IBM ThinkPad T30

  • Editors' rating
    8.0 Excellent


  • Compact and reasonably light
  • excellent performance
  • good keyboard
  • Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity built in.


  • Very expensive
  • no floppy drive as standard
  • some users may find the high-resolution screen hard to read.

One of the main problems with very powerful notebooks is keeping the innards cool enough. Even Intel’s custom-built mobile processors generate a significant amount of waste heat, and this requires space for cooling fans and airflow, resulting in larger, heavier systems. IBM has successfully managed the trade-offs involved with the ThinkPad T30. The case is more-or-less A4-sized, and 36mm thick with the lid shut, so the system takes up less room than a typical power-user’s notebook. It’s also much lighter than you might expect, tipping the scales at 2.4kg. But fire it up and you’ll find that it’s powered by a 1.8GHz Mobile Pentium 4 processor, which puts it firmly in desktop replacement territory.

Something always has to give somewhere, and in this case it's the floppy drive. Not only have IBM's engineers settled for a two-spindle design as the key to keeping the size and weight down, but the drive itself has been omitted from the overall package. If you need a floppy drive, it’s a £60 extra that fits into the notebook’s modular bay rather than plugging in externally.

We were sent a fully featured model for review, with a combo DVD/CD-RW drive in the modular bay and both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (802.11b) wireless connectivity built in alongside conventional 10/100 wired Ethernet and V.92 modem hardware. The core specification is generous, with 256MB of PC2100 DDR memory and a 40GB, 5,400rpm ATA/100 hard disk alongside the 1.8GHz CPU. There’s also a potent graphics subsystem, comprising ATI’s 16MB Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics chip and a 1,400-by-1,050-pixel screen.

The graphics processing unit (GPU) is capable of good 3D performance by notebook standards, but the screen might be seen by some as a mixed blessing. The native 1,400 by 1,050 (SXGA+) resolution provides plenty of workspace for your applications, but the 14.1in physical diagonal of the panel makes for very small text and screen objects. Some users are going to find it hard work reading this screen.

This really is the only drawback with the ThinkPad T30. Otherwise, it is a testament to IBM’s long experience in building high-quality notebooks. Titanium alloy is used for the lid and base, providing good general protection for the screen and internal components. Solid construction is complemented by good keyboard ergonomics – a traditional strength of the ThinkPad range. The 85 keys are logically arranged and entirely comfortable to use.

The ThinkPad T30 delivers impressive benchmarks – as you’d expect from its specification. Scores of 41.7 under Business Winstone 2001, 26.4 under Content Creation Winstone 2002, and 2,788 under 3DWinMark 2001 all make it into our ‘top 5’ graphs for notebooks. This essentially means that the ThinkPad T30 is a seriously powerful notebook that will handle whatever applications you throw at it with aplomb.

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Battery life, as measured by BatteryMark 4.01, was 2 hours 39 minutes, which is very much in line with IBM’s quoted 2.5 hours and respectable for a fast Pentium 4 system.

If you are happy with the high-resolution screen and can make do with a two-spindle design, this is a very desirable desktop replacement notebook. Unfortunately, regardless of whether it’s your own money or your company’s, the £3,042 (ex. VAT) price is steep enough to give many potential buyers serious second thoughts.