Handsome, Reliable Companion

By SmallBusinessComputing Staff
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by Rebecca Rohan

Rating 89

The thinkpad t20 looks good -- let's get that right out on the table. With desktop-competitive notebooks becoming a commodity item, the prestige and cache of the sleek black T20 with the IBM logo help set it apart like a Chanel bag at an executive power lunch. The 1.25" x 10" x 12" titanium case has a soft coating that subdues the sense of metal without minimizing its strength.

With the 700MHz review configuration -- including 256MB RAM, 12GB hard drive, Ethernet and 56K modem ports, and hot-swappable drive bay with DVD and floppy drives in place -- the T20 gave a sufficiently muscular performance. We tested applications on the road, including a DVD screening of scenes from The Matrix. We were very pleased with how easily the ThinkPad plugged into our LAN and became a working part of the company.

The T20 continues the ThinkPad tradition of generous keyboard layouts. A tiny light illuminates the keyboard without disturbing others in the dark. The rubbery red cursor controller "stick" was impressive in 1993 when the ThinkPad first debuted, but some touchpads are easier to control now. A row of letter keys and a spacebar sit between the cursor and the mouse buttons, and we kept finding the spacebar when looking for the mouse. The stick was OK in a car, but we plugged in a mouse as soon as a desk was available.

Back in the office, it was easy to hook up an external, but the 14.1-inch active-matrix screen was big enough and that's where our eyes naturally drifted. The display will please many PC-packers at 1,024 x 768 or 1,280 x 1,024 resolution. Some users prefer 800 x 600 resolution or lower, even when using a 19-inch monitor. Unfortunately, at 800 x 600 and below on the LCD screen, system fonts became distorted.

The port-rich perimeter has openings for a Type III PC Card, USB, mouse/keyboard, monitor, parallel and serial devices, S-Video, headphones, microphone, and infrared. An "UltraPort" on the front edge of the closed notebook winds up at the top of the screen when the notebook opens, and accepts the optional $100 UltraPort video camera. A docking station is an additional $500.

The bottom line: A quality machine, though frugal shoppers may consider comparing the high-end offering elsewhere, and get more of what they want for about $1,500 less.

$3,350 with standard 128MB RAM; $3,520 with 256MB RAM
This article was originally published on February 14, 2001

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