Smallest, thinnest notebook is a big winner


I truly appreciate small, thin, lightweight notebook computers. You would too if you had to carry one with you almost everywhere. So it should be no surprise that I’m completely in love with the new IBM X40. 

The official release day is next Tuesday, but I couldn’t wait to tell you about it. The X40 is the lightest, thinnest notebook on the market. It weighs only 2.7 pounds, and at 10.6 by 8.3 by 0.8 inches, it's about the same size as the latest issue of Car and Driver magazine that just arrived at my house.

Inside is a 1.0 GHz (Ultra Low Voltage) or 1.2 GHz (Low Voltage) Pentium M processor with Centrino technology, 256 MB of memory, up to 64 MB of video memory, two USB 2.0 ports (one is powered), an SD card slot, a 20 to 40GB 1.8-inch iPod-sized hard drive, a 12.1-inch screen, Gigabit Ethernet and modem jacks plus much more crammed into this little thing.

The batteries deserve special note. The standard 4-cell lithium-ion battery provides up to 3½ hours per charge. An optional 8-cell lithium-ion battery provides up to 7½ hours per charge (but it does add half a pound of weight). An extended life battery that snaps on the bottom of the unit adds another 2½ to 3½ hours. If you use both the 8-cell and the extended life batteries at the same time, you’re looking at 10 hours of service.

As for optical drives, there’s the new ThinkPad X4 UltraBase Dock (1.3 pounds), which snaps on the bottom of an X40 and adds all sorts of ports and what IBM calls their Ultrabay.  In there you can put one of IBM’s optical drives.  They sent me a combo drive that plays/burns CDs and DVDs.  By the way, the X40 with the X4 UltraBase attached is smaller and lighter than most other notebooks on the market.  You can also put another hard drive or battery in the Ultrabay if you don’t need the optical drive.  IBM also sells a CD/DVD burner pocket drive that can plug into that special powered USB 2.0 port on the X40.

What IBM hasn’t improved upon is the truly superb keyboard.  Why should they? Being as close to full-sized as you can get in a compact notebook, the IBM keyboard is true perfection.  Not only are the keys the right size, but IBM’s support substructure gives the new X40 the rock-solid feel of a standalone keyboard.

IBM’s commitment to computer safety, rescue and recovery must be noted as well.  There’s the Active Protection System -- an electronic “air bag” system for notebook computers with built-in motion sensors that could save the hard drive from major problems if you’re prone to the dropsies.  There are also recovery schemes in the start-up mode — and within Windows XP — which allow you maximum flexibility if you’re having problems.

How much? The new X40 in basic configuration (1.0 GHZ processor and 20GB hard drive) starts at $1,499. With UltraBase Dock make that $1,699. These prices are pretty good for ultra-thin notebooks. Actually, they’re good enough for me to consider buying this one for myself.