IBM – ThinkPad A20m review

robust notebook with modular features
Photo of IBM – ThinkPad A20m
£1,895 + VAT

IBM has recently rebranded its ThinkPad range of notebooks into two broad categories, with an A or a T prefix distinguishing between them. A-series machines are considered desktop alternatives, while the T-series is aimed at users wanting more portable, lightweight computing on the move.

The A20m isn’t at the top of the new range, but it’s still fairly potent, with a 700MHz Pentium III SpeedStep processor cracking the whip over the show, although the standard 64MB helping of SDRAM is typically on the thin side, but this is true of virtually all corporate notebooks.

The removable hard disk is one of IBM’s own Travelstar series, and gives you a healthy 12GB to play with, but it’s possible that some buyers will want to opt for DVD or CD-RW rather than the 24-speed LG CD-ROM supplied as standard with this model. The CD-ROM drive is removable, so exchanging it for other drives will be simple and quick, and the list of available options goes on to include LS-120, a second battery pack or a second hard disk. System expansion is provided by the usual pair of PC Card slots, but the ThinkPad is fitted with a miniPCI combo card providing both V.90 modem and 10/100 Ethernet functions, so the slots might not see that much use.

Despite its 3-spindle design and reasonably solid construction, the ThinkPad isn’t overly heavy, tipping the scales at a reasonable 3.05kg. This makes it a feasible candidate for the traveller who wants more power and better ergonomics than those offered by a typical sub-notebook for example.

The keyboard is up to IBM’s normal high standard, with a spacious, logical layout quite similar to that of a conventional keyboard. The relative sizes of the keys are also preserved, which makes typing that bit easier and faster, and overall the ThinkPad is much easier and more pleasant to use than many notebooks.

The screen is a normal 14-inch XGA resolution TFT panel, but it’s brightly lit by its sidelights and more legible in sunnier conditions as a result. If you are working in a dark environment, there’s a tiny light just under the top edge of the screen which shines down onto the keyboard to help you see what you are doing, which is a nice touch.

Performance is fine, although as ever, we’d suggest adding at least another 64MB of memory to get the best out of the machine, and battery life proved to be a reasonable 2 hours 50 minutes under light but continuous use.

Company: IBM

Contact: 0870 010 2512

The new ThinkPad is fairly powerful, pleasant to use, modular and well made, and after dealer discounting it shouldn't be too expensive for a brand name corporate notebook either.