IBM ThinkPad T42p – Workstation Notebook Review - IBM ThinkPad T42p Review

Looking around the chassis, you’ll find the DVD writer on the right, along with a D-SUB port. The front is Spartan apart from the IrDA port. On the left are two stacked Type II PC Card slots, microphone and headphone sockets, two USB 2.0 ports, an S-Video port, a modem socket and an Ethernet port. Again, true to the market segment that the T42p is addressing, there’s a Gigabit Ethernet controller inside – ideal for transferring huge files around your network. Strangely, IBM hasn’t made the T42p legacy free and at the rear is a parallel port, in case you have an old printer at home perhaps.

The one feature that I haven’t mentioned yet is the fingerprint scanner. The scanner is located below the cursor keys and is a swipe scanner as opposed to a touch scanner. The pre-installed software lets you enrol the finger of your choice, and replace all your system passwords with biometric security – this includes the BIOS password, so the notebook won’t even boot into Windows without a fingerprint match. Of course you can still choose to use a password as well as fingerprint security, and there is also a password failsafe if your finger isn’t recognised.

When I looked at the pre-production T42 with fingerprint scanner, I received a lot of email from readers stating that biometric security is too easily cracked. Obviously, no security method is impregnable, but what IBM is offering is an alternative to remembering multiple passwords.

There’s also the option to encrypt all the data on your hard disk, so that even if someone removes the hard drive from the notebook, they won’t be able to retrieve any data from it. All in all, it looks like all the security features have been carried over from the prototype model I looked at. For an in-depth look at the biometric and encryption security on offer, have a look at my earlier Biometric ThinkPad T42 Preview.

What I wasn’t able to do with the pre-production biometric T42 I looked at previously was run any benchmarks, but I managed to run a full test suite on this T42p. Performance wise the T42p turns in a pretty good SYSmark score of 222 overall, while the 3D performance is pretty much on a par with a notebook sporting the old ATI Mobility Radeon 9600 chipset, which is after all, what the Mobility Fire GL T2 is based on. Running Mobile Mark produced a battery life of three hours and 17 minutes – not the best I’ve seen, bit reasonable enough. No doubt this could be improved with an extended battery, as seen with the T41p.

The final point that needs to be covered is price and it comes as no surprise that the T42p doesn’t come cheap. Bizarrely I couldn’t find this exact spec on sale anywhere – the only T42p I could find with a 1.8GHz CPU only had 512MB of RAM, and all the models with 1GB of RAM only had a 1.7GHz processor. Consequently I will have to base this review on IBM’s retail pricing, which pitches the T42p at £2,538. That’s clearly a lot of money for a notebook, but then this is a mobile workstation.

I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t like the T42p, but the price does seem a little high considering that the workstation graphics chipset is getting pretty long in the tooth. There are faster chipsets available now and hopefully IBM will look to this new technology when it switches to a PCI Express platform.


The IBM ThinkPad T42p is a fantastic notebook to use; the screen is superb and the keyboard is up to IBM’s usual high standards. Add to this the biometric security, the data encryption and IBM’s standard Rapid Restore and Recovery low level utilities. The price is high, but this notebook is aimed at high-end users that need a mobile workstation, but with this in mind I’d like to see the latest workstation graphics chipset and perhaps a larger hard drive.

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