IBM Thinkpad T41
Best retro purpose
Mid Windows XP era gaming (DirectX 7-8 target, DirectX 9 slightly usable only on faster ATI Radeon 9000 GPUs) or as a quite modern office computer. High resolution display models are not a good choice for a couple of reasons. First, since most videocards are not powerful enough for 3D accelerated games in native resolution, performance is lacking. Secondly, the Windows XP GUI looks way too small in native resolution with no magnifying applied and if applied, looks odd due to Windows scaling issues. Moreover, high resolution screens are of the IPS type, using old technology that doesn't refresh fast enough, leaving noticeable trails on fast moving objects. Contrast is also lower for IPS screens. ATI Radeon 7000 graphics models are cooler running than Radeon 9000 ones but noticeably slower in 3D games. Windows Vista or 7 runs quite slow, especially on the older Radeon 7500 chipset and RAM limitations. However, Radeon 9000 performance is far from the best due to the quite low amount of video ram (32MB).
In general, if you strive for better compatibility with some early 3D game, upto 2002, and Windows 98 SE compatibility along with Windows 3.1 (no acceleration, however, no DOS sound support), Radeon 7500 is well suited. If you want a very versatile system, the T42 with Radeon 7500 is the best choice out of the entire T40, T41, T42, T43 models. Of course, you have to accept some small texture quality issues due to the graphics chipset. Also, the T42 with Radeon 7500 is the most common configuration you will encounter.
Durability and Repair-ability
Good plastic quality means that case cracks are less common than on other models but the model by itself is not immune. Removable and fixed drive bay are easy to access and the case itself is easy to disassemble due to obvious markings on the laptop's underside as well as masking black tape placed on screws. Many generations (series) of laptops, such as the T40/T41/T42/T43 use the same, easy to find screws, trackpads and buttons, keyboards, cooling systems are interchangeable while screens, palmrests, bezels are specific to laptops sizes.
The LCD screen's fluorescent backlight is somewhat hard to replace since screens are slim. LCD screens can be inter-changed to suit a specific native resolution requirement if the proper original cabling is available. Fans and the fan blades can be easily cleaned and bearings can be easily greased, providing long service life since fan casing stud mountings can be pried open and placed back again.
Greatest features & flaws
|Very slim yet configurable laptop||Almost the same performance as Thinkpad T40 models|
|Fast ATI Radeon 9000 chipset||No DVI/HDMI output except on docking station|
|Durable, stiff keyboard||Shorter life trackpoint buttons|
|Reduced CPU speed and cooling noise on DOS/Windows 95/98||Annoying IBM/Lenovo BIOS limitation of approved Wifi cards|
A mainstream, quite slim, powerful, business laptop, released in 2003. It had a good mix of performance parts, although it departed from the Windows 98 compatibility slightly, on the more powerful ATI Radeon 9000 chipsets, had DDR1 ram but not yet SATA or a webcam, even if these features were available at that time on other manufacturers' laptops. Overall, there are very small changes between T41 and the previous T40 model, along with the slightly better features of T42 make the T41 a less appealing choice.
The LCD screen has quite good specifications but high resolution models are slightly dimmer overall and on the screen edges. Response time is very high on IPS screens, with lots of ghosting, making the laptop having this display suited only for office use. Also, due to the medium quality screen resizing, running 1024x768 or lower resolutions on 1400x1050 screens looks quite blurry. Screens can be easily replaced between similar models but the connector must also be replaced if using different T4x series screens.
It has an average performance CPU, mainly due to the Banias less than stellar performance compared with Dothan models and the Intel 855 versus 915 northbridge feature set, with a mixed performance video chipset, especially for Radeon 7500. The CPU does not release too much heat compared with previous Pentium 4 models. Unfortunately, the higher performing models with ATI graphics require serious cooling, are noisier and operate warmer. The keyboard is durable and with good tactile feedback. The trackpad buttons are not very durable even if the trackpad itself is so. The trackpoint and keyboard are at the level of the classic, renowed IBM quality.
The removable drive bay can house an optical drive or a hard drive, if you can find a compatible caddy. was a very poor choice, since the belt driven disk rotation fails after many years, compatible belts being harder to find unreliable. 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, very comfortable, even thinner than later IBM or Lenovo models. The laptop's case is very durable, but plastic can still crack due to age or shocks. The display hinges are overly engineered, eternal. The integrated speakers are quite good, although their position, size and technology is not the best.
The standard HDDs supplied by Western Digital and Hitachi are reasonably fast and quite silent. The only drawback is that only IBM branded or accepted wireless cards can be used.
Software support is great in Windows XP and Windows 98, if you have the ATI Radeon 7500 chipset. While it is possible to run Windows 98 SE with Radeon 9000 chipsets, the graphics compatibility issues mean that you cannot reliably use it as such. It is entirely possible to dual-boot Windows 98 and Windows XP. Moreover, if you use web browsers you may notice the severe lackluster performance compared with modern expectations. The same goes for wireless as this mode of connectivity was not considered for low-latency or high speed transfers, even if, on paper, it supports well established standards.