Thin and light notebooks have always demanded that their users make compromises. In exchange for a lightened load, they had to be willing to deal with short battery life and forgo internal drives and the standard complement of ports. But with the ThinkPad 570, IBM has come as close as possible to creating a notebook that is both very portable and fully featured-and with its docking capability, offers a comfortable and configurable desktop alternative.
Clever engineering got all the necessary ports on board, including USB, fast IR and parallel, along with two stacked Type II PC Card slots. The notebook comes with an internal 56Kbps fax modem, so the PC slots are free for installing other connectivity devices.
The well-designed optional UltraBase easily snaps onto the 570 and provides all additional features that couldn't be piggybacked onto a light system. The UltraBase is hot-dockable with the laptop and adds two swappable drive bays. One houses a second battery or a disk drive; the other accepts a CD-ROM drive, a DVD drive, a second hard disk or an LS-120 drive, all of which swap easily in and out of their respective slots. The UltraBase also supports dual stereo speakers, an additional USB and audio-out jack, and a MIDI/joystick connector. With the UltraBase attached, the 570 weighs just under 7 pounds and measures 2.1 inches-not the lightweight it started out as but not a hulking behemoth either. Stripped down to its fundamentals though, it's a 4-pound, 1.1-inch wonder with all the quality that ThinkPads are famous for.
The evaluation model had a 366-megahertz mobile Pentium II processor, 64 megabytes of RAM and a 6.4-gigabyte hard disk. The system was pre-loaded with Windows 98; a Windows NT version is available for $100 more. The software bundle included Lotus SmartSuite and the excellent ThinkPad configuration applet that collects the most important system settings in a single place.
Benchmark tests revealed that the 570 is a good but not top-flight performer, with scores landing squarely in the middle-of-the-road range. But its middling performance was overshadowed by the machine's standout features.
The 13.3-inch TFT screen, which supports a maximum XGA resolution at 24-bit color, is excellent, producing crisp, even, corner-to-corner color that's clearly viewable from virtually any angle. Screen brightness is controlled by a conveniently located slider switch, and unlike many brightness controls, there is a dramatic difference between the brightest and dimmest settings.
ThinkPad keyboards are legendary for their comfort and usability and the 570's is no exception. With its well-spaced and sized keys and a layout that is free of strangely shaped Shift, Enter and Backspace keys, it is the only portable keyboard that comes close to replicating the experience of typing on a desktop keyboard. The pointing device is IBM's trademark TrackPoint.
The 570 breaks the standard rule that the thinner the system, the less battery time you can expect from it. Battery rundown tests on the system gave a run time of 3 hours and 9 minutes.
IBM is offering the 570 in configurations that will fit any enterprise's performance needs and budget. But note that IBM has a disturbing tendency to slap an extra charge onto almost every feature and add-on. This annoying nickel-and-dime pricing system tends to drive the base unit price up to alarming rates fairly quickly. Make sure the unit with the price point that you can live with also has all the features your users will need. The ThinkPad 570 is backed with a three-year warranty.
The IBM ThinkPad 570 is priced at $3,600, with the UltraBase at $100. For more information, contact IBM at www.ibm.com/pc/us/thinkpad or call (800) 426-7255.