4 stars

CNET Editors' Rating

The Good Light and fast; bright screen; above-average battery life; modular bay; hardware protection system.

The Bad Expensive.

The Bottom Line The fast, reliable, and easy-to-manage ThinkPad T41 series is a traveler's delight, as well as one of the best thin-and-lights on the market.

8.3 Overall
  • Design 9.0
  • Features 9.0
  • Performance 8.0
  • Battery life 7.0
  • Service and support 8.0
CNET Editors' Choice Nov '03

Editors' note: IBM has released a patch to fix a problem with Hitachi hard disks on this ThinkPad model. The patch is for models that use a particular 60GB Hitachi hard disk. You can &siteid=7&edid=&lop=txt&destcat=ex&destUrl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww%2D306%2Eibm%2Ecom%2Fpc%2Fsupport%2Fsite%2Ewss%2Fdocument%2Edo%3Flndocid%3DTPAD%2DHDFIRM">download the patch from the IBM support site. (3/19/04)

IBM's ThinkPad notebooks have never been the flashiest laptops around, and the upgraded ThinkPad T41 series continues the black-slab tradition. But IBM doesn't need a lot of bling bling, because this fast, solid thin-and-light delivers all the amenities that make IBM notebooks endearing, such as a firm keyboard, a bright screen, cutting-edge security, and a keyboard light. Available in a wide range of configurations with a standard three-year warranty, the ThinkPad T41 series is also extremely IT- and business-friendly. It's not the least-expensive notebook around, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better travel companion.

Styled in IBM's traditional, no-nonsense black, the ThinkPad T41 series measures a svelte 12 inches wide by 10 inches deep by 1 inch thick and weighs only 5.88 pounds with its removable 7-ounce optical drive and AC adapter--standard size for top-notch thin-and-lights. The notebook also runs cool to the touch, even while playing DVDs, so you can compute on your lap for hours without singeing your trousers.

Our test notebook's 14.1-inch, 1,400x1,050 native-resolution display produced crisp, sharp images, but you may need to increase the size of desktop icons in order to see them easily at this default setting. Even so, the ThinkPad T41 series excels at ergonomics. IBM's ultracrisp keyboard, with full-size keys, is as impressive as past IBM keyboards, as is the tiny screen-bezel-mounted light for illumination in dark rooms or planes.

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The ultrafirm keyboard is an IBM hallmark.
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The responsive touchpad is flanked by two sets of mouse buttons.

Earlier this year, IBM doubled its input options, augmenting its standard pointing stick with a responsive touchpad that sports dual sets of buttons mounted both above and below the touchpad. The ThinkPad T41 series' sound is also good for a thin-and-light; it's loud, though lacking in bass.

The standard array of connections line the edges: audio in/out jacks, Gigabit Ethernet and v.92 modem ports, two USB 2.0 ports, a mouse connector and a PC Card slot on the left side; VGA output on the right; and parallel and AC jacks in the back. The right edge hosts a media bay called the Ultrabay Slim, which accepts a second battery or hard drive; our test unit's came filled with a CD-RW/DVD combo drive.

The ThinkPad T41 series also features IBM's Security Subsystem 2.0 with both BIOS-level and software components to make these notebooks some of the most secure in the industry. And now a new jewel has been added to the security crown: the patent-pending Active Protection System, which shuts down the hard drive when it senses rapid acceleration to prevent damage before a violent impact occurs. In our drop tests, the hard drive did indeed shut down briefly, but it returned to normal use in a few seconds.

The ThinkPad T41 series comes in a variety of configurations priced from $1,649 to $3,729. The configurations offer Pentium M CPUs from 1.4GHz to 1.7GHz, hard drives from 30GB to 60GB, and from 256MB to 2GB of memory. The 14.1-inch display comes in two native resolutions--1,400x1,050 and 1,024x768--each driven by your choice of the ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 or the faster Mobility Radeon 9000 graphics card. Each of these cards sports 32MB of dedicated graphics memory. That's not a screaming graphics setup, but it's enough for business users.

Several battery options are also available: a $159, six-cell 4.4AH unit; a slightly heavier but longer-lasting $179, nine-cell 6.6AH model; and a $189 auxiliary battery that fits in the media bay.

We like ThinkPad T41's built-in 802.11a/b/g antenna, which works in conjunction with several different wireless radios: Cisco or Intel 802.11b, Altheros 802.11a/b, or Altheros 802.11a/b/g. The ThinkPad T41 series comes preloaded with the Windows XP Pro operating system and includes Adobe Acrobat Reader, Stomp RecordNow for burning CDs, InterVideo WinDVD (for models with DVD drives), Norton AntiVirus 2003, PC-Doctor, and the ThinkPad Utilities.

Our ThinkPad T41 test unit's performance landed it near the top of the heap for 1.6GHz Pentium M notebooks; it scored just one point lower than Dell's Latitude D600 --a notebook that shares many of the same specs. The IBM scored seven points higher than the Gateway 200, although you'd hardly notice a performance difference in real-world use. All in all, IBM's latest thin-and-light demonstrates excellent mobile performance, and it will have no problem running office and content-creation apps while unplugged.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  
Dell Latitude D600
176 
IBM ThinkPad T41
175 
Gateway 200
169 

Performance analysis written by CNET Labs assistant lab manager Eric Franklin.

Find out more about how we test notebooks.

System configurations:

Dell Latitude D600
Windows XP Pro; 1.6GHz Intel Pentium M; 512MB DDR SDRAM 266MHz; ATI Mobility Radeon 9000 32MB; IBM Travelstar 40GNX 40GB 5,400rpm

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