I’ve been hearing a lot of people wondering if an IBM (now Lenovo) Thinkpad T30 is worth it’s price anymore.
The T30, in used to refurbished condition, costs between $200-$400 on eBay.
The T30 is a very reliable machine. With the proper BIOS version (easily updatable), it can support up to 2Gb ddr ram and a 2.6Ghz Pentium 4m processor. Although it is not the fastest laptop on the market, at those specs it can handle enough power for most users’ needs, and it doesn’t weigh 6 pounds fully configured. There are only two major problems with the T30: the memory slot and the video card.
The memory slot issue is a heavily documented issue that occurs on nearly all T30 within their lifespan. After a while (usually several years after they are made) the front memory slot will cease to detect RAM. The problem can go unnoticed for quite a while if the front memory slot is filled. If there is no memory in the front slot, the computer will give out a series of beeps. This is only a problem for people (like me) running multiple ram sticks, and are not satisfied with upgrading to a single 1Gb stick. Fortunately, the problem can be fixed by either re-soldering the first ten pins of the slot, or, if you’re lucky, placing some pressure on the memory stick. See here for a more in-depth discussion.
As for the other issue, lack of video capability. The internal video card, a Mobility Radeon 7500, is great for mobility but sucks when it comes to gaming, and a bit slow with rendering. I am missing pixel shaders completely, and I’m left with only 16Mb of video memory. The Omega drivers improve the speed and convenience quite a bit (read the note on their site about which driver to use, if you do decide to use them,) but it still doesn’t make it work on many newer games. If you didn’t already know, the video cards in most laptops cannot be replaces, and are soldered onto the board itself. Fortunately the Dock II offers a solution. The IBM Dock II has a built in PCI slot that allows users to add a better video card, and I only paid $40 for mine. There is also a solution from Asus that may be available soon.
The screen options are not bad though. The T30 includes a 14.1″ (I don’t like anything bigger) XGA LCD that has a 1024×768 max resolution or a SXGA+ LCD that can support a 1400×1050 resolution for those who need the extra space.
The T30 also includes the usual Thinkpad conveniences. it has the Thinklight keyboard light, and the ultrabay 2000. The ultrabay allows major expansion. I have a CD-burner/DVD rom in my computer and a floppy drive in my dock. You can also get a DVD burner, battery, hard drive adapter, and a spacer to lighten it up without losing the structural support. It also has the dual pointing touch and trackpoint (which I no longer can live without.) It does stink that this is one of the few models without the media controls and win key, but between Stardock’s keyboard launchpad and the Lenovo key customizer it becomes bearable. The keys are short, and the keyboard includes a normal configuration on the “delete” group.
The hardware configuration on the T30 is great (it uses a little older hardware, but it still works well.) I have a bluetooth modem installed, which isn’t the right one so the modem isn’t hooked up properly, but I like having the extra wireless capability. It is plugged into the upgradable daughter card port, easily accessible from under the mini PCI slot cover. As for my mini PCI slot, I’ve added a Atheros wireless card. I did have to remove the card from the blacklist using this method. I can’t comment on the original wireless, the guy off eBay didn’t include it.
My battery is almost dead (as in it should have been replaced long before I got it,) and I still can sometimes get 1:30 out of it before the system completely dies. It is not a very power hungry laptop, and would probably run 3 hours or more with a new battery. It is very flexible in what it will use for power too. I’ve run it off everything from 12v to 21v at various currents without any complaining. The internal sound is nice and loud, and it comes with a built in mic. For ports, this comes with svideo out, 2 PC card slots, analog out, serial, and parallel. It also has 2 USB ports, but they are not 2.0, but 1.1 and require a pc card for 2.0. It further lacks DVI and firewire, along with requiring a dock or adapter for PS/2. Still, the dual ram slot design (when both are working) and replaceable P4m CPU make up for this.
Overall the T30 is a stable machine, and, comparatively, is worth it’s cost. It is much more reliable than anything else in it’s age and price range, and it’s capacity to upgrade makes it more than just a spare computer.
Up to 2.6Ghz P4m CPU with speedstep and 400Mhz FSB
Up to 2Gb DDR (pc2100, pc2700, or pc3300) ram divided among 2 slots
2 type 1 or 2, or 1 type 3 PCMCIA slot
2 USB 1.1 ports
PCI (only on dock)
PS/2 (only on dock)
Onboard Mobility Radeon 7500 w/16Mb video ram
14.1″ XGA or SXGA+
DVI (only with dock)
Soundmax integrated digital 2.0 audio
2 1 watt internal speakers
Audio out, line in, and mic in ports
mini PCI wireless
IBM fast infrared port up to 4Mbps
Optional bluetooth daughter card
Intel pro/100 VE ethernet
Thinklight lit QWERTY keyboard with Thinkpad, volume, Fn, and no windows keys.
Touch pad (optional)
16V 3.5A DC adapter
10.8v 4.4AH 6 cell battery
optional ultrabay battery