Pros Keyboard, Screen resolution, Price, Portability
Cons Reflective screen, Battery sticks out the back, Battery life
Summary First of all, the Lenovo T61 is a great laptop for college students looking for a notebook that is easy on the eyes (literally and figuratively), portable (~5.4 pounds), and very capable.
I've heard about shipping problems with this laptop, but my highly configured laptop arrived in just 5 days! I ordered it on June 21 and received it on June 26. Although this may have been someone else's laptop that was canceled before it arrived, so don't expect your's to arrive so quickly.
I picked the T61 over competitors such as HP and Sony because of the sheer array of options, performance and otherwise, offered by Lenovo. I liked that I was able to upgrade my screen from WXGA (1280 x 800) to WXGA+ (1440 x 900), have a fingerprint reader so I don't have to remember pesky passwords, and have a 7200 rpm hard drive so that web searching on my notebook is similar to that on my desktop. With a 2.2 GHz processor, a 100 GB 7200 rpm hard drive, the new integrated Intel X3100 graphics, a 14.1 inch Wide screen, and a four year warranty, the price with student discount came to be almost exactly $2000 dollars (Good enough for my dad to call it a worthwhile investment)
There are some drawbacks though, if you want to actually use your laptop without the AC (light as it is), you're gonna need to get at least the 6-cell battery, which isn't a problem price wise except for the fact that it very unsexily sticks out the back of the laptop by 13/16 of an inch! Not only that, but unless you're on powersave mode the battery will last about an hour under normal usage! My solution is to just carry around the lightweight AC adapter wherever I go. Oh yea, avoid the sun with this laptop because the reflection is bad even at the highest screen brightness level. There doesn't seem to be a lot of bloatware, but for some reason, memory usage on my idle laptop averages 1.01 GB compared to 265 MB on my desktop! I'm very thankful I ordered the 2 GB memory.
I found Vista to be fairly crappy because of the popups and strangely placed everything, but they say it is the future so I got it... There is the option for XP so if you really hate Vista you can just choose that. Also, there is some password manager thing which I avoid because it seems kinda dumb (along with some popup that is constantly asking you to verify everything that you do...you'll know what I'm talking about when you see it). The options for a classic look on the start menu and other sections should be exercised.
Performance wise the CPU hardly sweats (~25% capacity) when I'm watching videos on MTV and Youtube. Internet speed is almost as fast as my same network desktop which is a relief after using my dad's 4200 rpm X-series one week on vacation.
I suggest not ordering any MS office through Lenovo and instead ordering the relatively cheap Office Home and Student through your school or like Fry's Electronics ($139.99). Although I didn't order a security wire, I probably will get a Kensignton or whatever because there is cool port on the side of the notebook for it (among other reasons such as safety and security as well).
Bottom Line: The T61 is the best student laptop for those who are looking for a laptop that is both portable and usable as a primary computing device. The keyboard is regarded as the best in the business and I agree. Just don't leave it on battery for too long!
I'll try to respond to any questions.
UC Berkeley '11
Pros Fast when it doesn't bluescreen
Cons The constant blue screens, Lenovo/IBM Customer Service, swapping wrong parts for repair
Summary To start off, as an introduction, I've been in the IT field for 10+ years, worked in the VAR industry, and realize that issues do happen and not everything goes as planned. Below will give you a horror story regarding customer service, and a unit that will just not work without blue screening.
Well, I've purchased, owned and used quite a few laptops in my time and fell in love with the specs on this model. After doing my research, I felt this was the best deal for the $$$. Well, in the long run, I was wrong.
The old Blue Screen of Death showed it's ugle face not too long after receiving the unit (within the week), and thought the issue may be resolved by installing the updated nVidia driver for the graphics chipset (128MB version). After one day, a new blue screen error appeared with a different error code. After speaking with Customer Service, they decided to have the unit sent in. After receiving the unit back, it was determined that the memory on the system was at fault. Well...it blue screened again. Same error. This time they said the mobo should have been replaced. So...we sent it back in and they promised repair and delivery no later than 2 business days after sending it in. I called that very day when I was supposed to receive it, only to find out the parts were on backorder. Great, thanks for telling me. After I received the unit a couple of days later (after battling customer service), I boot up the machine only to find that the video driver had not been properly installed. Why is that? Because they placed the wrong system board in the system...the one with the Intel 965 express chipset for the graphics instead of the nVidia 128MB version that I had ordered. Great, they have now downgraded my system, didn't offer to tell me, and most of all, did not compensate me for the downgrade. So I emailed them regarding the issue, and received a call the next morning. That was great, but only to be told that the correct part was installed. Hmmm...the screen shots that I have will prove otherwise. The uninstall of the video driver and attempt to install the nVidia driver did not work because the hardware was not detected. The Intel 965 chipset driver was installed by Vista correctly after being connected to the internet. Hardware detects the Intel 965 board.
I'm waiting for a senior rep. to call me back to discuss. Solectron (the repair company that Lenovo/IBM use) has had the laptop longer than I have. I've asked for a full refund now, but I've been told that it is not warranted. Interesting...I pay for a brand new laptop to work, it doesn't, and yet I can't get my money back. I've already gone down the road for a replacement unit, one that works, but I've been denied that as well.
Pros Keyboard, sturdiness
Cons It....breaks. Blue screen of death right out of the box. Explorer.exe crashes
Summary After way too much research, I decided on the Lenovo T61. I ordered the T7300 2Ghz processor, 1Gb RAM, NVIDIA Quadro 140M, 1Gb Turbo Memory.
I had read that many of the T61s were shipping with Blue Screen of Death ("BSOD") problems. Mine was no exception. Five minutes after setting up the factory pre-load of Vista and updating the drivers with the ThinkVantage software, BSOD.
It BSOD'd twice more within the hour. I did some more reading on forums online and decided it was all the crappy Lenovo ThinkVantage software etc...
I reformatted with my own copy of windows and only installed drivers directly from the manufacturers' websites. This almost completely solved the BSOD problem. The only exception is when I chose to shut down the notebook before it completely finished loading all the background applications at startup. BSOD!
With the BSODs mostly gone, a new problem arose. Explorer.exe would completely freeze when performing mundane tasks, like opening a window. I reformatted again.
It was marginally better, but still not perfect. A few days later, explorer.exe froze again - this time forcing me to kill the power to the notebook (unable to end task). Upon restart, I had a system error message, asking for me to put in the Vista cd to replace some files. That was enough.
The next day I returned it to the retailer from whom I purchased the T61. I travel back and forth overseas and have no intention of continuously putting up with crap like that while I am in a foreign country.
As for the positives: the keyboard rocked - for those that have experienced the ThinkPad (before Lenovo raped it) you know what I am talking about. They make the best-feeling keyboard in the industry.
The build also felt very solid, without feeling heavy or clunky.
Pros Even bigger stainless steel hinges than prev models, magnesium internal frame now both in base and screen, motion sensor parks HD if dropped, good automatic driver update program, good backup program
Cons No serial port
Summary The real test of how well designed a system...when year one or two goes by, and the system is not flopping open because the hinges are worn out, or failing out because the system has just been tossed, handled, dropped and abused. Thinkpads hold up very well with age, ever more important if you depend on your laptop more and more.
In this case, the previous structure of the T60 models was beefed up for the T61. Stainless steel hinges are bigger than previous models...and the previous models had big hinges. The hard drive is protected by a motion sensor, shock absorbing rubber rails, and an internal magnesium cage. Move the system, and the system "knows" it is in motion, and parks the heads of the drive.
One of the neatest features is a little known downloadable program Lenovo offers that can take their factory preload, allow a user to see all elements of it, mark the parts they don't want as "Restricted", and reimage the system to a "plain" image...no junkware, but still the stable factory image, both for XP or Vista. (Its got the rather cryptic name of Base Software Administrator, but does work: http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?lndocid=TVAN-ADMIN#TBSA )
To keep the system updated, there is a program from the Lenovo support site (www.lenovo.com/support) that can automatically update all drivers and the BIOS...no researching what drivers are appropriate to the system and downloading them. If you don't like going to Lenovo's servers, you can host the drivers internally on a network share, so only what you want will be distributed to Thinkpads. Doesn't cost anything.
There is a Rescue and Recovery program that lets the end user's entire image be backed up to a hidden space on the drive. Everything...apps, data, OS...can be backed up. The system will "fix" itself even if it gets a BSOD, as you can boot outside the OS to a copy of Windows PE Lenovo includes on a separate partition. Also no charge.
Bad news is the system does not have a serial port. There are USB to serial adapters...but it would be nice if one was built in.
Lenovo doesn't do a good job of letting all their customers know about the "extras" they tuck away on their website for free for their systems. The URL is cryptic. http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?lndocid=MIGR-61432
In the interests of full disclosure...I am biased...and do work for Lenovo. However, even if I did not, for personal use, I would never buy anything other than a Thinkpad. I've torn into too many competitors systems, and rely on my laptops too much to give up toughness for a few tens of dollars.
Pros Awesome Speed, Runs Cool, software, WEBCAM!
Cons Screen not centered... Not a big deal
Summary This computer will blow away all the competition. Thinkpads are built the way you want a notebook to be built. Very very strong keyboard the keys feel independent, runs very cool. almost no heat felt. Santa Rosa chipset just rocks, but most of all the structure of this notebook is the best around. The screen wont shake and the roll cage works wonders.