by July 11, 2001 0 comments

You’ll be forgiven for mistaking IBM’s ThinkPad TransNote for a portfolio used for carrying loose papers. That’s what we thought, until we opened the portfolio cover and saw the latest innovation from IBM.


On opening the portfolio cover, you’ll find two distinct entities: the actual notebook on the left and a digital notepad on the right. On lifting the TFT screen to an upright position, you’ll find the keyboard under it. The notepad even folds to the left, completely hiding the notebook under it to appear as if you are working on a simple paper notepad.

The notepad, called the ThinkScribe, is not any old notepad you take notes on; but a digital notepad that has to be written on using a specially designed pen that works on a single AAAA size battery. When you write on the notepad, your movements are tracked, and whatever you write or draw is saved as it is in the notebook. The InkManager Pro software saves your notes or sketches as ink files for future reference; you can also save them as BMP, JPG, PDF, PNG, PS or TIF files. It doesn’t convert handwriting to text, but only saves it as images.

A useful feature of the TransNote is that the notebook and the notepad have different power switches, so you can use one at a time. The notepad has 2 MB flash RAM, which can save up to 50 pages of text. So the next time you switch on your notebook, the data can be transferred to it.

IBM ThinkPad TransNote
Price: Rs 250,000
Features: PIII/600 MHz (with Intel SpeedStep), 64 MB RAM, 10.4” TFT display, digital notepad, touch-sensitive screen, ATI Rage Mobility 4 MB, 10 GB hard drive, integrated 56K modem, Ethernet port, and sound, two
USB, two PCMCIA slots, and one IR port
Pros: Innovative design, slim, easy to carry 
Cons: None
Contact: IBM India. I Floor
 Express Building, 
9-10, Bahadur Shah Zafar Marg
New Delhi-110002. 
Tel: 011-3702020, Fax: 3702021.

The notepad has a small LCD display, which displays the current page and document you are working on. So whenever you flip an actual page, you have to do the same on the digital notepad to keep it synchronized. A ‘getting-started’ guide with 20 pages of exercises and tips is included to avoid confusion. Left-handed people need not be worried, because a separate version is available for them with the notepad on the right, and notebook on the left.

The TransNote runs on a PIII/600 MHz, which can also be made to run at 500 MHz to save on battery power. The ATI Rage mobility and a 10.4” TFT screen, is touch sensitive–you don’t need a mouse and can do everything using the provided pen or even your finger. The notebook also has 64 MB RAM (expandable to 320 MB), and an integrated CrystalFusion sound card.

Though you will miss having a CD-ROM and floppy drive (which are available as external options), an integrated 56 K modem and Ethernet port are present to handle your connectivity requirements. 

At about 2.5 kg, the TransNote is not too heavy for carrying around. You have to make extra arrangements for power supply (a standard notebook power supply), as there is no provision to carry it around. The TransNote’s cover is made of a special material, which IBM calls Endurimer. It’s soft and smooth, built for carrying-comfort and keeping the notebook safe.

Also included in the package are three paper notepads, Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition, IBM Product recovery CD-ROM, and a boot diskette. For the OS you can choose between Windows 98 SE and Windows 2000.


When we tested the notebook, it gave a battery backup time of just below two hours, which is not bad. We did the test with SpeedStep (which reduces processor speed when on battery) disabled and the digital notepad switched on to maximize battery usage. It took around two hours to fully charge the battery after a complete discharge. We also ran Business Winstone 2001 on it, which gave a score of 18.7. This is a good score, which indicates that productivity applications will run quite smoothly on it.

Overall, the TransNote, which is possibly the first product that combines a notebook with a digital notepad, is an attractive choice for those who travel a lot. 

Sachin Makhija

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