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A common trend these days in the laptop market is to design great-looking products that fall apart easily. Quite a few manufacturers can be held guilty on this front. Laptops tend to have some problem or the other, ranging from faulty hinges to fading screens and finishes that can get easily scratched.
One manufacturer who takes care to avoid these issues is Lenovo. Having inherited the excellent Thinkpad range, the company has taken care to continue building laptops that are not only very good in performance, but offer extremely sturdy exteriors and protection.
In light of this, Lenovo recently upgraded their very popular T60 to the Centrino Duo platform and upgraded the screen to a widescreen model. Does this new iteration live up to the Thinkpad reputation? Let’s find out.
One endearing thing that never changes about Lenovo is the basic all-black design of their laptops. The T61 is no different in this respect. It follows the same basic color philosophy that has been in place for over a decade now.
However that’s where the comparison ends. Compared to previous generation products the T61 is far sleeker. It employs a slimmer design, has sharper edges and sports a very good matte finish. There are two variations on the finish though. The top of the laptop (i.e. the lid) has a very soft and almost silky feel, whereas the keyboard area is a lot more textured and looks more ordinary.
The physical construction of the laptop is top-notch as usual. The plastic used is quite stiff and sturdy, and the hinges pack in the normal titanium reinforcement. The keyboard area continues to impress. It offers plenty of space for comfortable placement of hands and this makes typing much easier. The keyboard itself is as good as ever. The keys offer a very comfortable elevation, good spacing and a smooth texture that makes working long hours on the laptop a non-issue.
As is the norm with Lenovo, both trackpoint and trackpad mouse are on offer. While the trackpoint offers a very good working experience, the latter is disappointing. It’s small, badly placed, and offers terrible usability. I feel it shouldn't have been there in the first place. While we admire Lenovo's effort to offer a wealth of options, this is a bad move. A bit more attention – such as expanding the trackpad area and offering better traction – would have improved the experience.
The LCD panel of the T61 is a 14.1 inch widescreen affair, with a native resolution of 1440 x 900. This offers more working area and is a welcome change. However, the panel’s brightness and contrast leave a lot to be desired. It’s at best average and though it’s good enough for document work, if you are a multimedia enthusiast you're better off looking at other Lenovo models. It’s a pity that the Flexview option that was available on the T60 is not available on this model.
The placement of the connectivity ports too has changed. Earlier the USB ports were placed in a horizontal manner, but now they are placed vertically. This is a bit of a nuisance, as one has to struggle to use them and some unnecessary fiddling is required.
Connectivity-wise the laptop is decently equipped. It offers three USB ports, Firewire, and a dual-layer DVD-RW. For a more comprehensive list, please check out the specification table here.
The T61 is based on the Centrino Duo platform and comes with a T7300 processor clocked at 2 GHz, 1 GB of RAM, and a 100 GB HDD. Graphics are powered by an Intel X3100 graphics chipset, which while not being anywhere near a gaming solution, has enough juice to run Windows Vista comfortably.
With its mid-level processor and basic-level graphics card, the T61 suffered in the performance stakes. What’s worse, it shipped with only 1 GB of system memory and only 100 GB of space. In an era where Acer is offering entry-level laptops with 160 GB space and 2 GB RAM, these specifications are simply unacceptable.
This was reflected in the PCMark score (3875) and the 3Dmark06 score (725). In the battery life tests too, the laptop proved average. On a full charge with medium level of work, it achieved 3 hrs 04 minutes of usage before dying. On a full all-out intensive run, we barely squeaked to 2 hours before the battery packed up.
In our Wi-Fi test, the laptop was surprisingly very strong. It was able to achieve good speeds of around 23 Mb/s. It was also able to hold a signal a lot better than most laptops at the maximum possible distance that we set. At this point most laptops start downshifting to lower speeds or simply lose connectivity. The T61 was able to easily hold a signal and file transfer speed was constant.
The T61 is a mixed bag. On the one hand it offers a strong, reinforced body and good Wi-Fi performance. On the other it suffers from slightly underpowered specifications, a lousy trackpad, and an average screen and battery. Prices for the Lenovo T61 start at Rs 86,000.
If you're looking for a reliable and sturdy laptop that will last for years, look no further. The T61 will steadily march on long after most of today’s laptops take up residence in a junkyard. It does suffer from some issues, but with some judicial upgrades (such as a faster processor and 2 GB of RAM), it will stand you in good stead.