Side Saddle ThinkPads

September 13, 2007

I continue to view ThinkPads, especially the T series, as the best-engineered laptops available. Sadly, my faith has been mildly shaken by my new T60.

The USB port has been one of the great advances in laptop design because it ultimately allowed designers to abandon the large and clunky parallel and serial connectors. Unfortunately, the freedom gained in port placement resulted in what I consider a major design goof - the relocation of almost every connector from the rear of the laptop to the sides. That move allowed designers to put the battery in the rear where larger, extended life batteries could protrude.

On my ThinkPad T60, the only connector on the rear is the power cord. Everything else is on the sides, mostly the left side. Once you start connecting things (a LAN cord, USB devices, a projector), the laptop sprouts "wings" and becomes much wider.

I'm in the habit of using a wireless mouse with my laptop when I'm away from my office. On my past T21 and T30 models, the receiver plugged into the rear, neatly away from the side. On my T60, the receiver becomes an obstacle if placed on the right (which has two of the three USB jacks) and an obstruction on the left, where I normally lay papers or other materials with which I'm working.

This arrangement is generally inconvenient but impossible on an airplane. It's even cramped in some of the carrels I've been given when working on consulting assignments, which have been as small as three feet wide.

Lenovo is not the only culprit, of course. My wife's HP laptop has most of its ports on the side and most other manufacturers do the same.

It's a design and ergonomic error. I doubt it will change. Too bad.

Tags: Computers, Laptops, ThinkPad

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