Lenovo ThinkPad T61 Review
ThinkPad T61 14.1″ widescreen notebook
Important to note is that this review covers the 14.1″ widescreen version of the T61 series. As with any laptop model series, there are going to be widely varying configurations you can choose that will greatly affect system performance.
- Processor: Intel T7300 Core 2 Duo (2.0GHz, 800MHz FSB, 4MB Cache)
- Graphics: Intel GMA X3100
- Operating System: Windows Vista Business
- Display: WXGA+ 1440 x 900 (LG screen)
- Hard Drive: 100GB 7200RPM (Seagate Momentus 7200.1)
- Memory: 2GB (1GB x 1GB), up to 4GB max
- Ports: 3 USB 2.0, 1 FireWire, Monitor out, modem, Ethernet, headphone out, microphone in
- Slots: 1 PC Card Slot, 1 ExpressCard slot (optional media card reader and Smart Card reader)
- Optical Drive: Ultra-slim Super-Multi Drive
- Dimensions: 13.2″ x 9.3″ x 1.09 - 1.26″ (335mm x 237mm x 27.6 - 31.9mm)
- Weight: 5.1lbs
The good: Internal roll cage protects LCD; 802.11n Wi-Fi for faster wireless throughput; very small A/C adaptor adds little to overall travel weight; Intel’s Active Management Technology provides remote support.
The bad: New Centrino technology doesn’t offer outsize performance gains.
The bottom line: Lenovo’s 14-inch ThinkPad T61 shaves a few millimeters off the company’s more mainstream R-series laptops, but still boasts the same, solid ThinkPad DNA along with IT-friendly features by way of Intel’s new Centrino Pro platform.
Design and Build
The ThinkPad T61 is a premium product with a durable build, it is geared towards business users or simply those willing to pay a bit more to get something that won’t fall apart after 1-year of use. For somebody that travels a lot or relies on their notebook to earn a livelihood, the build and reliability factor is probably more important than having the latest and greatest components inside.
The keyboard remains the same between the T61 and T60 — meaning it’s once again excellent. The only difference is that now there’s more room on the keyboard side areas since the notebook body is wider, the speakers have been relocated to this extra real estate. The keyboard is spill proof and has two drain holes to make sure if you do happen to spill your morning Starbucks coffee, the liquid is carried away from sensitive components and out through the bottom of the notebook.
The hard drive is protected within the magnesium roll cage and shock mounted. Even if your T61 is dropped the included Active Protection System (APS) software will work with the on board accelerometer to detect a fall situation and end hard drive activity to prevent data loss.
The new widescreen format screen for the 14.1″ T-series is either good, bad or somewhere in between depending on your personal preference. Lenovo will try and convince you widescreen offers more screen real estate and so it’s better, the reality is the guys making the LCD screens are forcing it down the throats of the PC manufacturers because it’s cheaper to make widescreen LCDs.
The particular screen I got is a WXGA+ resolution (1440 x 900). It provides easy viewing and you can fit a good amount on the screen, so no complaints on that front. The screen is crisp and there are no issues with graininess. The matte finish ensures there’s little to no glare in office lighting situations.
Processor and Performance
The ThinkPad T61 now uses the Intel Centrino Duo (Santa Rosa) platform. You get a faster processor front side bus (800MHz), more processor cache (4MB) and an improved integrated graphics solution in the form of the Intel X3100. If all that talk is nonsense to you, then suffice it to say the T61 offers newer and better processing components than the T60. Will this performance be perceivable in helping to run MS Word faster? No of course not, but certain processor intensive tasks such as encoding video will be faster. And even if you won’t be utilizing every ounce of processing power, just knowing the processor is faster and you’re on top of the game is enough to make people like myself want to buy it.
One thing that’s always a concern with a new platform is battery life. Reading the first reviews that came out about the T61 sounded like gloom and doom with reports of 2 hour battery life. It seems most of the initial reviews were done using very power hungry dedicated graphics solutions and with a 4-cell battery.
I had the opportunity to test a larger 6-cell battery on an integrated graphics system, and got 3 hours and 41 minutes of battery life under what I would deem normal usage. I was using the T61 with screen brightness set to half or lower, Vista battery optimized setting, wireless off to get this number. In a torture test, I set the screen brightness to top level, put in a DVD (Stargate) and played it until the battery hit 5% and the PC went to sleep – which happened after exactly 2 hours 15 minutes. I wouldn’t call that bad, it’ll get you through most movies.
The downside of a 6-cell battery is that it sticks out of the back (see pics) and weighs more, but I’m always be willing to carry a bit more weight for an extra hour of battery life. A positive comment that should be made is the power adapter is nice and small, it’s actually the same size as the X60 ultraportable series adapter.
Keyboard / Touchpad / Pointing Stick
The ThinkPad T-series hasn’t changed too much over time, and that’s a good thing, there’s no use changing something that’s just right. The ThinkPad keyboard is one of, if not the best, notebook keyboards out there. There’s zero flex, every key feels individual, every key has great travel/feedback and the keyboard is full-size.
The T61 has a pointing stick, I love using this and find it much easier than the provided touchpad — it makes it so you can move the cursor around the screen without having to lift your hand from the keys, a much faster and easier to control style of input. But the great thing is that if the pointing stick isn’t your cup of tea then you’ve got the touchpad as well.
The ThinkPad T61 uses the Intel 4965 wireless chip that offers 802.11 a/b/g/n wireless reception. All of your bases are covered there, and the greater range 802.11n offers is on the table if you have an 802.11n router. The range of the ThinkPad is theoretically greater now that the lid material has changed to plastic too. The antenna is run up through the lid for better reception you see, and the new lid material allows radio waves to reach the antenna more easily. I was only able to test up to 100-feet away from my NetGear WGR614 802.11g wireless router, which I despise for its bad performance and tendency to drop connections, but the T61 worked just fine with it and I never suffered a connection drop and throughput was consistently good.
Other Electronics News:
⇒⇒⇒ lenovo battery
⇒⇒⇒ laptop battery