UK Thinkpad advice
February 23, 2007 3:07 PM   Subscribe

I need to buy a laptop soon and I'm looking hard at getting Thinkpad for a variety of reasons. However I'd like some advice on what to prioritise when buying one, especially considering the limited options for customisation available in the UK. (Other laptop recommendations welcome)

I need a laptop that will last, as I'll probably still be using the same one for the foreseeable future. This, and the variety of support available online (in terms of how to set up different OS's and replacing bits like the hard drive), is making a Thinkpad (the T range in particular) look like a good option.

However for some reason there are far less/no customisation options when you buy one in the UK than, for example, on the US site (no idea why this is but it's a bit annoying). So at the moment I'm looking at this model. It will stretch my budget to just about it's limit, but it's the cheapest model available with the better screen, which as it's something I wouldn't be able to upgrade/replace in the the future I feel is worth prioritising.

Is there anything else I should be considering when looking at the range of UK T60s? Have I missed something in the spec that is a major disadvantage on this model?

Other laptops suggestions are welcome. I'm after a jack of all trades that will take a lickin' but keep on tickin' and will be my only computer for a good long while (a desktop is not an option at the moment).

(Sorry for the rather specific question but this a major outlay for me. I did try to sign up to a Thinkpad forum, but after two weeks they still haven't sent the acknowledgement email allowing me to post).
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics to Technology (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'll probably still be using the same one for the foreseeable future.

You should spend as much as possible on the processor/cpu if you want the laptop to "last" a few years. In addition to the screen, the CPU is the one piece of hardware that you can't upgrade. I would skimp on ram and storage and use the savings to buy the fastest cpu. Ram and hard drives are easily and cheaply upgraded in the future.

Also, the thinkpad is a fine machine, but you should check out some of the offerings from Dell before you commit to buy.
posted by wfrgms at 3:17 PM on February 23, 2007

I kind of agree with wfrgms, except that depending on what you need it for, CPU may not be an issue. If you're gaming or something serious like that, then sure. But I have tended to choose the bottom-of-the-line CPU and it's always more than enough for what I do on my laptop (surf web, writing, play music). The only thing that ever caused slowness was lack of RAM.

And I don't see HD as being that expandable- it's not exactly that convenient to carry around an external, unless laptop hard disks are more easily swapped out than I had thought.

And I hate to sound like a broken record on this topic, but Dells have gone way downhill. The motherboard WILL fail. And I can't speak for the UK, but their US customer service is the worst I have ever encountered. (claiming people spilled a substance inside their computer to get out of a warrantee is par for the course)

Toshiba is the other brand you might want to consider. Just stay away from Dell, please, I beg you.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:37 PM on February 23, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also, the one thing that i wish i had considered more is battery life. I bought a "laptop" from guess-which-company without reading the fine print.

It turned out it has the absurdly short battery life of less than two hours. Since I'm not inclined to carry around three or four large batteries, its effectively a desktop and a complete waste of money.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:39 PM on February 23, 2007

CPU for me has never been as much of an issue as ram has been... how ofter are you using the CPU at 100%? Rarely!

RAM is the big factor for me when thinking long term. And I've owned a half dozen notebooks over the year. Batteries come next but you can always get new ones off eBay, but once your RAM is maxed out, not much you can do.
posted by furtive at 3:48 PM on February 23, 2007

one of the main factors
size and weight. no point in getting a big labtop almost seems oxymoronic.

get a light labtop (usually have high battery life)
cpu top priority
ram next on the list
hard drive
graphics card

i regret choosing my 8lb labtop and rather would have gone for a lightweight.. because in a couple of years whatev technology you have in your labtop will be obsolete

thinkpad is a very good choice for labtop
posted by radsqd at 4:03 PM on February 23, 2007

You probably know that at the current exchange rates it is far (by nearly half) cheaper to buy the computer in the US. And since it is also more configurable if you buy it there, you might want to figure out if you have any friends coming/going any time soon who might be able to receive it or bring it to you. IBM/Lenovo UK can't do anything about the exchange rate, but they shouldn't get away with giving you less choice. I love my Thinkpad, though, and I've been very impressed with the warranty service.

As for whether to get the fastest processor you can: if you ever plan to use Vista you'll probably need it. But use Ubuntu instead.
posted by xueexueg at 4:15 PM on February 23, 2007

What's with all the Dell haters? Sheesh.

The Latitude D620 is a really nice piece of hardware (vastly superior to the D600/610 it replaces) and can only be purchased through the Business Sales division, which automatically means better support regardless of which warranty you choose. Buying through Business Sales isn't hard, either; just make up a consulting company with your name on it and shop away.

Disclaimer - I work for Dell, and in the Business Sales division, but I don't sell client side (laptops / desktops) hardware; servers / storage / networking only. I'm writing this on an Inspiron 8600 that I took to Iraq and back; it's about 2 1/2 years old, and running fine.
posted by ZakDaddy at 4:21 PM on February 23, 2007

I don't own a Thinkpad, but I covet everyone else's Thinkpads. I was given one briefly for work and it was such a pleasure to use, especially the amazing keyboard. And they are very sturdy machines. I don't know anyone who's unsatisfied with theirs. On the other hand, everyone I know with a Dell complains nonstop about it.

The model you picked looks terrific, and I can't imagine you'd need more processing power or RAM than that. I'm jealous. It's a little heavy for my taste, but that's the price you pay for durability (unless you get one of the very expensive Toughbooks).

Don't know if you saw this already, but there is a customization engine of sorts here:

(sorry, AskMe's linking function has mysteriously disappeared)

It's not as good as the U.S. one, but at least it gives you some options.
posted by walla at 6:43 PM on February 23, 2007

Dells won't last. That's if you can even get them to ship the right thing to you. Avoid.

Thinkpads are perfectly fine. At the three year mark (or possibly a little earlier) you'll want to max out the RAM, if it's still reliable. That's all.

Note to ZakDaddy: The main reason I stopped buying Dell whenever possible was the fact that the account managers are completely effing clueless, at least in Australia. The main reason I hate Dell is the Optiplex GX270. Ask around about the capacitor problem with the motherboards. (The exploding laptops didn't help any, but I co-blame Sony for that train wreck.)
posted by krisjohn at 8:53 PM on February 23, 2007

You picked a fine model, but I would strongly suggest finding a way to pay USD to a US reseller. You'll save a fucktonne, and if you have no objections to PayPal, it shouldn't be too difficult to work out.

I have a 14" T60p that I chose after doing a lot of homework, and IMO, having the 14" screen (but the same number of pixels as the 15") is just awesome. My 15" friends covet my display. If you have poor vision, YMMV.

Also, just as an FYI, I replaced the 5400RPM HD with a 7200RPM HD and I cannot tell the difference. It's not worth the price premium.

Last, is the place you want to hang out.
posted by Kwantsar at 10:51 PM on February 23, 2007

Perhaps this would work for you?
posted by Kwantsar at 10:58 PM on February 23, 2007

I'm a lifelong and hardcore Mac user — but the only non-Apple computer I ever owned was a ThinkPad, and it was a good and sturdy piece of hardware.
posted by cribcage at 12:16 AM on February 24, 2007

My laptop's a 15" widescreen Thinkpad. I wish it were slightly smaller and slightly lighter. Whenever I fly, I wish I had gotten the 14". For some reason, that last inch seems to make a big difference. (Cue Michael Scott saying "That's what she said").

On the plus side, Thinkpads seem to hold their value pretty well on ebay, and I could drive a truck over it without causing any long-term damage.

Be careful of the tradeoffs you make when upgrading: sometimes, more CPU can sometimes mean less battery life, especially within the same processor line. Same for faster spinning hard drives. If you want a CPU that lasts for hours on the road, you'll probably want something different than if the laptop will sit on your desk all the time.
posted by IvyMike at 1:02 AM on February 24, 2007

I'd agree with the general opinion that Thinkpads are superb, if expensive, machines (they've been the notebook of choice in every corporate IT outfit I've worked for in the last decade), but I don't think you should buy one. Or indeed drop nearly £1500 on any laptop, unless you absolutely can't do without the cutting-edge performance or have the spare cash to treat yourself.

A few years ago laptops were the sole preserve of corporate LIWs, now it seems every student has one and prices are being forced ever downwards as the market expands. Buying a top-end machine isn't a great investment IMO.

These HPs are a little over £400 and with a clean install of XP Pro will perform just about any task you want (except high-end gaming and 3D rendering, perhaps). DVD writer, long battery life and lots of neat productivity and power-saving functions - I love mine. And it's well over £1000 cheaper. Comparing the spec of this with the Thinkpad you've selected, I can't see that the Thinkpad is three times greater in any sense, except price.

I'd keep the extra £1000 in a high-interest savings account and in a couple of years time, when Vista and multi-core processors are well established and there's even more competition in the laptop market, buy yourself new one.
posted by boosh at 9:15 AM on February 24, 2007

Thanks for all the responses, I really appreciate it. drjimmy11, I was thinking about this article I stumbled upon when I was talking about hard drives.

The exchange rate price is a real eye opener, an equivalent machine is indeed about half the price. I have a friend in the states at the moment who is coming back in about a month, bearing that in mind I'll start looking into the international warranty situation, and check if my friend can help.
posted by drill_here_fore_seismics at 3:18 PM on February 25, 2007

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