As far as specs go, I'm not that picky. I just need to be able to play videos, listen to music, type papers, etc. It doesn't require much. Biggest thing hardware-wise for me is a good screen. It's more about color and viewing angle than resolution, though at least 720p is important, bonus if it's a more conventional aspect ratio. I'm fine with a heavier machine (I knew going in that Thinkpads tended to be a bit bulkier than average laptops), but since I'll be carrying it around quite a bit, I don't want anything super large or heavy. As a side note, I do tend to have more interest in the classic models (a sentiment that seems to be shared by a lot of enthusiasts), and don't really want anything much more expensive than $200 (though lower is always good) or anything extremely difficult to track down.
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It needs its clunkpad replaced with the touchpad+buttons from a T450.
The T440p is one of the last machines that is still quite upgradable.
If 12.5" and max. 8GB RAM is acceptable, look for the X240 with IPS FHD.
It too needs its clunkpad replaced with the touchpad+buttons from an X250.
X240 is light and has very good battery life.
Both the above can be found around your price range.
If the classic keyboard is a must, you can get the T420 and upgrade that to FHD.
A better option, with better CPU and GPU is the T430, upgraded with the T420 classic keyboard and also upgraded to FHD.
However, both T420 and T430 will need extensive upgrading, and with that will cost more than the T440p or X240 above.
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