IBM's first Dothan laptop is the thin-and-light ThinkPad T42, an update to the popular IBM ThinkPad T41. The T42 is almost as fast as the best-performing Dothan we've tested, the Dell Latitude D800. Battery life for the ThinkPad T42 was also good, although it wasn't able to outlast the in our Labs' tests. But with an eye-pleasing sub-$2,000 price tag in its base configuration, the new ThinkPad T42 is perhaps the best value among laptops equipped with Intel's latest Pentium M upgrade.
For a laptop offering the latest in processor technology, the IBM ThinkPad T42 is strikingly modest in its design (which is par for the course for the all-black ThinkPads). We tested the larger model, which has a 15-inch screen and weighs in at 5.7 pounds (6.5 pounds with power brick and cord), measuring 13 by 10.6 by 1.3 inches. The smaller model has a 14-inch screen and weighs less than 5 pounds, but it is still a good deal bulkier than IBM's new ultralight, the. As on all IBM models, the metal hinges connecting the T42's lid to the body are tough as nails and well suited to day-in, day-out business use.
The IBM ThinkPad T42's keyboard is broad and comfortable, with plenty of room toward the front rim for your palms. You get a touch pad and a pointing device that nestles in the middle of the keyboard. We also like the simple buttons above the keyboard, including volume controls and an Access IBM button that directs you to support and troubleshooting information.
In October 2004, IBM refreshed the ThinkPad T42, adding an optional fingerprint sensor for security. Hardly noticeable, the small, embedded sensor strip sits near the keyboard. By simply brushing your finger over it, you can log on to Windows without having to bother with typing in your username/password combination; you can also use it to protect the laptop at power-up.
The included security management software, which is easy to set up, wisely advises you to register more than one fingertip, should you injure the one that you use most often to the extent that the reader can't recognize it. (Our reviewer's documentation also informs us that because the sensor reads the electrical characteristics of your fingerprint, a severed finger will work on the sensor only for about 15 minutes, after which its electrical properties degrade. Good to know.) We found the sensor reliable, impossible to fool, and easy to program. It would often ask us to rescan our finger once or twice, which was slightly annoying, but it never locked us out or authenticated the wrong person.
The standard configuration for the IBM ThinkPad T42 includes a smallish 30GB hard drive and a combo CD-RW/DVD drive in the laptop's modular bay. For an extra $150, you can fill the bay with an IBM Multi-Burner drive that will read and write CDs and DVDs. Optional six- and nine-cell batteries are also available for the bay. Hard drive upgrades to 60GB or 80GB are shamelessly pricey, each costing more than $200. Around the rim, you'll find two USB 2.0 ports, a serial port for a mouse, an RJ-11 port for the T42's built-in modem, a Gigabit Ethernet port, audio-in and audio-out jacks, two Cardbus slots, a parallel port for a printer, and a VGA port for an external monitor. That covers the basics, but accoutrements such as FireWire and flash media slots are missing. You can add Wi-Fi for between $50 and $100, depending on which wireless adapter you choose.