quaint little rutted bucket

Saturday, April 09, 2005

My [somewhat] new, [somewhat] shiny Thinkpad!

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I just got myself a notebook last Tuesday. It’s a gorgeous, humble little Class-A refurb IBM ThinkPad R40 stocked with the following:

  • Intel Mobile Celeron (Northwood) 1.8GHz (256KB L2, unlike its desktop counterparts! Essentially performs the same as an equivalently-clocked, older Mobile Pentium 4 Willamette sans Speedstep)
  • 20GB 4200rpm hard disk drive
  • 15" 1024 x 768 display (Native res could be higher, but I'm a happy camper with this. :)
  • 32MB ATI Mobility Radeon 7500
  • DVD/CD-RW Drive
  • 256MB PC2100/DDR266 Memory
  • 2 1/2 hours lithium ion battery (that only received four cycles of battery charges, so it was essentially new)
  • 2 USB 2.0 ports
  • a PCMCIA slot
  • 56k v.90 modem/Fast Ethernet port
  • S-Video out & DB15 (analog) monitor connector
  • Parallel port! (Of all things. Heheh.)
  • and all the good things about an IBM notebook ;)

All that for a little over 30k from a respectable seller over at tipidpc.com. So far, I'm already planning to upgrade its memory. I've also ordered a mini PCI Intel 2915 802.11ABG wireless card from Newegg. (Yes, it has an internal antenna array! Oh man, I'm so excited. :D

After purchasing it, the first thing I did was to pop out my Service Pack 2-slipstreamed Windows XP disc, reformat (leaving around 4.5 gigs unpartitioned for a Linux install, possibly Ubuntu) and install. I did lose all of the preinstalled IBM utilities, but having done my research, I know that this could be easily remedied through a couple of hours of download from IBM’s FTP sites. In addition, before making my purchase, I also downloaded a couple of PDFs of the Hardware Maintenance Manuals of some models of IBM ThinkPads, including this one. That was when I finally decided upon getting an IBM, since they are generally easy to upgrade, and ThinkPads are known throughout the industry as one of the better-engineered ones.

I did have some problems with the somewhat off colors of the LCD after reformatting, but after calibrating it through the use of a color profile, it became significantly better. Still, I’m discovering that higher resolutions, especially on LCDs, are better. (And by that, I’m not referring to widescreen notebooks. In my opinion, they aren’t really necessary.)

ThinkPads aren’t exactly known to be hip PCs; instead, they are known to be more associated with business people who travel a lot. That’s another attraction of this Thinkpad: it’s light (as light as most of the mainstream Centrino notebooks out there) and really built for serious work. It comes with a number of really useful features, such as a number of nifty keyboard shortcuts, a presentation utility that maximizes battery power and streamlines setup with LCD projectors, a centralized configuration application, a hot-swap utility for the Ultrabay Plus drive, a utility for custom networking profiles depending on where you are and the best of them all, an update utility that works like Windows Update! (or Synaptic, depending on your OS of preference. It’s literally click and go! :)

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The Thinkpad is certainly a joy to work on. The keyboard certainly boasts of IBM lineage, with its nice feel and sound. While recent IBM notebooks include UltraNav, a touchpad similar to notebooks from other companies, I find that using IBM’s “eraserhead” pointing device is more intuitive and certainly easier to use than a touchpad. It also incorporates a button that can be used to simulate mouse scroll functions.

My gripes with this notebook are really more of nitpicks, since I can’t really blame IBM for them. First is the Mobile Celeron processor’s lack of SpeedStep. I don’t need the entire 1.8GHz churning away idle when just typing, working on spreadsheets or just plainly browsing the web.

Another are the speakers. IBMs aren’t known for multimedia prowess, focusing instead on productivity. This particular model only comes with monaural front-firing speakers, and they sound worse than those dinky little PhP 180 speakers you can find bundled with generic PCs. But hey, I did not buy a notebook for audio performance; I just wanted something I could lug to school whenever I need to do a little report or work on something in my free time.

Overall, this notebook has been a nice buy. Less than 40 grand got me an IBM. How’s that for a deal?


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