ThinkPad X41
IBM
The X41 has a built-in biometric security system, with a fingerprint reader located just below the mouse buttons on the wrist rest.
By Columnist
msnbc.com
updated 4/5/2005 3:52:16 PM ET 2005-04-05T19:52:16

What do you do for an encore when you make the best ultra-portable notebook computer in the world? You improve it with features like a faster processor, larger hard drive, more memory, a bigger battery, a biometric ID security system and easy to use, automatic software updates. Today, IBM announced their ThinkPad X41.

I love the X40. It’s a terrific portable computer: great ergonomics and super performance in a tiny sliver of an enclosure. What I like best, aside from its size, is that you get two and a half hours with the standard 4-cell battery or more than three hours with an 8-cell battery. Add an additional battery on the bottom and you can get a grand total of six hours between charges, enough to last through a cross-country flight. Even with all those batteries attached, the X40 is still smaller and lighter than most other laptops.

And now there’s a ThinkPad X41. Inside the same sleek metal case, there’s a new 1.5 GHz Pentium M chip (Dothan) with 2MB of L2 cache. Intel’s M designation means it’s an ultra-low-power device — this translates to better battery life. The basic X41 comes standard with 512 MB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive and the 8-cell, three-hour lithium-ion battery. It can also use the same batteries as the X40.

The X41 is the same size as its predecessor: 10.5 by 8.2 by 8.2 inches, weighing 2.7 pounds. The laptop is too small to have a built-in optical drive; instead, an optional X4 UltraBase Dock lets you add an available CD or DVD drive, plus a lot of extra ports and stereo speakers. Even with the dock attached the X41’s combined weight swells to only 4 pounds.

You also have your choice of wireless networking: 802.11b/g, 802.11a/b/g and/or Bluetooth modules are available.

The really big deal here is the integrated fingerprint identification security device in the X41.  IBM rolled out the same system in some of their larger laptops last fall. Users swipe a finger across a small sensor (just below the mouse buttons on the wrist rest) and in a few seconds they can log on to their computers, applications, Web sites and databases.

Add to that the latest versions of IBM’s Embedded Security Subsystem and Client Security Software which allows fingerprint authentication and complex pass phrases to be used interchangeably or in combination. All of this makes for a very secure little notebook computer.

Then there’s the new ThinkPad Software Installer, which automatically performs a complete system hardware check and installs the latest drivers, BIOS, and critical system upgrades. I tried out the software on my old X40 as well, and it worked perfectly. Combined with the latest version of IBM’s Rescue and Recovery program the new Software Installer helps users easily update, monitor and repair their computers.

The ThinkPad X41 starts at $1,995. IBM says it should be available beginning next week. The X41 doesn’t replace the X40 (which starts at $1,499); it’s now the next step up in the X4x line. I can’t wait to get my hands — and especially my fingerprint — on one for an extended test.

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