IBM ThinkPad X20 36M

The 31mm-thick X20 36M has the horsepower (a 600MHz Mobile Pentium III) usually found only in larger and heavier notebooks. A pre-production test unit recorded a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 149, a high rating even in comparison to power notebooks in the same processor class. Its battery lasted an exceptional four hours, 13 minutes (the battery life for most other ultraportables maxes out at about three hours).

X20 prices start at $4099. The pre-production 31U model that I tested lacks the external USB floppy drive and built-in Ethernet connection of the 36M, but is otherwise identical. The 31U won't be sold in Australia.

The 36M is blessed with IBM's great-for-typing keyboard, probably the best available on a subnotebook. Key placement could be an issue for some users, though: the notebook-specific key is located where touch typists expect to find the key. The innovative ThinkLight, a sort of miniature spotlight at the top of the 12.1in TFT (active-matrix) display screen, illuminates the keyboard so you can work in low light.

For all IBM's clever design, I found that the case's bevelled edge made grabbing and opening the pair of door switches considerably more difficult than necessary.

Despite the machine's power, long-lasting battery, innovative design elements, and style, the high base price and lack of desirable extras ultimately diminish the value of the ThinkPad X20 series. The 36M is a light notebook with heavy-duty power that's great - if you can afford it.

IBM ThinkPad X20 36M

Supplier: IBM

Price: $5499

Phone: 13 2426