Lenovo ThinkPad T60 Widescreen with Vista Review

by fuji Reads (25,539)

Introduction

The ThinkPad T60 widescreen was recently released by Lenovo and is now available with Windows Vista. The T60 wide offers the renowned ThinkPad build quality and keyboard in the widescreen form factor that I personally prefer and is becoming more standard these days. After my old Dell desktop died I looked at both the Apple MacBook Pro and Lenovo ThinkPad T60 wide as a desktop replacement. Following is a review covering why I went with the T60.

Specs of T60 widescreen as reviewed:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 1.83GHz
  • Screen: 15.4" WXGA+
  • Graphics: ATI X1400 128MB
  • OS: Windows Vista Business
  • Memory: 1GB
  • Hard Drive: 80GB
  • Optical Drive: DVD Recordable (dual layer)
  • Ports: Expansion Bus port (for Dock II or Port Replicator II), External Display (VGA), External Microphone/Line-In
    Headphone / Line out, 3 USB 2.0, RJ-11, RJ-45
  • Weight: 2.38kg / 5.24lbs
  • Dimensions: 14.1 in x 10.0 in x 1.13 in (Width x Depth x Height) (357.5mm x 255mm x 28.7mm)

Reasons for Buying

My reason for buying a new computer was that the monitor attached to my desktop died, and so instead of buying a new monitor I thought it would be better just to replace the entire system as it was already seven years old. My desktop was an old Dell powered by a Pentium 3 933MHz processor with 192 MB of RAM, 32MB video card, 2 USB ports, 100GB hard drive. As you can see, it was quite an old machine and had come with Windows ME installed at the time of purchase!


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I wanted a laptop, because although a desktop provides more bang for your buck, I wasn’t quite sure where I was going to be in a few months time as my wife, child and I have plans to emigrate to Japan in the near future. The portability and ease of moving was a key factor.

My main criteria for a new laptop was for it to be a desktop replacement with a Core 2 Duo processor, 1GB of RAM, and have a 15-inch widescreen display. Reliability was also a big factor, I wanted something which wouldn’t break down and could be trusted. As Imentioned before, we have plans to move to Japan so the laptop needed to have a global warrant, ideally for the maximum length possible. We want to pay the money once and not worry about bills for repairs later on.

I looked at several machines form different manufacturers in the United Kingdom such as Apple, Toshiba, Dell, Sony and IBM/Lenovo. I like well-known brands with well established support systems!

I struck off Dell as I’ve heard too many horror stories about their poor reliability, plus they didn’t offer a three year global warranty and the machines I looked at didn’t look that great.

Sony was looked at, they have nice machines design wise and price wise aren’t too bad, but again there was no international warranty offering. I was also concerned that in the past Vaio notebooks and their reliability was poor and customer service terrible in Europe. I’m sure the new machines are better, but the jury is still out on Sony’s reliability and support in my mind.

I checked out Toshiba — good specs, nice price, and though some of their machines offered global warranty, it’s only for two years. Furthermore, I could only find the international warranty on 12-inch screen notebooks they offeredl.

That left Apple and Lenovo, it really boiled down to a contest between these two. I spent many weeks debating the pros and cons of the two in my head before deciding which one I would choose. Here is a very, very simplified summary of my thinking behind the pros and cons of the two:

Apple MacBook Pro

Pros

  • Good specifications (i.e. screen, fast processor, big hard disc, built in webcam etc)
  • Mac OSX
  • Ability to use Windows
  • Nice design

Cons

  • Very, very expensive in the UK cost is 1,300 UK Pounds with standard 1 year guarantee, you pay 200 more for an additional 2 year global.
  • Reports of poor reliability and manufacturing, warped cases, running hot

Lenovo ThinkPad T60

Pros

  • Reliability
  • 3 year Global warranty
  • Design

Cons

  • Expensive but not as expensive as Apple
  • Not as good spec wise, for instance had a smaller hard drive, poorer graphics, no built in webcam.
  • Reports of noisy fans

In the end I went with the ThinkPad, mainly due to its superior warranty and slightly cheaper price, plus fewer reports on manufacturing problems and DOAs.

Now that I had decided on the Lenovo ThinkPad T60, I had a further problem in deciding between the regular 15" screen or the 15.4" widescreen model — arghh, more decisions! You can read later on which screen I went with and why I chose it.

Where and How Purchased


ThinkPad T60 widescreen box (view large image)

I looked at several online authorised ThinkPad reseller retailers in the UK via the Lenovo UK website, and eventually bought it from Insight at the cost of 1,250 including tax ($2,448 USD). In terms of pricing, it was standard, we don’t get much choice in prices as everywhere seems to be about the same price. Note that in the UK you can only buy ready built machines, there is no customisation or made to order facility available like in North America.


ThinkPad T60 widescreen fresh out of the box (view large image)


Everything in the box (view large image)

Build & Design


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As you probably know ThinkPad’s are traditionally black and this one is no different. The overall design is aesthetically pleasing with nice, simple, straight lines and design. Personally I don’t like flashy designs or "go faster" stripes, just nice and simple. I hope Lenovo will continue using this design approach and colour scheme. I have only three criticisms in terms of usability and design. First, I don’t like the silver buttons at the top of the keyboard (power on, volume control), the grey/silver colour doesn’t go very well, it would be much better if they were black with white lettering.  Second, the trackpad, although it’s fine, it’s a 4:3 standard shaped trackpad and doesn’t match the widescreen display which makes it harder to navigate. I would have liked to have seen a widescreen and slightly larger trackpad to mirror the screen/pointer movements, much like the Apple MacBook Pro widescreen trackpad and many other manufacturers have. Lastly, the battery switch securing the battery to the notebook is a bit wobbly, it would be nice if this was a bit more tight and secure.


T60 right side ports (view large image)


T60 left side ports (view large image)

The casing feels nice and secure with no flex, it’s well put together and strong. Pushing on to the lid from behind gives no ripples and the hinges are nice and tight. The build quality is very good indeed, with no separation in the casing.

One small point to mention is that on the exterior packaging of the ThinkPad box there was security tape to prevent tampering. I like little things like that!


ThinkPad T60 widescreen underside (view large image)

Keyboard


ThinkPad T60 wide keyboard (view large image)

The keyboard is quite nice to type on, there’s little or no flex and it’s reasonably quiet to type on. The keys are nicely spaced out and easy to reach, though I find the cursor keys a tad small. It’s nice to have an oversized Enter key. As for the vaunted ThinkLight, I was a little disappointed. I don’t think it’s bright enough to do proper justice in illuminating the keyboard, the screen itself does a better job!

I find the fingerprint sensor quite useful and about 90% accurate, it works fine with Vista and it can be used to remember website passwords. I now use it to logon to Windows and to access secure sites.

Screen


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The screen is a 15.4" widescreen variety. I originally toyed with getting a 4.3 standard screen as it was cheaper, but settled on the widescreen. Almost all laptops are moving this way and most consumer electronic displays are widescreen. In fact, the only thing I own with a 4:3 display is the Nintendo DS Lite. Looking at a widescreen display is much more natural on the eyes for me. Obviously everyone has their own preference, but for me widescreen is the way to go.

There has been a lot of talk about the quality of the ThinkPad widescreen display, many of them in the form of complaints. From a general consumer perspective, the screen is absolutely adequate for web surfing, writing and day-to-day use. I guess if you’re into graphic arts or a photographer, you will be more picky about its quality, but for the rest of us it’s absolutely fine. For the record, yes, it does have poor viewing angles from the side, but how many people view their computer from the side? When facing straight in front the viewing angle is not a problem, and if it is you can always adjust the screen position back or forward to suit you.

My display has no dead pixels, the surface of the screen is matte with little light reflection. In terms of brightness, it’s fine, but it could do with being a tad more vivid and brighter, much like the Sony/Apple displays. The Flexview option solves this problem, but in the UK we don’t have the FlexView option on the pre-built widescreen as yet, it’s only on the 4:3 models as an option that costs about 150 more.

The screen is listed as WXGA on the Lenovo website, but when I ordered mine from the supplier, they listed it as WSXGA. For the record, under Vista on my machine the default highest resolution available is 1280×800.


Resolution setting options (view large image)

Speakers

The speakers on the T60 are good, I was surprised that the audio quality was a significant stepup in sound quality from my old machines creative soundblaster live!

Processor and Performance

Performance of the notebook is reasonable coupled with Vista, though because of Vista’s high requirements the performance isn’t as fast as I had hoped in to be initially. I think this is mainly due to the slow hard disk performance at 5400RPM and the 1GB of RAM installed. I was expecting Vista to boot up fast mainly due to Microsoft’s hype, but it’s not too bad, taking 50 seconds to reach the logon screen, with 10 seconds extra to reach the desktop. However, actually getting a responsive desktop seems to take forever – about two and a half minutes. I’m planning on getting another 1GB of RAM when funds arise to hopefully improve that performance.

One thing I’ve noticed when running Vista is that even once you’ve logged on and applications have been loaded, the hard drive still spins, though this does seem to have tailed off slightly over the past couple of days. I think this due to indexing. Speaking of the hard drive, the noise of the drive isn’t too bad, it’s audible, but not too loud and doesn’t cause any annoyance. It’s certainly far, far quiter than the Western Digital in the Dell I had before. Now and again the hard drive does make a sudden tick noise, but it’s a rare occurrence.

The fan is located on the left hand side and the noise is reasonably quiet, it’s not whisper quiet, but quiet enough for me. The fan kicks in only periodically. I’ve heard reports of T60s with high-pitched fan whines, but luckily I don’t have this.

Benchmarks

Super Pi Comparison Results

Super Pi forces the processor to calculate Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy and gives an idea of the processor speed and performance:

Notebook Time
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (1.83 Core 2 Duo) 1m 16s
MSI M677 (1.8 GHz Turion X2) 1m 53s
Fujitsu LifeBook N6420 (2.00GHz Core 2 Duo) 1m 02s
LG S1 (2.16 GHz Core Duo) 1m 11s
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 16s
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (2.0GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Toshiba Satellite M100 (2.00GHz Core Duo) 1m 18s
Samsung X60 (1.66GHz Core Duo) 1m 29s
Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M) 1m 53s

 


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Windows Vista Performance Score:

Notebook Base Score
Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (1.83GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1400) 4.0
HP tx1000 (2.0GHz Turion X2, Nvidia Go 6150, 2GB RAM) 3.0
HP dv2000t
(1.6GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950, 1GB RAM)
3.1
Gateway CX2724
(1.6GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950, 1GB RAM)
3.1
Asus V6J
(1.83GHz Core Duo, Nvidia 7400, 2GB RAM)
3.3
HP nc8430
(2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, ATI X1600, 2GB RAM)
4.2
Compaq Presario v3000z
(1.6GHz Turion X2, Nvidia 6150, 1GB RAM)
3.0
Dell XPS M1210
(1.83GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia 7400, 2GB RAM)
3.3
Sony VAIO SZ370P/C
(2.0GHz Core 2 Duo, Nvidia 7400, 2GB RAM)
3.3
HP Pavilion zd8000
(2.8 GHz Pentium 4, ATI X600, 1GB RAM)
3.6
Dell Latitude D420
(1.2GHz Core Duo, Intel GMA 950, 1GB RAM)
2.0
Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m
(2.0GHz Core Duo, ATI X1400, 2GB RAM)
3.8

 

HDTune hard drive performance:


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Conclusion

On the whole I am generally pleased with my ThinkPad purchase, it functions as a great desktop replacement.. Of course no laptop is quite perfect and there are always trade offs to be made depending on your individual user requirements. For me I wanted a solid well built laptop backed by good support and global guarantee. Touch wood I wont have to use it, but its nice to know its there if something does go wrong one day.

I would have liked the laptop to have been a little less expensive (who wouldn’t), ideally priced at 1,000 – but the price is a premium you pay for a business laptop backed by the support.

Personally I would like to see the Thinkpad series evolve, theres a little bit too much traditionalist thinking in the series, and its taken them a long time to introduce a professional widescreen model in the T series, but this is a good start. Hopefully the Thinkpad name will innovate more in the future.

Positive

  • Well built and supported
  • Good keyboard
  • Reasonable operating noise
  • Basic packaging
  • 3 year Global warranty
  • Fingerprint reader
  • Attractive simple design
  • Extensive Security options in BIOS and user settings.
  • Drain holes in case of liquid spill (I hope I never have to use this!)

Negative

  • Too much bloatware preinstalled
  • Ugly Think advantage icons
  • No built in webcam
  • For similar price many laptops offer superior specifications
  • No supplied recovery media (though this can be made by Recovery & Rescue)
  • No built to order customisation in the UK


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