Construction: Field Tested
Charger – For years, IBM has stuck with the same power brick. Like the Dell model, 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 down side is that it is pretty hard to tie up extra cabling on the AC end of the power brink, because it doesn't use a right angle design like Dell. Note that this power brick differs from the T and R series power brick by being about 10%~15% smaller (X41 Tablet - 56W charger, T and R series - 72W).
Display – IBM offers one display option for the X41 Tablet: 12.1" Super-Wide Angle FFS XGA (native 1024 x 768) - 180 nit.
For the Tablet PC form factor, this size is the optimal choice. Any larger and you get a mobile PC that becomes harder to be mobile with, while smaller sized displays may be a possible way to go in the future.
With 8 brightness settings, the display has a fairly good range from bright to dim. Our display even seems about as bright as the 14.1" SXGA+ display on the T43 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 while monitoring what is going on. The brightest setting isn't super bright, but it is one of the brighter 12.1" screens we have seen on notebooks, both from the consumer and business lines. In a dark room, you are better off at level 2, if you don't want to strain your eyes. AC and battery brightness levels are not the same (battery is skewed about 1/2 lower).
As far as any multimedia use goes, watching a DVD obviously is not optimal on this display. The dark scenes are too dark, and the light scenes are not bright enough. This is to be expected of a business class notebook, though.
Fan - Like the T43, the fan was on the majority of the time while we were using the notebook. In general, the notebook is quiet, other than the almost inaudible click of the hard drive write/read head, which is louder than the fan at mid speed. If the system is idle, the fan just stops spinning. In our field tests, we were constantly using the X41 Tablet, so for the majority of the time the fan was active.
At mid speed ("normal speed"), it is definitely not loud, as it is less noticeable than the fans on the R52 and T43. Just sitting in normal typing posture should allow you just make out the CPU fan, but it is certainly what we would consider to be one of the quietest heat dissipation designs. On a flight, the person next to you probably won't notice it. In a dead quiet library, you should be able to make out the fan, while the person next to you will probably just barely be able to make it out. From a distance of about 2 feet (in a reasonably quiet room), you shouldn't be able to make out the noise unless you really concentrate.
When the fan went to max speed, it had we would describe as a soft whirling sound. It isn't loud, but nor is it completely unnoticeable. Compared to its "normal speed," it is about 25% louder. If you are sitting in normal typing posture (in a quiet room), you should be able to clearly hear the noise, but it is not what we would consider to be loud.
Generally, the notebook's fan only went to max speed once we were getting into CPU intensive loads, and only for around 10 seconds at a time when it did. If you are just milling through your "run of the day" computer routine: email, word processing, browsing, etc. the fan will only speed up occasionally.
Heat – After about three hours of use, the notebook was still relatively cool to the touch. The only places that got warm were the bottom right side of the notebook where the CPU and hard drive are located and the area of the access panel, which gives way to reveal the Bluetooth module, SODIMM slot, and WiFi card. For CPU intensive operations, you will certainly find it to be somewhat warm, but not an intolerable heat. Basically, you should still feel comfortable and should not feel the need to shuffle or flinch while the notebook sits in your lap.