Lenovo ThinkPad T60
I purchased a Lenovo
ThinkPad T60 model 2623-D6U for work in the summer of 2006. The
following is my review of this laptop after almost a year of use.
Build Quality and Hardware
The T60 is quite a modern machine. As purchased, the specs are as follows:
- Intel Core Duo 1.83GHz CPU
- 1.5GB RAM (512MB shipped plus 1GB added)
- ATI Radeon X1300 with 64MB dedicated RAM
- 80GB SATA 5400rpm hard drive
- 14" 1400x1050 LCD
- DVD+-RW drive
- 3xUSB 2.0
- Intel 3945 802.11g WiFi
- Intel 1GB Ethernet
- A 56k software modem
- VGA out
- IR port
- Extra UltraBay with a 120GB SATA drive
- 2 PCMCIA slots
- Mic in, headphone out
you can see, this is no slouch. However, the hardware is the first
oddity about the T60. The unit shipped with 512MB of RAM. I ordered
it straight from Lenovo with an additional 1GB SO-DIMM. To my
surprise, when it arrived, the extra RAM shipped in a separate box,
leaving me to add it myself. This was complicated by the fact that,
for some bizarre reason, Lenovo has broken with IBM's trend of making
RAM upgrades easy but making the user partially disassemble the laptop
to add th extra RAM. It turns out that I have no problems taking apart laptops
so this wasn't a big deal for me, but it was still a shock and was not
something that I would have expected from any laptop carrying the IBM
Under the similar skin, the laptop is completely
reworked. There is a new roll-cage, making the laptop even sturdier
than its predecessors, the machine now features an Intel Core Duo CPU
(Core 2 Duo as of 2007) it uses newer DDR2 RAM, SATA drives and,
unfortunately, a different power adapter than previous ThinkPad T
series laptops. Another unfortunate change is the dropping of the
S-Video port. Each successive T release has dropped or changed some
ports. I think Lenovo has gone a little too far here, especially
considering that they have yet to add either FireWire or DVI ports to
the ThinkPad T60. Oddly, the T60 still has an IR port as well as
The laptop looks almost identical to the venerable ThinkPad T4x
The only cosmetic changes are a slightly different keyboard with Windows
keys, the addition of a fingerprint reader, a WiFi radar kill switch
and an extra USB port. Closed, the two machines are virtually
indistinguishable, save for a slightly wider right hinge on the T60.
Lenovo has a winning design, they know it and are sticking with it.
Personally, I find this reassuring. By now, the ThinkPad is a classic
design with a well-deserved reputation for quality. I'm glad that
Lenovo is sticking with this trend and is opting for small, incremental
changes rather than radical departures. This likely sits well with
other long-time ThinkPad customers.
don't usually bother mentioning software in PC reviews. In the case of
the T60, I think it's worth a few words. The T60 I purchased ships
with Windows XP Professional. In addition to this, Lenovo has included
backup tools, an antivirus program and custom software to automatically
retrieve the latest drivers for the machine. This isn't unique to the
T60, but is something that I quite appreciate after having to reload
Dell laptops and desktops ad-nauseum at work.
With Dell, you
type in the service tag and are presented with all possible driver
options. it's ridiculous. You often see listings for three or four
completely different drivers that they may have used for a given
component depending on the day of the week that the system was built.
Despite the fact that the service tag should trace back to the specific
hardware you ordered, you literally have to guess which components you
have and then try each driver. Lenovo's software,on the other hand,
will look the hardware up itself and will then download and install the
right drivers with minimal intervention from the user. While this
isn't a problem under Linux, it's certainly a time-saver under Windows.
did remove some "bonus software" (read borderline spyware) from the T60
before using it, but it was better than average these days.
Lenovo has followed the trend of not including a set of recovery CDs,
let alone an installable copy of Windows XP. This seems to be par for
the course and, while annoying, I consider it a fair trade-off for
getting a top-quality laptop for under $1500. As a Linux user, this
doesn't really bother me too much, though given that hard drives are
one of the more likely components to fail, I question the wisdom of
cutting corners here.
The 2623 ThinkPad
T60 has a high-resolution 1400x1050 display. While the text is a
little on the small size on the 14" screen, the higher resolution is a
joy to have. I'm now used to it and miss it when using other 14"
ThinkPads with 1024x768 displays. For me, 1400x1050 is an excellent
choice for a 14" screen, as 1024x768 seems optimal for 12" displays.
laptop weighs about 5lbs, making it about as heavy as my 12"
PowerBook. Though it's physically quite a bit larger than the
PowerBook, the extra size is acceptable given the higher resolution
display. The battery life is quite good. It lasts me about three
hours of typical usage. It's a step down from the PowerBook but is
better than average for current laptops these days. The UltraBay can
be replaced with a second battery and a higher capacity battery is
available for the T60.
This laptop was originally purchased for
imaging machines at work. For this reason, an UltraBay hard drive
adapter was purchased. This allows one to replace the DVD+-RW drive
with a second, larger hard drive and was one of the primary motivations
for opting for a ThinkPad over a Toshiba laptop. The other reason for
opting for a ThinkPad was for daily Linux use. The T60's suitability
for this task is discussed in the next section.
T60 shipped with Windows XP. I've used it, Vista and several flavours
of Linux on the machine. Vista runs adequately on this machine.
However, while it scores fairly high, I find the video quite sluggish.
Everything else with Vista seems to work as expected but I've often
seem the window redraws lag. Aero seems to be a bit much for the ATI
X1300, though other Intel Integrated GMA950s I've seen have handled it
I won't mince words here: I
was initially very disappointed with the ThinkPad T60 under Linux.
Most, but not all, of the problems focused around the ATI X1300 video
card. In short, the X1300 is terrible, terrible, terrible under
Linux. If you want any kind of accelerated video, you must use ATI's
fglrx drivers. For almost a full year, there have been known bugs with
these drivers that cause problems with resuming from a suspend-to-RAM.
These closed-source drivers are far more of a bane for me than the
Nvidia drivers. There have been many times that I have cursed Lenovo's
choice of card here. To be honest, I was quite surprised by this, as
there were good reviews for one model of T60, the T60p, that actually
shipped with SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop 10. How did they do this, I
wondered, as the T60p used a similar, albeit higher-end ATI card that
used the same fglrx drivers. I bought a copy of SLED10 only to find
out that they skirted the issue by simply disabling the suspend-to-RAM
feature under Linux.
With that off my chest, things are actually
looking up now. ATI has recently released new drivers that seem to
work quite well, and the latest version of Ubuntu, Feisty Fawn (7.04)
seems to work exceptionally well with only minor tweaking. (I had to set POST_VIDEO to false in /etc/default/acpi-support) After
almost a year of annoyances, it seems as though Linux has caught up to
the T60, or has the T60 caught up to Linux?
As they now seem to be sorted, video and suspend
issues aside, this is a very nice Linux laptop. As with previous
ThinkPads, the special buttons that I use all seem to work. I can
output to a monitor without issue, the volume buttons work as do the
screen brightness keys. Yes, the ThinkPad light works. I'm using it
right now. Suspend to RAM, the scrolling trackpad, the nib, it all
works. WiFi has worked well since Ubuntu 6.06, the Bluetooth icon is
lit, though I haven't tested it under Linux. The fingerprint reader
works, though the open source implementation is new enough that it
doesn't yet work with xscreensaver, so I eventually just disabled it.
As a Linux user, I was disappointed to see the addition of the Windows
keys, though it hasn't hampered daily use at all.
With the kinks
finally worked out and the high-res display, this is turning out to be
one of the nicer Linux laptops that I've used. It's certainly the
newest. Having the dual core CPU with VT extensions has been simply
awesome for VMWare. I make a Live CD every year for work and will be
able to do so on the laptop this year. I'm definitely looking forward
In the end, this would be an ideal Linux laptop if it
had an Intel GMA950. While they aren't the fastest video chipsets in
the world, my experiences with them under Linux are orders of magnitude
better than the ATI X1300. Hopefully AMD can turn that disaster
around. As things have steadily improved in the last few months, I am
cautiously optimistic. However, I've never been a fan of ATI's
drivers. Until there are Open Source drivers for this chipset, I would
avoid it if possible.
The ThinkPad T60
seems a worthy successor to the T40 series. Lenovo has shown that they
can recognize a good thing and subtly enhance it while maintaining the
aspects that customers have grown to love. While a few things about
this laptop have annoyed me, I wouldn't let that scare you off. I see
most types of laptops at work. From Acer to Apple, Dell to HP, Vaio to
Toshiba. The only models I would buy for myself or use on a daily
basis are Apples and ThinkPads. First from IBM, now from Lenovo, the
ThinkPad is one of the sturdiest, most reliable systems I've used. The
T60 continues in that tradition.