Review: ThinkPad Z60m

Lenovo's wide-screen ThinkPad may be a bit big, but its gorgeous 15.4-inch display and other impressive features could put it at the top of your list.

Scot Finnie, Contributor

November 21, 2005

6 Min Read

Notebooks with honking-big LCDs sure aren't what they used to be. At least, not with Lenovo's ThinkPad Z60m. Sure, this 16:9 (wide screen) 15.4-inch WXGA display notebook is bigger than your average notebook, but it pays you back in several useful ways. And the Z60m is nowhere near as big or hefty as the earlier rounds of wide-screen WXGA notebooks released by other manufacturers, some of which looked more like shrunken desktop PCs than notebooks.

The most important attribute of the Z60m, hands down, is its gorgeous and extremely usable 15.4-inch LCD display. This screen may be the size that all notebooks should be designed around. It's as ideal working through your business day as it is playing a DVD on the plane. The 1,680 by 1,050-pixel resolution lets you really spread out and get work done. The slightly shorter, wider screen also fits better on the tray table in coach class.

The 15.4-inch display is what you see first, but the Lenovo Z60m also offers an Intel 2GHz mobile Pentium M processor, 1GB of RAM, a 100GB 5400-rpm hard drive, 128MB ATI Radeon X600 video, and a fingerprint reader.

Some of the more important features include an Intel 2GHz mobile Pentium M processor, 1GB of RAM, a 100GB 5400-rpm hard drive, 128MB ATI Radeon X600 video, a fingerprint reader with secure chip, and a jumbo nine-cell lithium-ion battery. The review unit (model number 2529-EAU) came fully equipped with Windows XP Pro, Bluetooth, 802.11a/b/g wireless, 1GB Ethernet, and a CDRW/DVDRW drive.

Wide-Body Niceties
The wide-body chassis of the Z60m offers some dividends in addition to the screen: larger speakers, for example, mounted on either side of the keyboard, where they won't be muffled by your lap (which was one of the few downsides of Lenovo's ThinkPad T series 14-inch and 15-inch LCD notebooks). Combine the speakers with the cinematic display and you have an excellent DVD-playing notebook PC.

The bigger size of the Z60m case means more real estate for connectors, too. It offers three USB ports, a Firewire port, and a three-in-one card reader. There's also a PS/2 mouse port, something that's missing from some other notebooks.

Lenovo is the only notebook manufacturer whose built-in pointing device is good enough for me to toss my desktop mouse. The UltraNav TrackPoint three-button pointing/scrolling system even includes a very usable solution for replacing the scroll wheel on a desktop mouse. I've long since grown so accustomed to the UltraNav that I don't even realize I'm using it. Sometimes I find myself wistfully extending my thumb for the UltraNav when I'm typing at my desktop computer.

IBM was noted for making the very best laptop keyboards and Lenovo is using the same designs, so the Z60m has a keyboard that most touch typists will adore.

Many people will find that, with this particular portable computer, they don't need add-on devices like an external display, keyboard, or mouse. When you're weighing price and value, keep that in mind. Nit Picks
The Z60m's lid-closing mechanism triggers standby or hibernation at about a 25-degree-closed angle, as opposed to the under-10-degree angle that triggers power-management features on most notebooks. Let me put it this way — the notebook screen has some 4.5 inches of travel left when the screen blanks out. Because I prefer to set the action of a closed lid to hibernate (both to save power and protect against heat build up), I have more than once accidentally triggered unwanted hibernations.

The otherwise excellent UltraNav pointing device has a cheaper feel than previous versons, and it's narrower fore and aft by a few millimeters. It's just not quite up to the standard of the business-class ThinkPads I've tested in the past.

I am not a fan of Intel wireless networking hardware and the Z60m didn't change my mind. The Intel 2915 a/b/g 2200BG wireless networking mini PCI card that came with the review unit disconnected frequently, especially on hibernation and wake-up. After messing around with the 2915's settings (available in Device Manager), I finally found a configuration that makes the card work 95 percent of the time. I have had multiple doesn't-work-at-all experiences with this low-cost 2200BG wireless networking card in the past, and don't recommend buying any computer that comes with it. It is possible to specify a (much superior) IBM 802.11 a/b/g card for T series notebooks, the IBM 11a/b/g Wireless LAN Mini PCI Adapter II, that works perfectly every time, but I'm not sure it's available for the ThinkPad Z60 series.

Taking Its Measure
The wide screen gives the Z60m a different footprint. It's just over 14 inches wide, only 10.3 inches deep, and just over 1.5 inches high. The larger screen also dictates a beefier hinge system, forcing the unit to tip the scales at over six pounds in most configurations. The unit I tested has an extremely strong pewter-colored titanium top cover that adds almost half a pound to the overall weight. With the larger nine-cell battery, this model weighs in at 6.8 pounds. (There are Z60m models that weigh less — one is 5.97 pounds.)

So this isn't the notebook for all you card-carrying members of the actively mobile workforce. Lenovo's X series notebooks and its competitors are more appropriate for folks perennially on the go. But if you work at home or bring your notebook home from the office just on weekends, the Z60m is worth consideration.

At $2,229, my top-of-the-line 2529-EAU Z60m test unit is very well equipped but pricey. Cost has long been an issue with ThinkPads — you pay for the best-designed, best-executed products. And when you list out the pros and cons, the Z60m is a very good value for someone who wants it all. There's nothing at all to upgrade (Lenovo won't say this yet, but I can tell you that, as equipped, it will run Windows Vista just fine). If price is a bigger concern, Lenovo has 15.4-inch LCD Z60m models selling for as low as $1,199.

The ThinkPad Z60m is also the perfect notebook for home users. It's large enough to be useful, even without an external display, keyboard, or mouse — but small enough to put in a drawer or take out on the road now and then. It's aimed at the needs of small business people. And it's perfect for people who combine business and pleasure on one computer. When you think of it that way, it's a nearly perfect compromise — just so long as regular travel isn't part of your gig.

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