IBM ThinkPad T42
At a Glance
IBM's latest business notebook, the $2299 ThinkPad T42, is a carbon copy of its predecessor, including a slim black case, a great keyboard, and an outstanding on-board manual. The only difference is the processor, the new Intel CPU code-named Dothan that is based on a faster 90-nanometer process and equipped with 2MB of secondary cache, twice the old amount. Our review T42, carrying the 1.7-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M version of Dothan, offered good but not standout performance. The T42 notched a WorldBench score of 83, which is 11 percent higher than the average figure for 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M-equipped portables we've tested and 1 percent higher than the average of its own class. The battery lasted 4.1 hours on one charge, a little shorter than the 4.3 hours we got from a T41 tested in February with a 1.6-GHz/600-MHz Pentium M chip.
Like the models before it, the T42 is a lean, mean Wi-Fi-ready machine that weighs about 5 pounds with a 14.1-inch screen. (A 15-inch screen is also available.) The top-notch keyboard offers deep, satisfying typing, and the dual pointing devices each have their own set of mouse buttons that are so easy to press they put the stiff fare found on other notebooks to shame. The T42 also inherits the ThinkLight, an LED in the lid that shines a pale light on the keyboard for easier typing in a darkened environment. The top of the keyboard features IBM's well-crafted set of press-and-hold volume buttons and a dedicated launch key for the electronic manual.
The T series' built-in sound, emitted from front speakers, is not particularly loud but the quality is fine. The on-screen manual, on the other hand, is the best in the industry. Using helpful animations, it walks you step-by-step through tricky operations such as upgrading the hard drive. The T42 has no FireWire port or media card reader, both increasingly popular notebook features (though IBM sells a $499 3GB Microdrive PC Card). But the T42 does include all other expected connections and is easy to expand, thanks to a modular bay. You can swap out the included optical drive for any of several optional devices, such as a second battery to stretch your time away from the outlet, or a second hard drive to increase internal storage beyond 80GB. A side pull makes device removal a snap. With 512MB of RAM built into the motherboard, the T42 offers one open memory slot, located in an easily accessed bottom compartment. Removing the hard drive entails undoing just one screw and pulling the drive out of the right side of the notebook, end cover and all. ThinkPads are the only notebooks we know of that have combination slotted-Phillips head screws, so any type of screwdriver will work. Finally, IBM offers a generous selection of docking stations, ranging from the relatively simple $179 ThinkPad Port Replicator II to the $399 ThinkPad Dock II with a modular bay.
IBM's latest slim corporate notebook has the same great keyboard and expandability as its predecessor. The ThinkPad T42, a peppy performer, offers a strong value for $2299. Business application software is not included in the price.