by Felipe Hempe
I needed a new laptop for school and having been an Apple user for many years it was tough news when I heard I had to use a PC. My first thought was to find something that was at least the same style of notebook as a Powerbook. In other words, I wanted something powerful and light. Initially I was inclined to purchase a Sony S series, but the price was high for what it had to offer, plus I heard it had heat and fan issues. I looked at notebook models by Toshiba, Fujitsu and Asus but they just didn't seem right for my needs. I finally looked at the ThinkPad T series and was happy with the overall package, so I ordered a ThinkPad T43 through the Lenovo site and got it a few weeks later. Here is my review after using it for over a week.
IBM ThinkPad T43 Overview
Although targeted at a business crowd, IBM/Lenovo's flagship T series brings power and portability to anyone looking for a great overall package. The very distinctive all black body is not only appealing to the eye (well at least to me), but it is also very solid and well built. Though not perfect, the T43 is a very good buy.
ThinkPad T43 Specifications
This review is based on a ThinkPad T43 2687DSU with the following Specifications
This model is listed on the IBM/Lenovo web site for $2149.00 plus tax. This model includes a three year warranty.
From the first time you pick up a T43 you can tell it is a solid computer. The T43 casing contains titanium and magnesium composite material that makes the notebook solid and prevents the screen from flexing .Unlike most consumer laptops, the T43 looks and feels well built, no obvious design flaws whatsoever. I find the size and weight to be excellent for traveling and the T43 is comfortable to use in your lap.
Monitor Output, and Multidrive (view larger image)
Two USB ports, S-Video Output, Modem, Gigabit Ethernet, Audio ports, One PC Card Type I/II and one ExpressCard/54 or 34 (view larger image)
AC Port, Parallel Port, Battery. (view larger image)
Speakers, Infrared port (view larger image)
I would say that the T43's screen is not the best display available on the market, but it is far from being mediocre. The 14.1-inch screen is a great size because it offers a great viewing area but allows the computer to remain portable due to its smaller size footprint and better battery life (due to smaller screen and lower power requirements) than the 15.0-inch T43 offering. The 1400x1050 SXGA resolution is great, the smaller font size took a bit of getting used to, but now I'm loving it. The unit I received does not have any dead pixels. Measured to my standards, the brightness of the screen is very good, and the colors remain true. The Thinklight (Fn+PgUp) located on the top of the screen, allows the keyboard to be seen during the dark. This is a great function, but the light is so dim that it really is only effective in a very dark room.
Keyboard and pointing devices:
Many people agree that IBM/Lenovo makes the best keyboard available for laptops; I am also of this opinion. The keyboard is a joy to type on; the way it is set up allows easier typing that is comfortable for the hands and wrists. The T43 has dual pointing devices. A TrackPoint, which is great to use and is very comfortable (it even comes with 3 different head sizes for it so you can choose your favorite). The TouchPad is very solid has just the right sensitivity. To the right of the Esc key there are five buttons: Access IBM, volume up, volume down, mute, and power. This T43 comes with a fingerprint scanner which is located under the arrow keys.
ThinkPad T43 keyboard and TrackPoint navigation (view larger image)
Not much to say, laptop speakers are not known for being great and unfortunately this T43 falls under the same category. I find them okay for listening to a couple of tunes and the occasional movie, but they're certainly not a replacement for external speakers. Personally I am content with the sound, but being somewhat an audiophile I admit that they are not great.
This specific model (2687 DSU) came with a 9-cell battery. This battery adds a bit of weight to the T43 and sticks out of the back. For the average computer user (web browsing, word, etc.) the battery should last over five hours. When I ordered this laptop there was a promo that gave me a free 6-cell battery, which I find I'm using most of the time. This battery is light and does not protrude whatsoever. The 6-cell battery gives me almost four hours of use.
Above view with 6-cell battery (view larger image)
Above view with 9-cell battery (view larger image)
This model came with an integrated Intel pro wireless 2915ABG card. The way the antennas are placed on this notebook, embedded in the screen case, allows for better reception. I found the range was better when compared to a Linksys wireless PC card. This T43 also comes with built-in Bluetooth and infrared.
Fan and Heat:
A friend of mine has a Toshiba Tecra M3, which is a nice notebook, but man does it get hot. I read some reviews on the T43 about heat and it didn't seem like it was really an issue. Well, all I can say is that after over a week of using it, this laptop never gets hot. The fan is always running but it is quiet. Occasionally the fan runs fast for a few seconds but later returns to normal.
Having a Pentium M 760 (2.0 GHz) processor makes this computer very attractive. Everything runs smoothly and the machine never lags. The included 512MB of RAM allows the computer to run well, but I would recommend at least 1GB of RAM. Startup is fast, but not the fastest. This is definitely not a gaming machine, but the ATI Radeon X300 64 MB card is good enough to make graphics run smoothly.
Software and Security:
Access IBM is something IBM should be proud of; it is something no other company offers an equivalent to (to my knowledge). Accessing and changing settings is a blast, very easy and fast. IBM includes other software for burning and making DVD's as well as a 90 day trial of Norton Antivirus 2005. The included fingerprint scanner is a great feature (although not a necessity) which allows faster startup as well as allowing password management to be easier. The fingerprint scanner is also very easy to setup and use (although takes a few minutes to get used to).
This particular T43 had a two week backorder when I placed the order on the website. The first week I was certain that it was going to ship the date that was scheduled to do so (June 29). Having that day approaching and with no changes on the status page, I contacted IBM. They told me it was on back order and it was going to ship July 15th; since I needed it before July 20th I was somewhat concerned. A few days later I contacted IBM again and they told me that everything was fine and that they were going to ship it from Hong Kong. So they did and June 29 it left the Hong Kong warehouse. Since shipping was free I expected at least a week to receive it, IBM shipped it Express and much to my surprise I received it two days later on July 1st. The technicians were very helpful and the process was great. Be aware though that no international credit cards other than American Express are accepted for ordering from the USA site.
This review makes the T43 seem like a great machine, and it is, but like everything in life it is not perfect. The pros have pretty much been said throughout the review, so I am going to go straight to the cons:
Pricing and Availability
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