Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m

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Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m
  • Lenovo ThinkPad Z61m

Pros

  • Good battery life, decent graphics performance, tough design

Cons

  • RAM (more can be added), some may prefer a glossy screen

Bottom Line

A well designed and rugged notebook backed up by decent performance.

Would you buy this?

  • Buy now (Selling at 3 stores)

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Lenovo's ThinkPad Z61m is a multimedia oriented notebook, complete with a 15.4in widescreen display and an ATI Mobility X1300 graphics card. It is a fairly tough machine, with a titanium cover and a rugged - albeit reasonably weighty at 3.1kg - design. The ThinkPad Z61m will be suited to those who are looking for a desktop replacement with the ability to work on the road.

The Z61m is powered by a 1.83GHz Intel Centrino Duo and 512MB of RAM, which is expandable to 4GB. Graphics are provided by a dedicated card, the ATI Radeon X1300, which comes with 64MB of RAM. The Z61m scored a respectable 83 in World Bench 5. Helped along by the ATI Radeon, the Lenovo scored 9947 in 3DMark01. This result is more than acceptable for a notebook, though still not really good enough to play the very latest games.

With the Z61m, Lenovo has bucked the emerging trend of using a highly reflective glossy finish for the screen. Instead, the 15.4 inch 1680x1050 TFT LCD uses a traditional matte finish. The new glossy screens can strongly reflect fluorescent lights, so it's worth popping in to your local retailer and checking out what kind you would prefer before committing to a purchase. The screen is bright and sharp, and at its native resolution the Windows desktop appears at just the right size. Both office and multimedia applications look great, and the Z61m also has a good viewing angle, especially horizontally, though it isn't quite as bright as we'd like.

The Z61m is replete with a variety of connectivity options including three USB 2.0 ports, Gigabit Ethernet, 56K modem, a mini FireWire socket, standard 15-pin D-sub video for external monitors, S-Video, microphone and headphone jacks. For wireless connections the Z61m has 802.11a/b/g, Bluetooth and even infrared. Additional security is provided by biometric fingerprint scanning, which proves a simple and effective tool. Both the BIOS settings and Windows login can be protected in this way, which is useful as a theft deterrent and to ensure confidential files stay that way.

Aesthetically, the Z61m stands out from the rest of ThinkPad range, primarily due to its titanium cover. This gives the unit a distinctive feel, and it is extremely strong. The rest of the Z61m is fashioned in an equally durable manner, with the unit feeling solid and well built. The screen, one of the traditional weak points of notebooks, is especially well designed, with two strong hinges and a sturdy construction that resists flex. Another great aspect of the Z61m is its keyboard, which is quite large and very responsive. As with most notebooks there is some compromise with a few keys shrunk, and the numerical keypad could have been laid out better.

Other useful design features include the removable DVD multi-recorder drive and the now standard inclusion on ThinkPads of both a scroll pad and trackpoint nub. There isn't much in the way of shortcut keys, but dedicated volume controls and a shortcut button to the ThinkVantage Productivity Centre are useful nonetheless. A separate switch is provided for enabling or disabling the wireless connection. Lenovo also include a keyboard light, which bathes the keys in an orange glow for use at night, though it's barely little more powerful than the screen's illumination.

Weighing in at 3.1kg, this is not lightweight unit. Nevertheless, it's an acceptable load for a full-featured notebook. Most importantly the notebook returned an impressive battery life of 205 minutes in the Mobile Mark 2005 Productivity test. The Z61m recorded a time of 125 minutes for watching a DVD under the Mobile Mark 2005 DVD Playback test. The Z61m's built in speakers are just about up to the job, with clear audio that avoids sounding tinny. The maximum volume is a little on the quiet side though. Other good points for travellers are the quiet performance, with an almost complete lack of fan noise, and the minimal heat output.

Overall, the Z61m is a good all round notebook, performing well in most regards. Its dedicated graphics chip means it has some gaming power, and the 1.83GHz Centrino Duo gives the system good general performance. We would recommend upgrading to 1GB of RAM to future-proof the notebook though. Excellent battery life and a rugged design mean the Z61m is equally at home on the road or in the office, provided you can accept the weight.

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