ThinkPad T30 scores high for security

Looks aren't everything, right? We tried to remind ourselves of that during our review of IBM Corp.'s ThinkPad T30, a notebook that comes with a full set of updated features but a case that looks virtually unchanged from the ThinkPads of years ago.

If you've seen a ThinkPad in the past, you know what this one looks like: all black and boxy. The titanium composite top and bottom covers are durable, but the soft matte finish on the top cover causes dust to stick like Velcro. Attempts to brush it off were only partly successful, resulting in a cover that looked slightly mottled with gray.

IBM touts the T30 as "thin and light." The unit is indeed fairly light at 5.4 pounds, but at nearly one-and-a-half inches, we don't consider it thin.

Inside, however, you'll find updated notebook specifications, including a 2 GHz Mobile Intel Corp. Pentium 4 processor, 512K of Level 2 cache, 256M of PC2100 synchronous dynamic RAM (expandable to 1G) and a 40G hard drive.

The two-spindle design features a multibay that comes with an 8X DVD-ROM drive and can also accept a CD-RW/DVD Combo II drive, floppy drive, Iomega Corp. Zip drive or second battery.

Customers will also get the full set of standard ports: two USB, serial, parallel, S-video out, infrared, VGA, 10/100 Ethernet, modem, and audio and microphone jacks.

Additional features include two Type II or one Type III PC Card slots, a 56K modem and integrated Cisco Systems Inc. 802.11b wireless capability.

Graphics run on an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 controller with 16M of video memory and a 4X Accelerated Graphics Port.

Aside from the standard notebook specifications, the ThinkPad T30 does distinguish itself with a handful of useful, unique features.

One is a security feature that will interest government agencies. The IBM Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0 consists of an embedded security chip and a free, downloadable software package called IBM Client Security Software.

The software includes an administrator utility that manages activation and de-activation of the security chip. It can also archive and regenerate keys and pass phrases as well as register the administrator's fingerprints (the ThinkPad T30 does not include a fingerprint reader, however).

Other features of this software include a client utility that allows users to change their pass phrases and a library of drivers for a plug-and-play interface for industry-standard (MSCAPI or PCKS#11) security applications and devices, such as token and biometric readers.

The final component of the Client Security Software is the User Verification Manager (UVM), which lets you to set security policy directly on the client and integrates with a centralized, policy-based access control solution. The UVM enforces policy whether the client is networked or stand-alone. The ThinkPad T30 also provides screen saver and IBM Lotus Notes log-on access control and a plug-and-play interface for UVM-aware security technologies, such as the aforementioned devices.

A few other design features add usability and convenience. This notebook is one of the few we've seen to include both a touch pad and track point, so it will please users in both camps.

The track point features an extra button we haven't seen elsewhere. When you hold down this button, you can scroll with the track point — no matter where the cursor rests. In other words, you don't need to move the cursor to a scroll bar.

There's also a small light built into the upper bezel of the display for illuminating the keyboard in low-light conditions.

Volume and mute buttons are situated above the keyboard, along with a ThinkPad button that provides one-touch access to help files, tools, tips and Web links.

The ThinkPad T30 ships preloaded with Microsoft Corp. Windows XP Professional, Adobe Systems Inc. Acrobat Reader, PC Doctor and various utilities.

The three-year limited warranty includes personalized Web-based support, proactive e-mail updates, international warranty service, free around-the-clock hardware support and an onsite pick-up and delivery service. Take note that the battery warranty only lasts one year.

The ThinkPad T30 isn't sleek or sexy, but it provides a robust set of features with the added bonus of an embedded security chip. The inclusion of both a touch pad and a track point will please loyalists of both features, and small extras such as the track point scroll option and keyboard light increase usability.

REPORT CARD

IBM ThinkPad T30

Grade: A-

IBM Corp.

(800) 426-4968

www.ibm.com/thinkpad

The ThinkPad T30 is available directly from IBM's Web site for $2,569.

Agency buyers should take note of the embedded security chip built into this notebook. It also offers a robust set of features, including 802.11b wireless, and a few small extras that increase usability. We tested the ThinkPad using Microsoft Corp.'s Windows XP Professional. The notebook supports Windows XP Home Edition, 2000 Professional, 98 Gold/SE, NT 4.0 SP6a, Me and OS/2 Warp V4.

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