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-- by Jim Forbes
IBM's new ThinkPad 760E reminds me in some ways of buying a luxury car: You pay big bucks for the pedigree, but a number of features that should have been included were left out.
Based on a proven design that sports a tilted keyboard, a fast 2.1GB hard drive and a 150MHz Pentium processor, the ThinkPad 760E is aimed at the serious corporate user. The 760E also comes standard with a 12.1-inch active-matrix screen, 16MB of RAM, an internal 3.5-inch floppy disk drive, IBM's MWave Digital Signal Processor-based internal 28.8Kbps modem, 2MB of video memory and a full complement of external connections. My evaluation unit carried a $4,999 price tag. The one glaring omission is a CD-ROM drive.
I like the design of IBM's notebook keyboards a great deal, and the tilt-up feature makes it easier to use this machine for prolonged periods.
Not all features of this notebook are as well-designed, unfortunately. The same switches you use to open the case also open up the machine for servicing. If the case is already open and you accidentally push the keyboard/display release forward, the access panel opens, the machine shuts down and you lose your work. Period.
Instead of the trackpad found on most of today's notebooks, IBM uses a pointing stick to control the cursor.
I liked the positioning of the user controls. I also liked the LCD panel that shows system status at a glance and conveniently displays the percentage of remaining battery life.
The display's native resolution is 1024x768. It's exceptionally bright and crisp, and its Cyber 9385/82 PCI-based video accelerator chip is amazingly fast. Anyone connecting to the Internet will appreciate this chip's speed.
The 760E is not petite. It measures 2 by 11.7 by 8.3 inches and its travel weight-including a small battery charger and cables-is about 6.9 pounds.
Virtually all 150MHz notebooks I've tested have exhibited dismally short battery life. At 1.3 to 1.4 hours, this ThinkPad's battery life, though short, is still longer than that of comparable notebooks.
Other performance attributes are a mixed bag. On our WINDOWS Magazine Wintune benchmarks, the 760E's 150MHz processor managed 270.3MIPS. Though its video and uncached disk throughput scores were impressive at 9.8Mpixels per second and 2MB per second, respectively, its application scores were uninspiring. Average times to execute our 32-bit Word and Excel benchmarks were, respectively, 32.33 and 17.33 seconds. Compare that to the 19.33- and 17-second times achieved by the 150MHz Dell Latitude XPi CD P150ST on our Recommended List, a system that costs $900 less and includes a CD-ROM drive.
Its shortcomings prevent this ThinkPad from earning a spot on our Recommended List. Many other notebooks on the market offer more features and better performance, and most of them are less expensive than the ThinkPad 760E.