In applications, the faster CPU in the X61s certainly showed through, with the Dell Latitude D430 lagging noticeably behind in all tests, this despite it running on the supposedly faster Windows XP SP2. This was also noticeable in general use, with the X61s proving surprisingly smooth and perfectly usable. A speed demon it isn’t, but for general use it’s more than sufficient and should prove appreciably quicker than any notebook using either of Intel’s Ultra-Low Voltage CPUs.
For battery testing the ThinkPad was put through a number of tests. These consisted of MobileMark 2007’s Reader test, an automated test that simulates reading a PDF document. This is a low intensity test, which is performed in both Balanced and Power Saving profiles with the display brightness dictated by the profiles and with Wi-Fi and Bluetooth disabled.
In addition to this automated test the X61s was also put through a subjective general use test. This consisted of Internet browsing and word processing, with Wi-Fi enabled and brightness set to its maximum. In addition we will be running DVD playback tests under similar conditions on other notebooks, though since the X61s doesn’t have an optical drive this wasn’t employed on this occasion.
Somewhat unsurprisingly, it’s in these battery tests that the X61s falters somewhat. To begin with, as I mentioned earlier, the L7500 CPU used in the X61s is marginally more power hungry than the U7600 used in the D430. In addition, where the Dell comes with a six-cell battery as standard, the X61s comes with a four-cell and has the disadvantage of using a standard hard disk drive instead of an SSD – though even without an SSD the D430 would doubtless triumph.
In any case, in this configuration the X61s is lacking. In the reader tests it managed just over two hours using the Balanced profile and two hours and 20 minutes in Power Saver, while the subjective test fell just short of two hours. Thus, it would be a good idea to invest in the extended eight-cell battery. This should provide between three and four hours usage under normal conditions, though you’ll pay an extra £100 or so for the privilege.
Overall, this says much about this HSDPA equipped version of the X61s. Though the screen is a little disappointing, it’s still everything that’s come to be expected of the ThinkPad series. However, I’d argue that you’d want to upgrade both the RAM and purchase an additional battery, adding between £100 and £150 to the starting price, which is in the region of £1,000 to £1,300 depending on where you look. This slightly erodes the otherwise good value of the machine, which comes with a generous three year carry-in parts & labour warranty. It also tips the balance in favour of the Latitude D430, with it having a slightly more integrated design, better screen and more competitive pricing.
This ThinkPad X61s packs in lots of functionality, with HSDPA being the highlight. It’s also well designed, with a superb keyboard and excellent bundled software. However, its good features and decent raw performance are let down by below average battery life, which necessitates purchasing an extended battery to get the desired mobile experience.