Keith Combs' Blahg

Ramblings from another nerd on the grid

Who's your Daddy MacBook Pro? The ThinkPad T61p

Who's your Daddy MacBook Pro? The ThinkPad T61p

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t61p I've been hearing for months and months how great the Apple MacBook Pro is at suspending and resuming from sleep, and how Windows Vista sucks.  Don't believe it.  My Lenovo ThinkPad T61p thumped the MacBook Pro handily in my testing yesterday afternoon.

Just like my previous testing, I decided to time a series of tests that seem pretty real world to me.  This time around I didn't test Windows XP.  I tested the Apple MacBook Pro and OS X against the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p with Windows Vista x64 SP1.  For this round, I decided to do nothing but sleep/resume testing.  I tested the time it took to sleep by closing the lid with and without applications running.  Resume times were tested by opening the lid with and without applications running.  I also tested sleep/resume times with the lid open.

Both machines are set to sleep if the lid closes.  No password was needed on resume. The ThinkPad was set so that power button presses put the machine to sleep.

Who owned who?

I never expected the results I saw yesterday.  I was a little worried about it because of the great Apple hype machine.  But man, the Lenovo ThinkPad T61p obliterated the MacBook Pro in some of the tests.  I'll get to the actual data points in a moment. 

Before I did the testing, I asked our internal Lenovo discussion alias for advice on what I should be using in terms of drivers and software before the testing.  I was being pretty cocky about it, but as usual our dedicated Lenovo engineer offered up what turned out to be great advice.  I updated the BIOS on my ThinkPad, and also updated the system interface, wireless, power management, and sata disk drivers.  In short, my 64 bit machine is performing extremely well from a power management perspective.  All of the drivers came from the public download area.  I reset the Windows Vista Power profiles to default settings and set my machine on the Power Saver.

OS Only

With no applications running other than the operating system, the ThinkPad T61p took on average 13.5 seconds to fully sleep.  The MacBook Pro took on average 27.6 seconds to full sleep with no apps running.  With no applications running, the ThinkPad T61p took 7.8 seconds to resume.  The MacBook Pro took 3.2 seconds to resume.

When I added applications to the mix, things changed pretty drastically.  I didn't fire a lot of applications up, but I did make sure to run Outlook 2007 and IE7 on Windows Vista.  On the Mac, I had Safari and Entourage 2008 running.  Both of the email clients were fully synced prior to testing.

Running Applications

With the applications running, the ThinkPad T61p took only slightly more time to sleep, but the MacBook Pro took a pretty big time hit.  The T61p took on average 15.5 seconds to sleep.  The MacBook Pro nearly doubled it's time to 47.4 seconds on average to sleep. 

Here's the strange part.  With the applications running, the T61p resumed from sleep more quickly than if no apps were running.  Don't ask me why.  Strange.  It took on average 3.7 seconds to resume.  The MacBook Pro also improved with applications running and averaged 2.75 seconds.


The results weren't what I expected.  I fully expected the MacBook Pro and OS X to dominate the ThinkPad T61p and Windows Vista.  That didn't turn out to be the case as the Lenovo ThinkPad did very well on all of the suspend timings, and was right there with the MacBook Pro on resumes.  Congrats to the Lenovo and Windows teams.  You rock.

Like I mentioned in the previous round of file copy tests, the differences weren't drastic.  Even if we are looking at the extremes for putting one of these machines to sleep, there was still only a 30 second difference. The gap on resume times was much smaller and frankly, both machines wake up and display a screen near instantly.  I was also impressed at how quickly the network was available and in use by the email clients.

You might be wondering if I did any special tweaking of the ThinkPad.  Nope.  The Thinkpad T61p is running the retail version of Windows Vista Ultimate x64 and all of the drivers or system software came from either the Lenovo download area, or the servers.  Now granted this is not the OEM image Lenovo ships, but it is basically a stock Windows Vista x64 system.

The next round of tests I have planned will be more subjective.  I'm going to describe my likes/dislikes of OS X, Windows Vista and SUSE 10.  I plan to look first at the graphical interface in each OS, then probably the apps that ship with the OS.  I'm also thinking about doing a comparison of Apple Final Cut and Sony Vegas on these two machines with my HD video camera.

To be continued...

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  • I'm sold, I want the thinkpad. It looks simple, it looks sturdy. I just hope quality has improved since the last time I had one.

  • I will cast my vote for the T61p as well. I used a T60p prior to thr T61p and it was my fave machine until this newer model came along. I use the T61p in the same hardware config Keith has but with different software. It is a rock solid hardware platform and Lenovo is leaps and bounds ahead of most vendors when it comes to driver support.

  • I would be interested to see the results of the MBP's sleep versus the ThinkPad going into Hibernation.

    When you put the MBP to sleep it writes all the contents of the machines RAM onto a page file on the internal hard drive. From my understanding this is more in line with the hibernation feature in Windows.

    So if possible, match up the two machines with equal amounts of RAM and do a OS X Sleep vs. Vista Hibernate test and see if the results are more in line with each other.

  • I don't know how you managed to get quite such poor results but the latest model MacBook Pro that I'm using to write this seems quite a bit quicker; it appears to sleep almost instantly but does take a further 10 seconds or so before the hard disk actually stops.

    Interestingly my venerable PowerBook G4 takes around 2 seconds to sleep, including parking the hard disk and even less time to resume, so that's probably where the Mac's reputation comes from.

    The MacBook Pro, running 10.5.2, does boot and shut-down a lot more quickly than the PowerBook, running 10.4.11, (and more quickly than my old Dell laptop running XP can hibernate or resume).

  • Alex, my MBP is the 15.4", 2.2GHz model with 4GB of memory.  It's essentially the same as the T61p.  Same CPU, GPU and amount of memory.

    When I get back from MMS next week, I'll run some hybernate tests on my T61p to see how much time is added to it.

    I think the real point of this article, like the article on file copy performance, is that a GOOD Windows machine makes Windows Vista perform more on par with the Apple MacBook Pro and OS X 10.5.2 (my current version).  A bad windows machine doesn't.

    Apple has a small number of machines to worry about (models sold).  Microsoft and the OEM channel has thousands, with thousands of devices and hundreds or thousands of applications.

    Who has the advantage?  Depends on how you look at it.

  • Does the sleep/resume/hibernate work on Linux for the T61P? I have a Macbook Pro almost for this feature alone. I would love to get a Thinkpad T61P, I just can't find any information on this for Linux.

  • Chris,

    I have not tested Linux sleep/resume.  I can tell you SUSE runs pretty well on the T61p, especially after you grab the NVIDIA video drivers from

    I currently have SUSE Enterprise Server 10 SP1 installed and it runs very well.  However as usual, the wireless drivers don't want to work.  That always seems to be a pain with linux, especially for latest gen chipsets like the Intel 4965agn.  

    See the lenovo website at for linux support.

  • Keith,

    Thank you! I have never seen that link before. Great to hear about the video, but can you comment on the power management. Sleep, resume, hibernate?

    That would seal the deal for me if these work.

  • Chris, unfortunately I don't any drives at the moment to go back and install one of the desktop linux distros to.  I have SUSE Enterprise server installed and it's hardly designed for power management testing.

    You could probably ask some questions at or some of the linux forums on the grid for some of that.  I think linux is pretty we supported on the T61p.  

    My big three are always video, wired networking, and wireless networking.  If I have good video support and wired networking, then I'm good for the testing I do.  I don't use linux while traveling so I don't worry about wireless much unless I want to use it on the couch while watching TV.

    Fortunately the Intel 4965agn wireless chipset has been out a while now and kernal support should be in the new Ubuntu 8 release.  I have not tested it yet.  I had to compile support into SLED 10 as I recall.  It was several months ago.

    The T61p runs Windows Vista x64 great.  It also runs Windows XP really well.  You have lots of OS choices.

  • I changed my mind and downloaded SUSE Linux Enterprise 10 SP2 (x86) which was released this week.  It screams on the T61p.  As expected, the Intel 4965AGN wireless card support is now built-in to the kernel that shipped with SP2.

    I downloaded the 169.12 NVIDIA video drivers and have full native resolution support for my t61p LCD.  I have the 1680x1050 screen.

    So far so good.  I haven't tested suspend or hibernate, but the shutdown and startup times are good so evev if it doesn't work, that would be a small price to pay.

    Vista is still better, but for the first time nearly everything is working "out of the box" for a linux distro.  SUSE has been my fav for years.  SP2 just affirms why.

  • Why don't both computers get to use their house internet browser and mail programs?  You tested the Thinkpad with a Windows operating system, Windows internet browser, and Windows mail program.  But the Mac was tested with Apple's OS, Apple's internet browser, but with Microsoft's mail program (just designed for Mac).  I use Entourage on my Mac Book Pro daily and I love it, but it without a doubt runs much slower than iMail.  My experience is that everything in Microsoft Office 08 for Mac runs very slow compared to every other Apple program.  I'd like to see a test using Vista with IE and Outlook and then OS X with Safari and iMail (and if you think iMail is too simple, double team it with iCal).  Or, another fair test would be Vista with IE and Word and OS X with Safari and Pages or also Powerpoint and Keynote.  I don't think it's fair to test either operating system with a competitors product.  Or, do the exact same test in bootcamp just to compare hardware only.

  • I haven't done any application testing, other than to see how long it took for a web browser to launch and hit my homepage.