Although Lenovo's R series of ThinkPads has always delivered exceptional value, it's lacked the sleekness of the venerable T series. With the ThinkPad R61-14W, Lenovo adds a thinner build, a widescreen display, and Intel's Next Generation Centrino Processor technology to the security and durability we've come to expect. Add in discrete graphics, and you've got a pricey but powerful productivity partner.
Measuring 13.2 x 9.3 x 1.5 inches, the ThinkPad R61-14W is noticeably thinner than past models and weighs just 5.4 pounds, which makes it easy to tote to and from the office. While we love the spacious, ergonomic keyboard, those with large mitts will find the touchpad a bit on the small side. An integrated pointing stick provides another means of cursor control. Above the keyboard are dedicated volume keys, the power button, and a handy ThinkVantage launch key for tweaking system settings. A 1.3-megapixel webcam above the display provided decent, if unspectacular, visuals.
The ThinkPad R61-14W's defining aspect is Lenovo's decision to go widescreen with a 14-inch, 1440 x 900-pixel resolution display. It's a much appreciated but long overdue design move, as workers demand more real estate for open applications. DVDs looked colorful, but we would have liked to see richer hues and a sharper image. The twin speakers could have used some audio punch; they didn't get very loud even when we turned the volume all the way up. Oddly enough, the 24X optical drive initially booted CDs and DVDs slowly, but a quick reset remedied that.
As with its previous ThinkPads, Lenovo offers consumers rock-solid protection from drops and shock damage with its Active Protection System. In addition to the standard hard drive protection magnesium rollcage, the ThinkPad R61-14W features Lenovo's new honeycomb-designed top-cover rollcage that cushions and reinforces the LCD for an extra layer of defense. To protect your data, Lenovo offers a TPM module and a biometric fingerprint sensor for keeping prying eyes away from important documents and files.
At the heart of this widescreen business notebook is the much-anticipated Intel Next Generation Centrino Processor (part of the Santa Rosa platform). Intel's new 802.11n wireless connection performed like a champ by producing impressive wireless scores of 18.2 Mbps at 15 feet from our access point, and 17.1 Mbps from 50 feet. The 2.2-GHz processor and 2GB of RAM helped this machine notch an excellent PCMark05 score of 3,988. Just as impressive, the R61-14W remained relatively cool and super-quiet, even after long active periods. In other words, you get the speed of a race car but the ride of a luxury sedan.
Workers who require plenty of graphics power will appreciate the Nvidia Quatro NVS 140M card that comes with this configuration. We saw a solid score of 5,244 on our 3DMark03 test, which means you should expect a silky-smooth Vista Aero experience. This GPU also has enough oomph for some gaming on the side; it produced a very good 56 fps when we ran F.E.A.R. in autodetect mode (800 x 600-pixel resolution).
The tradeoff for this graphics muscle is its relatively short endurance; the six-cell battery lasted only one hour and 52 minutes on our DVD rundown test. If you need more time away from an outlet, we recommend configuring the R61-14W with the 7-cell battery. You could also opt for Intel's integrated graphics solution, which will save you $100.
The R61-14W is powered by Windows Vista Business Edition and comes preloaded with Adobe Reader, Google Picasa, and Norton Internet Security. Lenovo backs this system with a generous three-year limited warranty (one year for the battery) and 24/7 technical support. It's not quite as svelte as a T Series notebook, but businesses looking for a sturdy and secure workhorse that can leverage Intel's latest technology should snatch up this notebook.