IBM ThinkPad x41 - Just a Bit Obsessive

IBM Thinkpad x41OK I just raised the price for this because I really don't want to sell it. This laptop is in great shape and too cool to sell. The IBM x41 Thinkpad is actually a laptop / convertible tablet, or I should say pre-tablet. The screen swivels 180 degrees and folds down onto the body of the laptop, and a pen ejects from the laptop allowing you to hold it as a tablet and do pen computing! If you want this more than I do you'll have to pay, and while I'll be happy to make the money, I'll be depressed to lose an awesome laptop.

The original installation put Microsoft Windows XP tablet edition on it, and Lenovo's web site does not have many Windows 7 drivers (they have some, plus some Windows 8 but are missin key 7 drivers like video and such). I found that Windows 7 home premium installed and even gave it pen functionality, but the video drivers didn't install, meaning I could not rotate the screen when in tablet mode, which really ticked me off. Plus there were some unidentified devices in the device manager. To make a long story short I found that intel doesn not make drivers for the video chip of that laptop for Windows 7. BUT...I found a way to install the correct video drivers, which gave me that rotate functionality that makes this laptop work under Windows 7 just like when it was loaded with it's original Windows XP tablet edition. It does handwriting recognition (quite well, block printing or hand writing), and it has the software "Flicks" which allows you to navigate and control things via the pen. And I was able to load drivers for all hardware, no more "unidentified" drivers in the device manager.  I tweaked the services, and updated the BIOS from 1.06 to 2.0 (the latest) giving a final  Geekbench score of 1055 (not stellar, but it's running WIndows 7 with 1.5 GB's of RAM).  So with the software and a new battery it's like I have a state-of-the-art IBM Thinkpad with tablet capability (admittedly circa 2005, BUT it is running Windows 7). I'm using it with Evernote and it's great! It can be a bit slow but not intolerably so.  As I type this, there are a couple selling on Ebay for about $220-$230: while they are working, they have Windows XP loaded and have some flaws like missing keys. This one is working, has a brand-new battery (between 3 and 4 hours of battery life) and Windows 7 loaded (perfectly!) as well as our suite of software that makes it productive right out of the box.

The outer case has some scufs and scratches, nothing major. The screen is fine, the keyboard has a bit of the lettering off the E, R and IBM Thinkpad x41 in tablet modeS keys. There is no trackpad; instead it has IBM's iconic trackpoint device. This model does NOT have a fingerprint scanner. Because this is an ultrasmall/light design, there's no optical drive (there is one in its dock, but the dock is not included in this sale). There are two USB ports, an SD card slot, a smart card slot, VGA out, ethernet, modem and sound in and out.

In using it in tablet mode: you open it, rotate the screen 180 degrees, and close the screen. Now the keyboard is covered and the screen is up and can be used with the included pen. On the bottom left of the screen in the landscape mode are some buttons for controlling it in tablet mode(see bottom right picture) and they all work fine. There's also scroll buttons where your fingers naturally rest when using it as a tablet in the portrait mode. It is a useable, well thought-out and distinctive device that only IBM could have pulled off. Don't take my word for it. Here's a quote from a  review at tabletpcreview.com:

"Imagine first and foremost a lightweight, full-featured notebook with outstanding battery life. At about 3.2 lbs. this notebook packs the best built-in security technology, full-scale wireless capabilities to connect to wireless networks and Bluetooth peripherals. A handy batch of features in a handsome and sturdy case, a responsive, full-sized notebook keyboard and a crisp, bright display. Add the ThinkPad brand name that you know you can trust. This is the makings for a top of the line notebook. But this notebook isn't just a notebook. It doubles as a superb Tablet PC of course! Now you have a good impression of the X41 Tablet PC convertible."

Remember, that's from 2005! This particular model has a 1.5 GHz Pentium M processor, a 60 GB hard disk drive and 1.5 GB's of RAM.


 ADDENDUM JUNE 2014

Memory Specs x41

The IBM x41 Thinkpad was built for Windows XP Tablet edition. As such, it shipped with 500 MB's of RAM. Here's what IBM had to say about the memory specificatins of the x41:

But I wasn't completely happy about running Windows 7 (even Windows 7 Home Premium) with 1.5 GB's of RAM. It worked but I wanted more. So this is what it looks like now:

IBM X41 Existing Memory

 Hey it's up to 1.99 GB useable, 2.5 GB's total! It "feels" more responsive. The Geekbench is 1070, only a 1.42% increase but it should multitask better now.

As a final thing to modernizing the X41I am giving thought to a solid-state drive. You can find them for the x41 on eBay, but there are issues with them. Most are shipped directly from China, and most of these show no performance specs at all. One actually did and as I suspected, it's a dog: 65 MB/s sustained read, and 47 MB/s sustained write. 64 GB's of that horrible performance costs $83.00 shipped. Yuch! Others from China are of a brand called Kingspec, and they have marginally better performance: 110 MB/s sustained read and 40 MB/s sustained write. The whole point of this exercise would be a jump in performance, especially given the pitiful 4000 rpm IDE hard drive that comes with the Thinkpad, so why spend money for a pig of an SSD? So I did a little more research. Turns out I could buy a Compactflash to IDE adapter for $3.25 and a 64 GB CompactFlash card (brand name "TopRAM" with read speed up to 120 MB/s and write speeds up to 60 MB/s for $65.  I know this would work because I have now a Compactflash to IDE adapter and a 2GB Transcend memory card with horrible specs: it reads at 8 MB /sec and writes at 6.6MB /sec. The adapter ist far too big to fit in the laptop, it hangs out over an inch, but for testing purposes I installed it and the CompactFlash, , booted from a USB CD drive, and installed regular Windows XP. Worked fine and was able to install it at about 1.5 GB's total with some drivers and such. proof of concept! Stay tuned.

 Thinkpad x41 in tablet mode  Thinkpad x41 display rotating  Tablet controls for the x41 Thinkpad

FYI supposedly Windows 8 has less of a footprint than Windows 7 so it will install onto things like tablets. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

$350

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IBM ThinkPad X41 Tablet PC Basic Specs:

Processor-- Intel Pentium M (1.5 GHz) LV 758  (1.50GHz, 90nm technology, 2MB L2 Cache, 400MHz FSB)
RAM installed-- 1.5 GB DDR SDRAM
Hard drive-- 60 GB @ 4200RPM
Input device-- Keyboard, Touchpad
Weight-- 3.5 lbs
Dimensions (W x D x H)-- 10.5 in x 8.3 in x 0.8 in
Display-- 12.1 in TFT active matrix
Max resolution-- 1024 x 768
Audio output-- Sound card
Modem-- 56 Kbps Fax / modem
Battery installed-- 1 Lithium ion
OS provided-- Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 32-bit
Service & support type-- 1 month remote & telephone support; 3 months hardware warranty
Ports: 2 USB 2.0 (1 IBM Powered USB 2.0), Infrared, expansion bus (for optional ThinkPad X4 Ultra Base Doc); external display; AC adapter; RJ-11 modem port; RJ-45 ethernet port; audio: headphone/line-out, external microphone.
Slots: 1 PCMCIA card slot, 1 Secure Digital card slotIBM X41