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IBM ThinkPad X31

About.com Rating 5 Star Rating
User Rating 5 Star Rating (1 Review)

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IBM ThinkPad X31

IBM ThinkPad X31 Ultraportable

IBM, Inc.

The Bottom Line

IBM's ThinkPad X31 is the standard by which all ultraportable systems are compared.
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Pros

  • Powerful Mobile CPU
  • Dedicated Video Processor
  • Excellent Battery Life

Cons

  • Optical Drive Requires X3 UltraBase Unit

Description

  • Intel Pentium M 1.3 GHz Processor
  • 256MB PC2100 DDR Memory
  • 20 Gigabyte Hard Drive
  • 8x DVD-ROM Optical Drive (X3 UltraBase)
  • 12.1" XGA TFT Display and ATI Radeon Mobility Graphics with 16MB Memory
  • SoundMax Audio
  • v.92 56Kbps Modem, 10/100 Ethernet and Intel 802.11b Wireless
  • Two USB 2.0 and One FireWire Ports
  • 10.7" x 8.8" x 1.2" @ 3.6 lbs. (without X3 UltraBase)
  • Windows XP Professional Operating System

Guide Review - IBM ThinkPad X31

9/21/03 - IBM was one of the first companies to produce an ultraportable system based on the Intel Pentium M processor and its X31 ThinkPad is still going strong. There are so many things that were done right with the design of this system that little can be said against it. It balances performance, using a 1.3 GHz CPU and dedicated ATI Radeon Mobility graphics, with superb battery life. Add the extended life battery and this system can stay running for what seems like forever. If there is one flaw with the ThinkPad X31 it has to be the X3 UltraBase being necessary for an optical drive. If IBM could redesign the X31 to include an internal drive, this would be even better. While made for businesses, this also makes a great consumer PC.
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User Reviews

Reviews for this section have been closed.

 5 out of 5
Over 7 years old and still going strong, Member flailhyena

When I bought my x31 in 2009 it was used, off business lease with at least three, maybe four years of use under it's belt. It showed slight signs of wear but for $150 it was in great shape! It sported a 1.6 GHz Pentium M processor, a quarter gig of ram and a 40 GB Travelstar hard drive. It also came with the ultrabay dock and a CD RW/DVD drive. Since I've had it I've upgraded the ram to 1.5 GB, replaced it's wireless b card with one that supports g/n and replaced it's rather slow 3500 rpm drive with a 150 GB Samsung Spinpoint. I've also gone through several used batteries. I can't emphasize enough how pleased I have been with this machine! When I bought it I was two years into University and had dealt with the death of two white ibook g3's in a row, not to mention the brain surgery that was necessary to upgrade/fix them. I decided I was fed up with apple's form over function mentality. Enter the X31. Not only is the X31, and most of IBM's business laptops for that matter, 100% pure function, but they also manage to look pretty sleek in my opinion. It is also tough. It's survived countless falls, drops, being crushed by 100 lbs of textbooks and water spillage. The only adverse affects are some cracks in the plastic palm rest bezel and the screen bezel. Functionality and ease of use deserve high marks as well. The volume controls and screen brightness are plain and intuitive. It even has a keyboard light that comes on by hitting „function“ „page up“. The ultrabase is a must have for this machine, and the two pair very well together. I love being able to shed half the machine's size with the flick of a switch. The ultrabase also can be outfitted with a wide range of optical drives and a second battery. For ports the machine has plenty for my taste. It only has 2 USB ports, but why would you need more than that for a portable machine? It also has a VGA, printer port, Ethernet and phone modem port on the laptop as well as a PC and CF card slots. The ultrabase adds a PS/2 and serial network port just in case you have a reason to still use those. Servicing or upgrading the machine is pretty easy. The ram is accessible through a door on the bottom and the hard drive slides out of it's bay in the side of the machine by removing just one screw. If you pick up an older x31 you are probably going to want to replace the Cisco Aeronet wireless B card with one that supports at least G or N. This is accomplished by removing three screws in the bottom to release the keyboard (they are conveniently labeled for ease of identification) and prying it out of it's bezel. This can be a bit tricky, but is far easier to do than some machines I've worked on. For performance, I'd like to think that it gets the most out of it's 1.6 Ghz Pentium M. (They are available with 1.4-1.7 Ghz M's) It's certainly not the fastest, and it is dated compared to todays machines, but for a college student who needs a portable paper typing and Internet browsing machine, it's a superb choice. On an install of Ubuntu 10, it can even manage to play full screen high res video. It can also do the same on a scaled back, clean install of windows 7, but this is nearing it's limit. Lower res video should be no problem though. I can't really comment on battery life because all the batteries I've had have been cheap second hand ones. At one point I was getting around 5 hours out of it with two batteries (one in the laptop and one in the ultrabay) but theoretically one should be able to do much better than that. There are a few drawbacks. First off the track point, which I personally like more than a track pad, can be awkward for some. It also has an annoying tendency to stick and drift on it's own. This is usually solved by popping the rubber cap off for a moment and sticking it back on. As I mentioned the plastic keyboard bezel is a bit spindly in places and tends to crack. This, however, does not affect the structural integrity of the machine. Also, care must be taken when swapping hard drives, as the plastic bay cover tends to crack. These are widely available for purchase on ebay for pennies though. The ultrabase has spaces for both a second laptop battery and an optical drive slot battery, however only one, or the other can be used at one time. All in all, this would be a great machine for someone who needs a portable workhorse on a serious budget. There seem to be a lot of these for sale „off lease“ from various companies and on ebay even three and a half years after I bought mine.

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Mark Kyrnin

Mark Kyrnin
About.com PC Hardware / Reviews

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