IBM Thinkpad 600
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 is somewhat slow (designed in 1997), with great DOS games support and mediocre Windows support (DirectDraw only, no screen resizing). Games run reasonably fast on 640x480 resolution. The good RAM expansion capability and medium VRAM size create quite a and slow disk interface also limits any serious vintage gaming attempts.
Durability and repair-ability
The mediocre plastic quality means of certain top parts of the chassis means that cracks of internal plastic screw stands are common, making disassembly and assembly operations quite difficult, with screws that are difficult to remove or tighten. Access to the hard-drive is straightforward, requiring only a single unscrew. Unfortunately, the LCD screen lamp is mounted vertically and it is very difficult to replace, requiring a full disassembly of the display. This means that you rarely can repair a screen without damaging or affecting something else with dust or slight manipulation mistakes. The rubberized coating that flakes over time is one of the most annoying feature of the laptop, as the smell, dirt and stickiness of its gets worse as the laptop aged. It can be cleaned with careful wiping using a smooth sponge and mild concentration iso-propyl alcohol or another alcohol solution.
Greatest features & flaws
|Great Windows 98/95 3.1 2D Gaming platform||No 3D hardware acceleration, no screen scaling|
|Good MS-DOS SoundBlaster compatibility and speakers sound||Speakers can be easily covered with dirt or damaged|
|Durable, comfortable keyboard and trackpoint||No trackpad, fragile, laptop upper case and display bezels, prone to many cracks|
|Good cooling, low CPU heat dissipation||Flaky rubberized coating, degrading rubber port caps|
A midrange, quite slim, business laptop, released in 1997. It had a reasonable mix of parts and a slim chassis. The choice of PC-66 SDRAM and a dual RAM sockets, as well as graphics chipset, make for a good all-around laptop. By 1999 the laptop was just quite obsolete due to the video chipset choice but this was standard for IBM laptops of its time, with no 3D hardware rendering support, no matter how rudimentary. The system runs reasonably well Windows 2000, if you really need it but Windows 98 SE is the best choice.
The graphics chipset is quite good. Unfortunately, for a laptop, there is no display scaling support and this missing feature means that 640x480 resolutions look small on the 1024x768 display, with a large black border. Overall, the Neomagic graphics chipsets were very fast for 2D operations, especially for the late 256AV chipsets used on IBM 600 E and X series laptops, definitely faster than Trident or Cirrus Logic Chipsets and Chips&Tech 6555x chipsets in just about every respect. The Neomagic graphics is the top performer on 2D graphics both for compatibility as far back as Windows 3.1 and DOS and competitive with Chips.
The LCD TFT screen is somewhat alright but it uses a dated technology that results in low brightness, relatively low contrast due to the vertical rather than horizontal, higher power CCFL sidelight. Definitely avoid the CSTN screens as they are way too slow, ghostly, and low-contrast.
The typical CPU implementation is quite good, except for the near obsolete Pentium MMX 233MHz option. The Pentium 2 CPUs are Deschutes so they do not heat as much as typical desktop CPUs of the time. The active cooling is quite good, not overly noisy, reliable, relatively easy to clean. The inclusion of an USB 1.0 port is a major feature. The keyboard is durable and with good tactile feedback. The trackpoint is very good, being quite smooth, predictable as well as with quick response at the classic, renowed IBM quality. The palm rest is also very comfortable.
The removable drive tray is a nice feature, offering both CD-ROM and Floopy drive support. The rechargeable battery can be easily removed or replaced. The BIOS and timekeeping battery is a standard CR2032 3V button cell.
The chassis was slim, light, comfortable due to rounded corners. The laptop's case is quite durable except for the rubberized coating. This is the single most annoying feature of the laptop, as the smell, dirt and stickiness of its gets worse as the laptop aged. Unfortunately the rest of the chassis also has problems due to the slight brittle plastic that frequently cracks due to age or shocks, especially for the frame around the keyboard and screen. 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 quite good for a laptop with no special audio quality features.
The standard HDDs are quite a very good choice for any Windows 98 SE installation supporting the UDMA33 interface that allows a typical top performance of around 15MB/s transfers, if the harddrive can keep up. Replacing the harddrive is straightforward as the system accepts most late Pentium III era drives for a real speed boost.
Software support is great for reasonably modern (for its time) operating systems. Due to the video chipset and RAM size make Windows 98 the best choice of operating system. Good DOS sound support is present due to the Crystal Audio chipset that is Sound Blaster compatible but it is somewhat less refined for older MIDI and software support in MS-DOS, as it is slightly difficult to configure out of the box.