Hunting Down A New Laptop

My most “recent” laptop history looks a bit like this:

  • Toshiba T1910cs (~1994)
  • Toshiba T2100cs (~1995)
  • Sony Vaio PCG-C1 (~1998)
  • Dell Inspiron XPS Gen 2 (~2005)
  • Toshiba Portege M400 (~2007)
  • Apple MacBook Pro (~2010)
  • ThinkPad X220 i7 (~2012)
  • ThinkPad T450 i7 (~2016)

There have been other, non-primary computer devices over the years like the Intel Classmate, ASUS Transformer, Asus EEE 701 & 900, EEE 1000HA, Dell Latitudes, Toshiba AC100, Pinebook, Pinebook Pro, an Entroware Athena and, briefly a MacBook Air. I also have a collection of retro ThinkPads dating back to 1997 or so.

I may have forgotten a few in between here and there. Most of these bought brand new, except the T450, which I picked up on eBay a year after it released for half the original retail price. It’s my primary laptop, but the X220 still gets active use around the house too.

While at my desk I tend to use a desktop PC with multiple monitors, in any other location I’m usually on my T450. It’s got 32GB RAM, 1TB encrypted disk running Ubuntu, and another drive with Windows 10 on, that I rarely boot. It mostly tends to sit in a docking station, but often roams around the house with me. I love the feeling of clunk into the dock and yoink back out again as and when. I rarely turn it off, or reboot, as previously mentioned.

I’ve been pondering a new laptop for about a year now. However, things are conspiring against me. Primarily, I am not travelling much due to The Event, but on top of that the T450 works fine for most things! It’s currently running the latest release of Ubuntu, has plenty of disk space, tons of RAM, a decent (replacement) screen and user-replacable batteries.

My laptop requirements aren’t especially complex. 1080p screen is fine, around 14" in size. Something which can compile software while running a few electron apps (lulz) and store a fair amount of digital crap. Decent battery life would be nice too. It’s all very non-specific and woolly, I know!

While I have been looking for a replacement laptop, I haven’t been looking that hard. Those who know me, know I’m somewhat of a “ThinkPad fanboy” - given I own about fifteen of them - fair to label me that way. So obviously ThinkPads have been on the list to look at.

One thing I loved about the T450 (and X220 before it) is the user-servicability. In the T450 I’ve upgraded the RAM twice, from 8GB to 16GB then 32GB more recently. I picked up two 16GB sticks on eBay a while back, from two separate sellers at the same - convenient. I also replaced the display panel (twice), the onboard disk, and added a second SSD. The T450 has two batteries, one internal small one, and an ‘external’ one which can be switched out while running. I love this feature and own four separate batteries for it.

In fact in 2019 I went on a work trip with my colleague - Martin Wimpress - who had a Dell Precision 3540 Mobile Workstation on loan. We later reviewed it in S12E26 of Ubuntu Podcast. One day we moved to a bar to work, he spent many hours working from that bar laptop battery while I was swapping my battery every couple of hours. His had plenty of time left. Granted my laptop (and batteries) were four years older by then, but the long battery life was very attractive, as was the performance!

So I am willing to at least entertain the idea of a non-ThinkPad. :D

I keep looking at the Lenovo pages in the UK, waiting - seemingly fruitlessly - for the Ubuntu models they promised, to show up. However, most (if not all) of the new ones seem to feature soldered-in RAM, and other inaccessible components. I appreciate this is The Way now, and everyone is doing that, but I don’t like it.

That said, I just bought an new Apple MacBook Air for my daughter. It sports the new M1 chip so is allegedly super fast while sipping power. It has the same non-user-servicability, but then that’s not something I’d expect from Apple. I do expect it from my beloved ThinkPads.

Maybe I need get over the new world, and reset my ThinkPad expectations. I should see what the daughter’s MacBook Air is like when it arrives, and steal it get one for myself. Perhaps it’s time to start looking at Dell’s again.

Or maybe I should just keep hold of this T450 until it dies on the operating table.