Construction: Field Tested (cont.)
Keyboard – This is one of the better keyboard layout designs out there, as the function and page up/page down/home/end are all located in a logical and ergonomically sound places. Of course, we should note that while the home/end/page up/page down keys are situated well, like using a desktop keyboard you will have to stretch your fingers to use them. This has nothing to do with the spacing of the keyboard, which IBM has done just right; rather this is something you even need to do on desktop keyboards for the most part. Either way, this is technically the correct placement, and better/more intuitive than the aligning these keys on the right side in a single column.
IBM is one of the best when it comes to tactile feedback in notebook keyboards. For example, there is no give when pressing the keyboard without hitting the key.
Its good to see that IBM uses the X41's full sized keyboard, in the sense that all the letter and number keys are not compromised in size (that can be technically considered full sized). If you are comparing it to the keyboard on the T and R series, you will find that CTRL, ALT, Enter, backslash, backspace, tab, caps lock, shift, and ESC keys are slightly smaller.
Note that IBM doesn't include a Windows key on their keyboard. According to IBM, the absence of a Windows key is due to internal ergonomic and usability studies, which have concluded that putting one on their keyboards alters the normal typing pattern and makes the system less ambidextrous. It isn't frustrating for us, but it may for those used to using it. While IBM keyboards lack this key, you will find the ALT and CTRL keys slightly larger than those on other notebooks and a forward and backward button near the arrow keys, which are very helpful if you are a browser junkie. Unfortunately, we get the Fn key in the lower left hand corner. Technically, we find that correct placement is for the Fn key to be to the right of left CTRL key. For some people, this may not be a problem; for others it will be.
LEDs – There are two LED strips: one above the keyboard and one on the backside of the display. The LED strip above the keyboard include LEDs for (left to right): WiFi status (green when enabled, blinking green when active), num lock (green when active), caps lock (green when active), hard drive activity (blinking blue when active), power status (green if system on), battery status (green when plugged in and fully charged, green when discharging between 100% and 5%, blinking green when charging at roughly above 90%, orange when charging between 0% and 90%, blinking orange when discharging roughly below 5% + audible warning), and standby status (green when in standby mode).
The LED strip on the back of the notebook is the same LEDs as the ones above the keyboard, except they are exposed on the backside of the monitor (left to right): standby mode (same color scheme), battery status (same color scheme), and Bluetooth status (same color scheme).
TouchPad & Buttons – So its obvious, there is no touchpad. This is an ultra-portable after all, and with space at a premium, IBM is forgoing the touchpad in favor of TrackPoint. To begin with, the TrackPoint is a love it or hate it feature even when it is in included in addition to the touchpad. Thus, when it comes to tracking, this is going to be either a good experience or a horribly frustrating one depending on your tastes.
Instead of a scroll space or toggle, IBM uses a scroll button, which allows you to scroll with the TrackPoint pointing device. The scroll button just simply enables or disables the scroll function. Personally, we like either the scroll button or touchpad scroll zone over a scroll toggle (vertical or vertical and horizontal).
You can customize the TrackPoint cap to your liking with the different covers: "soft dome," "soft rim," "classic dome."
Speakers & Microphone – The integrated microphone is located directly below the right arrow key. The two angled slots in the casing do not designate the exact location of the microphone, but instead, it is the spot where you should be directing your speech. This is somewhat out of the way, but we found we didn't have to lean over for a voice over IP (VOIP) conversation to go smoothly. However, you might find yourself covering the microphone "zone" with your right hand during typing.
There is only a single speaker located on the bottom side of the X41 Tablet. As far as we can tell, it is a smaller version of the speaker(s) used on the T43 and R52. We normally test at 20% but that volume level on the X41 is just slightly louder than a whisper, which would be equal to about a 10% volume level with the majority of consumer notebooks we have used. This is not a multimedia notebook by any stretch of the word, so when we listened to Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know, the audio clarity is shy of what we normally see on consumer class notebooks, i.e. the instrumentals and voice inflections get slightly distorted above 50%. For all intents and purposes, the business user and occasional DVD watcher won't complain. Max volume on this notebook is about 50% to 60% as loud as other consumer notebooks.