Test IBM / Lenovo Thinkpad T61 Notebook - Full Upgrade
Pump it up. A short time ago we reviewed the T61 in its base equipment. Especially the very small battery, but, also the only average processor raised the claim for more power. Here is another review of the T61 with top equipment, Core 2 Duo T7700 CPU and capacious 5200 mAh 6-cells lithium ions battery.
This is another review of the Lenovo Thinkpad T61 with T7700 CPU and 6-cells battery. The review of the Thinkpad T61 in base equipment can be found here.
Regarding case and workmanship there is nothing to add: To make it short first-class and indestructible - here is the original text:
An important part of the Thinkpad identity is its black case with cheap looking plastics flavour. This might sound bitter, but handling this notebook quickly puts this impression into perspective.
Generally this 14 inch notebook's robustness is excellent. A waste of time to try to deform the Thinkpad T61 under pressure. However, if you, legitimately for a notebook of this class, scrutinize the case, you'll still find some parts with smaller weaknesses.
E.g., the plastic cover next to the Thinkvantage buttons yields and silently creaks somewhat under pressure. Similarly, the same can be observed for the region of the optical drive at the bottom side of the notebook. Especially, the weakness at the UltraBay slot is one, which already exists since some Thinkpad generations.
Let's finally stop complaining. The T61's workmanship is as expected very good and also the stability of the case is first class. This is supported by a metal frame inside the notebook and magnesium parts at its surfaces.
The display of the T61 is especially strengthened, and so, it scores better now than the also very robust T60. A special comb construction under the displays cover further increases flexural rigidity and pressure resistance.
The display stands out because of the strengthened molding at its edges, known as ClamShell design was further reduced. While it exceeded the display frame by about 1 centimeter at the top part of the R50, now only a gentle rise is apparent. So, the look was clearly improved and while it is still sufficient to guarantee a nearly seamlessly closed display. So, dust and dirt particles cannot accumulate in the inter space.
Also the look of the hinges were slightly adapted. Their height got smaller, but in turn their width increased. The edgy and massive form still stayed the same. Still the metal hinges are capable to absolutely securely keep the display's position.
The same is true for the ramshorn hook, which secures the closed display and is easy to handle by a switch placed at the front edge of the display.
The provided interfaces and their order is typical Thinkpad. In order to be able to also use especially huge high-capacity batteries with this notebook, the battery was again located at the T61's backside. So, batteries with higher capacity can exceed the case and so provide more cells. This is a special aspect for the T61, but we'll discuss this later.
Back to the ports. A main difference to the T60 series is that the audio ports and the Firewire port were located at the front edge. So, a permanent use of these ports especially at a fixed place is difficult and using a docking station is recommended. So, also the missed out DVI ports can be overcome.
Some more words to the security aspect, which is a special consideration of the Thinkpad series: The T61 provides comprehensive security features, e.g., a shock protection for the hard disk, a fingerprint reader and a TPM chip including compatible software.
They are also the same as of the already reviewed T61.
Among the input devices you'll detect a well-known Thinkpad friend - a spacious, red track point in the middle of a jet-black keyboard. Themed: "Red trackpoint outside, quality inside", all the input devices can be assessed.
The keyboard is clearly structured and, so, very user-friendly. The only exception is the FN pad, which is located left besides the Ctrl key, a somewhat unusual place for those unfamiliar with Thinkpad keyboards.
Typing has a soft stop, yet a clear action point, and a sufficient travel. Furthermore, the keyboard stays quiet, even during fast and forceful typing. Speaking from my own experience, I can conform that this persists even over years of intensive use, if the quality of the parts stayed the same.
Because of the slim wide-screen format of this notebook, the touch pad had to be placed relatively near the front edge, which somewhat complicated using the pad and its buttons on the lap. Although, the pad is very user-friendly, besides its small dimensions, we would recommend to use the trackpoint instead, in this situation (actually always ... ;-)).
Even, if there is some time of adaption needed, in the long term there is no doubt that the trackpoint clearly is the better mouse replacement, because it makes quick navigation without repositioning possible. It's even possible to play games with the trackpoint...
Following hotkeys are provided by the Thinkpad T61: above the keyboard some small buttons for controlling the volume and deactivating the sound, furthermore, the blue ThinkVantage button, which can be used to invoke a menu with a variety of Lenovo specific tools. This menu, e.g., provides help with networking, data protection and a number of configuration options. If you press this button during the boot process, the recovery system, which can be used to backup and restore data, will be launched.
Although there are a number of different displays available for the T61, also this time a WXGA+ panel was used:
The Lenovo Thinkpad T61 is equipped with a 14 inch WXGA+ display with a maximum resolution of 1440x900 pixels. This ensures clarity, even if the display is small and even under Windows Vista.
Typical Thinkpad, you can also choose among a number of display version for the T61. At the time of writing these are: 1024x768 XGA, the reviewed 1440x900 WXGA+ version for 14 inch displays, and a 1280x800 WXGA or a 1920x1200 WUXGA version for 15.4 inch displays.
The test of the 1440x900 WXGA+ panel resulted in very good brightness values. In the center of the bottom region, we measured a maximum of excellent 221.2 cd/m². Although the illumination of only 77.3% does not convince at the first glance, a minimum brightness of still 170.9 cd/m² puts this first impression into perspective.
The measurement diagram for display calibration depicts a nearly ideal red and green color curve, and a slightly lowered blue color curve. Even subjectively the display calibrated with factory settings appears rather cold.
The measured minimum brightness of the reviewed display (black value) is 1.1 cd/m², together with a maximum brightness of 221.2 cd/m², this leads to a calculated maximum contrast of 201:1. This is acceptable. Furthermore, regarding speed of reaction, nothing requiring any remarks could be detected by any of the performed scroll tests.
Very good brightness together with a non-reflecting display qualifies the Lenovo Thinkpad T61 also for outdoor operation. Probably, the automatic dimming during battery operation, will cause troubles, but, you can deactivate it by changing bios settings. So, the total brightness is also available during outdoor battery operation.
While the display seems to be horizontally very stable to the vantage point and you'll hardly face any changes to the displayed images, clear weaknesses can be detected vertically. Especially, looking from bottom up leads to a heavy darkening. Looking from top down, the displayed image whitens.
Now we are at the criterion where this T61 clearly outperforms the already reviewed version.
The Thinkpad T61 would not be the dynamo of Lenovo, if it could not host the currently most powerful processor. A T7700 CPU by Intel with 2.4 GHz makes the T61 really powerful.
Regarding graphics, the already well-known NVIDIA NVS 140M is used, which is about as powerful as a Geforce 8400M, and provides sufficient video power for the Thinkpad T61.
Instead of a 250GB hard disk this notebook is equipped with a 100GB hard disk which is, with 7200 revs/min slightly more powerful than the 5400 revs version. 3GB built-in main memory is more than sufficient.
So, the office performance of the Lenovo Thinkpad T61 is excellent. Depending on the planned field of operation the NVS 140M video card might be a bottleneck, especially in the fields of 3D applications and of course also in the fields of current computer games.
» No benchmarks for this notebook found!
» No benchmarks for this notebook found!
Actually, we assumed that the notebook would be louder, because of the essential better hardware equipment. Our review, however, proved this, besides a clearly audible hard disk, wrong.
In idle mode a noise level of about 34.5dB is reached. This is nearly the same value of the already previously reviewed T61. In quiet environments the notebooks is therewith clearly audible, but the noise itself is rather decent and hardly disturbing.
Under load the noise level only slightly increases. Only 35.7dB were measured and this despite of increasing demand and a room temperature of 28°C and more...
The surface temperature of this Thinkpad T61 was slightly above the one of the T61 with T7300 CPU, but, we are not sure, if this is caused by the more powerful processor or the higher environment temperatures during the notebook review. In total the surface temperatures are alright. Next the the right palm rest area (hard disk) the temperature increases a little more.
palmwrist: 38.1°C max: 38.1°C avg: 36.6°C
max: 42.4°C avg: 39.7°C
Both of the Thinkpad T61's provided stereo speakers, located left and right beside the keyboard, sound clear, and are adequately loud for playing music, but basses are hardly evident. For background music they are by all means sufficient.
During DVD playback (reviewed: Scrubs Season 1 in English) the maximum volume was just sufficient. So, there is little scope here.
The biggest weakness of the T61 Thinkpad was clearly the too low-capacity of its 2600 mAh battery. So, here an upgrade is recommended.
The also available 5200 mAh battery clearly exceeds the case, but provides a clear increase of battery runtime, which now ranges from clearly above one hour without load to a maximum of 4 hours with optimized energy settings. So, a mobile use of the Thinkpad T61 is well possible.
Should this still be insufficient, the T61 can also be equipped with an Ultrabay battery which increases weight of the T61 by about 230 g, but, also increases the runtime by about 50% by an additional capacity of 2700 mAh.
The T61 in this version is in total more complete. Especially, the availability of a bigger 5200 mAh battery for Thinkpad T61 is good. The performance increase by the T7700 processor is good, however, for standard users it has only little advantages.
However, the price of the notebooks also increased with the better hardware equipment. About 3000.- Euro have to be paid for this notebook with faster hard disk, CPU, and 6-cells battery. The Ultrabay battery costs about 150.- .
Here's the original article about the base equipped T61.
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