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back to article Lenovo ThinkPad T61

When the world ends in a nuclear glow or a flood of melted icecaps, the final remaining life will be bacteria in the vents of undersea volcanoes and the last piece of technology to give up the ghost will surely be a ThinkPad. When Lenovo took over IBM’s PC and laptop division it raised a question about the future of the ThinkPad …

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Who wants a widescreen laptop?

If only Lenovo made a version of the T61 that was both a) non widescreen and b) didnt come with Vista. I've heard that eventually all new laptops are going to be handicapped with widescreen; i do not want a bigger heavier (and with vista, slower) laptop.

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Lenovo changover?

I know I read an arstechnica review about a month ago of the 3rd generation MacBook (Santa Rosa version) which was the first post-intel Mac the reviewer had owned, but hasn't it been even longer since Lenovo bought the Think brand from IBM? I thought they'd had a few laptops out since the changeover.

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Tom

@who wants a widescreen...

Quite a lot of people do. T

hose that don't tend to go for the ultra portable laptops. Personally I am not that bothered by the widescreen format. I tend to be doing php coding, or browsing, on may laptop so the WS is fairly useful there. What I can't understand is the 17" laptops - the only way that makes sense is if they are bought has a desktop replacement. Vista isn't too slow if you turn off all of the Aero stuff and put it back to the Win 2K look.

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Not our experience!

The company I work for has been getting these T61's in since they came out and have repeated hardware problems. I had the mobo replaced on mine within 1 week of delivery and it still isn't running quite right (not to mention the case wasn't quite put back together properly). One of my staff has a new one and it refused to work from day one, again forcing a repair. There have been reports from other areas of similar issues and our desktop team have complained about them no end.

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Linux

alternatives?

Does anybody else make a laptop with a clit mouse and 3 mouse buttons reachable without moving a hand from the home row?

I hate my T43 (keys pop off, buzzes annoyingly when on battery power, does not cool well, DVD burner stopped burning DVDs), but until another company gets off her arse and makes a laptop with a good mouse setup, I'll be buying ThinkPads.

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Get it right, please

Oh dear. Please try to get your facts at least a little bit right.

You can buy *any* Thinkpad with Vista pre-installed, though why you would want to is a mystery to me, especially with only 1GB of RAM. Dual core chip notwithstanding, Vista is a lot slower than XP on that configuration.

Most models you can get with XP installed instead, or if you want to DIY, you can buy with Vista and install XP Pro yourself - Lenovo use Vista Business, so you have the right to upgrade to XP without buying an extra licence.

As for screens, the *only* reason I don't plan to upgrade my wonderful old Thinkpad R52 is that I can't get a Thinkpad with a proper screen anymore. Why would I pay good money to get a laptop with a *worse* screen than the 2 year old one I already have? People, in the main, dislike shallow (aka "wide") screens. If you offer your customers a choice between shallow screen and standard screen, 9 out of 10 buy the standard one.

Don't manufacturers do *any* market research?

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Coat

Bitlocker in Vista Business

Yes i know, correcting a mistake on the register is like shooting fish in a barrel...

But i can't help myself - BitLocker does not come with Vista Business so that wonderful TPM chip in the ThinkPads will do nothing specific to Vista Business, but rather just store digital certificates and Client Security Solution authentication information as it always has...

As for widescreens - people's field of vision is widescreen therefore is the more natural format for a screen. The popularity of this format speaks for itself.

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The Lonovos Thinkpads ROCK!

You can get the Thinkpad in a 14 or 15 inch screen. The 14" has a cage built in to keep the screen safe (more weight?). The 15" doesn't have the "safe cage" feature. The 14" is about right (compromise?) for most business types. The subs are very hard to really do any kind of work except email. You can still get the Thinkpad with XP.

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Vista good for laptops?

Pretty much everyone knocks an hour off of their battery time, I dont consider that a feature.

@Robert, the dell is the closest on the keyboard and inputs. You get the choice but the Dells dont have the 3rd mouse button.

WRT the widescreen, I dont really mind them. On the big laptops I dont really care for them because they make them too wide for most reasonable old laptop bags. However, I love them on smaller laptops because it keeps overall size down while giving me the most keyboard possible.

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There's more than one Thinkpad model

I bought a Thinkpad x61s, which has a 12.1" screen. Battery life can be stretched over 2.5 hours, but I usually get over 1.5 hours because I'm also powering my cell phone for WAN connection. My unit has 4Gb of memory and a 160Gb drive. I use it for my work development environment, and its pretty smooth. The sub-3# weight means I have no problems toting the machine in my backpack.

The big disappointment has been the "value added" software. Since I do software development for my money, I have to load a lot of additional, non-Office, tools on the machine. The Lenovo software doesn't play well, and manages to screw XP up enough to make the USB ports inaccessible and the display show 640x480 with only a few colors. Nasty. So I've reloaded the machine four times now. Fortunately the restore disks work, unlike the Toshiba restore disk.

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Much rather have...

The x61s.

We have both here at work. The T61 is just too big to even be considered a useful portable. It's a nice spec and a powerful tool.

It's what you would give to a developer or serious number cruncher who might need to take their work home for a weekend once every month or two.

All our users go for the x61's. If you need a larger screen in the office, then use it on standard LCD's. The ratio is about 9 x61s's for one T61.

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Non one wanted widescreen, including Lenovo.

Lenovo tried to supply 4:3 for a very long time, but apparently Laptop screens follow the televisions. Once 99% of all television sets went widescreen, so did the Laptop manufacturers.

Try "Base software administrator" Brian Miller, to get rid of the "value added" programs. The recovery partition is highly customizable.

T61 really is the first true Lenovo machine. T60 was engineered by IBM, although it was manufactured by Lenovo. T43 was a stopgap machine and a rather strange one at that (ide connector, sata controller fex.).

I rather like the X series more than the T series. Writing from my T60. Lenovo FTW.

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Still has various faults

Thinkpads are generally great machines. But still:

(1)Why oh why is it so hard to buy a 4:3 screen. Widescreen isn't even good for TV and video (it chops the top/bottom off people in portrait mode). My old 1600x1200 15" monitor on the A22p was the best I ever used. I suggest we start calling them "shortscreen" instead of widescreen, especially because a 15" widescreen has a smaller area than a 14" regular screen!

(2)No line in. Why not? I actually need that for sound-recording.

(3)Front and side-ports? Headphones and USB should go on the side; the rest belong on the *back* of the machine, so it's out of the way when used on a desk.

(4)Why only 1 lid-catch. The old 2-catch design was so much better. Also, why no fold-out feet to raise the back?

(5)Stupid Windows key, makes Ctrl/Alt smaller.

(6)On an expensive machine, why such a small selection of ports? Usually no firewire, no DVI, and only 3x USB.

(7)Still no option to buy with Linux preloaded, or no OS.

(8)The better models have the worst graphics cards. T60p is encumbered with an ATI card, whereas the intel i810 is much superior. Fglrx driver is too unstable, so I end up using the VESA driver.

Thinkpads are still generally pretty good, but they don't feel like they were designed to be loved any more.

FWIW, I have variously used and administered an A22p, a 770Z, an X20, X22, X31, X30, T60, T60p, R60e.

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LCD Viewing Angle

I can remember with laptops were first really becoming popular, and one of the biggest complaints about them was the viewing angle on the screen. So now today, you have to buy a filter from 3M to keep the guy next to you on the plane from reading your screen.

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Regarding the 4:3 models

I quite recently picked up not one but two 14.1" 4:3 T61 laptops (part number UZ26DNO, which seems commonly available), one for my mother and a bit later one for myself. Both were bought after the "what's available for a reasonable price" - principle, so her has Vista while mine has XP Pro. Vista is not really a good choice; the XP laptop has identical hardware but feels much faster and has a longer battery life. There's also some problems with the fingerprint reader in Vista: Unlike in XP, logging on per fingerprint is never fast, and often stops working at all.

Oh, and the battery life on the 14.1", intel-GPU model should be somewhat better than the tested one. It's also a bit trimmer - the keyboard seems to be about the same size, but there's no open space on the sides. (The front/underside mounted speaker is crap, though.)

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Re: Still has various faults

When I purchased my T61 in November, there was an option for both 14" and 15" 4:3 displays.

I haven't really had an issue with where the ports are. I do engineering and programing work on mine, so don't really need the "consumer" functions like audio/video. Most I have had plugged in are the usb programmers and software dongles.

It does have firewire, and there is DVI in the expansion port on the bottom.. Bummer that the docking bay that brings it out is another $300. (There is probably even Line In on that port.. There are a lot of pins...)

I went with the cheaper integrated graphics.. Not really because I'm cheap. (heck I bought a T61) but the battery life goes down pretty fast with the nVidia chip. That being said, I dropped the CD-RW/DVD (didn't even want the dvd burner.) for an ultrabay battery and put the bigger 7cell main battery in. Which gives me ~6hours off the plug (with moderate usage (eg only 1 radio on, display less then 50% brightness, audio muted, processor speed set to lower)

The really great feature that ElReg missed was that the thing isn't loaded with piles of crap software. (Who needs 300 sample games that expire in 20 days?)

My complaints?:

The 3 button mouse I have yet to actually get to be three buttons.. The Middle button just makes the thumb-knob act like a scroll wheel.. Handy, but not a middle click to be seen for that mouse button. Only way that I have gotten a middle click is to remap the lower right mouse buttons to middle click.. Bah.

My only other complaint is that the display brightness adjustment takes 2 hands.. (Fn on the Left, Pgup/Pgdn in the top right.) Hard to dial the brightness down when settling down in bed to finish that late night C code.

Huge Benefits?

Lenovo still publishes complete teardown directions to get to every little piece internal to the laptop, Including clear directions on how to replace duff parts.

For me, the Battery life.

And that it's small enough (14" widescreen) to fit easily in my pack.

Things that would be cool to add..

Using the Intel Turbo Memory. (which is useless in XP) as just a spare gig of flash storage, handy place to drop movies so they don't access the HD when watching. (Better battery life)

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4Gb

I loaded XP 64-bit on my T61 just so I could get the full use out of the RAM I purchased. (XP only sees 3Gb of RAM, and I refuse to run Vista in production). I managed to make almost everything work in XP 64-bit by using the Vista 64-bit drivers. This thing absolutely screams! The only problem is the Hotkey drivers actually do a real OS check. And a laptop without support of Hotkeys (like switching to an external projector) is pretty useless.

As a result I have happily clunked along the past two months on my trusty T43p.

Footnote on Thinkpad keyboards... When the IBM tech was on-site doing a repair to one of our many Thinkpads, he told me that IBM is very liberal with keyboard repair. Even as mundane as the letters wearing off. If it is still under warranty, they will replace it. Furthermore, they do not require the old keyboard sent back in - junk it. Point being, if you are having keyboard problems, there is no excuse for not getting it replaced.

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Linux

Linux Preinstalled Option.

Richard Neill wrote:

(7)Still no option to buy with Linux preloaded, or no OS.

Lenovo do sell Thinkpads now with Novell SLED 10 preinstalled.

Sent from a X60 running with Novell SUSE Enterprise Linux Desktop 10 running.

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Black and chunky.

In photographs both the R61 and T61 have two completely different cases each. I can only guess that the 14" case has ports at the front (annoying) and a new squared look, 15" has them at the sides. They really do make buying these as complicated as possible.

http://www-06.ibm.com/jp/pc/media/thinkpad/picture/tpr61_15_f.jpg

http://www-06.ibm.com/jp/pc/media/thinkpad/picture/tpr61_f.jpg

This a is a business machine; I don't need to plug a video camera into the front and portrait format applications should take preference over DVDs where possible. Unfortunately the panel makers are all tooled up for this format now and - they reckon - other markets are too small to be worth bothering with.

We're being dragged along by the sheeple!

-YouTube button on T62 it is then.

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Boffin

Active Shock Protection

One of the best features of the ThinkPad has to be the active shock protection. If you mis-use it correctly it can be very fun - the links are all at home on my laptop (A T60p) but with use of google you can find a C# managed library for accessing the APS and do things like.... http://www.ninja-monkey.co.uk/byte/TiltRider.rar that (its a .exe, it's written by me (but the managed library isnt, but I dont have the link to give props here at work), as far as I know its virus free and source will be avalible if you ask nice. .NET 2.0 and a thinkpad with APS required.) are controlled by the data coming out from the APS.

The other thing I have seen is an awesome plugin for the linux game TuxRider, where you can control Tux by tilting your laptop side to side. Other similar projects have been done for the MacBook.

C.

Note: I cant remember where I got the managed library from, but I shall track it down if anyone wants it.

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Unhappy

Why no 1600x1200 anymore?

Must admit, the first thing I did when I got my T60p was de-install active shock protection and most of the other junk that was pre-loaded. Does that APS stuff actuall "do" anything? Call me a bit sceptical but I mean if I drop my lappy, what good is that stuff going to do? Also I couldn't believe how much memory was being used up by all the "value-added" software Lenovo installed on it.

Two of my buddies here are running Ubuntu on theirs, I'm running XP but I do find hard disk access seems a bit slow despite having a 7200rpm drive. It takes ages to boot. :-(

But I really miss the 1600x1200 display on my 4 year old Dell C-series laptop. This T60p has a 1680x1050 which can be really annoying at times as I got so used to the 1200 vertical res on my Dell. Why oh why don't manufacturers do a 1600x1200 screen anymore? You can't seem to get them anywhere now.

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Active Protection

The Thinkpad Disk protection works by having an accelerometer in the laptop to detect if the laptop goes into free fall (i.e it is dropped). It then parks the hard disk while the laptop is in mid-air. I am not sure what hard drives Thinkpads currently use, but the Seagate datasheet states that their drives are good for a 250G shock while operating or a 900G shock when they are not operating. This significantly increases the chances of your data surviving the impact, even if the laptop does not.

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Re: Active Protection

Not really an accelerometer, but a rate gyro. So the only thing it really can tell is rotations. If you open the real time status for APS you can hold the laptop on some bizarre angle, and it will reset thinking that is normal upright. (An accel would still be able to determine what the orientation the laptop is in from g) It works then by detecting the signs of a fall.. eg tipping off the edge of the table, or bed. But if you managed to drop it straight down, with no tilting on the way, APS won't stop the drive. It's better if you rock it a few times to get the auto-ignore repetitive shocks going. (yellow triangle)

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I likey

I replaced my development laptop, a T41, with a T61 a couple of weeks ago and I'm pleastantly surprised with it. The keyboard is a joy to use compared to that on the T41 so much so that I don't use a full size keyboard anymore when in the office, and I'm glad to have my Windows key back !

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T61p is a good value

The T61p offers 1920x1200 resolution, includes Vista Ultimate (Bit locker drive encryption is good), and a faster CPU.

I've run XP Pro SP2 and Vista Ultimate on the same hardware and found Vista (with power management set correctly) offers on average 30-45 minutes more battery life with my 9 cell extended battery.

Yes, I bash Vista a lot - but the fact still remains it's improving with every driver update and patch from the mothership.

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