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IBM ThinkPad T40
© Andres e. Mukk, Jonas Buys, 2003/08/01

Overall rating:

Price: approx.+ € 2481

1. Introduction

I've been using OS/2 since the release of Warp 3. Although I'm forced to use windoze at work, my wife and I have run Warp on two desktop PCs, including our current system, a DFI Pentium II 350 MHz relic, that runs OS/2 Warp 4.52 (Convenience Pack 2) very nicely. My wife has two home based businesses and we're going to be moving our family across the country soon so we decided to buy a notebook PC for the both of us to use. Of course, windoze was out of the question so my mission was to find a notebook PC that's OS/2 friendly.

1.1. Versions

As is always the case with IBM ThinkPads, the T40 comes in a huge amount of versions. The model reviewed here is the U19 model. The main differences in the models is the inclusion of a CD-RW combo drive (all models, except 82U, 47U, 85U, 8DU, 8CU, 58U, 16U, 14U).
Some models come with an Intel onboard Gigabit network controller, as a replacement for the standard Intel 100Mbps onboard network interface. If you have an Intel Centrino version of the T40, it ships with Intel's PRO/Wireless 2100 MiniPCI wireless NIC, but other wifi solutions like CISCO's 350 MiniPCI are also available.
All models are shipped with the same amount and combination of interface connectors like PCMCIA sockets, USB sockets, ...

1.2. To buy or not to buy?

As most OS/2 users know, the list of new systems, both desktop and notebook, that support OS/2 continues to shrink. After extensive searches of OS/2 web sites (both IBM and others), we decided that we'd go with an IBM ThinkPad system. I had read that the ThinkPad T series of notebooks were our best bet; however, none of the recent ThinkPads were listed on IBM's own "PC Systems Tested for OS/2 Base and LAN Compatibility" web site which claims it was last updated on April 28, 2003!
You can easily find many detailed hardware reviews of the T40 on the web (and I spent time reading most of the ones from major PC magazines and web sites) so I won't try to duplicate those here. The focus of this article is my experience configuring a T40 with OS/2. Please note the T40 is officially certified by IBM to work together with OS/2 Warp V4 (Merlin), and OS/2 Warp Convenience Packages 2.

2. The Ordering Experience

We bought one of the more economical versions of the T40, model 237319U, from the ibm.com web site. We upgraded to 512MB of RAM, but I have to admit I was somewhat hesitant to click on the "buy" button because I saw almost no reports of successful OS/2 installations on the T40 on the popular OS/2 message boards and groups (Note that if you have more than 512 MB of RAM with a Pentium4 processor, you must first update your installation media with fixpak XR_F001 before OS/2 will install. eComStation 1.1 doesn't require this, since it already includes the required fixpak).
The online catalog portion of the IBM web site where you review system specifications of the T40 doesn't indicate that OS/2 is a supported operating system. Fortunately, I found an official IBM downloadable T40 product brochure on the ibm.com web site dated March 2003 that indeed lists OS/2 Warp Convenience Package as a Supported operating system on page 3 with the footnote that Level of support varies by operating system. Operating systems not preloaded on the system may not provide full feature functionality. I've included a link to the site where you can download this and other ThinkPad literature in the References section below.
Despite the lack of an available OS/2 preload option, the claim of the OS/2 Convenience Package being a supported operating system in the official IBM T40 flyer combined with the availability of OS/2 device drivers specifically for the T40 on the OS/2 Device Driver Pak Online with our Software Choice subscription sealed our decision to buy it. I didn't want to spend 6 months or longer getting even minimal OS/2 capability on a new notebook PC.
I've read that the higher-end T40 (T40p) systems may take a while to receive after ordering one, but I ordered our system from the ibm.com web site and our system showed as available within 2 weeks. We live in Hawaii and received our system along with a free Targus leather case normally sold for over $100.- and a travel surge protector in exactly 7 days after I ordered it via UPS (shipping charges $50.00). There have been several promotions on the ibm.com web site recently offering special sale prices and freebies, such as RAM upgrades, carrying cases, travel packages, etc. with each purchase of a ThinkPad system.
The system I received was labeled Made in China which was somewhat disappointing given the price IBM charges for it. I had seen and handled a T40 higher-end model at a trade show at an IBM display that was labeled Made in Mexico.
After I placed my order online, I was offered the opportunity to complete an online survey of my purchase experience. Given that opportunity, I officially registered my complaints over a lack of an OS/2 preload option and lukewarm support from the IBM PC company for IBM's own PC operating system, OS/2.

3. Specifications

Ultrabay Slim bay
Intel Centrino Mobile Technology:

Pentium M Processor 1.30 GHz (Enhanced Speedstep)
Intel 855 Chipset
Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 802.11b, 11 Mbps, Wi-Fi compliant
UltraConnect antenna built into both sides of display for enhanced wireless signal strength

30 GB ATA-100 (Enhanced IDE) Hard Disk Drive
14.1 inch TFT backlit display, 1024 x 768 maximum resolution, 16777216 maximum colors
2048 x 1536 maximum resolution on external display (supports simultaneous external display)
ATI Mobility RADEON 7500 graphics chipset, 32 MB video RAM
512 MB memory (PC2100 DDR SDRAM) (2 GB maximum)
CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo optical drive
SoundMAX AD1981B AC97 audio
4 Mbps infrared port
10/100 Ethernet card with RJ-45 connector
Internal 56K V.92 Fax/Modem
6 cell Lithium-Ion battery
Additional ports: Parallel, S-Video out, AC adapter, Docking/Port Replicator, External Display,
Headphone/Line out, Microphone, 2 USB 2.0
PC Card Support: 2 Type II or 1 Type III

Click here to download pci.exe's output while running on IBM ThinkPad T40 model TC122BE (Belgian localized version of 19U).
Click here to download scanpci.exe's output while running on IBM ThinkPad T40 model TC122BE (Belgian localized version of 19U).

4. System Set-Up and Installing OS/2 Convenience Pack 2 (Warp 4.52)

4.1. General

The system was packaged extremely well for shipment with a detailed packing list. There was no damage at all to any of the components and the system had already been preregistered for warranty support since we ordered it through ibm.com.
Not having a floppy diskette drive took some getting used to, but it can easily be solved by using USB memory sticks, or if you really want floppy support, to buy an LS-120 SuperDrive for use with ThinkPad's UltraSlim design. Upon receipt of the system, I immediately called IBM PC Warranty Customer Service and ordered the free Restore CD set which arrived in about 3 days, but later decided not to install WindowsXP nor Boot Manager because of problems I read about concerning WindowsXP's and OS/2's ability to cohabitate safely on the same hard disk drive. The problem is (of course) with Windows not wanting to coexist with OS/2. After working with OS/2, I think WindowsXP Professional is probably the most counter-intuitive operating system I've ever tried so I'm probably not missing much. By the way, upon purchase, the client can choose whether or not to get the T40 preloaded with Windows2000 or WindowsXP (the latter is the default).
The T40 comes with a hidden sector on the hard disk drive with WindowsXP and preload application restore files, but to install OS/2, I reformatted the entire hard disk drive using the HPFS and partitioned the disk to two drives. The 30GB 4200 rpm hard disk drive in our T40 is quite slow compared to our desktop PC's high speed Maxtor hard disk drive, but not bad for a notebook PC in my opinion. If you want to use a notebook PC as a desktop replacement, you may wish to consider one of the higher end T40 models with a 5400 rpm hard disk drive for intensive read/write operations (however, these models are a lot more expensive).
There is a clearly marked blue Access IBM button which allows quick and easy access to BIOS set up and system configuration menus. The system is significantly lighter than the T30 and the magnesium alloy top cover really makes it feel rugged.
I installed OS/2 Warp Convenience Pack 2 from the Software Choice CD-ROM disks without any major problems and RSU installed Base FixPak 3 and Device Driver FixPak 3. I have no reason to believe that eCS wouldn't work (quite the contrary, eCS 1.1 includes a lot of the drivers you still need to download and apply manually with MCP2).
Some more about the IBM PreDesktop Area: the notebook comes with only one FAT32 Windows XP partition. However, at the end of the hard disk there is an unpartitioned area which houses the IBM PreDesktop Area, of which IBM claims you should absolutely keep this intact. IBM will only send you recovery cd's if this part of the hard disk is damaged. However, if you enter the BIOS (referred to as IBM Setup Utility), and select that you want to Disable PreDesktop Area in the Security section, you can safely partition the ENTIRE disk, thus destroying the data in the space reserved for PreDesktop Area. This allows you to use more than 4 GB more of disk space that would be lost normally. If you don't touch the BIOS for this setting, LVM nor FDISK will detect the partition (since it is hidden by the BIOS) and you can use it to restore your notebook to original factory settings later. If you plan to use only OS/2, go ahead and delete the PreDesktop area. If you want OS/2 and Windows to run on the notebook, the OEM license of WinXP Pro that is shipped with your notebook allows you to use any version of windows (XP Pro/Home, ME, 2000, NT4, 98SE, 98, 95) in any language. You cannot use PreDesktop area to install Windows, since it deletes all partitions and copies its own contents to the new partition. Instead, try to get a copy or original cd-rom from people you know, and install it from cd. This is completely LEGAL!! Such cd-roms cannot be obtained via IBM. Even if you ask your neighbor to burn a WinNT4 cd-rom or so, you are respecting your OEM license. That means that you can also install that windows in VPC/2, for example.

4.2. Installing Device Drivers

Before installing OS/2 on the T40, use another PC to download all of your device drivers (especially the OS/2 Device Driver Pak Online drivers, including PC Card 5.0 support) and any other critical software to a CD-ROM disk and it will make your installation a lot less painful.
You'll find the following T40 drivers available on the OS/2 Device Driver Pak Online under the "Systems" category:

Enhanced Speedstep Technology Support
Intel 855 IDE Controller Support (updated IDEDASD.EXE), or Daniela Engert's Dani506.add driver
OSTA UDF Revision 2.01 Support (required for DVD/CD-RW Combination Drive, you need SWC or PPA subscription in order to download this driver)
PC Card 8.0 (CardBus) Card and Socket Support (5.0 will also do, you need SWC or PPA subscription in order to download this driver)
USB 2.0 Support (you need SWC or PPA subscription in order to download this driver).

Although not listed under the T40 section, while you're on the OS/2 Device Driver Pak Online, download TrackPoint IV support from the Mice and Trackballs section as well.
Once you can get a PCMCIA modem card to work, you can download whatever else you may need that's available from Software Choice, Hobbes, and other web sites. You may be able to get the system to recognize the PCMCIA cards using Warp 4.52 or eCS without additional PC Card drivers, but I didn't take any chances and installed the latest PC Card 8.0 support first.
The Software Choice T40 specific device drivers worked pretty much as advertised with Convenience Pack 2. The T40 support page on the IBM PC web site doesn't include the OS/2 video and sound drivers, contrary to what's stated on the T40 Systems page on Software Choice.

4.3. Sound

The T40's sound card is based on the Analog Systems' SoundMAX AD1981B AC97 codec. Despite claims on Software Choice's T40 page and the Analog Systems page for this chip, there are no available OS/2 audio drivers that I could find on the appropriate web page where you'd expect it.
I downloaded the latest SoundMAX driver v3.1.4 from Hobbes for the audio and it seems to work fine for WAV files and audio CDs. There are clearly marked volume control keys on the T40 that work fine with OS/2 installed. I used my Panasonic portable headphones to the test the audio CD sound signal quality coming of the headphone jack and it sounded very good. Meanwhile, the IBM OS/2 SoundMax driver has been put online on one of their ThinkCentre's web pages.
The significant drawback is that you can't play MIDI files on the T40 with OS/2 using the most recent v3.1.4 SoundMAX driver on Hobbes, although I haven't tried possible work-arounds to this issue, such as TiMIDIty for OS/2. As a result, my 5-year old daughter was disappointed that I couldn't get KidStuff for OS/2 (a children's edutainment program that uses MIDI files) to properly work on it. I really hope Software Choice can produce an audio driver for this system that fully supports the AD1981B (including MIDI).

4.4. Video

I'm using Scitech SNAP Graphics 2.1.3 without any problems at all to drive the ATI Mobility RADEON 7500 video card and the T40's 1024 x 768 @ 16777216 color, 14.1" TFT XGA display. I tested the external monitor output on an NEX MultiSync XE17 monitor and it worked fine. Most probably, you will need to install VGA when installing MCP2, since the embedded SDD SE doesn't support this chipset. Later versions of SDD SE and SDD SNAP, available from DDP Online do support the chipset.

4.5. Modem

As has been stated in other reviews, the built-in Lucent/Agere Systems modem in most ThinkPads won't work using OS/2. For this reason, I didn't waste any time trying to get it to work. Instead, I bought and installed a generic CompUSA store brand PCMCIA generic 56K Fax/Modem for about $45.- and the T40 recognized it as COM1 without any problems as did the AT&T Global Network Dialer when using its Auto Detect Modem feature. The AT&T Global Network Dialer recognizes the CompUSA store brand modem as a Generic" manufacturer, 56000 Apple type modem, although other settings may work also. Any non-Win Modem PCMCIA card should probably work in this system.

4.6. Pointing Devices

The TrackPoint pointing device and UltraNav touch pad seem to work fine and provide basic two-button functionality with the Convenience Pack 2's mouse driver despite the fact that the System Set-Up folder indicates that the PS/2 Mouse Driver dated May 21, 2002 is not properly installed.
Although not listed on the Software Choice T40 web page, I downloaded and installed the TrackPoint IV driver (originally intended for the T30) from Software Choice. When installed, the Mouse driver dated October 23, 2002 indicated installed and maintained proper 2-button TrackPoint and touch pad functionality.

4.7. Networking

The only OS/2 support I could find listed on the IBM PC T40 Software and Support page was for the Ethernet Intel PRO/100/1000 LAN adapter. A precise description or name for the wired device couldn't be found anywhere. However the onboard NIC works perfectly on OS/2. Unfortunately, eCS 1.1 didn't seem to include the required device driver to support the onboard NIC.
I downloaded the driver from this page , but it was an self-extracting windows setup utility. You can run it with ODIN, and setup will extract all drivers (Windows, OS/2, ...) in the directory you specified during setup. Note that it often appears that running setup.exe under odin crashes, but just wait, it will continue nicely, and it will not crash. Once the drivers are unpacked, just install them in MPTS as usual, reboot, and you're off!
The Intel PRO/Wireless wireless network card shipped with the Intel Centrino compliant models of the T40 is not supported by OS/2 yet. However, a study about the popularity of such a device driver is being organized. Should you have the T40 models with CISCO's 350 MiniPCI device, you can try the very alpha OS/2 drivers for this card that support shared IRQs and busmastering. Of course, PCMCIA wireless network cards work as a breeze.

4.8. PCMCIA Socket Services

The IBM T40 comes with two Cardbus sockets. The Texas Instruments PCI1250 PC card Cardbus Controller (rev 01) chipset is used for PCMCIA connectivity. At the PCMCIA page, you can see a variety of drivers that will support this chipset. I tested the notebook with IBM's PC Card 8.0 (CardBus) Card and Socket Support, and after having installed and rebooted, everything worked fine. I didn't test any other drivers.

4.9. USB Zip Drive Issues

The only significant glitch was trying to interface my portable 750 MB USB 2.0 Zip Drive to the T40. On my desktop PC, I configured this USB Zip drive so it appears as a fixed disk and formatted my 750 MB Zip disks as HPFS disks. I could only get the new Software Choice USB
Mass Storage Device Driver to recognize the USB Zip drive as a large floppy drive. This limits me to using FAT formatted Zip disks on the T40.
As long as I use the Zip drive as a large removable floppy, it has been quite stable and reliable so far. When downloading mass storage device drivers from Software Choice and using the Iomega 750 MB USB Zip drive, use the Iomega Zip-250 USB driver and dated August 30, 2002, not the generic USB Mass Storage Device driver. Use the following switches in the CONFIG.SYS file when using the USB Zip drive as the only external storage device:


The good news is that I can connect my USB Zip drive to the T40 even after system start-up and the T40 will recognize the Zip drive as Floppy drive E: without even having to Refresh Removable Media. To remove the Zip disk from the drive, use the "Eject Disk" function by right clicking on the drive E: icon then selecting Eject Disk.

5. Advanced Power Management

5.1. System Battery Monitoring

The system battery monitor appears to work fine.

5.2. Standby and Suspend Issues

Other ThinkPads have reported problems with suspend, especially when PCMCIA network cards are installed in the systems. The [Fn] - [F4] key combination, also clearly marked, puts the T40 system to sleep and [Fn] - [F3] awakens the system. Sometimes, the system will lock up, though, after being awakened from a user initiated suspended state. The system clock will freeze and the mouse buttons and touch pad won't work. I found that allowing the system to go into standby on its own and then awakening it using TouchPad worked better.

6. Installing Applications

The T40 system advertises a free license for the Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition for Windows. When I called Lotus to order a copy in the OS/2 version, I was told that the company has discontinued their OS/2 version of SmartSuite. I installed a copy of SmartSuite 1.7 for OS/2 on the T40 with no problems. Other OS/2 applications I've installed so far include StarOffice 5.1, Describe 5.0.5, IBM Web Browser 2.0, Netscape 4.61, AT&T Global Network Dialer 1.70, Adobe Acrobat Reader 3.0, Macromedia Flash Player 5, and Norton Antivirus for OS/2 5.03.72. The T40 comes with an Intel Pentium-M processor, which includes an L2-cache of 1MB. This causes higher performance for VirtualPC and ODIN apps compared to running them on a Pentium4 2.00GHz machine(!).
The DVD/CD-RW drive works perfectly with RSJ CD Writer, and using the appropriate Daniela Engert device drivers, CDRecord works charming!
Note, however that the T40 is rather slow during the boot process. However, regareded the working performance, the T40 delivers speed like any other Centrino notebook.

7. The Bottom Line

This notebook PC system seems to be as OS/2 friendly as they come these days, given the commonly known caveats such as lack of OS/2 support for the internal modem, sound driver MIDI issues, and suspend issues. In 6 months, I might be able to give a better appraisal, especially if I can start burning data and audio CDs with it. I'd also like to see how well Virtual PC and WarpVision work on it.
Weighing in at 4.9 pounds with the standard battery and CD-RW/DVD combination optical drive, the T40 we bought is really is light for travel. The T40 has the best feel of any notebook PC keyboards that I've ever used and it doesn't have the annoying Windows key neither! For those red eye airline flights, there's a very convenient ThinkLight that illuminates the keyboard in low light conditions and is activated and deactivated using the [Fn] - [PgUp] key.
Yes, the system is considerably pricier than other mass market notebook PC systems you'd get at a discounter, but when you consider the IBM warranty and available OS/2 device driver support, it's hard to go wrong with it. I can only imagine the countless hours it would take trying to get a unsupported notebook PC working this well with OS/2. I was able to configure my T40 with OS/2 and my applications over a weekend, although I didn't complete all of the required tasks at a single session. By the way, this is the first notebook PC that I ever installed OS/2 on and configuration of the USB Zip drive and playing MIDI files were the only really significant problems I encountered.
If you're really a power user, IBM claims the optional High Capacity Li-Ion Battery, which protrudes from the rear of the system and increases the weight of the system by about half-a-pound, can extend battery life on a single charge to as much as 7.6 hours on a single charge, a leader in the notebook PC class.
I'm still going through a "paradigm shift" of not having an internal floppy diskette drive available in a notebook PC. If you buy a T40, you'll probably want to have some sort of external storage device, and I found the USB Zip drive to be a superior replacement for a floppy diskette drive. The only downside is that the large capacity portable Zip drives need their own external power. For you diehards that still want to work with 3.5" floppy diskettes, there are external USB floppy diskette drives available, but if you're going to use a FAT formatted removable disk, I'd still go with a USB Zip drive due to the significantly greater disk capacity.
I'd like to thank the Software Choice team that wrote the device drivers for the T40 that currently are available and hope they'll be able to continue their development efforts to at least offer a MIDI compatible sound driver for the Analog Devices AD1981B AC'97 SoundMAX  Codec in the T40 and a T40 ThinkPad TrackPoint device driver as a minimum in the future.
Despite the limitations I've identified, I'd still recommend the T40 to OS/2 users looking for a notebook PC. At least the T40's OS/2 driver shortcomings, such as the suspend problems, lack of OS/2 MIDI support, lack of wireless networking support, and the lack of OS/2 internal modem support, are known and predictable, unlike the unforeseen system hangs I've experienced with my windoze systems at work.
In this quick look, I didn't test the parallel port connection, but I'm looking forward to reading about the thoughts and suggestions of other OS/2 users as they configure their T40 systems.

     Product Completeness
     Product Availability
     Hardware quality (modern, complete)
     Battery Lifetime
     OS/2 and eCS Compatibility
     Design quality (chock resistance, housing, ...)
     Manufacturer Support
     Overall Price / Quality Ratio


8. References

Copyright Information

Last modified: 2004/08/30, 16:12 | This site is sponsored by Mensys B.V.