The sad truth about small laptops is that shaving off size and weight typically means sacrificing performance and features. The IBM ThinkPad X40 is an exception. At a mere 1.2kg -- IBM's smallest laptop ever -- it combines true ultralight portability with all the right expansion, connectivity, and battery options for the business traveller. It's much sleeker than IBM's other ultraportable, the ThinkPad X31. The ThinkPad X40 lacks an integrated optical drive, but its powered USB port makes it easy to add one, or you could add one via the media slice. Unfortunately, the X40 doesn't include a FireWire port. And despite its full-size keyboard, it may be cramped for some, especially if you have large hands.
The ThinkPad X40 is our top choice for a business ultralight. The IBM ThinkPad X40 is a slim ultraportable that is easy to beef up with additional ports, expansion options, and batteries. The base system weighs only 1.2kg and includes a four-cell battery that snaps in flush with the back of the system, giving the X40 a decidedly trim form factor. You can also get the ThinkPad X40 with an eight-cell battery, which protrudes about an inch from the back of the laptop and more than doubles the battery life. For the truly power hungry, IBM offers an even bigger battery that is wedge shaped and snaps on to the bottom of the X40. This third battery adds another three hours of uptime and works with either the four- or the eight-cell battery.
|The X40's modular design gives you a supersleek ultraportable or a compact powerhouse.|
Although the ThinkPad X40's base configuration includes a nice array of ports and connectors for such a trim system, it doesn't include an integrated disk drive -- that's a typical exclusion for a tiny ultraportable. However, you can easily add an optical drive to the X40 by attaching IBM's optional UltraBase dock. The wedge-shape dock weighs a portable 590g and attaches to the bottom of the laptop. It moves most of the X40's ports to the rear and adds parallel and serial connectors. The dock also includes an Ultrabay slim drive that can house a combo CD-RW/DVD drive, a second hard drive, or an additional battery. Our only disappointment with the Ultrabay is that you can't use it and the extended-life battery simultaneously.
The ThinkPad X40 has an exceptionally small footprint, 269 by 211mm, small enough to fit on a food tray in economy and still have room for your orange juice and peanuts. Despite these diminutive dimensions, the IBM ThinkPad X40 sports a spacious, responsive, full-size keyboard with a pointing stick and three cursor-control buttons. The downside to the X40's small size is that there's not enough space on the base to rest your palms while typing, especially if you have large hands. There's also no touchpad on the X40.
The 12.1-inch XGA display is small but sufficient for business-related tasks and is attached to the base with thicker metal hinges than those of the older ThinkPad models. All this makes for one of the sleekest and sturdiest ultraportables on the market.
For such a dainty ultraportable, the IBM ThinkPad X40 packs a serious punch. The entry model comes equipped with a Pentium M 1GHz processor and 256MB of DDR SDRAM. Workhorse models include a 1.2GHz Pentium M with 512MB of memory. The X40 also comes with a new smaller, quieter, and more shock-resistant hard drive, with a capacity of either 20GB or 40GB.
|The X40's powered USB port makes it easy to attach an external optical drive.|
|Gigabit Ethernet and an SD slot add fast connectivity and sleek expandability to the X40.|
Even in its base configuration, the IBM ThinkPad X40 sports a useful array of ports and expansion options. The right side of the X40 harbours a 10/100/1000 Ethernet port, a modem port, an SD slot, an IR port, a USB port, a PC Card slot, and earphone and microphone jacks. The left side of the laptop includes a standard VGA connector for an external display and a special powered USB port. Although the X40 lacks an integrated optical drive, its special USB port lets you connect an external optical drive without the need for an additional power source. IBM decided not to include FireWire on the X40, which will leave some video enthusiasts in the dark.
IBM has a reputation for selling bulletproof notebooks that can withstand the trials of business travel, and the ThinkPad X40 is no exception. It comes equipped with IBM's active protection system, which automatically detects sudden motion and parks your hard drive to protect your data. It also comes with IBM's Rescue and Recovery solution, a separate operating system that you can load when your primary OS refuses to boot. The Rescue and Recovery system even includes a browser that lets you use your Webmail account or tap into the X40's Access IBM resources.
The IBM ThinkPad X40 comes with Windows XP Professional as its default OS. Productivity software costs extra, but you have your choice of three flavours of Microsoft Office: Basic, Small Business, and Professional. IBM's Client Security Software is also available for the X40. This free download lets you take advantage of a chip on the X40 that stores digital keys, usernames and passwords, and other confidential data on this chip, keeping it secure even if the operating system is compromised.