Lenovo’s purchase of IBM’s PC and laptop division left us all wondering about the future integrity of the ThinkPad brand so the T61 is highly significant as it is the first Lenovo ThinkPad that we’ve seen without any IBM branding whatsoever.
It’s a solid laptop that weighs in at 2.3kg with dimensions of 335.5mm x 237mm x 27.6mm. That’s pretty much what you’d expect for a laptop with a 14.1-inch screen and, as you cast your eye over the T61, you’ll find that it is reassuringly familiar. You get both a TrackPoint and a touchpad, the keyboard feels superb, just as you’d expect with a ThinkPad, and there are three mouse buttons.
You can select a T61 from an enormous list of CPU, memory, processor and graphics with prices that range from £1,000 to £2,000. Generally we reviewers have to be cautious of samples that are stuffed to the gills with top-notch components but this time we’ve got a rather modest T61 that is priced towards the lower end of the spectrum.
The processor is a 2.00GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 processor, there’s 1GB of DDR2-667 RAM and the chipset is an Intel GM965 chipset. Lenovo has upgraded the graphics with an Nvidia Quadro NVS 140M chip to supply the pixels to the 1,440 x 900 WXGA resolution screen, but you can’t expect a great deal from these graphics. They’re hopeless for gaming and only support a VGA output instead of the more desirable DVI connection, but the quality of the displayed image was perfectly decent.
The weakest part of this laptop is the screen, which looks absolutely fine when you view it square-on but the viewing angle is nothing to write home about. The T61 suffers when you use the bundled copy of InterVideo WinDVD 5 to watch a movie as you have to sit fairly still in front of the screen to avoid seeing the colours shift, and the audio suffers as the speakers are rather poor.
Although we were unimpressed by the screen there will be business users who are happy about the seemingly-poor viewing angle as it gives you a degree of privacy on planes and trains from people seated near you.
Lenovo has loaded the ThinkPad T61 with Windows XP Pro along with a veritable stack of ThinkVantage utilities that are controlled by the blue ThinkVantage button. These utilities could easily take up a review in their own right so let’s go with the distilled version, which is this: ThinkVantage is superb and works its socks off to protect your data files with the minimum of fuss. Rescue and Recovery is a back-up utility that allows full or partial back-ups and restoration while the Active Protection System monitors your hard drive and shuts it down if a problem is detected or anticipated.
Another neat hardware feature is the fingerprint reader which works in conjunction with a TPM chip and Client Security Solution software. A switch enables and disables the wireless and, when it is turned on, you can use the ThinkVantage Access Connections software to control the Intel 802.11a/g/n wireless and Bluetooth independently of each other.
The ports and connections are relatively limited and consist of PC Card and ExpressCard slots, three USB ports, VGA output and a mini Firewire port.
Performance is as good as you’d expect from a Core 2 laptop, but battery life is less wonderful and gives the equivalent of three hours of regular use.
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