Ask HM: What laptops do you use?

I’m in the market for a new laptop and probably will be doing more hack-y work in the future, mainly electronics.

I’ve noticed a few of you guys use ThinkPads / Lenovo variations. Is there a reason why this brand is so popular among makers? Is it because of durability e.g. near soldering irons and dusty places?

My Lenovo has a serious soldering iron burn on the corner. A battle scar
from a last-minute debugging session.
So I’m afraid they’re not iron-proof.
Or perhaps they are, since it still works.

It might be popular around hacman due to a number of us colluding to buy
Certainly thinkpads have tended to have a reputation for being robust and
well made and have good Linux support and be available second hand.

Newer Lenovo tend to still be reasonably Linux friendly, and generally well
made, but are certainly not cheap devices.

I’ve seen a lot of Lenovo’s used in business due to the docking stations.
My own personal preference is now Asus, simply because the one I have now has lasted so long (it’s an old N55S) compared to the others I’ve used in the past

I only ever buy Thinkpads. They have a proper mag alloy chassis, they have stainless steel hinges (which don’t tend to loosen), they have spill-proof keyboards, they are readily available with SSD drives, the keyboards have a nice action, they come with matt screens (better in sunlight), they are pretty high resolution if you buy the 1600x900 panel, they are fast, they have a proper copper cooler, the casings are matt so don’t show marks.

Some of these things are true on other brands, but I stick to a Thinkpad every time, you know what you get.

They also tend to be Intel throughout, so are extremely well supported by all major operating systems.

Don’t buy an Edge, they are not a proper Thhinkpad. Consider an X1 or X2 Carbon, they are lovely.

Take a look at - they are not as cheap as some vendors but their gradings are very accurate and they usually offer a 12-month warranty which is pretty good.

Go for an i5 or better, with 8GB RAM and the hi-def screen and the 240GB SSD screen - should be about £400 Grade A, less if you fancy a Grade B. There is nothing newer than a T430 at the moment, probably because the T440 is not popular, they messed about with the keyboard and the trackpad and no-one bought them. The T450 is not yet readily available.

The only caveat is that they tend to only be dual core, so if you’re looking for a rendering monster, look elsewhere.

Hope that helps.
Andrew Gladwell.

Having been in the business of repairing laptops, I would not personally go for an Asus over a Thinkpad. They are not bad but they are definitely second-tier - with the possible exception of your particular machine.

Do you mean the T450 is not yet readily available second-hand?
I have a T450s and a T460p. The T450s is lovely unless you need to change
anything (then the thin case makes it a pain, and half the RAM is soldered
on to the board).

I largely agree with this post.

I currently have two Lenovo laptops in use - an X1 Carbon and a T430. I previously had a T410 which i sold to @badspyro after 2 years of constant use.

The T430 is super expandable, has an i5, 16gb of ram, 2 SSDs (one linux, one windows) and a DVD writer. Battery lasts about 3 hours in general use. I carried it around for 2 years, but nowadays I mainly use it at home, as its a bit heavy. Cost was £250 ~2 years ago. I accidentally set this laptop on fire by running -24V through the USB ports when working on the laser cutter and it still works perfectly (including the USB port somehow!) except for a small blemish on the case.

The X1 carbon is lightweight and fast, has an i7 and 8gb of ram, and a 240gb SSD. Its not expandable or designed to be taken apart easily at all, but is very light - I can carry two of them (home and work) in my backpack and it weighs less than the T430. The screen is very pretty and high enough res. Battery lasts about 5 - 6 hours. Cost was about £400 a year ago - My main annoyance with the X1c (specifically the gen2) is that it has a touchpad for the F keys which is easy to slip and hit if you have big fingers, and it doesnt have an SD card reader built in. Both of these were solved in the Gen3, which is a bit more expensive second hand :slight_smile:

I bought both from teir1.


Thinkpad X220 masterrace, here. I’ve been building them for friends for years, it’s the one I recommend the most.

My daily driver is the i7-2640, pretty capable machine, with 16GB of DDR3-1600 (even though they “officially” only support 8GB, you can make them use 16 with the right RAM and BIOS), a pair of SSDs, and the IPS display. The main attraction for me is that the X220 is the last of the thinkpads that has the proper keyboard. Very compact and light, barely half the weight of an equivalent sized recent macbook. It also takes an additional slice battery which gives you a huge boost in run time. I use it as a programming laptop and it has no problem with long tram journeys and flights even when compiling C++. Great cooling, too, unlike any of those asus heat-traps.

And of course indestructable magnesium chassis, everything is easy to service and replace, parts are cheap and broken ones appear on ebay all the time from ex-corporate sellers. You can build a very good one for under £200 these days.

I always have a lot of spare parts for them lying about, and I’d be happy to build one for anyone at the space who wants one - just let me know a budget and I can put together something, anywhere between an i3 with 2GB for ~£100 to the full i7-2640 with 16GB for probably under £300 now.

I’ve decided to join the x220 master race (and take up Riot on his offer). Thanks for your replies, I didn’t know that these were so popular.

I’ll be eyeing up the carbon next!

1 Like