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ThinkPad G series review: ThinkPad G series

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MSRP: $1,529.00
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The Good Long battery life; inexpensive; several configurations available; fast performance compared to that of similar systems.

The Bad Big and heavy; mediocre screen.

The Bottom Line The ThinkPad G series proves you can get a capable desktop replacement at an affordable price without sacrificing battery life and performance.

Visit manufacturer site for details.

7.3 Overall
  • Design 7
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7
  • Battery 8
  • Support 6

Review Sections

Review summary

IBM offers an astonishing 22 preconfigured systems in the ThinkPad G series. You can outfit this desktop replacement with an affordable Celeron or a superfast 3GHz Pentium 4 processor. You can also get a 15-inch screen and cutting-edge components, such as 802.11a/b/g wireless networking. The ThinkPad G series even includes older technologies, such as a floppy drive and a PS/2 port. In CNET Labs' benchmark tests, the system turned in admirable mobile performance and lasted nearly four hours on battery. However, the ThinkPad G series has its bad points, too: it's heavy, and its slanted keyboard can be uncomfortable to use. IBM's Web site makes configuring your own laptop somewhat confusing. Still, if you expect to spend more time at your desk than on the road, the ThinkPad G series offers plenty of features at a competitive price.

If you want to take the ThinkPad G series on the road, pack your bags carefully. Its 13-inch-wide by 11.25-inch-deep, matte-black shell ramps from 1.63 inches high in front to 2.38 inches high in back. It weighs a hefty 8.4 pounds; the double-size AC power supply adds an extra 1.5 pounds. A lip runs around the edge of the notebook and keeps it tightly sealed against briefcase debris.

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While some people may find the slanted keyboard more comfortable, others will find it hard on their hands.
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IBM offers three TrackPoint cap designs for its pointing stick.

The large case allows IBM to include a sizable, responsive keyboard. The notebook's wedge shape angles the keyboard slightly upward. IBM says that this design will make typing easier, but we found it uncomfortable and wished there were folding feet to level the machine. As usual, IBM's TrackPoint pointing stick is embedded in the keyboard and includes three different-shaped, interchangeable rubber tips. (No touchpad is available.)

The design has its annoyances. The single latch's location, close to the right edge of the machine, makes leverage awkward when raising the lid; you may need both hands to do it. A mono speaker set above the keyboard sounds scratchy and metallic.

The ThinkPad G series features a fairly standard selection of ports and slots. The right side has a Type II/Type III PC Card slot and a fixed optical drive. The left side sports two USB 2.0 ports and a fixed floppy drive. On the back, there are parallel, VGA, Ethernet, and two USB 2.0 ports, as well as a 56Kbps modem and a PS/2 slot.

IBM offers 22 different preconfigured systems in the ThinkPad G series, organized into economy, value, and performance categories on its Web site. Processor choices range from a 2GHz Celeron to a 2.4GHz, 2.8GHz, or 3GHz Pentium 4. Each model also comes with a 20GB or 40GB hard drive; 128MB or 256MB of PC2100 DDR SDRAM; a fixed floppy drive; and a fixed CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or DVD/CD-RW combo drive.

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The ThinkPad G series comes with a fixed CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, or DVD/CD-RW combo drive.
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The notebook offers either a 14.1- or 15-inch display.

Your upgrade options can be confusing: they vary by system, and they don't all make sense. For instance, we found no way to select a larger hard drive, and system memory tops out at 768MB--even though the laptop supports up to 1GB. Built-in 802.11b wireless networking is available on only eight of the preconfigured systems, but you can add an optional $89 802.11a/b/g wireless Cardbus adapter on some models. Other wireless options include an AT&T 710 or 750 GSM/GPRS wireless WAN PC Card and a Sprint PCS CDMA connection card.

All but two systems feature a 14.1- or 15-inch screen with a 1,024x768 resolution. The top-of-the-line configurations offer a 15-inch display with a 1,400x1,050 resolution. However, in our opinion, a 1,280x1,024 resolution seems like a much better match for a 15-inch screen. The included Intel Integrated Extreme Graphics controller rendered text well, but colors appeared slightly dull on our test unit.

Each machine comes with Windows XP Professional or Windows XP Home Edition. IBM also includes its own ThinkPad Configuration Software, which lets you set up the pointing stick, the screen, the security, and other user-adjustable components. The purchase price includes a license to use Lotus SmartSuite Millennium and Lotus Notes Client, but you must provide the software. You can also choose from a laundry list of graphics, entertainment, and security utilities, including Adobe Photoshop 7.0 and Norton AntiVirus 2003.

Mobile application performance
The IBM ThinkPad G40 placed first in our roundup of systems. All three notebooks use the same 2.4GHz Pentium 4 processor and step down the CPU speed to conserve battery life. The Toshiba Satellite 2455-S305, however, drops its CPU speed lower than either the ThinkPad G40 or the Fujitsu LifeBook E series, which adversely affected the Toshiba's mobile performance score. If you feel the need to lug the ThinkPad G40 away from a power outlet, at least you know that it can still run office and multimedia apps well.

Mobile application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark2002 performance rating  
IBM ThinkPad G40
138 
Fujitsu LifeBook E series
119 
Toshiba Satellite 2455-S305
93 

To measure mobile application performance and battery life, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's MobileMark2002. MobileMark measures both application performance and battery life concurrently using a number of popular applications (Microsoft Word 2002, Microsoft Excel 2002, Microsoft PowerPoint 2002, Microsoft Outlook 2002, Netscape Communicator 6.0, WinZip Computing WinZip 8.0, McAfee VirusScan 5.13, Adobe Photoshop 6.0.1, and Macromedia Flash 5.0).

SysMark2002 performance
The ThinkPad G40 continued its winning streak in our maximum performance tests. The system edged out the similarly configured Satellite 2455-S305 by a few points. The LifeBook E series placed a distant third, thanks to its shared graphics architecture, which borrows 32MB from main memory and adversely affects performance.

Maximum application performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo SysMark2002 rating  
SysMark2002 Internet content creation  
SysMark2002 office productivity  
IBM ThinkPad G40
208 
302 
143 
Toshiba Satellite 2455-S305
203 
291 
141 
Fujitsu LifeBook E series
172 
259 
114 

To measure maximum notebook application performance, CNET Labs uses BAPCo's SysMark2002, an industry-standard benchmark. Using off-the-shelf applications, SysMark measures a desktop's performance using office-productivity applications (such as Microsoft Office and McAfee VirusScan) and Internet-content-creation applications (such as Adobe Photoshop and Macromedia Dreamweaver).

3D graphics performance
None of the systems in our roundup comes with a graphics adapter created for high-end 3D performance. As a result, each machine delivers mediocre 3D performance at best. The ThinkPad G40 includes the Intel 82852/82855 Extreme Graphics adapter, which works fine for business presentations. However, it can't take advantage of all the features packed into current or even last-generation games. If you want a machine for gaming, you'll need to look elsewhere.

3D performance  (Longer bars indicate better performance)
Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE  
Toshiba Satellite 2455-S305
1,642 
Fujitsu LifeBook E series
1,519 
IBM ThinkPad G40
1,466 

To measure 3D graphics performance, CNET Labs uses Futuremark's 3DMark2001 SE. We use 3DMark to measure desktop replacement notebook performance with the DirectX 8.1 interface at the 32-bit color setting at a resolution of 1,024x768.

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