically allows you to move it around for one whole day without lugging your adapter around.

Operating System and Software

The model I purchased has to come with Windows XP Professional, whether you like it or not. I was shocked to discover that there are NO system restore or recovery discs provided, but this is where Lenovo truly outshines its competitors.

Instead of letting you put up with the hassle of storing the recovery discs for emergencies and running the risk of you misplacing them or damaging them through time, Lenovo has decided to integrate the system recovery into the system itself, with the ability to restore itself to factory condition just by the touch of a few buttons, even if you are unable to start Windows.

However, if you’re the paranoid type (which I am), there is an option for you to create a set of system restore discs which allows you to restore the entire system along with all your data and installed applications up to the date where you created the backup, or rather, the image of your hard disk.

Apart from the system restore, it comes pre-installed with CD authoring programs, a DVD player, system maintenance programs and the ThinkVantage suite of programs which allows you to configure security settings, upgrade your drivers and do all the nifty little stuff at the touch of a button.

A little box appears when you turn on/off the num lock, caps lock or scroll lock too. It’s really quite convenient and informative.

Another plus which can only be found on Lenovo ThinkPads is the Active Protection System feature which protects your hard disk upon impact, such as when you drop your laptop. In the event that it detects a sudden movement, the hard disk will cease all operations and park, only to resume when movement has stopped. I have sort of tried this, and it really works. It’s great for protecting your data and hard disk in the event of an accident.

Speaking of accidents, the Z60m now has two drain plugs for handling spillage of drinks over the keyboard. Maybe now you can spill an entire bottle of water and the notebook will still survive!

For people handling classified files, there is a feature for you to encrypt and store sensitive data on a secure drive too, only accessible by the means of verification such as your fingerprint. This is a really nifty feature for those who deal with highly sensitive data.

For once, I did not feel like re-formatting my entire hard disk and starting anew like what I did to my Dell laptop.

Customer Support

I don’t know about other regions, but customer support in Singapore is horrible. It’s only available during office hours, Mondays to Fridays. Order tracking online is not available, and when I wanted to trace the order, I was told to call different numbers manually without them transferring me. I guess this is where the integration between Lenovo and IBM starts to show its strain and incompleteness.

While placing an order online, I encountered a server error, and wanted to report it. I navigated unsuccessfully over the automated menus over the telephone, and finally opted to speak to an operator, who transferred me to the wrong department. In the end, I gave up and decided to wait until they fixed the server themselves.

Having such experience even before I have purchased my system made me cringe at the thought of calling technical support lest something goes wrong with my system.

The default warranty is one year for the Z60m. I decided to upgrade it to 3 years, and it cost me about USD$73.

Noise

One of the truly outstanding aspects for this notebook is its sound level. Even when it’s heating up with the fans on and DVD drive running, it is whisper quiet, and you can barely hear it unless you put your ear really close to the laptop. You can run it right next to a sleeping baby and the baby would never even know it. As a comparision, the noise on my desktop’s hard disk, or fans, or DVD drive is a lot louder than the noise the laptop produces.

The keys and buttons on the touchpads and keyboards are also quiet without any of the cheap clicking sounds. You can tell that they have put in quality where it matters.

Heat

If you are observant enough, you’ll notice that the hard disk was running at 44 degrees celcius during the HD Tune test. My average room temperature is about 29 degrees celcius, and the test was conducted after running PCMark04, 3DMark05 and Everest Benchmarking programs, so heat build-up is a problem if you’re doing some high intensity stuff. On average, it’s about 36 to 38 degrees, which is warm enough for you to feel it beneath the casing.

I’ll suggest you get a cooling device or a USB keyboard if you plan to use it in frequently in tropical countries such as where I live, especially if you’re without air-conditioning.

Conclusion

With all that said and done, I think the Z60m is a really great laptop. The difference between a good laptop and a great laptop are the small little details, which the Z60m comes with in abundance.

Pros:

  • Excellent pre-installed software
  • Superb diagnostic and recovery tools
  • Great screen
  • Extensive security features
  • Processing power for weight and price
  • Low noise levels
  • Connectivity and Bluetooth
  • Integrated multi-card reader
  • Long battery life
  • Optical drive supports writing on a lot of formats

Cons

  • Only 3 USB ports
  • Gets quite warm when doing processor intensive stuff
  • Poorly designed for left-handed people
  • Keyboard design could be a lot better
  • Removal of card from the card reader requires skill
  • Some parts of the covering can be flexed
  • DVD drive isn’t designed to totally be in line with the media bay
  • Optical drive does not support the writing on dual-layer DVDs

All in all, apart from design problems (which can easily be remedied by the use of a mouse and an external keyboard), a little heat problem (which can be solved by using a cooler when gaming) and minor aesthetic flaws (which can be easily overlooked), this is an excellent laptop to purchase, given the fact it is superior to other similar notebook alternatives on the market today.

Other ThinkPad Z60m Reviews on NotebookReview.com:

Pricing and Availability for Z60m: IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m


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