One of the primary purposes of Intel's Pentium-M mobile processor and Centrino technology was to breath new life into thin and light and ultraportable notebooks. While desktop replacement notebooks could turn to the high powered Pentium 4-M processor and Intel 845MP chipset, thin and light and ultraportable solutions were left with older, slower hardware at the helm. System designers had two options available when producing a notebook with a manageable size. They could either turn to the low voltage Pentium III-M chip, which proved to be fairly speedy but not very forgiving on the power side of things, or they could turn to the Transmeta Crusoe processor which proved to use very little power but at the sacrifice of speed. The Pentium-M mobile processor combines the best of both of these processors resulting in a power conscious chip that has plenty of performance.

For this reason the Pentium-M processor feels right at home in thin and light and ultraportable notebooks. Forced into systems with little room for cooling and a rather small battery, processors in these types of systems require a unique set of characteristics. Since the Pentium-M processor met these requirements and even exceeded them by providing impressive performance, notebook enthusiasts hoped that the new processor would find its way into a new breed of systems. And they did. We saw that in our Centrino based notebook roundup but one type of system was eerily missing from our initial roundup. Three of the four notebooks we examined could be classified as thin and lights and one that lied in the gray area between the thin and light and desktop replacement class notebooks. The missing class of notebooks that Centrino technology was targeted at: the ultraportable market.

It is not that there are not Centrino based ultraportable notebooks on the market, it is just that they are typically a bit slower to come to market than thin and light solutions. The reason for this is two fold. First off, designing and producing an ultraportable system is even more difficult than the already complicated process of making thin and light and desktop replacement class notebooks. In ultraportable notebooks space is at an even greater premium making layout and cooling solutions all the more difficult. The second reason that ultraportable Pentium-M systems are just now slowly coming out is because North American adoption of the ultraportable form factor has been fairly slow. Comparing the North American market for ultraportable notebooks to the Asian market in terms of units sold shows that ultraportable systems are much more accepted in Asia. Thus, North American notebook venders are a bit more cautious when releasing ultraportable models here in America, even though we personally find them to be among the most useful notebooks on the market.

Today we take a look at a style of notebook that many people hoped the Pentium-M processor would bring to market, a sub 4 pound ultraportable notebook. It is called the IBM X31 and indicates a direction that ultraportable notebooks are finally able to venture into thanks to Centrino technology; high performance, ultraportable, mobile computing with long battery life.

Construction - Build, Appearance, Size
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  • DL2 - Saturday, March 20, 2004 - link

    I currently have a Dell x300. I have had a problem with a spot appearing on the LCD. I have already had the screen replaced once soon to be again. I have heard that the X31 is more durable than the Dell. Can anyone out there that has the X31 speak to this? Specifically, I am interested in the durablity of the screen as it pertains to being able to carry it on trips without the slightest bit of pressure causing problems with the screen. Thanks. Reply
  • DL2 - Saturday, March 20, 2004 - link

    Reply
  • eshepard - Wednesday, January 21, 2004 - link

    Is the Mini PCI slot in the machine user-accessible? I'd be interested in installing WiFi there, if possible. Thanks. Reply
  • Anonymous User - Thursday, October 02, 2003 - link

    I own an X31. You can boot from any USB device. The option is presented in BIOS.

    A note about the USB 2.0. Each Thinkpad model line (X31, T40, etc) has many options available. Some are standard on specific model numbers, others are not. Read the specs in full and ask questions before you make a $1200+ investment and you should be fine.
    Reply
  • Anonymous User - Tuesday, August 12, 2003 - link

    I purchased an X31 and the models they are currently seelling through their express program DO NOT come with USB 2.0! You have to be aware of what model series you are getting. I am very annoyed by this. Especially as I was going to purchase an external USB2 optical drive. Anandtech should investigate this! Reply
  • jeffdique - Monday, August 11, 2003 - link

    I'm thinking about getting an X31 myself, and I have a similar concern, especially as regards getting Linux on the machine. The results of a google search on 'usb boot x31' seem to indicate it can boot from *any* USB storage device, including memory keys! Reply
  • Anonymous User - Saturday, August 09, 2003 - link

    i'm considering purchasing the x31. however I've always had a laptop that has an internal optical drive. the x31 does not. how does one restore windows? is any USB 2.0 external optical drive bootable? thanks. Reply
  • northernhats - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    I just purchased a used X31, It has all of the speed and durdability and the screen does have a great pretection line. I have not suffered from any mouse dents in the screen or on the edges, if thats what you need to know.

    Me, personally would rather have a mouse pad instead of the mouse button but I guess thats what makes the X31 model more durable during trips, the little mouse button does not make contact with the screen.
    Reply

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