Lenovo ThinkPad X60 Review
Lenovo ThinkPad X60 ultraportable notebook (view large image)
This notebook model is the Lenovo ThinkPad X60, model 170686U. This is the non-“s” model of the X60s and is therefore the evolution of the ultraportable X-series (in this case descended from the X32). This model has a fully volted Intel T2400 processor, versus the lower voltage L2400 in the ThinkPad X60s.
Specs for X60 as reviewed:
- Processor: Intel Core Duo T2400 1.83GHz 2MB L2 Cache (0.950V)
- OS: Windows XP Professional SP2
- RAM: 1024MB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz, max RAM of 2GB
- HD: 80GB 2.5″ 5400RPM
- Screen Size: 12.1″
- Screen Resolution: XGA 1024×768 (with maximum 2048 x 1536 VGA out)
- Graphics: Intel Media Accelerator 950
- Optical drive: none integrated
- Slots: PCMCIA Type II (left), SD Memory Slot (left)
- Battery: 8-cell extended
- Dimensions: 10.5″ x 8.3″ x 0.80 ” (front)/1.39″ (rear).
- Weight: 3.62lbs
- Integrated Communications: Modem, Gigabit Ethernet, IrDA
- 3 USB 2.0 (two right, one left)
- IEEE 1394 (right)
- VGA out (left)
- Ethernet LAN (left)
- Modem port (right)
- Microphone (right)
- Headphone line-out (right)
- AC (right)
Reasons for Buying
I came into the notebook market looking for an ultraportable for business school (12.1″ screen size and under) with a very open mind. I started looking at the Dell Latitude X1, the Dell XPS M1210, the Sony VAIO SZ, and the Fujitsu Lifebook P7120, along with the Lenovo X60. I quickly decided that if I were to spend such a large sum of money on a laptop, the Core Duo would be the best choice to ensure that my system could last a few years. It came up to either the M1210 or the X60, and I really didn’t need all the video power and heft of the M1210 (as I have a desktop at my disposal as well). I had only heard positive remarks about the ThinkPad X60’s keyboard and build quality, and I decided that it would be the most appropriate system in a business setting.
Where and How Purchased
I bought this notebook directly from Lenovo Canada, albeit through a salesperson rather than on the site. I paid CDN$1,999 (at September 13th exchange rates, US$1784) for the base system, and with upgrades and accessories (another 512MB stick and an external CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive), it came to CDN$2,587 or US$2,309. I think this was a good deal, although the US site was offering significantly better prices.
Build and Design
As any ThinkPad owner will attest, the design is minimalist, somewhat boxy, and all black, without any of the shiny accents or startling colours of other models. I prefer this look to the newer plastic white-grey look on many consumer and lower-end corporate notebooks. The X60 won’t attract undue attention in a business meeting or classroom outside of its amazingly small size and professional look.
ThinkPad X60 above view with 8-cell battery in (view large image)
The machine was designed and built for the impeccable functionalist. The screen shuts with a secure clasp, enclosing the entire keyboard. The metal hinges and axle are visible, and close the case impressively without any wobble. Pushing on the back of the screen doesn’t give any ripples, except for right around the sides. The case is made of reinforced black matte plastic (which unfortunately shows fingerprints very well). The case lacks branding, save for the classic subdued IBM ThinkPad marking in the corner.
ThinkPad X60 size comparison to a disc (view large image)
I normally wear a messenger bag, and I could easily put this laptop in the bag without any worry about damage, although I’m currently using a Waterfield Designs sleeve.
Just a week after I received the machine, I accidentally poured Diet Coke into the bottom of my keyboard and mouse button area, and within a day and a half (and some serious cleaning to get rid of a little stickiness and noise in the mouse buttons) it was working fine. The keyboard is sealed with ducts to move liquid out of the housing quickly. I’m impressed with this level of thoughtfulness- I know that my notebook is built like a tank.
I’m a little disappointed with some aspects of the build. The palm rests are a little wobbly, and the top of the keyboard definitely has flex, especially with the battery removed. The battery has two locks to keep it stable, but I still find that it is too wobbly and I would appreciate a third lock to keep it steady. However, these problems are definitely minor and are not noticed in everyday use, especially considering the build quality of the keyboard, hinges, case, and chassis.
The X60 possesses a 12.1″ 1024×768 (XGA) matte screen, with no other options available in terms of resolution or gloss. The display is bright and easy to read in an indoor environment without glare at any screen brightness level, but in direct sunlight, the screen essentially becomes unreadable, even at the highest brightness level. The viewing angles are poor vertically, although horizontally they are acceptable. My screen has no dead pixels and there is minimal light leakage.
The speakers are always the last consideration for those designing an ultra portable, and the designers put the speaker in the last place possible, right on the bottom in a miniature compartment. When using it in your lap the sound is muffled and appears to come out of the keyboard. I didn’t expect much from the sound system, and I really got what I expected. The speaker is tinny and ridiculously quiet compared to my previous system, and I highly recommend purchasing some headphone for use with this machine.
Processor and Performance
The previous notebook I owned was an LG Xnote LS50, with a Pentium M 1.5GHz processor. My desktop is a Pentium 4 2.66GHz. The X60 blows both these machines out of the water for regular office applications like internet, word processing, music, and email, not to mention things like virus scans.
My machine has 1GB of RAM, which I would strongly recommend for all those interested in either the X60 or the X60s. The measly 512MB shipped with the unit isn’t nearly enough given the number of applications pre-installed to run in the background even with the intended purpose of this notebook as a business machine.
Unlike the previous incarnation of the X-series, the X60 has a standard 2.5″ notebook hard drive running at 5400rpm versus a 1.5″ 4200rpm drive, which allows us to upgrade (if need be) to a 7200rpm drive or a larger drive. The 5400rpm also allows us to enjoy faster boot up and read/write speeds in general applications than other comparable notebooks like the Dell X1 or the Fujitsu P7120.
In addition, this ultraportable is advertised as “Windows Vista Capable” and possessing support for the Aero features.
Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
Lenovo ThinkPad X60 (1.83GHz Core Duo)
HP dv6000z (1.8GHz Turion64 X2 TL-56)
Compaq V3000T(1.6GHz Core Duo)
Dell Inspiron e1505 (2.00 GHz Core 2 Duo)
Toshiba A100(2.0GHz Core Duo)
Acer Aspire 5102WLMi(1.6GHz Turion64 X2 TL-50
Gateway E-100M(1.2GHz Core Solo ULV)
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M)
HP dv5000z(2.0GHz Sempron 3300+)
Heat and Noise
This notebook produces a good amount of heat, especially on the palm rests. The bottom gets warm but not excessively so. I wouldn’t say it’s uncomfortably hot, but it is definitely noticeable at times, especially when sitting in your lap, which prevents the laptop from cooling itself adequately. Running a temperature monitoring program, I get a range of temperatures on the sensors, with the hard drive at about 34 degrees (Celsius) and the other sensors between 40 and 45 degrees. The fan and large vent is located on the back left side, but the fan doesn’t run at full speed constantly and the lack of an optical drive makes this notebook relatively quiet compared to others I have used.
Keyboard and Touchpad
ThinkPad X60 keyboard (view large image)
The X60’s keyboard is probably its greatest selling point. The keyboard almost feels as good as the thirteen-year-old keyboard I’m still using on my desktop — rock solid and stable without any flex, with a good travel. This keyboard is the king of notebook keyboards. The keys are well designed, and are almost normal sized, except for the smaller backspace key, which takes a bit of getting used to. This is a keyboard for people who type frequently. There are only four buttons outside of the regular keyboard, to control the volume and to bring up the ThinkVantage menu. The function buttons serve very useful purposes, including sleep, brightness, media controls, turning on the keyboard light (to gently light the keyboard in the dark!), and suspending the machine. Notably, it’s the first X-series to have the Windows key and the menu key, which shrink the Ctrl and Alt keys, which can cause you to hit the wrong button when you’re using the Function key too. I don’t have many problems with the key layout, other than the F1 key being where you expect the Esc key to be. In addition, the layout of the back and forward buttons in relation to the arrow keys can cause some odd internet navigation to take place.
The TrackPoint (no touchpad on this little machine) works very well, but I should note that this is a matter of personal opinion. I greatly prefer the TrackPoint to touchpads, but I know people who can’t stand the thought of that little red dot. If you don’t know what you like, find someone with a ThinkPad to test it out before you buy one.
Input and Output Ports
ThinkPad X60 left side view (view large image)
ThinkPad X60 right side view (view large image)
ThinkPad X60 front side view (view large image)
ThinkPad X60 rear view (view large image)
- 3 USB 2.0 ports (1 on the left, 2 on the right)
- FireWire/IEEE 1394 (right side)
- SD card (left)
- VGA out (left side)
- Ethernet LAN port (left side)
- Modem port (right side)
- Microphone line-in (right side)
- Headphone line-out (right side)
- 20V AC power (right side)
- Ultrabase slot (bottom)
The fact that the X60 lacks an internal optical drive allowed Lenovo to have such a wide variety of slots, including a whole bay dedicated to the hard drive for easy removal. In addition, there are no port doors to break off (which you may or may not appreciate).
ThinkPad X60 underside view with battery removed (view large image)
The X60 came with an integrated Intel 3945ABG Wireless adapter, which works fairly well. My model also includes an IrDA port, although I haven’t used it yet. You can get X60/X60s models with Bluetooth and EVDO built in as well, although those were not present on this ThinkPad. I have used the Windows wireless software for connection versus the included ThinkPad Access Connections software, and I haven’t had any problems with reception or signal quality in general (I mainly use wireless at school, and a wired connection at home).
Along with the keyboard, the battery on this machine is astounding and is a major plus. I haven’t had the opportunity to run it down yet, but Windows estimates about 7:45 of battery life (on the 8-cell battery) with wireless off and brightness down with office applications running (something I can definitely see happening for the average worker). This is incredibly impressive, and it is something that I take advantage every day by not carrying the AC power plug around (although the plug adapter weighs merely 0.7 pounds). The X60s will likely get more (!!) battery life, but for those of us who don’t need that amount (which likely could result in a full eight hour day of work away from a plug), the X60’s battery is perfectly acceptable.
The X60 ships with Windows XP Professional SP2 preinstalled, and does not include these disks. Instead, Lenovo created a separate partition to recover the computer (although you can create recovery disks using a Lenovo utility). The computer comes loaded with free software, to the point where I either uninstalled or disabled most of it to save vital memory. I can see the bundled software being useful for some, but I felt I could get more functionality and more performance by performing some of their tasks myself.
I haven’t had to use customer support yet, but the Lenovo Canada salespeople were very generous in providing nearly a CDN$1000 discount off list price and in giving me quick, prompt, and personal replies. I would highly recommend any potential buyers to avoid the hassle of the Lenovo store and deal personally with a salesperson.
- Fingerprint security for login
- Extensive built in security features for corporate use
- ThinkVantage key for easy access to software and configuration
- Shockmounted hard drive with Active Protection
- 3-year warranty
- ThinkLight mounted on the top of the screen to gently illuminate the keyboard without irritating others nearby
- Wireless on/off switch on the front of the machine
- Drained and sealed keyboard to help prevent a quick and caffeinated notebook death
- Three included TrackPoint caps
- Middle mouse button for fast scrolling using TrackPoint
- Thick rubber footings to lift chassis off ground and help cooling when at a desk
In addition, some people may want to buy an Ultrabase X6 dock that can contain optical and hard drives, speakers, more ports, locks, rechargers, etc. I chose not to purchase this because I have the drives (more than one optical drive in my desktop) and the memory (several large hard drives on my desktop). Instead, I bought a slimline Lenovo CD-RW/DVD-ROM drive that can be powered by a single USB 2.0 connection. I’ve never used it away from a powered location, because for business applications, a USB key is more than enough in storage space. I was initially wary about the lack of integrated drive but I haven’t been in any situation where I have needed it as of yet.
This laptop is, in my opinion, the ultimate business laptop for those who move around (who don’t sit at the same desk all the time). Its immense portability combined with processing power, battery life, professional design, and keyboard comfort make it the perfect notebook for those who need any or all of the above. I take this notebook to classes and its small size and weight allows me to easily juggle paper, binders, and documents without having to worry about running out of batteries or sluggish programs. Although there are a few problems with the notebook, I think it really shines in the ultraportable class above all other current models.
- Professional design and look
- Incredibly fast processor in the ultraportable category
- Outstanding battery life, even with the T-series processor
- Keyboard perfect for extended typing
- Generally excellent build quality
- Good amount of ports for a ultraportable
- Few build flaws are irritating
- Can get a little warm on the palm rests
- Poor viewing angles on screen and very bad outdoors
- Lower resolution and not widescreen
- Very bad speakers
Things you may want to consider
- No integrated optical drive
- No touchpad
- Extended battery juts out
- No S-video