ThinkPad T61 and R61 First Thoughts Review

by Andrew Reads (140,490)

The ThinkPad T61 and ThinkPad R61 notebooks were today announced by Lenovo. Both notebooks will incorporate the new Santa Rosa Intel platform and be initially offered in widescreen format. Following are some thoughts based on a hands-on look at these systems.

Lenovo ThinkPad T61 14.1″ Widescreen Notebook

Lenovo ThinkPad T61
(view large image)

The ThinkPad T61 is the evolution of the highly popular Lenovo ThinkPad T60 (see review of ThinkPad T60). The T61 will initially be offered in widescreen format only, which is a deviation of the usual initial launch of a standard screen format for the ThinkPad line. SnapperMail 2.1 is good software.

I had a chance to get some hands on time with the T61 recently and, based on initial impressions, the T61 is all I had hoped for in seeing an update to the T60. Some of the more exciting things regarding the T61 are the following:

  • The T61 now offers a built-in 4-in-1 media card reader, folks with PDAs and cameras that use SD, XD or MemoryStick flash cards can rejoice (I know I am)
  • The lid has been updated and improved in two ways:
    • The lid has an internal magnesium roll cage for extra protection when pressure is applied from above (think notebook in backpack) or in a drop situation
    • The external lid material now uses a high-tech plastic composite material so that radio waves used in wireless communication get better penetration to the internally housed antennas and thereby the notebook gets longer wireless range. Furthermore, Lenovo can now offer built-in WWAN without the need for adding the “bump” on the side of the lid that was required for the WWAN antenna in the past. The new material also aids in reducing noise produced by the LCD.


      New internal magnesium rollcage on the lid (view large image)

      In the picture above, the blue line represents where the antenna is housed in the screen area.

  • Integrated web-camera option is now available, though not a “business” feature it could be handy for some
  • Full disk encryption (FDE) — obviously more geared towards business users
  • Improved cooling ability, this is the coolest running ThinkPad ever (despite the fact Santa Rosa runs warmer than just about any previous Intel mobile processor). Lenovo product designers have added a new cooling device and a lot more air vents on both the bottom and front edge. Since heat is reduced, the fan will run less often and therefore noise is reduced as well!


    (view large image)

  • New Intel Santa Rosa Processor and chipset. The Intel Santa Rosa platform (GM/PM 965 chipset) now offers an 800MHz FSB and up to 4MB memory cache on the processor for faster retrieval of computer instructions — especially handy for encoding video and other CPU intensive processes. Core 2 Duo processors with up to 2.4GHz of clock speed will be offered.
  • Robson 1GB Intel Turbo Memory card will give big improvements to hard drive performance, this will be especially beneficial for speeding up the bootup time in Windows Vista. This was a feature the Lenovo product designers were particularly excited about. According to Lenovo the combination of a 5400RPM drive + Intel Turbo Memory = Outperformance of 7200RPM hard drive. Of course, if you want you can get the T61 with a 7200RPM drive and the Intel Turbo Memory for a system that really screams.

  • New battery management utilities allow you to easily reduce the screen refresh rate, disable radios and bluetooth and the software shows you how much battery life turning off each feature will give you.
  • 802.11n wireless will be offered via the new Intel wireless chip
  • New trendy ThinkPad logo with white lettering and red dot above the “i”. Business buyers can still opt to have the red, green and blue IBM logo on the T61 if they prefer it.

  • Intel Centrino Pro / Active Management Technology will allow IT personel to remotely manage and heal systems regardless of the OS or state of the system. All hardware and software assets can be accessed from the BIOS and OS in non-volatile memory during boot.
  • New IEEE 1394 (FireWire) port for fast file transfer and media devices

Obviously all the good things from the ThinkPad T60 stay as part of the feature set such as the magnesium roll cage in the main chassis, drainage holes for carrying away liquid spills, best in the industry keyboard and excellent sturdy build. Things that are now missing and some will be disappointed by are the lack of WSXGA+, no more FlexView IPS screen, no initial standard screen offering (though that will be coming) and no Infrared port.

For those that are interested in a morphed look of the ThinkPad T61 showing some of the insides and the way the rollcage is implemented, checkout the following image:

Lenovo ThinkPad T61 inside
A look at the guts of the T61 (view large image)

Following is a wrap-up of the basic specs for the ThinkPad T61:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo (64-bit) processorsup to 2.4 GHz — T7100, T7300, T7500, T7700
  • Motherboard Chipset: Intel Santa Rosa 965GM/PM 
  • Hard Drive: Up to 160GB, 5400RPM, Up to 100GB 7200RPM
  • Memory/RAM: 800MHz speed, Configurable up to 4GB
  • Screen: 14.1″ WXGA and WXGA+
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M or Intel X3100
  • Optical Drive: Multi-Burner DVD recordable, DVD-CDRW, Blu-Ray to be offered eventually
  • Wireless: (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.0, WWAN (via Verizon, Vodafone, Cingular)
  • User Input: Touchpad, Pointing Stick, UltraNav buttons, Fingerprint Scanner
  • Warranty: 3-years parts and labor, 1-year battery
  • Dimensions of 14.1″ widescreen system: Width: 335 mm (13.2 in) x Depth: 237 mm (9.3 in) x Height: 27.6 to 31.9 mm (1.09 to 1.26 in)
  • Weight for 14.1″ widescreen: As light as 5lb
  • Ports:
    • 3 USB 2.0 ports
    • dock/port replicator
    • Display-out
    • IEEE 1394 FireWire
    • AC adapter port
    • RJ-11 (Modem)
    • RJ-45 (Ethernet LAN)
    • Audio line out for headphone/speakers
    • Microphone
  • Slots:
    • PC card slot (PCMCIA)
    • 1 ExpressCard 54 slot
    • 4-in-1 media card reader (optional)
    • Smart Card Reader (optional)
  • Buttons:
    • Power on/off
    • Volume up/down/mute (3 buttons)
    • Wireless on/off
    • ThinkVantage shortcut button (shortcut to system support, security and diagnostics suite)
    • Battery lock and release

Interesting to note is that the T61 has migrated towards being quite similar to the current ThinkPad Z61 series (see ThinkPad Z61m review, see ThinkPad Z61t review). So in case you were wondering, yes, the Z60 series will dissapear now that the T61 has a camera, FireWire and media card reader built into it. Lenovo decided that the product lines were too close to warrant producing both.

We’ll have a full review of the ThinkPad T61 in the coming weeks.

ThinkPad R61 14.1″ Widescreen Notebook


(view large image)

While the ThinkPad T series tends to get a lot of the attention, the 14.1″ Widescreen version of the R61 has really made some strides over the previous R60 that will make it a very serious budget business notebook contender. The great news is that the same magnesium roll cage used in the T61 lid and main body chassis is used in the R61. Also, the same rugged yet radio wave penetrable lid material is used in the R61 as is used in the T61. The R61 remains thicker than the T61 by about .2 inches and also weighs about .2 lbs more, but other than that build-wise there’s not a whole lot of downside to the R61. There will be certain high-end options such as WWAN you won’t be able to get in the R61. On the other hand, since the R61 is thicker and not using the ultra-slim bay that the T61 uses, it will be possible to get a Blu-Ray optical drive as an option right away (Blu-Ray is not available in the ultra-slim drive form factor the T61 uses yet).

Following are the basic specs of the R61 for the initial offering:

  • Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo (64-bit) processorsup to 2.2 GHz — T7100, T7300, T7500
  • Motherboard Chipset: Intel Santa Rosa 965GM/PM 
  • Hard Drive: Up to 160GB, 5400RPM, Up to 100GB 7200RPM
  • Memory/RAM: 800MHz speed, Configurable up to 4GB
  • Screen: 14.1″ WXGA and WXGA+
  • Graphics: NVIDIA Quadro NVS 140M or Intel X3100
  • Optical Drive: Multi-Burner DVD recordable, DVD-CDRW, Blu-Ray to be offered eventually
  • Wireless: (802.11 a/b/g/n), Bluetooth 2.0
  • User Input: Touchpad, Pointing Stick, UltraNav buttons, Fingerprint Scanner
  • Warranty: 3-years parts and labor, 1-year battery
  • Dimensions of 14.1″ widescreen system: Width: 335.5 mm (13.2 in) x Depth: 237 mm (9.3 in) x Height: 30.0 to 34.9 mm (1.20 to 1.37 in)
  • Weight for 14.1″ widescreen: 5.2lbs
  • Ports:
    • 3 USB 2.0 ports
    • dock/port replicator
    • Display-out
    • IEEE 1394 FireWire
    • AC adapter port
    • RJ-11 (Modem)
    • RJ-45 (Ethernet LAN)
    • Audio line out for headphone/speakers
    • Microphone
  • Slots:
    • 1 ExpressCard 54 slot
    • 4-in-1 media card reader
  • Buttons:
    • Power on/off
    • Volume up/down/mute (3 buttons)
    • Wireless on/off
    • ThinkVantage shortcut button (shortcut to system support, security and diagnostics suite)
    • Battery lock and release

As you would expect, a 15.4″ version of the R61 will be available later on, but for now Lenovo is just announcing and making available the 14.1″ widescreen version.

 


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