Apple Sucks Now, Here’s A ThinkPad Buyer’s Guide

For the last decade, Macs have been running a UNIX-ish operating system on x86 processors. They’ve been fantastic developer’s machines, and the MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer.

This week, Apple unveiled the latest MacBook Pro and provided more evidence Steve Jobs actually knew what he was doing. Fifteen hundred bones will get you a MacBook Pro with a last-gen processor, an Escape key, a headphone jack, and two Thunderbolt 3 ports (with one port required for charging). The next model up costs $1800, ditches the Escape key for a dedicated emoji bar, and includes four Thunderbolt 3 ports.

In the past, I have defended people who choose MacBooks as their laptop of choice. A MacBook is a business-class laptop, and of course carries a higher price tag. However, Apple’s latest hardware release was underwhelming and overpriced. If you’re looking for a new laptop, you would do well to consider other brands. To that end, here’s a buyer’s guide to ThinkPads, currently the second most popular laptop I’ve seen with the dev/hacker/code cracker crowd.

The ThinkPad and Lenovo Weirdness

The ThinkPad was created in 1992 by IBM. In the first few years of development, three product lines came to the forefront. The 300 series ThinkPad was the bottom rung, the 500 series was middle of the road, and the 700 series was the best you could get. This is the same sort of thinking that went into marketing the BMW 3, 5, and 7-series. This is same marketing that went into naming the PowerBook 100, 140, and 170.

Here are the names Apple still uses for their laptops (and yes, these are the actual model names):

  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with 2.0GHz Processor and 256GB Storage
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID, 2.9 GHz Processor and 256GB Storage
  • 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar and Touch ID, 2.9GHz Processor and 512GB Storage

The ThinkPad naming convention makes marketing easier, product differentiation simpler, and by comparison shows us Apple without Jobs the first time was better than Apple without Jobs the second time.

In the world of ThinkPads, this tradition continues. In 2005, IBM sold their PC division to Lenovo, who now maintains the space-grade reputation of the ThinkPad brand. However, not all ThinkPads are created equal. The T, X, and P series are the only ThinkPads you should care about. While many Lenovo laptops have been the target of several security concerns and 0-days such as ThinkPwn, laptops not bearing T, X, or P-series label are disproportionately affected. Not only are the lower-grade ThinkPads (E and L-series) shipped with more crapware, the construction of the three premier lines of ThinkPads is much more robust.

With that said, here’s a buyer’s guide for the most common use cases we’ve seen.

I need a burner laptop for post-apocalypticia, or one Stallman can use

The Lenovo x220t. Image: Lenovo
The Lenovo x220t. Image: Lenovo

You have two choices: the T400 or X200. These are old laptops, yes, but thanks to Intel’s Management Engine this is the newest ThinkPad you can use. If you’re going this far back, install Libreboot, and disregard everything said on the Libreboot mailing list for the last few months.

If you only need a burner laptop and don’t need GPL coursing through every vein in your body, you’re getting an X220. With the X220, you’ll have a slightly more modern ThinkPad, but still one that can handle basic tasks, development, and pretty much everything that isn’t video, gaming, or photo editing. This is the Mad Max laptop, available for about $200 through eBay or the like. Install an SSD, and you have a perfectly capable daily driver. The X220 can be used with coreboot, and the X230 (the one with the downgraded keyboard), is now an active area of research for the leading ThinkPad expert on the planet.

I need to replace my 2013 MacBook Pro

Here’s the breakdown of the ThinkPad product lines. The X-series is the ultraportable line of ThinkPads. The T-series is the middle of the road – slightly larger than the X-series, but a little more capable. The P-series (formerly W-series) the portable workstation class of ThinkPads.

Lenovo X260. Image: Lenovo
Lenovo X260. Image: Lenovo

Taking the series as the first letter of the model name, next we can consider the screen size. The X260 has a 12″ screen. The T460 has a 14″ screen. The P50 has a 15″ screen, and the P70 has a 17″ screen. Obviously, the first number of the model name designates the screen size.

With that breakdown out of the way, here’s a decent buyer’s guide: If you want an ultraportable, buy an X260. If you want discrete graphics, get a T460s. If you do not have back problems yet and want a portable workstation, get a P50. Need a laptop with a Xeon and ECC memory? That exists. Within the X, T, and P lines of ThinkPads, there’s something for everybody. Don’t max out OEM RAM — just buy another stick. The same theory goes with SSDs and hard drives.

I need to edit video or do other work that is CPU and memory intensive

A laptop is not for you. Here’s PCPartPicker. Build your own desktop. It’s like Lego, but for adults.

This is a weird one for us

With the exception of 3D printers, Hackaday is surprisingly reticent to give suggestions on consumer electronics. That said, our experience in planning so many meetups, attending so many hackathons, and chilling out at so many conferences gives us a unique insight into laptop buying trends. Overall, the Hackaday community is split 60:30 between MacBooks and ThinkPads, with the remainder being taken up by rooted Chromebooks or some truly terrible Black Friday specials.

Although an endless wave of posts of the latest and shiniest product are highly popular and profitable from an editorial standpoint, this post is an outlier. We’re not going to become the next Uber Consumer Blog wasting your time with product announcements.

However, Apple’s latest MacBook announcement missed the mark and you won’t find many people saying otherwise. ThinkPads have excellent Linux support, and *nix better than Cygwin is coming to Windows. A portable computer is mandatory these days, and we humbly offer our experience in the hacker’s second choice of laptop.

247 thoughts on “Apple Sucks Now, Here’s A ThinkPad Buyer’s Guide

    1. Yeah – especially given the Superfish disaster from last year, I don’t feel particularly comfortable buying a Lenovo, even if their higher-end machines run stock OS.
      And yes, I know you can wipe the machine, etc. The whole thing just feels uncomfortable.

        1. Methinks your vision is rose-colored. A colleague that works for the DoD (MCTSSA) has indicated that no Lenovo product is allowed on site. Mention something about bad stuff in the UEFI (BIOS).

          Thinkpads were, at one time, simply the best. No longer. They are compromised.

          1. wow and macbooks are less compromised? 6 months minimum to infinity for them to release security bug fixes for their software stack. no thanks. and the issue with uefi vulnerabilities is industry wide not just lenovo’s alone. they just get called on it because most businesses out there buy hp or lenovo or dell laptops for their people and lenovo got caught with a bad update utility last year that was flawed and some crap bloatware. hp and dell have suffered the same fate in the past it’s just lenovo’s turn now in the public eye.

            the only real option that makes sense is if the industry moves away from uefi and or stops using pre-built modular uefi code and rolls their own and releases drivers for windows for the hooks into thier custom uefi. linux would be ass out at this point of course.

            there is no secure mobile platform right now. one platform or the other pick your poison apple or pick your tainted windows slab, there’s gonna be vulnerabilities on either.

          2. AFAIK There is a blanket ban, and Lenovo hardware is currently not available for purchase anywhere within the US government. Co-worker tried to buy one and X1 Carbon last month and it got immediately bounced back from the first level of purchasing approvals.

          1. fresh windows image; feh. to author of article, feh as well; bumping old post, but, having got in to a macbook ME region easily with the same SPI programmer works for neutering my rackmount gear some of ME problems, aka one of the ARM devkits kicking around a substantial acclimation on this desk (some people do consider the supply chain a major problem tom…and your incredulity notwithstanding we aren’t just working in self interest, everyone deserves not to get superfished, or management engine hijacked by some ring -666th state attacker i’m sure you’ve got an apologetic for) methinks ye critics of real threat modeling suffer some hubris, because there is absolutely ME in the mac, you seem to prefer your poison packaged different yet still toxic…back to fresh windows image; is laughed to death on that one. prefer slightly more nuanced threat model; different metal, and mostly bare, ported libntru first (done, the patents are up this year on part, not that i care much on that), arm-none-eabi toolchains are friend; i prefer clang; but gcc is the one of the hour, although, if you stay close enough to the metal, is fun. because of the asshats who can’t keep out of our business, i’m audit down to the microcode and code to it. of course be reasonable in all things, with threat modeling, my reason, is never again…and freedom, not stallman kind, bernstein kind (, read it…or regret it).
            um if you think erasing the disk and installing “fresh windows image” is doing anything but maybe, maybe eliminating SOME of the telemarketer tier of attackers, you’re buying from a godawful vendor, in addition to the fact that you telling someone what to consider in a threat model, is pure cognitive dissonance. i mean unless you work in a SCIF and have the code, to your windows build, which is a little beyond most people’s capability, you’re more practically and quickly going to learn assembler based on less compromised metal and build hardware crypto devices from accessible kit, as a certain agency i gather our DOD poster is familiar with, has been known to favor, using accessible tech in creative ways…
            although jesus tom, i’d almost bet a rusty JTAG that coming out with that line, you’re the crappy lurker NSA poster. no offense, DoD person, DARPA <3 is tempting to ask about true random number generation to hear autism on pls don't use quantum noise from avalanche breakdown or chua to create one time pads
            i may be an asshole for vague; but; my skin is in and unlike stallman, i'm no idealist, just cypherpunk. BSD license everything, were it to me, IDGAF license. still love my z800 and some proliants, (also love cr4sh reverse engineering blog, ty :) )but no more intel for me… until someone comes up with affordable power8 (i like talos but no $ just bought house) i'm sticking with not just ARM but plenty of it, moving forward, but i still has an infiniband backbone in here because lulz. i think is time to focus on embedded applications; currently, coding baremetal smartphone, really did port libntru first. first rule of hardware design, no baseband integrated. and, M7 not A9. need good DSP for part of this plan….is write kernels til the day i die, an give cryptography away til it results in another export ban, and then go twice as hard, hiding idea in barcodes

      1. In fairness, though, they would never pull that shit on their ThinkPad line. I can see not buying their other stuff for that reason, but if another Superfish happened to the ThinkPad series, their business clients would drop them so quickly that they wouldn’t even have time to fix the problem. When you’re dealing with enterprise, security’s super important.

      2. Thinkpad is a different division than consumer Lenovo. It’s still based in North Carolina and is still overseen by most of the same teams that were with IBM before the sale. Thinkpad is basically its own brand. Much like Motorola, which is also owned by Lenovo, but the dev team still works out of the same office in suburban Chicago.

    2. If your willing to flash coreboot, then the security issues become a moot point. The newest models still aren’t supported, but the X230 is, which is an ivy-bridge full wattage i5 that has a similar passmark score to the newer low tdp models.

      1. I fell off my bicycle in traffic off a bridge in the rain onto the corner of my t400 and it bent it. I couldn’t walk for three days and the lenovo kept me company because it still works. I watched the twitch feed of a fish playing pokemon.

    3. Yo, I was a huge thinkpad fanboy for as long as I can remember…. until the last 3 models my girl and I got.

      Holy crap, what a change. Build quality is awful, and they wear like a cheap low end laptop. And we INVESTED in these laptops as well, you think their high end laptops would work. Not only that, but there are tons of other things to consider. Lenovo is a vendor who install(s/ed) spyware/adware and insecure certs on their machines. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that I’ve had to RMA two different laptops twice due to hardware defects?

      Also come on guys this is by every definition available not a hack. Hate to be that guy but give me a break

      1. I agree, i LOVED my old IBM thinkpad, it lives on to this day doing little maintenance tasks and as a serial console despite drops from every possible place one could drop a laptop in the house with only a small blotch on the display and a conking out battery (to be expected on a laptop that old)

        a friend of mine had a lenovo “Retro” edition thinkpad die (HDD failure) just driving from maryland to ohio in a bag in a trunk of a car, he replaced the HDD to have it last another 6 months before the henge failed

        that is not even diving in to the backdoors (more like giant C4 blown holes in the back wall) in the BIOS and the superfish spyware

        As of right now the only laptop i can recommend is alienware for the robustness (i have had a M15x for a few years now dropping it all the time only issue i have is the backlight died) but its heavy as all high hell, expensive and loaded with bloat

        RIP good, well priced, durable laptops

        1. I like my Alienware M11x R3 so much that I bought another one as a back up for if it ever dies. Shame they stopped producing them, replacing it with the Alienware 13, which has the PgUp and PgDn keys are in the wrong position.

        1. Nope, POSIX and unix are two different things, Unices are POSIX but not all POSIX compliant OSes are Unices. F.e : Windows is POSIX compliant (ie. implementing the POSIX functions)… not a unix OS last time i checked…

    1. Sidebar, wayyy back in the day, when you still got excited about a full multimedia CD ROM cover disk on PC World, I tried learning linux on a “Fully POSIX compliant” Linux Distro, “FT”…. yeah, that didn’t work well… so here’s a n00b trying to figure out how to make any other linux source posix compliant to install it, or how to convert big iron posix compliant source to compile and install on x86…and all the documentation for this particular distro was badly translated from german. It was also an early attempt at a live CD, great 600MB on a 4x CDROM trying to cycle through the 2MB buffer on my struggling 486…. it had varying options for HDD footprint… I cleared more space, and more space, and more space, until it sucked up my whole disk and it was still Thrashy McThrashyface…. bugger knows what it was taking up all my HDD with, because it turned out most of it seemed to be referring back to the CD…. what the actual freak are you doing? 400MB of space is meant to be gzipped source, I’ve got 350MB installed, wtf is installed???? … all it taught me was how to be a relative LILO and fdisk ninja, for the time… I threatened it, I said, “One day, I’ll get a box of 50 floppies and download slackware, then you’ll be sorry!” …. actually slackware was a bust on that system too for some arcane hardware reason I can’t remember now. But I only had to do a basic 10 disk install or something to figure that out.

  1. Running Linux… OK. But few commercial applications (yes, I run many linux desktops for heavy computing). The problem is Win10. I would not touch it with a 3 meter pole (10 ft for SI challenged). So I am stuck in Mac world for laptops. I am dreading when my trusty Macbook Air 2012 dies. Good machine. Nothing good to replace it with :(

      1. guys, you have plenty of time left with your beauties. i sold my gen1 MBA (2.0GHz C2D, 2GB RAM, 128GB SSD) by end of last year. I’ve been using it since 2009 – that was solid 6 years. to be honest, it was running quite OK, only the speaker failed on me, which was a (quite hefty) $40 part to replace.
        if i did not longed for the at-the-time-not-announced next OSX release, i could be using it even now, as it ran el capitan. of course the 9400m geforce was not up to the task if it came down to 3d, but otherwise everything else was quite ok. and it only had a single USB2.0 port :-)
        i am happy with my 2015 MBA now. at least apple did not ditch it (for now), it’s still in the range, and tbh i don’t really need more. the only stuff i’d done different, is to have magsafe and TB2 port on the _same_ side – using this with external displays in clamshell mode is ridiculous with wires hanging out from both sides. the 3d printed cable bundle dockers do not work here.

        with regards to useless gimmicks and shameless pricing on the new MBP, the biggest pain-points are the TB3 ports – you can’t even have your iphone charged by it. neither will work the “courageous” lightning earbuds.

        oh yes, magsafe, we’ll miss you.

        1. You got 6 years out of your Macbook because you were able to replace the hard drive with an SSD and upgrade the RAM. That isn’t happening with the latest generation. A failure after the warranty with one of those parts and you own a brick now.

        1. I run Yosemite on a quad 3.5 GHz i7 (3770K) with 32 GB Ram, about 32 TB of HDD and 1.24 TB of SSD. I was gonna update to El Capitan, but I got lazy… Then Sierra came out, and now even the direction of Apple’s software is starting to concern me! Hiding the option to run software that did not come from the App Store, unless you already had it selected and did an upgrade (vs clean install). That’s messed up, and just all together too much a a disturbing sign of the closed off direction they are taking the Mac…

          I just hope Apple wakes up before I decide Sierra or El Capitan might be my last Mac OS update…

          1. **EDIT**
            I meant to type 21 TB of HDD, not 32 TB… Fingers were a key over, I guess… Curse this lack of editing. My rig is nice, but it ain’t 32 TB nice! LOL :P

      1. Typing this on my hackintoshed HP4530s. Not exactly new, nor high-spec by today’s standards, but I’m very happy with it as a daily driver when away from my (also hackintoshed) desktop machine. As long as you buy laptops / components that are well supported, and are willing to spend a couple saturdays fiddling around for the initial setup, it’s well worth it.

    1. You can still get many tier-1 and 2 brands with Win 7 Pro. i.e. I recommend Toshibas to my clients when they ask about a laptop. I’m typing this on a Satellite Pro L500 with a Core2Duo. It’ll fail one day, but it’s doing just fine at the moment. My wholesaler still lists a variety of Toshiba, Asus, HP and Lenovo models pre-installed with Win 7, and either Win8/8.1 or Win 10 recovery discs.

    2. Put your favorite linux distro, then create a virtual machine for windows / hackintosh. Not too difficult to work around most issues brought up already. You could just use your thinkpad to remote into your workstation through vpn and worry about security issues elsewhere. I liked the article and technically reflashing bios could be considered a hack for the ‘not a hack’ posters.

      1. I’ve often thought about using a headless Arch installation and then using whatever VM is necessary at the time (Mac, Win, Lin, etc.). I’m not sure ultra-compartmentalized is the way to go, though, as sometimes I just need all the things all in one place.

    1. +1 for System76. I have a Gazelle too, with the i7 and 16GB. I got it with the 500GB hard drive and bought a 256GB NVMe SSD on eBay.

      The only issue I’ve had is one of the corner screws stripped its hole a couple months after purchase, but that’s covered under the parts and labor warranty.

    2. The real brand is Clevo (system76 is one of many OEM that sell Clevo). It is Taiwanese brand-less laptop affiliated with MSI. It is the ultimate configurable laptop. I have the W230 ST for 3 years and it is still top spec for under $1000.

      1. Seems that way across the board, last 3 years barely anything moved performance wise, you’ve got a top end 3 year old system, it’s still a top end system. Even 5 yo, top ender still a mid-high at least.

    3. +1 on System 76. I have Lemur, which is a little smaller. The pricing is quite competitive, so I just maxed RAM/SSD out-the-box to save myself the hassle. I love the fanatical support and the assurance that Win never touched my hardware.

    4. I wanted to like System76 because they ship with Linux. I have a Lemur and a Starling, both with faulty (vertical lines) displays that System76 refused to fix. Build quality is shoddy. Great pre-sales support though.

    1. Dude, chill out!

      He makes one mention of a Razer laptop in that post. Pretty much everything else is an install guide for a specific Linux distro.

      You’re comment is as bad as standard fan-boy drivel. So what if plenty of Razer products are kinda crap. Plenty of people enjoy them. Sure QC is spotty, but they’re often decent, if overpriced.

      I personally like the specs on the Razer Blade Stealth. It has some really nice specs, and given Lenovo’s shady shit in the recent past, I’m losing my Lenovo Fanboy badge. I’ve had an X200T, X201, X230, X1 Carbon 1st gen, and I’ve been looking at getting a new laptop in the next 6-12 months. But I’m not quite liking the new Lenovo models, and wouldn’t trust them as far as I could throw a desktop any more.

    1. Let me put you in my position.

      I say OS X is Unix. People say it’s actually derived from OpenStep, Mach, and ultimately BSD.

      I say OS X is Unix-ish. People say it’s certified as a Unix product (twice already in this thread).

      You’re not correcting anything, and I don’t care about your opinion.

          1. Now I know how to customize my next Mac’s Emoji Bar. Two buttons, one corrects you if you say OS X is Unix, the other corrects you if you say it’s Unix-ish.

            And no ESC key, because THERE IS NO ESC!

      1. Brian, the “Unix/Unix-ish” debate has been going on for at least 30 years by now. Back when there were a lot of (non-PC-compatible) workstation manufacturers, the operating systems – not generally called “Unix”, but more often names like “Somethingix” – were anywhere along the spectrum from “pure” AT&T to “pure” BSD to anywhere in between. It made porting software between platforms interesting at times, but beyond that was just something to argue about.

        Smart move on your part to not worry about it.

        1. ^this. All day long. Idk what the supplyframe overlords think theyre doing with their new “alienate the community ” policy but I for one wont continue to be part of it.

        2. ^this. All day long. Idk what the supplyframe overlords think theyre doing with their new “alienate the community ” policy but I for one wont continue to be part of it. Enjoy the exodus you’ve brought upon this once great sitr

        3. ^this. All day long. Idk what the supplyframe overlords think theyre doing with their new “alienate the community ” policy but I for one wont continue to be part of it. Enjoy the exodus you’ve brought upon this once great site

      2. ^this. All day long. Idk what the supplyframe overlords think theyre doing with their new “alienate the community ” policy but I for one wont continue to be part of it. Enjoy the exodus you’ve brought upon this once great site

      3. A simple Wikipedia search will clarify that OS X is not UNIX, nor is it Linux. Rather they are all operating systems which adhere to POSIX compliance. This is not a difficult concept, why is it so misunderstood!?

        Most of us will encounter POSIX via the C headers for programming threads, sockets and other low level I/O access. Notice how windows is the odd one out.

        1. “Apple’s macOS (previously known as OS X) is a UNIX 03 registered product,[19] first becoming registered with Mac OS X v10.5 “Leopard” on October 26, 2007 (when run on Macs with Intel processors).[20][21] All newer versions of macOS (except Mac OS X Lion) have been registered” – Wikipedia

  2. Good guide. I agree with pretty much all of it. I’ve been using ThinkPads for about 10 years and am pretty happy with the laptops themselves. (I wish every laptop had the little eraser-head nubbin shown in the picture in your article.)

    Since you are talking about buying Lenovo ThinkPads, there are a couple of things to be aware of before you buy. You’ll still buy, but you won’t feel like you got a bad surprise….

    1. Lenovo changes power bricks like crazy. This matters if you like to have extras (one at home, one at the office, one in the travel bag, one in the flying car). Officially, you will need a power brick of the same generation as the laptop, and they do fiddly things with the connectors to try to force you into it. The power supply also “talks” to the laptop, so some combos won’t work even if you can get it physically connected. There are aftermarket power bricks for most models, but you won’t know if it will actually work until you try it; so make sure you can return it if it doesn’t work.

    2. Speaking of power bricks, some of the beefy ThinkPad models need a 135 watt or 170 watt power brick. Those things are probably going to be the closest things to actual brick size that you will ever encounter. See item #1.

    3. Similar fiddly business with docking stations, if you are so inclined. I use a dock at work because I can have the laptop screen plus two external monitors blazing away. If you are buying from Lenovo, you can probably use their accessory finder to get the right model. If you are buying aftermarket or used, it can be trickier to get the right thing because some docks look very similar in tiny eBay pictures.

    4. You might be able to use the ThinkPad’s power brick with the dock. Or, you might not. You need a bit of luck and a strong wind at your back to get the right combination.

    1. The older non-workstation Thinkpads used the same 65 watt power supply with the barrel connector from the T60 to the T430 so that may be a good argument for getting one of those. I have about 4 power bricks for my X230 at this point because I keep finding them left in the electronics recycling bin at school.

    2. Samsung used the exact same 19 volt brick for all their laptops from back in the ancient days of the mid 1990’s through at least 2008. Dunno about after 08 because with the demise of MPC (all Micron, micronPC and MPC laptops were rebranded Samsungs) they’ve pretty much abandoned the north American computer market.

      From 1995 up, all NTSC Samsung televisions (except PIP models) used the same remote codes. Made it real easy to setup universal remotes for them, just program the one number and it worked.

      If only other electronics companies would do things like Samsung instead of constantly and pointlessly making changes to things solely to be changing them.

  3. Sure, there isnt that much innovation in this gen, although quite a bit of change. That said the performance increases seem significant and the screen does seem nicer.the dropping of the magsafe is utterly horrifying: that connector is one of the nicest pieces of industrial design the laptop world has ever seen. Usbc and the touchbar feels underwhelming, especially in wake of the huge windows ipad studio thing. That thing feels like what apple wouldve done if the were still innovating and gave a sh1t about their pro users. But i digress: hye new mbp seems like a decent machine, and really no reason to jump into the lenovo/windows swillpool.

    1. If Apple cared about pro users, they’d be kicking out an 8 core box (literally, a box) with six fully connected PCIe x16 slots, with the ability to have 128gig (or more) RAM installed.

      But after the PowerMac 9600 Apple has been hell bent on reducing expandability or making adding peripherals require a rats nets of adapters. The Power Express would have been an excellent successor to the 9600, especially with it having Ultra SCSI built in, but what we got instead was the beige G3 with its pathetic 3 PCI slots.

  4. Having seen some generations (since X31) of thinkpads first hand (inside as well), I can say for shure, that a thinkpad would unfortunately not be my next first coice. The X220/T420 are the latest I would consider having an outstanding keyboard and robust case. Since then the legacy of IBM seems not to matter much any more. I am not saying that I would ever choose a Macbook… At the moment I can just not find a laptop I would want to pay a lot of money for.

    1. I’ve considered getting an old X220 recently. I’ve had an X230 and X1 Carbon, and I miss my old X201. I’d love a 14inch X201 though. I do like the larger screen on my X1.

    2. It’s possible to swap keyboard from a *20 series onto a *30 series.

      Requires a combo of software and hardware hacking, but last time I checked, they’re well documented and well within the skill scope of the average reader on this site.

      Biggest hassle is acquiring the parts at a reasonable price, but USB 3.0 is well worth it without having to waste the expresscard34 slot on a adapter card.

    3. Have you put a lot of miles on a T420? I bought one as soon as Lenovo announced that they were dumping the last good keyboard in existence and while I’m pretty happy with it I find that the case isn’t quite up to the traditional Thinkpad standard. I’m finding that the plastic on the deck is wearing shiny spots and cracks are beginning to extend from the holes at the front for the latches. That and everything secured with an adhesive has fallen off. Not really a big deal, I can replace the deck, just wondering if this has happened to anyone else.

      With the memory bumped to 16 gig, the drive swapped for an SSD and a perma-ban on Windows > 7 I have a machine that I hope to be able to use for many years to come. God help me when it has to be replaced because I don’t like the look of any laptop currently in production.

  5. I can recommend the Dell XPS 13 Developer Edition. Official Linux support and cutting edge hardware.
    If lots of IO ports are important than the XPS 15 but I have to say that with USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt 3, many different buit-in IO ports aren’t that important anymore imho.
    The PCI-E passthrough of Thunderbolt 3 is also a very interesting and powerful feature.

    1. Seconding that, rocking a Dell XPS 13 here. I had a look at modern thinkpads (there’s one with an OLED screen, shiiiiny) but they seem to be missing modern connectors. I want USB-C with Thunderbolt 3 out the wazoo, give me 12 of those! Thinkpads won’t even give me 1 except on their P50 and P70, the smaller of those is still 2.55kg where my XPS 13 is about 1.2kg.

      Amusingly the latest macbook with 4 thunderbolt 3 ports, basic command line tools out of the box and a decent display is the closest to my ideal laptop so far. Gonna have to try one in store though to check the keyboard.

    2. For more power (but higher price of course) check out the Precision 5520. Still pretty light, similar ports, but Xeon procs and loads of RAM. Also ships with Ubuntu (and it actually works well).

  6. ” MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers… and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer”

    I beg to differ. The vast majority of engineering computing is done on PC’s.

      1. Depends on the kind of programmer. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a PLC programmer using a MBP(I suppose you could with the newer ones with an ethernet dongle and a VM), to the point where one manufacturer doesn’t list any non windows support for their products. I’ve also never seen a industrial robot or a CNC hooked to a mac(excepting the really old ones). ABB also seems to not offer any software for macs, FANUC is anyone’s guess as you need to contact them for a product page. So you’re stuck with a VM on frankly underpowered second rate hardware.

        I don’t even want to think about doing CAD work on a MBP. And if I want something for CLI or NIX stuff, I’ll use a real NIX without all the fruity crud and hiding stuff from you. Let’s put it simply, Macs are vastly underpowered for their price tag, hardware limited(apple writes the drivers for the system parts, so if you want to go external for say a GPU, serial card or similar, you depend on third party drivers), feature horrible ergonomic design(has johnny boy heard of a chamfer mill?), are dongle centric, and spew words with no real meaning(Retina anyone?).

        And yes, I know what I said is inflammatory and polarizing. If you have a factual rebutal I’d been happy to hear it. I realise only part of this comment is responsive to the comment I’m responding to, but I didn’t want to post redundant information scattered around the comments thread.

        1. On the contrary TRN, I worked for an Integration firm for a few years that deployed exclusively MBP to all of the PLC programmers as well as CAD guys (2012-2015). The VMFusion SW runs WIN XP/7 and all of the Rockwell and Siemens PLC software (including legacy equipment) quite well. Most of the MBPs we’re dented and a few hit the plant floor a little hard at times, but they were solid machines all around. Price wasn’t really competitive, but it also really wasn’t an issue for the smaller company.

          I don’t remember struggling with the drivers, as the software allows passthrough of all devices so the host OS was irrelevant. While I never saw any FANUC robots running straight off a macbook, they also didn’t run off of standard Lenovo desktops either.

          1. in that case it is more of a fashion statement than anything else, you are running windows on the damn machines anyway, all it really means is t´hat the place you worked spent far more on their laptops than they should and they didnt even get one iota of bonus performance compared to a run of the mill midline laptop, and that was if they chose the high end MBP’s.

        2. It’s called VM on OS X. MBPs worked great for PLCs and Serial port devices until El Crapitan broke all the USB device drivers and SIP turned OS X into Windows Vista.

          Killing the ESC key, MagSafe and SD card reader is a complete deal breaker for me.

        3. I spent three years doing coding (PLC and C++/linux) and a dash of CAD on a 2010-era 13″ MBP and it went pretty well. Used XP running on VirtualBox for all the Windows-only stuff. I still have that laptop around, and I’m rather fond of it.

          They’re expensive for the specs but build quality was top notch (although I hear it’s suffered in recent models). That machine had the s&$t kicked out of it across a dozen mine sites and never missed a beat. If they released a similar model now with updated basic specs but none of the other fruit, I’d buy it.

    1. Agreed. I’m a software developer for over 25 years. I mostly use C/C++ although have used most other languages, C#, Java, PHP and (ugh) Python. I’ve worked for TomTom, GE Healthcare, Sega and all the ones in between. Apart from my 8 and 16 bit dev days, all my work has been on either Windows or Linux. The only time I’ve seen a Mac in an office is when some poor dev has be suckered into doing the iOS port or a game.

      It is ‘NOT’ the de facto standard.

          1. IBM got suckered by some consultant spinning bad statistics.

            For example, mac users have less IT support demand – that’s down to what sort of people are given what sort of computer and what sort of task to accomplish with it.

            If all the people who got macs are simply facebooking with them, then it’s hardly surprising that they don’t need any assistance and it just works ™.

          2. It depends on case. When you need Linux or Windows specific functions, Mac is definitely not a choice. IMHO, Mac is only useful when you have to use Mac specific functions.

            Of course, you may install Linux or Windows on Mac but due to its poorly designed hardware and firmware(in thermal way), it does not provide full potential of their CPU.

            IMHO, if you have to use Linux or Windows, the best choice is build your own PC or buy well designed other laptops.

    2. Virtually all professional embedded development is done on PCs. Using Eclipse or Netbeans is a nightmare and horrifically slow not to mention finding emulator driver support for anything but Windows. Of coarse you can use text editors and command line tools but there is nothing close to a native IDE and full emulator/debugging support.

      No, Arduino does not count as “professional” embedded development. ;)

  7. I just switched from a MBP to a Lenovo laptop and custom built desktop. I’m very happy on both fronts –
    Lenovo ThinkPad T450 works great my only issue is the screen which I knew ahead of time, new models have better screens but its what I could afford (In Canada laptop get $$ fast). And I know a lot of people hate windows 10 but I don’t find it that bad (but I’m not a hard core dev soooo). The keyboards are hand down the best :)

  8. I’ve own several thinkpad through the last 6 years first a very sturdy and still running as my home server, a X31 then a X60, and now a X201i. I clearly saw the build quality going down over the years (poor plastics, less metalic parts …). On the X201i I even had to change the “LCD cable assembly” (lid ribbon cable) twice because the hall effect sensor surface mounted on it failed, rendering the laptop unusable as the lid was always detected as closed, thus, swiching off the screen led backlight. I never bough an Apple because the brand philosophy did not fit me and their products have always been too expensive for me. Now that I’m considering buying a new (used) laptop I’m helpless as I’m not satified anymore with the thinkpad experince and still reluctent to buy an Apple. Maybe a Pixel Chromebook ? Are these laptops sturdy/durable with reasonably sized quality batteries ?

  9. Real hackers/developers do not use Apple or Lenovo laptops! They build their own custom laptops by choosing the exact screen, cpu, keyboard, ram, ssd, they want, If you have not heard of Schenker or Clevo, you should take a look.

    1. Choosing screens and other components? Like shoppers at a mall? Real hackers cleave crystals from rock faces, liquify them with their fists and hulk-smash them onto virgin glass plates!

      Truly elite hackers sneer at that, while they call forth the exact machine they want from quantum vacuum. Often with Apple logos in place, so you’d better be careful who you look down on.

    2. Real hackers use whatever is available, suitable, and does the job, whether that means designing their own board and populating it with FPGA’s with their own processor designs, assembling a laptop from the near-scrap remains of several different others, or a $99 netbook picked up at wallyworlds that slips in the pocket of a three ring binder. That is what a hacker is. It isn’t a bar-bathroom ruler contest.

      Macbooks are pretty rugged, fairly reliable, and ship unix-ish with a shiny front end and decent UI. Windows machines are less expensive and….. Windows machines.

      I’d run Linux across the board but for the need to use commercial software that has abandoned the unix world for Windows (Cough… autodesk…. cough) and a desire not to be tied to cloud served, network intensive, browser based applications for things like CAD and circuit design, where I am at the mercy of the software provider, access provider, and am often at sites where network access is not available or reliable.

      My personal file server is a $150 ASUS netbook running Linux, and it is still faster than the wifi connection it serves through. I did put in a decent sized drive (foam taped to the case bottom, actually). The screen is in the junk box, but the keyboard works if I plug in an actual monitor.

  10. The very last notebook I bought new was Clevo (dual core T2300) in 2006; it works as my primary computer till now. Since then I only used notebooks salvaged from e-waste. My media server is a scrap book, my backup server is a scrap book, my everyday cary notebook is a scrap book, my wife got a scrap book. Dumpster diving saved me some five grands at least.

    1. Nice.

      Do you mind sharing the names of any well known national/multinational stores or businesses that tend to have a higher chance of having laptops or other good tech in the dumpster?

  11. If only every other laptop manufacture didn’t decide we all want to watch videos on our laptops without black bars above and below the video. Watch videos without black bars above and below and do nothing else that is.

    My current laptop is a 2012 Pro, the first with retina display and I run it at the native 2880×1800 which looks beautiful. I rather despise OSX though, as well as the keyboard which lacks useful keys such as home, end page up, page down, delete.I chose this laptop solely due to the display, and hoped I could put up with the annoyances of owning a Mac, having barely touched Macs before.

    I’m very annoyed that my next laptop will almost certainly be an annoying 16:9 display rather than 16:10. I very much like that extra 10% vertical space thank you.

    1. You may know this already, but you can get all those keys via Fn on your Macbook. The nav keys are all Fn-Arrow (Fn-Up and Fn-Down for PgUp and PgDn, Fn-Left for Home, and Fn-Right for End). Fn-Delete will get you forward delete.

      Not as good as real keys, but frankly, it becomes second nature pretty quickly.

      (Fn-Return is supposed to get you Insert, but it never seems to actually work right.)

      1. Yep I suffered with the curious key combinations for a short while. Problem being function is on the opposite side of the keyboard, thus needing two hands to achieve the job of one finger. A godsend was Karabiner such that I can hit two side-by side keys simultaneously to achieve home/end with one finger. Mapped F12 to delete, no more F12 anymore though.

  12. … the MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer. ….

    WTF??? In which world are you living????

    …. A MacBook is a business-class laptop,….

    Excuse me??? A Mac is for ppl. wanting to play with the GUI instead of doing work… like Python or Node guys do like dependency and version incompatibility problems much more than solving actual problems.

    Even a Windows system is more productive than a Mac (Ok the very old 10.4 was quite good I must confess but from then on it got miserable!)….

    I kicked out my iBook years ago and got a Lenovo X220t. I very quickly realized what business-laptop means… ie. every piece of hardware is supported by any OS. You can get replacements for keyboard, battery,… for _reasonal_ prices. Even docks are available some years after it hit the market…

    Any yes, if you really use you laptop (2-3 charges a day, 5 days a week, 5 years in a row) you will eventually need a new battery. The same is for the keyboard… you’ll manage to spread your yummy airport-sandwich-mayo-whatever-sauce over your keyboard and having a new keyboard waiting at home when you arrive some 24h later does help you a lot… btw you are allowed to change these things yourself without loosing warranty….same for memory and hdd…. what about Apple?? I had memory problems… needed them 8 weeks to get the thing back to me!

    BTW Lenovo is not the only option out there… HP, Dell, Toshiba,… all these companies have very robust tech.

    1. You’re just being silly trying to say people spend more time customising a Mac and fiddling than doing any work on it, if anything it’s less customisable than Windows and the bodies who use Windows will do their damndest to try and mask the fact they’re using a pedestrian operating system build for pedestrians by totally changing the GUI, possibly because they know it sucks but I suspect purely out of red-faced shame. Apple have gone down the wrong road recently with their tedious less is less is less is more approach to the design and the design has taken over governance of the end product which is a shame in some regards and totally justified in others. You don’t like it don’t buy it. All the ranting is needless, just make more out of older hardware or simply put up with the fact you’re waiting a humanly imperceptibly shorter amount of time to perform an action, heavy duty processing isn’t really don’t on a laptop anyway so what’s the stress over. I must be a rare HaD reader who doesn’t really care that his hardware may not be the quickest and cares even less about petty my dad is harder than your dad arguments. Good article by Brian as usual.

  13. “….MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer.”

    Did I wake up in a parallel universe? The sky is the same colour on my planet and everything else “seems” the same.

    The Universe I am from Macs aren’t particularly useful except for developing iPhone apps and no offense but I don’t consider that “real work with a computer”.

    Not even going to bother finishing this article.

    1. Gotta agree with you and Hans (above). I’ve been a professional software developer for over 20 years and rarely see anyone using a Mac. Maybe the marketing guys and the odd pretentious bellend developer that doesn’t know what they’re doing but think they’re fooling people into thinking they’re cool.

      1. Maybe, just maybe your experience isn’t universally true? I know that many developers _do_ use MacBooks, often running Windows. Why? Because Apple had a good keyboard, a good touchpad (worse in Windows than in OS X unless that changed lately) and a good* high-resolution screen.

        (* if one can tolerate the glossy screen that is – I can’t)

        1. with so many having the exact opposite experience it is fairly safe to say that what was written in the article certainly isnt universally true either, that macs were the standard for development and that is why they wrote here, everyone here knows that there are some people somewhere using macs but to say they are the defacto standard is something else entirely.

    2. In this universe Jobs died of a preventable disease thus ensuring a kind of martyrlike “can do no wrong” aura that extends over the apple range. I hear that in universe pegasus red gamma thirteen A, Jobs survived, but the Kutcher biopic went ahead, and he turned the sociopathic up to 11 and Jobs topped himself, resulting in apple stock crash of 2014 that bankrupted California and started the East/West civil war.

    3. No you clicked on the hyperlink to a door. On the other side of this door is a dimension, of controversy, a dimension of corporate name dropping a dimension of dick measuring. You’re moving into a comments section of insults and Benchoff defending his turf. You have crossed into The Trollight Zone!

      1. I wasn’t attempting to insult but I’ve rarely seen people program on a Mac. Windoze? yes… Linux? Absolutely. Mac? I have in the past but it is by far NOT the defacto platform even if you are booting into Windoze.

  14. I’ve used a long line of ThinkPads – with each one, I carefully remove the stock HDD/OS before ever booting it and store it safely for when I want to re-sell the machine. Then, I put in an upgraded HDD (these days an SSD) and install linux.

    I have to admit, though, I mostly use them because of the feel of the keyboard and the convenience of the keyboard light. In fact, I use ThinkPad keyboards on my desktops, too, because I can no longer type efficiently on anything else.

  15. Brian: I agree with all your points about the hardware, but I’ve been using OSX for a number of years and don’t want to use either Linux or Windows as my main desktop OS. Any chance of a followup article for what laptops could work as Hackintosh (Hackbook Pro?) machines?

  16. I’m more of a timex kind of guy, but I guess to understand that you have to remember an ad they ran in the 80s, with a rolex and timex that had just been run over by a vehicle, and the tagline “To replace the watch on the left costs less than to replace the glass on the watch on the right.” That said, I have a huge respect for the solidity of the IBM Thinkpad… it’s just they’re not IBM any more.

    I find, that business class, and be sure it’s a real business class, machines from Dell and HP are pretty darn durable also, and lack the Thinkpad cachet… this means that used and refurbished, they can be a much better deal. Depreciation is a two way street, don’t be a fool that takes that first big hit, but after that, you’re getting something half the price of it’s “slowly depreciating” competitors.

    Other than that, buy by model, not brand and line, they all have turkeys. This means being patient and waiting until it’s been in the market a few months, but on the plus side, they get cheaper.

    1. “buy by model, not brand and line, they all have turkeys.”

      for anyone looking to buy a laptop, this is the most important lesson on this entire page, i have seen crap from pretty much every single brand i can think of.

  17. Chromebooks just work. I have had both versions of the Pixel and waiting for google to release the third. I have never seen boot times as fast as this or shutdowns for that matter. Updates are as simple as restarting and just as fast as the boot time. If I do need access to Mac or Win I just remote desktop into the machine that has the software I want to use (on my network of course). My pixel is not rooted with crouton but I played with it on my first Pixel.
    My pixel has become my viewport of choice for anything connected.

  18. “the MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer” Wow, wasn’t sure whether it was sarcasm or not, apparently he ment it in a serious way and that makes me puke…

    1. Perhaps a bit hyperbolic, but he’s correct in that it’s been the gold standard for a significantly large portion of serious computer scientists/engineers/hobbyists for as long as I’ve been aware of such things (which isn’t all that long, perhaps a decade). But I can honestly say every engineering organization I’ve been involved with be it comp sci department, private research lab, or big-name software/hardware firm that I’ve worked for or with, that wasn’t lousy with (if not dominated by) macbooks.

      That isn’t to say that there aren’t an abundance of incredibly smart engineers who won’t touch an apple product, or that if you use Windows you’re a charlatan. I will put forth my opinion that anyone using Windows to do dev work on a non-windows platform is some sort of masochist, however :)

      1. Hm, disagree. I use windows 7 as a base OS and run all sorts of VMs on it. It’s pretty rock-solid. I wouldn’t dream of actually coding for the windows platform per se; almost always linux or an embedded system, but since Win7 I’ve found it to be very reliable as a foundation for doing real work. I’d say that engineers not using windows are (fairly often, depends what sort of engineering) consigned to dual-boot hell to run vendor stuff that’s win-only.

        1. it is possible to VM mac OS as well, i have done it in the few cases where i needed software that only ran on mac.

          oddly enough it was the best mac os experience i have had, everything felt fast and responsive compared to running mac hardware, the thermal throttling of modern mac’s make them useless for anything that requires even an average amount of computation.

  19. I say I fit so jack of my 12 month old Lenovo a couple of months ago I bought a 4 year old MacBook Pro to replace it. Life on the road is much more tolerable.

    Just my opinion on the subject.

  20. I love MacBooks, but mine is a mid-2010 13″ and I’ve been waiting a while for the new models to upgrade. Unfortunately the new models are underwhelming at best and ludicrously overpriced at worst. I did something this morning I never thought I’de do, I bought a windows machine… that I will then use Mac OS on. I ended up with an ASUS UX303UB, not the newest machine on the street, but it can match the MacBook part for part for $800 less than a comparable mac. Lets hope apple gets their act together soon or I fear I might not be the only one jumping ship.

  21. Folks particular to classic Thinkpad build quality should consider an X62. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s an aftermarket motherboard containing an i7-5600u (up to 32GB RAM, mSATA +2.5″ HDD, USB3, miniDP +miniHDMI) made by user HOPE from 51nb. Fits intoan X61 case, and it’s my new favourite toy.

  22. Be warned, so far thinkpads have been linux friendly. But the other lenovo laptops have taken a turn for the worse. Specifically the Ideapad 721s and various other refreshed model disabled the included AHCI port (part of the intel chipset) and now have an ugly “RAID” hack that has a new PCI-ID so that MS Windows can bind it with a “fake raid” driver. It’s doubly ridiculous because A) There’s only one device B) is breaks compatibity with MS-windows, so you have to use the lenovo image and C) it breaks compatibility with linux.

    What’s the most frustrating is that the 721s is pretty nice, has a 1080P panel, and the Intel Iris 540 GPU (same as the macbook pro 13″). Sadly the similar Dell XPS13 forces an upgrade to their 3200×1800 panel to get a nice configuration, which results in a reflective screen and half the battery life.

    1. And if you want to use Linux, stay away from those Thinkpads with BCM4313 wifi. Broadcom doesn’t bother to fix the brcmsmac driver and you can’t swap the mini PCIe card for another because of the BIOS whitelist.

  23. As an Engineer, I find the idea that anyone would do ANY work on a Mac (of any kind) laughable. Macs are by far the worst designed, most inefficient machines for doing anything which even partly qualifies as “work” – not to mention gaming. Though for people who just want a Facebook machine that they would have a hard time breaking due to user error in setting and software, I will admit a Mac is a good choice. Before anyone tries to label me a -nix purist, let me say I am not. I use it. I like it, but I actually prefer PC. For actually doing real work, gaming, or entertainment in general done, PC takes the cake. Though please do not misunderstand the previous to mean that Windows doesn’t also erk from time to time as well.

  24. My wife has a ThinkPad and it appears to be a good Laptop. its quite tough, the other day she drove over it. (partially my fault). Sure the screen cracked, but everything else just kept on going.
    Just saying.

      1. That was getting popular in a number of laptops and other mobile devices and PDAs around the turn of the century.. But a few years in there was the race to cheapen them to mass consumer items, so it didn’t last.

  25. Lately Lenovo is fucking it up a lot. Since they sold it to the Chinese it cannot be trusted. Neither Apple. Apple was never a good laptop to develop. You have to do everything like they want you to do it.
    You should tailor the laptop to your needs not the other way around.

  26. I once worked in what I would call a medium sized office that was a small part of a very large corporation. There was a box of old Thinkpads in the server room. They were all there because they had broken, mostly at the hinge although there were a number of other obvious physical breaks in the pile. I took one look at that and decided to never own a Thinkpad.

    Now to be fair that was 1998. Thinkpad was part of IBM and many many generations of laptop hadn’t even been designed yet. I don’t actually think this experience has any real relevance to chosing a laptop today and I would be willing to give Thinkpads a chance. The thing is though.. even back then I kept hearing that Thinkpad was king of the PC laptops. They had this huge reputation for being durable workhorses. This made me think they must have had a really good marketing department which had it’s tendrils well distributed into the hive mind of the business types. So, anyway, while I don’t trust my 1990s experience as a good measure of what laptop is best today I still carry that mistrust of common opinion being a good judge of quality. I guess If I evern go laptop shopping again I will just have to hold the things in my own hands, flex them a bit and see how they feel.

    1. i have a similar stack of various laptops, most of them thinkpads as well, thing is, since i was also the guy that purchased quite a few of the company laptops i know that a vast majority of the bought laptops were thinkpads, mainly due to dock compatibility, ecosystems can matter.
      the field technicians usually got the models the office personnel just replaced so some of those thinkpads went around the globe a time or two in the span of half a decade.

      when one broke on the technician side you reached for the next laptops in the refurbished pile and dump the old one in the “do not repair” pile, a lot of the stuff that went in that pile eventually ended up in the hands of IT.

  27. Glad to see one more person off the mac, wait, you used the mac for everyday work? Macs have only ever been good at one thing, and that is being good for creative arts. Frankly, Code isn’t something a mac should EVER be used for.
    If your switching to Lenovo, go with one of the ThinkPads from 4 years ago.

    1. That was us. IT dept. hated that we ran a fleet of macs, but we were the ones doing video editing, and Final Cut Pro was the tool for that, squarely between minimalist edit software and ‘we have our own money tree’ price models. You hit the “repair permissions” button before you get started, you could get almost a full day’s work out of ’em sometimes before they fell over and died. That’s something which we got used to, because we were asking a lot from them. We were waiting to upgrade from an older suite with the new FCP X, annnd… we all know how that went down. Adobe allegedly handed out business cards and swap offers during the release party. We (and many, many others) hurriedly went to buy a stack of FCP7s for all the machines and Apple had pulled it off the shelves and online. Cool Prank, Bro. And now those macs are stacked in the storage closet and we are running CS6 etc. on PCs from here on out. (We have one we kept in a corner, which was fired up the other day to do one audio insert for a legacy standard-def video we couldn’t be assed to reshoot in HD.)

  28. Oh the X400… BURN THEM ALL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    No Really… Burn them. You need a liquid nitrogen cooler to handle the heat before donating them to poor starving Ethiopians!

    My story is as follows:
    Work had three of these X400 units and dumped them on my bench, “Here Unferium, have these! coz’ u lyke laptop?”.
    The real reason no-one wanted them is they had been customer decommissioned and still had BIOS passwords.

    Laptop 1:
    Tried various ways to wipe password from the “security” chip (EEPROM with rolling key ROFLOLOLOLOLOLOL!!!!!!)
    The initial methods I tried created a permanent lockout, I.E. a semi brick that I completely bricked by removing the RTC battery.

    Laptop 2: dead audio… Kept the ROM and casing for spare just in-case.

    Laptop 3: This one I managed to hack by shorting the joke chip’s SDA and SCL together after power but before BIOS setup.
    It worked! (Presses enter and lets go of short) and I wipe the password.
    I learn setting the password mixes it with the old password and always corrupts the stupidity chip. requiring the same short to reset trick (disables password bit field?????)

    All good then, so use:
    Got an Ericson 3G card working. The power saving is appalling, however I persevere until less than a week later the card is suddenly not witelisted (made blacklisted??) in POST and HALTS. Oh well, 3G over WIFI dongle to the rescue.
    The power “saving: feature is as follows: Use 600MHz where possible whilst setting MAX_VCORE as the voltage… I.E. a 20W 600MHz CPU (The Pentium 3 mobile processors drew less in old IBMs at 800MHz)

    One day I decide to use it like I did my Dell latitude E6400 and load multiple tabs. Well, BLISTERS!!! The thing ran so hot whilst so SLOW (2.4Ghz inside!!!!!! but at 600MHz I.E. LF-FSB x6). I got so frustrated I smashed it with my foot between a wall and floor. It didn’t look like a laptop anymore…. The battery dislodged, lid oval shaped and cracked in the alloy, etc…

    But…. To my surprise, the motherboard, although a slight 1* curve, was still intact and with only a 3mm cut in the power planes (no data tracks). Wasn’t surprised my SSD survived (Obviously). filing the voltage planes back a bit and then supplying power: IT’S ALIVE!!!!!!
    needless to say that I built a working unit using the case from the second laptop (the dead speakers spare, remember!).

    I gave the remaining laptop to another colleague and asked that I never see that EVIL again!!!! He’s happy with it, for some reason.
    Most people install every “Ultra Extreme Pro Edition” software advert they see onto windows machines. So he’ll never know the difference between that thing and any other computer he owns.

    Battery life:
    X400, I got about 3 useful hours out of a battery reporting more than 52Ah 0% worn

    Latitude E6400, I get about 4 to 5.5 hours out of a 45313mAh 9% worn battery with same CPU and GM45 chipset!!!

    However that’s my experience. One I hope won’t happen with such usually decent hardware.

    So, sorry about the (very long IMHO) rant and lack of proof-reading.


    1. Addendum:

      These X400 had the Management Engine in their firmware and can be user configured in both BIOS (enable disable) or the ME firmware (set IP, server credentials, passwords, CERTS, etc…)

  29. If a “clit mouse” isn’t a requirement for you there are options outside of Thinkpad.

    I’ve been equally impressed with recent enterprise products from Dell and HP. Post-IBM Thinkpad quality declined to that of Dell’s anyway. If you have the budget and require build quality over processing power I’d go so far as to recommend a Panasonic.

    Fujitsu also made some cool stuff but I’m not sure if their build quality is the same — I haven’t physically touched a Lifebook in five years.

  30. So, I’m the rooted Chromebook user that Brian mentioned. I actually have a sorrowful rant about why there isn’t any truly high-end Chromebook hardware sitting as a draft right now.

    I loved my Acer C720… runs Linux like a dream and has a replaceable hard drive. The new version R11 (I like ’em small) has a big step backward in processing power (but moves to IPS display which is awesome).

    Anyway, Brian makes a good case and I think I’ll have to consider giving a Thinkpad a try — after blowing out the OS for Linux (and further researching how big the risk of spy/malware in hardware actually is).

  31. I love all of the mac-bashing by people who, once they have pronounced their judgement, admit they have never used a mac. That’s darling. You keep rocking your special world, snowflake.

    The escape-key angst is also amusing, and I am looking forward to the delicious, delicious tears in the next 3 to 5 years when all of the other laptop manufacturers follow suit. Because the escape key is important to you, and me, and almost totally unimportant to 99% of the people in the real world. It’s especially amusing because who the hell does real development on a laptop’s tiny screen and keyboard anymore, unless forced?

    The facts of the matter are:

    1) Apple makes changes. They’re usually right. They are sometimes wrong, on occasion spectacularly. Their track record is better than you might think, and there is a long history of changes Apple makes being roundly criticized, then taking over the world. Do not believe me – go google for “claim chowder” and apple things like the ipod. We are all gloriously stupid when looked at with 10+ years of hindsight.

    2) Thinkpads used to be super expensive, but awesome – the service was phenomenal. I have literally scooped up the parts of my broken butterfly-keyboard with a dustpan, dumped them into a box, and the fixed it for free with a thank-you. They have never been super-friendly to linux, but you can say that about nearly every laptop manufacturer. I trust them less since they became Lenovo.

    3) No laptop is going to run linux super well anytime soon – I was told directly by someone at the Linux Foundation “If you want a good linux laptop out of the box – get a chromebook”. I found that reply… unsatisfying. But likely true.

    I have a feeling when all is said and done, a year or so from now, we will find the new MBP is nice, just like the prior ones. At least it’s not windows, eh?

    1. “I love all of the mac-bashing by people who, once they have pronounced their judgement, admit they have never used a mac. That’s darling. You keep rocking your special world, snowflake. ”

      Riiiiiight… it’s the “snowflakes” that run something other than mac.

      Thanks for the correction.

    2. ” who the hell does real development on a laptop’s tiny screen and keyboard anymore, unless forced?” – Absolutely; I’ve bought laptops for the last 10 years or so primarily because they’re portable if I need to go visit a client, and they’re easily powerful enough for what I do everyday – it was a huge PITA to work on a desktop and then (typically at short notice) try to copy things onto a laptop so I could go debug/edit something onsite for a customer. The “potential portability” has been well worth it on the occasions I’ve used it, but 95% of the time I’m at home on quad monitors w/external kb+mouse and it being a laptop is irrelevant.

  32. “They’ve been fantastic developer’s machines, and the MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer.”
    [citation needed]

  33. You know what? Neither the T400 nor the X220 or X230 are going to replace my T42p. Why not you ask? Why use a machine with a puny 1.8GHz Pentium M when you can have cores upon cores of silicon to your bidding in a shiny newish machine?

    Because the screen on the T42p – 1600×1200 pixels, 4:3 aspect ratio – is just so much better than what they put in those newer machines. Yes, the thing is, well, rather sluggish by modern standards although the SSD (connected through a $3 PATA-SATA adapter) makes it less noticeable. Yes, the limit of 2GB RAM is annoying, this is actually the one thing – apart from the 32bit CPU – which sometimes gets in the way of me and where I want to go. But… that screen just works better. 10 terminals open on a single screen, tiled 2 left, 8 right. Three virtual screens full of that and the world is at your fingertips. In that world you’ll find plenty of fast hardware to run builds on with the added advantage of not having your work held hostage by a vulnerable and easily lost or destroyed or stolen piece of hardware.

    1. This is true, I’ve got a Compaq with a beautiful 1600×1200, it can easily emulate a modern res by duct taping the top and bottom.

      However, it’s a 2.0 P4M, with a single DDR slot, the Pentium M will run rings round it. (Got one of those too, in an Acer, socket modded it to 533 FSB from 400, yes overclocked a laptop LOL.) Even on lubuntu it’s a bit of a slug now*. Heck even my two chuckaround netbooks are snappier with n450s. Kind of feels like a waste of a nice screen, looked at pimping it up somehow, but it’s $$$ for a few percent basically.

      * that would mean a slug on the modern web with everything you need, or for other recent stuff, obviously I coooould run links in a terminal, have yet another trimmed down puppy box, but it’s betwixt and between the venerated vintage that’s fun to use for old stuff, and still “earning” it’s keep.

      1. Actually I’m semi hunting for a “last of the 4:3s” 1600×1200 that I can mod to get a C2D into, meaning keeping an eye out to grab one for pocket change, not prowling eBay every waking moment willing to pay anything.

  34. “”1) Apple makes changes. They’re usually right. They are sometimes wrong, on occasion spectacularly. Their track record is better than you might think, and there is a long history of changes Apple makes being roundly criticized, then taking over the world. Do not believe me – go google for “claim chowder” and apple things like the ipod. We are all gloriously stupid when looked at with 10+ years of hindsight.””

    Hmmm, I’d say that all their successes, people were already doing, then continued to do alongside apple, then continued to do after apple shitcanned it. Android was on the way while the iPod was still a watch screened rip off a Creative Nomad.
    started up a good 5 years before the iPhone would see the light of day.

    Apple just win the PR, at the tech, they come second.

      1. ^visual design.

        The most godawful remote to use that I have in the house is the apple TV remote…

        … then that also dictates godawful application design because of lack of buttons, oh you’re in a title on netflix and want to search for something else, well you’re just going to have to hit back 7 or 8 times then scrabble through a menu to find search.

  35. “MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer.”

    DAMMIT…. you made coffee come out of my nose! Don’t make me laugh like that!

      1. “real work with a computer” on a MAC?
        i guess you don’t believe in ethernet either, next were gonna get an article named “Death to the Ethernet Cable, Long live wireless” to follow up the 3.5mm article.

        Have fun plugging in your Iphone to your Stereo System.
        And Setting up your modem router
        And everything else you need either of these for.

      2. “real work with a computer” on a MAC?
        i guess you don’t believe in ethernet either, next were gonna get an article named “Death to the Ethernet Cable, Long live wireless” to follow up the 3.5mm article.

        Have fun plugging in your Iphone to your Stereo System.
        And Setting up your modem router
        And everything else you need either of these for.

  36. on x220 the flex cable connecting to the panel dies. have had to fix a few of these. replacement part also dies. i wouldn’t buy one. not sure if this problem exists on similar models

  37. “For the last decade, Macs have been running a UNIX-ish operating system on x86 processors. They’ve been fantastic developer’s machines, and the MacBook Pro is the de facto standard laptop issued to all developers, all hackathon attendees, and arguably, anyone who does real work with a computer.”

    What the fuck is this?

    Kindly title the ads as such.

    I don’t use a mac.

    I guess I’ve been doing it all wrong.

    Not a hack.

    1. Agreed!. The author seems to be taken in with all the Apple Hype….and boy can Apple Hype.
      Jobs was marketing , the real unsung hero of Apple was Steve Wozniak….and a lot of real developers do not use Apple.

  38. No, this is not Apple’ ‘best laptop yet’. I’d rather not be told which features I no longer need in a laptop. I would rather be told what has been added to allow me to do move things and not have to buy converters and adapters just to do the things I could do one month ago (for example, copy photos from an SD card). Tim Cook has lost it. Drop him before the stock tanks.

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