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The ThinkPad Takes On The MacBook Air 433

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 @09:36AM (#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 the_humeister ( 922869 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:37AM (#22419044)
    At least that's what the people over at ars [] say
  • by dsginter ( 104154 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:44AM (#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 bkr1_2k ( 237627 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @09:49AM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:00AM (#22419272)
    Toshiba makes some laptops that are lighter, thinner, better battery life, built-in ethernet, and a built-in CD/DVD drive.

    How come Toshiba can do this and Apple can't?

    Apple has a core group of customers who will buy anything from Apple, even if there are better products available.
  • by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:02AM (#22419298)
    Well I think thinkpads look sleek now, and even the ancient 3-inch-think thinkpads, which have identical styling look great too. They're solid, performance, business laptops, not balance-on-your-knee make-a-home-video mac commercial laptops.
  • by Saint Fnordius ( 456567 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:12AM (#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.
  • by pebs ( 654334 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:36AM (#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.
  • not surprising (Score:3, Interesting)

    by fermion ( 181285 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:51AM (#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.

  • by bhtooefr ( 649901 ) <bhtooefr@bhtooefr. o r g> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:59AM (#22419954) Homepage Journal
    This is an interesting post, FWIW... I know it's on Lenovo's blogs, but... []
  • by Idbar ( 1034346 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:05AM (#22420040)
    Wow! First time I head someone talking that well about toshibas on /.

    I've only had toshibas, one felt from my hands while I was writing on the hard drive, bounce on the floor and kept working for 2 more years with no problem (of course 3 years for a computer that was totally abused, I think is great). My current laptop is a Toshiba, and I'll keep buying them.

    The reason why I buy them? Different than Apple's they.. really.. just work. Recently, to take their prices down, they fill them with tons of bloatware, which is a bit annoying, but the price difference you find between those and Apple/Lenovos/Sony is huge, and Toshiba built their computers, mostly, with their own toshiba parts. I love it! And CNET still have the best ultra portable to be a Toshiba!
    We'll see if they can keep it up with the Apple aggressive marketing strategy.
  • by Vspirit ( 200600 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:25AM (#22420342) Homepage
    Having been a thinkpad addict because of the trackpoint,
    I have had the 600e, the x23, and now the x61s.

    The xseries, is thin already, not a problem.

    my experience with x61s.
    What I am more concerned about is the following:

    1. heat = its warmer than the previous models.
          better cpu's, at the cost of heat.
          you can feel it frying your hand.
          and then you turn on the wifi.. oh boy.

    2. noisy = the fans are louder than previous models

    3. material = the previous chassis was graphite,
          much more pleasent. now its plastic.

    4. buttons = 2 ekstra 'paging' buttons are implemented
          on both sides of the up arrow, and its easy to hit wrong.

    I think the design has degraded.
    maybe they wanted to save on material.
    and the designers took the wrong road.

    I don't know, I would buy the mac book
    immideately if it had the trackpoint.

    but I would also buy another thinkpad,
    if they took a little more care about
    their loyal thinkpad customers.

    hopefully someone listens.
  • by slaker ( 53818 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @11:40AM (#22420532)
    I support about two dozen Tecras, various models, for one of my contracting customers. How shoddy are they? Well, I can flick keys off the keyboards with my fingers, and if I take one into a darkened room, I can see light leaking out the sides of the LCD. That's not what I'd call quality.

    For what it's worth Lenovo 3000s are fairly impressive for consumer notebooks. I wouldn't buy one, but they're solid and well-constructed. I'd put them ahead of any current Dell Vostro/Inspiron model or non-pro Macbook.
  • by initdeep ( 1073290 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:17PM (#22421088)
    and I bought my m1330 WITH SSD, T7500, 3GB RAM, DVDRW, ETHERNET PORT, HDMI port, Camera, LED screen, and everything else for less than $2200 SHIPPED to my door.

    And so did several of my friends.

    God love EPP deals.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:43PM (#22421498) Journal

    I was surprised, when I bought a MacBook, how quickly I got use to the pad. It's definitely not as good, but it hasn't turned out to be a dealbreaker in terms of productivity
    Interesting. I feel exactly the same but going the other way. The trackpoint on my ThinkPad is much worse for large movements than a decent-sized trackpad (you have an accelerate then slow movement rather than just a long swipe) but the real killer is the lack of dimensions. Not being able to scroll horizontally and vertically is a huge pain. I even miss the MBP's trackpad when I am using the machine with an external display, keyboard and mouse, since horizontal scrolling is much harder with every other pointing device I've used. With the MBP, I just drag two fingers around and have 2D scrolling.
  • by eclectic4 ( 665330 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @12:47PM (#22421556)
    Well, there you have it. If it "looks" flimsy on a web page image, then it must be so...

    Seriously though, if you have ever actually handled one of these those fears disappear pretty quickly. I've configured two of them in the last week and they are surprisingly solid.
  • by Brendtron 5000 ( 973294 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:00PM (#22421806)
    Business class for sure. I'm currently doing a work term for IBM. Being a student, I didn't get a fancy new T61 like everybody else. I got an old T40, which belonged to somebody else on my team. This thing is at least 4 years old, and is still going amazingly strong. We dock and undock our machines all day long for meetings, throw them in bags, open and close them 10-15 times per day. Mine gets thrown in a backpack for an hour and half commute to and from work by subway and bus. It's regularly outside in sub-zero temperatures while I wait for buses, and complains far less than I do. The hinges are still stiff, the screen is still bright, every button and key works like the day it was new. And I know for a fact that the person who had this laptop before me didn't use an external keyboard or mouse -- this laptop has a large, deep groove in the left mouse button from the years of her thumb wearing it down. Compare this to the HP I bought a couple of years ago. Within a year the screen was dim and it was locking up. My computer help desk experience showed me all the weak points of a laptop. Screen brightness, floppy/broken hinges, broken DVD drives. None of that here. Before my time is up in this position I'm going to take IBM up on its deep discount for employees. I don't think I'll ever buy another brand.
  • by __aapspi39 ( 944843 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:33PM (#22422406)
    When the iMac was released i can remember my neighbor saying that he'd bought his daughter one to stop her from taking up loads of time on his computer.

    Turns out that once she'd gotten over the novelty of the machine, they soon realised she still had to use his machine for word processing - she simply couldn't put her essays etc onto a disk and take them into school with her, because of this missing floppy drive.
  • by Sir_Lewk ( 967686 ) < minus herbivore> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @01:35PM (#22422442)
    I dropped my T60p sideways 3 feet onto a solid steel manhole cover. The case was chipped, 'nuff said.
  • by pebs ( 654334 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @04:45PM (#22425442) Homepage
    Most people disagree with you, and can't stand trackpoints, which is why they are in only very few laptops anymore. I am one of those who dislikes trackpoints, and it's why I have never, or will ever, consider buying a Thinkpad. I don't like having that little thing in the keyboard; maybe it's the way I type, but every time I have had to use a laptop which had one, my fingers were constantly 'tripping' on it. Very annoying.

    Though you are probably correct that most people don't like trackpoints, most people don't like touchpads either (but like them more than trackpoints). Most people prefer real mice, but those are just not as practical when you are on the go. Everyone at my workplace uses a separate mouse with their MacBook Pros or other laptops. It doesn't help the MacBooks that they only have one mouse button (hence an external mouse is almost a requirement for many people).

    I think a lot of people haven't given trackpoints an honest chance. My girlfriend didn't like it at all at first, but one time when we were traveling I forgot to pack a mouse and she was forced to use it and she grew to really like it. Also, not all trackpoint clones are created equal. I bought a desktop keyboard that had a trackpoint-like stick, but it completely sucked as and was unusable; I had the same problems you described. The one on my Thinkpad T23 rocks, but that doesn't mean other manufacturers make good ones.

    There is an annoyance with trackpads too - the base of my thumb sometimes hits it accidentally and then the cursor suddenly jumps to some random place and I find that my last few words have been inserted in the middle of some other part of my document instead of at the end. That is annoying but only happens once every couple of days despite how much typing I do.

    When I had a notebook with only a touchpad this was a constant annoyance.

    I wish that IBM would offer a Thinkpad without the trackpoint; how hard can it be to have a replacement keyboard, for the majority of people who don't use trackpoints (yes the modern Thinkpads have *both* a trackpad and trackpoint, but I don't just want to be able to use a trackpad, I specifically want to *not* have a trackpoint in there, and I think many people would agree. Besides, having two pointing devices really seems like a hack doesn't it?).

    I am of course the opposite, I'm glad they have Thinkpads with *only* a trackpoint. Although it might be possible to disable the touchpad and use only the trackpoint (I hope you can do this at least), I think the touchpad is a waste of space. It's nice that on their ultra-portable (X series) you can get one with a trackpoint only.

    You can pull the rubber eraser off of the trackpoint. It'll still be there (in the form of the plastic that rubber goes on top of), but I think it'll be mostly out of your way and your fingers will be less likely to trip on it. I'm not sure if you can specifically disable the trackpoint so that only the touchpad is active (or vice versa), but it would me nice if you could.
  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Thursday February 14, 2008 @05:46PM (#22426464)

    I'll give you one major downside... no disk platters, no data recovery. Want to undelete some files you accidentally deleted before you overwrite the data sectors? Bzzt... SSHD makes that impossible.

    Sure, backups make that a lot easier, but not a lot of people do backups between the time they had the files, and when they deleted the files they wanted to keep.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @06:53PM (#22427444)

    Nothing is more beautiful in my eyes than a machine which does it's job well day after day. It's simple, it's[Thinkpad] rugged, it's the best laptop series that was ever produced.

    Actually, according to Consumer Reports, Thinkpad machines have a higher failure rate than Macbooks. In fact, for the second half of 2006, Dell's laptops had a lower failure rate than Thinkpads (crazy how things change huh, Dell's desktops are still below average though). So if you're looking for "rugged" as a criteria the Thinkpad is not the winner. That said, Thinkpads are nice systems. As far as comparing compact super-thin systems... well I don't really care. In fact, I think the emphasis on thin is aiming at a demographic, but I really wish Apple and Lenovo would go after the opposite category too... thicker, cheaper, more fully featured laptops. I have no interest in an ultra-portable, but I'd love a dependable laptop with an extra large battery capacity and a desktop graphics card, even if it weighed twice as much and was twice the thickness.

  • by Risto ( 666860 ) on Thursday February 14, 2008 @10:19PM (#22429748)

    The two are not even in the same class of laptop!!
    the thinnest edge of the X300 is about as thick as the thickest edge of the AIR

    X300 is about twice as thick (18.6mm-23.4mm) as a MacBook Air (4.0mm-19.4mm)
    average thickness(11.7mm vs 21mm)

    if you STACKED TWO Macbook Air Laptops (19.4+4.0=23.4)
    you would arrive at roughly the thickness of one X300 at (21mm average)

    At the end of the day, this X300 laptop is somewhere between the Macbook Air
    and the Macbook Pro for thickness (closer to the Macbook Pro, ... much closer at 25mm)

    It's really unbelievable that these two laptops even get mentioned in the same breath.
  • by hacker ( 14635 ) <> on Friday February 15, 2008 @02:05AM (#22431078)

    When you delete a file, the blocks that were used by the file are marked as free. To recover the data, just read those blocks back (finding which blocks those are is left as an exercise for the reader).

    Again, impossible with SSHD, because those blocks are reallocated by the physical hardware once the data is confirmed to be deleted. AFAIK, there's nothing the OS on top of that hardware can do to stop the hardware from doing what it does "electronically" by design.

Things equal to nothing else are equal to each other.