IBM ThinkPad T43 series

IBM churns out preconfigured versions of its corporate thin-and-light ThinkPad T43 series like rabbits produce offspring. You can find dozens of different ThinkPad T43 configurations through a number of online resellers, local computer stores, or IBM's own Web site. All of those configurations include mostly the same components with just one variation or two. Independent types can still build their own systems from scratch through the IBM Web site.

The ThinkPad T43 series offers a respectable, though not extensive, choice of components. The list includes one processor type--Intel's Pentium M Sonoma--in a range of speeds from 1.6GHz to 2.13GHz. All memory runs at a fast 533MHz and is available from 256MB to 2GB (we recommend at least 512MB for business use). The series ships with either Intel's cost-cutting Graphic Media Accelerator 900, which borrows up to 128MB of video RAM from main memory, or ATI's Mobility Radeon X300 chip with 64MB of dedicated VRAM. And unless you intend to work with graphically demanding applications, the former option is typically sufficient. The ThinkPad T43 features two screen sizes, 14.1- or 15-inch, in one of two native resolutions: the standard 1,024x768 or the more granular 1,400x1,050. The series has plenty of wireless options as well, including 802.11a/b/g cards from IBM or Intel, an Intel 802.11b/g card, and/or a Bluetooth card.

IBM provides a large assortment of storage alternatives for the ThinkPad T43 series. Primary storage consists of slow 4,200rpm hard drives measuring 30GB or 40GB; faster 5,400rpm drives in 40GB, 60GB, and 80GB flavors; and a superspeedy, 7,200rpm 60GB drive. Secondary storage options for the system's single, swappable bay include a plain-old DVD drive, a DVD/CD-RW combo drive, or a sweet, multiformat DVD burner that would be even sweeter if it offered double-layer burning.

The $2,049 (as of April 2005) ThinkPad T43 configuration that we tested cost significantly more than other corporate thin-and-lights, such as the Dell Latitude D610 and the HP Compaq nc6230. Our test unit featured a healthy mix of parts, including a 1.86GHz Pentium M 750 Sonoma processor, 512MB of RAM, an ATI Mobility Radeon X300 graphics chip, a 60GB hard drive spinning at 7,200rpm, a 14.1-inch screen with a 1,400x1,050 native resolution, a DVD burner, and an Intel 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi card. See our full review of that system here.

The ThinkPad T43's standard operating system is Windows XP Professional, but IBM will also load XP Home, 2000, or NT onto the laptop.