IBM Thinkpad 380 380D 380E 380ED 385D 385ED

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IBM Thinkpad 380, 380D, 380E, 380ED, 385D, 385ED Overview


  • One of the following CPUs (soldered):
    • Intel Pentium 150 MHz CPU (on 380 and 380D model)
    • Intel Pentium MMX 150 MHz CPU (on 380D and 380E model)
    • Intel Pentium MMX 166 MHz CPU (on 380D and 380ED, 385ED model)
    • 16MB EDO DRAM on-board, 80MB max with 1x64MB module
  • One of the following displays, depending on model, with similar chassis:
    • 12.1" DSTN display (800x600, 30:1 contrast ratio)
    • 12.1" TFT display (800x600, 100:1 contrast ratio)
  • Neomagic MagicGraph128ZV video controller 1.1MB VRAM
  • CrystalWare CS4236B, SoundBlaster 2.0/Adlib capable emulation

One of the following storage options:

  • 1GB PATA HDD (on 380 model)
  • 2.1GB HDD (on 380E model)
  • 1.35 or 2.1GB HDD (on 380D and 385D model)
  • 2.1, 3.0 or 5.1GB HDD (on 380ED model)

One of the following removable storage options:

  • 1.44MB FDD (on 380 model)
  • Ultrabay FX with CD-ROM and Floppy Drive (combo dual unit)


  • Stereo speakers (placed on the front of the chassis,just below the screen, except on the 15 inch model)
  • 2xPCMCIA Slots
  • VGA Output
  • Li Ion or NimH 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 12"

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). available as on later NeoMagic chipsets but performance is adequate and the screen size is not too large for typical DOS games with resolutions upto 640x480.


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 very difficult, requiring complete case disassembly, including a screwed-on metal drive cage, except on XD models. This means that most IBM Thinkpad 380 models are overly complex to service.

The major plus for these models is that the TFT LCDs lamp is mounted horizontally and relatively easy to replace due to a simple mounting system that does not require only partial screen disassembly. 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.


A midrange, very bulky, business laptop, released in 1998. It had average mix of parts and a large and heavy chassis. Perhaps the single biggest issue is that the whole IBM Thinkpad 380/385 range is very complex and difficult to understand. Differences between 380 and 385 models are minimal, despite what the number suggest, contrasted mostly by the hard-drive disk size. The major jumps are shown in the XD lineup that has a different CPU model with major performance improvements, especially for the Pentium II. The graphics chipset is quite fast, actually the best among Pentium I laptops, with good Windows acceleration and compatibility.

However, the mix of features typical for the laptop meant that it was already obsolete design-wise by 1998. Especially old Pentium I laptops were difficult to upgrade and meant that Winodws 98 SE is the most you can expect to run, especially if you have upto 32MB of RAM. 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 LCD TFT screen is somewhat alright but it uses a dated technology that results in slightly lower contrast than on other IBM models.

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 removable drive tray is a nice feature, offering both CD-ROM and Floppy drive support, which is rare, 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 very bad especially on the non XD models that have a simple, mediocre, mono speaker.

The standard HDDs are quite a bad choice as they are already difficult to access on most 380/385 models

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.