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A notebook built for us

Feb 16, 20043 mins
IBMLaptopsUnified Communications

New IBM ThinkPad X40 includes hard disk protection, advanced restore and recovery features

Most teleworking is done part time — say, two days home, three days in the office. That means you’re probably shuttling a notebook back and forth. While some notebook cases have become increasingly rugged, notebook insides have remained fragile, with plenty of moving parts and a delicate LCD display. They don’t take kindly to being bumped and booted up time and again — which, of course, is what we demand they do.

The exception is IBM’s new ThinkPad X40 ultra-portable notebook. It couldn’t care less if you bump it, drop it or fling it across a conference room. A microchip on the motherboard senses a change in equilibrium — movement in any direction — and automatically parks the hard disk drive’s read/write head, protecting your data and preventing a system crash. You can adjust the system’s sensitivity and even snooze it if you’re not worried about accidents.

ThinkPad x40“IBM has set a real precedent here. The X40 isn’t just groundbreaking in so far as the technology, but it really does meet a business need,” says Maria DeGiglio, analyst with the Robert Frances Group.

Other neat features perfect for teleworkers — who often need to solve their own system problems — involve data rescue and recovery. Upon a system crash, pressing the IBM button on the left-hand corner takes you to a pre-boot environment, and walks you through several options. You can re-image the system from your most recent back up, pull off just a few critical files and save them to an external drive or put the files off to the side until the system is restored.

Another really cool thing? You can launch a Web browser right from the pre-boot environment. That way, you can access the company intranet or Web e-mail even before you start dealing with restoring data. Also from this pre-boot environment, you can access your system’s critical information, things like the level of BIOS and the most recent Windows Service Pack installed.

Another feature teleworkers will appreciate is automatic network connection management. Boot up in the office, the system connects to the LAN; boot up in an airport, it connects to Wi-Fi; boot up at home, the notebook connects to your broadband router. It’s all seamless.

At 2.7 pounds (without dock) the ThinkPad X40 is 20% smaller and 25% lighter than IBM’s previous ThinkPad, yet retains the same 12-inch display and full-sized keyboard. Other features include a powered USB 2.0 port that lets you attach an external optical drive without a separate AC adapter and a new Secure Digital port. By adding the X4 UltraBase dock, you can add extra batteries, storage and media options. You can add 802.11a/b/g wireless and Bluetooth connectivity, and a modem, Gigabit Ethernet and infrared come standard.

The base system has 3.5 hours of battery life; 7 hours and 10 hours are also available. The new ultra-portable notebook is available Feb. 24 and starts at $1,499.