Lenovo ThinkPad R60 14.1-inch Review Page 2

by Reads (69,657)

Keyboard Area

It’s a ThinkPad, ’nuff said.  I suppose I’ll elaborate a little more.  The keyboard on the the R60, like all ThinkPads I have used, is magnificent.  The keyboard is firm and key travel is excellent as one would expect of a ThinkPad Keyboard.  I miss some of the port markings along the edge that you’ll see on some more consumer oriented notebooks.  The R60 also has the ThinkLight for use in dark situations.  It works pretty slick.  The color has changed from white to amber since my T42.


The R60’s keyboard.(view large image)

The touchpad on the R60 seems a bit small, but otherwise works well.  The buttons have smooth action and good feel.  Being a ThinkPad, the R60 has the little red knob pointing stick in the center of the keyboard.  I know some people swear by them, but I never got used to it despite having owned several ThinkPads.  I usually set the red knob up for scrolling.  It’s still the best one out there, despite my apathy towards it. 

I opted not to get the fingerprint reader.  I had one on my T42 and rarely used it.  I was content to type in my password for Yahoo Mail or my bank accounts.  I’m not doing anything where I need it anyway.

Battery & AC

I opted for the six cell battery for my R60, primarily to help keep the weight down.  Having the smaller screen and integrated Intel graphics card will help extend battery life.  Using just the six cell battery with the screen at four of seven and WiFi on, I was able to get 3:15 minutes of battery life.  I also bought the modular battery for the R60.

The Lenovo Power Manager.  Oh-no, the battery is manufactured by Sony. (view large image)

The modular battery has three cells.  I didn’t run a battery test on it since I just got it, but with 50% more cells I would expect 50% more battery life.  Around four and a half to five hours seems about right with both batteries.  If you are a battery life fanatic, there is also a nine cell battery option.  The bezel on the battery is flat whereas the bezel on the drive is curved like the laptop.  It is not quite flush with the rest of the laptop.

The AC adapter is small and light.  My adapter does seem to get a bit warm while charging.  Not so hot you can’t touch it, but you might not want to keep it next to anything flammable.

Heat & Noise

I tend to run my machines in low power mode because I don’t do anything where I really need the extra juice. Along with better battery life this has the side benefit of keeping a lid on noise because the fan isn’t used as much.  Coupled with the Seagate drive, it has been a very quiet machine.  During the time I was playing musical notebooks, I was using my desktop quite a bit. I forgot how much quieter a docked laptop is compared to a desktop with its fan running all the time.  With normal usage the R60 only got mildly warm  It has three vents on it.  Perhaps the extra thickness helped with the airflow.  Overall it is a cool and quiet machine. 

Wireless & Networking

My R60 has the Intel 3945A/B/G wireless card.  At the time I ordered the ThinkPad wireless card was not an option you could configure.  I opted not to install the ThinkPad wireless manager.  Windows does a fine job in this regard so it seemed redundant.  Performance on the card has been good in Windows.  I haven’t got the card to work with Linux yet.  The R60 has the Broadcom NetXtreme 10/100/1000 Ethernet card as well.  Since I can’t get the WiFi card to work with Linux it has come in very handy. 

I decided not to get Bluetooth with the thought that I can add it later if needed.  I have a nice Kensington Bluetooth Pocket mouse, but the truth is I don’t use it much and I don’t really have other Bluetooth devices where it is a must so it seemed not worth the extra cost.  One the rare occasions I sync with my phone to transfer files, I can whip out the cable.

Ports & Connections

The R60 comes with a decent set of connections.  Like the T60, it lacks a card reader.  I cannot understand why Lenovo continues not to offer a card reader on the R or T series.  I can’t believe a significant amount of their customer base wouldn’t find this a useful option.  There is space on the case to put one.  I would have paid extra for the option, but I guess they are being stubborn.  I still have the old external one I used on my T42, but it is much more convenient to have it on the notebook.  The left side of the R60 has a four pin firewire connector, VGA, Ethernet/Modem, line in/out, a USB port, a PCMCIA and ExpressCard slots.


The left side of the R60. (view large image)

The right side of the R60 has two USB ports and a lock connector.


The right side of the R60. (view large image)

The front of the R60 has the WiFi on/off switch and the speakers.


The front of the R60. (view large image)

The rear of the R60 has the power connector and a vent.


The rear of the R60. (view large image)

The bottom of the R60 has the docking connector.


The bottom of the R60 (view large image)

Docking

One of my preferences was to get a notebook that had a docking station option.  I like the idea of having one PC whether I am at home or elsewhere.  I do have a desktop hooked to my TV.  You never know when one might go down, but I rarely use it.  Plus it means I have one less PC to maintain.


The R60 docked. (view large image)

Universal docking stations are a possibility, but those tend to be not as good.  There are three dock options for the R60 which work with the T and Z series as well: the Essential Port Replicator, the Advanced Mini Dock and the Advanced Dock.  The Essential Port Replicator is pretty basic and an AC adapter must be purchased separately, unless you want to use your notebook’s adapter.  The Advanced Dock had way more options that I personally needed so the Advanced Mini Dock seemed the best fit for me.


The Advanced Mini Dock Connections. (view large image)

I purchased the dock refurbished off eBay for about $50 less than new with a 30 day DOA warranty.  It is a fairly low tech part so I felt it was worth the risk.  I can confirm that the integrated Intel card does not work with the DVI connector on the dock, at least with the R60.  It does work fine with the VGA connector.  My Dell 2001FP which runs at 1600×1200 looks the same as when I had it hooked up to my T42 with the DVI connector through its dock or my desktop.  The dock works great.  When I want to sit at home and use the big monitor or do some burning I can plug into the dock and have at it.  When I want to be more mobile, like to the couch to watch a movie, I can do that too.

Sound

The speakers on the R60 are good for a notebook.  They are clear with decent sound quality.  The problem lies with the speaker placement.  They are located on the front of the notebook and face in a downward fashion. Kicking back and watching a movie is fine, but if you place your palms on the palm rest to type, your arms will be in between you and the speakers, muffling the sound.  As always with a notebook, a good pair of headphones is recommended.

Software

My R60 came with XP Home.  I have a few extra licenses of XP Pro at home (pun intended) so I saw no need to pay for the upgrade.  The Vista upgrade was not being offered at the time I purchased.  I like to do a clean install anyway.  Like other ThinkPads, bloatware is thankfully kept to a minimum.  My machine had Google Desktop and a couple of desktop icons, that’s it.  Despite being, at least at the time I bought it, quite a bit cheaper than the T60, the R60 has all the same ThinkVantage tools as the T60.  It is a comprehensive set of software allowing one to backup, secure, restore and protect their data.  It is the envy of other PC companies.  Just press the ThinkVantage button and get a wealth of knowledge –though I personally can’t since I wiped the recovery partition!  Some tools can be a resource hog.  You may wish to pick what you need and get rid of the rest.  As for the other software, there is Sonic for burning, WinDVD for movies, PC-Doctor, Diskeeper Lite and the dreaded Norton.  It was pretty light on software, but not unexpected for an inexpensive machine.  Luckily for me there is free software for most of the things I do.

As I mentioned earlier, I installed Windows Vista Ultimate along with the Office 2007 beta on the R60 while I waited for my new hard drive to arrive.


The re-worked Windows Explorer in Vista. (view large image)

Vista ran well, even with only 512MB of memory.  As you can see from the capture above, Aero was not an option which doesn’t personally bother me all that much.  With the integrated Intel card, I didn’t expect it to work anyway.

After I got my 100GB hard drive, I partitioned it into three: one for XP, one for storage and a last one for Linux.  I installed Unbuntu Linux 6.06 onto the machine.


The R60 running Unbuntu Linux 6.06. (view large image)

As expected I have had a few issues with Linux.  The WiFi doesn’t work out of the box.  The resolution is messed up.  I have heard 6.10 offers better driver support, but I haven’t had time to install it yet.  Linux worked with the dock as well.

Warranty & Support

I configured the R60 with the base one year of depot repair.  My notebook doesn’t leave my dwelling a whole lot and I am not a clumsy person.  I felt the need for accidental coverage was unwarranted, but those options are available for those who wish to get them.  I also purchased it with my American Express card which extends the warranty an additional year, usually longer than I keep a notebook.  IBM (now Lenovo) annually leads the PC industry in support satisfaction.  I am not a person who calls support often.  I usually figure things out for myself.  I haven’t had to call them in regards to my R60, but when I have had to call in the past for a part failure, I have found them to be helpful and competent.  I have never been put on hold.

Conclusion

The R60 has been a great choice for me.  I get all the things ThinkPads are known for such as great build quality, a fantastic keyboard, and industry leading service and support all while paying less than I would have for the T60.  I know since I purchased a few months ago, the cost margin between the T60 and the R60 has lessened, but I still think the R60 offers great value for someone who needs a well built notebook and can’t quite afford the goodness of the T60.

Pros

  • Good Build Quality
  • High Resolution Screen
  • Good Software Bundle
  • ThinkPad Keyboard
  • Docking Options
  • Minimal Bloatware

Cons

  • Thin Viewing Angles
  • Poor Speaker Placement
  • No Card Reader


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