IBM Thinkpad T42 Review — T42 Good for Gaming?

by Reads (189,867)

I received the IBM ThinkPad T42 (2379R9U) notebook in the mail last week along with all the accessories After powering the notebook up and going through the initial boot process, I was immediately impressed. I remained impressed from that time on, and therefore I present to you a review of this particular IBM ThinkPad T42 configuration, which will contradict the common opinion that with IBM “you do not get your money’s worth” and focus on the ability of this machine for gaming.

Specs

  • Intel Pentium M 745 1.8GHZ (400MHZ Front Side Bus)
  • 512MB RAM
  • 60GB Hard Drive, 7200 RPM
  • DVD-CDRW Optical Drive
  • 56K Modem
  • 802.11B+G Wireless card
  • 15″ Screen SXGA
  • Windows XP
  • ATI Mobility RADEON 9600 with 64MB of RAM

Performance

IBM ThinkPad T42 15.0″ Sized Screen Notebook (view larger image)

I am a true gamer, last year I spent about $3000 on building a state of the art gaming rig. As this fall rolled around I needed to get a laptop for college.  Being a tech afficianado, I have seen every laptop on the market! After looking through all the “gaming” laptops (for example:  Alienware, Hypersonic, and Voodoo) I came to the conclusion that the processor had to be a Pentium M, because I did need good battery life. After reading up on benchmarks of Pentium M processors, I knew that I wanted a 1.8 Ghz Pentium M 745 or higher. For the longest time I found myself addicted to the Hyperson Aviator CQ6.  However after finding out the Falcon NW, Sager Notebooks, Hypersonic, and even Voodoo notebooks I was looking at were all the same machine made by a company in China named Clevo — and then just rebranded for each of these companies, I decided to scrap that idea as I did not like the overall build quality.  Nevertheless, I still knew that I wanted a gaming laptop, one that would allow me to play Doom 3 and Half-Life 2, and I knew if I could play those then I was set. After countless hours of searching I came across the IBM Think T42 2379R9U.

At first I was skeptical about it’s 64MB graphics card. However remembering what I had learned back when I bought my Desktop PC, I came to the conclusion that GPU and GPU RAM speed are much more important then the amount of Video memory.

Furthermore, after playing Doom 3 on ultra quality this past summer with 1.5GB of RAM, and having it run smoothly, told me that even though ID designed that setting to work with graphics cards that actually had 512MB of video memory, the feature would still work if it could take memory from the local memory to make up for the deificiency with the amount of graphics memory. This theory was further confirmed, when I read benchmarks of the T42, defeating the T42p, in 3DMark03 benchmarks. For those that are not aware, the T42p has a mobility FireGL T2 with 128MB of RAM. Since the mobility 9600 found on the T42 was defeating the T42p by a hundred points it was quite easily concluded that the 9600 actually had a faster GPU clock and memory clock which yielded a better overall showing. So now as I type this review I am installing Far Cry, and I have already been able to play Doom 3 on this T42 quite well.  The performance in Half-Life 2 is quite staggering. Running the game in 800×600 with everything set to max with anisotropic filtering turned off, I am able to get 20-30 fps consistently, which is quite surprising coming from a laptop with “only” 64MB of graphics memory. This notebook is great for gaming in my opinion as I have also played Return to Castle Wolfenstein and Unreal Tournament 2004 which runs great on this system.

Security

The laptop really does have a physically built-in laptop security chip, coupled with the fingerprint scanner, this would have to be by far the most secure machine I have ever used. All the files on this laptop are encrypted, then are biometrically protected, and on top of that IBM’s security software is so intricate it replaces the default windows logon that is found in Windows XP, with IBM’s own proprietary login method.

IBM T42 keyboard / TouchPad / TrackPoint view and Biometric Reader (view larger image)

Battery Life

Ok this was one of the most important things for me when it came to deciding on which laptop to get. The battery that comes by default with this model is the 9-cell battery, which is IBM’s long lasting battery. If I am just web-browsing and doing school work I get 5 hours plus. Meanwhile, if I am playing games, with everything running at max performance, including the GPU I can get about 2-3 hrs. If I mix up gaming and school work, it’s typically 4 hrs depending on how long I play the game for, and how intensive the game. The weight of the laptop feels overall quite light, I believe this is because of the even weight distribution, and thusly is not a pain to carry.

Conclusion

After looking at every possible notebook I came to the following conclusions: if I went with HP I might have achieved “OK” performance, but poor build quality, as many readers of this website are aware about. Dell notebooks in my opinion just look really cheap, and are bulky, and their construction is mostly plastic.  Generally the parts in a Dell are low-end when it comes to Motherboard design and RAM. Hypersonic, Alienware, Voodoo, Falcon-Northwest, simply sell over-priced re-named Taiwanese/Chinese notebooks with expensive marketing and support. All other brands such as Fujitsu and Toshiba, just don’t have a good combination of performance/battery life. However, I did like some of the Sony options a lot, and was quite close to purchasing the S series, but decided not to as the screen was quite small.  I saw the Sony VAIO A series as being quite over-priced considering the performance you get for the money.  Even more so than IBM. For example, with the Sony A290 you get a good graphics card — an ATI 9700 with 64MB of RAM, and a Pentium M, however since the screen is 17″ you will be lucky if you get 3hrs worth of battery life out of it. Furthermore the 10 pound behemoth doesn’t exactly exude “mobility.” So with those things in mind, I went with the IBM ThinkPad T42 2379R9U, and purchased an additonal 512MB of RAM which bumped me up to a gig of memory, a leather attache carrying case, 3-year ThinkPad protection plan (which covers accidental breakage), 3-year computrace (theft protection), 512MB IBM memory key, Kensington noise-cancelling headphones, and 2-day shipping with taxes for a total amount of $2,912. For all that I got with this purchase and with the xtended warranty, this price was very good overall. So contrary to the popular belief of IBM being the most expensive, this machine actually wound up costing me much less than having to purchase a Hypersonic with similar features, warranties and so forth. Now that is a statement to behold.


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