Laptop update

I’ve been busy these past few weeks on a variety of things, but a quick note: I decided on a new laptop, concluding my February agonizing.  I’m replacing my Fujitsu Lifebook P1610 with a Lenovo Thinkpad x200s.  Thank you to everyone who suggested it.

My Lifebook isn’t quite dead yet (though this morning it was refusing to charge until I jabbed the power port with a mechanical pencil a few times), but three things motivated my choice.  First, I got a chance to play with a friend’s x200s and she gave a good general report of it.  Second they’re on a pretty steep sale right now (especially with the friends and family employee discount sent by a kind reader — thank you!).  And third, I finally got a G1 (my first smartphone!).  The G1 means that I have ssh and a browser in my pocket, so I don’t need my laptop to be quite so pocketable as I used to.  By the way — I’m very happy with the G1 so far.  I left Verizon to get a G1, and the T-Mobile ccoverage is actually a lot better than I was warned; so far it hasn’t been a problem at all, even on various road trips.

If you are still one of those crazy people who needs an optical drive, the x301 is basically a slightly larger x200 with an optical drive bay.  And the Toshiba R600 looks like another good option for high-end ultraportables, though I’ve never had a chance to see one in person.

P.S. The Lenovo site layout is pretty wonky — the tech spec sheets for the x200s and x301 are tricky to find.

134 replies on “Laptop update”

  1. Although you will probably find the G1 a very useful tool, remember you will always have that nagging voice… “why did I buy such an ugly phone?”

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  2. When I bought my last laptop, I tried to buy a lenovo directly from their site. After 4 weeks of them pushing my delivery date back, I canceled my order and bought an ASUS from best buy where I could pick it up the same day. Ended up being slightly cheaper too. I also had to call Lenovo back a week later because they didn’t cancel my order when I asked them to the first time. I had checked the delivery date before I did so and it got pushed another week!

    I hope that you don’t have the same problem, but from what I’ve read this is typical of Lenovo.

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  3. Eww…touchscreen. Also, who said T-Mobile’s reception is bad? I’ve had both T-Mobile and AT&T, and they were both very good, getting reception in a number of places my friends did not. AT&T seems slightly better.

    You can get an optical drive, but do you have your 3.5″ floppy and RS-232 ports? I’ve never had trouble finding spec sheets on laptops I’ve bought, but HP makes it a royal pain to find the service manuals (the really long documents that show you step by step how to assault it with a screwdriver).

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  4. welcome to the G-1 cult. 😉 i’m guessing if you’ve picked out a thinkpad you care more about functionality than aesthetics, (in response to the above comment.) hehe

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  5. Sounds like I need to give the G1 another look then. I’ve just heard of T-Mobile service spottiness, but maybe the East Coast is different?

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  6. I like my G1 okay but the t-mobile coverage here in seattle is pretty crappy. I kind of regret leaving ATT for this.

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  7. Am I missing something here or did you pay 1000 bucks for a low end craptop?

    In my judgment, in its weight range (2-3 lbs), it’s the best laptop on the market at any price. If you can find a better one, feel free to link it. Or it’s possible I’m missing something. But I’m not the only tech geek I know who spent a long time looking over what’s available and settled on the x200s.

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  8. I’m also with T-Mobile. There’s some things that I don’t like about them, but their coverage is just great.

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  9. I’m so jealous of the price you get in US. Thinkpads are strangely expensive here in Sweden and we only get to choose from a couple of preconfigured models. The cheapest x200s around here is going for $1600 (not including 25% VAT). I think it’s a steal for the price you’re getting. Good choice!

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  10. at my retail job while i’m in school, i pretty much see and use every new laptop on the market… and while this model isnt even available in stores, i can vouch that you got a quality purchase (spill resistant keyboard is really nice). too bad it is ugly as sin; maybe we can arrange to send some graphic designers over to china 😐

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  11. Dunno if you are running Linux, but if so I recommend using the Banshee media player to sync music back and forth between your laptop and your G1. It’s especially smart about Amazon MP3 purchases you make on your phone, which is nice.

    I like my Thinkpad, hope you enjoy yours!

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  12. Am I the only one unhappy with the G1 browser performance after the Cupcake upgrade? It seems like the browser is twice as slow as it was, under the same network conditions.

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  13. helloandie said:
    >> care more about functionality than aesthetics

    It’s not clear which “above” comment you’re responding to, however I don’t consider a touchpad to be merely an aesthetics question: springs&clicks are important to typing. Moreover, the functionality cited is available in many other phones (ssh usually via 3rd party apps), some of which have an actual keyboard.

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  14. Michael:

    Eww…touchscreen.

    and

    [the functionality you want is] available in many other phones (ssh usually via 3rd party apps), some of which have an actual keyboard.

    Er, you are aware that the G1 has a physical keyboard, right? And a damn good one, too. For many people, it’s the G1’s biggest selling point over the iPhone.

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  15. I have been extremely happy with my G1 and I don’t even think it’s so ugly as most people seem to claim here. The SSH client on it is far and away the most impressive mobile client I have ever used.

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  16. The only thing you have to watch out for with Lenovo is that since they are now Chinese, all the drivers come with keyloggers that send the data back to the Chinese Government Mothership.

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  17. Have you rooted your G1 yet? It’s pretty simple to get Debian working on it, and from there there are all sorts of fun things you can do.

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  18. Have you rooted your G1 yet? It’s pretty simple to get Debian working on it, and from there there are all sorts of fun things you can do.

    No, actually; part of why I stayed away from the G1 for so long is that I got the impression from early glimpses that the interface was basically Gnome, and what frustrates me most about phones is poor interfaces. It was only when I played with one for an extended time that I decided the interface was quite good, and I don’t want to do anything to mess up my basic calling-browsing-etc experience.

    However, I will probably root the phone at some point soon so I can do wifi tethering. Because holy crap, that’s cool.

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  19. I should just google this… Are rooted G1’s capable of Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN) Internet sharing? That was the only thing I like about my HTC Hermes Windows Mobile 5/6 phone.

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  20. Had my G1 since January and I love it! I fell in love with it all over again when Cupcake came out.

    Download the Tricorder App! It’s a must! And probably the best way to get unfiltered data straight from the phone’s sensors.

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  21. Quick note: You can do wifi tethering without rooting the phone. I have not tried it again since Cupcake, but before that it worked excellent, especially with my old desktop that does not have wifi.

    I couldn’t find the original site I used, but this seems to be almost identical with instructions:
    http://forums.tmonews.com.s52300.gridserver.com/index.php?PHPSESSID=a2683ebc52e0581e6610a1d8f7332b61&topic=5006.msg75785#msg75785

    As far as rooting it… my roommate, a user of a gen1 iPhone, ended up switching to a G1 (and to tmob) after using my phone for a bit. However, he says the performance has suffered drastically since he rooted it. I don’t know how much user error is involved – most people seem to have no issue and he’s not experienced in such actions, but he’s also far from an idiot, especially with computers. So, just to throw the (obvious) warning out there.

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  22. The problem is not the optical drive, but the nipple-mouse. The x200 is very nice, but it would be just as useful to me if it did not have a pointing device at all.

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  23. I have a Toshiba R600 and I think it is awesome. The SSD version is very light (about 2 lbs.). In the end, I think it’s about the same machine, the decision points are the price and the nipple mouse.

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  24. I should just google this… Are rooted G1’s capable of Bluetooth Personal Area Network (PAN) Internet sharing? That was the only thing I like about my HTC Hermes Windows Mobile 5/6 phone.

    It can (like many phones), but to me the wifi tethering is so cool because it’s an improvement on Bluetooth tethering. It’s so much smoother from the computer’s side (especially if you’re on Linux). Bluetooth wins on power, but other than that, wifi is far more handy. Being able to say “hey, just hop on this network” to anyone is really nice.

    The problem is not the optical drive, but the nipple-mouse. The x200 is very nice, but it would be just as useful to me if it did not have a pointing device at all.

    I forgot that’s not what some people are used to! The x301 has a touchpad, so you might find it suits you better.

    Master Chef Etiji: Oh! I was actually looking at those instructions, but I thought that somewhere in the SDK installation you’d need to root the phone. Awesome! Yeah, I am hoping to avoid rooting it if I don’t need to, simply because I’d rather not break anything (including power usage) too badly.

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  25. You should root your G1 if only for the ability to set the CPU frequency. I’ve got mine overclocked to 528mhz when it’s in use (browsing the web, playing music, etc) and it scales back to 128mhz when it’s not in use (the screen is locked & off). The result? A phone that’s consistently speedy and responsive when I need it to be and still gets good battery life—better, in fact, than it had been before I rooted the phone.

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  26. Hey, nice to hear you’re getting the X200s. I got the X200, only because it was cheaper and I couldn’t really justify the upgrade, but they’re fairly similar. (You’re getting a better screen — I’m jealous.)

    Oh, and glad to hear the G1 is working out well. 🙂 They’re nice phones (and fairly fun to code for, as well!)

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  27. Hmm. I’ve been wanting an Android phone ever since I heard about Android. Problem is that I would like a phone that looks nice. Which I don’t really think the G1 is. But with all these positive comments about it, maybe I should just go ahead and get one. Hmm…

    Also, since I live in Denmark, they’re just now becoming available here, and unfortunately it’s the HTC Magic. I wonder if it would pay off economically to order it from USA instead, even with toll.

    That reminds me, does anybody have the Dev phone, and any comments on how it is to work with?

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  28. my wife pre-ordered her g1, after i told her i wanted one…and i’ve barely seen her since. stupid awesome phone…

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  29. The dev phone is fantastic. I’m not sure if you’re talking about a G1 or the “ion”/magic that’s forthcoming, but they’re both great. The software keyboard works well (for those of us who aren’t attuned to iphones already, if you are, it is different, which means it takes getting used to).

    Congrats Randall on the x200s, it’s a solid machine and has the right mouse. I can vouch for the spill-resistance of the thinkpad keyboard design – mine has held up quite well to my many inadvertent experiments with water, jolt, coffee, and vodka and grapefruit juice, and if it can survive those, it can survive anything. I hope you got the extended battery.

    Wifi tethering on the G1 is great, I love it, but it does eat the batteries a bit (though if you’ve already got the laptop out, it’s easy enough to plug it in).

    I’m contemplating getting one of those intel SSDs and dropping int into my x61… they’re so tempting. So damn fast with less power usage to boot.

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  30. Also forgot… check out the latest thing I’ve been enamored with on the G1 – Time Tracker. Lets you keep track of the time you spend doing things, which is tremendously valuable to me as a freelancer.

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  31. Didn’t you have a kindle? I thought that would meet your portable browsing and ssh needs…

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  32. Congratulations! You made the best choices you possibly could.
    If the performance of the x200″s” version is sufficient for you, then there’s nothing else to consider. Great screen, superb batery life. And who needs an optical drive theese days anyway?
    And don’t anyone dare saying that TrackPoint sucks. It’s the best pointing device on a laptop ever.
    G1 is a great phone too. I even like the design. To me it deffinetly isn’t ugly. The only thing I don’t like about it is the battery life. Next version (hope ther’ll be one) really needs to have bigger battery (even if the phone would had to be thicker). Also, I hope for 800*480 OLED display for the G1’s succesor, and possibly standard 3,5mm jack. So to me, the phone has got one disadvantage and two minor disadvantages. Considering the price, G1 is the smartest geek’s choice. Also, the keyboard is the best I’ve ever typed on. Since I’m from Czech Republic, I need to use some characters like: “?????ýáíéú???”. And the 5 rows on the keyboard makes it really easy (the diacritics letters are mapped to the numeric row).

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  33. Wootz for new Lenovo Thinkpads! :p I don’t have the same model though.

    After having missed more than few days of possibly productive programming, (*snerk*), messing around with my new thinkpad, (Ueber-sale: ~$400 CAN after shipping and taxes), I can attest to the awesomeness of the brand.

    A previous trouble for me has been dual-cores on laptops burning out the motherboard, but even after over-clocking this thing every way possible, (The only purpose being to check for scorch damage, I don’t intend to keep a laptop over-clocked!), I have yet to see any scorching damage. I’m tempted to take a flame to the motherboard to see how much heat it can handle, but that would be a waste of ~$400 CAN.

    It might be all laptops now, but compared to the last laptop I have, this one is also super easy to physically get in there and mess about with, too. I plan on redoing the cooling system soon so I can safely add a few things, and for a laptop, there’s plenty of room to do so.

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  34. With that latopt dat wont chagre take a eraser and rub it on the power contacts on the battery the cable head and the port
    (saved over 50 lapotops that i had to fix)

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  35. The Solid State Drive (SSD) included in that laptop is interesting to me. I’ve been reading about them, and apparently there are two types: the original Single-Layer Cell (SLC) and the newer Multi-Layer Cell (MLC). The MLC was created to increase storage capacity, but apparently at a huge cost in performance with write speeds.

    The article below compares several SSD drives. On page 2 there’s a table of benchmarks where you can clearly see which drives are MLC and which are SLC, just by looking at the horrible write speeds for the MLC’s (hint: the first two on the left are MLC). Unfortunately it also says it’s very difficult to figure out which type a particular laptop has unless it’s listed in the specs (which it’s usually not).

    http://www.maximumpc.com/article/features/flash_flood

    Anyone have any other info to add?

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  36. The Solid State Drive (SSD) included in that laptop is interesting to me.

    I’m not sure about that issue, but from looking at the prices, I decided not to get Lenovo’s SSD. I bought it with the cheapest platter drive, and I’m ordering an SSD separately from NewEgg.

    But now I have to figure out which one to get all over again, now that I know the MLC/SLC distinction (although that might already be included when they list them by read/write speed).

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  37. On the MLC/SLC distinction:

    I assume, if you’re going for an X200s, that all-out performance isn’t really a top priority – so there seems to be little point in paying the massive price premium for an SLC SSD, unless you’re happy with 32 or 64GB’s worth of storage space.

    On the other hand, MLC SSDs will wear out after fewer write cycles – but that shouldn’t matter significantly over the typical laptop lifespan.

    MLC SSDs with Samsung controllers (Corsair, OCZ Summit) seem to be receiving generally favourable reviews. The Intel X25-M is nice, but costs quite a lot more per gigabyte (at least here in Hong Kong).

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  38. Since this post is somewhat related to the comic today (er, yesterday), I will predict the that Latitude’s window will close when it becomes available for iPhone. I also suspect that you intended to stick it to all the iPhone users reading xkcd (such as this commenter).

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  39. Quite honestly, I’d rather have the iphone than… pretty much anything running android. If for nothing more than after having tried bsd, I like it (darwin – the underlying iphone OS – is freebsd with a different kernel, for those who don’t know). I much prefer it to linux.

    The whole “apple fanboy” thing doesn’t do much to help my liking of the g1 either.

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  40. To back Randall’s assertions, the Toshiba R600 is quite nice in person, an awesome ultraportable, perhaps my one complaint would be that it feels quite flimsy and much lighter than one would expect, even in comparison to some of the smaller netbooks, like the eee.

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  41. I had to choose between the VAIO P and X200s recently. Although the ergonomics are better on the X200s, with the 6-Cell it’s almost twice as heavy and twice as big which I thought was too much a comprimise for a lightweight notebook.

    I went with the VAIO and am fairly happy – the keyboard is like the P1610 (16.5mm keys) but a bit firmer (better) and has the trackpoint too. They went a bit overboard on the resolution (1600×768 on 8″) but running at a higher DPI with current OSs/Browsers isn’t huge a problem. With the 4-Cell I get an easy 5-6 hours usage from it, and it weighs well under 2lbs.

    In the 2-3lbs range nothing touches a X200s, but if it starts to feel a bit big compared to the P1610 (and you didn’t mind the keyboard on that) give the VAIO P a look.

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  42. I just like my Toshiba tablet PC. I used to have little quartered sheets of paper strewn about my room; now I have a directory of Xournal files of various sorts. I’ve done some preliminary sketching with it, too, but nothing too serious. But some problems are just better-solved by pens.

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