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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 12:18 am 
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Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 2:40 pm
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Location: San Francisco, CA
This past week I bought my first non-Thinkpad laptop in over 15 years. I'm writing this with the unlikely hope that someone at Lenovo might read it and care. I seriously prefer thinkpad keyboards, the trackpoint, thinkpad ergonomics, and Windows... but Lenovo machines are not even close to state-of-the-art anymore.

Here is the machine I WISH I could have just bought...

Lenovo W530u. <5lbs w/90 watt-hour battery, <1 inch thick, 16:10 aspect ratio 1400x1050 15.4" display, thinkpad keyboard and trackpoint, Ivy Bridge i7, switchable NVidia "Kepler" discrete graphics, 8GB RAM, 256GB SSD. ~~ $2000.

Instead, I replaced my W520 "back breaker" and 130W power-brick-embarassment with a Retina Macbook Pro... here are the reasons...

1) 15" thin and light ... The 15" Retina MBP is almost 1/3 the thickness, possibly 1/2 the volume, and just a little more than half the weight of my W520 (with the 9-cell). I'm willing to deal with a slightly thicker Thinkpad if I can get the original thinkpad keyboard, but this size and weight difference is not even close.

2) 16:10 instead of 16:9 ... PLEASE, stop making laptops designed for HDTV movies. I don't buy a $1.5k+ graphics discrete graphics workstation so I can watch DVDs. I buy them to WORK! (and occasionally game)! Honestly I was happier with the 4:3 aspect ratio on my late T40 and T42. I understand letterbox is all the rage in laptop form factors, but please, 16:10 is going far enough. 16:9 is less usable for webpages, documents, programming, and all manner of real things we do with computers. Stick to 16:10. (or bring back 4:3!)

3) Make a small power brick.. consider total travel size... The W520 power brick seriously feels like I'm carrying a whole additional laptop. The thing is RIDICULOUS. How can Apple ship me a machine with 2x faster graphics and 30-40% more battery life and use a small 85W power brick instead of Lenovo's silly 130W monster? Okay, maybe Ivy Bridge and Kepler are newer than the W520 innards, but please, Lenovo has all the same access. Where is their updated 15" workstation? If I include the 9-cell and a power-brick that make the W520 remotely competitive in battery life and utility, the W520+brick is seriously more than double the size and weight of the rMBP+brick.

4) No optical drive. Please. I don't watch DVDs on my $2k laptop. I havn't handled a DVD in over two years. I don't bring optical media when I travel. I havn't used an optical drive in a laptop in a long time. On my old T40/T42 I put a battery in the optical drawer (even though it hardly gave me any more runtime).

5) 5-7hr "real" wireless web usage. This means working switchable graphics and a big battery. My W500 did switchable graphics, though I'm not sure if my W520 even does it. I know making switchable graphics work as well on win7 as it does on MacOS is a bit "out of your hands", but try. Twist MSFT's arm. Make a totally custom integrated video driver. Find a way.

6) <2 second sleep-resume, and reasonable (20-30 day) standby time. Again, hamstrung by MSFT and win7, but do your best. Fight the good fight. Get that DRAM refresh powered down and hibernate to SSD!

I understand the Retina Macbook pro is "cheating" in that everything is soldered down. I'm fine with a bit of thickness compromise to socket some of the parts (battery, memory, SSD). I'm also fine with the parts soldered down. I just want something competitively thin-and-light

I love and will dearly miss my "real" thinkpad keyboard (not the island one). I'd gladly take either thinkpad keyboard on my fantasy W530u as long as it comes with a trackpoint and a thinkpad-style smooth front edge. (the sharp front edge of the macbook pro is very irritating)

Good luck Lenovo! Wow us with some new machines soon.


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 1:25 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2007 5:22 pm
Posts: 44
Location: Boston, MA
davesf wrote:
3) Make a small power brick.. consider total travel size... The W520 power brick seriously feels like I'm carrying a whole additional laptop. The thing is RIDICULOUS. How can Apple ship me a machine with 2x faster graphics and 30-40% more battery life and use a small 85W power brick instead of Lenovo's silly 130W monster? Okay, maybe Ivy Bridge and Kepler are newer than the W520 innards, but please, Lenovo has all the same access. Where is their updated 15" workstation? If I include the 9-cell and a power-brick that make the W520 remotely competitive in battery life and utility, the W520+brick is seriously more than double the size and weight of the rMBP+brick.


Totally agree w/ most of this rant, especially this. I had to look at the macbook pro's power brick and couldn't figure out how it can only be 85W w/ similar hardware. The Thinkpad should be able to power down parts of the hardware if it doesn't have enough AC power...e.g., use Ivy Bridge graphics and disable Kepler/nVidia graphics. If you have a fast processor, keep it throttled down w/ a smaller brick. How hard can it be to code up drivers/BIOS settings that check the power brick's size and powers down stuff as needed? I can write code to do this in my sleep :-P

I disagree w/ soldering stuff down though. That's why I like my W530. It's a useful, configurable system. I replaced the hard drive w/ an SSD and bought an ultrabay adapter for the hard drive. I swap out different hard drives for different clients when they have ridiculously huge databases or development environments. I can stick another SSD in the mSATA port instead of hooking up a WWAN modem. I like having 4 memory slots and 32GB of RAM for my virtual machines. All these things ruled out the MBP w/ Retina display for me...


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:21 pm 
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davesf wrote:
16:10 aspect ratio 1400x1050 15.4" display

That doesn't make sense of course. 1400x1050 is 4:3. You probably meant 1680x1050.

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 15, 2012 2:58 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 5:07 am
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The Retina MacBook Pro is no doubt the "most perfect" 15.*-inch laptop ever made. I was at Staples earlier today and played with the 15.6" PCs on display and found all of them repulsive: bulky, heavy, and ugly, with outrageously thick display bezels. The good news is, PC laptops in this size category have been getting better and better. First, Panasonic came up with the Let's Note B10 with 15.6" 1920x1080 and an integrated optical drive that weighs only 4.14 lbs, though it doesn't look particularly pretty. A little later, Sony introduced the SE Series, which has a 15.6" 1920x1080 IPS screen and an integrated optical drive and weighs just a tad heavier, at 4.40 lbs. Then, Samsung updated its Series 9 lines, which included a 15.0" 1600x900 model weighing only 3.63 lbs! Samsung was smart enough to do away with the optical drive, and aesthetically it's at least as nice as the Retina MacBook Pro. And now, even HP has a sleek and light 15-incher, the aptly named "Envy Sleekbook 6". I said "even" because HP is notorious for making bulky and heavy laptops, but this 15.6" Sleekbook weighs only 4.6 lbs and most amazingly, it's priced at only $600. Unfortunately, its marred by a crap resolution, 1366x768, though that's hardly a surprise considering its budget price. (UPDATE: I just learned about the new Vizio CT15-A1: 15.6" 1920x1080, 3.96 lbs.)

As you can see, the laptop world is once again getting interesting if not exciting, after several years of drought. To take advantage of this excitement, all you need to do is learn to survive without the Thinkpad trackpoint.

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Dell Inspiron 7500; Gateway NX860X; HP EliteBook 8740w; Panasonic CF-Y9; Sony Pro13, VGN-P530CH
Dell OptiPlex 9010 & 760, Precision 390; HP d7900, Elite 8300, 8200 & 8000
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Last edited by pianowizard on Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:05 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 11:09 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 08, 2005 5:33 am
Posts: 36
davesf wrote:
4) No optical drive. Please. I don't watch DVDs on my $2k laptop. I havn't handled a DVD in over two years. I don't bring optical media when I travel. I havn't used an optical drive in a laptop in a long time. On my old T40/T42 I put a battery in the optical drawer (even though it hardly gave me any more runtime).

Although I agree with the general sentiment of your post with regards to more effort being put into making these ThinkPads portable, I can't agree with this particular point. As soon as I got my W520 a few months ago, the first thing I needed to do was install the MS Office version my University has licensed which comes on, you guessed it... a DVD. Then I got an SSD and had to do some partitioning work and copying of the Hard Disk, using a copy of Paragon Hard Disk Manager which I had on... DVD (had to be run from external media in low-level OS). Then I was asked to examine a PhD which had its appendices (additional material) tucked into a pocket at the back containing... a DVD.

Sorry, but a ThinkPad without optical drive just wouldn't be a ThinkPad. I bought this fantastic machine as a workhorse, and a workhorse needs to be able to do (nearly) everything. No optical drive, indeed... What will they think of next? Chiclet keyboards?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 4:42 pm 
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kenyee wrote:
Totally agree w/ most of this rant, especially this. I had to look at the macbook pro's power brick and couldn't figure out how it can only be 85W w/ similar hardware. The Thinkpad should be able to power down parts of the hardware if it doesn't have enough AC power...e.g., use Ivy Bridge graphics and disable Kepler/nVidia graphics. If you have a fast processor, keep it throttled down w/ a smaller brick. How hard can it be to code up drivers/BIOS settings that check the power brick's size and powers down stuff as needed? I can write code to do this in my sleep :-P


Well maybe Lenovo could do what Apple did on those quad core Mac's with 85 watt power supplies - have them steal from the battery at load and slowly drain the battery - they draw over 100 watts under full load. But then what about the RAID setups, etc that the W520 supports that the Mac doesn't? Those items require additional power too. Of course it's hard to put the Mac at load for long because it overheats and throttles the CPU down. Is the W520 170 watt overkill? Possibly for a lot of users the 135 watt would've been fine, but the 85 watt / cooling with the MacBook is not really up to the task at load.

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Thinkpad T420 | Core i-5 2520M | 16gb RAM | 120gb Intel 520 SSD + 750gb 7200 RPM | 6300 N | Ubuntu 12.04 x64
Desktop: AMD FX-8350 (8 cores) | 32gb ECC RAM | 240gb Intel 530 SSD + 1tb 7200 RPM | Ubuntu 12.04 x64 | HP ZR24w
Previous Thinkpads: A21m, R40, X61, T410


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 5:07 pm 
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Joined: Tue Jun 28, 2005 5:07 am
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geoffrey wrote:
Sorry, but a ThinkPad without optical drive just wouldn't be a ThinkPad.


Except for the X300 and X301, the X-series Thinkpads have never had optical drives.

geoffrey wrote:
I bought this fantastic machine as a workhorse, and a workhorse needs to be able to do (nearly) everything. No optical drive, indeed... What will they think of next? Chiclet keyboards?


You are joking, right? All current Thinkpad models use chiclet keyboards, though they have better action than conventional chiclet keyboards.

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Dell Inspiron 7500; Gateway NX860X; HP EliteBook 8740w; Panasonic CF-Y9; Sony Pro13, VGN-P530CH
Dell OptiPlex 9010 & 760, Precision 390; HP d7900, Elite 8300, 8200 & 8000
Dell 3008WFP,U2711,2408WFP,2407WFP,sp2309w,ST2210b,2007FP; HP ZR2740w,L2201x; Lenovo L220X; Samsung 2343BWX


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 16, 2012 6:06 pm 
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Location: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
But they are five keys short and crapped all the F-buttons in one solid row, etc. etc....

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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 1:27 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 03, 2009 2:16 am
Posts: 13
Location: Berkeley, California
Best not to get hung up on a particular brand, although I give Apple a slight boost for being an American company with at least some operations here--our government may be too stupid to protect American jobs the way it used to, but we can still make informed buying decisions. Now, features, that's a different story. I like certain Thinkpads and Dells because of the real keyboards and their eraser-head alternative to the mouse. Unfortunately, both of these features seem on the way out. Funny, you'd think they'd leave well-enough alone. Many years ago, IBM developed a really good keyboard, based on its decades of experience with typewriter keyboards and the professionals who used them. When IBM sold its laptop division to the Chinese, Lenovo kept that keyboard design going, also the eraserhead. But, now, its latest models seem to have gone "chicklet." Then, you have the terrible low-frequency PWM LED backlighting schemes that Lenovo (and Apple and others) has adopted to save a few bucks.


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PostPosted: Sat Aug 11, 2012 10:01 pm 
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curious wrote:
Best not to get hung up on a particular brand, although I give Apple a slight boost for being an American company with at least some operations here--our government may be too stupid to protect American jobs the way it used to, but we can still make informed buying decisions.


All of Apple's manufacturing is overseas. And if you're just talking about the presence of corporate jobs in the US, well... I present to you a PC company with a large presence in the US: Lenovo (and Dell, and HP... etc.)

Quote:
Many years ago, IBM developed a really good keyboard, based on its decades of experience with typewriter keyboards and the professionals who used them.


I assume you're referring to the Model M, but that has nothing to do with laptops. :roll:

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