Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (174,365)

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 Z60m is built very sturdily and with its weight of around 7.7lbs it can serve well as a desktop replacement style notebook for the home or office and be portable within that area.

Z60m out of the box (view larger image)

Lenovo ThinkPad Z60M Specs as Reviewed:

  • Processor – Intel Pentium M 760 2.0GHz (2MB L2 Cache, 533MHz FSB)
  • Screen – 15.4″ WSXGA screen (1680 x 1050), 200nit (not MaxBright), matte (not glossy)
  • 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
  • Graphics Card – ATI X600 128MB
  • Slots – 1 Type 2 PC card slot , 1 ExpressCard slot
  • Dimensions – 14.1″ x 10.3″ x 1.58″ (width x depth x height)
  • Weight – about 7.7lbs (with 9-cell battery and titanium lid)
  • Wireless – 802.11 a/b/g Intel wireless (2915), Bluetooth, Infrared
  • Battery – 9-cell (non-flushed), quoted at 6-hours run time
  • Hard Drive Active Protection System – Yes
  • OS – Microsoft Windows XP Professional
  • Extras – Titanium cover lid
  • Price as configured: $2,229
  • SKU: 2529-EAU

ThinkPad Z60m collapsed and open view (view larger image)

Competing Notebooks to the ThinkPad Z60m

It’s always good to know what else is out there when looking at a particular style of laptop, if we consider 15.4″ screen laptops then the ThinkPad Z60m comes up against some of the following competition:

That’s certainly not an exhaustive list, but covers some of the popular 15.4″ screen notebooks from major brands.  The 15.4″ screen notebook size is considered mainstream, it’s what most first time notebook buyers go with.  As widescreen becomes more and more popular, it’s likely that 15.4″ widescreen laptops will hold the greatest share of the notebook market.  By 2007 it is predicted there will be more widescreen laptops sold than standard screen.

Comparison to Lenovo ThinkPad Z60t

We recently reviewed the ThinkPad Z60t, which is a 14.1″ widescreen laptop released just before 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.

Build and Design

The first thing that you’ll notice about the Z60m is how rugged looking and thick it is.  It weighs around 7.7 lbs and is very sturdy.  This is the thickest skinned most rugged feeling ThinkPad I’ve ever used.  Just take a look at the thickness of the screen cover lip on this notebook as compared to it’s smaller brother the Z60t:

Screen cover lip thickness comparison of Z60t (left) and Z60m (right), notice how much thicker the Z60m is (view larger image)

The protective lip around the screen is very thick and the material of the lid is very sturdy.  The configuration of this review unit included the titanium lid option and it’s just plain strong.  No matter how hard you push on the lid of the screen you won’t cause any ripples to appear on the LCD display — meaning the protection is great.

Angled view of ThinkPad Z60m notebook (view larger image)

The casing of the Z60m notebook is made of a rigid and thick plastic typical of other ThinkPad notebooks.  It provides a very sturdy scratch resistant build.  There’s no flex of the body, it exudes physical toughness and quality.

The Z60m is all black unless you buy a configuration that has a titanium lid and then you’ll have a metallic (silver) color lid with the rest of the body being black.  I like the ThinkPad professional and iconic all black look, at worst you might complain it’s too conservative.  With the Z60m being thicker and larger than other ThinkPads, the black does give it a more imposing look.  I’d guess that the look is going to appeal more to males than females, it’s a rather masculine looking machine.

As a note, several people have asked whether the titanium lid is a cover in the sense it could be taken off or purchased later and snapped on, it is not and you have to purchase the notebook with or without the titanium cover when you order.

Screen

The screen on the Z60m being reviewed is WSXGA resolution (Widescreen – SXGA – 1680 x 1050) (click here for a notebook screen guide article).  XGA is the standard resolution for notebooks, but I really appreciate the higher SXGA resolution because it allows you to fit a lot more on the screen (important note — higher resolution means smaller text).  In the case of the Z60m the SXGA makes the notebook a very viable desktop replacement as you can easily fit two windows on the screen at one time.  SXGA is beneficial when seeing more stuff on the screen helps you to be more productive, 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.  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 the smaller text size you get with SXGA might be uncomfortable for reading and if that’s the case then you might be happier with the WXGA resolution.  If you’re looking to save a few bucks, XGA screens are usually a cheaper option to SXGA as well.

I was very pleased to find that the Z60m screen is brighter than the Z60t I reviewed earlier.  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)

Looking at the above picture you can see that the Z60t appears to use one backlight at the bottom of the screen while the Z60m uses two, one at the top and bottom — with the bottom backlight being stronger (this is based on observation of the screen, I did not take the laptop apart!).  The WSXGA+ screen is made by LG, the XGA screen is built by either LG or Samsung and the MaxBright XGA screen supplied by a IDTech.

The horizontal viewing angle on the Z60m is great, you’ll find comfortable viewing from 45-degree angles even.  This means gathering people around your notebook to show them something is easy to do, the people off to the side will still see the screen without issue.  As is typical with LCD displays, vertical viewing angles are not as good as horizontal.  Below are some thumbnails of the Z60m at a perpendicular angle, then tilted back several degrees, and then tilted forward several degrees.  You’ll see that colors distort at very high or very low vertical angles of view, but this is typical of any notebook and the Z60m is actually better than the average notebook in giving you good vertical viewing angle.

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(click images to enlarge the view of vertical viewing angle comparison)

The screen brightness and clarity is excellent, no complaints.  Lenovo will be offering a MaxBright 300nit display option on certain WXGA resolution Z60m machines, the display on this review unit is 200nit.  I’m sure the MaxBright display would be impressive given the fact the standard 200nit screen is very good.  Note, the MaxBright option screen is NOT the same as a glossy screen you see on many noteboks (such as Sony VAIO XBrite display), MaxBright is simply stronger backlighting.

Watching a movie on the Z60m screen (view larger image)

Sound

Stereo sound on the Z60m comes from two speakers, one flanked on the left and one on the right of the keyboard.  Sound quality is really quite decent at mid-range volume levels, there’s not much bass, but the clarity is good and absolutely better than your average notebook speakers.  If you put the volume up to maximum level it does get very loud, but the sound is tinny and grating to the ears so you’ll want to avoid this.  Overall though a thumbs up on speakers as they’re, relatively speaking, very good for notebook speakers.  You can get good enough volume and clarity for movie watching even from across the room.  If you want to attain louder and more crisp sound then the use of headphones or external speakers will help, but they’re not totally necessary with the Z60m.

Processor and Performance

The Z60m being reviewed has the following specs that will directly affect the performance:

  • Intel Pentium M 760 (2.0GHz) 2MB L2 cache, 533MHz FSB
  • 1,205MB of SDRAM @ 533MHz
  • 100GB 5400RPM SATA hard drive
  • ATI X600 128MB dedicated VRAM

As you can see, you are able to purchase a Z60m with very nice components.  If you don’t need all that power and want to save money you can get a Z60m with an Intel Celeron M 1.5GHz processor, Intel integrated graphics and smaller 40GB hard drive (but still 5400 RPM) for under $1,000.  You’ll still get the same software and build quality as a higher config notebook, that’s standard for any spec Z60m

Assuming you go with a high end configuration such as our Z60m has, you’re going to get excellent performance.  In my experience there was never any hanging or lags even with multiple programs open, graphics were drawn quickly, most programs opened instantly, playing games such as Half Life 2 or Pro Evolution Soccer 5 (pictured below) is no problem.  The Pentium M 2.0GHz processor has proven itself in many a notebook at this point, even high end gaming notebooks, so for a desktop replacement style notebook you’re really set with a processor of this speed

Pro Evolution Soccer 5 being played on the Z60m (view larger image)

Bootup speed without any tweaks (such as removing startup applications) is decent, from pushing the button to getting to getting into Windows and being able to open a program took 60-seconds.  Coming out of stand-by mode takes about 5-seconds (low power mode in which notebook state is recovered from memory).  Coming out of hibernate mode (extreme low power mode in which notebook state is recovered from hard drive) takes about 22 seconds.

Benchmarks

Instead of the subjective “it’s fast” description of notebook performance, we also provide a few benchmarks so you can see how the Z60m stacks up against other notebooks in terms of speed and performance.  Using the program Super Pi to force the processor to calcuate the number Pi to 2 million digits of accuracy, we find the Z60m takes 1m 41s to complete the task, below is a table of how this compares to other notebooks:

Notebook  Time
 Lenovo ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz Pentium M)  1m 41s
 Fujitsu S6231 (1.6 GHz Pentium M)  2m 6s
 Sony VAIO FS680 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s
 Asus Z70A (1.6GHz Pentium M)  1m 53s
 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
 Sony VAIO S360 (1.7 GHz Pentium M)  1m 57s
 HP DV4170us (Pentium M 1.73 GHz)  1m 53s
 Sony VAIO S380 (1.86 GHz Pentium M)  1m 45s

PCMark04 and 3DMark05 are also used to measure processor and graphics performance, below is a table with benchmarks and a comparison to the popular ThinkPad T43 thin-and-light notebook:

Futuremark PCMark04 Scores
  ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz, ATI X300 64MB graphics) ThinkPad Z60m (2.0 GHz, ATI X600 128MB graphics)
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Compression 3.33 MB/s 3.38 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 1 / File Encryption 27.19 MB/s 28.13 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / File Decompression 23.4 MB/s 24.94 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 2 / Image Processing 10.88 MPixels/s 11.45 MPixels/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Virus Scanning 1914.17 MB/s 2025.38 MB/s
 Multithreaded Test 3 / Grammar Check 2.82 KB/s 2.78 KB/s
 File Decryption 54.11 MB/s 57.15 MB/s
 Audio Conversion 2496.87 KB/s 2610.98 KB/s
 Web Page Rendering 5.27 Pages/s 5.4 Pages/s
 DivX Video Compression 51.71 FPS 54.6 FPS
 Physics Calculation and 3D 159.19 FPS 182.77 FPS
 Graphics Memory – 64 Lines 868.44 FPS 1635.2 FPS
Futuremark 3DMark05 Scores
3DMark Score 727 3DMarks 1682 3D Marks
CPU Score 3414 CPUMarks 3426 CPUMarks
Gaming Tests
GT1 – Return To Proxycon 3.3 FPS 7.6 FPS
GT2 – Firefly Forest 2.2 FPS 4.9 FPS
GT3 – Canyon Flight 3.4 FPS 8.2 FPS
CPU Tests
CPU Test 1 1.18 FPS 1.7 FPS
CPU Test 2 2.9 FPS 3.0 FPS

So you can see the Z60m does well with its CPU and graphics performance benchmarks, outdoing a high-end configured T43.  It’s not fast enough to be called a gaming style or engineering workstation type of machine, but getting close.

Below are benchmarks for the hard drive run using HDTune 2.50:

Heat and Noise

This section is easy, the Z60m stays amazingly cool using a fan and vent on the left side.  When used on a desk the Z60m keeps its cool and nowhere on the surface area of the notebook will you find any significant heat build up.  I haven’t used the Z60m on my lap, it’s just too big for me to be willing to do that, so I can’t comment on the bottom staying cool and comfortable enough for such a thing — this size notebook is just best used on a flat proper surface anyway.

As far as noise level of the notebook goes, it’s whisper quiet.  I just can’t come up with any annoying noises such as a loud fan, hard drive or optical drive that this notebook has produced during the time I have used it.

Keyboard and TrackPoint/Touchpad

The keyboard on the Z60m 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. 

All ThinkPad keyboards sit within a tray to make the keyboard spill proof, but with the Z60 series Lenovo has made the keyboard even more spill proof by adding a second drain hole in the keyboard — this isn’t visible or apparent, but another example of those hidden high quality design features.

The keyboard keys are very good. I noticed a slight amount of flex on the keyboard  in the middle if you push hard enough on a key so that’s mildly disappointing for a ThinkPad, but overall it’s up to snuff and should be considered a strong point as it is a pleasure to use.  Great key travel, great feedback and no cheap feel.

The Z60m uses the same trackpoint navigation as every other ThinkPad.  The pointing stick is great to use and I find easier to use than a touchpad.  But if you prefer the touchpad approach to moving the cursor, then that’s there too.  The mouse buttons are the best, they’re raised so you can feel them, the travel of the button is smooth and they give excellent feedback.  The mouse buttons do not give any annoying loud clicks.

Input and Output Ports

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)

Overall the ports selection on the Z60m is good, to get more ports such as a extra USB ports, 6-in-1 card reader, DVI or a parallel port you can purchase the the ThinkPad Advanced Mini Dock which is the next generation dock for the ThinkPad T/R/Z series of notebooks (the Z60 is the first series to use this).

The Z60m is about as thick as a AAA battery is tall

Wireless

Built-in Wi-Fi is standard for the Z60m, this unit is using the Intel PRO 2915 802.11 a/b/g compatible wireless card.  With the antenna placed in the screen for better wireless reception you won’t have problems connecting to any nearby routers, I’ll often be able to see up to 8 available wireless connections from my apartment using the Z60m so it’s doing its job in picking up signals.

Bluetooth is an available option along with a WWAN antenna so that you can use EVDO via the Verizon network.  The EVDO subscription from Verizon costs $80/month for those that don’t use Verizon as a cell phone service provider and $60/month if you already have a plan through them.  I haven’t been able to test EVDO on the Z60m as this model does not come with it, but on the Z60t I had the performance was really quite amazing and the fact Lenovo puts the WWAN antenna on the side of the screen instead of embedded within the notebook really seemed to help things out.

Infrared is also available as a wireless communication standard, you can use the infrared wireless to exchange files between nearby ThinkPad machines, they’ll automatically detect each other and a program will pop up asking if you’d wish to send or receive any files from the friendly neighboring ThinkPad.

Battery

The battery on the Z60m being reviewed is a 9-cell type Lithium Ion rechargeable battery.  It sticks out at the back and adds extra weight over that of an optional smaller 6-cell battery, but gives you more battery life.  The battery is rated at 6-hours.  In my test of setting screen brightness to maximum, leaving WiFi on, forcing the screen to stay on and letting the system basically idle I got precisely 4 hours of battery life before it went into hibernation with 5% charge left.  This is very good for a desktop replacement.  If you set screen brightness to the lowest possible and turned off WiFi you’d definitely get close to or over 5 hours of usage when using the notebook for basic tasks.  I don’t think I’ve come across a 15-inch widescreen notebook with battery life as good as this, it’s certainly in the top tier for battery life performance for notebooks of it’s size class.

Software

The Z60m comes with Windows XP Home or Pro.  The nice thing about the Z60m is all the great IBM utilities for managing your laptop.  The security, data and recovery tools you get with the Z60m is the most mature package on the market.  For consumers the ThinkVantage features and number of security features will be more than you need, but nice to have.  For business’ up to enterprise size, the security features and data protection can be the main selling point.  The Active Protection System included with the Z60m is a combination of software and hardware that detects any unusual motion and instructs the drive head to park and thereby protect data if there’s any impact.  It’s too much to go into detail on the APS system here, but checkout the IBM white paper on it if you’d like to learn more: ftp://ftp.software.ibm.com/pc/pccbbs/mobiles_pdf/aps2mst.pdf

The ThinkVantage system (formerly Access IBM) has been updated.  Simply push the ThinkVantage button at the top of the keyboard and a clean looking applet pops up on the left side of the screen with a web style interface for clicking links to do everything from managing your wireless connections via IBM Access Connections, to turning on the ThinkLight (keyboard illumination light), to backing up and restoring your Z60t.

Pushing the ThinkVantage button brings up a software applet on the left side of the screen with easy links to many tasks for managing your laptop (view larger image)

You can setup maintenance tasks for your laptop through ThinkVantage so that they run in “Whisper Mode” and only kick in when you’re not using the processor too much — there’s nothing more annoying than disk defrags or virus scans killing your notebooks performance, so the Lenovo software designers give you the power to control this.

I could go on and on with the features ThinkVantage provides and improvements with the Z60m, instead I’ll refer you to the Lenovo site and documentation that covers this better than I can: http://www.pc.ibm.com/us/think/thinkvantagetech.html

Customer Support

Tech support for ThinkPad notebooks has always been above par, many were concerned that with Lenovo taking over the IBM PC division things would spiral downward in regards to support, but that’s not the case, support remains as good as ever.  The main call center for support is in Atlanta so you’ll likely be speaking to somebody who speaks and communicates in English well.  1-year warranty is the standard on most Z60m configs and you can upgrade to 3-years.

One complaint many have is regarding availability and shipping of the Z60m.  For instance, finding a Z60m with the MaxBright option, titanium lid and higher speed Intel Pentium M just isn’t possible at the time of this review.  It seems many have been frustrated with limited availability and configurations of ThinkPad notebooks for a little while after their release.  I’m sure the availability is mostly due to the ability of suppliers to fulfill demand for components (such as Intel and the screen manufacturers).  Usually there’s a lot more available configurations and options for building a ThinkPad a couple of months after a new release, so really you just have to be a bit patient.  The problem is if you’re an early adopter of new technology products or need a laptop now then patience really isn’t a strong trait!

Conclusion

It’s easy for me to recommend the Z60m as I can’t find much of anything wrong with it.  It basically just boils down to whether you think a 15.4-inch widescreen style laptop fits your needs and if it does, then I say this is a great option to be looking at.  Fantastic build quality, great keyboard, nice screen, nice speakers, good port selection, easy to upgrade, backed by good tech support, excellent security software, superb hard drive data protection, professional looking — it’s all there.  If you don’t need top line performance you can get all this in a configuration for around $1,000, and that’s an incredible deal for this very well built machine.  If you want a speed demon configuration and all the bells and whistles, your cost will be over $2,000.  This notebook isn’t best for those that need to carry it around a lot or travel, but for a home or office where it will spend a lot of time on a desk and being carried short distances it’s a great form factor.  As the movie guys say, two thumbs up.

Pricing and Availability: IBM ThinkPad Z60m


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