I have generally kept up with the times in terms of computer hardware, or so I thought. My desktop machine runs just fine for everything I use it for. I updated the video card periodically to whatever Ars Technica was currently recommending, and that let me play relatively recent vijda games at a reasonable framerate. I also replaced my dying and out-of-fashion 4 drive RAID10 setup with a single SSDHD drive twice the size, and I’ve stayed current on operating systems. I kept Windows XP for a comically long time, and Windows 7 for a comically long time after that, but it’s running Windows 10 now and it’s fine. It’s not slow by any means I can detect, and I’m far from a casual computer user.
The other day I was considering purchasing a new laptop (we’re getting to that) as my venerable ThinkPad X201’s ancient integrated Intel graphics chip didn’t have recent OpenGL support under Debian. I generally don’t purchase ThinkPads new, as reasonably recent incarnations can be found cheaply on eBay and they’re basically indestructible. They tend to be cheap because corporate customers purchase them in bulk and upgrade them en masse, selling off the old ones. Anyway, I was comparing processors and decided to use my desktop as a reference point. Looking up the processor I discovered that the Core i5 750 is nearly a decade old. It’s going to get older, too, as I can’t come up with any compelling reason to upgrade, and that would involve replacing the entire motherboard, RAM and power supply to accomplish.
There’s a lot to consider in purchasing a used ThinkPad, because there’s a dizzying variety of them. I generally stick with the X2xx series, as they are a reasonable balance of size and horsepower and I just love that form factor. As a fat dude who uses laptops on airplanes, I’ve learned that smaller laptops have greater utility for me. I also have no desire to lug around a computer with similar dimensions and mass to the Durant’s The Story of Civilization).
I started by looking for a slightly newer version of the X2xx series. The X240 and X250 would probably have been fine and can be had for ~$300USD used. While I was looking at those, I thought maybe I’d just take a quick peek at the newer ones and…I am now the proud owner of the latest ThinkPad X1 Carbon because…reasons.
I’ve had this laptop for a little over two weeks now and I absolutely adore it. I got it a day or two before I left on vacation, so I was able to really put it through its paces as a road warrior. (Do people still say “road warrior”?) Here is my mini-review:
I upgraded from an X201. I really like the 12” form factor of the X201, so I was a little iffy on the 14” screen. As it turned out, the aspect ratio of the screen means the front-to-back distance (the dimension that matters for a fat man in an airplane seat) is only like 1⁄4” greater than the X201 and it’s only an inch or so wider.
It’s so light that at first you think it might be flimsy, but it’s actually really strong. (Thanks, carbon fiber chassis!)
I’m a lifelong TrackPointer, so I can’t comment on the trackpad that I immediately disabled.
It’s fast as hell (went for the 16GB model with the i7-8650U) super quiet, runs cool, gets amazing battery life and the screen is gorgeous. The keyboard feels very nice and the backlighting works great on a dark plane.
As an aside, I didn’t really know much about Thunderbolt 3, but it’s amazing. I bought one of these things, which you can plug your power supply, network cable, speakers, HDMI and USB (mechanical keyboard and trackball mouse, in my case) and you only have to connect one cable to the laptop and you’ve got everything. It’s like a docking station, but not completely ridiculous.
I’ve functionally replaced my old desktop at this point, though I am planning to add one of those external graphics card units once that technology matures a bit.
I generally sticker-bomb laptops as much for the visual effect as for the modicum of scratch resistance (and hiding) the stickers provide. I decided to do this one with Lovecraft-themed stickers, but without any references to Cthulhu or horrific racism. I was trying to also go tentacle free, but there’s a few subtle ones in there.
So that’s the story of how I spent orders of magnitude more money on my new laptop than I had intended to. I think it was a good move, though, and judging by how long I was able to maintain my old X201, this thing should serve me well for years.