Editors' note: Lenovo completed its purchase of IBM's PC division on April 2, 2005, so you will no longer see the familiar letters IBM in front of ThinkPad laptops--they are now known as simply ThinkPad products. Lenovo may introduce products under its name in the future. ThinkPad notebooks are being sold by the same outlets as before, and the same support staff will service both new and existing ThinkPads. (5/2/05)
The latest in a long line of ThinkPad X notebooks, the ThinkPad X41 delivers the best combination yet of performance, battery life, and features. Though it's a little heavier than the, it's still one of our favorite notebooks for business travelers, offering dependable, secure, high-performance computing in a small, elegant case. The X41's high price may cause some corporate buyers to balk, but we think it's worth it.
One of the smallest and lightest ultraportable notebooks available, the black wedge-shape ThinkPad X41 has a petite, 8.2-inch-by-10.4-inch footprint; the front edge measures a razor-sharp 0.9 inch thick, although the rear bulges to a full inch. At 3.2 pounds, it's a half pound heavier than the ThinkPad X40 and seven ounces heavier than the Dell Latitude X1. Add an extended-capacity battery, and the ThinkPad X41 grows an inch deeper and gains 0.7 pound. With its enviably small AC adapter, it has a travel weight of 3.9 pounds.
It may be small, but the ThinkPad X41 includes many of the creature comforts of bigger systems. Forget about a cramped, puny keyboard, because this laptop has full-size keys with a generous 2mm of depth. Those who like pointing sticks will love the ThinkPad X41's TrackPoint, which comes with three different tip options and has a handy scroll button. For those who burn the midnight oil, a keyboard light provides helpful illumination.
The ThinkPad X41's basic connections for the office or the road include external VGA monitor, audio, and two USB 2.0 ports. In addition to the requisite modem and Gigabit Ethernet, the machine has a Secure Digital card slot as well as one for a PC Card--though we would have liked an additional CompactFlash slot, as found on the Latitude X1. With an Intel 802.11b/g Wi-Fi card, the ThinkPad X41 connected with a variety of wireless LANs and stayed online 100 feet from our access point in our anecdotal tests. Still, we wish it had an external on/off switch to quickly turn off Wi-Fi for takeoffs and landings or when in a sensitive corporate area. Snapping the ThinkPad X41 into the included X4 UltraBase Dock adds a swappable bay for an optical drive, a second hard drive, or an extra battery pack, as well as three USB 2.0, parallel, serial, and PS/2 connectors and a pair of speakers. On the downside, the dock makes the ultraportable computer into a 5-pound slug that's 1.6 inches thick.
Designed for corporate users, the ThinkPad X41 also offers some of the best data protection and security features you can find in a notebook. Like older X models, it has a dedicated internal security chip that can block access and encrypt key data. And although it lacks a smart-card reader, the ThinkPad X41 does feature a fingerprint scanner: not only can it assure a user's identity for the corporate network logon routine, the fingerprint reader can handle passwords for applications ranging from eBay to e-mail. After a little practice using the device, swiping a finger becomes second nature.