Linuxgruven > Hardware > Lenovo ThinkPad T60

Lenovo ThinkPad T60

2007.04

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
As 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 name.

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 Bluetooth.

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.

Software


I 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.

I did remove some "bonus software" (read borderline spyware) from the T60 before using it, but it was better than average these days.
Sadly, 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.

Daily Use


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.

The 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.

This ThinkPad 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 with aplomb.

Linux Use


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 to that.

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.

Wrapping Up


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.