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T61 user - time for an upgrade?

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bluetomgold
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T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#1 Post by bluetomgold » Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:28 pm

First of all, hello!

I bought my T61 3 years ago as a reconditioned machine at a cost of £175. It's still the fastest PC I own (!) and it's been great. Recently I've started using it for audio production though and it's starting to show its age, running out of power as I work on more complex material. It still performs incredibly well for an older machine, but I think it's time for an upgrade. I could also do with a larger, higher resolution screen.

By coincidence, my sister contacted me for advice on buying a new laptop today as hers has "broken". It's a five year old budget Toshiba. She suggested these two, on the basis that she has an Amazon voucher, and wants a 15" screen. They're both around the £300 mark.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/HP-15-r117na-No ... uctDetails
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lenovo-G50-30-1 ... 349&sr=1-7

Based on my positive experience with my T61 I've been looking at reconditioned T520 and T530s. T520s seem to be quite a bit cheaper, wondering how either would compare in terms of real world performance with my T61 versus a new budget machine. I'm happy to upgrade RAM myself and would consider mounting a solid state drive in a new machine.

Neither of us has the budget for a top of the line new machine, and £300-400 would be "pushing the boat out" for a tight-fisted luddite like me, but I'm interested in opinions on which way to go. Thanks in advance for your thoughts. :D

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#2 Post by brchan » Mon Mar 16, 2015 2:47 pm

A T520 will blow the T61 out of the water when it comes to performance, and the T530 even more so. If you love the classic style keyboard, stick with the T520, as the T530 has the newer chiclet style keyboard. It still has great response, but the layout is very different. The performance improvement is also good, but not significant over the previous model.

I would recommend looking for a model with the FHD display as well, since it has by far the best combination of colors (95% Adobe rgb color space), contrast, viewing angles, and brightness of its lower resolution brothers. Note that all the screens are 16:9 ratio, not 4:3. Also, you may find that the build quality is not as high as on the T6x series, though the chassis is a bit stiffer.

On another note, if you need something even more durable and that has a higher resolution, you could look at a 2011 - 2013 Panasonic Toughbook CF-52. If you get one with the 1900x1200 resolution screen, I heard it is great and very bright.
Current Thinkpads: W530 (functional classic keyboard mod), X301, T61, T60, T43, A31p, T23, 600X, 770
Other: mk5 Toughbook cf-19, mk1 Toughbook cf-53

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#3 Post by bluetomgold » Mon Mar 16, 2015 3:32 pm

brchan wrote:A T520 will blow the T61 out of the water when it comes to performance, and the T530 even more so. If you love the classic style keyboard, stick with the T520, as the T530 has the newer chiclet style keyboard. It still has great response, but the layout is very different. The performance improvement is also good, but not significant over the previous model.

I would recommend looking for a model with the FHD display as well, since it has by far the best combination of colors (95% Adobe rgb color space), contrast, viewing angles, and brightness of its lower resolution brothers. Note that all the screens are 16:9 ratio, not 4:3. Also, you may find that the build quality is not as high as on the T6x series, though the chassis is a bit stiffer.

On another note, if you need something even more durable and that has a higher resolution, you could look at a 2011 - 2013 Panasonic Toughbook CF-52. If you get one with the 1900x1200 resolution screen, I heard it is great and very bright.
Great answer, thanks! The Panasonic is appealing, but probably not necessary and pricier for similar spec. I'm open to other suggestions, but the T520/T530 seem a sound bet.

How would I identify the FHD display? I am mainly looking at eBay listings.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#4 Post by brchan » Mon Mar 16, 2015 3:42 pm

If you are looking at a T520, there should be a type number on a sticker at the bottom of the case. You can enter it in the "MTM" link below the header of this website to obtain information on the specs of the particular model (assuming no upgrades were made after). I am not sure if Lenovo still offers this lookup, but the Thinkpad psref sheets should also allow you to look them up.

If you are looking at a T530, I believe the sticker was moved to the battery compartment to prevent the sticker from rubbing off or getting damaged. Since most sellers don't post pics of the empty battery compartment, you should also be able to see the type model number from the BIOS screen, which they usually post pictures of. This same method may be used for the T520.
Current Thinkpads: W530 (functional classic keyboard mod), X301, T61, T60, T43, A31p, T23, 600X, 770
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#5 Post by WizardOfBoz » Mon Mar 16, 2015 4:41 pm

I just went from having (two!) T61p's that I'd recently renovated (clean Win 7 PRo 64 on SSDs, 8Mb of memory, T9500 and T9300 CPUs). I really liked the old machines: impossible to kill. And with a new, recent install and the latest drivers, they ran great.

But I do a lot of number crunching, and it was going to be difficult for the T61ps to keep up. So I recently bought 2 W530s. The first, with a K1000M, was probably good enough. But I hankered for the K2000M. Again, with a clean install of Win 7 Pro 64 bit on Samsung 850 Pro 500Gb SSDs, these machines scream. Depending upon the answers I get I'll be installing 32Gb of new Crucial memory, either PC3-12800 or PC3-14400 xmp memory.

Limited "chicklet" keyboard experience, but so far they're not bad.

Really, really, really like these "new" (to me) machines. They rock. I consciously went with the W530 rather than the W520, as I figure the extra processor power and less age may give me a bit longer use runway.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#6 Post by bluetomgold » Mon Mar 16, 2015 5:03 pm

WizardOfBoz wrote:I just went from having (two!) T61p's that I'd recently renovated (clean Win 7 PRo 64 on SSDs, 8Mb of memory, T9500 and T9300 CPUs). I really liked the old machines: impossible to kill. And with a new, recent install and the latest drivers, they ran great.

But I do a lot of number crunching, and it was going to be difficult for the T61ps to keep up. So I recently bought 2 W530s. The first, with a K1000M, was probably good enough. But I hankered for the K2000M. Again, with a clean install of Win 7 Pro 64 bit on Samsung 850 Pro 500Gb SSDs, these machines scream. Depending upon the answers I get I'll be installing 32Gb of new Crucial memory, either PC3-12800 or PC3-14400 xmp memory.

Limited "chicklet" keyboard experience, but so far they're not bad.

Really, really, really like these "new" (to me) machines. They rock. I consciously went with the W530 rather than the W520, as I figure the extra processor power and less age may give me a bit longer use runway.
Great! In two minds about what to get... T520 looks like the most bang for buck - it's cheap!

http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/IBM-Lenovo-Th ... 541a265fbf

But maybe I should push the boat out a bit further?

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#7 Post by WizardOfBoz » Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:08 pm

I think either the w520 or the w530 would be great, and both run faster than the T61p (although I can say my typing spead never, ever overwhelmed MS Word on the T61p). But I recently ran an engineering optimization in Matlab that took an hour, and needed more speed.

I think you can get power cheaper with the w520. But in two years, when Thinkpads have hexadecicores and come standards with 128Gb of memory, you may feel pressured to switch again, earlier with a w520. The w530 might push that out, what, a year? For me, putting off another migration is worth the extra few hundred bucks.

Plus, as I said, I got a W530 with 8Gb, a 3820 processor, a K2000M card, a nearly-new battery and 170W charger, with almost a year left on warranty for $750. I dropped $280 (bhphoto, highly recommended) on a Samsung 850 Pro 500Gb SSD, and I'll put another $280 on 32Gb of Crucial Ballistix DDR3 PC3-14900 with XMP, and I should be good to go for another 3 years or so.

Plus, if cloud computing becomes more of a reality, we'll be sending our spreadsheets and MATLAB programs off to a 1028 CPU cloud computer, and the actual PC will just be a terminal. Funny how things go 'round, ain't it!

I think you'll be happy either way. If the W530, you'll know you have a bit more power and longevity. If the W520, you'll know you probably got a great laptop for incredibly cheap. Good luck!

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#8 Post by Qing Dao » Tue Mar 17, 2015 7:49 pm

The T520 or W520 is really the sweet spot right now. Unless you are a gamer, their performance isn't much less than current models, and their price is like buying a cheap new laptop.
WizardOfBoz wrote:Plus, if cloud computing becomes more of a reality, we'll be sending our spreadsheets and MATLAB programs off to a 1028 CPU cloud computer, and the actual PC will just be a terminal. Funny how things go 'round, ain't it!
In that case might as well keep a few classic "terminals" in the closet awaiting that day.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#9 Post by WizardOfBoz » Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:11 pm

Agree about performance of W520/530 vs new. The top CPUs of those two machines pretty much beat or match anything new except the top machines.

There's a DEC Model VT100-AA terminal on ebay now if you want a truly classic terminal. Or, if you're even more old-school, an ASR-33 Teletype terminal may be found. I want one with paper tape! You could store 2K of data in a roll of paper the size of your hand!

I'm eagerly awaiting 32Gb of Ballistix SODIMM DDR3 PC3-14900 XMP memory for my machine. Should really blow the doors off some of the tech computing I'm doing...

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#10 Post by theterminator93 » Tue Mar 17, 2015 9:36 pm

I was in a similar boat to you a few months ago with my T61p (which I still use regularly), and ended up with a T420 with the nVidia Optimus option. Absolutely love this machine; I've since upgraded it as seen in my sig. Performance is spectacular, battery life blows the T61 out of the water, and it still feels like a ThinkPad. Screen leaves a little to be desired, but I've adjusted to it.

I also agree CPU performance between the Sandy Bridge core i5/i7 vs. the new Haswell/Broadwell chips seems to be less of an improvement than overall efficiency and battery life; since I typically use my computers plugged in anyway, it's not a great reason for me to have to sacrifice the classic keyboard and trackpoint system for that. Especially since a 9C + 9C slice battery will give 15-18 hours of battery runtime. :D
Daily: T25 | W520 i7-2860QM·Quadro 2000m·IPS FHD | T420 i7-2640M·NVS 4200m·IPS FHD | X220 i7-2640M·IPS FHD | T601F T9900·NVS 140M·LED UXGA
Wife's: T61p T9500·FX570m·WUXGA | X220T i7-2640M
Others: T61p·61·43·42p|X41T·24·23·22|G41|A31p·22m|i1200|TransNote|380D|365XD|701C|755C

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#11 Post by bluetomgold » Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:35 am

Qing Dao wrote:The T520 or W520 is really the sweet spot right now. Unless you are a gamer, their performance isn't much less than current models, and their price is like buying a cheap new laptop.
Yep that's my conclusion too. Seems like a big jump up in price to the newer generation (i.e. 530 series) with less of a jump in performance. Plus I know I'll like the keyboard! If it comes to it I don't mind changing my machine sooner rather than later, I'll be happy to have the excuse to do a fresh install/spring clean.

Currently leaning towards the W520 as it has the edge in processing power, plus USB3.0 and a better screen. That said the T520 is stupidly cheap for what you are getting - I guess there are more out there. Wondering whether now is the time to shell out for an SSD, too - 120GB seems to be the sweet spot, not sure what brands I should be looking at. I'll probably stick additional ram in it soon enough but can do that at any time.

Thanks all for your input, glad to hear I'm not the only one out there who thinks the way I do when it comes to hardware choices. :D I'll let you know how I get on.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#12 Post by theterminator93 » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:37 am

My recommendation would be (if you don't use or need WWAN) to try an mSATA SSD. Cost is about the same as traditional SATA SSDs, but you can use it in addition to the HDD in the system via the extra mini-PCIe slot (again, if there's no WWAN) to use as an OS/system disk, letting you keep the HDD for storage.
Daily: T25 | W520 i7-2860QM·Quadro 2000m·IPS FHD | T420 i7-2640M·NVS 4200m·IPS FHD | X220 i7-2640M·IPS FHD | T601F T9900·NVS 140M·LED UXGA
Wife's: T61p T9500·FX570m·WUXGA | X220T i7-2640M
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#13 Post by WizardOfBoz » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:19 pm

Agree with terminator that mSATA SSD is kind of cool. Unfortunately, on the W530, it is SATA II (as I understand it), whereas the main and ultrabay drives are SATAIII. So on a W530, faster to spend your money on a Samsung 850 Pro, or a Crucial MX200, to get 6Mb/s vs 3.

Depends upon your machine's main/ultrabay SATA spec.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#14 Post by bluetomgold » Wed Mar 18, 2015 8:12 pm

Interesting stuff, thanks for all the ideas, I've been reading up and I'm learning loads as I'm years behind on this stuff. I guess I could get an ultrabay caddy for the HD and put the SSD in the main drive slot.

Haven't quite pulled the trigger on a new machine but am moments away...

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#15 Post by ajkula66 » Wed Mar 18, 2015 9:40 pm

WizardOfBoz wrote:Agree with terminator that mSATA SSD is kind of cool. Unfortunately, on the W530, it is SATA II (as I understand it), whereas the main and ultrabay drives are SATAIII. So on a W530, faster to spend your money on a Samsung 850 Pro, or a Crucial MX200, to get 6Mb/s vs 3.
No.

mSATA runs at SATA II on *20 series, but at SATA III on *30 generation. UltraBay on all is SATA II only.
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#16 Post by WizardOfBoz » Thu Mar 19, 2015 8:22 am

ajkula66,

For all I know you are correct, but my response was based on what some knowledgeable folks on the Lenovo site are saying, which is the exact opposite:
http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/W-Series-Th ... d-p/790515

If I have a sec, I'll pull a SATA 3 drive out of one of my machines and see if it registers as SATA II or III. I had done this the other day, and I do recall that it screamed.

Jim

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#17 Post by ajkula66 » Thu Mar 19, 2015 6:31 pm

WizardOfBoz wrote:ajkula66,

For all I know you are correct, but my response was based on what some knowledgeable folks on the Lenovo site are saying, which is the exact opposite:
http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/W-Series-Th ... d-p/790515
Just bear in mind that it's not really a Lenovo site, but a Lenovo forum... :D
If I have a sec, I'll pull a SATA 3 drive out of one of my machines and see if it registers as SATA II or III. I had done this the other day, and I do recall that it screamed.

Jim
I'd love for you to do so. This way we'll know where we stand.
...Knowledge is a deadly friend when no one sets the rules...(King Crimson)

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#18 Post by WizardOfBoz » Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:48 pm

Ok, I have two SATA3 SSDs installed in one of my W530s. Both are Samsung 850 Pro 512Gb SDDs. One in the system slot, one in the Ultrabay. Samsung Magician SW says the SATA Interface for both is SATA 6Gb(SATA 3).

I've seen several posts where folks have stated that the mSATA slot is slower, and if I recall correctly, some guy measured the bandwidth and it was indeed SATA 2.

But I speculate on that issue. The key thing is that both system and ultrabay drives communicate at SATA 3 apparently.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#19 Post by ajkula66 » Thu Mar 19, 2015 9:51 pm

WizardOfBoz wrote: The key thing is that both system and ultrabay drives communicate at SATA 3 apparently.
I wouldn't be so sure about UltraBay.

Run CDM from the UltraBay slot and report back.
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#20 Post by WizardOfBoz » Fri Mar 20, 2015 1:50 pm

Not familiar with cdm. Are you talking about cdm from Nimsoft/CA? It didn't look like freeware. Is it?

In any case, I have no skin in this game: my main drive is SATA III and I don't really need for my bay drive to be SATA III. That said, theMobile Intel QM77 chipset spec sheet states that there are up to two SATA3 ports, with four SATAII, and an eSATA port that runs at 3Mb/s (that is, SATA 2). So we are trying to figure out whether Lenovo hooked up the 2nd SATA3 port to the ultrabay, or the mSATA/PCIe port, yes?

Again, some fairly expert folks on the Lenovo site are stating with certainty that the 2nd SATA3 is hooked to the ultrabay. See here.

It is weird, though, that the Lenovo site that has "Detailed Technical Specifications" for the W530 doesn't have this listed explicitly.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#21 Post by ajkula66 » Fri Mar 20, 2015 5:46 pm

WizardOfBoz wrote:Not familiar with cdm. Are you talking about cdm from Nimsoft/CA? It didn't look like freeware. Is it?
Apologies, I should've been more specific. My reference is to Crystal Disk Mark, freeware, found here:

http://crystalmark.info/software/Crysta ... dex-e.html
So we are trying to figure out whether Lenovo hooked up the 2nd SATA3 port to the ultrabay, or the mSATA/PCIe port, yes?
I guess that would be one way of looking at it...
Again, some fairly expert folks on the Lenovo site are stating with certainty that the 2nd SATA3 is hooked to the ultrabay. See here.
I'd tend to question the expertise of the "experts" in question... :D

Don't get me wrong: there are still some knowledgeable folks left on LF. It's just that none of them posted in that (quite old) thread. This is coming from someone who was a part of that forum before it was open for general public and left it with over 7500 posts...so let's say that I have an idea of who's who over there... 8)

But hey, I've been wrong before and will most certainly be again.
It is weird, though, that the Lenovo site that has "Detailed Technical Specifications" for the W530 doesn't have this listed explicitly.
Not really. They are quite often "shy" about certain aspect of their builds. It took people about a year to confirm that stereo recording ability has been removed from T61...
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#22 Post by bluetomgold » Fri Mar 20, 2015 8:53 pm

Well, I just bought a W520. Can't wait.

Really need to get rid of some old machines now... In addition to my T61, I'm typing this on an old Shuttle SB51G and there's a Dell Latitude 110L running ubuntu next to me. Across the room there's an ASRock Ion 330 and a Medion Akoya e1210. I've got a Toshiba T8000 (PII) in the loft running Puppy, with a working USB wireless adapter. It's almost useful, but just slightly too slow. The best thing about it is its built in FM sound chip. :)

I'm not sure why I felt the need to share that... Just excited to have a new machine on the way I guess. Thanks for all the helpful advice!

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#23 Post by ajkula66 » Fri Mar 20, 2015 9:05 pm

bluetomgold wrote:Well, I just bought a W520. Can't wait.
Congrats! These are fine machines and should be future-proof for quite some time to come.
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#24 Post by ZaZ » Sat Mar 21, 2015 3:45 am

I had a Shuttle PC, which I hated. I was using it as a HTPC, which suited it well, but after six months or so the fan came on somewhat loudly and nothing I did could cure it. Shuttle support was useless and I gathered later this problem was not uncommon.

Congrats on the W520. It is a fine machine and should serve your needs well given the age of your other PCs.

If I were in the market today, the T450s or maybe L450(the no backlit keyboard or ThinkLight may be a turn off) would be at the top of my list, but I just got such a great deal on my Dell and I don't use my notebook enough to be particularly particular about it.
ProBook 470 G3

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#25 Post by WizardOfBoz » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:01 am

Congrats on the w520. I think you'll have a blast getting it set up just the way you like it, and I know you'll appreciate the additional speed compared to the T61p.

As for the SATA3 Utrabay issue, Crystal DiskMark shows both main drive and ultrabay drive, both actual and supported, as SATA/600. Which I take to mean SATA3.

And given that the mobile Intel QM77 chipset only supports 2 SATA3 ports, this means that the mSATA slot in the w530 is SATA2.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#26 Post by WizardOfBoz » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:02 am

My previous note referred to the OP's W520 purchase, but then described the SATA setup for the W530. Sorry for the context switch.

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#27 Post by ajkula66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 10:52 am

WizardOfBoz wrote: As for the SATA3 Utrabay issue, Crystal DiskMark shows both main drive and ultrabay drive, both actual and supported, as SATA/600. Which I take to mean SATA3.

And given that the mobile Intel QM77 chipset only supports 2 SATA3 ports, this means that the mSATA slot in the w530 is SATA2.
Did you run the actual benchmark from the UltraBay?
...Knowledge is a deadly friend when no one sets the rules...(King Crimson)

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#28 Post by bluetomgold » Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:12 pm

Can anyone confirm the spec of the slots/bays in the W520?

If I opt to put an SSD in the mSATA slot, would I be just as well to buy a lower spec drive?

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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#29 Post by theterminator93 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:30 pm

If the W520 is anything like the T420 (which I'm betting it is), the mSATA port is SATA 3 Gb/s standard.

I have a SATA 6.0 spec drive (Crucial M550 256) which benchmarks nearly 500 MB/s class at the SATA 6 Gb/s rates; my system it comes in the high 200s.
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Re: T61 user - time for an upgrade?

#30 Post by ajkula66 » Sat Mar 21, 2015 12:36 pm

bluetomgold wrote:Can anyone confirm the spec of the slots/bays in the W520?
Main bay is SATA III, mSATA is SATA II.
If I opt to put an SSD in the mSATA slot, would I be just as well to buy a lower spec drive?
You're not going to find one since mSATA is a fairly new format. Just install the best drive you can afford.
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