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IBM ThinkPad T42p mobile workstation

High-end heaven?

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Review IBM's ThinkPad T42p is the high-end, workstation model of the T42 range and as such, it doesn't come cheap. But it's also a quality product with a look and feel that most other notebooks can only aspire to, writes Riyad Emeran.

IBM ThinkPad T42p mobile workstationAfter opening the tactile, but very tough black-coated titanium alloy lid, you find the 15in screen. Notebook displays are becoming larger and larger, but big isn't always better. The first ThinkPad T42 that I reviewed also had a 15in screen, but the low desktop resolution of 1024 x 768 made such a large screen seem pointless. In fact, if I was going to have to put up with such a low resolution, I'd rather have a smaller screen and a consequently smaller notebook.

IBM hasn't made the same mistake with the T42p. Its panel can be put to much better use thanks to a native resolution of 1600 x 1200. With so much more desktop real estate on offer, it's easier to have many windows open simultaneously, making copying and pasting between documents the simplest of procedures. Some notebook users may complain that this resolution is too high, and it makes everything too small to see, but for me it's perfect. There is a quick zoom option, if you want to make things larger temporarily - pressing the Fn key and the Spacebar will drop the resolution down to 800 x 600, while pressing it again will return things to 1600 x 1200.

But it's not just the high resolution that makes this screen a good one, it's also evenly lit across the whole surface and the viewing angle is very wide in both the vertical and horizontal planes. This makes the T42p ideal for presenting data or showing demos in meetings - with the latter likely to be a regular occurrence for a mobile graphics workstation such as this.

IBM ThinkPad T42p mobile workstationThe T42p sports ATI's Mobility Fire GL T2 workstation graphics chip. What sets a workstation chip apart from standard graphics chips is its certification for use with certain high-end graphical design packages. So if you want a notebook to run a CAD package, or a 3D rendering application, you'll want one that has a graphics chip approved by the software vendor. That way, when you run a preview of that complicated scene that you've been working on for days, you know it will work.

A year ago, the Mobility Fire GL T2 had the advantage of being based on ATI's latest 3D technology. However, things have moved on, and from a performance point of view it's probably time for IBM to update it's workstation graphics. That said, with the Intel 'Sonoma' Centrino update released only a few weeks ago, I imagine IBM has been holding off in order to make the jump to PCI Express graphics. Hopefully the next workstation ThinkPad will be sporting the newer Mobility Fire GL V5000 chip instead.

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