by Ted Lynch
For your consideration is a review of my recently acquired 14” Lenovo ThinkPad R60. The R60 comes in 14 or 15” screen sizes. It is designed to be a more wallet friendly business class notebook, but if you get all the options it can get quite expensive. The R60 lacks the rock star status of the T series ThinkPads even though they share a lot of parts. It’s sort of the Rodney Dangerfield of the ThinkPad line – no respect. I think the R60 offers great value for someone on a tight budget who wants a well built and serviced notebook. The R60 is not a perfect notebook, but has many admirable qualities and a few blemishes, all of which we will get into in more detail in the review.
The ThinkPad R60 (view large image)
Until recently I owned a 15” screen ThinkPad T42. I liked it quite a bit, but in the end I decided I wanted something smaller, not just lighter, but physically smaller as well. To me the 14” notebook is the perfect sized notebook. I mostly use my notebook around the house, with the occasional trip out to jobs I take to supplement my income or over to a friend’s house. In addition to all the qualities everyone wants on a notebook like build quality, I desired a notebook with a higher resolution screen while the eyes are still good and I also preferred a notebook with docking station options. I would not call myself a power user. Internet with a little Office, burning discs, light Photoshop and music are probably 95% of what I do.
It has been kind of a long journey getting here. I sold my T42 on eBay in June. I had planned to purchase a 14” T60 to replace my T42. A scam artist purchased my notebook on eBay, I know you’re shocked. The fraudulent sale delayed the purchase of my notebook a few days thereby causing me to miss the $200 rebate Lenovo was offering at the time, significantly increasing the cost of getting a new T60.
I decided to look around. I then purchased a Dell Latitude D620, I mean how bad could the screen be? Unfortunately, the screen on the D620 I received was poor. It was blurry and grainy, making it difficult for me to use. It is too bad as I liked the Dell quite a bit, everything from the customizing it on Dell’s website, to the build quality to Dell’s customer service in returning it was first rate. I decided to go in a different direction the next time.
Around this time I had the opportunity to install some software on HP’s new dv2000t. I liked it straight away. It was small and light with a very good screen. I customized its Compaq twin, the V3000T, at Costco.com. I picked the Compaq V3000 since I like darker colored notebooks and my first notebook was a Compaq; they have a soft spot in my heart. The V3000T had a lot of admirable qualities: the screen quality on the unit I got was excellent, I liked HP’s new Imprint Finish technique and I thought quality was good considering the low price. I disliked the low resolution and glare screen, I had the touchpad issues which I know have been documented in the NotebookReview.com forums and my battery was loose. If HP would have offered a WXGA+ resolution option like the Inspiron e1405, I might have kept it.
I noticed the R60 went on sale. I decided to order one. I was going to keep one or the other because quite frankly I was getting sick of looking for a notebook. Ultimately, I decided to keep the R60. It’s not the perfect notebook, but I think it is the one that best meets my needs. I customized the R60 on Lenovo’s site. Lenovo has done a nice job of making customizing easier since the IBM days, though they’re probably still not as good as Dell. The only upgrades I made were the SXGA+ screen which was free, upgrading from the Celeron M to the 1.66GHz Core Duo and the DVD burner upgrade. It cost $860 plus tax. Shipping was free. I ordered on 09/29/06. My original ship date was 10/26/06, but I received the notebook on 10/10/06.
Here are the specifications of the model under review; I included a few of the upgrades I made in the meantime:
- Model: R60 9456-55U
- CPU: Intel Core Duo 1.66GHz T2300e
- Chipset: Intel i945GM
- Memory: 1GB DDR2 P5300 2 Slots, 0 Open
- Hard Drive: 100GB Seagate 7200.1 SATA
- Screen: 14.1" SXGA+ 1450×1050 Matte 150 Nits
- Modular Optical Drive: Matshita UJ-850 DVD+/-RW/-RAM
- 8x DVD+/-R
- 4x DVD+/-RW
- 2.4x DVD+R DL
- 5x DVD-RAM
- 24x CD-R
- 16x CD-RW
- Graphics Card: Intel 950
- Network/Wireless: Intel Wireless 3945A/B/G, Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet, Modem
- Inputs: 89 Key Keyboard, Two Button Touchpad with Scroll Bar, PointStick with Separate UltraNav Buttons
- Buttons: Power, ThinkVantage, Power Up and Down, Mute, and WiFi/Bluetooth On/Off Switch.
- Security Lock
- 3 USB 2.0 Ports – Two Right Side, One Left Side
- Four Pin Firewire
- Port Replicator/Dock Connector
- VGA Out
- Line Out
- 1 PC Card Slot Type II
- 1 ExpressCard Slot 34/54
- Battery : Six & Three Cell Modular Batteries
- Width – 12.4”
- Depth – 10.2”
- Height – 1.4”
- Weight: 5.7 Lbs.
- Operating System: XP Home
- Warranty: One Year Warranty
Build & Design
When you buy a ThinkPad, you should pretty much know what you are getting as they tend not to change a whole lot from one year to the next. It will be black and sort of boxy regardless of the model. I had the opportunity to work on a ThinkPad R31 not too long ago, it looked almost the same as the R60 save for the coloring on a few of the buttons and the addition of the Windows key. I personally happen to like black notebooks. The dark color and squared edges are simple and elegant for my tastes anyway. It is probably not for those wishing to make a statement or overly concerned about looks. Stylishness is very low on my list of characteristics I want in a notebook. I want it to be well built and work. If anything breaks, I want it fixed quickly, all areas where ThinkPads excel. The R60 is a bit heavier than the T60, but not enough to make a noticeable difference unless you are overly sensitive to these sorts of things in my opinion. I did notice the extra thickness on the R60 right away. It gives it a meatier feel compared to the super model slimness of the T series. I would have no problems carrying the R60 on a regular basis.
Size of the R60 (view large image)
The build quality on the R60 is excellent, especially in light of what the same amount of money will get you from Dell or HP. The case is made from plastic, but is a rugged plastic and has a good tactile feel. It has a stiff roll cage which you can see down below in the picture of the memory modules. The case does not creak when being picked up by the side. Since it lacks the mag-alloy lid of the T60, screen protection is not as good, but I could only find one small spot on the back where I could make the ripple. On the plus side it does not attract fingerprints like the T60. Like all ThinkPads, the screen is secured to the base using metal hinges. It is very stiff and does not move at all when in use.
My previous notebook was a ThinkPad T42 with the vaunted FlexView screen. I knew this would be an area where the R60 would not be as good as the T42, but I am not doing anything where the FlexView would be advantageous and going smaller was my goal. The R60 has seven brightness levels which can be adjusted via the keyboard controls. The screen is a 150 nits and the brightness ranges from pretty dim to fairly bright. It is basically as bright as you need it to be. It has been an adjustment coming from the Compaq V3000. With V3000’s glossy coating, the screen is quite a bit brighter than the R60. It took me a few weeks to re-adjust to the dimmer screen on the R60, but it seems fine now. The quality of the screen is good.
The R60 showing the Simpsons. (view large image)
Images and text are clear and crisp. There is no light leakage on the unit I received and I had no dead/stuck pixels. As expected, viewing angles are narrow, but as long as one remains on center, it looks pretty good.
The R60 screen at various angles. (view large image)
I ordered the R60 with an SXGA+ screen which is new for the 14” R60. I like the standard aspect screen on the R60. I am not a big fan of watching movies on a notebook, nor do I like to have multiple screens open side by side. Since web surfing is one of my primary tasks, I personally find the 1050 resolution of SXGA+ to be more useful than the 1440 of WXGA+ like I had on the D620. Plus it is one of the few less expensive notebooks offering a high resolution screen.
CPU & Performance
My own personal philosophy on buying CPUs, be it a desktop or laptop, is to get the lowest performing CPU of the best class of processors, unless of course you have specific needs. At the time of purchase this was the Core Duo, but now the Core 2 Duo has taken center stage. This way you won’t be paying an exorbitant premium for a marginal increase in power while still having the latest and greatest. My R60 has the Core Duo T2300e.
CPU-Z (view large image)
With the Core Duo, a fast hard drive and 1GB of memory, performance to say the least was very good. It is more than enough for my modest needs. Everything from Nero to Office to Internet ran like a charm. I did some more intensive things like coding some Mp3s while running a virus scan, it didn’t even breathe hard.
I ordered the R60 with the integrated Intel graphics. I don’t play games on my PC other than solitaire or the like. I have an XBox 360, PSP and DS. I play the DS far more than the others. The Intel card runs fine for me and has better battery life to boot. I won’t bore you with the details of my very low 3DMark score. The x1300 and x1400 are available for those who wish to do a little gaming with their R60.
Super Pi is a tool to measure relative CPU performance. As you can see from the chart below, the T2300e scored four seconds slower in Super Pi than its 1.66GHz Core 2 Duo equivalent on the Fujitsu A6010. I don’t think four seconds was worth the extra $200 it would have cost me to wait for the Core 2 Duo.
|ThinkPad R60 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 26s|
|Dell Latitude D820 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|Toshiba Tecra A8 (1.83GHz Core Duo)||1m 18s|
|IBM ThinkPad T42 (1.8GHz Pentium M )||1m 58s|
|Fujitsu A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 22s|
|Asus V6j (2.16GHz Core 2 Duo)||53s|
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo)||1m 02s|
|HP dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion64 x2)||1m 54s|
|Toshiba Satellite U200 (1.66GHz Core Duo)||1m 28s|
|Lenovo C100 (1.5GHz Celeron M)||2m 19s|
|Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)||1m 45s|
HD Tune is a useful hard drive diagnostic and performance measuring tool. The Seagate offers a big performance boost over the slower Hitachi.
The Seagate 7200.1 on the left vs the Hitachi 5k100 on the right. (view large image)
PCMark05 gages relative system performance. Take it for what it’s worth. For my business, the GPU doesn’t mean all that much whereas the faster hard drive gives a big performance boost.
|Lenovo ThinkPad R60 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, Intel 950)||2,975 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1400)||4,177 PCMarks|
|Fujitsu LifeBook A6010 (1.66GHz Core 2 Duo, Intel GMA 950)||2,994 PCMarks|
|Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600)||4,236 PCMarks|
|Alienware M7700 (2.6GHz FX-60, Nvidia 7800GTX)||5,597 PCMarks|
|Sony Vaio SZ-110B (1.83GHz Core Duo, Nvidia 7400)||3,637 PCMarks|
|Toshiba Tecra M6 (1.66GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950)||2,732 PCMarks|
|Samsung X60plus (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI x1700)||4,555 PCMarks|
|Asus G1J (2.0GHz Core 2 Duo T7200, Nvidia 7700)||3,427 PCMarks|
The R60’s PCMark05 score.
Drives & Storage
The R60 came with the Matshita UJ-850 DVD+/-RW drive. It burns all types of discs including DVD-RAM. Having owned several Matshita drives, I am not a huge fan of them, but it works as an occasional burner. I do most of my burning at home for which I use an external desktop drive which is hooked up through the dock via USB. As for the Matshita, a full CD burn comes in at six minutes and a full DVD just under 14 minutes. I have not had any issues with any of the discs I have burned yet, but I am using the very high quality Tayio Yuden media. Since desktop drives offer better speed and quality it is a better choice for burning though not quite as mobile. The optical drive is modular on the R60. The bay also supports a battery, an extra hard drive or traveler’s drawer to help keep the weight down.
The Matshitsa UJ-850 and three cell battery, two of the four modular options for the R60. (view large image)
I ordered the R60 with the 40GB hard drive knowing that I was going to get a 7200RPM hard drive upgrade elsewhere. There was 26GB of free space on the drive after accounting for Windows/Apps and the recovery partition. The drive’s performance seemed in line with other 5400RPM drives. When I received the notebook I burned off the recovery discs, dumped the IBM folders onto my network, wiped the drive including the recovery partition, and installed Vista Ultimate RC1 while I awaited my new drive, more on that later.
The Seagate 7200.1 with bumpers. (view large image)
I first ordered a Hitachi 80GB 7k100. The drive I got was noisy so I sent it back. On a whim I decided to get the 100GB Seagate 7200.1 drive. I did have to set the drive to compatibility mode to get Windows to install. I have been nicely surprised by the Seagate. It is near silent. In all likelihood it is the quietest hard drive I have ever used. Maybe in the lab the Hitachi scores a few points better, but in real world performance the Seagate is equal to the Hitachi in my opinion. I’ll probably just hang onto the old drive as it probably does not have much eBay value and I already have a 40GB external notebook drive. I can use it as a backup in case I have to send the Seagate in for service. The R60 also supports the hard drive active protection system. It parks the heads on the drive if it detects a sudden increase in velocity like if you were to drop the notebook. A nice plus on a lower cost machine.
I ordered the R60 with one 512MB stick of PC5300 DDR2 memory. Thankfully, ThinkPads do not use slower PC4200 memory like a lot of other manufacturers do. I ordered with 512MB with the thought I would add another 512MB stick when I received it, which I did.
Accessing the memory slots on the R60. (view large image)
The memory slots like other ThinkPads are located under the touchpad. It takes a little bit of extra effort to access them, but it’s not a huge job.