What's the closest thing to my dream laptop?
October 18, 2020 10:34 PM   Subscribe

I'm currently using a 2014 Lenovo X1 Carbon, and I'm looking for an upgrade on display and style. My dream laptop: <3 lbs.; 12-14"; powerful enough for browsing, streaming, & Zoom; has a great display, good camera, and decent battery life; runs Linux with no issues; has a trackpoint (without or with a trackpad); and has an attractive aluminum case that does not have an apple on it. I don't think that exists, so what's the closest thing? I'm willing to compromise on just about anything but the size/weight and the apple.

In case my silliness is too opaque: Apple products, with or without the logo, aren't an option. I'd also prefer not a Chromebook, but open to convincing arguments if I can ditch ChromeOS.

I'm familiar with Wirecutter's current recommendations; what else is there?
posted by rhiannonstone to Technology (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Trackpoints on a non Lenovo machine tend to not be very good. However Lenovo does make a keyboard with a trackpoint.

If you don't want to go with another Lenovo, you might want the Dell XPS 13 or the HP Dragonfly, which have a good reputation for build quality. In addition there is the KDE Slimbook, which is intriguing...yet backordered.
posted by oceano at 1:27 AM on October 19, 2020

The trackpoint thing is going to be the most limiting. I would look at the EliteBook 840 if you haven't already - and also the upcoming X1 Nano.
posted by kickingtheground at 1:29 AM on October 19, 2020

The Thinkpad X390 is pretty good, it just doesn't have an aluminum case. Lenovos are kinda boring, but Linux just works with no tweaking.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:10 AM on October 19, 2020

Yeah, I guess I should have also said: I'm generally happy with Lenovos/Thinkpads, and if there's nothing better out there, where "better" = 80%+ of my dream machine, I'll just stick with the reliable and boring black plastic Lenovos. But I'm hoping there's something out there that gives me a signifiant style upgrade, and a decent display upgrade, while still matching most of my weird preferences.
posted by rhiannonstone at 10:20 AM on October 19, 2020

Some people on the Thinkpad subreddit really geek out about the specific displays available (including distinctions between "identical" displays that are made by different manufacturers used within one model) if that's a route you want to take to get a better display. (Example.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:45 AM on October 19, 2020

I'd highly recommend the X1 Yoga. The last couple of generations have been made using a dark (anodized?) aluminum case that....still looks like a ThinkPad, frankly, but is a little more stylish. The new Gen 5 nails the rest of your requirements. There's even a version that comes with Ubuntu pre-installed, which bodes well for Linux support for the various Yoga features.
posted by ZaphodB at 2:50 PM on October 19, 2020

If you can live without the trackpoint, I think a Dell XPS would hit all your other requirements.
posted by danceswithlight at 5:16 PM on October 19, 2020

You might also look at some of the Dell Precision workstation laptops. I'm sorry I can't be more specific right now, but my primary work laptop, a 15-17 inch Dell of some sort, is in the shop at the moment. It does indeed have a trackpoint, but isn't silver. They may (or may not) have smaller models available.
posted by lhauser at 7:38 PM on October 19, 2020

My work laptop is a Dell Latitude 7480. It has a trackpointy thing, and may check most of your other boxes except for not being aluminum. I'm not sure if you can get a trackpoint on current Latitudes, but if you don't mind used there should be a ton of 7480s coming off lease right now. I should say the keyboard is inferior to that of a ThinkPad though.
posted by Standard Orange at 9:41 PM on October 19, 2020

The Dell XPS series has native Linux laptops that tick all your requirements except the trackpoint. Both past and present models are very well reviewed; there's really nothing else that compares to them at the moment.
posted by givennamesurname at 10:40 AM on October 20, 2020

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