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Need A Good Travel Laptop?

  • Consider a Thinkpad

Thinkpads are world famous for reliability and support. They are designed for rugged extended use, component interchangeability and are used by businesses around the world; therefore they are supported almost everywhere. Lenovo, who purchased the computer line from IBM, has good online support and downloads to help you setup for your unconnected life. They also have an online community, ThinkWiki, based around the machines if you have any general questions. While browsing I even found out that my version has a handy little keypad light for night time use, which turns out to be standard Thinkpad technology.

Purchase Used or Refurbished

Since Thinkpads are used all over as business computers, you will find a lot of them available on the used market. While we were in Singapore, containers full of them were being sold at Sim Lim Square. Some are returned at the end of a lease and then refurbished. Some are sold as is. You are getting older/slower technology but often that is exactly what I am looking for. I can buy four used ones, as backups, for the price of a new one.

A used laptop is just that, used and in whatever state it was in when the user decided to sell it. The battery may or may not hold a charge, and the operating system may not come with the proper XP installation CD or Windows XP Certificate of Authenticity or COA for short, because the T23 originally shipped with Windows 2000.

A refurbished/remanufactured product is one that is returned by a customer, for whatever reason, and then restored to original working condition after undergoing an intensive inspection process by qualified technicians. They usually offer the refurbished product at a substantially discounted price compared to a new model, but more expensive than a used one.

Find a used one on ebay

I've purchased a couple of computers this way. I get the features I want and a price you can't beat, but you have to be careful with the OS and the battery. There usually is no warranty, but most likely they'll let you return the product if it is DOA (Dead on Arrival). In most cases you won't get the Windows XP installation CD, so make sure you have one already.

You should be able to pay around $200, slightly more if CD's and COA are included. It's a slight upgrade from the T22 we have (has two USB ports). Make sure you get Windows XP and immediately clone the disk for backup. Add your software and then clone it again.

Search ebay for Thinkpad T41 - Should be able to get one around $400 with 512kB memory, 40GB Hard Drive, CDRW, and Windows XP. You can also find the T40 which is similar.

Confused about the model differences check the T-Series descriptions at ThinkWiki.

Tiger Direct refurbished

The T40 seems like the best deal. Last time I looked, you also get a one year warranty.

    • You Need: Window XP Professional, good battery
    • You Want: CDRW-DVD Combo. 40GB hard drive, at least 512kB memory,
    • The refurbished items do not usually come with the restore CDs but you are prompted to create your own on start up.
       
  • See T40 Tiger-Direct search results

Buy a new Thinkpad

In the business world you can't afford to have any down time. I'd say the same thing applies to a navigation computer. The new Core-Duo processor only uses the power it needs, so it has increased performance without having the huge power drains of the older model speed daemons. The good thing about a new computer is you are getting the latest technology with all the advances in efficiency, protection, reliability, and battery life. For example, the following power supplies are used for each model; the T23 uses 16 V at 3.5 A , the T40 increases to 16V at 4.5 A and the latest T61,R61 go to 20V at 4.5 Amps. This is the most power it can use, in actual testing the T61 uses 27.6 watts at idle, and increases to 58 watts under full load. Not bad considering the dramatic increase in processing power. You could easily use the base model as a video editing computer.

They are also increasing the protection with a robust, nearly indestructible case design called the ThinkPad Roll Cage. It includes a magnesium shell to protect the screen (T61 and R61 14.1' only) and body, as well as using shock mounted hard drives for improved strength, durability, and reliability. It even has an Active Protection System which determines if the laptop is accelerating, i.e. falling, and parks the hard drive to prevent catastrophic disk failure. The hinges are metal which is a huge improvement over most of the lower-end laptops I've seen with various contraptions used to keep the screen attached.

New Thinkpad R61 w/XP + 14.1" on Buy.com
New Thinkpad T61 w/XP on Buy.com (both screen sizes may appear)

What to look for in a new computer

If you are buying a new computer make sure you can get the installation disks for all the software that comes preloaded with your machine. Skip Vista for now.

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