As far as noise goes, using the T42 in an office environment, I couldn’t hear a sound coming from it. However, using it at home in the early hours of the morning, there was a slight whir from the internal fan, but nothing loud enough to find annoying. Also, because the sound was continuous and the tone constant, it soon faded into the background, unlike some of the notebooks fans I’ve endured that kept changing speed and consequently tone.
But it’s the little things that make an IBM ThinkPad more special than other notebooks. If you connect an external screen to a notebook computer, you usually have to press a key combination to toggle through the display options, but with the T42 things are just that bit slicker. Pressing Fn and F7 doesn’t just toggle, it brings up a menu from which you can select the display option you require, whether that’s external monitor only, external monitor and internal LCD, or just internal LCD. There’s also the usual array of IBM specific features like the Active Protection System for the hard disk, that will lock the hard disk heads if the notebook is dropped or knocked while it’s on. There’s the Rapid Restore and Recovery utility, that allows you to backup an image of your data to the internal hard disk, an external device or even a server across a network. Then, if your Windows installation gets corrupted, you can simply restore the image. There’s a lot of value added features with a ThinkPad, that help take the sting out of the generally high price point of these machines.
As far as performance goes, the T42 is a big improvement over the earlier T41 model. The SYSmark 2002 score of 212 is considerably higher than the 148 managed by the T41, although the T41 only had 256MB of RAM on board which would have held back it’s performance considerably. Turning to 3D performance and the T41’s score of 4,116 was more than doubled by the T42, with a score of 9,343. Battery life on the other hand, remains pretty much identical, with both machines managing a little over four hours running Mobile Mark 2002. That’s still pretty impressive nonetheless, and it’s worth remembering that you can slap an extended battering in the T42 and expect even better battery life.
It’s come to that point in an IBM ThinkPad review once more where I have to talk about price, and this is where many people will switch off and look for something more affordable. It’s true that ThinkPads are generally more expensive than other notebooks, but it’s also true that they are generally better than other notebooks. With a street price of £1,654.84, the T42 isn’t exactly cheap, but it’s not as expensive as it could be either. In fact it’s not that much more expensive than the T41 was when I reviewed that.
If the screen had a higher native resolution I would whole heartedly recommend the T42, and would once again find myself with a ThinkPad that I didn’t want to send back to IBM. But, with a 15in screen running 1,024 x 768, IBM has pitched the T42 behind much of the competition when it comes to the all important display. Of course the T41p has a stunning screen and some other advanced features, but it will set you back £600 more. When I get my hands on a full production T42p model I may feel that it’s worth every extra penny like I did with the T41p, but until then I can't come to any real conclusions.
Ultimately, the IBM ThinkPad T42 is a beautiful notebook computer that does almost everything right. If it just had a bit more dekstop real estate it would be close to perfect.
Once again IBM has produced a superb notebook computer. The T42 builds on the basics of the T41, and improves on the earlier model. The 15in screen will be seen as a real bonus by many users, but the resolution needs to be higher to make the extra physical size worth while.