Features: Software & Hardware
We already went over the majority of IBM software enhancements in our R52 review, but the T43 adds one piece of hardware that we can't overlook, the fingerprint scanner. Since Microsoft doesn't offer built in support for biometric scanners in their Windows OS family, IBM is customizing the supplemental software solution. With their usual flare, IBM has basically completely integrated their fingerprint scanner to replace or supplement Microsoft's built in text password based user system.
The fingerprint scanner is located on the right hand side, which may prove to be a bit awkward for those left-handed. As it is, there are no T4X notebooks that situate the fingerprint scanner on the left side. Interestingly enough, the fingerprint scanner is actually connected to the touchpad, which is then connected to the motherboard. This explains how IBM avoids the optical scanner approach, in favor of a pressure sensitive type.
A lot of the fingerprint scanners out there are called "contact scanners." They are basically the size of postage stamps and require you to lay your finger down to get a read. The scanner used in ThinkPad notebooks are called "slide scanners." Fingerprints are read once you slide your finger over the sensor. IBM's software takes a few snapshots of each finger being inputted and "stitches" the snapshots together to form a fingerprint identity. This is to compensate for the variations in swiping the same finger. IBM has three reasons for choosing this approach:
- ability to scan more data from a finger
- no "latent" print problem
- smaller design footprint requirement compared to a contact scanner
You can read more on IBM's fingerprint scanner in their white papers.
The fingerprint identity can be stored, pulled, and authenticated via a corporate server or done on the client side, it depends on how your notebook is configured. For the purposes of this review, we are doing everything on the client side. The T series has multiple sub-series and in many cases share different features, click for chart comparison.
You can still type in the password, but swiping one of the "enrolled" fingers is a whole lot easier. Aside from getting into all the "James Bond" like ways to possibly circumvent this security feature, it is an overall convenient, easy, and secure way to protect your data and notebook. IBM extends functionability with options like replacing power-on/hard drive lockout with fingerprints and fast user switching support.