Lenovo ThinkPad X41 review

Price when reviewed

When the ThinkPad X40 claimed its place on the A List in July 2004, we knew it would take something special to usurp it. But we didn’t think it would take this long, and we certainly hadn’t anticipated the X40’s successor, the X41, to be the one to succeed where so many other ultraportables had failed.

Lenovo ThinkPad X41 review

Externally, there’s only one real difference: there’s a fingerprint reader just below the mouse buttons. It may seem like a minor step forward, but if you’re rolling out this notebook to a team of users then it means you’ll never need to have that dreaded ‘I forgot my password’ conversation again.

But the main changes have happened beneath the X41’s calm, black exterior. The first item to note is the chipset, with Intel’s 915GM Express in place. This brings with it the Sonoma version of Intel’s Centrino technology, in this case with an 802.11a/b/g wireless radio.

The processor has also changed. Gone is the X40’s Ultra Low Voltage offering, to be replaced by a ‘mere’ Low Voltage chip. The 1.5GHz Pentium M 758 certainly delivers in terms of performance. Quite apart from the impressive 1.37 in our application benchmarks, it feels sprightly in day-to-day use – both on the mains and off.

We expected the 915GM chipset and higher-voltage processor to affect this notebook’s battery life, and to a certain extent it did. Whereas the extended-life eight-cell battery kept the X40 going for over seven hours in our light-use tests, the X41 lasted for six hours, 48 minutes.

The eight-cell battery is actually an optional extra, at £129 exc VAT, but one we recommend you buy. The X41 is designed to be used on the move, and the standard battery will last for only about two-and-a-half hours under light use (unfortunately, IBM was unable to supply us with a four-cell battery for this test, so we don’t have exact figures). Add the extended-life battery, and you have a total life of more than nine hours.

Certain bundles of the X41 will be available with an extended battery by default, but the configuration we tested – identified by either 2527-6GG or US36GUK – includes the handy X4 UltraBase docking station, complete with a DVD-ROM/CD-RW combo drive. The X4 adds parallel, serial and PS/2 ports, none of which are included on the X41, and also provides three USB 2 ports.

Aside from the lack of legacy ports, the X41 is well connected. Along with a single Type II PC Card slot, 56K modem, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA out, plus headphone and microphone sockets, there are two USB 2 ports, infrared and Bluetooth.

There’s one other change since the release of the X40: this is now an ‘IBM’ ThinkPad in name only. Chinese computing giant Lenovo now owns what was IBM’s personal computer group. This raises questions over whether the level of customer support and build quality ThinkPad owners have become used to will continue – bear in mind that IBM has won awards for its notebooks’ reliability, service and support, as voted for by PC Pro readers, consecutively for the past seven years.

Fortunately, all the signs so far are positive. The ThinkPad division of IBM has been very autonomous for years, and in reality it seems to have made little difference whether it’s reporting to IBM or Lenovo. Build quality is to the same exacting standard, if not better: the lid of the X41 is actually stronger than that of the X40.

We were also pleased to see that the screen is a little brighter than before, while the keyboard retains the trademark ThinkPad quality – you simply won’t find a better keyboard on an ultraportable, with a great feel combined with large, well proportioned keys.

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