Merlin John finds that IBM's latest laptop is a revelation in a number of different ways For someone not particularly keen on laptops, the IBM ThinkPad iSeries came as something as a relief. After all, even strong people find laptops heavy for constant, everyday use. They might be fine for moving between workplaces and classrooms, but anyone advocating children carrying standard laptops between home and school, along with their books, has to have a screw loose.
The iSeries 1200 laptop, part of IBM's portfolio for the schools market, is relatively light for a laptop (just under six pounds) and manages to pack in a bright, fullish screen (12.1-in TFT) and a strong, responsive keyboard. There are also four extra programmable (Easy Launch) keys to help you get to your favourite programs with just one touch. Not all users will like the TrackPoint, a small "nipple" in the centre of the keyboard that you use instead of a mouse, but if you don't like it, just plug in a mouse.
There are the usual connections you would expect to find: serial, prallel, two USB, mouse and telephone socket for the internal 56k modem. This model has done away with the floppy drive (available as a pound;50 USB extra) and came with a 20x CD-Rom (upgradable to DVD) and PC card slots.
Lotus SmartSuite software, IBM's alternative to Microsoft's Office, was particularly interesting. As a regular Office user I thought I would miss it. I didn't. A test which the ThinkPad also passed with flying colours was its ability to handle speech recognition. You might say it ought to as IBM publishes ViaVoice, but it's surprising how many computer manufacturers compromise on sound quality. IBM's is excellent.
In short, the ThinkPad iSeries 1200 is a class act and, with IBM's envied reputation for reliability and telephone support as well as "managed services" accreditation from Becta, is an interesting contender.
IBM ThinkPad iSeries 1200 Laptop computer with Intel Celeron 500MHz processor, 64 mb of memory, 60 gb hard disc, internal 56k modem, 12.1-in TFT screenPrice: pound;879.
Stand: E90 www.ibm.com