IBM ThinkPad G40

Summary: Notebooks powered by desktop processors are nothing new, but the ThinkPad G40 is an affordable, practical desktop replacement. Having IBM’s weight behind it doesn’t hurt either, if you are wary of lesser brands.

  • Editors' rating:
    7.6
  • User rating:
    0.0
  • RRP:
    GBP £889.00

Pros

  • Well built
  • good screen
  • large, comfortable keyboard
  • good battery life.

Cons

  • Not particularly fast
  • no docking station option.

There have never been so many notebook-specific processors about, what with Pentium III-Ms, Pentium 4-Ms and now the Pentium M silicon providing the muscle behind Intel's Centrino mobile technology. This makes it slightly surprising to find a brand-new notebook with a desktop CPU inside it. Nevertheless, we can see the common sense behind the idea: keep the price down but don't compromise on build quality, offer a carefully considered set of features with the emphasis on practicality, and package the results as an affordable desktop replacement.

Design and features
Many notebooks are billed as ‘desktop replacement’ units, but the G40 really does have the feel of a notebook that’s designed to do what it says on the tin. Desktop processors run hot, and notebooks based on them require efficient cooling if they are to be reliable. This means a big, chunky case with lots of room inside, which in turn means that you aren’t going after the frequent flyer brigade. So long as you don’t need to carry the notebook around much, size can have its compensations, and the G40’s designers have made a virtue out of necessity in this respect. Yes, the G40 is 5cm thick at the back, and yes, it weighs 3.9kg rising to 4.55kg with the huge 650g power brick included, but consider what you get in return. First, there’s the excellent, virtually full-sized keyboard -- good enough for lengthy bouts of typing, unlike most notebook offerings. Then there’s the screen. It was probably mainly a cost issue, but whoever decided to limit the G40’s 15in. TFT screen to 1,024 by 768 resolution did the right thing ergonomically. We’ve seen too many super-high resolution notebook screens that are barely readable, but XGA on a 15in. diagonal is dead right. Plenty enough working area, and everything’s easy to read or hit with the pointer. A touch more brightness wouldn’t go amiss, but essentially this is a nice screen to work with. The spacious layout and large keys on the keypad are also augmented by the angle of the keyboard. The notebook has a wedge-shaped profile, so the pad tilts towards you, your hands sit comfortably on the wide palm-rest, and strain is reduced to a minimum. For reasons of its own, IBM has stuck to its finger-joystick style of pointer, but at least you now get a scroll button, and the stud in the keyboard that you press to move the cursor is a bit bigger than before, which makes it marginally easier to use. The floppy and 8-speed DVD-ROM drives are fixed, which is a potential limitation of this system, as is the lack of a port replicator or docking station option. However, what you do get allows for plenty of versatility. For a start there are four USB ports alongside the now seldom-seen PS/2 connector, which will happily take care of an older type mouse. Infra-red has been omitted, but not, as in some cases, the far more essential parallel port. There’s only one PC Card slot but thoughtfully it’s double-height so you have the choice of using a removable Type III hard disk card as well as standard Type II devices. Both 10/100 networking and a V.92 modem are built in, but 802.11b wireless networking is only available on certain models, and did not come as standard on our review sample. This makes sense if the G40 is being pitched as a practical and affordable alternative to a desktop -- you only pay for Wi-Fi if you actually want it.

Performance
The 2.4GHz Pentium 4-based G40’s performance was solid rather than stellar, with an overall Winstone rating of 43.6. To put this in perspective, it’s all you need for most business applications, but a decent new Centrino notebook running at 1.6MHz would beat it by several points. The moderate speed of the system’s 20GB Hitachi hard disk didn’t help, and nor did the basic capabilities of the Intel Extreme Graphics controller integrated into the i855 motherboard chipset. When it comes to running more demanding applications, the G40’s Content Creation Winstone 2002 score of 27.9 is in a similar position: adequate, but beaten by the current crop of Pentium M/Centrino systems. The integrated graphics module borrows from the 256MB of main system memory, but it does so on a need-only basis, so quite often it happily makes do with just 8MB. We’d hoped for a bit more raw speed from a 2.4GHz Pentium 4 with 256MB of DDR SDRAM, but this sort of workmanlike performance sits easily enough with the price and purpose of this system. Given the power-hungry nature of desktop processors, we weren’t expecting too much from the G40’s Li-ion battery, so it was a pleasant surprise when it lasted for 3 hours and 44 minutes under BatteryMark 4.01. Should you ever need to work away from a mains plug, the G40 has a reasonable lease of life. Once we’d used the G40 for a while, we were perfectly prepared to take it seriously as a desktop replacement, with the usual caveats about its unsuitability for intensive 3D graphics (in other words, games). The keyboard is comfortable, the screen easy to read, and the specifications, features and performance about right for a typical home/home office PC. If you want the capabilities but not the clutter of a desktop, and you aren’t after any frills, the ThinkPad G40 could be exactly what you’re looking for.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Reviews

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