If the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p were a car, it would be known in street-racer circles as a sleeper: no glossy paint, no chrome trim--just a plain-Jane exterior with enough horsepower to blow the doors off all comers. Add in the ThinkPad line's excellent manageability, top-notch security, and standard three-year warranty, and you have a high-powered workstation for business users who value substance over in-your-face style. And at $2,288 for our tested configuration, it's also reasonably priced.
The T61p comes wrapped in the classic (a nicer word for dull) matte-black cloak we've come to expect; while it's not contemporary, at least it's smudge-proof. The 15.4-inch widescreen and extended nine-cell battery hanging off the back (the standard six-cell sits flush) give the machine a large footprint and makes the 6.2-pound unit feel a little tippy in the hand. But the extra screen real estate and three hours of runtime on our demanding DVD rundown are worth the tradeoff.
Lift the lid and you'll find the absolutely perfect-feeling ThinkPad keyboard--illuminated from above with the handy white LED ThinkLight--as well as both a pointing stick and a smallish touchpad. You'll even find a fingerprint reader and dedicated volume and mute buttons.
The 15.4-inch screen has a matte finish, which is appropriate for most business settings because it cuts down on office-lighting glare, but we still prefer a glossy option. The 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution is ideal for workstation apps and accommodates the main project screen and all the peripheral tool palettes, but it also means text and icons get pretty small. The screen isn't as bright as others we've tested lately, either.
Lenovo designed the T61p for durability, with a spill-resistant keyboard, active hard drive protection for the shock-mounted hard drive, and magnesium-skeleton rollcages for both the bottom chassis and the lid. This system is ideal for managed corporate deployments, thanks to the built-in Intel Active Management Technology (AMT). AMT allows IT staff to remotely access a machine to assess hardware and software inventory, heal a system remotely, and more. That's in addition to Lenovo's already-excellent ThinkVantage utilities. And the T61p is an ISV (independent software vendor), certified to run the leading workstation applications.
As for security, the T61p includes the ThinkVantage Client Security Solution, which works with the embedded TPM chip and fingerprint reader to manage user authentication. The optional Gemplus GemPC400 Compact Smart Card Reader ($50) can help enterprises control access to corporate networks with two layers of security: the Smart Card and a password. IT administrators can also lock the USB and other ports to protect against data theft from internal parties.
Our test unit came with a 100GB 7,200-rpm SATA hard drive, 2GB of 667-MHz SDRAM (up to 4GB is available), an Nvidia Quadro FX 570 GPU with 256MB of VRAM, and a 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 processor. Benchmark performance was among the best we've seen for a Windows Vista machine--and that includes 17-inch gaming rigs: The T61p scored 5,693 on PCMark05 (the highest on record for any Vista notebook to date) and 11,586 on 3DMark03 (the highest for a 15.4-inch system by a long shot). It even proved an admirable gaming machine, delivering an average of 79 frames per second on our F.E.A.R. test with optimal settings, and a very playable 43 fps with settings maxed out.
Wireless throughput was also good, averaging 18.1 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point and 17.7 Mbps at 50 feet. And throughout our tests, the T61p was exceedingly quiet in operation, even when churning through graphics applications. Battery life was decent at 3 hours on our DVD rundown with its nine-cell battery. That means you can expect about 4 to 4.5 hours of productivity time.
The T61p comes with a full contingent of ports and connectivity options, including 802.11a/b/g wireless, Bluetooth 2.0, a SmartCard reader, a PC Card slot, a 4-in-1 memory card reader, and FireWire. You can order the T61p with a range of hardware and OS options, including Windows XP and 32-bit and 64-bit Vista (ours came with 32-bit Vista Business). The only option we might ask for that isn't available is embedded wireless broadband, though Lenovo says it will be offered at some point in the future. And you can opt for 802.11a/g/n for $45 more, but because wireless performance was so good on our tests with 802.11g, you might want to skip it.
The ThinkPad T61p offers blistering performance along with all of the amenities and creature comforts you would expect from Lenovo. When you throw in the durability features and price, this workstation-class machine in business-notebook attire is a force to be reckoned with.