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ThinkPad T42 review: ThinkPad T42

The ThinkPad T42 is a good choice for business professionals looking for a top-notch laptop at a reasonable price.

Xiao Ming Wu
3 min read
ThinkPad T42
With configurations starting at $1,299, the thin-and-light ThinkPad T42 is a good value for workers looking to create documents, produce presentations, and send e-mail while on the road. Though the system is not the fastest machine we've seen, it provides plenty of oomph for basic office productivity tasks. More importantly, the T42's battery runs for more than five and a half hours on a charge. The newer ThinkPad T43 performs slightly better than the ThinkPad T42, but at the expense of 30 minutes of battery life. We think the T42's longer battery life makes it a better choice for business users running typical productivity software; if you intend to run more-intensive programs, consider the ThinkPad T43.
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 X40. 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.
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.
Our IBM ThinkPad T42 came with Windows XP Pro, but IBM supports operating systems dating back to Windows 98 SE as well as the Red Hat and SuSE Linux distributions. Software for the ThinkPad T42 includes InterVideo WinDVD Creator and Norton AntiVirus 2004. The ThinkPad T42 also comes preloaded with IBM's new Rescue and Recovery platform, a secondary operating system that lets you recover data on your hard drive and access the Internet even when your primary operating system won't boot.
The IBM ThinkPad T42 kept up with both the HP Compaq Business Notebook nc6000 and the WinBook W360 on our MobileMark 2002 performance tests. Of the three laptops, the T42's battery held out the longest, lasting a remarkable 5 hours, 40 minutes.
The ThinkPad T42 comes with IBM's industry-standard service-and-support package, which includes the company's standard three-year warranty (one year for the battery). Alas, short battery warranties are both the industry standard and the Achilles' heel of laptop hardware. You can upgrade the three-year system warranty to include either onsite or depot repair for up to a maximum of five years. The reasonably priced onsite-repair option starts at $49.95 for one year and provides next-business-day service from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. You get 24/7, toll-free technical support during your warranty period. After that, support calls cost $35 dollars per incident.
Mobile application performance
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 performance rating  

Battery life
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
BAPCo MobileMark 2002 battery life in minutes