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Lenovo ThinkPad Z61T notebook computer

Windows Vista Capable notebook built to withstand most drops, shocks, and spills By John Virata

Notebook computers have been fast outselling desktops, and the market for these devices is fast becoming glazed over as notebooks become more similar in look and feel as well as in price and performance. First it was the widescreen format that attempted to differentiate units, then it became price. But for the most part, they are all similar. Lenovo has begun to address this bland, me-too disease by delivering the ThinkPad Z61T notebook, which not only offers speedy processors, WiFi, and other features, but delivers the experience in cases that others can only dream of delivering. And no, exploding batteries and laptop burns are not among the features in the new ThinkPad Z61T from Lenovo.

Built in Protections
The Lenovo ThinkPad Z61T is built to withstand more than the rigors of traditional notebook computing. As such, the Z61T features several design enhancements not found on typical notebook computers. First, the company has employed a metal protection plate around the hard disk drive, a cage of sorts, that protects the hard drive from physical shock and static electricity. It also features a protection plate that surrounds the PCIe and PCMCIA card slots to reduce physical pressure from damaging the cards. And finally, an Active protection System sensor has been employed to sense a fall that could damage the hard disk. When a fall or drop is detected, the APS automatically parks the hard drive's read/write head, further reducing the chance of damage, or worse, lost data.

The ThinkPad's 14.1-inch widescreen LCD display is housed in magnesium alloy to reduce flex, which could damage the LCD. The internals of the system are housed in what Lenovo calls the Roll Cage, a one piece frame built out of magnesium that helps to reduce system board flex, adds thermal protection, protection for the optical disk drive, and adds a second layer of protection for the system's hard disk drive. On a system cooling standpoint, the company says the ThinkPad features a microprocessor controlled heat pipe to help dissipate heat away from the CPU, while at the same time minimizes fan use, and thus keeping noise levels to a minimum. Pressure points on the display have been reduced via a full contact display that takes pressure from the top of the display when in the closed position, and moves it to the sides of the unit to help better protect the LCD. The hinges that attach the LCD to the base of the Z61t are made of stainless steel, rather than the plastic that is common on other notebooks. This provides more strength while at the same time minimizes lateral torque of the display. The keyboard is sealed and spill resistant, so if you spill the morning's (or evening's) beverage on the keys, drainage channels will route that spillage away from the computer and onto the location in which the notebook is residing, enabling you to quickly just pick up the notebook and wipe of excess liquid that pools underneath the unit. And finally, to keep prying eyes away from any sensitive data, the Z61t features fingerprint recognition technology in addition to password protections, so, in the event the notebook is stolen, casual thiefs will have a more difficult time extracting data from the unit because they won't get past the fingerprint reader/password combination.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Z61T features a 2GHz Intel Centrino Duo dual core CPU with 1GB RAM, a 100GB hard drive, and the Intel 945GM graphics chipset that supports up to 1440x900 pixel resolution. It is running Microsoft's Windows XP operating system but is logo'd Windows Vista Capable, so for those looking for an upgrade path to Vista when it ships, this system is certified. The unit also features an integrated camera, DVD multi dual layer burner, integrated gigabit Ethernet, Intel pro Wireless 3945ABG, Bluetooth, and the new embedded Verizon WWAN that enables you to roam, with the appropriate Verizon pay service, and cruise the Internet in a mobile fashion. Battery life is rated at 3.7 hours with the standard 4 cell battery and 6.25 hours with the 7 cell Lithium ion battery. The Z61T is expandable via three USB 2.0 ports, S-video out, a 3-in 1 digital media reader that supports SD, MMC, and micro SD. A four port FireWire connection is located on the side of the unit as is the type 1|2 PC card slot.The unit weighs in at around 4.5lbs, and supports an optional port replicator.

With the addition of the 2GHz Centrino Duo dual core CPU, the ThinkPad Z61T performs on par with other Centrino Duo core notebook computers. The new Centrino Duo Cores are a lot faster than single core systems and oftentimes are faster than select desktop CPUs that were state of the art just a year ago.

On the DMN After Effects Animation test #1, the Z61T completed the test in 3 seconds. On the Data Project test #3, the Z61T completed the test in one minute 12 seconds.  On the Gambler test #4, the Z61T completed the test in 20 seconds. On the Source Shapes test #5, the test was completed in 2 minutes and 21 seconds. The Virtual Set test #6 was completed in 2 minutes 8 seconds. For comparison of other systems we've tested, click here

  DMN After Effects Test   minutes/seconds
  Test 1 Animation   0:03
  Test 3 Data Project   1:12
  Test 4 Gambler  0:20
  Test 5 Source Shapes   2:21
  Test 6 Virtual Set   2:08

The Z61T also features the ThinkVantage Productivity Center built in as a part of Lenovo's value add features. The suite of applications include a backup utility for data backup, maintenance system for updating the system software, networking utility including a wireless network finder, a device configurator for adjusting the display settings, power, and device settings, a system migration utility for moving data from an different PC to the ThinkPad, a data protection utility and a help center. ThinkVantage also features a Message center that provides update links to further enhance and protect the machine.

First Impressions
The Lenovo ThinkPad Z61T is different from most other notebook computers on the market in that the company has built the system to withstand some of the mishaps that occur when using notebook computers on a daily basis. Spills of liquids on the keys and occasional drops and shocks do occur, and oftentimes, the notebook is toast. With the Z61T, the company has built a level of protection into the computer, in the case that such things occur. You do get at least a bit of piece of mind that the notebook, and more importantly, the hard drive, might survive a drop, shock or spill. The Z61T can also be placed on your lap for extended periods because the heat isn't so hot that it would make it uncomfortable. It does feature a small light that is supposed to illuminate the keyboard in low light situations, but is not very bright, and the LCD provides ample lighting in such situations. Overall, the system is solidly built with performance that is typical of Centrino Duo notebooks, plus, this system is certified Windows Vista Capable. It is also built of high quality materials and is lightweight. The level of support built into the system is also a plus. The Lenovo ThinkPad Z61T as configured is priced starting at $1619 and ships with a three year warranty. For more information, visit

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
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