I bought myself a used IBM / Lenovo Thinkpad T41 for £129 and although it's a pretty old machine (probably from 2004) and fairly low spec by today's standards, I still feel it was a bargain. This was from Cash Converters.
The machine, like all IBM (now made by Lenovo) notebooks are intended for business users and so the design is not particularly sleek but instead, have a very 'professional' look to them. They all seem to be black with a little bit of red on the button and either a red or blue knob for controlling the mouse pointer. Some people think they're on the ugly side but I actually quite like the look of the Thinkpads. I've noticed that all IBM / Lenovo Thinkpads look alike and have the same body, keyboard and use the same smooth black matte material rather than plastic that most other laptops are made of. I quite like this as it feels nice and doesn't pick up finger prints or scratch as easily. The lids all lock when closed the same way and are released by sliding a release on the top right edge of the lid. The whole machine feels very sturdy with very good quality matte plastic all round. The only parts of the body that click when pressed down is the bit above the PCMCIA slot on the left but it's not that bad.
As with all other Thinkpads that I've seen, this one has the Bluetooth logo light, battery logo light and sleep light (a moon) on the back of the lid for everyone to see when you've got the lid open. These lights are also on the inside of the lid under the screen. Not sure why they're there but it looks quite nice.
Overall, it is a well designed machine, which explains how they can use the same design over and over for pretty much all their laptops. Even the charging adapter is well designed in the way that its quite small and the cable comes out of it at an angle rather than straight out, which makes it much sturdier, as the normal straight ones (like what 99% of other laptop chargers have) are more prone to getting bent and developing problems. I've not seen any other laptop manufacturer with power adapters that have been given this much thought so IBM have done well here.
KEYBOARD AND CONTROLS
The keyboard is easy to type with but the layout is annoying. First off, the Fn key is on the bottom left instead of the Ctrl key. This annoys the hell out of me as I'm an avid user of keyboard shortcuts, many of which involves the use of the left Ctrl key and this annoying placement of the Fn key in place of the Ctrl key always throws me off. (The Ctrl key is one key to the right of the Fn key). Next issue that I have with the keyboard is it that it does not have a 'Windows' key. This is the key, usually between the Ctrl and Alt keys and it brings up the Start menu but I also use this key for a number of other keyboard shortcuts so that's that out the window as I end up having to perform a number of tasks the long way and click on things instead of using the keyboard when on this laptop. E.g. Windows + Pause to bring up System Properties, Windows + D to show the desktop, etc.
Keyboard aside, the T41 has a touchpad like most laptops, which is fine. The left and right buttons are responsive and feel quite robust. Something with this laptop though is that it has another set of buttons above the touchpad. It has a left and right button and a middle button. These can be used in conjunction with the nub or nipple joystick thing, which can also control the mouse pointer if you don't like using the touchpad. I really like how they give you both options on this laptop as you can choose one or other if you don't like one method. Of course, there's always the option of plugging in a mouse.
SPECIFICATIONS AND PERFORMANCE
The specifications can vary as the machine comes in slightly different flavours and also can be upgraded / downgraded. The processor (or the machine's brain) can range from 1.4 - 1.7GHz (the clock speed) in the T41 model but mine has a 1.6GHz processor. This is a Pentium 4 M (Mobile) processor and is pretty good for a machine this old.
The specifications list the T41 with 512MB of RAM (Random Access Memory that lets you run programs). The more memory there is, the more programs you can run at a time and more smoothly the machine can run. Despite the specification, mine actually came with a whopping 1GB (1024MB) of memory, which is brilliant as it has Microsoft Windows XP Professional run and I personally wouldn't want to use XP with anything less than 512MB of RAM. Mine may have been upgraded by the previous owner though.
It has a 14" screen and unlike a lot of the up-to-date laptops, it is not a widescreen, which is just as well as I think it's more suitable for doing office tasks. Widescreens are better for watching films and stuff so is not necessary on the T41. It runs on a resolution of 1024 x 768, which is quite standard with15" monitors.
The hard drive is only 40GB and although it is very small by today's standards, this is sufficient for web surfing, word processing and spreadsheets and even the odd PowerPoint slideshow. It can actually hold a large music collection so isn't too bad although the drive is upgradeable. My drive is a bit noisy but still working okay, however, if I were to replace the drive with a new one, it would probably increase the speed a bit too.
It has a built-in DVD / CDRW combo meaning it can let me watch DVDs and burn CDs. Although pretty much all laptops and PCs come with DVDRW drives (Writes to blank CDs and DVDs), I feel the ability to write to CDs is enough with this machine. There is the option to upgrade to a DVDRW drive but the part is a bit hard to find and it is on the expensive side (£50+) and the only one I found had to be bought off eBay and shipped from Malaysia. I've played DVDs on this machine and although the optical drive is a bit on the noisy side, the videos played smoothly with no problems. Sound is also not too bad but don't expect anything great.
It also has a ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics card built in, which is a bit better than your usual onboard graphics so provides better graphic performance.
Battery life varies depending on what you're doing one the machine and how much the battery has been used but mine seems to last just under 2 hours on a full charge, which is pretty good for such an old machine. A new battery will probably last long but there is also the option of buying a docking station, which also has a built-in battery to extend the life if you really need to. Naturally, that would increase the weight and even without a docking station, it weights around 2.2KG so it isn't particularly light.
It has built-in wireless (802.11b) and although uses quite an old wireless standard (possibly upgradeable as well if the part exists), it connects to my wireless N network with a Belkin router without any problem. It also has built-in Bluetooth. At first, I couldn't get it to work but turned out, all I needed to do was switch it on by holding the Fn key and then pressing the F5 key, which has a icon on it showing a computer with waves coming out of it. This is not the standard Bluetooth icon so this threw me off, which is a bit annoying. There is the chance that it did not have built-in Bluetooth despite showing the Bluetooth logo on the bezel (although can be installed by buying and installing a Bluetooth card).
One very odd feature it has is that it has a light, which shines down and lights up the keyboard from the top of the screen. This has to be turned out with the Fn key and I was quite surprised to find this when I first turned it on when exploring the functions as I've never seen this before built into a laptop and I never noticed the light on the lid due to how discrete it is. This is a rather pointless feature though as when the laptop is on, the screen pretty much lights up the keyboards anyway. It is a cute feature though!
It also has a S-Video, VGA, Parallel printer port, modem, Ethernet port, microphone and headphone port and two USB 2.0 ports. Parallel ports are quite rare in laptops nowadays but it has it!
Lastly, drivers and software for the T41 can be found on the Lenovo site (not directly on IBM site) but can be found by Google'ing it. Drivers are easily downloaded and quite quick but some things like the wireless card may need a bit of guess work as they seem to list several drivers for different wireless cards on the so it took me a few goes before being able to install the correct driver for the wireless card. They also seem to have some Vista drivers, should you wish to upgrade to Vista on the T41.
- Good build quality
- Good built in graphics card (ATI Mobility Radeon 7500)
- Has both touchpad and control nipple and set of buttons to go with it
- Good connectivity options
- Pretty dated now
- Some upgrades may need a professional to install
- Some may not like the look of the machine
- Hard drive is a bit small
- Quite heavy
- Keyboard layout
This is an excellent machine and although pretty out of date, not the prettiest of laptops and has a slightly annoying keyboard; it's still a great laptop for basic usage such as office work (word processing, spreadsheets) and Internet access. As it is quite old, the price is usually below £200 if you shop around and therefore cheaper than a brand new 10" netbook and you'd be getting a a full sized laptop so definitely worth considering. The build quality is excellent, the performance is good and on top of that, many bits are upgradeable so I would definitely recommend this machine if you can find it second hand or refurbished. It's lasted over 5 years so it's very robust and can even handle multimedia quite well too for its age!
Thanks for reading!