After roughly a year of heavy daily use, I must say that this is the best laptop I have owned in my life (including previous Thinkpads R60, T510 and and T460s). The size is just perfect. With the new hardware, it is incredibly light-weight. The 4:3 screen is something I have been missing for a long time on my laptops, and the classic Thinkpad keyboard is just a million times better than the new model. The quality of the original X61 chassis is also very good, and it looks just great.
Overall, the laptop cost me roughly 1000 EUR and around 20 hours of work. This includes 32 GB of RAM, a brand new 100 GB SSD and a brand new replacement screen I bought at Alibaba. I started with a broken X61 I bought for around 40 EUR on eBay, on which I replaced the new Lenovo "ThinkPad" logo with the original IBM ThinkPad logo that was still used on the X60.
One major problem I have is the rather old SXGA+ screen used in the mod has a CCFL edgelight, and the last time I did an LED conversion on a modded SXGA+ x61s the visual results were not great - certainly nothing close to what is had on modern LED backlit displays.
The other issue is getting quality replacement batteries for these old thinkpads. Aftermarket ones tend to suck and OEM ones are either counterfeit or very old stock in my experience.
Furthermore, while this particular laptop strikes an exceptional balance of size/weight and usability with a great keyboard, there are some singificant flaws in the chassis design. Every single x61s I've had (there have been many now) has cracked in two places through normal usage:
1. The left edge of the palm rest immediately adjacent to the near keyboard edge above the pccard slot. There is a stress riser there due to the unsupported palm rest flexing above the card slot cavity. It's just a matter of time before it cracks from fatigue.
2. The top edge of the last CPU fan vent grill. The screen hinge is nearby and the cyclic strain of opening and closing the display eventually breaks the chassis at this thin spot - another stress riser caused by the CPU fan exhaust vent. Once the crack is formed, the area visibly deforms whenever moving the screen.
For the most part those chassis flaws seem to be largely cosmetic, but the crack near the hinge does seem to be allowing new and probably increasing levels of flex causing strain on other components which may fail later.
Regarding the problems with the chassis:
1) Yes, this is absolutely true. The used X61 I bought on eBay already had this issue in a very early stage. However, as the conversion kit does not come with a pccard slot, I just glued the slot latch shut and re-enforced it from the inside. The kit actually comes with a plastic part to close to ejector-button hole for the pccard slot, which is also designed to give additional support.
2) Hm, I will keep an eye on this, but so far I do not have any problems here. On previous ThinkPads I owned I found that any cracks in the chassis can be stopped from extending by opening the ThinkPad, adding a generous amount of superglue on the crack (from the inside) and immediately sprinkling fibers (with a 5mm length) on the glue. I usually obtain the fibers by cutting off a small part of some cheap hardware store synthetic cord.
It should also be added that I have a few spare parts from an X60 chassis (from which I obtained the original logo stickers). If you compare the X60 and the X61 chassis, you can definitely see that some additional reinforcements were added to the X61 chassis, so if anyone is planning to build an X62, I would recommend to use an X61 as a starting point. The X61 chassis also has some kind of a copper heat shield below the palm rests, which the X60 chassis has not.
I did appreciate the improved battery life with the LED conversion, but my complaints are more along the lines of colors being off and a visible pattern of the LED strip at the bottom of the display. It's non-trivial to get the LED strip perfectly aligned in the CCFL gutter, and in my last attempt there were some other artifacts, it certainly didn't look OEM in terms of quality.
Having said that, the SXGA+ 4:3 screen in that dimension is a rather nice resolution. I just wish there were compatible OEM LED options to do the mod with. Unfortunately these days nobody seems to be producing 4:3 screens.
Regarding the battery, I use this one: https://www.laptopbatteryexpress.com/Lenovo-long-life-ThinkP...
Battery life is around 7-8 hours when I am coding with 100% screen brightness, using a basically vanilla Ubuntu 16.04. It was close to 9 hours when the battery was new.
I'm too lazy to build an X62 but I love that it is a thing.
It'd be worth a try to stuff a more modern board into its magnesium frame but only if that board could drive the screen.
That's probably the only thing I miss from my older macbook.
> The truth is that consumer products are ‘new’ for a very brief moment when they are first removed from the packaging, but spend the great majority of their useful lives as ‘used’ products in the process of decay. Many welcome the breaking-in of products like a leather wallet or a pair of jeans as this wear can be aesthetically-pleasing. The Japanese have a term for this, “Wabi-sabi”. Wabi-sabi can be used to describe the aesthetically pleasing wear of an object as it decays over time.
I still use my X62 as my primary development machine. I like it so much that I've ordered an X210 from the same manufacturer.
Three USB ports? Check. Because even today, one port permanently has a YubiKey Nano, one port permanently has a Logitech Unifying nano receiver, and I'll probably be charging my phone out of the third at some point and I'd rather not lose either of the two nano dongles because I had to temporarily unplug them and misplaced them in the process.
Mobile radio? Check. Because who likes to fiddle around with pairing their phone to their laptop when they're on the train?
Drainage ports if you have a minor spill? Check.
Drainage ports in the dock, which match up with the drainage ports on the laptop itself? Check
Dock allows you to charge an extra battery while the laptop itself is charging? Check.
ThinkLight in the screen to illuminate the keyboard without requiring you to bump up the brightness on the screen and take a bigger hit to battery life? Check.
Mechanical latch on the right side, where your hand is naturally located, allowing you to push the screen up with your right hand on the right side of the machine, and push down on the bottom half with your left hand on the left hand side of the machine? Check.
Six-key home/end/insert/delete/pgup/pgdwn cluster that mirrors that on a desktop keyboard? Check.
Dedicated page back and page forward buttons, baked into the arrow key nav cluster, so that you don't need a two-key combo to go back and forward? Check.
TrackPoint lets you mouse without removing hands from the home row? Check.
LED status indicators for disk and network usage? Check.
Physical WiFi switch? Check.
10/10 repairability? Check.
All Lenovo needed to do was to refresh the processor etc. every year, maybe introduce new ports as they came out, and not screw around with a formula that didn't need to be changed. Sigh.
I miss this so much. Laptop keyboard layouts are usually a disaster. Lenovo was the shining exception, then they went and fucked it up for no apparent reason.
 If you excuse the wrong placement of Ctrl and Fn, but from the x10 generation onward this is swapable in BIOS
Too few people get this.
As a MacBook owner Lenovo's dust tests have me wincing:
And the waterproofing is kind of incredible:
Now that they make a solid, thin, repairable, upgradeable 15" laptop for creative types (ThinkPad X1 Extreme), it's becoming increasingly tempting to switch as a MacBook owner, even if I have to ditch macOS.
MacOS isn't as good as it used to be, in my opinion. I currently have a 2011 Macbook Pro, but I'm pretty sure my next laptop is not going to be a Macbook. I'll use this one until it wear out, but after that, ThinkPad is definitely high on the list. I'm just looking for a Linux distro that does basically what OS X does. Or did. I'm not happy with Apple's direction lately.
I love Linux (Arch/KDE enthusiast) but there are benefits to Windows too: it generally has better support for gaming, gamedev (all the gamedev live streamers I follow seem to be perfectly productive with Windows), C# development, Adobe apps, and deeper hardware integration (biometrics/Windows Hello and touchscreen support). There still seems to be a huge stigma with using Windows in some developer communities, but I think I can live with that…
I haven't switched to Windows 10 full-time yet, but WSL works remarkably well whenever I've tried it.
Cmder (http://cmder.net/) and ConEmu (https://conemu.github.io/) are pretty decent terminal emulators and Terminus (https://eugeny.github.io/terminus/#header ) looks promising too. (It's hard to beat iTerm, though.)
My other concern with Windows 10 was security and viruses. Last time I used Windows every day (~1999!) that was a huge concern, but it seems to be less of one now. Most seem to consider using the standard Windows-supplied virus checker just fine if you're not torrenting dodgy stuff and opening strange email attachments.
The following guide (from the @SwiftOnSecurity twitter author) was helpful:
It contains much the same advice for Windows that you'd expect to see for keeping macOS secure too — keep stuff up-to-date, encrypt your drives, don't try to disable User Account Control or Device Guard (like Gatekeeper on Mac).
I've found that chocolatey (https://chocolatey.org/) is a great replacement for brew, Laragon (https://laragon.org/) is a good alternative to Valet, and Autohotkey (https://autohotkey.com/) is unrivaled for general system automation. (See Tom Scott waxing lyrical about Windows and AHK here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIFE7h3m40U ).
I ran Mac OS X (as it was called back then) on my ThinkPad R61 back in the days (2008 or so?). Everything worked, but I did have to replace the Intel WiFi with an Atheros one and fiddle with all kind of options (it is likely easier these days). One or the other supported packet injection. Mac OS X (I think it was 10.6 or 10.7?) did boot a bit slower than 'Linux' though (probably ran Ubuntu with GNOME 2 back in those days; with a more lightweight WM/DE it'd have been even quicker).
The TrackPoint is one of those amazing tools I miss on a Mac. However, the Magic Trackpad 2 works on Linux and Windows. See this HN discussion  for details. Together with a HHKB with BT I have an excellent keyboard and pointer device supporting BT and USB. I even have carry bags to protect both devices.
I seem to be incapable of using Touchpads/Trackpads properly without getting frustrated. It was only after I 'discovered' ThinkPads that I was able to use a laptop as a device that sat on top my lap (rather than having to have somewhere I could use a mouse). Whenever I have to try to use a colleague's Mac laptop, I feel like a clumsy idiot trying to use the touchpad.
 E.g. http://x220.mcdonnelltech.com/
The Apple Magic Trackpad 2 however is the same size as the trackpad on older MB(P)s, and it has Bluetooth and USB (lightning). You can put it on the left side of your keyboard or laptop if you wish to, just like you'd put your mouse. I cannot compare it to Apple Magic Mouse though; but I can say I had a wired Apple mouse (one button) which I used with a Mac Pro G5. Not my cup.
I've never used the Apple Magic Trackpad (1 or 2), but the issue would be – even if I managed to be able to use it – it would be back being non-ideal for actual use on top of my lap.
I use a HHKB and AMT2. Both can be used wired and wireless. I don't need the device near me; both of these can be used remotely.
I don't think I will ever encounter a laptop line that is generally so user-accessible. A couple of regular screws and you pop the case. A few more and you can replace the entire keyboard. The hard drive was held in by a single screw in most models and you could easily swap it in without even popping the entire case. The RAM had it's own bay that you could access by removing a single crew. The Ultrabay mechanism was also a huge nod to the design philosophy of making the user feel like the hardware was his/hers to do with.
It's incredibly sad to me that we've abandoned that for the sake of "thinner". I wish I had a legitimate use for older hardware so I could justify picking up one of the IBM-era Thinkpads from eBay and just maintain it into perpetuity. Like the cars of yesteryear that you could mend with some string and a brick. Sure they're not "sexy" and it won't get me likes, but it's actually mine.
The more annoying change (imho) is how hard it's become to replace the keyboard. That used to be really easy, remove a handful of screws, slide out the keyboard, and unplug the connector. Now it requires disassembling the entire machine, at least for the X series.
The X200 weighed 1.34 kg, the X280 weighs 1.27 kg. What a massive weight reduction indeed. Totally worth ditching all upgrading possibilities.
Reminds me of Apple ditching the 3.5 mm jack with the pretence of making devices thinner and lighter, when neither happened.
From a consumer point of view, they're great machines. But from the seller's point of view, I can see why they want them to be harder to repair. I probably won't be upgrading for another few years, why should I? The whole trend of planned obsolescence is becoming more and more obvious. I hate it, but it was the obvious outcome.
At first I agreed with you, reminiscing that I really loved Ultrabay customizability - switching between a battery when I was on the road, a CD drive to load software when I was in the office, and a hard drive when I needed to archive stuff.
Today though, in the age of fast bandwidth, all-day batteries, and USB, I'm struggling to think of what I would do with an Ultrabay. The closest I can get is that I could use a battery on the road, and a space-saver empty bay around town, but...that's what external batteries are for these days. The more I think about it, the more I think the fondness for Ultrabays only makes sense in the 1990s/2000s, but there's a good reason they're gone.
I recently had to swap out a keyboard on a 2012 era Macbook and its very clearly highlighted just how good I have it with this thing.
Like the cars of yesteryear that you could mend with some string and a brick. Sure they're not "sexy" and it won't get me likes, but it's actually mine.
There's actually quite a lot of classic car enthusiasts, not necessarily on this site but still significant. It mostly depends on what people you associate with.
I suspect they don't want to let customers add memory or storage space down the line, especially from a third party hardware vendor- they want that memory and storage money for themselves. And if your laptop breaks, they don't want you to attempt to repair it- they want you to just buy a new one.
I am curious to know if that is still the case.
Many keyboards just had a latch and then you could remove the keyboard without using any tools. Thinkpads was just slower to get rid of that than the most of the brands.
Miss it dearly though. Pretty much all my devices are forced to be obsolete because of non-replaceable batteries.
I had only heard praises like yours on that subject, but I have a T410 and I am really not happy about the access:
* plenty of screws,
* same-looking screws with different length (I won't disassemble it one more time now, but I think that's the case),
* bloody clips that WILL break sooner or later,
* disassembly is neither super intuitive nor obvious,
* I simply could not figure out how to reach some places (like the jack I wanted to fix or change).
It is not better in that respect than the random Compaq I used before, rather worse in fact. The only positive is that the plastic ages better than the old Presario's, which got hard and brittle, so small bits regularly broke when I disassembled/reassembled it.
I had great expectations that the T410 would be better because of the praises I had read, but in fact it was a little bit worse, so I was quite disappointed.
Far fewer now, since laptops have become un-upgradeable. ~10 years ago it was fairly common for folks to take their laptops to, e.g., the Geek Squad to have memory upgraded, or to install a larger hard drive. I worked at one such place for ~3 years in the early 2000s, and the laptop upgrade business was booming.
The only thing I can't do, which I could on my last thinkpad, is to add a 9-cell battery.
Other than that they're quite neat.
That alone would be enough to make me upgrade, even if it meant sacrificing everything else on your list.
I have an x230, and I'm planning to upgrade to a 13.3 inch 1080p IPS panel.
Funny to read this, as I await my Lenovo X1 Carbon to come back from repair, as it shut off one night and never came to boot again.
I've also got an ~~IBM~~ (edit: it's a Lenovo!) Thinkpad X220, a motherboard-only shell that I plonked my own hardware choice into, taped a slew of Debian stickers onto and haven't had a fault with, ever.
I'll defend the Thinkpad brand with a religious fervour, for the same reason Peter Hortensius says in the article. But under Lenovo's stewardship, I'm left with a lot to be desired.
I hope I was just unlucky with this X1 Carbon, that fervour is willing to give Lenovo a second chance, here.
The X1s are well built, though. I have the first-gen one and it still works just fine, dual booting Fedora (24? I think) and Win7. The one thing that ever broke was the square power plug. Not because it's square, but it did break- and then it took me a week of phone calls very patiently speaking to Lenovo reps until I convinced them that my accidental damage protection was still active and it covered the damage. Then they sent a tech guy to my workplace, just so I could let him know I had already mailed the machine to Lenovo, as we had agreed by email. Very well organised.
I now have the 4th gen machine. I initially thought it looked flimsier than my 1st gen one, but then one day I dropped it from about 1.5 meters, on its side and nothing broke. It was inside my bag, and a laptop sleeve, but I'm pretty sure that most other laptops this end of a Toughbook would have ended up with at the very least a broken screen. Not my Splinter :0
Edit: now that I think of it, I've also stepped on it, dropped it from a coffee table and generally handled it roughly. It doesn't care.
I'll assume I'm right to give them a second chance, maybe it's just the X1 that's going awry? I've read a lot of reports about the X1's 2013 models that describe the issue that occurred to mine.
Like I say, I love Thinkpads, even with this blip - my next laptop will still likely be a Thinkpad, be it IBM or Lenovo.
The 9-cell battery get me 5-6 hours of web surfing, email and Youtube, and it still feels like a new laptop, despite being ~7 years old.
My work-supplied T440 feels like a toy in comparison.
A day after delivery, I had purchased an 8GB ram stick and an SSD for it to keep it for myself. If it had a 1080p screen it'd probably be my main laptop until High Sierra isn't supported by something I need.
A kit was for sale here:
Edit: better wording
It's a remarkably stable Hackintosh though, really regret not buying one 4 years ago. The pen (on windows) is better than I expected too.
Edit: Buy some Gaffers tape too. Much easier to use to tape things down compared to electrical tape.
Replacing that I got a t460p which I’ve had for 2 years now, and that is an amazing machine. Very good build quality, light and compact, while having excellent performance (i7 6700 hq, 32 gb, dedicated graphics), quiet under load and excellent battery life. And it looks like those old-school thinkpads, which is cute.
I had heard the T series is good and the S is not, but it’s amusing to experience that myself.
Thinkpads have annoyances, but they are cheap if you don't mind upgrading everything yourself, and they are indestructible in my experience. Plus for coding day, having a thinkpoint greatly adds to my productivity. Shame the screens are usually rubbish.
If you want a bit more premium feel and lighter weight, the Txxxs (e.g. T480s) is a bit thinner than the regular T-series, and feels a bit sturdier (so I've heard, anyways; my T480 is no slouch here, either). It also has less user-replaceable parts, and is more expensive for the same specs. The X-series also fits here.
If you're going more for a luggable desktop replacement rather than small size, the P-series is what you want. I have a P51 for work, and it's an insane machine: 64 GB RAM, Quadro graphics, touchscreen, Xeon processor... It also barely fits in my laptop bag and comes with a massive 170-watt power brick. But since I work from home and drive into the office once a month or so, it's a great machine that gives desktop-level performance (including very good cooling) while still being at least somewhat portable.
If you want the Macbook Pro experience of premium feel, thinness, less ability to be repaired, and higher cost, go for an X1 Carbon. I'd still prefer the X1 Carbon over a Macbook Pro, but I'd prefer a T- or P-series over either of them.
There are some home/SMB-targetted models, such as the E-series; avoid those unless you absolutely can't afford something better. All of the ones mentioned above were designed for customers that maintain fleets of machines, which has benefits even for non-enterprise users.
The current models are very good, and are a big upgrade from the previous generation. Of course, there is always something nicer coming, if you want to wait.
People already complain my laptop is too heavy. Maybe I should start looking at smaller screen sizes after all.
I also never see people mention it, but the L-series feels a bit underrated. I handled some older ones the other day and was super impressed by the build quality. I think they go for like half the price of T-s too.
The T is a little lighter but you lose some power/upgrade options, the P is kind of what the T used to be (both in terms of price and performance). The current gen' T is a slight lightweight but not a bad buy.
They have a bunch of ultra-lights/ultra-books/2-1s, but they aren't "Thinkpads" in the classical sense.
This is not an isolated incident... lots of issues with some new Thinkpad models. Make sure you do lots of research before you buy any of them.
And I got a great deal with some discount codes, now expired... AMD Ryzen 2700U, 16GB RAM, 128GB NVMe drive, 1080p matte screen for $670 plus tax and shipping.
If I had more money, I would have gotten the A485 (AMD fanboy) as the A and T series are easier to maintain and have more features like keyboard backlights.
My previous laptop was a T450 the ThinkPad reputation really surprised me because it felt a bit flimsy
It's a tank.
Initial impressions: I really like it! Very solid little machine, and I really like the keyboard feel as well. After years with Apple, the Thinkpad screen and trackpad are pretty crappy in comparison, but overall I love using it. Currently looking into upgrading the display to a 1080 IPS...
I tried to replace it in 2012 with an Asus Zenbook but that was not pleasing to me with its flimsiness in keyboard and build-construction.
I would like to perhaps buy a later ThinkPad model, but I really don't see any advantage whatsoever in doing so. My T410S was ordered with the extra-large battery which is still going strong, and I swapped out the 500gig hard drive for a 2000gig hard drive about 5 years back.
Oh, no dongle anxiety too.
The ROI on it is pretty amazing. Back when repairability was still a thing.
Uhm, no. My a20p, bought in 2001 still works. I only swapped the HD once and the keyboard every 6 months or so. I bought my last thinkpad 4 years ago and (given limited time and budget) had only a single model to choose because I wanted metal hinges instead of plastic ones.
Edit: Really? You don't think all that advertising in such an iconic situation had any relation to its becoming a design icon?