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. I’ve considered both Thinkpad and the G1 but stayed away for now.
    The MacBook Air doesn’t look as tough and geeky as the Thinkpad does, but the new edition is quite affordable (especially with student discount) and as far as I can tell, is a lot faster. The lack of ports is quite a disappointment, though (only 1 USB, 1 mini-DisplayPort, 1 jackplug sound out).

    The G1 looks great, value for money compared to the Pre, but I can’t bring myself to being permanently logged into a Google account. My heart just screems “nooooo my privacy”, and I find it strange I can’t find a hack for that.


  2. I recently got an X200, and congrats Randall on choosing Lenovo. I’ve been using them since back when they were still made by IBM (not that long ago, I know). They’re not all that dissimilar, and yeah getting the 9-volt battery adds quite a bit to the weight… but then again, with wireless turned off I’m getting 14 hours out of the battery, down to 10-12 when I’m using the net. And to be honest there really aren’t a lot of times I really come close to even needing that much…
    Beside which, people get far too worried about the aesthetics. I don’t find it particularly ugly, but what I DO find is that it feels more comfortable than a lot of other brands. Just sayin’…


  3. Maybe I’m just terribly immature, or maybe I’m not quite geeky enough to be distracted by a good hardware discussion, but am I the only one that thought that thought that chuckled when reading the quote “though this morning it was refusing to charge until I jabbed the power port with a mechanical pencil a few times”?

    No I guess I am geeky enough. The G1 is a fantastic little device. I’ve also held off on rooting mine in hope that I could be content with something without having to hack it up. It appears that as the days go on, the temptation of having wifi routing and vpn will become too strong and overwhelm my desire of simplicity.


  4. “Why not buy a mac for the X200’s price?”

    You must be new here…

    Why buy a Mac if you’re going to run Linux and want a 3lb laptop with a trackpoint?


  5. DWizzy:
    Agreed on the bit about being tied to a Google account, though for a different reason: Previously I used multiple Gmail accounts for different purposes (one for internet doings, one for business, one for family stuff) and not being able to switch between these at will is more than annoying.

    My (originally temporary but increasingly permanent) solution is to set my phone to a seperate google name (a string of mashed keyboard, in this case) and log into gmail using the browser. This unfortunately renders apps and things like Google Talk useless so I’m hoping there’s future support for multiple google IDs.


  6. you could install android without the “google experience” but why bother. Privacy died last century, get over it.

    captcha: humped Mary *snicker*


  7. But if it doesn’t have a CD tray…how do you install an OS? Don’t most modern computers come with Vista? Or are you going to copy your old installation?


  8. Spirov, it is in some cases possible to install os’s without the benefit of a CD tray, although I would be very dubious of anything that came without one. I would be surprised if it doesn’t have one – after reading through the spec sheets I didn’t see the presence or lack of one mentioned. _Does_ it have one?


  9. You don’t need root to wifi/edge/3G tether your phone. Theres a nifty 3rd party app called PDAnet for Android which lets you tether without root. I use it all the time when I am in an area and too cheap to pay for WiFi. Don’t expect the internet to be blazing fast, but for simple things like checking email or chatting on an IM client, it’s fine.


  10. And I just realized now that you have to pay to download PDAnet, it used to be free and I’m sure if you do some digging around, you can find it posted somewhere.


  11. I know this isn’t the right place but this is an urgent call. Lots of people read this blog and spread the words here.

    Please use your influence to get news on Iran’s protests to everyone.

    This is a personal blog:

    It contains an aggregate of recent news and links collected and sent out with much hardships from inside Iran. We need to somehow get this aggregate spread over the net and let Iranian and other people inside and outside of Iran hear it.

    Many news sources have been blocked inside Iran. This will let Iranian people access news from enough sources for them

    Please help spread the word. You will make a difference.

    This is BBC’s top headline:

    This are feeds updated from inside Iran:


  12. Thinkpads are strangely expensive here in Sweden and we only get to choose from a couple of preconfigured models.

    Thinkpads are expensive relative to other US laptops too, or at least they were when IBM made them and I owned two. But they were also incredibly durable; before I bought a PowerBook, I only used ThinkPads, and when friends ask for laptop recommendations but don’t want Macs, I tell them to consider paying the price premium for a higher-quality laptop.

    These days I use a desktop because of the trade-offs enumerated here, but if I weren’t to get a 13″ MacBook Pro I’d probably go back to the Thinkpad x300 line.


  13. Hey Randall, I just got a G1 as well. I was blown away today to find keyboard select all/cut/copy/paste shortcuts. Here’s a list from the owners’ manual if you haven’t got around to reading it yet. You can use these in any text field. Email me if you have any projects that require other people with G1’s.

    Insert special character: Alt + Space
    Delete character to left: Backspace
    Delete the entire line: Alt + Backspace
    Caps lock: Press Shift twice; Press Shift again to clear
    Jump cursor to beginning/end of line: Alt + roll trackball left/right
    Tab: Alt + q
    Highlight text: Press and hold Shift while rolling the trackball
    Deselect highlighted text: Roll trackball
    Cut text: Highlight text, press Menu + x
    Copy text: Highlight text, press Menu + c
    Paste text: Menu + v
    Select all text: Menu + a


  14. Hey, Randall, I think you should improve your random page link: make it point only to the first strip when there are comics divided in parts, and either don’t make it point to 404 page or make 404 page look funnier. (Out of this second possibility can come something good, “not found” is very xkcd in my opinion).

    Oh, by the way, is it just me trying to find meanings in the captcha words? I find “whether mellowed” quite weird.


  15. Did you get the X200 bundled with the Ultrabase? Some of the X200 models offer this bundled which is basically your dock with DVD +/- RW and various ports. A lot of my customers have been really happy with this config.


  16. Dear Randall Munroe,

    Many people read your comic at work, so the increasing frequency of sexual comics is less and less appreciated. It used to be that I would pull in a few coworkers to share XKCD and a few laughs at my desk over morning coffee. Instead, I now find myself hurriedly blocking the screen or hitting ctrl+w half the time. Maybe you should try being funny again instead of appealing to our simpler interests.

    Jeff Toodles


  17. Bloody prudes. Don’t read it at work then if you fear occasional suggestive stick drawings and very mild sex references will make someone throw the book at you. No need to water the comic down for the rest of us.



  18. what do you find wrong with lenovo, other than that they’re Chinese?

    mine has been great for 5 years… still going strong.

    every Dell I’ve ever had, however… American hunk a crap.


  19. To all the commenters ragging on Chinese products – show me single manufacturer who builds every last bit of every last one of their laptops in the US, and I’ll show you a company that’s out of business.


  20. “spirov92 says:
    June 15, 2009 at 12:04 pm
    But if it doesn’t have a CD tray…”
    then where do you put your drink?


  21. Dear Randall Munroe,

    I have not been dead for long, and although the lack of glands or any other physical apparatus precludes a genuine emotional response, your recent comic on the subject of the dead returning to life still managed to sting a little bit. Please stick to comics about sex and pornography, which you seems to be extremely good at.

    Kinds regards,

    Paul Collins


  22. I recently bought a laptop through LinuxCertified (google ’em) — I had considered the Lenovo TP series (my last laptop was a T22) but the price at LC was hard to beat. Sorry this sounds like an ad.

    I’ve had it for about a month and it’s pretty pimp; I highly recommend. They’ll do non-linux, you just have to pay a little extra for the OEM license. Compared to similar Dell’s, the specs I got were better and the price I got was lower. They sell TP’s too, if you want to go that route.

    Check em out.


  23. erxeg wrote:

    >> Spirov: you install from an usb-stick:

    Yeah, did that one time when it was too late to go to Fry’s, but I wanted to get the OS compiling while I slept. You can also theoretically install from a network PXE boot, but I’ve never taken the trouble to figure out how to set up TFTP. Or you can pull the HDD out, put it in a USB enclosure, and copy the basic OS files over on a working box before putting it back in, though that’s a bit of a pain with some laptops. “Remote recover” is an alternative if you have a [USB] floppy, but that program costs a lot.


  24. …or, if you have an external CD drive (or an internal-to-external adapter/enclosure), the easiest way is to install off of that. I did that with no problems.


  25. It pleases me to hear about more and more G1 converts. I love my G1 and would be lost without the calendar functionality and its made it easier to stay in touch with many people seeing as how so many forms of communication are now readily available… I upgraded from a $20 Motorola something or other… I’m not sure it even had a model number so its cellphone bliss.


  26. For the “buy American” crowd: as far as I know, *every* laptop manufactured in made in the far East. 33% of them are made by Quanta in Mainland china, no matter what the name on the front says: — note that manufacturing is outside Shanghai or Changshu, even though Quanta is a Taiwanese company. No, I don’t know how that’s possible politically:

    Also: I love me my Thinkpad X60s. Yes, the quality of the volume buttons (!) went down a little bit after the Lenovo acquisition, but the machines are still what they were.

    And I don’t know what planet these CD-drive folks are from. I haven’t had a CD drive in my machine for a decade or so. It used to be that USB sticks could substitute for the floppy installer, now they easily hold more than the CD install image.


  27. I bought an x200s for work in December, it’s a workhorse. Low Voltage processor 4 cell battery 2.5 lbs. I love it!!!

    It does not come with any optical drive so I opted to get an external USB ‘SuperMulti’ LG DVD drive from Amazon for like $40.

    I like the track point but am more used to a touch pad so I got a mouse with one of the world’s smallest USB receivers. I just leave the receiver in one of the USB ports (there are 3).

    The 7200rpm SATA hard drive restarts Windows 7 RC 64 Bit in about a minute from desktop to desktop. Can’t wait to get an affordable performance SSD. I have 3 hard drives 1 with XP that came pre-configured, one with Vista 32-bit and one with Windows 7 64-bit. I doubled the RAM to 4Gigs, I don’t need more yet.

    Runs Half-Life 2 in 64 bit mode with a few hiccups if the processor gets warm but for everything I do it’s smooth sailing.

    Good choice!!!!


  28. I happen to really like the appearance and look of Thinkpads. I prefer the simple black to glossy black (hate glossy crap, then you see fingerprints, etc.). I like the little colors, red joystick, mouse buttons, blue enter key… I vastly prefer the joystick (and I have a T43 with both touchpad and joystick). I hate having to swipe over and over on the touchpad to get my pointer across the screen when I can just apply more pressure on the joystick and get there a hell of a lot quicker.


  29. Fujitsu Lifebook! Ok, I wanna ask here about my laptop dilema. Entering colledge, blah blah, I need a tablet and the school store offers some Toshiba and the Fujitsu Lifebook T5010. I already ordered the Fujitsu. Since you had a lifebook and it may in some ways relate to a tablet, did you have any major issues with it? Or was it generally an awesome laptop? (crosses fingers)


  30. @OS Install W/O Disc Drive: Mac OS X has a
    “Remote Disc Install” mode that allows an MBA to use the disc drive of any PC or Mac to install without a disc, and UNIX could feasibly do the same with net boot into the install disc, though it porbably wouldn’t be as cleaN and simple as Apple’s offering.


  31. Good choice. I’ve got a client who moved on from Lifebooks a few years ago and has been happy with every Thinkpad X series I’ve gotten him.

    He’s currently debating the X200s or X301. I think he’ll go X301 because he is one of those that actually needs an optical drive.


  32. I got a g1. I like it. I installed a debian chroot and ran an openvpn tunnel on it for a while. I even told my nagios monitor about it. but it drains the battery and kicks the load up to even higher than it normally is:

    cjac@norseth:/usr/src/svn/mono/monodevelop$ adb shell uptime
    17:41:17 up 16 days, 2:22, load average: 4.00, 4.00, 4.00

    All in all, It’s a good device. I’m glad I got it for fathers’ day.

    I’m planning on getting a lenovo next. this sony sucks. I think the heatsink came off, too, ‘cuz quake3 increases the cpu temp to 90 °C.

    Also, you need a


  33. The firm I work for picked up a few x301’s for each office, and I’m not sure I would consider buying anything else. In the IT department (I AM reading xkcd, aren’t I?) and we’ve been using them as loaners, so I get to spend a lot of quality time with them. Amazing little machine, but I can’t speak for the software at all. We load our own image as soon as these are out of the box.


  34. I have a Lenovo ThinkPad R61e, and a G2. Both fantastic. Did you know that when you’re out and about, you can get the Android Scripting Env. on your phone and do all sorts of cool shiz. So much fun.


  35. Just a peep from the non-techy side – I have a G1 and love it. Glass overlay is fractured to bits from being dropped 2-3 times and elbowed once, but the touchscreen works fine still (the first crack led the original owner to sell it to me on eBay).

    Too bad it’s a peculiar – and some might say ugly – shape but maybe some of the newer Android phones will be better at winning the average user over, especially since so many people are on Gmail now.


  36. I hope this means down the track we’ll see and xkcd comic about the wonky Fn-Ctrl key placement on thinkpads. Whoever made them like that (more importantly, made them unchangeable) deserves severe Punishment.


  37. Actually, ThinkPads have had a crap placement of the Fn key for a long time – I have a 12 year old ThinkPad 560X still (working fine as an X terminal) and it has the Fn key left of Ctrl… However the quality of the keyboard mechanism is great, as always with ThinkPads.


  38. Out of all that I choose to say:

    Congrats on switching to T-Mobile. Good choice.

    My favorite thing about them is bouncing off of unprotected satellites. I went on a road trip through the boonies of Montana and bounced off some weird satellite – giving service when all around me was desolate wastelands of windmills and scenery.

    Awesome. =) Good job.


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