capsule review

IBM ThinkPad R40

At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Lenovo ThinkPad R40 Notebook

Artwork: Rick Rizner, John Goddard
Intel's power-conserving Pentium M processor helps boost this basic IBM notebook's battery life. Equipped with a 1.3-GHz/400-MHz chip, the ThinkPad R40 lasted a little over 4 hours in our tests, the best of the three R Series notebooks we've tested to date.

The R40's excellent keyboard has an extrafirm feel, yet the keys also have more travel and are quieter than those of most other notebooks. Like most ThinkPads, our test model of the R40 came with dual pointing devices, an eraserhead and a touchpad, each with its own set of mouse buttons. The mouse buttons depress just as deeply as the keys do, creating welcome feedback--unlike the stiff, shallow buttons we typically see on competing models. IBM bundles a variety of eraserhead caps with the notebook, one to suit every user's tactile preference, from nubby to soft. Finally, IBM's comprehensive electronic user manual is unique for its dedicated launch button and step-by-step animated tutorials that lead you through operations such as upgrading the hard drive.

You can configure the ThinkPad R40 to handle a variety of tasks: The modular bay accepts a multitude of hot-swappable optional devices, such as a secondary 40GB hard drive, a floppy drive, a secondary battery, a Zip drive, or a cradle for a numeric keypad or for IBM's PDA, the WorkPad C500 Series. Our R40 came with an 8X DVD-ROM and 24X/10X/24X CD-RW combination drive. IBM placed the modular bay's release on the side of the notebook, where you can easily pop devices out with one hand--useful if you need to swap drives in tight spots such as an airline seat. (Most notebooks have the bay release on the bottom, and many take two hands to work.)

Printed documentation is limited to one slim troubleshooting manual. The R40 boasts IBM's nicely designed press-and-hold volume controls, but not the loud, rich sound to match; the low-volume audio will suit only unfussy music-CD listeners.

Although a bit thick at 1.7 inches, the R40 is fairly easy to carry at 6.7 pounds (not counting the power adapter). It wears the ThinkPad uniform of no-nonsense black gussied up with a beveled front, a blue Enter key, and a bright-red eraserhead.

Our midlevel configuration of the R40 came with a fair assortment of connections, including a parallel port, two USB ports, and a FireWire port, but no TV-out. You get IBM's unique ThinkLight, a small LED in the lid that illuminates the keyboard somewhat in dark rooms. There's also IBM's cool window magnifier: Pressing the spacebar while holding the Fn key maximizes the active window to fill the screen, giving you a handy way to instantly magnify your work.

The R40's user-replaceable components, including the hard drive, are easy to access; its end piece is the removable audio port cover. But both RAM slots in our unit were filled, so adding more would require discarding at least 256MB of memory first, and IBM doesn't offer a configuration that uses a single 512MB DIMM.

Our unit lacked an 802.11b wireless network adapter (a $99 add-on), but dual-band 802.11a/b antennas were built in. The R40 works with two optional docking stations, IBM's basic $179 Port Replicator II, which adds legacy ports and gigabit ethernet, and the $229 Mini Dock, which also adds its own power adapter, a four-port USB 2.0 hub, and a key lock. Like most newer ThinkPads, this model has IBM's hardware-based Embedded Security System 2, which works with downloadable IBM client security software to encrypt data. IBM claims that this is a stronger security scheme than software alone.

In our speed tests, the R40 produced the sort of performance expected from a 1.3-GHz/400-MHz Pentium M-equipped notebook, turning in a PC WorldBench 4 score of 118--only about 5 percent behind the average for Pentium M notebooks with the faster 1.6-GHz/600-MHz processor.

This basic, general-purpose, midweight ThinkPad is equally adept in the office or on the road. It's flexible, secure, and a pleasure to use.

Carla Thornton

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At a Glance
  • Generic Company Place Holder Lenovo ThinkPad R40 Notebook

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