AN INCREASING percentage of contractors own notebook computers, either as travel companions or as desktop substitutes. When shopping, look for features that can help streamline your day.
The IBM ThinkPad A30 (prices range from $1,499 to $3,099, www.ibm.com; 888/746-7426) comes well equipped for a contractor both in the office and on the go. The newly designed notebook features two modular bays (with various options that allow the buyer to customize the notebook); integrated wireless capabilities, including 802.11b (requiring wireless LAN) and Bluetooth wireless; eight shortcut Web navigation keys; the IBM Embedded Security Subsystem for safeguarding data and communications; and an enhanced, high-resolution FlexView display.
An integrated keyboard light allows users to work in low-light conditions. Docking options include a ThinkPad Port Replicator for easy cable management, and a ThinkPad Dock, which aids simple desktop expansion.
The model we worked with was the ThinkPad A30p, positioned as a desktop equivalent and an apt choice for a contractor who wants one computer that can do it all.
On the unit we tried, configured as suitable for a contractor, the modular bay on the right could hold either a separate accessory numeric keypad or a floppy drive.
The left bay held a CD-RW/DVD drive, though other devices, including a SuperDisk or a Zip drive for storage, could have been substituted. The unit came with a 1.2 GHz Mobile Intel Pentium III Processor-M and 512KB Level 2 cache, 256MB of RAM (128MB is standard; 1GB PC 133 SDRAM is maximum), Windows XP Professional and a host of IBM preloaded software.
The operating system and application software that come preloaded are secure on the service partition of the hard drive. The software can be reinstalled to original configuration as many times as needed.
The numeric keyboard, with keys laid out like a full-size desktop keyboard, slides out for use. Working with this calculator-style configuration is faster and may be more accurate than working with numbers keys across the top of the notebook keyboard.
The 802.11b facility allows users to go online without a wire to the computer, as long as you have a high-speed wireless connection on the premises within range. The A30p also comes equipped with RJ-11 and RJ-45 ports (standard telephone and Ethernet data ports, respectively), and an S-video in-and-out port that enables connection to a video camera.
The ThinkPad Web navigation keys include: Mail (for opening mail application or mail Web site); Home Page; Search (for opening file or Web search); Favorites (for opening list of favorites or bookmarks); Reload (of the current Web page); and Stop (which stops loading the current Web page). And when you are not using the Web, some of those navigation keys provide similar functionality in applications other than the browser.
The embedded security subsystem, when used with appropriate third-party software, automatically encrypts user keys, files and e-mails, helping protect data from intrusion over wireless and wired networks.
The 1600x1200 15-in. FlexView display is a TFT (thin film transistor) flat panel display screen.
Excellent screen clarity and brightness should be high on your list of priorities. (The A30p screen image was bright and sharp.) Not only is it easier to view what’s on screen, but it also could reduce neck and shoulder strain.
When you buy a notebook computer, typically you have the option of picking one of several native resolutions. The native resolution is the resolution at which the graphic card/ chipset is set, which is reflected in the size and clarity of the images on the screen. Even though you can change those resolutions away from default, these resolutions will not be as sharp as if you had selected that resolution in the first place. You need to make a good decision in the computer store.
At the native resolution, the icons are at their sharpest and the colors at their most brilliant. Any deviation from that results in icons getting fuzzy and colors less brilliant. Even though advanced graphics cards, such as the one in the A30p, will scale the image to fit the physical area of the flat panel display, a scaled image will never look as clear and sharp as the image generated at native resolution.
The screen has a 170û viewing angle, which is made possible through the FlexView display, using "In-Plane Switching" display technology.
In the ThinkPad A30p with a 15-in. screen, resolution choices are 1600x1200 pixels (showing more of the document, graphic or Web site page; suitable for large spreadsheets); 1280x1024 pixels, 1024x768 pixels and 800x600 pixels (which gives the largest size text or graphics on the screen, but showing less, overall, of the document or image).
William and Patti Feldman can be reached via e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 914/238-6272.