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Portables Hardware

The ThinkPad Takes On The MacBook Air 433

Posted by Zonk
from the battle-for-the-skies dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Walt Mossberg has an early look at the ThinkPad X300, Lenovo's answer to the MacBook Air. He says the ThinkPad is almost as skinny and light as the Air, but has many of the ports and features lacking on Apple's machine. The biggest downside: it costs much more and will be limited to a paltry 64 gigabytes of storage. 'Unlike the Apple, which can be ordered with a higher-capacity, lower-priced hard disk, the new ThinkPad will only be available with the expensive, limited capacity solid-state drive. So it will start at between $2,500 and $2,800-up to $1,000 more than the Apple's base price.'"
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The ThinkPad Takes On The MacBook Air

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  • by wild_berry (448019) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:36AM (#22419032) Journal
    Walt's seen the thing -- but not tested it. The biggest let down with the MacBook Air was its battery life (and then Remote Disk). Does this ThinkPad have decent battery life? And is it as sturdy as we expect Thinkpads to be?
    • by owlman17 (871857)
      Speaking of sturdy, are the Lenovo Thinkpads sturdy as their IBM counterparts? We owned a couple of IBM Thinkpads in the mid 90s and I'm planning to get a new one now. So far I only have anecdotal evidence that goes both ways.
      • by Renegade Lisp (315687) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:51AM (#22419168)

        I think only a Slashdot Poll could answer this definitely.

        Further anecdotal evidence, though: I've had a Lenovo T61 now for about two months, after having had a Pre-Lenovo T40 for more than four years, which had been my sturdiest Thinkpad up to that time. So far, I see no difference in the build quality of both machines, but only time will really tell.

      • by Carewolf (581105)
        More or less. And the new R61 series are now also built as sturdy as the T models, only difference being size and weight (you pay 50% extra for a T-model which is a ½kg lighter and 0.5cm thinner).
      • by darthflo (1095225)
        Mostly. I seem to recall my T41 being a bit more sturdy than the T60 (which is still better than the X21). Also, the X61t's build quality is awesome with a few flaws; after some high drops onto stone floor the battery's bent a bit and the display hinge cut a few millimeters into the palm rest. Apart from the display not properly "clicking" to locked anymore, it works like a charm.
    • It should be. Other recent Lenovo Thinkpads or tablets have been fine. We've bought a bunch. And don't forget the Thinkpad has an easily-replaceable battery, and there's an option to put a second battery in the unit, in place of the optical drive, I think (that might've changed - I saw the details in a briefing last November / December).
    • by 2ms (232331)
      What are you talking about? The battery life of the Macbook Air [anandtech.com] is amazingly good -- comparable to the current Macbook Pros and drastically better than the last version of Macbook Pro (Core Duo).
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dave562 (969951)
        In this case you're comparing Apples to Apples and strangely enough that isn't applicable. How does the Apple compare to the Thinkpad?
  • by the_humeister (922869) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:37AM (#22419044)
    At least that's what the people over at ars [arstechnica.com] say
    • by mwvdlee (775178) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:51AM (#22419172) Homepage
      Ars only tests the speed of those.
      They don't test how much physical abuse the SSHD can take compared to the HDD.
      Which is basically the main reason for wanting SSHD; making sure data survives.
  • by Clockwurk (577966) * on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:42AM (#22419072) Homepage
    The price for an Air with SSD is $3100. The thinkpad also has a nicer display (1440x900 vs 1280x800), removable battery, a faster processor (2.0ghz vs 1.8ghz), and weighs less (2.5lbs vs 3lbs), more ports (ethernet, usb), better speakers (LOL Airbook has mono), a microphone, and a built in DVD burner.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Calinous (985536)
      The Thinkpad X300 comes at 3.15 or so lbs (granted, it includes an optical drive)
      • by Otter (3800)
        These "with the standard battery and DVD drive" weights don't include the power supply, right? I don't know about new Thinkpad models, but back when I had a work-issued T40 the power supply was extremely heavy, and the real weight when carrying it through an airport was much higher than for my Mac, even though the two specced out roughly equal on paper.

        And that's not just Mac fanboyism, as the Dell I have now also has a much lighter power supply than the T40, although still bulkier, heavier and far uglier

    • by bkr1_2k (237627) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:49AM (#22419154)
      There really isn't much point in "comparing" these two machines, they're so different. Seriously, the comparison that the Thinkpad is nearly $1k more than the Apple is ridiculous when you consider the extra functionality of just the DVD alone. I don't think most people use more than one USB port, but having a wired E-net and removable battery make the cost difference worth it, if you're in the market for a light machine.

      I have Macs at home, but you have to recognize that the Air may be pretty, but it's sorely lacking in features that many people consider necessary these days.
      • by (H)elix1 (231155) *
        I disagree - that was apples to app ^H^H^H - a fair comparison. Both were priced with a $1000 SSD drive. Apple gives you the option for a 80GB 4200-rpm Parallel ATA hard disk drive to cut a grand off the price. According to this guy, the SSD drive will be the only option at launch with other options to follow. When they do offer drive options - and they must - I bet they will be SATA based drives like the rest of the Thinkpad series (all of them). Price will drop a grand as well when spinning disk is
      • by pebs (654334) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:36AM (#22419680) Homepage
        Apple's notebooks are also lacking a trackpoint-like mouse. I personally can't stand touchpads, even the ones on Apple's notebooks. The trackpoint is a much better input device when done right, and the ones on the Thinkpads work quite well.

        My current notebook is an old Thinkpad T23 that only has a trackpoint and no touchpad. Although I really like OS X (own both a Mac Pro and Mac Mini) and really want a mobility for some of the apps I use on it, this seemingly small issue is enough to make me unsure about whether my next notebook will be a MacBook or a Thinkpad. It's a big issue to me, an analogy would be the touch screen keyboard on the iPhone being a reason people don't want it over a phone with a real QWERTY keyboard.

        A used Thinkpad X-series is likely to be next laptop purchase (I bought the T23 used). And I would be running Linux on it of course, which I enjoy more than OS X anyway, but the few video and audio apps I use on OS X make a Mac possibly more useful to me. So I haven't really made a decision.
      • I might understand wanting blue ray but DVDs are no longer worth the weight. Software installs are rare and Thinkpads can boot off firewire. If you need to share information with the clueless, carry a GNU/Linux CD so you can use someone else's DVD to copy the information by network. If you really want to watch movies, you have figured out how to put them on more reasonable media already. I've got a much older Thinkpad subnotebook that does not have an optical drive. I've only missed it once or twice ov

        • by bkr1_2k (237627)
          I'm not saying there isn't a market for these computers, with or without a DVD drive, but unlike you most users want a DVD drive, for the simplicity of not needing another computer to share data, or a "spare" firewire/usb hard drive, or whatever. And, despite your assertion, most people don't carry movies around on "more reasonable media already". Sure, the trend is definitely moving that direction, but it's far from ubiquitous at this point. That said, looking ahead and leading the market isn't necessar
    • by Saint Fnordius (456567) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:12AM (#22419416) Homepage Journal
      The issues I do not see addressed when comparing these two notebook computers are not many, but they do play a role:

      Case design: which case is more robust? Is Apple's metal case better suited for a thin notebook or is Lenovo's ThinkPad design better suited for fitting in your briefcase? Oh, and what about the power brick? Those few minutes untangling a power cord when setting up for a long meeting can be important. Design means not only looks, but also workflow and durability of the components.

      Apropos meetings: which of the two is easier to use to make a presentation with a strange beamer? How about logging into a free WiFi hotspot? Sharing files?

      Workflow: which job type would benefit from which computer? Although reporters and writers seem to be the target of both computers, what about sales reps? Developers and support techs who go to their clients? If your company uses Lotus Domino servers, will the MacBook Air make your IT staff nervous?

      Now, I really don't know the answers, but these questions are what I feel makes the decision important. I own both a PowerBook and a ThinkPad, and though the ThinkPad is newer and has a better screen, etc., I still prefer to work with the PowerBook. It simply fits my workflow better.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by dave562 (969951)
        Workflow: which job type would benefit from which computer?

        I still prefer to work with the PowerBook. It simply fits my workflow better.

        I knew that as soon as I saw the original mention of "workflow" that you were a Mac user and going down to the last paragraph it was confirmed. I hope this doesn't come across as hostile... WTF is it with the workflow meme and Mac users? Is it some sort of graphic design jargon that is now "in" among the ultra-hip Mac user community? The rest of the computer world simp

        • No offense taken. ;)

          Why workflow? Well, because in a job like mine (web and print design), you work on sets of processes in a team. Pictures are developed by one, programming by another, writing and copy editing by a third, and so on. Lots of little processes that often mean having 4 or 5 apps open at the same time, and flipping back and forth, and having to keep the hand-offs in mind.

          That's the real advantage of the Mac for many of us: it reduces the time spent in menus and dialog boxes. For a longer proce
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by eldepeche (854916)
      No wireless, less space than a Nomad.

      When are you guys going to realize that most people care about more than a spec sheet? I think the Air sucks too, but it's for wealthy non-technical people to check their e-mail on the couch. If it was for real work, then they would have put a better battery in it, and it would have been heavier and bigger, and then it would just be a really expensive MacBook.
    • Whether or not the display is nicer or not is subjective - the higher resolution display might have poorer image quality. However personally I would prefer the higher resolution because I have good eyes and like to fit a lot on the screen and don't mind text and stuff being smaller.

      What's the difference between a removable battery and an external battery? Nothing for travelling - they're the same weight, arguably the external battery is easier to use. What's the weight of the power adaptor - other Thinkpads
  • by dsginter (104154) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:44AM (#22419090)
    The problem with the Thinkpad is that it doesn't taper at the edges (not that this helps anything except for aesthetics). Apple really created an illusion of thin when they adopted this design (the Air is only like an eighth of an inch thinner that the MacBook but it looks *much* thinner because of the taper).

    Apple really pulled off a magic trick with the Air. Marketing genius.
    • by darjen (879890)
      Why is this a problem? I actually prefer Thinkpad's brick design; especially the new one of the T60 which is slightly more rounded than the T43.
    • But what I want to know is why is thin even in? I prefer something sturdy, reliable, and preferably with a battery I can change myself. What is it with the obsession with how the thing looks, if it does so at the cost of utility (64 gigabytes on a 2k+ machine, you've got to be joking!) My tastes prefer a higher utility and durability.

      Then again, I must disclaim my statements with the following revelations about my tastes in general. I enjoyed Cloverfield and look forward to purchasing the DVD, I liked the
      • Thin is in, but mostly only with those who do a lot of travelling. Reporters, sales reps and others who are often on the road feel that every ounce matters, and a laptop you can place in your briefcase with your papers and books counts for a lot among these people.

        I feel Lenovo and Apple are aiming to two different sorts of professional users. Apple is geared more towards the writers and mobile creatives, and the workflow the MacBook Air is supposed to fit into is one where the user has a larger "mothership
    • by pizzach (1011925)
      Brain storming time! Hm...maybe the tapering makes it easier to clasp the computer with one hand without fear of dropping it? That is the closest to utility that I can think of so far. It does make it a horrible cup holder though because of the slope. I find the round dell button on the top of many laptops works great for that.

      When I compared the photo's of Leveno's and Apple's computers, Apple's was the one that just by looking at it, advertised "I'm thin, look at me!!!" which is great advertising. I w
  • Critics! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iknownuttin (1099999) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @08:44AM (#22419092)
    But, unlike the Apple, Lenovo's new skinny ThinkPad comes with a hefty complement of ports and features, some of the very things critics complained Apple left out.

    Maybe, Apple knows what its customers want and builds their machines for what most of their customers and not for the critics? And, well looky there, you can configure the machine to include those features. [apple.com] Why does everything have to be built in? And the Thnkpad is making compromises to have those things built in. God!

    Not that I'm a fanboy or anything, it's just that these tech "journalists" piss me off sometimes.

    • by Calinous (985536)
      Could you install both the network adapter and the DVD drive? You know, without using an USB hub?
      • And I don't believe you could even do that with a USB hub, because the Air's USB port has more power in it to power the DVD drive, and I doubt most hubs would be able to handle the extra voltage.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Calinous (985536)
          (extra current, not extra voltage)
                Different devices for different people
    • by DragonHawk (21256) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:12AM (#22419418) Homepage Journal

      And, well looky there, you can configure the machine to include those features.

      I think you mean "you can configure the box the machine ships in to include those features". Because all those devices are external to the machine.

      Generally speaking, it's safe to assume that anyone wanting a super-mobile computer like an Air or this ThinkPad doesn't want to have wires and dongles they have to carry in their bag and/or hanging off the computer. I know with the Dell's we buy at work, the fact that the Latitude D400 series super-mobile only has an external optical drive is often a deal-breaker for the users. They'd rather a bigger/heavier unit that includes everything in one piece.
  • for a solid state drive, which are very expensive right now. The X300 had as a lot of better features than the Air which outway the smaller drive size. Besides, I assume people who are going to use this are business types who travel a lot. I can't imagine they'll need much more for word files and power point presentations and if they really do then carry an external USB drive with you.
    • The Lenovo sales guys apparently want a version of this using a standard hard drive - they think it'll appeal to educational customers, among others. Should be interesting to see if they actually do it.
  • Complaints: (Score:5, Insightful)

    by r_jensen11 (598210) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:01AM (#22419284)
    Regarding the product:
    The thing has a 13" screen and weighs more than 3 pounds. What niche is this trying to target? Other members of the X-series have 12.1" screens, and one of those has a beginning weight of 2.8lbs. I'd imagine the extra inch of screen would be more of an issue than the half-pound, but still.

    Must purchase an OEM copy of either XP or Vista. R and T Series Thinkpads are being sold with the option of SuSE Enterprise Desktop 10, so why not the X Series?

    Regarding the article:

    ... and will be limited to a paltry 64 gigabytes of storage.
    I'm sorry, but for the applications these laptops are going to be serving, 64GB of internal storage should be plenty. If not, well, there are plenty of external storage needs, whether NAS, thumb/pen drives, or full-fledged external hard drives (which one can choose a "portable" version or a not-so-portable version.)

    No mention of a possible entry in the Reserve Series (and with the base price for the "standard" X300, who wouldn't want to pay $5,000 for a laptop!?)
    • by jonnythan (79727)
      The niche that wants a decent-resolution screen (1440x900), full-size keyboard, and built-in DVD drive in a notebook that's less than an inch thin and right about 3 pounds, give or take 2 ounces.

      The Macbook Air has no DVD drive. The 12.1" X-series notebooks have no DVD drive and are only 1024x768.
  • FTA - "The biggest downside: it costs much more"
    should be rewritten - "the biggest downside: it is not available with a low cost hard disk"

    Really, it is about the same price as the Air when configured the same, but the extra ports would be worth and additional $500 to me(and many others), so, I think it is a better value.
  • Really? What is sexy? Mature, young, fat, skinny, blond or brunette? Everyone has it's own preferences.

    I don't like designer-gadgets. I fo myself like techy looking cyberpunky devices, full with intellingent functions made in high quality. For me is the x300 the sexy one, not the AirBook, which lacks a crude technical design, and much worse, functionality for an geek.
  • Except here orange isn't IBM but solid state drive.

    So it will start at between $2,500 and $2,800-up to $1,000 more than the Apple's base price-and will be limited to a paltry 64 gigabytes of storage.

    ... which are the same defects as the SSD-Air.

    Mossberg here really shows us here what it takes to be an anal-ist. This kind of trollism is just as bad from the Mac bashers or fanbois. It really takes a double-dose of style-over-substance to pick the non-wallet-gulping version of the MacBook Air. If anyone here is thinking of buying the AirBook, they are certainly thinking about the solid-state version.

  • not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion (181285) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:51AM (#22419866) Homepage Journal
    Equivalent non apple hardware is often more expensive, at least at the retail price. The idea that all Apple hardware has a 25% tax has not been true for quite some time. Even 10 years ago one could buy an Apple laptop for 1K. Even now, the differences often results from instant rebates.

    Last summer I priced an HP laptop and Apple laptop. I needed a very light, yet powerful, machine, so I went with a 15" pro machine on both sides. Depending on what considered equivalent, the HP machine was 500-1000 more. It is anecdotal, but still a data point. The point is that Apple has gotten very efficient, and regular PC OEMs have a very hard time competing with them on the price/quality ratio. About the only thing apple does not have is the competitive $500 headless laptop. The Mac Mini is a joke, and the iMacs are over priced if one does not really need a fancy monitor.

  • I find it hard to believe that virtually nobody thinks that laptops are getting TOO small and flimsy. I guess that computer users are getting progressively weaker, in that every ounce saved is touted as a miracle. I dunno. I guess that I think that somebody who thinks that a 5-10 lb laptop is too heavy to carry around all day has some more serious problems, namely extremely poor physical health!
    • As I said above, I have an X61 tablet. Now I know that you're trolling, but I can't resist:

      1. I can't speak to the Air, but the thinkpads are anything but 'flimsy'. My old vaio felt like a sodden pizza box compared to the Thinkpad. It simply doesn't flex.
      2. Yes it's a bit wee, but used as a tablet, it's perfectly sized. Which brings us to:
      3. If you want to hold a 10lb box in one arm as you draw with the other, you're insane. Or governor of California.

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