- User Rating: Excellent
Ease of Use:
Quality of Tech Support:
Pros:Size, weight, IBM keyboard, quality
Cons:No USB port, short battery life, non-cardbus PC card slots
The Bottom Line: A terrific subnotebook within its limitations.
First off, the IBM 560 can be many different machines, as these were sold in plain 560, E and X models, with processors ranging from Pentium 100 MHz up through fast Pentium II units. Mine is a bit different than the listed category in that I have the 150MHz processor and the 11.3" DSTN screen. The two models were sold at the same time, and other than the 16MHz speed difference (not noticeable) and screen (VERY noticeable - I'll talk about both), they are identical in every way.
First off, any Pentium Processor slower than 200MHz and older than the Pentium II means that the user will be limitted in choice of operating system. Windows XP is out of the question, and Windows 2000, while useable, will be a bit sluggish. That said, Windows 2000, provided you upgrade to at least 80MB of ram and a 3GB drive, is fine on this machine (I'm writing on it now). More likely, however, you will be using Windows 95 or 98 on this, which is no worse than using Windows 9x on any other computer, with 98 being fast on this model, and with IBM's utilities installed even adds hibernation (suspend to disk) and a number of other system management features. Running older software such as MS Office 97 or even 2000, this is still a very serviceable laptop which can get almost anything done most people would use a laptop for.
The screen is another matter entirely. I'll start by saying that I really dislike DSTN screens and that I find 12" about the minimum size. Despite the above statement, the 11.3" DSTN screen on my Thinkpad 560e is actually not that bad. Of course it has the usual DSTN problems like the cursor dissappearing when moved quickly and muddy colors, but the contrast is higher than that of the Toshiba Satellite Pro 440CDX I have at work, and unless it is held up next to a TFT screen, is entirely serviceable. Text is sharp and graphics (not motion) are clear - more than up to web browsing and office-type work. Still, if you are buying used, go for the 166MHz/TFT model, the 12" TFT is worth the extra $50 or so you will spend. I bought the DSTN model on ebay because the auction price was extremely low ($72) and the seller described the unit in "Like New" condition, which it was. After $20 shipping I ended up with a 4lb, 1" thick laptop computer for under $100. Usually these sell for $175, with the TFT models at $225-$250.
These machines were made around 1997/98, and lack two features I consider as important which were already common at that time. First is a USB port, which most high-end laptops had in 97, and the second is cardbus 932 bit) enabled PC card slots. My 1997-vintage Toshiba Satellite Pro has both of these features, and the even older Portege 650 (1996) I used to own already had the cardbus slots. I understand leaving ports off of a subnotebook, but this one actually has all of the usual parallel, serial and PS2 ports built-in, and a pair of PC card slots, though of the older 16 bit variety. Adding cardbus slots wouldn't add space, but would add cost as the 560E is built on the same motherboard as the older ThinkPad 560, which debuted in 1995. Still, these were high-end laptops aimed at executives with correspondingly high price tags, and should have been updated to include USB and cardbus in 1997/8. The 560 series did get these features when the 560X came out with the Pentium II processor, but these are much more expensive, and a year or two after the same features were available from the competition.
The case is very sturdy and well-made, with the typically IBM rubberized finish and red and black ThinkPad look. Pull one of these out today and nodoby will oooh and aaaah over it like they used to, but that is only because the thin and light Sonys, ThinkPad X20s and Porteges are smaller still. Wow-factor asides though, these are still very small and light machines, and have phenominal keyboard feel. I can't think of a better laptop for actually writing on - modern laptops could use a keyboard this good, and it is a valid reason to choose one of these over the latest $3000 status machine.
In conclusion, these machines, if used within their limitations, are a fantastic value, and even the DSTN model is good enough if the price is right. The lack of cardbus and USB means that you probably won't ever get wireless networking and won't be able use some PC card peripherals, though 16-bit modems and ethernet cards are available and work well. If you use older software (Office 97 is still VERY comparable in features and ease-of-use to the latest Office XP and uses the exact same file format) and get a new battery, you will find yourself with a very small, light and convenient laptop that performs very well indeed.
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Amount Paid (US$): 72
Operating System: Windows
Processor: Intel Pentium
Processor speed: Under 200
Screen Size: 11
Hard Drive (GB): Under 4