pianowizard wrote: ↑
Sat Sep 25, 2021 8:57 pm
Even when this thread started in 2010, I already no longer considered Thinkpads the best, as you can see in my posts on page 1. I weaned myself off the trackpoint
in the mid-2000s. I can adapt to most keyboards
pretty quickly. Serviceability
is largely irrelevant to me. Durability
does matter to me, and the best Thinkpads might still be better than most especially in terms of scratch resistance
and hinge longevity
, but the top Latitudes and Precisions from the past ~10 years are close enough. I am skeptical of Thinkpads' screen quality
-- I have a 17-year-old Dell Inspiron 700m that I still use occasionally, and its screen looks better than most of the Thinkpads I ever owned. Perhaps above all, I highly value aesthetics
. While Thinkpads looked super sexy in the 4:3 era, they have fared poorly after the switch to widescreen. This last criterion also explains my short-lived interest in Panasonic's Y-series ToughBook / Let's Note laptops, of which I owned the CF-Y4, Y5, Y7, and Y9. They had amazing specs relative to their contemporary competitors (e.g. the T4* and T6* Thinkpads) and were "business rugged" as advertised, but looked rather gross especially the WWAN models with their oversized lids. Those thick lids were designed to protect the screen, but they were fugly. Same thing for the HP EliteBook 8740w, possibly the most frequently praised non-Thinkpad on this forum: as impressively engineered as it was, I could not stand its appearance.
Being both an old ThinkPad and Latitude/Precision user myself, I would say they just age better or worse in different areas. Most Latitude/Precision models (with the exception of the Dx00 and Dx10 series, the former having the most horrible build quality ever on a Latitude and the latter is a small refinement) are unlikely to have completely failed hinges, but rather they like to use the heavy duty steel enclosure design that's also used in T61, T400, T500 widescreens and those can wear down over time and develop seesaw, in which I have demonstrated that supergluing it fills in the gaps that formed from wear and thus fixes it.
With the exception of those models as well as the 14.1" T4x that can have a small tendency to have a snapped left hinge (I've come across 3 of these already), the ThinkPad hinges typically age pretty well.
As for scratch resistance, on the Dell side of things, some models age far better than others. The Dx20/Dx30 series have zero problems with scratching problems whatsoever, while their successor, E6x00/E6x10 series age horribly in this regard with their matte black paint wearing off to stark contrast of magnesium grey colour.
I have had the chance of having a Dell Latitude D630, ThinkPad T61 14.1" Widescreen and a HP Compaq 6910p, so I can have the closest of apples to apples comparison. I think this might give a better idea of what sort of things you would pick as second best if your best is a ThinkPad and you care the most about the Core 2 era of laptops.
The T61 design is all good in terms of looks, with the exception that the screen is really off centre, with a much thicker left bezel than the right, and that definitely drives me crazy.
T61 as per thinkpads though, stack up pretty well as far as drops go.
The T61 is also the thinnest out of the bunch, but that's cheating because the T61 widescreen has a protruding battery even for a 6 cell.
It also has the most consistent keyboard, in that no matter which T61 you get, the keyboard is most definitely good.
It has stereo speakers but they really don't sound that great, I would say the HP has slightly better speakers.
Servicability is alright on this model compared to the rest. Most things require taking off the small palmrest and the keyboard to service, but the CPU still requires removing the keyboard bezel.
The T61 has the best driver support, with Lenovo offering Windows 7 drivers wherever the manufacturer of the component released a Windows 7 driver, but the BIOS update situation is definitely the worst, with Middleton custom BIOS required for pretty much anything you wanna upgrade on this thing.
The D630 is the bulkiest out of them, but even then the T61 has a much thicker left bezel. The D630 doesn't fare as well in drops (because cracked magnesium doesn't really stay on as cracked plastics), but magnesium casing ages better, especially when exposed to weathering, because magnesium doesn't get brittle like plastics do on my T61 that's beaten to hell. The plastics are also much thicker here so they also have a much less tendency to crack (at the cost of bulkiness of course)
With bulkiness, this is also the least elegant solution of course. It's designed to look mean and rugged. The T61 and the 6910p displays their elegance in different ways, well Dell never really cared about elegance with the design language on this thing.
The keyboard situation is really inconsistent. There are like a full dozen of different keyboard designs compatible with this thing and they feel drastically different. One part number can feel extremely mushy and quiet while another part number can feel very clicky and loud (which is the one I prefer).
This is the only one with mono speakers, and that's inconsistent too. There are two part numbers for the speaker, one sounds like dog crap, and another gives the most amount of bass and depth out of these 3 models.
Servicability is definitely the worst on this model. Most things are similar to the T61 but CPU upgrade means palmrest and display removal, which is quite a pain.
The driver support is alright. Dell provides all the drivers and utilities that would've come with this thing, but no Windows 7 drivers.
The BIOS support is excellent. The latest BIOS allows just about anything that's allowed with the Middleton modded BIOS, with the exception of quad core support of course.
So in other words, the latest A19 BIOS is all that's required for it to take X9000, 8GB RAM, SATA2 SSD and all that goodies.
The 6910p is in many ways in the middle of the T61 and the D630. It's not as bulky as the D630 but also not as sturdy as the D630. It has the smallest size with the thinnest bezels out of the 3. The whole laptop feels like it's tightly packed with things inside with tighter tolerances.
The elegance of this laptop also shows with the tight tolerances as seen by the Torx screws and pretty tight seams used throughout the laptop.
I would say this model stacks up the worst in terms of drops, with cracks forming already at the left bottom corner with me taking this thing out in my backpacks for just like 2 days.
By luck though, the 6910p is immune to all the NVidia problems because its discrete GPU would be an ATI solution.
The keyboard is alright on this thing. It has keycaps with very rough textures, thick coating and blurrier printings (HP Durakey), and that is intentional to wear down your fingers before wearing down itself.
This laptop has stereo speakers and they sound better than the T61, but however, both of the speakers are located on the right side of the SDCard reader in the centre, while the left grille is purely decoration.
This laptop has the most excellent serviceability. Keyboard is held in by 3 Philips captive screws and 4 plastic latches cleverly hidden between Esc/F1, F4/F5, F8/F9, F12/Scroll lk keys as dividers. CPU, heatsink, fan removal only requires the removal of this and hinge cover (though it requires a torx screwdriver), making CPU upgrades and minor maintenances nice and easy.
It overall gives the feeling of being small and compact.
The driver support is the worst on this laptop, with HP only providing the bare essentials of Windows Vista drivers (and that's already an exception as no drivers are available officially for any Pavilion models of this era).
The BIOS on this thing has no problems with Penryn CPU's, nor do it have problems with SATA2, but I have not tried a X9000 inside and the Wifi card is still whitelist situation.
One more thing worth mentioning is the 6910p has no abilities whatsoever in terms of reporting POST problems. Even a simple no RAM or faulty RAM error will make the laptop sit with a black screen and no beeps no nothing.