IBM Thinkpad 380Z

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IBM Thinkpad 380Z Overview


  • Intel Mobile Pentium II 233 or 300 MHz
  • 32MB EDO DRAM on-board, 96MB max with 1x64MB module
  • 13.3" TFT display (1024x768, 100:1 contrast ratio)
  • Neomagic MagicGraph256AV video controller 2.5MB VRAM
  • CrystalWare CS4236B, SoundBlaster 2.0/Adlib capable emulation

One of the following storage options:

  • 4.0 or 6.4GB HDD
  • CD-ROM and Floppy Drive (combo dual unit)


  • Stereo speakers and one subwoofer
  • 2xPCMCIA Slots
  • VGA Output
  • Li Ion rechargeable battery
  • USB 1, Dual PS/2, Serial, Parallel ports
  • 16V power supply (separate)
  • Windows 3.1, IBM OS/2, Windows 95/98, Windows 2000 support (slightly slow on Windows 2000)

IBM 380 13.3"

Best retro purpose

Early Windows 98 era gaming released before 1998 or as office computer. Unfortunately, despite the somewhat adequate CPU speed, the video chipset lacks any 3D capability, with great DOS games support and mediocre Windows support (DirectDraw only). However, screen scaling is very good for a laptop of its time, including a great character resizing that makes text very nice on a full screen display. Games run fast on 640x480 resolution. The good RAM expansion capability and good VRAM size create quite a powerful mix for great retro gaming with excellent compatibility.


Durability and Repair-ability

The mediocre plastic quality of most of the chassis means that cracks of internal plastic screw stands as well as entire cracks of the display's casing and bottom parts are extremely common, making disassembly and assembly operations quite difficult, with screws that are difficult to remove or tighten. Access to the hard-drive is easier than on 380, 380D, 380ED, 385D, 385ED, requiring only a single screw removable to access the drive tray.

Although the screen size is quite large for a laptop of the 380 series, in fact, the largest, the bulky case is still a major disadvantage. The case's fragility is, however, a real issue with drops likely to be fatal to integrity despite the laptop's look and finish of plastic components that suggest durability. Note that even the keyboard's key caps are quite fragile.

Greatest features & flaws

Features Flaws
Good Windows 98/95 3.1 2D Gaming platform Annoying, high speed CPU cooling fan
Good MS-DOS SoundBlaster compatibility, good speaker output Limited RAM speed and expansion capability
Durable, comfortable keyboard and trackpoint Fragile laptop case and keyboard keycaps, prone to cracks
Great Floppy, CD-Rom, Harddrive access Bulky, tall, heavy laptop


A midrange, very bulky, business laptop, released in 1998. It had the best combination of parts of a 380 model but still and a large and heavy chassis. Although you may expect that the 385 model is better, it is entirely wrong due to the doubtful choice of differentiation in the 380/385 lineup. The Pentium II CPU model offers great performance improvements compared with previous 380/380 models with moderate improvements in features. The graphics chipset is quite fast, actually the best among Pentium II laptops, with good Windows acceleration and compatibility.

The major issue with the laptop is the obsolete platform. Having a platform that supports only EDO RAM, that can use a costly a difficult to find RAM that reaches only 96MB in total with the internal memory included, means that limitations are quite clear. Moreover, old EDO RAM means also a reduction in performance compared with DIMM SRAMS. The inclusion of an USB 1 port is welcome but it does not improve too much the typical situation of a laptop that could be mid-range but is closer to low-end due to manufacturer's odd design choices. The Neomagic graphics is the top performer on 2D graphics both for compatibility as far back as Windows 3.1 and DOS as well as competitive with Chips&Technology or S3 Trio 64 videocards.

The keyboard is not so comfortable due to the case's height that make touch typing quite annoying. The steep angles on the palmrest also feel exhausting after a while. The trackpoint is very good, being quite smooth, predictable as well as with quick response at the classic, renowned IBM quality.

The combo CD-ROM and Floppy drive support, somewhat rare, is a staple feature of the IBM Thinkpad 380/390 series so if you need both functionality and can accept a bulky chassis, it is a good choice. The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced. The BIOS and timekeeping battery is a standard CR2032 3V button cell.

The lid closing latch is well designed and durable. The display hinges are very well engineered even if they may not look to be anything special. The integrated speakers are great, considering that they are not only stereo but they do include a subwoofer placed under the keyboard.

The standard HDDs are only slightly better than on other IBM Thinkpad 380/385 models, the largest size not being roomy enough for modern installation.

Software support is great for reasonably modern (for its time) operating systems. Due to the video chipset Windows 98 is the best choice of operating system. Good DOS sound support is present due to the CrystalWare audio chipset that is Sound Blaster compatible, offering good MIDI and software support in MS-DOS.