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First time thinkpad

Performance, hardware, software, general buying and gaming discussion..
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rugueBit
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First time thinkpad

#1 Post by rugueBit » Thu Sep 19, 2019 8:00 am

Hello,
I am from the EU and I study Computer Science at University and I want to buy/build a thinkpad with the main objective to be coding and maybe small picture manipulations (novice stuff).
As far as gaming my intention is not to use this particular device for it, besides maybe some hours a week on old/flash/indie games (e.g. Mincraft..).
I've never owned a Thinkpad and the only laptop I've been using is an Asus which had (I sold it) intense heating on wrist rests.

I'm here to ask some advice on what to choose and how and if I can upgrade the model to my needs.

So the first point would be a reasonably low heat of the built-machine after a long period of usage (4-5 h);
a good CPU with integrated graphics, i5 or higher;
no dedicated graphic card;
standard screen (14"-15"), FHD IPS if it's possible to put together;;
old-school Thinkpad QWERTY keyboard (a non-chiclet keyboard);
SSD with option to add HDD for storage.

I have done a bit of research on my own and I found the T series to be a good choice, specifically T420 or T520.
Others on youtube suggest also T440p, T430 although they don't have the old keyboard I'm willing to have a compromise on that with a backlit keyboard.
The thing is I like the old-style keyboard but I also would like to have a 1080p screen.
These are some examples I'm looking at right now.

I want to install a Linux distribution on it.
As for the budget, as long as it all goes for under €500 it fine (including various upgrades).

Now the stage is all yours! I would like to hear your thoughts.
Specifically which model do you think suits me best given the requirements I would like to match?
Please, talk anything about pros-cons and what not.
I'm fairly new to this stuff. I've assembled a PC but never opened a portable computer.
So the more info you write down the more I will be happy to read, and possibly setting the ground for new re-searches.

Thank you.

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Re: First time thinkpad

#2 Post by RealBlackStuff » Thu Sep 19, 2019 11:04 am

FHD IPS is your bottleneck.
T420/T430 have an option to get FHD IPS, but that takes a fair bit of modding and cost.
T430 can have either a backlit chiclet KB or (with an EC-mod) the non-backlit T420 7-row classic keyboard.
Only T440/p and newer came with FHD IPS option, resp. could be upgraded to it.
T440 models need their clunkpad replaced with a touchpad+buttons from the T450.
T450 is the first one that needs no mods, but has (backlit option) chicklet KB and FHD IPS option.
All of the above can have integrated GPU, i7 CPU and a 2nd HD/SSD in Ultrabay adapter instead of the DVD-drive.
Some also offer an M.2 (2240 size) 2nd/3rd disk option in the WWAN slot.

There is also the T25 with backlit 7-row classic KB, but that one is hard to get, has discrete GPU and is well out of your budget.
Lovely day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff). And pigs CAN fly!
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Re: First time thinkpad

#3 Post by jdhurst » Thu Sep 19, 2019 2:55 pm

Getting a good one such as you want for under 500 Euros will be a challenge. My own X1 delivers what you want and I got it with a 1 TB SSD NVMe drive but it was way over 500 Euros. Consider the used marker for one that is about a year old.

rugueBit
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Re: First time thinkpad

#4 Post by rugueBit » Fri Sep 20, 2019 4:27 pm

Hi, thank your for the quick answer.
RealBlackStuff wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 11:04 am
Only T440/p and newer came with FHD IPS option, resp. could be upgraded to it.
Is it possible to implement the 7-row "classic" keyboard on this?

As far as modding I'm fine with operations done via software.
And maybe also OK with little adjustments by external kits.
In this case depends if the cost goes up to much or the parts are hard to find.
For this reason I might remove T420 &T430 from my list.

T520 is still an option as I can keep it like it is, without flashing BIOS and stuff like that.
A part from some hardware upgrade if necessary and/or the non-IPS FHD screen if not present.

Now I'm leaning towards smaller devices such as X220/X230.
Mostly because there is the option for IPS screens. Even though it's an HD version I think it would be fine considering the size of the screen.
But also because of the aesthetics of these machines.
The first thing that got me into buying a thinkpad was the keyboard, the control lights and the overall design.
After all this would be my first Thinkpad so why not getting one that I like and I can use with joy.

Is there a big difference between these two in terms of performance?
I know the X230 has 2 USB 3.0 by default and the 3rd gen CPUs.
But other than that would it be a better option to go for this version?

I would change the display on both anyways. It costs almost like the machine itself: not a deserved change but one that it's needed!
The keyboard is a tricky one though. I read you can probably swap the chicklet version with the 7-row classic. Is it doable without going crazy?

I'm open for any other advice, option.

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Re: First time thinkpad

#5 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sat Sep 21, 2019 1:37 am

Only in the X230/T430/T530/W530 can you put a 7-row classic keyboard from the previous X220/T420/T520/W520 instead of the (backlit optional) chicklet keyboard.

From X220 onward you can always choose between HD and IPS HD.
X220/X230 can be upgraded to IPS FHD, but need a fair bit of modding and cost, and screens are getting harder to find.
From X240 onward you can choose between HD, IPS HD, IPS FHD and IPS FHD-touch.

From X240 onward, all CPUs are low-TDP to keep temperatures further down and you can have 2 batteries in it.
Between X240-X250-X260-X270 there is not much difference in overall performance, X280 made a nice jump.
X240 needs its clunkpad replaced with the touchpad+buttons, same as T440/T540/W540.
X240 can take max. 8GB RAM.
All others can take up to 16GB RAM.

From the above, pick your choice.
I'd say the X250 is probably the easiest to find right now and well in your budget.
Lovely day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff). And pigs CAN fly!
Check out The Boardroom for Parts, Mods and Other Services.

rugueBit
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Re: First time thinkpad

#6 Post by rugueBit » Sat Sep 21, 2019 4:45 pm

@RealBlackStuff
Thank you very much!
You are helping me a lot.
I'm actually starting to figure out which one to buy.
I just finished to watch (not in full) "my personal fight against the modern laptop" on youtube.
It's astonishing to me how devoted the Thinkpad community is.
And the web is full of information on these machines. Awesome!

Thought one thing I can't find is the right PSREF Book.
Maybe I'm looking on the wrong sheets.
For instance I was looking for a IBM T60 1951-A47.
I've searched on the official Lenovo's website <<http://psref.lenovo.com/WithdrawnBook#>>.
And I've looked for a IBM T30 2366-DC3 and many others.
The part that doesn't match is the final digits (e.g. ****-A47/DC3).

Is that because these are References for the US market only?
Or am I doing the searching wrong?
(the pdf files on thinkwiki.org don't work).

It can come in handy if I can solve this problem.
There are a lot of versions once you find the standard model.
And sometimes it's useful to know all the specs at once for a particular one.
The main issue is being able to identify an IPS display.
Instead of going for the conventional approach with pictures,
knowing before hand if the device effectively has the IPS technology would smooth negotiations,
and maybe escape a scam.

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Re: First time thinkpad

#7 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:42 am

Try the MTM-link at the top of this page for older types.
Mostly US-models were published in the PSREF, followed later by EMEA versions for the rest of the world.
Those have been very hard to find.
Also, many new versions came out after the PSREF was already published, plus those PSREFs were never updated.
T60 is 10 years old, T30 is 17 years old by now.
Unless you are a collector, these are hardly decently usable in 2019.

Don't stare yourself blind on specs "from the factory".
Any laptop can have its parts replaced by any owner, without them telling so to the next owner.
To check if IPS, look at the screen from every angle, if the colours stay bright, it is IPS, if they become dull, it is not.
Lovely day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff). And pigs CAN fly!
Check out The Boardroom for Parts, Mods and Other Services.

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Re: First time thinkpad

#8 Post by rugueBit » Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:40 am

I was actually trying to buy a x230 and didn't find the correspondence on the refs.
The owner didn't know if the screen was IPS or TN so we tested it with our eyes :)
An that's what basically I'm looking for right now: an x220/230 for the small screen, 7-row KB and price.
The alternative would be a T450 (which page on thinkwiki doesn't exit unfortunately) for the big screen and (1080p ?) IPS display.

Another option I'm considering is the X1 Carbon. I don't know which generation though.
Would you like to give your insight on the series as you did for the T and X series?
Is it possible to upgrade components (ram/storage disks/cpu/screen/keyboard) with ease on these machines?

The T60/x60 is a "passing fancy" I had on first sight, just a beautiful machine with its 4-3 screen. If I can find one at a low price I'll buy it.

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Re: First time thinkpad

#9 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sun Sep 22, 2019 4:28 am

X1-Carbon is only interesting from Gen3 onward.
CPU is soldered, RAM is soldered in many of them, Google for: Lenovo x1 carbon 3rd (4th/5th etc) Gen specs
Other than SSD and some wifi almost nothing is upgradable.

T has already been explained.
The last/most upgradable Thinkpad is the T440p, after that downhill...
Lovely day for a Guinness! (the Real Black Stuff). And pigs CAN fly!
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Re: First time thinkpad

#10 Post by Dragunov » Sun Sep 22, 2019 11:18 am

RealBlackStuff wrote:
Thu Sep 19, 2019 11:04 am
FHD IPS is your bottleneck.
T420/T430 have an option to get FHD IPS, but that takes a fair bit of modding and cost.
T430 can have either a backlit chiclet KB or (with an EC-mod) the non-backlit T420 7-row classic keyboard.
Only T440/p and newer came with FHD IPS option, resp. could be upgraded to it.
T440 models need their clunkpad replaced with a touchpad+buttons from the T450.
T450 is the first one that needs no mods, but has (backlit option) chicklet KB and FHD IPS option.
All of the above can have integrated GPU, i7 CPU and a 2nd HD/SSD in Ultrabay adapter instead of the DVD-drive.
Some also offer an M.2 (2240 size) 2nd/3rd disk option in the WWAN slot.

There is also the T25 with backlit 7-row classic KB, but that one is hard to get, has discrete GPU and is well out of your budget.
The T44x series "ClunkPad" is just fine, if you learn how to use it properly. *IF* you upgrade it, put a couple of rubber sticky feet on the top of the display bezel, to keep the middle button from scratching your display, while the laptop is closed, and in the case. The slightest pressure on the lid, has the potential to scratch your display. I almost found this out the hard way on one of my W540's. My W540 "DD", has a "ClunkPad", and my backup W540, has the T450 trackpad. I'm not fond of it.

The T440p i7 quad Core is superior to the T450, and it's "U" processor. I consider a change from T440p, to T450, a serious downgrade.

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Re: First time thinkpad

#11 Post by dr_st » Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:17 pm

Dragunov wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 11:18 am
The T44x series "ClunkPad" is just fine, if you learn how to use it properly.
Tips are welcome. :) I have met several users with a model from this series, and none of them liked the "clunkpad"...
Thinkpad 25 (20K7), X1 Carbon (20HQ), Yoga 14 (20FY), T430s (IPS FHD + Classic Keyboard), X220 4291-4BG
X61 7673-V2V, T60 2007-QPG, T42 2373-F7G, X32 (IPS Screen), A31p w/ Ultrabay Numpad, A21m 2628-GXU

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Re: First time thinkpad

#12 Post by Dragunov » Sun Sep 22, 2019 3:52 pm

dr_st wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:17 pm
Dragunov wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 11:18 am
The T44x series "ClunkPad" is just fine, if you learn how to use it properly.
Tips are welcome. :) I have met several users with a model from this series, and none of them liked the "clunkpad"...
Look on Lenovo's website for proper usage. I only use it on occasion. Generally, I use a mouse. However, I've had no issues when I do use it, and know a few others on r/thinkpad, that don't have an issue with it, but most don't like it.

rugueBit
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Re: First time thinkpad

#13 Post by rugueBit » Mon Sep 23, 2019 7:02 am

How do you get the Marketing P/N on a specific FRU?

As I understand it the FRU is identified by a 7-digit number and putting it in the crassest possible terms it tells you if the new unit is compatible.
This can be found on the Lenovo's official site. Not a big deal for newer laptops.
On the other hand the Marketing P/N identifies what? Who's the company behind the manufacturing?
And how do I get this number anyways?

I ask this cause I was reading on a webpage (x220.mcdonnelltech.com): "Note: When purchasing a LCD panel we recommend contacting the seller first to verify the part number of the unit they will be sending."
As for the display there are some listed. What if I want to replace the keyboard or anything else? The FRUs are enough?
For instance. Let's say I need a x220 KB to use as a substitute for the x230 KB.

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