IBM/Lenovo ThinkPad T43
Construction: Field Test
Charger –For years, IBM has stuck with the same power brick. Like the Dell, it remains to be one of the better charger designs on the market, particularly with the strap design that allows you to tie up extra cabling and the straight power plug that has thus far always been plugged in the back of the notebook. The only very minor down side is that it is pretty hard to tie up extra cabling on the AC end of the power cable, because it doesn't use a right angle design like Dell.
Display –IBM offers four display options for the T43: 14.1" XGA (native 1024 x 768), 14.1" SXGA+ (native 1400 x 1050), 15.0" XGA (native 1024 x 768), 15.0" SXGA+ (native 1400 x 1050). Of the four T43 models listed on IBM's T series website (only one Express model), there is only one model that uses a 15.0" display. The rest come with a 14.1" displays and two use SXGA+.
Personally, we feel that a 15.0" XGA just looks and feels awkward, so we recommend the 14.1" display model (you cannot chose between display sizes for models at the moment). When we move up to 15.0" display size, we like to at least have the display capable of SXGA+ (1400 x 1050). Our sample came configured with a 14.1" SXGA+ screen, which we preferred at least on this notebook over a 15.0" SXGA+, mainly since it maintained the computer's low physical profile. In the past, we have seen some pretty poor versions of 14.1" SXGA+ displays, but IBM has chosen a good quality LCD manufacturer for the T43. Additionally, all displays have a fairly wide viewing angle, so the person sitting next to you can probably see what you are looking at with the brightness setting at maximum.
With eight levels of display settings, the display has a fairly good range from bright to dim. Our display even seems brighter than the 14.1" XGA display on the IBM R52 notebook. The dimmest setting is a bit too dark for us to be comfortable to use in a dark room, but it would do just fine if you aren't interacting but need to conserve battery life. The brightest setting isn't super bright, but it is one of the brighter 14.1" we have seen on notebooks, both from consumer and business product lines. In a dark room, you are better off at level 2, if you don't want to strain your eyes.
Fan - Unlike the R52, the fan was on the majority of the time we had the notebook running. In general, the notebook is quiet, other than the almost inaudible hum of the hard drive. The fan comes on intermittently and is slightly louder than the hard drive. It is not loud, but it is more noticeable than the R52. Just sitting in normal typing posture should allow you to hear the CPU fan, but it is certainly is no where near as loud as a desktop equivalent. On a flight, the person next to you probably won't notice or have trouble sleeping. In a dead quiet library, you will hear the fan and so will the person next to you. When the fan went to max speed, it was louder than the hum from the hard drive and pretty close to the volume of accessing a DVD in the optical drive. If you are watching a movie and the fan stays at max, it gets a bit distracting.
Generally, the notebook only went to max fan speed once we were getting into CPU intensive loads, and only for around 10 seconds when it did. If you are just milling through a daily computer routine: email, word processing, browsing, etc, the fan will come on intermittently when needed and probably drop down to low speed. Even though the R52 sample we received came with a higher clocked CPU, the thermal and fan issues mostly relate to the size of the notebook design, which is a disadvantage for the T43 we're evaluating, due to its smaller form-factor. In order to dissipate heat, basically the T43 has to work a bit harder than IBM's R52, in order to control thermals.
Heat –After about three plus hours of use, the notebook was still relatively cool to the touch. The only place that got warm was the bottom of the notebook where the CPU (roughly below the "c" key), GPU (right bottom of CPU), northbridge (right top of CPU), and WiFi card were situated (below touchpad). Compared to other notebooks, this unit stays fairly cool most of the time. On high load, you will certainly find it somewhat toasty, but it's not intolerable by any means.