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A visual tour of the ThinkPad T60
So the T60 is well appointed, but the specs sheet alone won't tell you nearly enough to understand something with as much physical and tactile appeal as a laptop computer. This version of the T60 with the 14.1" screen is about as large as I can stand for a truly mobile computer to be, and Lenovo hasn't wasted any space. More importantly, the T60 follows in the ThinkPad tradition with its all-black look, solid construction from high-grade plastics, unparalleled keyboard feel, and well thought-out design.


The 4:3 aspect ratio of the T60's display dictates that its enclosure be closer to square than some new machines. Lenovo takes advantage of the chassis' extra depth by incorporating a generously sized palm rest in front of the keyboard and a pair of pointing devices: the de facto-standard touchpad plus a traditional IBM "eraser-head" TrackPoint device. I'm no TrackPoint fan, but its presence doesn't usually get in the way, except every once in a while when I go to type "H" and get a finger hernia instead. Lenovo no doubt has to serve its TrackPoint-loyalist customers, but I'd have preferred that they use the space to include a super-sized touchpad a la Apple's MacBooks.


That minor gripe fades into insignificance, though, compared to the praises I have to sing for the T60's amazing keyboard. This is by far the best keyboard I've ever used on a laptop. Each key press triggers a distinct "click," accompanied by the appropriate tactile feedback, so that you know exactly what you're getting. There's no slop in the keys, either; adjacent keys don't rattle as you bang away on their neighbors. It's easily better than a good portion of the desktop keyboards these days, even though key travel is necessarily limited by the T60's thin profile. The keys are slightly contoured and textured, so that I rarely lost my bearings while typing away. I found that I produced substantially fewer typos on this keyboard than I do on my Sharp M4000 WideNote's. The value of the ThinkPad keyboard will no doubt depend on your ability to adapt to lesser keyboards and the nature of the work you do on your laptop, but I'd consider the keyboard alone reason enough to justify paying the price premium Lenovo asks for a ThinkPad.

On the right below that wondrous keyboard is another item of interest: the T60's fingerprint reader. Using the thing is easy enough. Once you register your fingerprints (one or more) with Lenovo's software, a simple swipe of the finger will replace typing one's password to log into Windows or other authentication prompts. Using the thing is more convenient than typing in a password, and it ought to encourage the use of higher-quality passwords if folks aren't required to type them in constantly. You're also much less likely to forget your fingerprint. Still, I can't say this device is a big advance from my perspective. I imagine corporate IT managers and admins will appreciate it more than individual T60 owners will.


On one side of the T60 are two of its USB ports and its CD-RW/DVD combo drive. I have a personal beef with laptops that place their USB ports in the way of prime mousing space, and the T60 avoids that mistake. The USB ports are located near the rear of the chassis, which leaves enough room for mousing around with a mouse plugged into one of the ports.


The rest of the T60's ports are around on the other side, including the RJ-45 and RJ-11 connectors for the GigE and modem, respectively. There's also another USB port, mic and headphone jacks, and a VGA port. Under the slot cover are two different types of mobile expansion slots, a Type-II PC Card slot and an Express Card/54 slot. Notably absent from the mix is a Firewire port; this omission is one of the T60's few concessions to the space constraints of a mobile computer, and it may be inconvenient for owners of older digital video cameras and other devices that lack USB connectivity.

I haven't included a picture of it, but the T60 does have a toggle switch on its front edge that disables all wireless radios, too.


The ThinkLight in action..


...illuminates the keyboard

One other nice ThinkPad-style touch on the T60 is a small LED light located in the center of the bezel above the screen. This light can illuminate the keyboard for working in the dark. I'd prefer a backlight underneath the keyboard, but this works pretty well. Cheesily, Lenovo refers to this thing as a "ThinkLight," which for me conjures visions of Neil Diamond crooning, "Turn on your ThinkLight." Eww.