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IBM ThinkPad R40
© Luc Van Bogaert, 2004/01/11

Overall rating:

Price: approx. € 1967

1. Introduction

My desktop machine at home started to take up too much space lately, so I decided to replace it with an affordable notebook computer, offering at least the same performance as my 1GHz Athlon desktop. Besides price and performance, the only other real important requirement was of course that it needed to run OS/2 or eComStation reasonably well. As I already have an older Thinkpad 390E running OS/2, I am well familiar with the brand. Although I took a close look at some machines of another brand (Acer Travelmate 600 series, ASUS, Dell), I quickly decided to go for the Thinkpad R40. At the time of my decision, I found out that IBM Belgium was offering a €100.00 discount on this machine in a promotional December Xmas sale. Combined with the machine's specifications and the attractiveness of the "Thinkpad" brand name, this made my decision to buy an easy one.

1.1. Versions

The latest model in the Thinkpad R-series is the R50(p), so it is uncertain how long the R40 will remain available. All the R-series models share the following common features :  lightweight (starting at 2.4kg), Microsoft Windows XP preloaded, 14" or 15" TFT screen, Wi-Fi wireless support, "IBM UltraConnect" antenna, "Thinkpad ultraNav" multi-pointing device, Rapid Restore software for data backup and recovery. Other features, such as the processor type, memory size, storage devices, screen size/resolution, etc. will vary depending on the exact model type.  The model being discussed in this review is the Thinkpad R40-2722CDG (IBM partnr. TR4CDBE), which is a high performance model in the R40  range of Thinkpads.

1.2. To buy or not to buy?

On the IBM web site, OS/2 is not listed as a supported platform for this machine. I'm aware that most people using OS/2 on a Thinkpad will recommend a T-series model for compatibility reasons, but these are much more expensive and, considering my budget, no option. On the other hand, I found quite a few articles on the web discussing the installation of various flavors of Linux on the Thinkpad R40. Most of the reviewers are very favorable in their conclusion, showing few problems to run and configure Linux on this machine. This finally assured me that I wouldn't have to expect  too much trouble getting OS/2 or eComStation to run as well.

2. The Ordering Experience

IBM Thinkpad R40I checked with two local IBM dealers to see if they were aware of the Xmas promotional discount, as advertised on the IBM Belgium web site. Both dealers knew about the sale, but there still was a small difference in pricing between the two of them, so I decided to order the machine with the cheapest one. Instead of ordering by e-mail from their on line catalog www.mpl.be, I got on the phone with one of the sales people. He seemed very knowledgeable and helpful, and we spent some time discussing pro's and con's of the various machines they were offering, including the R40. This shop still had 6 machines in stock and could deliver the very same day if I wanted.  So I ordered the machine, also got a D-Link wireless router, and we agreed for delivery on the next day, which would still allow me to get a bank cheque.

The machine and the router were delivered very early the next day, and I still had to go to the bank to get the cheque. Luckily, the delivery guy agreed to wait until I got the money. Everything was well packed, and the IBM box included a Targus mini USB scroll mouse and a nylon Targus carrying bag for the Thinkpad. Documentation was a little more condensed than I had expected (with my old Thinkpad 390E I got a generous pile of books), and I was somewhat disappointed to find out that the pre-installed software did not come on a CD, but instead was placed on a pre-configured hidden partition, taking up 5GB of my hard disk space. I got on the phone with IBM Support to request recovery CD's, but they refused to send them because the software recovery system on my disk was still intact and untouched. Bummer! Maybe when I decide to wipe that partition in the future, I will still be able to get those CD's.

Generally, I'm very satisfied with how things went ordering this machine, because I think I got a very good deal and I certainly didn't have to wait a long time to get my hands on my new toy.

3. Specifications

Click here to download pci.exe's output while running on IBM ThinkPad R40 model 2722CDG.
Click here to download scanpci.exe's output while running on IBM ThinkPad R40 model 2722CDG.

Bus type/architecture: PCI
Bays: Ultrabay Plus
Indicator light: Yes

External display supported: Yes
Simultaneous external display: Yes
Screen type description: TFT
Viewable image size (diagonal): 15 inches
Screen illumination: Backlit
Max colors or gray shades: 16777216
Max resolution: 1400x1050

Graphics Subsystem
Video RAM std/max: 32MB / 32MB
Graphics chip set: ATI Mobility RADEON 7500
Graphics type: SXGA+
Video RAM type: DDR SDRAM
Max resolution: 2048x1536 16777216 colors
Max colors (with max video RAM): 16777216
Graphics bus interface: AGP 4X

BIOS type: Flash ROM
Processor manufacturer: Intel
Processor (CPU): Intel Pentium M processor
Processor internal clock speed: 1.40GHz
Front Side Bus: 400MHz

Memory (RAM) std/max: 512MB / 2GB
RAM slots total: 2 SODIMM
RAM slots available: 1 SODIMM
RAM speed supported: 266MHz
RAM type: PC2100 DDR SDRAM

Hard Disk
Hard disk size: 40GB
Hard disk type: ATA-100 (Enhanced IDE)

Optical device
Optical device: CD-RW/DVD-ROM Combo IV
CD/DVD-ROM speed: 24X/10X/24X/8X Max
Device interface: EIDE

Integrated speakers: 2
Speaker power rating: 1.0 Watts
Volume control buttons: Yes
Audio chip set: SoundMAX - 1981B chip set

Fax/modem: Agere Systems 56K V.92 modem
Fax/modem speeds: 56Kbps data/14.4Kbps fax
Infrared port: Yes
Infrared port speed: 4Mbps
Wireless standard: Intel PRO/Wireless Network Connection 802.11b
Network card: Intel PRO 10/100 Ethernet
Network interface: Ethernet-Integrated

A/C adapter: 72 watt
Worldwide A/C compatibility: Yes
Port replicator: Optional

Standard Features
Pointing device type: IBM ThinkPad UltraNav
Keyboard type: Full size
Keyboard light: Yes

Power Management
Heat emissions: 72W
Sound emissions: 40dB
Battery life - min/max: 5.0 Hrs
Battery type(s): 8 Cell Lithium-Ion
Charge time - on/off: 3Hrs / 3Hrs

Expansion Options
Plug and play support: Yes
Slots total (free) and type: PC Card
Ports: AC adapter
Expansion Bus port (for Mini Dock or Port Replicator)
External microphone
External Display
Headphone/Line out
S-Video out
IEEE 1394
Line in
2 USB 2.0

Weight & Dimensions
Weight: 3.1Kg
Height: 40.5mm
Depth: 267.5mm
Travel weight: 2.80Kg

Security features: Hard disk drive password
IBM Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0
IBM Security Slot
Power-on password
Supervisor password

4. System Set-Up and Installing eComStation 1.1

4.1. General

The system comes with Windows XP Professional pre-installed in one single large partition. A separate and hidden part of the disk contains an image of the pre-installed software, which makes it easy to restore the system to factory pre-sets using the blue "Access IBM" button on the keyboard, without the need for a CD or any other media. A recovery CD can be obtained by request, but IBM Belgium refused to do so in my case, because the recovery data on my system was still intact and fully functional. The downside of this type of recovery system is that a relatively large part of the 40GB hard disk is completely unavailable for your own use.

My initial plan was to keep the pre-installed Windows XP partition, but to shrink it's size to make room for eComStation 1.1. The setup I had in mind had a 15GB primary NTFS partition for Windows XP,  a small partition for IBM's boot manager, and several logical partitions for eComStation, one formated with HPFS and bootable, and the others formatted with JFS for my applications and data. I was able to shrink the primary partition from within Windows using Partition Magic 8.0. eComStation booted from it's installation CD without any problem, but I soon encountered a first and critical problem as MiniLVM reported that boot manager could not be installed in the desired location on my disk because of BIOS limitations (1024 cylinder limit). Even after upgrading the BIOS to the latest available level, this problem persisted. The only workable solution for me was to shrink the Windows partition even more, well below the 1024 cylinder limit. After that, eComStation and boot manager installed and ran without any problem. I have yet to find out if it is indeed the BIOS on my machine that imposes the 1024 cylinder limit, if the eComStation installer is causing the problem, or if the hidden pre-desktop area on the disk is causing the problem. I've seen several reports from other users who did not encounter this problem when installing Linux or OS/2 on the same machine.

4.2. Installing Device Drivers

I didn't collect any additional drivers prior to installing eComStation 1.1, as I expected the included drivers on the installation CD to be enough to get the base system working. Except for the sound card and the PC Card, this is indeed the case, so after the initial install I started adding a number of special drivers to my system to enhance functionality :

4.3. Sound

The Thinkpad R40's sound card is based on the Analog Devices' SoundMAX AD1981B AC'97 codec. I found two drivers for this chip on the web : one is discontinued from Analog Devices and can be downloaded from Hobbes. The other is still in development by Kiev Elephant's UniAud Team, a motivated group of OS/2 developers. I didn't bother to try the AD driver, and instead immediately chose to install the UniAud driver. I haven't stress tested it yet, but it seems to perform very well on WAV files. Unfortunately this driver still lacks MIDI support, but until that functionality becomes available, I'm sure that Timidity/2 will meet all my requirements in this area.

4.4. Video

I selected the Scitech SDD driver and a 800 x 600 resolution during the first phase of the eComStation installation, which worked well. Afterwards I installed Scitech SNAP Graphics  for OS/2 version 2.3.0 (currently still in beta), which perfectly recognizes and drives the ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 video card. With a 1400 x 1050 resolution and 16M colors, the 15" TFT panel is a real joy to look at. I haven't tested the video card yet with an external monitor attached to it, but I really don't expect any negative surprises here.

4.5. Modem

Before I even decided to buy this machine, I was already aware that the built-in Agere Systems AC'97 modem probably won't work in OS/2, so I can't say I'm very dissapointed by this. As I have a broadband DSL internet connection, I don't have an urgent need for a modem anyway, so I haven't spent time yet trying to make it work. (If anyone does, he or she is very welcome to report on this.)

4.6. Pointing Devices

The TrackPoint pointing device and UltraNav touch pad both seem to work fine with the standard trackpoint driver included with eComStation 1.1. and provide basic two-button functionality. The eComStation Mouse object reports the driver as "IBM 10.087 - Oct 23  2002". This driver does not support the special third button features of the pointing device, so this is something that I will have to investigate later on. The eComStation 1.1. installer correctly recognized the USB ports on this machine, and the Targus USB mini scroller mouse works fine out-of-the-box with the eComstation supplied USB drivers; even the scroller wheel works nicely. With the USB mouse plugged in, you can still use the Trackpoint and touch pad for mouse navigation.

4.7. Networking

IBM's device driver matrix for the R40 includes an OS/2 driver for the built-in Intel PRO/100/1000 LAN Adapter, which works perfectly well for me. The only caveath here is that the driver is distributed as a self-extracting Windows binary, so you'll have to extract it on a Windows system or use Odin. On the other hand, there is no driver available yet for the Intel PRO/Wireless LAN adapter, part of Intel Centrino compliant models.

4.8. PCMCIA Socket Services

This turned out to be the most difficult part to get working under eComStation, because it took me quite some time and help from a few friends to find a working combination of a socket services driver and a driver for my Wi-Fi card. I absolutely need wireless LAN on this machine, and as the built-in wireless Intel adapter is still unsupported, I decided to buy a  relatively cheap LinkSys Instant Wireless WPC11 PC Card. My decision to get this particular card was based on information I found on this site, and the fact that the PRISM chip in this card seems to be well supported by several drivers, although the card itself comes with Windows-based drivers only. The Thinkpad R40 has a Texas Instruments PCI1510 Cardbus Controller. Unfortunately, this chip is not yet supported by IBM's Cardbus support, however there is a patched driver available from Daniela Engert on Hobbes that accepts this chip and works very well. Make sure you get the driver dated Sep 7, 2003 as Hobbes possibly lists an older version that still lacks support for the TI1510 chip. I first installed IBM's Cardbus Support 8.0 (extract the archive with the '-di -ov' parameters) and afterward replaced the 'IBM2SS14.SYS' base device driver in config.sys with the 'SS2TICB.SYS' driver that I obtained from Dani. If neither IBM's Cardbus support nor Dani's patch work for you, there is still the commercial Socket Services for OS/2 product from APSoft, which support the TI1510 chip as well.

5. Advanced Power Management

5.1. System Battery Monitoring

Most functions of the eComStation Power object work, and the system correctly changes state when changing from battery to outlet power or vice versa. However, I have noticed that the information in the window under 'Power Optimization' and 'Battery State' doesn't get refreshed. The Battery Power widget in the eCenter works fine and correctly reports the selected power source and battery state, except when the battery runs completely empty, the widget reports an incorrect percentage. I've been working with this machine on battery power for over 7 hours, which completely satisfies my expectations.

5.2. Standby and Suspend Issues

Turning off the TFT panel works very well by using the Fn+F3 key combination. Fn+F4 puts the system in Suspend state. On occasion the system has completely locked up when awakening from Suspend. I have not found the cause of this problem yet, but I think it might be related to the use of the USB mouse. Without the mouse plugged in, I haven't experienced any lockups yet. As I had expected, the Hibernate feature (Fn+F12) just doesn't seem to do anything under OS/2.

6. Installing Applications

This machine comes with pre-installed software, including Windows XP Professional, Norton Anti-virus, IBM Backup and Recovery tools and more useful and not-so-useful IBM software. One of the first applications I installed under eComStation was Virtual PC 5.1 for OS/2. An FTP-installation of SuSE Linux 9.0 in a guest machine worked very well and completed within an hour. Performance of the Linux guest, using Sun's Java 1.4 and Mozilla for an on line banking application that won't run under OS/2, is completely adequate for my needs. I'm running the same Mozilla browser suite on eComStation without any performance problems. Even the loading time of the browser is quite acceptable to me now. I have installed Golden Code's native Java 1.4.x implementation. I don't have any benchmark numbers, but except for the loading time of applications, programs like XNap run on this system as if they were native programs. I'm using the CD/RW device on this machine with Audio/Data CD-Creator, which is a free and excellent WPS-enabled front end to cdrecord to write CD's. I have installed WarpVision for DVD playback, which works reasonably well. To summarize, this machine completely meets my first requirement of replacing my desktop  machine in terms of performance.

7. The Bottom Line

The poor way the Suspend and Hibernate features seem to work under OS/2 is about the only thing on this machine that I'm really not impressed with.  I don't care too much about the missing MIDI support in the UniAud driver and the lack of IBM support for the integrated modem and the PC Card socket. Nevertheless, I would recommend the Thinkpad R40 to anyone who needs an affordable machine that will run OS/2 or eComStation. As far as I'm concerned, it's nearly impossible to find another modern notebook today that will run OS/2 better than this one, except of course for the Thinkpad T40-series. The R40 is a relatively light weight machine, but still has that magnificent 15" TFT panel and it has a fantastic keyboard. With the Intel 1.4MHz Pentium M processor and 512MB RAM, it has enough horse power for the most demanding of my applications.

     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, 14:30 | This site is sponsored by Mensys B.V.