IBM ThinkPad T43 Review (pics, specs)

by Reads (226,268)

by Jason Davis, Ontario Canada

Overview and Introduction

IBM ThinkPad T43 (view larger image)

The IBM/Lenovo Thinkpad T43 is a corporate thin and light notebook, and is part of IBM’s flagship T-series model notebooks. It is nearly identical to the ThinkPad T42 before it, and was released essentially so that IBM could take advantage of the newer Sonoma chipset, though whether this chipset has been ultimately advantageous is debatable.

IBM T43 Specs and Configuration Options

  • Processor: Pentium M 750(1.86GHz)
  • Memory: 1024MB RAM DDR2 SDRAM
  • OS: Windows XP Pro
  • Hard Drive: 60GB 7200rpm HD
  • Screen: 14.1″ SXGA+ (1400×1050) LCD
  • Graphics: 64MB ATI Radeon x300
  • Optical Drive: CD-RW/DVD-R MultiBurner 4X Max
  • Wireless: Intel PRO/Wireless 2200BG
  • Ports: AC adapter, Docking/Port Replicator, External microphone, External Display, Headphone/Line out, Infrared, Parallel, RJ-11, RJ-45, S-Video out, 2 USB 2.0
  • Battery:  3-4 hr (6-cell)
  • Weight & Dimensions: 12.2″x10.0″x 1.0″, 5.1 lbs
  • Warranty: 1-year plus added 1-year Thinkpad Protection.

Reasons for Buying

I wanted a laptop that was light enough to be very portable, but without sacrificing performance capabilities. That had me set on buying a thin and light laptop. From that, IBM’s reputation for good build quality, the EPP discount which I had, IBM’s excellent keyboards, the trackpoint pointing stick, SXGA+ screen, and upgraded RAM had me choosing this particular laptop. I had considered the PortableOne MX, Sony VAIO S series, and Acer Travelmate 8100, but ultimately none of these completely suited my needs, and weren’t cost-effective in comparison to buying a T43 with EPP discount.

Where and How Purchased

I happen to know someone who works at IBM, so I purchased the T43 from the IBM Canadian EPP website for $2000 CDN ($1600 USD), which included Microsoft Office Professional 2003, double the standard RAM, and the expander carrying case. All in all, I think it was a very good deal, as I more or less managed to get the benefits of an IBM laptop without paying the premium normally associated with them.

Build Quality & Design

Here’s an area where IBM really shines. There’s little to no screen flex on the screen, it has extremely solid hinges, has a magnesium composite case, and generally feels very sturdy. I have yet to find a laptop which feels better made than this one. Also, the design, though relatively simple, is really quite appealing depending on the style you’re looking for. If you’re more a fan of the design of laptops like the Dell XPS Gen 2, then this probably isn’t what you’re looking for design wise, but personally, the all black, business-like design was perfect. The T43’s size and weight are also, at least for me, perfect. It’s small and weighs little enough that it doesn’t feel like a bother bringing it from place to place, but the screen is big enough that it’s not a pain to use for extended periods of time.

Build and Design — 10/10

ThinkPad T43 right-side (view larger image)

ThinkPad T43 left-side (view larger image)

ThinkPad T43 back-side (view larger image)

ThinkPad T43 front-side (view larger image)

ThinkPad T43 under-side (view larger image)

Screen

ThinkPad T43 Screen (view larger image)

The T43 doesn’t score quite as high in this category, though the screen is certainly not bad. My T43 has no dead pixels, which is good, and has a very nice SXGA+ 1400×1050 resolution screen. My only gripes with the T43’s screen is that it’s viewing angle is really rather limited, and besides that, it doesn’t really have any extra enhancements which it would need in order to get high marks in this category. The viewing angle problem isn’t one that detracts from the usability of the laptop, as I use a projector for any presentations I do, but it can be an annoyance in certain situations when I want to show someone something, and find that the screen’s visibility is hampered by the poor viewing angle.

Screen — 8/10

Speakers

I’m not even going to bother rating this one, as I have yet to find laptop speakers that I actually like. They work adequately for basic usage, but if you’re doing anything that requires good audio performance, invest in some good speakers, or at least a decent set of headphones.

Processor & Performance

The 1.86 gHz Pentium M processor, 1024 MB of RAM, and 7200 RPM HD allow the T43 to have flawless performance for most tasks. I also downloaded some game demos to test out the performance capabilities, though I’m not a gamer, and it seems to run most games relatively well, though obviously this is not a gaming machine. Battlefield 2 runs relatively well on 800×600, while Doom 3 requires virtually everything to be on lowest settings in order to run at about 30 fps.

Processor & Performance — 9.5/10

Benchmarks

We use Super Pi to get a benchmark of processor speed.  The Super Pi program simply forces the processor to calculate Pi to a selected number of digits of accuracy.  Calculating to 2 million digits is our benchmark:

Comparison of notebooks using Super Pi to calculate Pi to 2 million digits (plugged in):

Notebook Time to Calculate Pi to 2 Million Digits
IBM ThinkPad T43 (1.86GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 38s
Fujitsu LifeBook N3510 (1.73 GHz Alviso Pentium M) 1m 48s
IBM ThinkPad T41 (1.6GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 23s
Compaq R3000T (Celeron 2.8GHz) 3m 3s
Dell Inspiron 600m (1.6 GHz Dothan Pentium M) 2m 10s
Dell Inspiron 8600 (1.7GHz Banias Pentium M) 2m 28s

3DMark05 — 900 3D marks

Keyboard & Touchpad

IBM T43 keyboard / TouchPad / TrackPoint view (view larger image)

The keyboard is as near perfect as a laptop keyboard can be. Each key is full-size, and has real depth to it, so as to feel more like a desktop keyboard, and less like the flat, flexing keyboards common in other brands. I don’t really use the touchpad very often, as I find the trackpoint much easier to use, but whenever I’ve used it, it’s seemed fine. As far as the trackpoint goes, it’s a joy to use, at least in comparison with touchpads. After using it for a while, I find it nearly as easy to use for most tasks as a mouse, which is more then I can say for any touchpad.

Keyboard & Touchpad — 10/10
 
Input & Output Ports

I don’t have much to say in this area, it has most of the standard ports, though it lacks firewire, and could possibly use more than two USB ports. It also comes with a DVD burner, which work’s fine for those occasions which I have used it, though at a relatively slow speed (4x max.) So far, the lack of firewire or extra USB ports has not hindered me in doing anything which I have wished to do, so none of this has been an issue for me.

Input & Output Ports — 8.5/10
 
Wireless

So far I have been impressed with wireless on the T43. The antenna is built into the upper right corner of the screen, which allows for excellent wireless range. I was able to access my wireless internet connection from a gazebo outside my house, as well as anywhere else on the property, which is about 5000 square feet and three stories high (four including the basement.) It also comes with IBM Access Connections, which allows for very easy management of different network connections. The configuration I purchased came with Intel Pro/Wireless 2200BG, which so far has had no issues. The only possible problem with this adapter is the lack of 802.11a support, but I doubt this is going to be a real issue, as I am not aware of any situations where I will require access to an 802.11a network.

Wireless — 9.5/10

Battery

With the 6-cell battery, I’m usually getting about 4 hours of battery life performing basic productivity tasks and browsing the web, which is pretty good considering all things. However, in the future, I will probably be buying the extended 9-cell battery for those occasions where I am away from a power outlet for an extended period of time. The 9-cell battery, however, extends outward at the back of the laptop, whereas the 6-cell flushes evenly with it.

Battery — 9/10

OS and Software

The T43 came with Microsoft XP Professional, Microsoft Office 2003 Professional Edition, as well as various other programs. There generally seems to be a good amount of software, without overdoing it with the bloatware found in some other brands’ computers.

OS and Software — 9.5/10

Customer Support

Here I was actually disappointed. The courier who contacted me for shipping of the computer was quite rude, accusing me of not wanting to deal with them’ when I told him that there would be no-one at the house during the day. Eventually we organized that he was to ship it to my work, but he left me without a phone number with which to contact him about it. Now all this relates more to the courier then IBM/Lenovo specifically, but later when I tried calling the IBM support hotline to see if I could find out more about this courier, I was unable to get a response. Certainly other companies have had these problems as well, but I had expected better from IBM.

Customer Support — 7/10

Heat & Fan

This laptop does generate a certain amount of heat under it, but not so much as to make it uncomfortable to use on your lap. The palm rests produce virtually no heat, and the fan stays relatively quiet throughout, although it is always on. There were a few occasions when running graphics intensive programs, or when running many performance tasking applications at once, that the fan would get loud and the bottom of the laptop would get hot, but for most normal circumstances, this has not happened.

Heat & Fan — 8.5/10

Miscellaneous

Here’s the category where I throw all the little IBM extras, like the fingerprint reader, the light which illuminates your keyboard in poor lighting circumstances, the access IBM service, etc. In this category, IBM scores very highly, because they’ve put enough things into the laptop to give it a very polished’ feel. These little extras don’t seem like much individually, but put them together and it increases the overall usability of the notebook.

Miscellaneous — 10/10

Conclusion

Overall, the IBM T43 is a remarkably good notebook, with very few issues and many positive extras to make up for them. If you are looking for a well-made thin and light computer for work related tasks, then this computer will be nearly perfect for you. The premium you pay for purchasing an IBM computer is well worth it.

Overall — 93/100

Pricing and Availability – IBM ThinkPad T43 Pricing


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