Lenovo T61 User Review

by Reads (2,789)

The Lenovo T61 really caught my attention when I first heard about it being released recently. As a student attending college in the fall I was looking for a reliable, well built business laptop. I needed a lot of processing power and long battery life. It was between the Compal IFL90 and the Lenovo T61, I undoubtedly went with the latter.

Specifications:

  • Intel Core 2 Duo T7500 2.2GHz 800Mhz 4MBL2
  • 2 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 @ 667MHz
  • Intel GMA X3100 GM965 w/ WWAN
  • 100GB Hard Drive, 7200rpm
  • 15.4 WSXGA+ TFT
  • UltraNav (TrackPoint and Touchpad) w/o Fingerprint Reader
  • CD-RW/DVD-RoM Combo 24X/24X/24X/8X Max
  • PC Card Slot & Express Card Slot
  • Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN
  • Integrated Bluetooth PAN
  • 9 cell Li-Ion Battery

Design and Build:
Let me start of by emphasising this is the first ThinkPad I’ve ever owned so I can’t really compare it to it’s predecessors. I can however compare it to the many other laptops I’ve owned ranging from Dell Latidues to Sony Vaios. Let me just say the quality is outstanding. When I pick up the laptop it’s solid, it feels solid. It’s rugged plastic design is unmatchable in any other laptop I’ve used. The roll cage design really impressed me, the lcd screen hardly flexes at all. As far as the off centered screen, coming from an OCD person, It’s noticeable when there is nothing on the screen if you’re really paying attention to it. When the laptop is on and you’re actually looking at the screen it is not one bit bothersome. The thick metal hinges really do a great job you can feel how strong they are when you open the lid.

The other thing that really impressed me was the shock mount system along with the Active Protection System. Which detects if the laptop is falling, rocking, and will actually suspend hard drive activity until it’s balanced and still to prevent loss of data. I was brave and decided to test this. I dropped the laptop from about 5 feet up connected to an external monitor, the system indeed did a very good job of shutting down the hard drive until I picked it up off the floor and leveled it off.

From what I heard on the forums, the keyboard on the ThinkPads is legendary. After typing a few pages on it I fell in love. I must say it’s unlike any other laptop keyboard I’ve owned in the past.

The dimensions on the T61 without the 9 cell battery are WWxDDxHH and with the protruding 9 cell they are, WWxDDxHH. The laptop weighs about 3 lbs without the 9 cell and 5 lbs with the 9 cell.

Screen:

 

The screen on the T61 really impressed me. According to the power manager which can detect what level of brightness the screen is running at, the T61 has 15 levels of brightness. At the highest level I found the screen to be a lot brighter than my Precision M65 and Latitude D620. It is annoying however that I have to go into the power manager to see what the brightness is. I’ve heard previous models show it right on the screen, this would have been nice.

On a completely black screen I noticed barely any backlighting. The vertical viewing angles are mediocre at best. However, the horizontal viewing angles are considerably better.

I’m a big fan of the WSXGA+ widescreen, the only downside is running it in Linux. The recommended resolution (1680 x 1050) looks extremely crip and clear. I love the matte finish, it does a really good job of keeping the glare down to a minimum especially outside in the bright sunlight.

Input / Output Ports:
The layout of the ports on the T61 15.4 differ greatly from the T60P and from the T61 14.1. It seems for the 15.4 they’ve added a few more ports to increase functionality. As well as a card reader in the front.

Let’s take a walk around and see what we’ve got:

(from left to right: airvent, vga output, phone jack, ethernet jack, line out, line in, usb, express card / pcmcia card slot

(from left to right: CD-RW / DVD-RW, dual usb slots, security lock

(from left to right: airvent, vga output, phone jack, ethernet jack,

(from left to right: airvent, vga output, phone jack, ethernet jack,

Speakers:
I found the speakers decent if you’re watching a movie within a 3 foot range. Let’s just say they’re not loud enough to hear over a room of 10 people or more. However, this problem is easily solved with the sound output jacks located right on the front of the laptop. Just plug in your headphones or speakers and you’ll be fine. There are quick adjustment volume buttons and a mute button as well located above the keyboard to the left of the power button.

Processor and Performance:
The lenovo T61 is built with the fastest intel components currently available on the market. I haven’t been able to fully utilize the intense processing capabilities of the T7500, hopefully when I get the benchmarks you’ll have an idea of how it stacks up against other machines. With 2GB of ram, you can be sure that this laptop can handle some of the most memory intensive applications, such as AutoCAD, or Solid Works. The video card is lacking in power, but is still quite feasible. There are also talks about better drives coming out for the X3100 by intel which are said to unlock a feature of chip that will produce greater power and give way to a stronger, more productive video card. However, if you are in need of a video card that will be able to perform extensively, I recommend you go with the Nvidia chipset. The big feature about integrated graphics is that it doesn’t absorb all your battery life, which is the main reason I went with it.

Benchmarks:
Super Pi is used by many enthusiasts to test the performance and stability of their computers. In the pc community, the standard program provides a benchmark for enthusiasts to compare "world record" pi calculation times and demonstrate the speed and power of their processors.

Super Pi Comparison

Notebook Time
Lenovo Thinkpad T61 (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500) 54s
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

3DMark is a computer benchmark by Futuremark to determine the DirectX performance of graphics cards. The measurement unit 3DMark is intended to give a normalized mean for comparing different visual processing units, which proponents assert is indicative of end-user performance capabilities. Critics counter by stating that it is not a reliable measure of real-world performance.

3DMark 2005 Comparison

Notebook 3D Marks
Lenovo Thinkpad T61 (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500) 856 3D Marks
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

PCMark is a series of computer benchmark tools also developed by Futuremark. The tools are designed to test the performance of the user’s CPU, read/write speeds of RAM and hard drives.

PCMark 2005 Comparison

Notebook PC Marks
Lenovo Thinkpad T61 (2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500) 4,210 PC Marks
   
   
   
   
   
   
   
   

I see a lot of questions pop up about how the performance of the 965GM X3100 chipset performs in newer and older games. I haven’t seen any real results or benchmarks measuring in game FPS for this chipset so I’m going to perform them and post my results. All the tests are done using Frapgs to compute the Minimum, Maximum, and Average.

Game FPS Comparison

Game Min FPS MAX FPS AVG FPS
Quake II 40 89 65
Counterstrike 1.6 @ 736×420 18 52 33
Counterstrike 1.6 @ 1680×1050 10 62 31
Counterstrike Source 6 25 16

Heat and Noise:
There is minimal heat coming from the bottom of the laptop. Most of it is exhausted out the sides. It’s very comfortable to work on for extended periods of time. I’ve ran it for a good 5-6 hours on my lap and it never got too warm.

As far as noise the only thing I can ever really hear coming from the laptop is if I’m burning a CD or reading a CD. The hard drive is dead quiet I can barely feel it loading. I sometimes have to double check to make sure the computer is running.

Keyboard and Touchpad:

Wireless:
I was really impressed with the 4965AGN build-in WiFi card. I was on my previous laptop constantly, around the house, outside. It would drop the connection everynow and then and was really annoying when I was in the middle of downloading something. So far I haven’t received one dropped connection. I was downloading a torrent for the newest version of Slackware and never once experienced connection problems. I was able to achieve a signal about 200 feet away from my AP which to me is fantastic.

I haven’t yet been able to test the bluetooth I’m waiting on my Blackberry 8100 Pearl to come in, I’ll be sure to post the results when I get everything hooked up and working properly.

Battery:
For the battery I did two types of tests, a minimal usage test and a torture test. For both of them I tested the battery in the Linux and Windows environment. The minimal usage test was with wireless off and just using word, excel and reading email offline. For the torture test in Linux I ran a probing program that scanned for wireless networks in my area. In Windows I streamed DVD movies from my desktop to my laptop over the internet. For both the torture tests I used a Senao 2511CD 200mV wireless card, which utilizes a lot of power that battery has to compensate for.

For the minimal usage test in Linux, I was able to get a total of 5 hours. The torture test fell to about 3 hours 39 minutes with no CPU throttling.

In Windows the minimal usage test lasted about 7 hours 12 minutes. The torture test lasted about 3 hours 46 minutes.

Software & Operating Systems:
When I first booted up it took about 4 minutes to actually get into Vista. I took a glance through some of the common "bloatware" that is always preinstalled on these kinds of machines. It didn’t seem to bad but nevertheless I always reformat and partition drives when I receive them commercially. I really liked the battery meter and power manager application. I don’t however like the hidden partitions that have the restore images on them. I feel it’s a waste of space, but that’s just my take on it. After partitioning and reformatting I setup 5 partitions one for Vista, Slackware, and Back Track 2, and the other two for boot and swap space. I’m going to attempt to share both sides of my experience with Windows and Linux.

Windows:
Anything preloaded on the operating system when you received it can easily be downloaded straight from Lenovo’s support site. They do an excellent job of categorizing their software and drivers. After I reformatted and reloaded Vista basic I found Vista’s load time decreased from 4 minutes to about a minute or less. The 7200 RPM drive really seems to help. With most of the devices in the device manager I was able to connect to the internet and then have Windows find the drivers for each piece of hardware that did not currently have hardware on it.

Linux:

Let me say, the T61 being an all intel component laptop, the support in Linux is tremendous. Intel has a separate site just for Linux drivers. I was able to grab the Wireless and the video drivers straight off their site and they worked wonderfully. My only comment is if you’re using the video drivers make sure you have the latest version of xorg-server, as of right now it’s 7.2, this version has full support for the 965GM chipset. If you don’t have the latest version you can give 915resolution a shot, it worked pretty well until I compiled the latest xorg-server.

Make sure agpgart is built into your kernel if you’re using 2.6.x. It can’t be loaded as a module. You should also load intel-agp, drm, and i915 as modules when you boot if you want 3D support. The easiest way to do this is to edit /etc/rc.d/rc.local and add a modprobe line for each of those modules. I would advise against compiling xorg-server 7.2 and wait for packages from you’re distribution, because it is a pain in the butt.

Conclusion:

Overall, I can honestly say the Lenovo Thinkpad T61 is one of the most enticing, powerful, and well built laptops I’ve owned to date. This is truely a business laptop in every aspect of the word. With the amount of battery life you can attain on this beast, it makes it ideal for traveling or attending long business meetings. I’ve found no quirks with any of the hardware or software provided by Lenovo. With a bright screen and legendary keyboard, this laptop will have you begging for more.

Pros:

  • Long battery Life
  • Durable build quality
  • Lots of power
  • Screen brightness
  • Express & PCMCIA slots

Cons:

  • Off centered screen
  • Initial software was a little too bloated
  • No firewire port


LEAVE A COMMENT

0 Comments

|
All content posted on TechnologyGuide is granted to TechnologyGuide with electronic publishing rights in perpetuity, as all content posted on this site becomes a part of the community.