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Reviews

IBM's ThinkPad is Fast, Pricey




IBM ThinkPad T22

In a Nutshell

Rating: 4 Penguins

Pros:


  • Fast computer
  • Beautiful screen
  • Excellent for watching DVDs
  • Solid Linux port with integrated ThinkPad help

Cons:


  • Expensive!
  • IBM hasn’t ported over Windows ThinkPad configuration software








Reviews (Thinkpad)
Think Linux: The IBM ThinkPad T22 is a fast, light, Linux laptop at 5.5 pounds.

Specifications

CPU


  • 900 MHz Pentium III processor

Memory


  • 128 MB RAM
  • 20 GB hard drive

Extras


  • 14.1-inch 1024×768 screen
  • 56K modem
  • 8x DVD-ROM player
  • Three-year warranty

The power and speed of the latest IBM ThinkPad T22 is startling. Compared to my present laptop, a 300 MHz IBM ThinkPad 600, the T22 is like greased lightning; it’s the fastest notebook I’ve ever used. But then, for $3,499, it darned well ought to be!

The heart of the T22 is a 900 MHz Pentium III processor; it comes standard with a 1024×768 14-inch LCD panel, 128 MB RAM, a 20 GB hard drive, 56K modem, and coolest of all, an 8x DVD-ROM drive — not bad for 5.5 pounds of gear. (I was delighted to discover that there was an RJ-45 networking jack behind a removable cover; however, there is no Ethernet interface — just the connector.)

Comes with Caldera

What separates this particular T22 laptop from the rest of IBM’s product line is that it comes preloaded with Caldera OpenLinux 2.4 and offers 30 days of telephone support.

IBM did do some extra work when preparing the Linux version of this system. The bundled software consists of the KDE shell, a few business apps (namely StarOffice and Acrobat Reader), and the usual collection of open source games and utilities — no surprises there. There’s an HTML version of Access ThinkPad, which is the online documentation for the PC, and it’s hooked up to a KDE button. However, IBM didn’t port over the Windows-based ThinkPad Configuration program, which lets users access the lower-level hardware functions of the machine. Granted, there are so many ways to tweak the hardware through Linux/KDE that there’s not much need for the hardware configuration utility, but it’s galling that it’s available for Windows and not Linux.

Speaking of availability, don’t expect too much support on the driver front. Viewing the downloadable files for the machine (go to http://www.pc.ibm.com/support, enter “2647-LCU” for the machine type, and then select “device driver file matrix”) shows lots of files for Windows, and even a few for DOS and OS/2, but Linux doesn’t warrant a mention.

Other than that this machine is faster and has a slightly bigger screen than my ThinkPad 600′s 13.3″ LCD panel, what’s different about it? Well, it has the DVD player and includes LinDVD, which is commercial (i.e., non-open source) DVD playback software from InterVideo Inc. Currently, LinDVD is only available to hardware manufacturers; the company isn’t selling it to civilians (see http://www.intervideo.com/jsp/Products.jsp).

I used it to watch the letterbox version of Gladiator, and it was as clear as watching it on a standard DVD/TV combo, with no ghosting, frame problems, or glitches. It has good sound too. If you’re planning on watching movies on the go, bear in mind that the Li-Ion battery’s good for about only two hours if want to play a DVD. IBM sells the batteries for $189, but you can find mail-order prices starting as low as $155.

Bottom Line

The IBM ThinkPad T22 is a great laptop with a great operating system, and if you’re into DVDs, this is an amazing system. The only drawback is the premium price. Unless you really need this level of processing power, there are plenty of machines in the 600 MHz-800 MHz range available for a lot less — many in the $1,000-$1,500 range. When I look at the price tag, my 300 MHz ThinkPad 600, which is essentially an earlier version of the T22, has plenty of life left in it.

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