One thing that IBM ThinkPads are famous for is the quality of their keyboards, and every time I get my hands on a ThinkPad I’m amazed at just how good the input devices are. Typing on the T42p is an absolute joy, and I could happily use this notebook as my only PC and sit in front of it all day every day. No other notebook manufacturer has managed to emulate the feel of a ThinkPad keyboard – every single key feels individual and there isn’t the slightest hint of keyboard flex, no matter how hard or fast you’re typing. The keys are large and have a slight, tactile roughness to them, along with dishing that your fingertips just slide into.
The layout of the keyboard is also perfect, with the Shift, Caps, Tab, Return and Backspace keys all large and easy to hit at full speed. The cursor keys are dropped slightly from the main keyboard, and the casing has three cut-outs leading down to them, making it simple to slide your fingers into position without having to take you’re eyes off the screen.
Pointer manipulation is handled very well, with solutions to suit all users. My needs are well catered for with a TrackPoint nestling between the G,H and B keys. Again, the TrackPoints on ThinkPads seem to feel better than those on other notebooks, making it simple to manipulate windows and move your pointer around the screen. Beneath the Spacebar are three buttons – the left and right buttons emulate the left and right buttons on a mouse, while the centre button is a scroll lock. Holding the scroll lock button down allows you to scroll vertically through documents and web pages using the TrackPoint. However, if you prefer touchpads to TrackPoints, the T42p has one of those too. Directly below the TrackPoint buttons is a black touchpad with two selector buttons beneath it. Although I prefer TrackPoints, the touchpad on offer is definitely a good one – movement is smooth and accurate, and there’s none of the mysterious “pointer jumping” that plagues some devices.
The T42p is Centrino branded, so it comes as no surprise that there’s an Intel Pentium M CPU inside. This particular model has a 1.8GHz chip, backed up by 1GB of RAM – the spec definitely reinforces this machine’s workstation aspirations. What’s particularly impressive is that IBM has fitted a 1GB SODIMM inside the T42p, leaving the end user a free slot to increase the memory without having to discard any.
Storage is taken care of by a 60GB hard disk, which is capacious enough for most uses, but it wouldn’t hurt to have more storage considering the target market that the T42p is aimed at. Of course, if you want to free up some hard disk space, you can make use of the integrated DVD writer.
When it comes to connectivity, the T42p is pretty well endowed. Being a Centrino model, there’s an Intel Pro/Wireless 802.11b/g WiFi adapter inside, so you’ll be able to connect to your home and office wireless networks, or to the thousands of hotspots around the world. There’s also integrated Bluetooth, so you can connect to the Internet via your mobile phone as well.
There’s no hardware switch to activate and deactivate the wireless networking, but pressing Fn and F5 brings up a menu that allows you to turn Bluetooth on/off, WiFi on/off or both. It seems like IBM isn’t satisfied with standard toggle buttons like other notebook manufacturers – even pressing the Fn and F7 buttons to switch between internal and external screens, brings up a menu with multiple display settings and resolutions.