My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

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t140568
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My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#1 Post by t140568 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 12:11 am

My T500, which I've had for about 8 years finally died. I loved that machine. I don't intend to repair it as I'm sure it's the motherboard that went. I'll probably do a little troubleshooting, but I've been looking to upgrade anyway.

I'm pretty sure I'd be looking at either a T420 or T/W520, but any advice is helpful.

My immediate budget is $200. As long as I start off with something I can build and upgrade over time, I'll be a happy man.

Must have (or be able to be upgraded to):
  • - 1080p (or higher) IPS display
    - 8gb RAM MINIMUM
    - Upgradable CPU/RAM/SSD
    - Classic Thinkpad keyboard.
    - Absolute compatibility with Ubuntu. (I know nearly every Thinkpad I've tried it on has been compatible, so I don't expect this to be an issue.)
    - Decent GPU. I won't be gaming - EVER, but I do use GIMP a good bit. My T500 handled this pretty well, so I'm sure anything newer will do even better.
If I can get it, I'd like to be able to upgrade the WiFi card as well, so I'm sure this means the TP needs to be able to flash a custom BIOS. This isn't a deal breaker though.

This leads me to a few questions:
  • 1. Keyboards: My T500 keyboard was ok and better when replaced with a non-cheeseboard one, but my X61t was GREAT. Nice and solid. The T500 keyboard was flexy, generally noisy, and made the laptop sound hollow. Since I'd plan to upgrade everything over time, what is the most solid or "best" available? Or is that even an issue anymore?

    2. Am I right in saying the main differences between the T and W series is W has more powerful CPU and graphics options and the capability to hold more RAM?

    3. Is there an X series tablet in this range that offers a 1080p or higher resolution?\

    4. I've seen the T430 has a modded BIOS available for a classic keyboard. Is it worth the extra money to go this route?

So much has changed since purchasing my T500 almost new. I'm just trying to sort things out. Any help is appreciated.

Thanks!
-Tim
Some call me...Tim.
Present: T420 | T500 | Acer C720

Past: X61T || X60T || R50 || X30 || T30 || A31p || 3xx || 600E || Intellistation Z Pro

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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#2 Post by TonyJZX » Mon Feb 06, 2017 1:22 am

In your price range I dont think there's any kind of X that has FHD nor can you add FHD without a lot of bother.

I'm not a huge fan of the T500 and W because I dont need the size speed but they are analogs of the T400 series anyway.

I would think a T420 or T420s MAYBE with the Nvidia but definitielty with the 900p screen

The 430 w/ 420 kbd project is a good one but as I see it, the Intel 3xx0 processors arent a huge leap over the Intel 2xx0.

So at the end of the day you spent a lot of money to get a 3xx0 cpu and inbuilt usb 3.0 - the 420 does not have USB3 but it does have a 34 express slot.

The 420s does have a usb3 hole.

I'm certain the 520 is a straight 420 equivalent at 15" w/ FHD option but it still has only 2 dimm slots.

I'm personally not a huge fan of the T400/500 keyboard although many people love it here. I do like the 410/420 big DELETE key kbd.

I'm not certain I would take a 410/510 unless its super cheap. I believe the 1st gen cpus are a liability.

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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#3 Post by theterminator93 » Mon Feb 06, 2017 6:59 am

The 30 series are going to be out of your budget unless you can find an absolute steal of a deal. The classic keyboard CAN be modded in with an EC firmware mod (it's not actually the BIOS), and there's still no way to mod the BIOS for the WLAN whitelist that I know of, unless you can flash the chip directly without the machine being powered on.

If you want to be able to upgrade your CPU, the "s" models and X series are out of the question as they have soldered CPUs. All *20 models (except the quad core W series models) have 2 DIMM slots and a 16GB limit. The X series has no discrete GPU option, and modding in a quad core CPU is out of the question (unlike the T420 or T520).

The T/W520 have factory FHD options, but it's still just a TN panel (although it is high gamut) - I managed to shoehorn an IPS FHD panel in to my W520 but it required both panel and lid modification to work - IF you can find the right screen. There are mod kits available for IPS FHD on the X220/X230 which there is a waitlist for, with the expected 2nd batch shipping in about a month. There are mod kits out for the T420s/T430s, but they are not being made right now and availability is scarce. There was a mod kit for the T420/T430, but it was buggy and hasn't yet been subjected to a wide release. Regardless, the cost of the kit and screen will be at least $100-$120, if you can get your hands on them.

Any of them will take an SSD, and the Sandy Brigde iGPU is 50% more powerful than the ATI discrete GPU option available in the T500. The W series has more powerful discrete graphics than anything offered in the T series; the discrete option in the T420 and T520 is only about 20% more powerful than the iGPU; the two discrete chips you can get in the W520 are 240% and 340% more powerful than the iGPU, respectively.

The *10 series' Arrandale CPUs tend to run hot, and there's a pretty big performance hit between them and their Sandy Bridge successors. They're still relevant for today's needs, but they'll be obsolete much sooner than Sandy Bridge. Their iGPU is also considerably slower, 50% by some counts.

I don't have much to complain about regarding the keyboard on any of my 20 series machines, though there is a definite difference between how the units from different manufacturers feel. I haven't bothered to look up which ones I have feel best to me on a personal preference level. All of them are pretty stable and don't really flex though.

From your budgetary needs - you CAN find a top-CPU i7 X220 for about $200, though in order to do so you may have to sacrifice a little on the cosmetic and feature front. I got one for $220 but with no RAM, A/C adapter, or HDD since I had extras on hand. A T420 with the nVidia GPU should be in your price range though - with a baseline of 4GB and one free DIMM upgrading to 8GB later is easy (and cheap). All of the 20 series machines have an mSATA slot as well for easy upgrading to an SSD without sacrificing the HDD for "cheap and slow" storage of larger or infrequently used files. Though again, no FHD IPS on the T420 unless you can find the unicorn of FHD IPS mod kits (which will still likely be buggy). A good T520 to upgrade should also be doable in your price range, but again you'll be upgrading it a lot later to keep initial investment costs for the machine on its own down. I doubt you'll be able to find any W520s in your budget though.
Daily: T25 | W520 i7-2860QM·Quadro 2000m·IPS FHD | T420 i7-2640M·NVS 4200m·IPS FHD | X220 i7-2640M | T601F T9900·NVS 140M·IPS UXGA
Wife's: T61p T9500·2010 FX570m·WUXGA | X220T i7-2640M
Others: T61p·61·60·43·42p|X41T·24·23·22|G41|A31p·22m|i1200|TransNote|380D|365XD|701C|755C

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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#4 Post by dr_st » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:09 am

theterminator93 summarized it all pretty well. There are several good options, but with your budget, you'll be looking at something basic, and then easily spend the same amount again (or more) over time to get it upgraded to what you want.

If IPS is mandatory, I would recommend the T420s/T430s FHD mod over the X220/X230 FHD mod, because it's more straightforward and because I would have concerns of FHD being too high a resolution for 12.5" to be comfortable. But as was mentioned, kit availability is uncertain at this point.

Regarding
t140568 wrote:1. Keyboards: My T500 keyboard was ok and better when replaced with a non-cheeseboard one, but my X61t was GREAT. Nice and solid. The T500 keyboard was flexy, generally noisy, and made the laptop sound hollow. Since I'd plan to upgrade everything over time, what is the most solid or "best" available? Or is that even an issue anymore?
I realized that keyboard flexiness can vary a lot on different Thinkpads and even between different units. If there is a little warp in the keyboard or the chassis, it may create areas of flexiness / mushiness / hollow sound, etc. Usually it can be easily resolved as follows: You identify a few key areas that have this problem, and you attach thin strips of cardboard / rubber magnets / whatever under the keyboard in these areas to improve support. I've done this successfully on X32, T60, I think A31p as well. I don't recall ever needing to do it on a "Series 3" keyboard with the large Esc/Del key (or maybe my memory is playing with me), so if anything, they should be a bit better in this regard. In anything, once I realized that this simple mod almost always achieves satisfactory results, I stopped worrying about keyboard mushiness.
Current: X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 1952-F76, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
Collectibles: T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X32 (IPS Screen)
Retired: X61 7673-V2V, A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad
Past: Z61t 9440-A23, T60 2623-D3U, X32 2884-M5U

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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#5 Post by RealBlackStuff » Mon Feb 06, 2017 9:12 am

A bit too late, but you can overcome the cheesiness of the T400/T500 keyboards by putting one in from a T60/T61.
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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#6 Post by dr_st » Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:00 am

RealBlackStuff wrote:A bit too late, but you can overcome the cheesiness of the T400/T500 keyboards by putting one in from a T60/T61.
He did.
Current: X220 4291-4BG, T410 2537-R46, T60 1952-F76, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G
Collectibles: T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X32 (IPS Screen)
Retired: X61 7673-V2V, A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad
Past: Z61t 9440-A23, T60 2623-D3U, X32 2884-M5U

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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#7 Post by TPFanatic » Mon Feb 06, 2017 10:54 am

If you liked the 16:10 or physical height of your T500, nothing newer will replicate that. The 15.6"ers are more wide than tall. I had a T520 and the short screen was highly apparent compared to T500. However you get newer tech (LED screens, faster everything, lighter materials) in a newer laptop so if you don't need WUXGA or 16:10, I'd recommend you go to a T520.

See this image for comparison: http://i.imgur.com/TkSJzhp.jpg
This post also has good images comparing 15.4" and 15.6" in links: https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/kei ... -thoughts/

In my T520 I had an HD+ with good colors, but get yourself a 1080 and you'll be better off than I was. 900p is stupid. Lastly the T520's speaker grilles are all show and no go, it has these tiny little noisemakers that are the worst in a Thinkpad. I'd recommend T520 or W520 because the former can use a 65 or 90W PSU while the latter needs 135 or 170W, but it's really hard to find an affordable T520 with 1080.
Daily driver: lenovo T500 P9700, WUXGA, 8GB
Ultraportable: IBM lenovo X60s
Home theater: lenovo T420

Enable advanced features on older Synaptics touchpads with the registry: http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=122612

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Re: My T500 finally died. What do I replace it with?

#8 Post by t140568 » Sun Apr 23, 2017 7:59 pm

I ended up going with a T420 I found on eBay for ~$130.
i5-2520M, 6gb RAM, Intel GPU, 1600x900 LCD, and I think it had a 160gb HD i swapped for the 64gb SSD I had in my T500. I couldn't be much happier. Overall the unit is in good condition (in fact, better than I thought). Keyboard has some shine, but not a big enough deal for me to do anything about just yet.

I'll eventually make a few upgrades over time: CPU, RAM, and if I need it I'll do a bigger SSD.

I do wish it had an IPS, but I guess you can't have everything - especially in my budget! Overall I'm very satisfied. This machine feels faster, more solid, and is in better condition than the T500 it replaces.

Thanks again for all the advice! I greatly appreciate it!

**Replaced the touchpad sticker. Worth every penny of the $6 it cost. Makes the machine look and feel much better.
Some call me...Tim.
Present: T420 | T500 | Acer C720

Past: X61T || X60T || R50 || X30 || T30 || A31p || 3xx || 600E || Intellistation Z Pro

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