Sunday, November 12, 2006

ThinkPad z61t - I'm in love

About two months ago, my old ThinkPad started to show signs of distress. The wifi couldn’t get an IP address at home (but it could at work). Then it stopped getting an IP at work, necessitating an ethernet cable strewn across the desk to get connectivity. Then overall sluggish behavior took hold, causing ever-lengthier boot-ups.

It should be noted that this is not a ThinkPad thing, it’s a Windows thing. (Don’t say it. No, really. Don’t. I don’t want to hear “get a Mac”. Don’t. Say. It.) And I tend to beat the hell out of my laptops – they stay on for days on end, going into standby only when I’m en route to the train station or the office… otherwise, they’re on non-stop. I install a ton of applications, because I do a lot with my computer. I could continue the “it’s not the machine, it’s me” defense, but let’s just say, I’m sympathetic when these things give up the ghost.

So it was time to replace my ThinkPad (a T42). Things I didn’t like about that machine: max resolution was 1024×768 and it was heavy (15” display and larger chassis translated to nearly 8 pounds, not counting the power cord). But after canvassing my non-Mac friends (Don’t Say It), I couldn’t really bring myself to look at anything but a ThinkPad. Readers of this blog know that I’ve long been a fan of ThinkPads (I’ve lost count, but this machine is either ThinkPad #5 or #6 in the past 7 years), and I’m thrilled to report that my newest (the z61t machine is a spectacular, shockingly good machine. Head and shoulders above any other ThinkPad I’ve had, mainly because, in addition to all its ThinkPad-y goodness, it’s also, dare I say it, just a little bit sleek. No, it’s not (ahem) Mac-like. That would be sacrilege for a ThinkPad. But this one sheds its boxy, Volvo-like blandness for a little bit of style. Added to its significant substance and it’s a winner.

First off, why do I swear by the ThinkPads? Let’s see: the keyboards are consistently remarkable, far superior to any other keyboard I’ve typed on (including desktop keyboards). I type a little over 100 words a minute, and when your fingers move fast on a keyboard that’s not responsive, your hands actually get tired. ThinkPad keys always bounce back without pushing back, and they’ve always felt solid. The trackpoint (the little eraser in between the g, h, and b keys) is something that once you get used to, you can’t live without. And the ThinkPad software — Access Connections (to manage connection profiles), File & Folder Security (solidy crypto to secure your files), and Rescue & Recovery (for pre-boot disk recovery) — have consistently been head and shoulders above what I’ve seen other manufacturers bundle with their products.

That said, I was torn. I found the T series to be heavier than I wanted, and the X series (their ultraportable) seemed a bit too small (their displays won’t show greater than 1024×768, probably because on a monitor that tiny, anything larger would be unreadable). (I briefly looked at the Lenovo v3000, but the lack of a Trackpoint and the “upgrade” from a pc card to an Express Card both were deal-breakers for me.) Somehow I’d missed the Z series — inexplicably smaller than the T, but bigger than the X. Whatever you call it, it’s perfect. It’s a widescreen display (currently set at 1440 × 900, which feels perfect), but in a smaller chassis than the T series – so the unit weighs just over 4 pounds. Aside from the display, it’s what this thing has built-in that really stand apart:

  • Webcam (not photo quality, but perfect for video chats and webinars)

  • Verizon Broadband (no more PC card!)

  • Memory card reader

  • 3 USB ports, 1 firewire port, 1 PC slot

  • DVD and CD burner

  • WiFi (a/b/g)

  • Bluetooth

With 1 gig of RAM, 100 gig hard drive, and a 2ghz Intel Core Duo chip, it’s all around just a spectacular machine. It’s noticeably lighter, the screen seems quite a bit brighter than the T42 it replaced, it’s far more functional than its predecessor (lots more built-in), and the integrated broadband wireless (you’ll recall I’m a fan of Verizon’s service) means that I can shed another peripheral and still remain connected whenever the laptop’s on. The unit seems to operate cooler than previous laptops I’ve used, too; only downside so far is that the speakers, while good, aren’t loud enough. (Oh – the sleek part? Rounded corners on the chassis, and — mon dieu! — a titanium cover. What will they think of next?!)

All in all, I’m thrilled. If you’re in the market for a new laptop, I can’t recommend this one highly enough.

1 comment:

  1. In the Windows world I was always a huge fan of the ThinkPads. Now that I've gone Mac (I'm not saying it!) I can say that I still really, really miss the Trackpoint. Best laptop mouse solution. Ever.