Editors' note: Lenovo completed its purchase of IBM's PC division on April 2, 2005, so you will no longer see the familiar letters IBM on the front of ThinkPad laptops -- they are now known as simply ThinkPad products. (25/5/05)
The latest in a long line of ThinkPad X notebooks, the ThinkPad X41 delivers the best combination yet of performance, battery life, and features. Though it's a little heavier than the ThinkPad X40, it's still one of our favourite notebooks for business travellers, offering dependable, secure, high-performance computing in a small, elegant case. The X41's high price may cause some corporate buyers to baulk, but we think it's worth it.
One of the smallest and lightest ultraportable notebooks available, the black wedge-shape ThinkPad X41 has a petite, 268 by 237mm footprint; the front edge is a razor-sharp 27mm. At 1.3kg, it's heavier than the ThinkPad X40, but on a par with the Dell Latitude X1.
It may be small, but the ThinkPad X41 includes many of the creature comforts of bigger systems. Forget about a cramped, puny keyboard, because this laptop has full-size keys with a generous 2mm of depth. Those who like pointing sticks will love the ThinkPad X41's TrackPoint, which comes with three different tip options and has a handy scroll button. For those who burn the midnight oil, a keyboard light provides helpful illumination.
The ThinkPad X41's basic connections for the office or the road include external VGA monitor, audio, and two USB 2.0 ports. In addition to the requisite modem and Gigabit Ethernet, the machine has a Secure Digital card slot as well as one for a PC Card -- though we would have liked an additional CompactFlash slot, as found on the Latitude X1. With an Intel 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card, the ThinkPad X41 connected with a variety of wireless LANs and stayed online 30m from our access point in our anecdotal tests. Still, we wish it had an external on/off switch to quickly turn off Wi-Fi for takeoffs and landings or when in a sensitive corporate area. Snapping the ThinkPad X41 into an X4 UltraBase Dock adds a swappable bay for an optical drive, a second hard drive, or an extra battery pack, as well as three USB 2.0, parallel, serial, and PS/2 connectors and a pair of speakers. On the downside, the dock makes the ultraportable computer into a 2.3kg slug that's 40mm thick.
Designed for corporate users, the ThinkPad X41 also offers some of the best data protection and security features you can find in a notebook. Like older X models, it has a dedicated internal security chip that can block access and encrypt key data. Although it lacks a smart-card reader, the ThinkPad X41 does feature a fingerprint scanner: not only can it assure a user's identity for the corporate network logon routine, the fingerprint reader can handle passwords for applications ranging from eBay to e-mail. After a little practice using the device, swiping a finger becomes second nature.
Whether you're purchasing one or a hundred notebooks, it all comes down to price, and the X41 is one of the most expensive on a per-gram basis. At £1,850 (as of May 2005), our test machine, which included a dock with a DVD/CD-RW drive, is on a par with the ThinkPad X40 model it replaces, but it costs more than the Dell Latitude X1. Still, we think the ThinkPad X41 is the better choice for the corporate road warrior.
Based on Intel's latest-generation Centrino architecture, the ThinkPad X41 uses a low-voltage Pentium M processor that tops out at 1.5GHz, which is quite a bit faster than the Latitude X1's 1.1GHz Pentium M. Unlike the Latitude X1, the ThinkPad X41 has a cooling fan -- it's not particularly noisy, but it doesn't prevent the bottom of the notebook from heating up. Our test system came with 512MB of DDR2 memory (it can hold up to 1.5GB), and a 40GB hard drive spinning at a pedestrian 4,200rpm. With a 1,024x768 native resolution, the 12.1-inch display is clear and sharp, but not nearly as bright as that of the Latitude X1.
All this high-powered hardware adds up to one of the top-performing notebooks in its class. Its performance in CNET tests was much faster than that of the ThinkPad X40 and was virtually tied with the Dell Latitude X1, which had a much slower CPU. However, the ThinkPad X41 delivered an excellent 5 hours, 26 minutes of battery life -- about equal to the X40's span, but nearly twice as long as the Latitude X1. Only the amazing 6-hour, 24-minute battery life of the Sony VAIO VGN-T250 lasts longer in this class of mighty mites.
The machine comes with Windows XP Pro, as well as a phalanx of utilities for security, online connections, keyboard customisation, and data backup. Happily, the system includes Watergate Software's PC Doctor, which can help diagnose problems with any of the computer's components. The top draw, however, is the anachronous (given that IBM no longer owns the ThinkPad line) Access IBM button above the keyboard, which connects the machine with Lenovo's help desk or contacts your own company's support site, when you configure it to do so.
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating|
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
||BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes|
Dell Latitude X1
Windows XP Professional; 1.1GHz Intel Pentium M 733; 512MB DDR SDRAM 400MHz; Intel 915GM/GMS, 910GML Express 128MB; Toshiba MK6006GAH 60GB 4,200rpm
Sony VAIO VGN-T250
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M 730; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 855GME Graphics Controller up to 64MB; Toshiba MK6006GAH 60GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Professional; 1.2GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 333MHz; Intel 855GME up to 64MB; Hitachi DK13FA 40GB 4,200rpm
Windows XP Professional; 1.5GHz Intel Pentium M 758; 512MB DDR2 SDRAM; Intel 915GM/GMS 910GML Express 128MB; Hitachi Travelstar C4K60 40GB 4,200rpm
Edited by Michelle Thatcher
Additional editing by Tom Espiner