Lenovo ThinkPad Z60 First Thoughts Review (pics, specs)

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UPDATE: This is NOT the full review, please see the full review of the Z60t by clicking here

by Andrew Baxter, New York USA

Welcome indeed, it’s the new IBM ThinkPad Z60t (view larger image)

The Lenovo ThinkPad Z60t is a 14.1″ widescreen (WXGA) notebook that can be configured with a high end 2.13GHz Pentium M processor or cost saving Intel Celeron M 1.5GHz processor.  A good amount of multimedia ports and hardware buttons, a windows key, optional titanium cover, integrated WWAN (in the form of cellular EVDO) and of course the widescreen display make this ThinkPad unlike any other ThinkPad.

The box the Z60t came in, sealed for freshness and quality

Everything from in the box wrapped up (view larger image)

Z60t, and everything from in the box unwrapped (view larger image)

ThinkPad Z60t specs as reviewed:

  • Processor – Intel Pentium M 760 2.0GHz (2MB L2 Cache, 533MHz FSB)
  • Screen – 14.1″ WXGA screen (1280 x 768), 200 nit
  • Memory – 1,024GB DDR2 533MHz SDRAM
  • Hard Drive – 100GB 5400RPM
  • Ports – Infrared, 3 USB 2.0, S-video out, dock/port replicator, external display output, AC adapter, LAN port (ethernet), modem port, audio, headphone, external microphone, IEEE 1394 (FireWire)
  • Slots – 1 Type 2 PC card slot (no ExpressCard slot)
  • Dimensions – 13.1″ x 9.0″ x 1 – 1.2″ (width x depth x height)
  • Weight – about 5lbs with 7-cell battery and titanium cover lid
  • Wireless – 802.11 a/b/g, Bluetooth, Infrared, EVDO antenna (Verizon as service provider)
  • Battery – 7-cell (non-flushed) quoted up to 4 hours of life
  • Hard Drive Active Protection System – Yes
  • OS – Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Price as configured: $2,299
  • SKU: 2511-E7U

Z60t right side view (view larger image)

Z60t left side view (view larger image)

Z60t front side view, notice the wi-fi switch, SD card reader and headphone/microphone jacks on the front (view larger image)

Z60t back side view (view larger image)

Z60t under side view

The power adapter is about the size of a standard sized optical mouse

And definitely a little shorter than the thickness of an optical mouse

Check it out, you can connect via regular Wi-Fi or a Verizon EVDO connection (that costs $80/month for a subscription — cough) (view larger image)

First Thoughts

It feels a bit odd using the ThinkPad Z60t.  Not because there’s anything wrong with the keyboard — it’s still the same high quality ThinkPad 7-row keyboard feel with a couple of extra buttons (windows key, menu button key, media playback shortcut function keys).  The same quality sturdy metal hinges are used in this ThinkPad as those in the past, meaning the screen won’t wobble unless the nearest fault line slips a bit.  And the trackpoint and pointing stick navigation works as well as ever.  But for those that have used a ThinkPad T or X series for years now, you can’t help but feel the ThinkPad Z is a bit weird looking and maybe came as a result of the T series being shrunk in the wash, and upon trying to pull it back to size and shape it got stretched a bit too far horizontally.

Whatever the case, that horizontal stretch has given Lenovo product designers room to put more stuff in that consumers like to have (translation – every day people like you and me) and so the horizontally stretched Z is a healthy mutation for the ThinkPad line.

So what is the “more stuff” that we get with the Z and haven’t had in the past.  Well, continuing with the theme, here’s a laundry list:

  • Secure Digital card slot
  • Wi-Fi on/off hard button switch at the front of the notebook
  • Windows key between Ctrl and Alt on the left side, a first for a ThinkPad
  • Menu shortcut key between Alt and Ctrl on right side
  • Media buttons (play, stop, forward, back) via Fn key and arrows
  • IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port
  • Widescreen display
  • ThinkVantage key (gone is the Access IBM button)
  • WWAN antenna, meaning you can use cellular communication via the Verizon EVDO network for near broadband access speeds from anywhere
  • Headphone and Microphone ports at the front of the notebook

Let’s take a look at the keyboard similarities and differences between the Z60t and X41 and T43:

IBM ThinkPad Z60t (left) next to IBM ThinkPad X41 (right) (view larger image)

IBM T43 keyboard / TouchPad / TrackPoint view (view larger image)

Notice we lost the red and blue markings on the Z60t trackpoint buttons, that’s kind of sad actually as I felt it made the ThinkPad trackpoint all the more usable visually — and the color trim looked cool for some reason.  Ahh, but notice how we gain a couple of keys on the Z60t — check that bottom row of keys, there’s a windows key and menu key and you also have the ability to use the arrows on the Z60t as media keys (using the Fn button in conjunction).  A ThinkPad that finally admits it can be used for playing movies/music.  Most avid consumers wanting to use a laptop for movie playback would have preferred to see actual hardware buttons for these media functions and maybe a remote control, but come on now, baby steps.

Notice the fingerprint reader is becoming quite standard now across all ThinkPads (it’s still an option, but more available specifically), we see it on the keyboard here on the Z.  It’s placed quite differently to both the T and the X.  The X puts the reader right under the trackpoint navigation, the T puts it all the way to the right but the Z has it right there next to the trackpoint.  This location proves no problem, at least not so far.

The keyboard feel is overall the same.  The Z60t keyboard feels slightly less stiff than the X41 keys I have, after 5 minutes I forget about the vaguely different feel though.  The fact the keyboard is wider means plenty of space and a regular keyboard feel, but since I’m used to not having a Windows key at this point, doing an ALT-TAB combo to switch windows means I have to stretch my thumb and forefinger much farther to reach during this combo — it’s a subtle difference but I keep missing the ALT key at the moment so my brain needs to be trained.  For those used to having a Windows key, you’ll like this, for those that have been weened on a ThinkPad keyboard since a young lad, you might find yourself tripping over the key.  Individual preference will be the determinant of whether you think this key making it in there is good or bad — or just a non-issue.

Performance and Processor Initial Thoughts

Now let’s get this straight, the Z60t is more consumer oriented but it is NOT a widescreen thin-and-light meant for gaming.  This is obvious because Lenovo doesn’t even give you the option of a dedicated graphics card.  You’ll have to wait for the Z60m 15.4″ screen notebook (Oct. 11 scheduled release) with a dedicated graphics card (something equivalent to the ATI X600) to get a widescreen ThinkPad that could be used for gaming.

However, the Z60t does come configurable with up to a 2.13GHz Pentium M processor (Pentium M 770), at least a 5400RPM hard drive is standard (thank you Lenovo!) and up to 2GB of DDR2 533MHz SDRAM can be installed so although you won’t get a graphics powerhouse style machine, you can configure it so the Z60t will chew up and spit out any office or most media applications you’ll throw at it.  In my experience so far I’m gleeful with the Z60t performance because I’ve been using a 1.6GHz Pentium M ThinkPad X41 with a sloooow 4200RPM hard drive.  I ran Super Pi on the Z60t and achieved a 1m 44s calculation of Pi to 2 million digits — that’s a sign of a healthy processor (mine happens to be a 2.0GHz Pentium M).

I haven’t pushed the laptop yet and it’s been running as cool as a cucumber with no fan noise so far and has been breezing through every program I’ve used (email, web, photo editing) and my job over the next few days is to give the Z60t a little more abuse and report how it handles it.

Initial Complaints

Most people want to know if the build is as good as all past ThinkPads.  Well, my initial take is — kind of.  The hinges are great, as always, you can feel and see they’re never going to fail you.  The titanium cover is solid, and probably slightly better than the regular old black top you get on a ThinkPad, it certainly looks cooler.  But, on the right side palm rest I’m getting some flex, and it’s creaking.  I find that I’m able to lift the keyboard cover here quite easily, and I’ve never been able to do that on a past ThinkPad without really prying at the sides.  On the right side palm rest area there’s a lot going on — we have the pc card slot, FireWire port, 2 USB ports, SD card slot, wireless on/off switch and infrared port all located on the lower right side corner.  I’m wondering if it’s creaky over there because there’s a bit of space above all these components and they’re not providing as much upward resistance as intended.  It’s quite possible that my review unit, being an early version, is not an absolute final release and kinks are being worked out in the way the z60 is being put together.

There’s a bit of flex on the right hand palm and the keyboard area was able to lift more easily than usual for a ThinkPad (view larger image)

But don’t get me wrong, the ThinkPad Z60t is still tough as nails overall and could be used to grind an Averatec laptop to plastic shreds.  It’s hinges and case are solid outside of the right-side concern here.  I have to try extra hard to find something to complain about, but am always determined to find such things.

The screen is pretty and without defects — but it’s not the brightest star in the sky in regards to boldness and brightness (view larger image)

The widescreen is nice, but it’s not as bright and nice as other widescreen displays out there.  It’s a 200 nit display on this Z60t, the Z60m will have a 300+ nit display option, and I can certainly see room for brightness improvement here.  Plus, consumers are really enamored by the glossy display finish, and I think if you put the Z60t next to say an HP dv1000 glossy display or Crystal View display of the Fujitsu S7000 series, it’s going to look like the Z60t display is just plain dull.  People need to realize that if working at a screen all day a glossy bright display can start to become an unhappy thing, but for those looking at a screen for just a few minutes or even a 2 hour stretch for a movie, the average consumer is going to run over to the brighter, glossier display.

Final First Thoughts and more to come

My initial thoughts having used this laptop for a few hours is that it’s a great compromise between a business and consumer oriented notebook.  I in fact think it’s perfect for a business user that wants a few consumer features.  A widescreen is great for spreadsheets, a core application for business people, so it’s not necessarily a pure consumer feature there.  And the EVDO is of course great for sales people in the field that must be connected whenever and wherever possible — the average consumer would in fact balk at paying $80 a month for that connectivity service.  All the typical IBM APS security and protection is built-in and better than ever, but a pure consumer doesn’t care quite as much about that.  And a pure consumer would still go for a glossy screen, remote control, built-in TV style multimedia style widescreen over the Lenovo ThinkPad Z.  So if you’re a business user first then a consumer type buyer, the Z is perfect.  If you just want a laptop for fun things and communicating, the Z is not the answer for you.

There’s a lot more to investigate with the Z60t and time is needed to do that, and questions you might have are welcome.  We’ll have battery life answers, benchmarks, performance, more pushing and prodding for build quality, EVDO tests, speaker wars with the built in speakers and drop tests to see how rugged it is and if the Active Protection System enhancements are up to snuff.  Okay, maybe no real drop tests.  But feel free to reply to this article in the discussion area and ask questions, or send questions on the Z60t to me via an email with the subject “Z60 question” at abaxter@notebookreview.com .  I have a spam filter and don’t need extra prescription drugs spammers, so don’t even try it.

Pricing and Availability

Click here to see the ThinkPad Z60 Product Page at Lenovo.com


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