IBM ThinkPad T43
At a Glance
Lenovo Thinkpad T43 Express Notebook
This slim unit includes a handy biometric fingerprint reader as well as an ExpressCard slot.
For those of you who are as paranoid as I am about protecting the contents of your laptop, a portable with a biometric fingerprint reader offers security as well as geek appeal. IBM's latest incarnation of its T line of thin-and-light laptops incorporates fingerprint security via a small window embedded in the palm rest.
In tests, the reader seems to work well. I found it easier to enroll a finger on our $2049 ThinkPad T43 review unit (the T42 also comes with the reader) than on some other laptops with the tiny slide reader. It required a do-over on only one of the three swipes needed to register my fingerprint, and the protection worked perfectly thereafter, accepting only my right index finger to access Windows. (As with other units that have this technology, you can use a fingerprint to replace multiple passwords.)
The other big improvement: even better battery life than the T42 we reviewed last September, which endured for 4 hours, 9 minutes on one charge; the T43's standard 6-cell battery lasted a little over 5 hours.
Not much else has changed in IBM's boxy but thin black laptop, which weighs 6.4 pounds with its power adapter--but that's good news. You continue to get easy-to-use dual pointing devices (a touchpad and a comfortable stick) and a keyboard that is second to none in comfort and layout. Function keys are now dark gray with white and light-blue lettering to set them apart from the rest of the keyboard--a nice improvement.
The modular bay, located on the right, accommodates your choice of an optical drive, a second battery, or a second hard drive. The solidly crafted, built-in pop-out tab design lets you remove devices with one hand.
RAM upgrades aren't straightforward; but thanks to the step-by-step instructions provided in the excellent animated on-board Access IBM manual, I managed to reach the RAM fairly easily. To access the RAM slot under the keyboard, you must apply pressure to the keyboard just beneath the power button to slide the keyboard toward the screen (after you've removed the four labeled screws on the bottom of the unit). IBM's manual offers clever animation showing how to install a new hard drive.
Most of the connections are on the left, including an ExpressCard slot, the follow-on to the PC Card slot. An older parallel port is the sole rear connection. However, the unit lacks a FireWire port, an increasingly ubiquitous laptop connection. Our review T43 featured a high-resolution (1400-by-1050-pixel) 14.1-inch screen, and atop that is the ThinkLight LED, a function-key-activated IBM invention that I personally find useful when typing in a dark room. As for audio, IBM has never offered superior laptop stereo sound, although the T43, with speakers on the beveled front, features moderately loud audio that's good enough for informal presentations, and volume that's controlled by a nice set of press-and-hold buttons at the top of the keyboard.
The T43 performed as expected for a 1.86-GHz Pentium M 750, earning a WorldBench 5 score of 84--not at the top of the numbers chart but a good result nonetheless.
Why mess with success? IBM's T43 improves on the company's slim black corporate laptop ever so slightly, but that still spells excellence.