ThinkPad T61 Is an Able Companion

Review: Lenovo's first laptop with Intel's Centrino Duo and Pro technology is worth putting at the top of any organization's notebook shortlist.

The latest addition to Lenovos T-series laptop family is the first to use designs based on Intels Centrino Duo and Pro processor technology. The ThinkPad T61, and the chip set formerly known as "Santa Rosa," became available May 9.

The ThinkPad T61 is the thinnest and lightest 14-inch widescreen ThinkPad laptop. At 13.2 by 9.3 by 1.26 inches and starting at 5 pounds, the ThinkPad T61 is an able companion for mobile workers and worth putting at the top of any organizations laptop shortlist.

The T61 is also the first ThinkPad to come with a display panel protected by an internal magnesium-alloy "roll cage" used only in the system body of Lenovo laptops. The roll cage shields the wireless network radio antennas located in the display lid from monitor interference while also providing ample room for the optional antennas used to supply 802.11n draft connectivity.

/zimages/5/28571.gifeWEEK Labs tests find that 802.11n places increased demands on wireless networks. Click here to read more.

While Lenovo touts the laptop as one of the coolest ThinkPads—no small feat given the dual-core processors—we still felt the heat in our palms after using the T61 for more than 10 or 15 minutes.

The ThinkPad T61 that eWEEK Labs tested featured Intels 2GHz Core 2 Duo T7300 processor; 2GB of DDR2 RAM; a 100GB, 7200-rpm hard drive and a six-cell lithium-ion battery. This configuration costs $1,954.

For an additional $50, users can purchase a 1GB Turbo Memory add-on, which, when paired with Windows Vista, can boost system responsiveness and shorten boot times by caching certain data to Flash RAM, where its more quickly accessible than from disk. The system we tested did not include the Turbo memory add-on. Boot-up times we experienced with our test machine hovered at about 50 seconds, starting from the time we hit the power button to when we saw the Vista password screen. Shutdown also took about 50 seconds.

Our laptop came equipped with an integrated Intel Graphics Media Accelerator X3100 module and a DVD-recordable drive. Other optical drive options include a CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo II drive or a DVD-ROM, either of which fit in the 10-millimeter-high slot.

The T61 builds on the wireless support we liked in the T60. The system we evaluated included an Intel Pro/Wireless 3845ABG module. The T61 also supports the Intel Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN draft 802.11n specification and can be equipped with Bluetooth and embedded WWAN (wireless WAN) connectivity. The WWAN option works with either AT&T or Verizon Wireless cellular networks.

For the ThinkPad we tested, Lenovo offers on-board security systems including an optional hard drive that supports full disk encryption, an integrated fingerprint reader, and a built-in TPM (Trusted Platform Module) chip. IT mangers should carefully consider the implications of deploying these tools as important questions about key storage for ensuring cryptographic integrity are still in play around the TPM specification. However, as Vista becomes more prevalent on laptop systems, TPM-equipped systems such as the ThinkPad T61 will begin taking on more importance in forming the backbone of a secure mobile work force.

For now, the hardware-based full-disk encryption drive options available for the ThinkPad T61 lack centralized management tools, which are important for enterprise deployment. Lenovo officials said that tools for managing hardware-based full-disk encryption would appear within a year. For now, we recommend that IT managers consider Vistas built-in BitLocker functionality or a software disk encryption offering such as Safeguard Easy, from Lenovo partner Utimaco.

We used the fingerprint reader to enroll a secured user with very little fuss. However, IT managers should count on scheduling a few hours of training to show users how to use the fingerprint reader to protect sensitive data.

The ThinkPad T61 that we tested had enough ports and controls over those ports to satisfy both users and IT managers. It is possible to use BIOS settings to disable any port that can move data off the ThinkPad T61. Our system had one front-mounted IEEE 1394, SVGA graphics, internal modem, a Gigabit Ethernet port and three USB 2.0 ports. The ThinkPad T61 also comes with a two-card slot that can accept various combinations of an ExpressCard34/54, a SmartCard reader or a 4-in-1 memory card reader.

Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at

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