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IBM's latest ThinkPad lets users help themselves

IBM's ThinkPad X40 is ultra light and portable, and comes with Rescue and Recovery software that allows users to restore systems themselves. The downside? Reduced battery time and performance.

Product name: ThinkPad X40

Company name: IBM


Price: $1,499 to $2,399, depending on features

Bottom line: Ultra light notebook for users on the go.

In a nutshell: A reliable, ultra compact notebook that allows users to easily manage the systems themselves.


  • Ultra portable -- It's only 2.7 lb (with four-cell battery) and 1 inch thick.
  • Shock resistant -- IBM Active Protection System helps protect the hard disk drive if the notebook is dropped or banged on.
  • Less need for the help desk -- With IBM Rescue and Recovery with Rapid Restore software, users can restore systems themselves.
  • CD-RW drive is a separate attachment.
  • It doesn't have a Firewire port.
  • Performance is on the low end.
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Description: Users who are often on the road know how cumbersome it can be to lug around a laptop. It's usually heavy and bulky, and it's a pain in the neck to unpack when going through security at the airport.

IBM's ThinkPad X40 eliminates many of these inconveniences. Weighing in at 2.7 pounds (with a four-cell battery) and only about an inch thick, the X40 is IBM's thinnest ultra portable notebook ever. Even at such a small size, the notebook retains a full-size keyboard -- an essential for all road warriors.

How was IBM able to make the X40 so small? Well, they did have to give up a few things: The internal battery is now four cells rather than six (giving you 3.5 hours of power), the hard drive is now 1.8 inches rather than 2.5 inches, and there's no internal CD-RW drive.

If you want to pay a little more and you don't mind the extra weight, you can soup the notebook up a little. You can get it with an eight-cell battery, which will give you up to 7.5 hours, and you can purchase an external CD-RW drive for $499. If you want really long battery life, add to that IBM's Extended Life Battery ($199) for up to 10 hours of power.

Another cool add-on is IBM's UltraBase Dock. It includes a three-port USB hub as well as Ethernet and external monitor connections. Key lock secures the notebook to the dock.

The only downside to adding peripherals to the X40 is that it doesn't have a Firewire port, which could prevent you from attaching certain devices, such as a digital camera or an iPod. IBM instead has given it a USB 2.0 port and a powered USB 2.0 port, which supports external optical drives without a separate AC adapter.

Unfortunately, some power was sacrificed on the X40 when IBM made it smaller. The processor choice is between the 1GHz (ultra-low voltage) Pentium M and the 1.2GHz (low voltage) Pentium M. And the smaller 4,200 rpm hard drive doesn't match the speed of premium notebooks. However, its performance matches that of other ultra portables, and we found it's certainly enough for creating presentations, composing documents and sending e-mail.

For road warriors who often find themselves out of contact with the help desk, the X40 has a couple new features to make their lives easier: IBM Active Protection System and IBM Rescue and Recovery with Rapid Restore.

IBM Active Protection System is like an airbag system for your hard drive. It features built-in motion sensors that detect falls can protect your hard disk drive. IBM Rescue and Recovery with Rapid Restore is a one-button solution that allows users to restore systems themselves. Simply push the "Access IBM" button and you get hard drive, CD and Ethernet access. It can't get any easier.

Let's not forget the wireless capabilities in the X40. It offers a variety of wireless options via Intel 802.11b, IBM 802.11b/g Wi-Fi, IBM 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. It also has improved signal reception with the IBM UltraConnect Antenna, which is built into the display of the notebooks. And through an icon at the bottom of your display, the notebook automatically tells you if there's a wireless network connection and how strong it is. Very handy, indeed.

Design-wise, the X40 has plenty of bells and whistles, my favorite being the keyboard light. If you've ever found yourself struggling to work in the dark of an airplane or giving a presentation in a dark room, you know how helpful a little light like this can be. It isn't as cool as the ambient lighting on Apple's PowerBooks, but it still gets the oohs and ahs.

Read why analysts say IBM's new lightweight ThinkPad has muscle.

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