Last updated: 2004-04-11

IBM Thinkpad X31 Laptop Review

Out of box experience

The system arrives in a small double boxed carton. It was light enough that it could have been just the media slice. Openning it turn out to be a good surprise -- it is the laptop itself. The box came with a top package that contains the battery, the AC adaptor, and some documentation. The laptop is below that package, held by a pair of foam inserts. First inpression is that the thinkpad is really light. Much lighter than my T21 (26478EU) which I carry arround almost everyday.

In General

Don't forget to condition your battery before using it too much.

On Boot

On booting up, XP starts to convert the FAT32 disk partition over to NTFS. After only about 5 minutes, XP boots up and enter its setup screen. The setup screen have music and a slightly annoying animated help icon. The setup screen ask for country and keyboard settings. licensing agreement, and then computer name and description setup, network connection type, and online registration for IBM, then Microsoft. XP then ask for user name for account setup.

application setup

For fun I started the IBM restore ultra, which started something in DOS. When it reboots the machine and suggest that I do the initial backup after I setup my application, I took its advice and cancel the install.

Now off to installing the basic set of applications that I use:

  • opera, with java, which installed J2RE 1.4.2_01 on the machine
  • SecureCRT -- for connecting with my *nix boxes
  • AOL Instant Messenger
  • winSCP -- for connecting with my *nix boxes
  • VNC -- for crossed platform remote control of systems
  • quicktime
  • free XP SMS Sender app from Microsoft.
  • PasswordSafe, a opensource application for storing passwords encrypted on your system.
  • Winzip, still the best
  • Inspiratoin 7.5
  • Graphics Viewer, the old AcdSee 5.0, not 6.x, which is way too slow and buggy.
  • Paintshop Pro for image editing

PreInstalled Software

The X31 came with Norton AntiVirus 2003. It ran it's registration wizard and licenced the machine for 1 year.

Wireless and the IBM Access Connections Software

When I got home I started the machine up and it found my home wifi network. It created some kind of location profile. Later as I was working on my wifi network to disable SSID broadcast (see a different post) I realized that there are multiple ways to configure the wifi network on the thinkpad. The right way to do this is to run the IBM Access Connections Software, and not use Windows to manage the wireless network. You really should read the documentation (helpfiles).

Also just found out that make sure you have your location profile set to "automatic network" type so that it will switch between the wired and the wireless adaptor. When I setup the profile by hand it did not let me enter both adaptors. If you don't do this it will not reconnect to the LAN connection after you plug back the ethernet cable!

After moving between two different wireless network for a few days, I realized that the Access Connection software have been automatically switching between the two profiles. Good design!

Bluetooth

Finally figured out how to enable bluetooth. You have to press the Fn-F5 key, it pops up a screen asking for you to manage the wireless connections -- wifi and bluetooth. Once I switched on bluetooth Windows installed the driver. The I realized that it is not good. I do not see the My Bluetooth Places icon. After searching the IBM website I find that I should install the IBM Integrated Bluetooth II software. I downloaded it from the IBM support site and proceed to installation.

Read the installation instructions carefully. To summarize:

  1. Make sure the bluetooth radio is off
  2. Run the downloaded software, which will unpack itself into c:\drivers\win\bdcact.
  3. Now run the setup.exe in that directory.
  4. Follow the instruction on the IBM documentation to install the driver.
  5. Switch on bluetooth using FN+F5
  6. Follow the IBM instruction to use the device manager to do an update driver step. Make sure to select the driver that is not signed.

Now you should have a My Bluetooth Places icon and also a IBM bluetooth icon on the task bar.

Recovery CD

The Thinkpad does not ship with any software on CD. The Windows XP Pro operating system is on the harddrive and on the recovery partition. But you probably want a copy of the XP Pro on CD just in case. If you call IBM within 30 days they will send it to you. I called after two weeks, they passed me to the technical support department and they sent me the CD for free.

Initial Notes

  • The machine is really smaill
  • The harddrive is rather noisy -- click click click.
  • Interesting note -- the AC adaptor brick is smaller than the one that I have for the T22. It is taller but smaller. It is rated at 3.6A instead of ...
  • My old thinkpad T22 port replicator (02K8667) works with the X31 also.
  • The X31 does not have a six connector full size firewire port, which means I still cannot charge my iPod with the thinkpad.
  • A nice design touch -- the battery has ridges on it so that it forms kinda a little grip area for holding the laptop.

spec

This is a thinkpad X31, model number 2672 REU.

Pentium M 1.6G processor
40G hard drive
Integrated Intel PRO/1000 Gigabit Ethernet
56KV.92 designed modem
Intel PRO/ Wireless Network Connection 802.11b and Bluetooth
IBM Embedded Security Subsystem 2.0
12.1" LCD display at 1024x768
16MB ATI Mobility RADEON

Hard Drive Upgrade

I recently updated the hard drive to 100 gig. Read the review/process here