IBM Thinkpad 560Z
Best retro purpose
Early Windows 98 era gaming released before 1998 or as office computer. Unfortunately, despite the somewhat adequate CPU speed, the video chipset is very slow (designed in 1994) and only DOS era games run reasonably fast and only those that do not require SVGA resolution and operate only on VGA, MCGA, 320x200 in 256 colors. The low RAM size and odd choice of EDO instead of typical DRAM truly reduce the CPU and software running potential, limiting any serious vintage gaming attempts.
Durability and Repair-ability
The mediocre plastic quality means that cracks of internal plastic screw stands are common, making disassembly and assembly operations quite difficult, with screws that are difficult to remove or tighten. The difficult access to the hard-drive, requiring full disassembly of the entire chassis is highly annoying. Going further with bad design choices, the LCD screen lamp is mounted vertically and it is very difficult to replace, requiring a full disassembly of the display. This means that you rarely can repair a screen without damaging or affecting something else with dust or slight manipulation mistakes.
Greatest features & flaws
|Great Windows 98/95 3.1 2D Gaming platform||Poor LCD screen for a Pentium II IBM laptop|
|Good MS-DOS SoundBlaster compatibility||Poor, mono speaker, placed below the keyboard|
|Durable, comfortable keyboard and trackpoint||No trackpad, fragile, laptop upper case and display bezels, prone to many cracks|
|Fanless, passive CPU cooling, low heat dissipation||Flaky rubberized coating, degrading rubber port caps|
A low-end, slim, business laptop, released in 1998. It had a somewhat bad mix of parts, while the chassis is slim. The choice of EDO RAM and a single user slot, as well as graphics chipset, make for a very poor, low-end, result, despite the good Pentium II cpu, right on the commercial release year. The laptop was already slow to run any Windows 98 software or the operating system itself and the low RAM size meant that Windows 2000 performance is already crippled.
The graphics chipset is really old, obsolete and inadequate, an odd choice given the vastly superior hardware available on the IBM Thinkpad 600E. It is impossible to understand why such an old platform was used, except for cost. Since the graphics chipset does not implement the features that are expected on Pentium II era, it seems slightly slower than it should. For instance, a lack of bandwidth severely limits windows graphics updates making any 2D or 3D graphics slower than on similar videocards such as the venerable S3 Virge line or Neomagic 256 era chipsets that were available around 1998.
The LCD TFT screen is somewhat alright but it uses a dated technology that results in low brightness, low contrast and very low long-term performance has quite good specifications but high resolution models are slightly dimmer overall and on the screen edges. Response time is somewhat reasonable. Definitely avoid the DSTN screens as they are way too slow, ghostly, and low-contrast.
The CPU implementation is quite bad. Even if the CPU is passively cooled, with no fan in the chassis, which is fantastic in terms of noise, the rest of the configuration is not that great. The slow memory severely affects performance compared with a typical Pentium II CPU. It seems that the platform was actually designed in the second edition Pentium processors era, around 1996, explaining the quirks of its implementation. Including a Pentium II CPU was only an afterthought due to demand and not hinting at a good design. The keyboard is durable and with good tactile feedback. The trackpoint is mediocre in terms of reliability clearly below the level of the classic, renowned IBM quality.
Not having any removable drive capability is a very bad choice for such a laptop, but a small improvement over the 560 model is that there is a HDD tray mounting system. The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced. The BIOS and timekeeping battery is a non-standard CR2016 3V button cell.
The chassis was slim, light, slightly uncomfortable due to the lack of rounded corners. The laptop's case is not durable, plastic frequently cracks due to age or shocks while the lid closing latch is poorly designed, frequently cracking the display case nearby. The display hinges are quite well designed, with no special attention. The integrated speaker is very poor, both due to its position and technology.
The standard HDDs are way too slow for any Windows 98 since they cannot use DMA transfers it means that you are limited at 4-5MB/s transfers. Replacing the harddrive is not straightforward as the system does not accept late Pentium III era drives for a real speed boost.
Software support is great if you like old operating systems. Due to the slow video chipset and RAM size Windows 98 is the most recent operating system you should install. Good DOS sound support due to the CristalWare chipset, that is Sound Blaster compatible, means that vintage gaming is a good choice but seriously consider external speakers for reasonable sound quality.