IBM ThinkPad A22P
WHAT'S HOT: The best-equipped laptop IBM sells, the ThinkPad A22P is a Lexus among portables. It teams great design with top-shelf components, as well as a screen resolution of 1600 by 1200, the highest available for notebooks. Like most ThinkPads, the A22P includes two unique features built in along the top edge of the screen. The ThinkLight, an LED controlled by a small switch, illuminates the keyboard so that you can type in the dark. The Ultraport, a proprietary USB connection hidden beneath a small rubber plug, accommodates a small digital camera, a CompactFlash card reader, an infrared port, or a digital microphone. (IBM offers the microphone for $199; the other items are priced at under $100 each.)
The A22P also offers both a video-out port for hooking up big screens and a less common video-in port, useful for capturing images from a camcorder (you must supply the video-editing software). We were very impressed with the A22P's long battery life, which we clocked at 4 hours, 22 minutes.
WHAT'S NOT: The all-in-one A22P leans toward the chunky side, with a case that measures 1.8 inches tall and weighs 7.5 pounds (not including the AC adapter).
WHAT ELSE: Overall, the ThinkPad A22P is a close-to-perfect choice for eraserhead-pointer fans. It features IBM's trademark beveled black case, steady keyboard, red eraserhead, and deep-travel mouse buttons. The A22P's floppy drive, a fixed component, sits above the audio connections on the left side of the notebook. However, like all full-size ThinkPads, on the right side the A22P features a modular bay capable of accommodating a second battery or any one of five other types of devices (our review machine's price includes a CD-RW drive). Unlike with most other notebooks, you don't have to fumble for a lever on the bottom to remove a device--a side switch pops out a pull tab.
Withdrawing a device automatically puts the laptop in sleep mode; simply press the power button to return to your work. Need to save company dollars on add-in devices? The A22P can share batteries, an internal CD-RW drive, a Zip drive, a SuperDisk drive, or a second hard drive module with IBM's thin-and-light laptop, the ThinkPad T22. Upgrades are a snap: By taking out one coin screw, you can remove the A21P's hard drive in seconds.
The audio is pretty good for a notebook; buttons at the top of the keyboard quickly and smoothly raise, lower, and mute the volume. A fourth button launches the ThinkPad Assistant, a slickly designed on-board manual. Some sections are too terse, but overall it's an impressive reference, including helpful animations. The printed documentation, on the other hand, consists solely of one thin, plain booklet with a features overview and some troubleshooting information.
The A22P turned in a PC WorldBench 2000 score of 192, a small 5 percent edge over the typical Pentium III-1000 notebook with 256MB of RAM. IBM includes a license for Lotus SmartSuite, but you must call to order the software.
UPSHOT: Reasonably priced for a near-top-of-the-line ThinkPad, the A22P features a great design and includes lots of extras for heavy graphics work or digital video editing.