ThinkPad X40

20 May 2004

Product: Laptop PC
Price: €1,900

Whatever species of PC user you are will pretty much determine your reaction to IBM’s new ThinkPad X40. Anyone who spends even a modest amount of their time on the road or globetrotting to appointments will salivate at the merest glimpse of its matt black styling. It’s tiny.

Weighing in at 1.23kg, it’s 25pc lighter than its predecessor, according to IBM, whics also claims it has the smallest footprint in its class. This is judged in terms of the features and power that it packs for the money you pay. Essentially, it all adds up to a notebook for mobile computing that makes few sacrifices in specification and performance.

It’s compact enough to carry comfortably in one hand yet the robust magnesium chassis still inspires confidence. When you get down to work, the rubber feet provide reassuring grip and the full-size keyboard is neat and familiar. The 12.1inch. screen is the inevitable compromise but it does an adequate job as long as you keep away from excessively bright background light.

The small screen means you will inevitably spend a fair amount of time manipulating the various on-screen windows. Unless you want to invest in an optional mouse – which somewhat negates its portable pedigree – you’ll be using TrackPoint. This is the red button squeezed between the G, H and B keys that is IBM’s alternative to the touch pad. If you haven’t used one and your first reaction is to fear the worst – relax.

The tactile button moves the cursor with the slightest inflection of the finger while your thumb clicks the surrogate mouse buttons below the keyboard to make your selection. There’s also a middle tab that activates a cool scroll and magnifier feature. Useful and fairly intuitive.

Mobile attributes include the increasingly obligatory Intel Centrino processor (on our version); which soups up the battery life to around three and a half hours. This can be supplemented by power packs that clip beneath the pad and more than double the battery life.

Wireless connectivity is supported with 802.11b and Bluetooth and all X40 models come as standard with modem, gigabit Ethernet and infrared capabilities.

Other interesting add-ons include a tool set to thwart the increased likelihood of a system crash courtesy of the virus epidemics. Rescue and Recovery, coupled with a Rapid Restore feature, promises a one-button reboot that will still work and get you on the web when Windows won’t boot, helping you to overcome a range of problems including corrupted software drivers.

There is no Firewire port, which limits its multimedia appeal, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that entertainment applications are hardly a priority. Additional features include an IBM UltraBase dock that snaps into place beneath the pad to give you another drive; two more USB 2.0 ports and a key to keep your system locked and safe.

If you want to access DVDs and CDs there’s an optional external USB 2.0 Multi-Burner that supports 2X DVD-R/RAM and 16X/10X CDR/RW.

What we have here is a diminutive and ultra-stylish workhorse that’s eminently practical for road warriors and anyone who needs compact computing on the move.

Journalists, dare I say, will find it a dream. It has some nice add-ons to give it more credibility as a workstation but mobility remains its unique selling point.

By Ian Campbell