Why we love ThinkPads

Jonas Hendrickx

I joined the ThinkPad fandom quite late. My first Lenovo product was a Lenovo IdeaPad Y500, and was impressed by the build quality. Then I met some interesting people that were talking about ThinkPads all the time in the Lenovo community. These people spend a lot of free time on refurbishing classic ThinkPads or simply collecting them. Some of these collectors have 10-50 classic ThinkPads, while others have more than 100.

I decided to take a look at a few ThinkPads (T-series and W-series), but I wasn’t immediately impressed mostly because they didn’t have a modern or flashy look like their consumer counterparts. But after a while, I gave in and started to look around to buy my first ThinkPad. And so I purchased my first ThinkPad, the ThinkPad W530. I soon realized what all the fuzz was about.

The ThinkPad W530 was a very robust and tough machine. I tried to put pressure on the palm rest as hard as I could, but it wouldn’t flex because of the internal magnesium frame which reinforces the chassis. The materials used in the W530 are carbon fiber reinforced plastic and glass fiber reinforced plastic. Although for some reason the W530 feels stronger than the W540 I have right now. Also the non-painted chassis makes a huge difference in how your ThinkPad will look after several years. You might see some scratches, but they are barely visible…

When I had some problems with my back, I decided to sell my ThinkPad W530 and grab a ThinkPad X1 Carbon Gen 2, which was made of aluminium magnesium alloy and carbon fiber reinforced plastic. This one was also a great model, despite the dynamic keyboard row which ruined my experience. Imagine a very thin ultrabook, still being very strong. Ice cold to the touch when you unpack it due to the aluminium magnesium material, and a very smooth surface. It was really an amazing machine to hold. I also managed to get my hands on a X1 Carbon Gen 3 very early, and I have to say it was the perfected design of the X1 Carbon Gen 2, like it was supposed to be. I have never held a computer of such good build quality in my whole life.

The keyboard is amazing, no matter which model you are using, or no matter how much you paid for your ThinkPad. Whether it is an entry level ThinkPad Edge E-series or an high-end X-series or W-series., the keyboards always perform and feel great. Okay, Lenovo may have sacrificed the 7-row keyboard for a 6-row, which was an adjustment for some ThinkPad fans. But I believe this had to do with moving from 4:3 to 16:9 or 16:10, where there was a lack of space for a 7th keyboard row. But they also needed to fill up the empty space horizontally. I know quite a few ThinkPad fans that are against this change and trying to fight it, but I have missed this transition, so I cannot join this conversation or discussion. However I have noticed myself the keyboard travel is less on the 7-row than a 6-row. But on a 7-row if you type with both hands, you will notice your hands travel horizontally as much as they do vertically. With the 6-row they are likely to travel more horizontally. But the keyboard still feels great regardless of this change, right? The ThinkPad keyboard isn’t a keyboard people want to see innovations happen. They just want to have a reliable keyboard they can work with, with no crazy sudden changes moving keys around, adding dynamic keyboard rows, and so on. For me this means, being able to switch between several ThinkPad models, without needing to adapt my fingers or gestures or the way my fingers travel on my keyboard. And I want to be able to do my programming work for countless hours without getting slowed down by my keyboard. This is why I choose ThinkPad. I don’t want my fingers to start panicking not knowing where to go.

Even the TrackPoint is a must-have on your keyboard, that little red dot is very useful. Instead of dragging your fingers over the touchpad to move the mouse a few centimeters is just annoying and tiresome. Really, who likes dragging his finger several times over the touchpad just to move the cursor to the end of the other screen? With a TrackPoint you simply gently push the TrackPoint with your finger towards the location you want your cursor to move. It is as simple as that.

Then you also have options with nearly every ThinkPad to have a WWAN card in your ThinkPad, which is very useful for travellers. And even for all you students over there, using your school’s public networks, how many times have you experienced that the WiFi network at school simply didn’t work or was too slow because it couldn’t handle all the traffic? The college I am currently studying at, PXL Hogeschool Hasselt, is one of those public places or schools with slow and unstable hotspots. Even if their slogan says ‘School with network’, it simply doesn’t work as it should.

And as soon as your ThinkPad’s warranty is expired after 3 years, and you are in need of parts. You can be almost certain Lenovo or IBM still has the parts you need. In Belgium, I can order parts at any given time from http://www.ibm.com/shop/be/parts/. Or I could contact technical support, and they would gladly help me. Extending warranty to 5 years for example is also no problem. Why should you buy a new laptop so often if you know it is going to last you many years? I even know someone who is still using a T61 for demanding tasks as a programmer.

Then there is eventually the ThinkVantage software. Doing a clean install of Windows, then installing ThinkVantage System Update to install all the drivers automatically for you. Who doesn’t want this? Even for computer stores or an IT help desk this is a must-have. Iterating through a download list of drivers and comparing driver versions before you realize which ones are outdated is so not done. Just give me ThinkVantage System Update, let me click that one button, and I will come back after a few minutes. And hey, you get driver updates for a few years, not just upon the product release…

And eventually there is the awesome ThinkPad community, which consists of people all prepared to help eachother in case you run into some problems. Also you get Linux working almost always out of the box.

If you don’t own a ThinkPad yet, then you better hurry.

Benjamin Herzig

I entered the ThinkPad world in 2010 with my first ThinkPad, a used R60. I didn´t pick up the ThinkPad-spirit instantly, first, I thought it was a bit awkward looking at first. But after a few weeks, first steps Thinkpad wise, it really started to grow on me. After I started using the TrackPoint, it really became addictive. I fell in love with the rugged chassis, the roll-cage, and in general, the classic and boxy design – this really was a classic ThinkPad, and a very good one, so a good start for my “addiction”. I started to get more and more interested, and like many searches for information start today, I googled “ThinkPad” – and I dived in into a whole world of history and information. I learned so much about ThinkPads, about their heritage, their design, their ideas. I started reading in the German ThinkPad forum, and my serious addiction began when I registered there on the 30th December of 2010.

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My ThinkPad R60
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My ThinkPad L520

As I started posting and discussing ThinkPads there, I of course became more and more passionate about them. I learned about some of the typical ThinkPad advantages over “normal” Consumer notebooks. It was nearly one year after I acquired the R60 that I took the “next step” – I sold the R60 to a friend (who is also still using ThinkPads today) and acquired a Thinkpad L520, which was a big step for me, because it not only replaced my R60 as my Notebook, but it also replaced my old 2005 Pentium 4 desktop (which the R60 could not replace because the hardware was too weak). So the L520 became my only and my main PC. The story continues of course with the next step, as the L520 became too bulky for me, I replaced it with a T430u. As that one didn´t have a Dock, it had to go really quickly again (after 6 months) and was replaced by a T440s, which was my main machine (see my review) until 2 weeks ago. Of course these are my main machines only, I also own more ThinkPads as collectibles…like my R50e, my Z61t or my “new” X301. Currently, I am installing and using a fresh, new W550s, which replaced my T440s (review coming soon enough!).

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ThinkPad T430u

 

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My ThinkPad T440s

As I started my journey with ThinkPads in 2010, they looked very different from todays models. Much has changed in the meantime, but for me, most important of all: While there might be some small design changes, ThinkPad always stays and stayed true to the ideas behind the brand for me. The TrackPoint, an evolutionary design, the best keyboard, solid business Notebooks, durable design…a simple and classy design with a rich history. Its all still here. My T440s is the best ThinkPad I ever had until now, only rivaled by the X301 I got some days ago when it comes to build quality. And my T440s was always with me on travel, helping me all the time when I face problems like “how to type properly on an Acer keyboard” 🙂 W550s is a bit thicker and heavier, so I won´t take it with me as often as the T440s, but still a relatively mobile machine.

I love ThinkPads. And I am confident that my ThinkPad journey won´t end anytime soon, my W550s will help me manage my day in the future. New Thinking, new ThinkPad.

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