But what makes SafeGuard Easy so special is that it works with IBM's own Rescue and Recovery utility. The problem with encrypted data is that when you try to restore an image of an encrypted hard drive, all the data, including the boot records just look like garbage to the restore program. But with SafeGuard Easy, you can keep the entire contents of your drive encrypted, and still be safe in the knowledge that should your hard disk crash, you can restore all your data to a new drive despite the fact that it's encrypted.
Talking of Rescue and Recovery, the T42 in front of me also utilises IBM Rescue and Recovery v2.0. Building on features of the original Rescue and Recovery, version 2.0 makes it even easier for a ThinkPad user to stay productive. The Rapid Restore feature is of course still present, and allows users to restore to a working version of their operating system if something untoward happens. But for IT managers, it's now possible to send fixes and critical updates to users, and if they don't install the required content they will be removed from the network until their machine has been made "safe".
Of course these days, it's not just the data on your hard disk that you have to worry about. With so many forms of removable storage available, you need more than just your hard disk protected. Thankfully this latest T42 won't just encrypt data on its own hard disk, it will also be able to encrypt any files that you transfer to a USB flash memory key, or a removable hard disk, or even a CD-R disc. You can choose to encrypt the whole device or media, or you can create encrypted partitions, so that there is an area that can be read by other machines.
OK, so what's this pre-production T42 like apart from all the new security stuff? Well, pretty much every bit as good as the last one I looked at, or to be honest a little better. One of the things that disappointed me about the production T42 model I reviewed, was the relatively low screen resolution of 1,024 x 768, especially since the pre-production T42p I looked at sported a 1,600 x 1,200 screen. The model sitting in front of me right now has a 15in screen like the last two units, but has a resolution in between the two, at 1,400 x 1,050. This gives you a far more acceptable amount of desktop real estate compared to 1,024 x 768, especially when you consider the large physical size of the screen.
The keyboard is up to the usual IBM exemplary standard (despite being of US layout), with long travel, solid break and the feeling that every single key is individual. There isn't the slightest hint of keyboard flex, and typing is, quite simply, a joy. There's the superb IBM TrackPoint gracing the centre of the keyboard, for accurate pointer manipulation without having to remove your hands from the keyboard. But, if you happen to prefer touchpads, there's one of those too.
As always, connectivity is very well catered for. There's an integrated Gigabit Ethernet adapter and a 56K modem. But if you're not a fan of wires, there's an 802.11a/b/g WiFi adapter, covering all the available standards. If you need to connect to your mobile phone you can use the integrated Bluetooth support or even the IrDA port if you prefer to go "old school".
On the right of the chassis you'll find the CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo drive and a D-SUB port for connecting the notebook to an external monitor. On the left there are two PC Card slots, two USB 2.0 ports, an S-Video output, Ethernet port, a modem connector and mic and headphone sockets. At the rear is a parallel port and the power socket.
Inside, there's a 1.8GHz Intel Pentium M CPU, backed up by 512MB of RAM and an 80GB hard disk, while graphics come courtesy of a more than capable ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 chipset. Since this is a pre-production model, I wasn't able to run any benchmarks on it, so I have no idea how it performs or what the battery life might be like. That said, I don't imagine that it will be too different from any other ThinkPad T42 with similar components.
I will hopefully have a full production version of the updated ThinkPad T42 soon. Once that appears I'll be able to test it properly and see whether the new security measures do affect performance in any way. But with mobile computing becoming more and more common, any features that enhance the security of your data can't be a bad thing.