The right side of the chassis is dominated by the DVD-ROM/CD-RW drive. The drive is removable and can be replaced with, say, a DVD writer or even a second battery. Of course if you’re looking to lose a bit of weight, you could just put a spacer in the bay and live without and optical drive, thus saving a couple of hundred grams. Next to the optical drive bay is a single USB 2.0 port. At the front are headphone and microphone jacks, the hardware switch for the wireless antennae and a four-pin FireWire port.
On the left you’ll find a spring loaded flap that hides both PC Card and Express Card slots – it’s always good to see a flap rather than removable spacers that a prone to being lost. Next to this are two more USB 2.0 ports, modem socket, Ethernet port and a D-SUB port for hooking up to an external monitor or projector.
When it comes to performance, the T61 is pretty much on a par with Dell’s Latitude D630, which is no surprise since Dell is clearly going after the ThinkPad T-Series with the D630. However, the T61 is still well ahead of the D630 when it comes to usability, thanks to that superb keyboard, although the Dell does hit back with better battery life thanks to the inclusion of a standard and high-capacity battery shipping in the box. Talking of battery life, Lenovo quotes around three hours for the T61 and in general use I managed to achieve that. Of course you do have the option of a high-capacity battery, or installing a battery in the optical bay, but both of these options will cost you extra.
Historically you could never accuse a ThinkPad of being cheap, and this T61 isn’t about to buck the trend. With a street price of £1,350 it’s a fair bit more expensive than the Dell D630, which also ships with an integrated HSDPA module. But it’s worth remembering that the T61 is a Centrino Pro machine and that remote management functionality will be a big draw for the corporate buyer. The ThinkPad three year, parts and labour warranty will also carry a fair bit of weight with the target market.
Compared to the Dell Latitude D630 the ThinkPad T61 looks like poor value, but you do have to look deeper than basic specs. The keyboard on the T61 is staggeringly good, while the extra features like monitor configuration, wireless setup and the ThinkVantage suite add masses of functionality for the end user and IT manager. Add to that the Centrino Pro remote management functionality, and the fact that this is one of the few Santa Rosa based notebooks to actually sport Draft-N Wi-Fi, and the T61 makes a good argument for itself and its price.