by Andrew Baxter, New York USA
The Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m is a 15.4″ widescreen notebook offering budget Intel Celeron processor configurations from $799 or powerful Pentium M 2.0GHz, ATI X600 128MB configurations in the $2,300 price range. The good news is, no matter what configuration you get in this ThinkPad you’ll get a very high quality build and a machine that’s best called a portable desktop replacement style notebook.
Z60m out of the box (view larger image)
Last week we reviewed the ThinkPad Z60t, which is a 14.1″ widescreen equivalent of the Z60m. The Z60m is basically a bigger version of the Z60t, but the port layout, screen and flexibility in configuration are quite different. The ThinkPad Z60t is for those that need to be light and mobile, and probably for someone that will have a laptop and a desktop PC. The ThinkPad Z60m is less mobile (it’s about 2lbs heavier, .5″ thicker and takes up more space) and can actually replace a desktop computer since the screen is quite big and the power can be really fantastic. The configuration my review unit (SKU 2529-EAU) is one of the more expensive available and if you look at the specs below you’ll see that it’s quite impressive, especially for a ThinkPad where it’s hard to find models with good dedicated graphics cards.
Lenovo ThinkPad Z60M Specs as Reviewed:
The first thing that struck me about the Z60m is how rugged looking and thick it is. I’m used to thin-and-light ThinkPad machines, and the Z60m isn’t exactly thin or light. It weighs around 7.5 lbs, which is about the weight of an old Dell Inspiron 8200 I used to have. But the Z60m is built much more sturdily than any Inspiron I’ve owned or used. Honestly, this is the thickest skinned most rugged feeling ThinkPad I’ve ever used. Just take a look at the thickness of the screen bezel on this notebook as compared to it’s smaller brother the Z60t:
Screen bezel thickness comparison of Z60t (left) and Z60m (right), notice how much thicker the Z60m is (view larger image)
That screen casing is just plain thick! And that translates to an extremely well protected screen. The lid has a titanium cover, an option available on higher end configuration Z60m’s, and it’s almost impossible to push in on the lid to cause ripples on the LCD.
Continuing on the topic of screen, I was very pleased to find that this screen is brighter than the Z60t. Take a look at the pictures below to see how the screen brightness of the Z60t and Z60m compare when they’re both set to full brightness:
Side by side screen comparison of Z60m (left) and Z60t (right), notice how much brighter the Z60m screen appears (view larger image)
Z60m (forefront) next to Z60t (background) angle view, you can see the Z60m has a better viewing angle and brightness (view larger image)
The horizontal viewing angle on the Z60m is great, I haven’t tried watching a movie yet but for web page viewing it’s very comfortable to view from 45-degrees from center, or more even. That means if you gather people around your laptop to view an impromptu presentation or upcoming hit movie trailer, the person squeezed to the end still gets to see the action. Vertical viewing angles for the Z60m are also better than the Z60t offers, but not as strong as the horizontal viewing angle.
The screen on this Z60m being reviewed is WSXGA (Widescreen – SXGA) (1680 x 1050), I really appreciate the higher resolution because it truly allows you to fit a lot more on the screen and therefore makes this notebook a very viable desktop replacement. Two windows on the screen at one time is absolutely doable with this high a resolution widescreen. SXGA isn’t exactly best for gaming, but it is great for anything where seeing more stuff on the screen helps, in my case viewing more code on screen when doing programming tasks is a real blessing. If you’re a business user more rows and columns of a spreadsheet or simply more viewable forms is a plus. And less scrolling through web pages to see the entire story is always kind of nice. Be warned though, if you’re hard of seeing then font renders smaller in WSXGA and you might be happier with WXGA in such a case.
Lenovo mentioned they would be offering a MaxBright option on the Z60m in which the screen would be rated at 300nit brightness as opposed to the standard 200nit brightness, looking at the pictures you would assume the Z60m being reviewed has this 300nit MaxBright option, but it does not. According to Lenovo documentation, the MaxBright option is available only on the WXGA resolution screen and not the WSXGA screen. So as pleased as I am with this screen, apparently you can do even better with a 300nit WXGA screen (note, MaxBright is NOT the same as a glossy screen, just stronger backlighting, no ThinkPad offers a glossy screen).
The port layout on the Z60m is quite different to that of the Z60t. The headphone and microphone ports are on the left side, whereas on the Z60t they were placed on the front. Also, on the Z60m left side you get the PC Card slot (PCMCIA Type II) and the new ExpressCard slot (for which there are few to no accessories available yet — still), FireWire port, modem, ethernet and monitor out.
Left side view of Z60t (top) and Z60m (bottom) (view larger image)
On the front of the Z60m you have a wireless radio on/off switch that toggles all radios (Wi-Fi and Bluetooth in this case), switch to the off position to save on power. On the front right side you have a 3-1 card reader (MemoryStick, MMC, SecureDigital) so that’s better than just the SD card reader you get on the Z60t.
Front side view of Z60t (top) and Z60m (bottom) (view larger image)
On the right side of the Z60m you get the S-video out, DVD multi-burner (optional) and two USB 2.0 ports, notice the USB port layout is really quite different on the Z60m as compared to the Z60t.
Right side view of Z60t (top) and Z60m (bottom) (view larger image)
On the back of the Z60m is the 3rd USB 2.0 port configured vertically, which is kind of odd. The battery is a 9-cell and sticks out quite a bit, it’s rated at 6-hours, tests will show whether that rated time is realistic or not.
Back side view of Z60t (top) and Z60m (bottom) (view larger image)
Below you see the bottom of the Z60m and where the port expansion slot is for port replicator/dock support and at the front there is access to memory for upgrades. You can see how far the battery sticks out, it’s the 9-cell extended life variety, unfortunately I found there’s slight wobble to the battery even after it’s locked.
Underside view of ThinkPad Z60m (view larger image)
Top view of Z60m (left) and Z60t (right) (view larger image)
One of the nicest things about the Z60m is that you can configure it with very nice components, people always gripe that the ThinkPad line is stingy with the graphics options available — and that’s mostly because they’re meant as business notebooks and not entertainment / gaming, but with the Z60m you can get a very decent ATI X600 card with 128MB of memory, which is what this specific configuration has. Mix that with a Pentium M 760 2.0GHz processor (up to 2.13GHz is available) and 1,024MB of SDRAM @ 533MHz and a standard 5,400RPM SATA hard drive and things begin to move. Don’t need all that power, don’t have the money for those components? Fine, a Celeron M 1.5GHz processor with Intel integrated graphics and smaller 40GB hard drive (but still 5400 RPM) will get the price down below $1,000 for you — and the software included, overall build and quality of the chassis is still the same.
And in regards to the build, I already mentioned it’s very sturdy. But as an example of how strong the hinges are, it’s impossible to open the screen without holding the base of the notebook down. The hinges are very rigid and strong, and as you lift the screen the entire laptop lifts as the strength and resistance given by the hinges is stronger than the force of gravity downward on the notebook. This means when the screen is lifted and in place it’s going to stay there, no wobbling!
Front view of Z60t (left) and Z60m (right) (view larger image)
The keyboard is the same as the Z60t, meaning we have the Windows key and Application key included now, never before seen on a ThinkPad keyboard outside of the Z60 series. Also, the directional arrow keys can be combined with the the Fn key to provide shortcuts to play, stop, fast-forward, rewind buttons for media applications. The keyboard keys are very good, I noticed a slight amount of flex on the keyboard in the middle — very untypical for a ThinkPad keyboard so that’s mildly dissapointing. Emphasis on slight though. The keyboard is still definitely a strong point and a pleasure to use, it’s just not the best in the ThinkPad family.
Notice the fingerprint reader got moved out to the right hand side, same place it is on the ThinkPad T43, but different to the Z60t where you have it located next to the touchpad.
Conclusion and More to Come
So far I’m pretty impressed with the Z60m for what it is — a desktop replacement style machine that’s portable if you need it to be. I’d be willing to take it between the office and home or around the house, but not willing to lug it around campus or for walking long distances. It’s too big for use on a plane and not all that cool for a coffee shop either. I think it would be perfect though if you want to use one machine at both home and work where it will be sitting on a desk in both locations. The build and ThinkPad quality are great, you can configure a high-end machine or budget style Z60m machine and the screen is pleasing. We’ll have more on this notebook soon and a full review upcoming.
Pricing and Availability: IBM ThinkPad Z60m