OS/2 eZine - http://www.os2ezine.com
16 August 2001

Southern California OS/2 User Group - http://www.scoug.com

IBM ThinkPad A22e

Recently, while trying to cram more files onto the tiny 800M hard disk of my aging ThinkPad 365XD, I decided it was time to start looking for a new portable computer. Since I wanted to be able to run OS/2 on it, and I had had a very good experience with my ThinkPad 365XD, I settled on selecting a model from the current line of ThinkPads.

IBM's lineup of laptops come in four series, the i-Series, A-Series, T-Series and X-Series. The i-series are cost-sensitive products, the A-Series are larger desktop replacements, the T-Series are powerful but smaller, and the X-Series are top of the line space-savers. According to IBM, only the T-Series are supported for OS/2. Unfortunately, a more-or-less equivalent computer in the T-Series is about $1000 more than the A-Series model. After researching others' successes with the A-Series, I decided to take my chances on the A-Series myself.

There are three A-Series models, the A22e entry level machine, the A22m multimedia model (nicer speakers, faster video, additional inputs and outputs) and the A22p with all the premium goodies. Within each group there are a variety of models with different drives and CPU's.

The A22e's Specs

I was looking for a large hard disk (the A22e has 30G) a good sized TFT screen (14.1") IBM's trademark TrackPoint (I don't like those touchpads) DVD playback (I spend quite a bit of time on planes) and decent battery life (3+ hours.) CPU performance wasn't critical, but the unit with these specs came with a Pentium III 900. I thought that the standard 64M of RAM was pretty light for this class of machine, so I purchased an additional 128M SO-DIMM for a total of 192M. If you want to see the detailed specs for this model, there is a link at the end of the article.

Getting Ready to Install OS/2

This A22e came preinstalled with Windows 2000 on one 29G FAT32 primary partition, and a Windows 98 system recovery boot in a second 1G primary partition. I used Partition Magic 6 to resize the Windows 2000 partition, added a couple of extended partitions for OS/2 and installed OS/2's Boot Manager. I left the recovery partition at the end of the drive, and boot manager was able to start it and the shrunken Windows 2000 installation with no problem. Note that after you install boot manager, you will lose the function key prompt to get to the recover partition when the machine starts.

Take care to put OS/2 after the preinstalled Windows 2000 on the hard disk, I have heard that Windows 2000 doesn't like if you move its partition after it is installed.

The A22e also came with a license for Lotus Notes and Lotus Smartsuite for Windows, oddly enough, you have to phone to receive the CD's by mail and the software is not preinstalled.

Installing OS/2

If you're thinking about installing Warp 4 on this machine, you might want to think about an upgrade to eCS (http://www.ecomstation.com) or MCP. The A22e doesn't come with a floppy disk so you'll need a bootable installation CD. You can purchase a USB diskette drive as an option but I'm not sure if OS/2 supports installing from a USB diskette.

Once the installation was started, OS/2 picked up the network card and installed TrackPoint and VGA display drivers, so once I was connected to the local lan and the internet, getting the rest of the drivers needed for the installation onto the A22e was no problem.

Driver Support

I first installed the Scitech Display Doctor Special Edition version 7.05 drivers which support the Savage IX video chipset. The Savage is a respectable 3D accelerator capable of playing all the new 3D games, performance in OS/2 is good.

A trip to IBM's Device Driver website netted drivers for the Geyserville SpeedStep support in the PIII, the PC Card slots, and the TrackPoint IV. All these drivers were for the T22, but they work just as well on the A22.

The Crystal CS4624 sound card was a bit trickier. I ended up going to Crystal's (http://www.crystal.com) website, going into the legacy driver page, and downloading the version 3.05 drivers from there. I also tried the 3.06 drivers, but they would hang the computer just as the sound card would initialize after the blue PM screen came up 3 out of four boots. I have since downloaded newer 3.08 drivers, but I haven't tried them yet as I haven't recovered from the frustration I experienced with the 3.06 drivers.

The Crystal 3.05 drivers provide audio in both OS/2 and WinOS/2. One other problem with the sound card drivers is that if you shut down Windows 2000 and then start OS/2 without turning the machine off, OS/2 will give a trap 8 at bootup.

Take great care selecting your PC Card drivers. There are quite a few very similar versions available, I ended up using the version 5 ones from the T22 web page on the OS/2 Device Driver repository which DirDiff told me contained the newest files. The only PC Card I wanted to use was my Xircom CEM28 combo modem/ethernet card. Since the built-in ethernet works fine, I was only interested in getting the modem working. Unfortunately, while the card did work, it worked so slowly as to be unusable, and it wouldn't dial. This looks like some sort of timing issue with the drivers. The Xircom card works fine on my 365XD and when I boot Windows 2000 on the A22e.

The last item on my shopping list was Henk Kelder's FAT32 drivers. I installed these and was then able to access all the files on the Windows 2000 partition.

What Works, What Doesn't

Since OS/2 is not a supported platform for the A22e, there are bound to be a few things that don't quite work right. Here's a summary of what I've found so far.

Feature Works/Doesn't Work/Notes
Video Works (SDDSE 7.05)
Audio Works (Get the 3.05 drivers.)
TrackPoint IV Works (including scroller button feature.)
Power Management/Speedstep Works
DVD-ROM Works as CD-ROM, or as DVD-ROM with IBM UDF Drivers
ThinkPad Volume/Mute Buttons Work
Screen On/Off Buttons Work
Screen Brightness Buttons Work
Built-in Ethernet Works
Serial Port Works
Parallel Port Untried, Should Work
PC Card Slots Seem to Work, had problem with Xircom Modem
USB Port Untried, Should Work with Software Choice drivers
External Monitor Connector Untried, Should Work
Suspend Works
Suspend to Disk Doesn't Work
Built-in Lucent 56K Winmodem Doesn't Work with current LUCENT.EXE driver from IBM.

What's Missing

Most noticeably missing on the A22e in OS/2 is the ThinkPad utilities that are used to set up the ports and other features of the ThinkPad. Fortunately, you can set up the ports and other peripherals as well as shutdown timers and APM features in the BIOS setup when the machine boots. OS/2's APM takes care of most of the other features you need the ThinkPad utilities for, and the function keys for suspend, dimming the screen, adjusting the brightness and turning the ThinkLight on and off all work just fine.

IBM does not offer the ThinkPad utilities for the supported T-Series ThinkPads either. Also missing is the ability to suspend to disk. My ThinkPad 365XD was only rebooted about once every three months, I would just suspend when I was done with it since that was much faster. When you try to suspend the A22e to disk, it just beeps in complaint. Since OS/2 can read the FAT32 partition where the suspend file is located, I had hoped that it would work, but no such luck.


My favourite feature of this laptop has to be the ThinkLight. A tiny little light at the top of the screen that shines down onto the keyboard. I often find myself working in the dark and that little light makes it a lot easier to hit the insert and function keys the first time.

The next thing someone using this laptop will notice about this system is that it is FAST! The IBM Web Browser is positively snappy on this machine and PPWizard runs so fast I hardly get a chance to see it go by. This machine is truly a desktop replacement. It's even great for 3D games in Windows.

Like other ThinkPads it also has a slot for a Kensington lock, a must for when I use it at trade shows.

Battery life is very good, and unlike older systems, it gives you a lot more notice as the batteries near depletion so you can get it plugged in without interrupting your work. It seems to run about 3 hours for typing tasks, and is supposed to run 2 and a half while playing DVD's. The movie on the plane this week was good, so I didn't get to test that. SpeedStep also works like a charm, immediately dimming the screen when power is disconnected.

One thing I don't like about the system is the amount of heat it throws off. The battery is under the keyboard wrist-rest, so when it is plugged in, the wrist rests are quite warm even when the internal cooling fan is running. IBM warns against running the A22e on your lap when plugged in to prevent burns. Even on battery power the system gets too warm.

Speaking of the fan, unlike many models with fans, the A22e is very quiet, overall much quieter than my old 365XD was.

The Lucent Winmodem was a big disappointment. I had read up quite a bit before I settled on the A22e to make sure that there was driver support for the modem, unfortunately, the controller in the A22e is a new one (model 045C) and the Lucent Winmodem drivers available from IBM only support up to the 045A. That my Xircom PC Card modem didn't work either was very frustrating.

While the sound works fine for system sounds, I have found that MP3's sometimes play fast with any of several MP3 players I have. There doesn't seem to be any pattern to which ones play fast and which don't. Hopefully the 3.08 drivers will fix this problem when I get a chance to try them.


If you're looking for a competent portable desktop replacement system to run OS/2, the A22e is definitely worth looking at. Driver support for most of its peripherals in OS/2 puts it far ahead of other manufacturer's machines. Hopefully the little problems I discovered will be worked out with future driver releases. The modem was a disappointment and sound is a little iffy, but the blinding speed, big bright screen and cool ThinkLight make it a machine you'll get used to fast.

IBM ThinkPad A22e Model 2655 B7U
Manufacturer: IBM
Website: www.ibm.com (http://www.ibm.com/)
Product Spec Page: www.ibm.ca (http://commerce.www.ibm.com/cgi-bin/ncommerce/ProductDisplay?prrfnbr=1986092&cntrfnbr=1&prmenbr=1&cntry=124&lang=en_US)
Options in test unit: 128M SO-DIMM for a total of 192M RAM, Windows 2000 Professional.
Price: About $4050 Canadian including tax and memory.

Driver Sites:
OS/2 T22 Driver Page (http://service5.boulder.ibm.com/2bcprod.nsf/186d96ebef23e6438625689c007ac1ef/d3d503d2dace3c0987256a1d0074f0a2?OpenDocument)
Crystal Audio Classic OS/2 Device Driver Page (http://www.crystal.com/Drivers/audiodrv/index_new.cfm?pg=2&OpSysID=5&Archived=1)
IBM ThinkPad Driver Matrices (http://www.pc.ibm.com/us/support/thinkpad/tpopsys.html)
Dr. Martinus Notebook/2 Page (http://www.os2ss.com/users/DrMartinus/Notebook.htm)

Robert Basler (mailto:editor@aurora-systems.com) is the president of Aurora Systems, Inc. (http://www.aurora-systems.com) and a dedicated OS/2 user since he tired of rebooting Windows 3.1 twenty times a day.

This article is courtesy of www.os2ezine.com. You can view it online at http://www.os2ezine.com/20010816/page_3.html.

Copyright (C) 2001. All Rights Reserved.