Summary & Conclusion
IBM/Lenovo has one of the best reputations in the industry in terms of quality and reliability. To back this up, during the writing of this article, RESCUECOM published their first annual Computer Reliability Report on October 16,2006 which placed IBM/Lenovo at the top. RESCUECOM is an independent computer service company focused on delivering quality repair and support for many PC/laptop vendors. Based on their 2Q 2006 call center and Gartner data on market share over the past 4 years during the same time period, they gathered the following data:
IBM/Lenovo (243) Apple (201)
**"The Report calculated the following "Reliability Scores" for each computer vendor based on the percentage difference between their overall U.S. market share and the percentage of calls into the RESCUECOM call center about the particular computer vendor. The higher the score, the less likely it was that calls about the specific computer vendor to the RESCUECOM call center were received (scores are in parentheses)."
Clearly it is this type of quality and support that sets IBM/Lenovo apart from many other notebook vendors.
The Z61p is a high quality machine clearly tailored to the multimedia professional. With the native 1920x1200 LCD panel and ATI FireGL V5200 graphics, this unit is no slouch when it comes to media presentation. When loaded with up to 4GB of memory and a second hard drive, there is virtually nothing this machine cannot do standalone that any reasonable desktop could do. Lets not forget that IBM/Lenovo provides a plethora of expansion options for the Z61p including Ultrabay options, docking options which can include an added half length/full height PCI-E X16 slot, extra Ultrabays, DVI/SPDIF output, additional USB ports, card reader, etc.
One area Thinkpads have always stood out from the crowd is in regard to security and the Z61p is no slouch in this category. Armed with a Client Security chip which provides hardware level data encryption of passwords and biometric fingerprint scanning, the system is designed to keep out even the most determined snoops. With added hardware level POST, administrative, and hard drive password protection the Z61p becomes a virtual Fort Knoxx for your data.
IBM/Lenovo provided a very nice Windows XP experience from the beginning. Unlike many other vendors, IBM chose not to load the system up with useless applications and trialware, but instead provided a very lean system loaded with productivity enhancing applications. With the ThinkVantage Productivity Suite, users have the ability to one-stop update their system (System Update), back-up, manage hardware (Thinkpad Configuration), and manage various different security features. Of all the applications that could have been loaded, we found those included in the Productivity Suite to be the most robust and useful.
The Z61p scored pretty much in the middle of the pack on many of our tests when compared to equivalent machines. In our business benchmarks, the Z61p took the crown in Nero and in Office XP application performance, albeit by only a small margin. Multimedia and Photoshop tests landed the Z61p in the middle of the pack. Battery life on the included 6-cell was not as good as it could have been placing it in the lower tier of tested systems. Fortunately, Lenovo provides a 9-cell battery as an option which should increased battery life substantially. System boot time tests once again placed the Z61p in the middle of the pack, but the system was very fast coming out of stand by.
Gaming on the Z61p is less than stellar if you look at it strictly from a graphics standpoint. Both 3DMark05 and '06 produced results right in line with what should be expected from a GPU of this caliber. As previously mentioned, the Z61p is not a gaming laptop, but a mainstream mobile workstation with emphasis on multimedia capabilities. Running games such as Quake 4 on the FireGL V5200 produce much lower framerates as opposed to the more powerful Nvidia 7900 GS or GTX. By no means does this mean gaming cannot be done on the Z61p. The FireGL is simply an under-clocked ATI Mobility X1600 GPU. That being said, users can tweak drivers and of course modify games to produce playable frame rates in many games.
The Z61p comes with a 1yr parts and labor warranty from Lenovo. The caveat is that if the laptop breaks, you must send it back in to Lenovo for repair using their Easy Serve service. This process does have a rapid 5 day turnaround, but of course that is no consolation to the user on the road. Fortunately, Lenovo offers many upgrade options on the Thinkpad including 3-5 year extended warranties both with or without onsite service. If maximum up-time is important, then it is highly recommended that you opt for one of the upgrades.
Lastly, the cost on the base Z61p is about $2,200. This includes only 1GB of memory (2 x 512MB SODIMMs) which at press time was not upgradeable during configuration. If users want to up their memory then they are relegated to purchasing two additional DIMMs which, for 2GB total memory, would tack on another $300-400 for 2 x 1GB DIMMs. In the end, users could find themselves paying upwards if $2800+ with the additional memory and extended warranty; and, that does not even include options such as a dock, extended battery, additional hard drive, etc. One would think that with a price that high, IBM/Lenovo would at least include the recovery CDs.
In the end, is the Z61p worth the premium you pay for the performance you get? The answer to that clearly lies in what the system would be used for. If you are strictly looking for a gaming system, then it is recommended you look elsewhere. However, if you are looking for a well balanced system that does not necessarily excel in any one area but provides above average performance in all areas, is solidly built, comes with excellent security and software bundle, and has one of the best reputations in the industry for quality and support, then look no further than the Z61p.
HotHardware gives the Z61p a well deserved 8.5 on the Heat Meter. In addition, we would like to thank Terry Bunn with Lenovo for providing us the resources that were necessary to complete our evaluation. Stay tuned for a future update where we retro-fit our Z61p with the Titanium lid, embedded web cam, and WLAN.