Review: ThinkPad T60p - InformationWeek

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Review: ThinkPad T60p

Lenovo's new ThinkPad T60p is a very successful--if pricey--attempt to bridge the gap between the ultraportables and the desktop replacements.

Like most laptops these days, the T60p has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. However, it is among the first laptops with built-in support for cellular data service. In this case, the laptop has a built-in radio for Verizon Wireless' EV-DO service, which provides typical download speeds in the 500 Kbps range. The built-in EV-DO support costs an extra $150, which is a bit more than the cost of an add-in PC card for the service, depending on the service plan you buy.

The Verizon Wireless EV-DO service worked as advertised. It's a great convenience because you can connect from anywhere the service is available, which is most U.S. large and medium-sized metropolitan areas. When EV-DO service is not available, the built-in radio falls back to older 1xRTT cellular data service, with speeds of about 100 Kbps.

However, the built-in service is not quite as seamless as it eventually will be. For one thing, it must be managed from an initially bewildering variety of interfaces. For instance, it is listed as a network adapter in the Windows XP Network Connections dialog, along with the built-in Ethernet adapter and Wi-Fi. It also appeared as a dial-up connection and Verizon's access management software was required to actually log on to the cellular data network.

To simplify matters, Lenovo includes utilities for managing all of its various methods of connectivity. Specifically, its slick connection management utility enables you to create profiles that make use of various combinations of connectivity and security. For instance, you could create one profile for using Wi-Fi in the office. A second profile for public Wi-Fi, such as hotspots in airports and coffee shops, could automatically load virtual private networking (VPN) software. A third profile could use the EV-DO connection when available. A fourth could seamlessly switch between EV-DO and Wi-Fi, depending on which provides the strongest signal.

Another consideration is that, while EV-DO can be a godsend, enabling you to log on easily from virtually anywhere in a metropolitan area, it is expensive — about $60 a month with a two-year contract required. And there is no roaming – if you subscribe to Verizon Wireless' service, you can't use Sprint's or Cingular's cellular data services if Verizon's service isn't available. Also, you can't use the EV-DO capabilities outside the U.S., although Lenovo also offers a separate version of the laptop that works with Vodafone's GSM-based 3G network in Europe and Asia.

As a result, you may not want to lock into one type of service built into a laptop. Rather, if you want 3G service, a PC Card may be less expensive and provide more flexibility.

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