With the arrival of the best-in-class IBM ThinkPad X40, other ultraportables have a lot of catching up to do. Even with a system weight of just 2.7 pounds, the X40 still has the features serious road warriors demand—notably that wonderful-feeling, full-size IBM keyboard. Best of all, IBM has priced the X40 very competitively: Prices start at $1,499 direct.
It isnt entirely magic how IBM undercut the 3.6-pound system weight of the X31, the previous class leader among ultraportables (which continues on in the IBM lineup). With the X40, the internal battery drops from six cells to four, the hard drive is downsized from 2.5 inches to 1.8 (limiting maximum capacity to 40GB), and the processor choice is initially between the 1.0GHz (ultra-low-voltage) Pentium M and the 1.2GHz (low-voltage) Pentium M.
You can order the X40 with either the four-cell battery or an eight-cell battery, which adds about an inch of depth to the 1.1- by 10.6- by 8.3-inch chassis and raises the system weight to 3.2 pounds. The AC adapter adds 0.6 pounds, and an external DVD-RW drive ($499) weighs 0.7 pounds. So even with these added, the X40 weighs 2 pounds less than the two-drive thin-and-light IBM ThinkPad T41, configured for the same 6 hours of battery life.
Physically, the X40 looks a lot like its ThinkPad siblings. The FireWire connector is gone, giving way to an IBM proprietary power jack for the external optical drive. There remains one PC Card slot and an SDIO slot that works with both flash memory cards and communications devices from the PDA world. Corporate IT departments will need a separate system image for the X40, since it uses a different graphics engine than previous ThinkPads (in this case its Intels integrated 855GME).
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