Which Thinkpad should I get?
November 8, 2017 7:02 PM   Subscribe

I am going to buy either a Thinkpad T470s or a Thinkpad X1 Carbon 2017 (5th gen). If you have used either or both of these, what do you think of the keyboard (most important consideration!), the trackpad and the robustness? I am especially interested in the views of those who can compare either of these keyboards to older generations of the Thinkpad T-series (original or chiclet) and can say whether these are better/ worse/ the same for a heavy user.

I'm in the market for a new laptop from the Thinkpad T or X series because I like the keyboard (my main concern), robustness and longevity.

Do you have personal experience of the following laptops and can you tell me what you think of the keyboard and trackpad? How robust do these machines seem to you?

Thinkpad T470s (2017)
Thinkpad X1 Carbon 2017, 5th gen

For reference, my current laptop is a T430s and I've had a series of T-series laptops for a very long time. I use it heavily for work, which is all writing and editing so a good keyboard is absolutely essential.

The T470s configuration I am considering is cheaper than the X1 Carbon so I would especially like to know if its keyboard is not as good as earlier T-series laptops as that would be a dealbreaker.

I generally dislike trackpads where you have to press the pad itself to click. However both laptops I'm considering suffer from this flaw so I have to accept it and will probably get an external trackball instead. However, any thoughts on how you found this trackpad would also be appreciated.

Finally, any thoughts on the apparent robustness of the two would be useful, as I travel a lot with my computer, and am unable to examine in person before ordering online. I've heard the T470s is a little wobbly.

I don't like using Apple keyboards - this is just a personal preference - so please don't recommend a Macbook.
posted by tavegyl to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have experience with those exact models, but in case no one else can either, I can try to help. I'm currently on my fifth or sixth ThinkPad, a P50. My previous laptop was the first-generation ThinkPad X1 Carbon. Before that, I had an X220, and X230, and a T410.

I think that my current P50 has basically the same chiclet keyboard as the current T models. I find it very good, low-travel and low-effort but with a pretty solid "click" response. Personally I had no problem transitioning from the older ThinkPad keyboards to the new chiclet ones. The feel isn't identical, but it's similar. The X1 Carbon that I used had a very similar keyboard to the P50, maybe a tiny bit squishier and lower-travel.

I can't comment on the trackpads on your candidate machines. I also can't comment on the build quality of the T470s or the current X1 Carbon, but my original X1 Carbon was one of the sturdiest-feeling laptops I've owned, despite its slimness.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:44 PM on November 8, 2017

I've had a work-provided 5th gen X1 Carbon for about four months now, and it is very nice. It's extremely lightweight for it's 14" footprint (which is a little more compact than 4th gen X1s or T4x0s due to slimmer bezels) but feels very solid. USB-C charging is lovely, since my phone also uses that.

The keyboard is basically the same as the chiclet keyboards on other recent-ish Thinkpads I've used (an X230 and X240), but crisper, though possibly just because of newness. I still like the classic keyboards (I own a T60 that remains perfectly functional), but outside of perhaps the retro anniversary ThinkPad, I think the X1's is as good or better than any other you'll find.

I prefer the old-school red trackpoint in favor of the touchpad, but the touchpad works pretty well and is genuinely usable. That may sound like faint praise, and the texture isn't quite as glassy smooth as I would like, but it really is greatly improved over the terrible waffle-gridded plastic ones of a T230 or T430 that were truly an interface means of last resort. I'll usually tap on the pad rather than click, or use the trackpoint buttons that sit above the touchpad. Windows gestures work well too.

All things being equal, and if the price difference isn't a major factor, I'd go with the X1 if I no longer had my work one and had to pick a new laptop to buy for myself today (as it is, since I do have the work laptop with me most of the time, I get by fine using a desktop and a Chromebook for personal stuff).

I'd definitely try to avoid paying full retail by watching out for deals from Lenovo, which are frequent.
posted by Pryde at 10:49 PM on November 8, 2017

I'm an oldschool Thinkpad evangelist - it's a crying shame that the quality of keyboard just simply cannot be had anymore (T61s, a few R2xx/4xx's, a T410s).

That said, I'm now on a work-supplied Dell XPS with the ubiquitous chicklet keyboards - I hate them, I hate them all, ... but... I'm getting used to them.

If I had to do as much writing now as I've done on Thinkpads (my last writing major project was on that T61s, as I lost the 410s to bad judgement), which for a brief moment was a real possibility, I was tempted to either lug my Logitech diNovo Edge from home daily or shell out >$500 for a vintage one from eBay as a "working keyboard" (noise-related reasons).

Muscle memory adapts, but those iconic Thinkpad keyboards have not been beat. I'd happily trade looks (slimness) for a "real" keyboard.
posted by porpoise at 11:06 PM on November 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm an oldschool Thinkpad evangelist - it's a crying shame that the quality of keyboard just simply cannot be had anymore

Well, there is the anniversary Thinkpad 25 I mentioned. It's mostly a T470 (non s) with a retro keyboard and a few other upgrades.
posted by Pryde at 5:35 AM on November 9, 2017 [4 favorites]

I just got the P40 yoga. The processor is a generation behind, but it's the only thinkpad in the lineup with a workstation class discrete GPU (I do a lot of CAD work). It's great!
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:44 AM on November 9, 2017

I've got a T520 on its last legs, and have been researching this heavily the past couple days.
It will be difficult to say goodbye to this keyboard. The retro 25 is appealing, with the exception of the price point, and an undesirable, flickering monitor.
I found the opposite, for the specs I am after (16 RAM, 512G SSD, WQHD display) the X1 prices out slightly less than the T470s. Also, there is the additional variable of the 8th gen CPU slowly rolling out...now the Dell XPS looks appealing as it has that, and an enticing edge-to-edge display.
But then there's the keyboard issue.
posted by Salvation at 12:32 PM on November 9, 2017

My SO has last year's Carbon. Its keyboard is better than most, but not as good as the IBM T series units were because the keys are a different shape and have less travel. It's better than my X120, though. The X120 has more traditionally shaped keys, but very poor tactile feedback. The tactile feedback on the X1 Carbon is pretty darn good for how thin it is.

If getting the best keyboard is your biggest concern, don't get the Carbon. If a good keyboard in a thinner and lighter form factor is what you're after, however, I think it's a great compromise.

FWIW, I've been using ThinkPads since the 560X in the late 90s. ;)
posted by wierdo at 2:13 PM on November 9, 2017 [1 favorite]

« Older Chia seeds: How much nutrition do I get from a...   |   Repair my fractured attention and concentration! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.