I tried my best to come up with some clever and witty ThinkPad lyrics to this classic 1982 Annie soundtrack, but a catchy title is as far as I got. However, I’ve caught a ThinkPad bug some time ago and I just wanted to share my findings about these awesome computers.
I’ve had an on and off love hate relationship between ThinkPads and Apple computers throughout my technological life. My very first work laptop was a ThinkPad T61, while at home I had an Apple iBook G4 (remember them white Apple laptops?) and then a first gen unibody Apple MacBook Pro. But as my jobs changed so did the office hardware and it took me about a decade to return to ThinkPads, all while maintaining an Apple presence at home. That all changed recently.
Through a curious chain of events initiated by the COVID-19 pandemic, I moved between three different jobs in 2020. As of this writing I am happy to report that all turned out great in the end, but it was a heavy year to say the least, as I know it was for quite a lot of people. And speaking of heavy, my current work laptop is a ThinkPad P53, a 15″ monster of a workstation rocking a Core i7 chip with a Quadro T2000 graphics card and other gadgets that a project manager will never use. Last year I also had a chance to work on a ThinkPad T495 with a touch screen that I must say is addicting to use.
For all ThinkPads big and small, it’s the keyboard and the awesome typing experience that links these models together, and it is that famous keyboard that made me do a little soul searching on the used laptop market.
First, I ended up picking up a 2011 ThinkPad x220 with the original style ThinkPad keyboard. A ten year old laptop has its quirks to be sure. The non-IPS screen kinda sucks, to be honest, WiFi card was old, and bluetooth wasn’t recognized at all in Windows 10. Also, the x220’s cooling fan is noisy and rough on vibrations when running, which seemed to be all the time. Did I mention it has a ThinkLight?
Second, I talked myself into purchasing a ThinkPad x250, a more modern take on the x220 model.
x220 fixes and upgrades.
Tearing the x220 apart is extremely rewarding. When was the last time you took something apart and it just allowed you to do so? A few screws and you’re in. No breaking of plastic tabs, no need to use spudgers and other gizmos to pry open factory sealed plastics. I am now able to get to a motherboard-out state of things within 4 minutes, and here’s why.
Getting a modern WiFi card was easy. An Intel 7260 dual band WiFi/Bluetooth card is a direct replacement with one caveat: a single pin on the card needs to be covered for the card to function properly. Windows recognized the new card, downloaded new drivers, and everything’s running smoothly.
Replacing a noisy x220 fan for a better x230 fan is a little more challenging as it requires a complete motherboard disassembly. Luckily we’ve got YouTube for that.
What no one mentioned though is to “put on a heavy coat of thermal grease, be really generous” or you’ll be doing this activity 3 times before the CPU is running nice and cool.
The only other fix on that laptop was to repair a broken screen bezel, a common problem on these models, and I used a JB Weld type glue that’s rock solid now.
I purchased that model while still on the x220 high of “what a great laptop, if only it could…”.
This x250 model has Core i7 chip, 16gigs of RAM, an IPS screen and two batteries for all day mobility. ThinkPads are widely regarded as business computers and that’s really great for the used market. Companies I worked for usually replace laptops every 3 or so years, which puts a lot of these older models up for resale. My x250 came from a single owner who bought it out after using it at work for the past 4 years.
There isn’t much to add to the P53 model other than it is truly a beast. It’s big, it’s heavy, and it’s full of top-end tech. It’s also a great gaming laptop if you’re into that. Now Quadro T2000 isn’t a gaming graphic card, but it does great for the GTA V driving I do in the off hours.
In all of these computers typing is pure joy and in the end that is what got me hooked. I have passed on my 2015 MacBook Pro to my wife, and am now living a ThinkPad life. The two X-series laptops were an easy purchase as they are a bit old and tend to be used by the enthusiast among us. The P53 is a great computer to have around to do the grunt work. All in all, it’s a ThinkPad life.