Lenovo ThinkPad R60 Review (pics, specs)

by NotebookReview Staff Reads (395,065)

by Andrew Baxter

The ThinkPad R60 from Lenovo was recently released and is an update to the ThinkPad R52.  The R60 can be thought of as a budget version of the ThinkPad T60.  Many options on the T60 are available on the R60 and sizes are very similar.  However, the T60 is thinner and has a more durable casing.  Those differences aside, if your cost sensitive and don’t crave the thinner more solid case of the T60 then the still very respectable (and cheaper) R60 might be for you.

Overview


The ThinkPad R60 15″ screen notebook (view large image)

The R60 improves on the ThinkPad R52 by offering the faster new Intel Core Duo processor, an extra USB 2.0 slot (there are now 3 instead of 2 in the R52), optional integrated WWAN, magnesium-alloy roll cage for extra internal component protection and the offering of an ATI X1400 graphics card.

The R60 is configurable in either a 14″ or 15″ screen size.  For those that want to be portable the 14″ form factor will fit your needs best, while for those more apt to sit at a desk 99% of the time then the larger 15″ will be better.

The nice thing about the R60 is that it can be configured really cheaply, starting at $799, with a basic Intel Celeron configuration.  Alternatively you can go all out and select high-end components and top the price out at $2,000+.  The Intel Core Duo 2.0GHz processor, EVDO antenna, ATI X1400 graphics card, 100GB hard drive @ 7200RPM and a multiburner config will set you back about $2,000.   No matter what configuration you get and how much you pay, you still get great ThinkPad rugged design and excellent included software and support. The R60 under review has the following specs:

  • Intel Core Duo 2.0GHz T2500
  • 15″ SXGA+ Screen (1400 x 1050)
  • ATI X1400 128MB Graphics
  • 1GB RAM (up to 4GB max)
  • 100GB HD @ 7200RPM (SATA)
  • DVD multiburner (Multi Bay swappable optical drive)
  • Intel 3945 abg wireless card
  • Weight: 6.84lbs
  • Dimensions: 13.1 in x 10.6 in x 1.58 in (w x d x h)
  • UltraNav and pointing stick
  • Ports: ExpressCard 54 / 34, PCMCIA Type II, 3 USB 2.0 ports, S-video out (select models), dock/port replicator slot, VGA-out external display, AC adapter; RJ-11, RJ-45, headphone, external microphone, IEEE 1394 FireWire

How is the T60 different to the R60?

I think the big question most buyers have (including myself) is what’s the difference between the ThinkPad T60 and R60?  On paper, it seems that very similar configurations can be made.  In fact, the ThinkPad T60 I reviewed earlier in the year had essentially the same specs and performance results as this R60.  Except the T60 with the same configuration as this R60 costs about $2,400 while the R60 under review costs about $2,000.  Both machines have the same port selection, both offer multi-bay drives that are swappable, both include the excellent Active Protection System for protecting hard drive data, both have a magnesium roll cage, both have an optional biometric finger swipe, both have the same basic look and design — so is it just the letter ‘S’ between ‘R’ and ‘T’ that separate these things or what?

Well, it’s more than an alphabetical difference.  The R60 does not use the same case construction as the T60 and it is not as wonderfully thin and light.  The lid of the R60 is constructed of plastic while the T60 is made of a mag-alloy — a sturdier more rugged material.  The R60 is for the most part plastic casing, not cheap plastic by any means, it’s a rugged enough notebook by its own right, but not as rigid and sturdy as the T60. 

Also, the R60 uses the “UltraBay” optical drive bay while the T60 uses the “UltraBay Slim” optical drive bay.  The UltraBay Slim is thinner (and necessary due to the T-series being slimmer) and also hot swappable, the regular UltraBay the R60 has is thicker and not swappable on the fly.

There are other differences, such as a Fire GL graphics card being available in the T60 but not the R60, an IPS is screen available in the T60 but not R60, but for the sake of brevity we’ll just say basically, the T60 is a premium product designed to take a beating and travel often (if necessary) while the R60 is better suited for small business or education users that won’t be flying from New York to LA on a weekly basis, but rather mostly just hanging around town.

Build and Design

The R60 uses a rugged plastic case design.  Plastic does not equate to a cheap feel though, this is no basement bargain budget built notebook such as the $400 notebook variety you’ll find offered by other manufacturers.  To be fair, there is some flexing in the case and certainly more than you’ll find on the T60 series, but it’s well above average in build and it’s a lot tougher than the average notebook.  The lid protection from the case is actually very good, push in on the lid and you won’t see ripples on the screen as you do from cheaply built notebooks. 

Keep in mind too, inside you have a magnesium constructed roll cage to protect components, so although plastic will succumb to cracking during a fall more so than magnesium alloy, your internals are further protected by a sturdy skeleton.  In other words, a 5 foot drop may crack the case, but chances are the guts of the notebook will be protected from shock and damage.

My review unit is a 15″ screen variety R60.  In the picture below you see it next to my full time laptop, the ThinkPad T43 14.1″ screen notebook:


ThinkPad T43 on the left and ThinkPad R60 under review on the right (view large image)

You can see the R60 15″ is noticeably larger than the T43 14.1″ screen notebook.  This R60 weighs just under 7lbs and my T43 weighs around 5.3lbs.  It’s a noticeable difference if you’re carrying the machine around a lot, but if you’re just using it in the office and don’t carry your laptop a bunch, who cares about 1.5lbs?  The R60 14″ variety notebook will weigh about 5.7lbs, so about .5lbs more than the T-series equivalent.


You can see here the R60 is thicker than my T43, the T43 is on the left and the R60 on the right (view large image)

You can see the look of the R60 is much the same as the T60 (pictured below), from a distance I’d bet you couldn’t tell the difference at all.  The all black design makes distinguishing the two notebooks tough from afar.  I’m personally a big fan of the all black professional look.  It’s very work oriented, no bling here.

Lenovo ThinkPad T60 has very similar looks to the R60 (view larger image)

One complaint I do have in terms of build with the R60 is that the lid when closed rattled a little.

 

Input and Output Ports

 

Let’s take a tour of the ports and some of the buttons on the R60.

On the left hand side we have a FireWire (IEEE 1394 port), ethernet and modem jack, headphone out and microphone in, USB 2.0 vertically oriented port, then the dual PCMCIA / ExpressCard 54 slot.


R60 left side view (view large image)

On the right side of the notebook is the S-Video connector, the swappable UltraBay optical drive (in our case a DVD multiburner is in there), and then two USB 2.0 slots.


R60 right side view (view large image)

Below is the R60 acting as a tent, you can see the battery and AC jack plus a fan is all we have here.  The battery on this R60 sticks out because it’s of the 9-cell variety.  If you don’t care about extended battery life then you can get the 6-cell variety that’s flushed with the back.


R60 back side view (view large image)

The underside of the R60 has the expansion slot for if you want to put the notebook into a docking station.  You can also see the battery and how it locks in with this view.


R60 underside view (view large image)

Screen

The R60 is offered with XGA or SXGA+ screen resolution.  If you like big graphics and easy to read text, go with the XGA.  For those of us that prefer to fit more onto the screen and who have eyes that aren’t yet myopic, then SXGA+ is the way to go — it means you’ll do less scrolling on web pages or on in office documents because more fits onto the screen.

As far as brightness and quality, the R60 screen is good.  It gets as bright as you’ll need, it’s essentially the same brightness as the T60.  Horizontal viewing angles are very good, but vertical viewing angles aren’t as good — meaning screen colors change if you tilt the screen or move your head up and down a lot.  Take a perpendicular viewpoint as most people do, and you’ll be just fine though.


A bit of light leakage is seen at the bottom of the screen, but certainly not much or anything to be concerned about (view large image)

There is a bit of light leakage at the bottom of the screen, but nothing to write home about, and overall I have to say the screen is very good and for the average user you’ll be happy.  Demanding types will wish the IPS screen option that is offered with the T60 were available here.

Performance and Benchmarks

You can configure the R60 to be a speed demon or one that simply gets the job done.  Our review machine happens to be a bit of a show off and speed demon.  Remember, if you get an Intel Celeron based R60 with integrated graphics your performance will vary greatly to the benchmark numbers generated below:

Super Pi Results:

Below are the Super Pi result calculations for crunching the numbers on 2-million digits of accuracy for Pi:

 

Notebook Time
 Lenovo ThinkPad R60 (2.0 GHz Intel T2500)  1m 17s
 Dell Inspiron e1705 (2.0GHz Intel T2500)  1m 12s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 IBM ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 36s
 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
 Asus V6Va (Pentium M 1.86 GHz)  1m 46s
 Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo)  1m 18s

 

3DMark05 Results

 

Notebook  3DMark 05 Results
Lenovo ThinkPad R60 (2.00 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)  2,141 3D Marks
Apple MacBook Pro (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 128MB  2866 3D Marks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60 Nvidia GeForce Go7800 GTX)  7,078 3DMarks
ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics)  727 3DMarks
 Asus V6Va (2.13 GHz Pentium M, ATI Radeon Mobility x700 128 MB)  2,530 3D Marks
 Fujitsu n6410 (1.66 GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400 128MB)  2,273 3DMarks
 HP dv4000 (1.86GHz Pentium M, ATI X700 128MB)  2,536 3D Marks
 Acer TravelMate 8204WLMi (2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1600 256MB)  4,157 3DMarks

PCMark05 Results

Notebook PCMark05 Score
Lenovo ThinkPad R60 (2.00 GHz Core Duo) 3,858 PCMarks
Fujitsu N6410 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 3,487 PCMarks
Alienware M7700 (AMD Athlon FX-60) 5,597 PCMarks
Sony Vaio SZ-110B in Speed Mode (Using Nvidia GeForce Go 7400) 3,637 PCMarks
Panasonic ToughBook T4 (Intel 1.20GHz LV) 1,390 PCMarks
Asus V6J (1.86GHz Core Duo T2400) 3,646 PCMarks
Toshiba Satellite M70 (Pentium M 1.86GHz) 1,877 PCMarks

HD Tune Results

Min Transfer Rate: 25.7MB/s
Max Transfer Rate: 47.7 MB/s
Avg Transfer Rate: 40.1 MB/s
Access Time: 15.4 ms
Burst Rate: 80.5 MB/s
CPU Usage: 3.5%

All of the above results are quite impressive numbers, and in use the R60 was as fast as these numbers play out.  If you want speed, definitely go with a Core Duo processor.  For a bit of jazz in 3D performance and the ability to play some games, opt for the ATI X1400 graphics card (it’s not high-end by any means, but far superior to integrated graphics).  If you want to save money and don’t care so much about overall performance and don’t need to use graphics intensive games or applications, get a Celeron configuration and keep in mind that performance will be about 25% – 35% slower overall.

Heat and Noise

The R60 has two rather large fan vents, one on the back and one on the left side.  In addition a couple of rubber feet elevate the laptop slightly to provide airflow underneath.  This is all adequate enough cooling to ensure the R60 stays cool enough, and never gets hot.  Even when running the 3D benchmark applications the laptop only ever got warm.  Fans were certainly audible, but never noisy and only ran during periods of demanding usage such as when running benchmarks.

Keyboard / Touchpad / Pointing Stick


ThinkPad R60 keyboard and touchpad (view large image)

The ThinkPad keyboard is the best there is, there’s zero flex, every key feels individual, every key has great travel/feedback and the keyboard is full-size.  The R60 has a pointing stick, I love using this and find it much easier than the provided touchpad — it makes it so you can move the cursor around the screen without having to lift your hand from the keys, a much faster and easier to control style of input.  But the great thing is that if the pointing stick isn’t your cup of tea then you’ve got the touchpad to fall back on.  Having used countless notebooks and seen many a keyboard layout, nothing quite matches the quality I’ve found in every ThinkPad notebook.  For those familiar with the T-series, this keyboard is precisely the same as that used in that series.

Speakers and Audio

The R60 is not a multimedia notebook and as such the speakers are there for system sounds and listening to say streaming talk radio or Podcasts on iTunes software.  If you want to listen to music with any type of enjoyable experience plug in headphones or external speakers for a richer audio experience.

Battery

I have the 9-cell battery with the R60 being reviewed.  It adds a bit of weight over the standard 6-cell and sticks out but if you want close to 4 hours of battery life with the 15″ screen model you’ll need this size. In using the R60 without Wi-Fi and at medium brightness (3rd notch of 7) it got 3 hours 47 minutes of battery life when used lightly (typing review, or idling).  You can expect to get over 3 hours with Wi-Fi on and finishing a DVD with the 9-cell battery shouldn’t be a problem, well, unless it’s Lord of the Rings.

The R60 14″ screen size will do much better in terms of time of battery life per cell because a smaller screen just drains less battery.  My guess is the 6-cell battery for the R60 14″ will get you about what the 9-cell battery does for the 15″ — again, that’s just a mildly educated guess.

Wireless

The ThinkPad R60 uses the Intel 3945 a/b/g wireless card.  Reception is fine, no troubles, the antenna of the R60 is in the screen to give extra range.  The T60 also comes with a new Access Connections (IBM built-in software for managing wireless) look that displays all the wireless networks in range on a little map with strength.

Wireless network management application with the R60, just click on the network you want to connect to.

On the front left side there’s a handy Wi-Fi on/off switch which is nice for being able to turn off wireless to save battery life.

You can also order the R60 with a WWAN antenna and integrated Verizon EVDO card, if you order it with this option there will be an antenna on the right side of the screen.  I’m a huge fan of the Verizon EVDO service, it works really well in most any mid-size or larger city where Verizon has their EVDO network setup.  A monthly plan is $80 (you have to sign up for a year) or you can opt for a one time 24-hour access charge for $15.  This $15 service is great for those who travel maybe 2-3 times a month and need ubiquitous wireless while on the road those days.  Or, if you’re in a pinch and desperately need the web/email for some business related task but cannot find a net connection, you’ll be glad to pay $15 to get to the net.

The R60 can also come with Bluetooth if so chosen and configured, great to use with printers, PDAs and SmartPhones for transferring data wirelessly.

Conclusion and Who Should Buy the ThinkPad R60

The R60 is recommended for small business buyers and those in education.  I’d highly recommend looking at the T60 if you travel a lot as it is thinner and lighter.  But if you’re at a desk a lot or just want this for use in the home, the R60 makes more sense than the T60 as you can get equivalent performance and pay a little less.

If you have $1,000 and need to buy a notebook for the home, instead of assuming a ThinkPad will be out of your price range you should certainly check out the R60e series (the lower priced end configurations for the R60 are dubbed R60e).  It’s not a consumer oriented notebook as it does not offer such things as a widescreen display, glossy screen, media card reader or tv-tuner type of options that other notebooks do.  However, if you’re buying a notebook for personal use and don’t use a computer for watching movies, media work and gaming then the R60 is actually much better as a productivity tool.  This is because it has an excellent keyboard and input, very sturdy build (just look at those thick metal hinges), good customer support and a nice suite of software for configuring and maintaining the notebook.  An overall thumbs up to the R60.

Pros

  • Great keyboard and pointing stick input, same as that of the excellent T60
  • Slightly cheaper than the T60 and some very low priced offerings for budget conscious
  • Fairly rugged design such as steel hinges, thick plastic, internal magnesium roll cage
  • Superb wireless options, you can get EVDO integrated
  • Highly configurable, you can get a very fast notebook with the latest components for about $2,000 or a budget version for around $750
  • Great professional look
  • Not a bunch of junk software installed, the included IBM software is actually useful stuff you’ll want to keep on the system

Cons

  • Not quite as sturdy as the T60, lid rattles a bit when in the closed position and plastic construction is not as convincing or pleasing to the touch and look
  • Slightly heavy, not as thin and light as other notebooks in its class
  • Media card reader slot would have been nice to have, many other 15″ screen notebooks such as the Dell Latitude e1505 and HP dv5000 do have this card reader. 
  • Having recently used an Apple MacBook with a huge touchpad area, the touchpad on the R60 seems somewhat tiny (for those that use a touchpad, for me the pointing stick is preferred anyway)


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