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Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

X200, X201, X220 (including equivalent tablet models) and X300, X301 series specific matters only.
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Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#1 Post by Kimmo » Sat Aug 20, 2011 6:32 pm

They both seem quite comparable in terms of cost and features. Here's the main benefits I'm currently seeing of each:

-Macbook Air is much thinner. Around 2x thinner than the X220. And a half inch thinner than the X120e
-The Macbook Air seems sturdier with the aluminum casing.
-The thinkpad has a trackpoint, which is fairly important for me.
-Can easily change RAM/SSD/HDDs/batteries with Thinkpads.

But I do have some questions about the X220:
-Is having an SSD noticeably lighter than having an HDD? And if I use the laptop heavily for ~5 years is there a reasonable chance the SSD will fail, more so than an HDD?
-I noticed the X200 was released mid 2008, and the X220 released earlier this year. There's probably little chance there will be a new model early to mid 2012?

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#2 Post by Colonel O'Neill » Sat Aug 20, 2011 7:10 pm

If the compromise on ports is acceptable to you, then the thinness is a good thing.

The aluminum unibody is less durable overall compared to a ThinkPad chassis with magnesium rollcage and CFRP/GFRP casing.

If you really want light, go for a mSATA SSD.
SSD lifespans, are... shall we say... controversial at this point.
Especially with the move to ever thinner NAND for the sake of capacity, write cycles have steadily decreased. Although this is somewhat compensated for by a controller that does wear levelling well and reduces write amplification, it's probably not the best thing to rely on. Platter drives have a consistent speed and don't wear out by nature (in a reasonable timespan), assuming you don't drop them too hard.

There's likely a newer model coinciding with Ivy Bridge.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#3 Post by underclocker » Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:11 pm

Completely different laptop philosophies.

The Air is gorgeous, sleek, great performance and is seen as a luxury item. The Air (any MacBook) will run OSX and Windows together seemlessly (with Fusion or Parallels). However, durable and expandable, it is not. The aluminum on all MacBooks is so thin, not durable and non-compliant that you'll have scratches within hours of owning one and dents soon thereafter. Furthermore, upgrades are next to impossible and replacing cosmetic parts is a daunting task. Forget about WWAN, WiMax or any upcoming connectivity, too.

The ThinkPad is durable, gorgeous in a classic business black way, upgradeable, easy to work on and expandable to the max with many wireless connectivity options. Without extreme hacking, it will only run Windows (or Linux).

Both are great machines in many ways, but it comes down to personal needs and wants. For me, the bottom line is that OSX is the only real reason to choose a MacBook, while the hardware designs are attractive, they are just too delicate. If you don't need/want OSX, buy a ThinkPad.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#4 Post by Kimmo » Sat Aug 20, 2011 8:51 pm

Thanks for the replies. The benefit of going thinner is of course reduced if the aluminum is less durable, unlike what I was thinking.

And it looks like I'd have to wait until later than March 2012 for a new model.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#5 Post by pianowizard » Sat Aug 20, 2011 11:14 pm

If you are asking about the 13" Macbook Air, it has a higher resolution than the X220, 1440x900 versus 1366x768.

I would buy neither, but instead the new Sony Z Series which has 13" 1600x900 and weighs 2.6 lbs. There is even a 1920x1080 option but that would be too high for me.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#6 Post by azX32 » Sun Aug 21, 2011 12:48 am

Kimmo wrote:-The thinkpad has a trackpoint, which is fairly important for me.
It is to me as well, and the X220 also has a better keyboard. For me, those two items together would trump a laptop that has a higher resolution display, but has a lesser keyboard and only a touchpad. YMMV.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#7 Post by ThinkRob » Sun Aug 21, 2011 1:20 am

Keep in mind, the X220 offers an upgrade to an IPS display, which none of the MacBooks offer.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#8 Post by Kimmo » Sun Aug 21, 2011 1:54 am

My vision isn't bad, but it isn't that great, so resolution isn't a concern for me at all. (I'm currently using a thinkpad R60 (~14") with 1024x768)
pianowizard wrote:I would buy neither, but instead the new Sony Z Series which has 13" 1600x900 and weighs 2.6 lbs. There is even a 1920x1080 option but that would be too high for me.
Yeah, I've always liked how portable Sony's laptops are, but at least in the past I've read some models are basically impossible to get Linux running on them. Maybe that's now different?

And unfortunately, none of Sony's current laptops have trackpoints.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#9 Post by ssd_thinkpad » Sun Aug 21, 2011 6:44 am

The Air does rund Windows 7 not so good. It is very bad on battery life. And I am not sure about the cpu temperature (read: the fan could get noisy).

The x220 is cool (very silent with tpfancontrol software), the air is hot and louder.

I have measured the x220 weight very detailled with different batteries, with or without hdd, msata ssd etc. here: http://forum.thinkpads.com/viewtopic.php?f=43&t=98466. It is after some changes more lightweight than the 13 inch air.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#10 Post by sanjuro » Mon Aug 22, 2011 8:51 pm

ThinkRob wrote:Keep in mind, the X220 offers an upgrade to an IPS display, which none of the MacBooks offer.
Not sure what's worse: 768 vertical pixels but with an IPS display on X220 or 900 vertical pixels but glossy display on macbook air. The look of an X220 is an acquired taste. Some calls it pretty but it is an ugly duckling compared to the slick aluminum chasis of an macbook. X220's LCD folds back 180 degrees; Macbook air looks pretty but hinges aren't that great or reliable. Let's not even talk about the keyboard.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#11 Post by ZaZ » Mon Aug 22, 2011 9:05 pm

sanjuro wrote:Dear Lenovo. We want X3xx back. You can even lose the DVD drive and we won't complain.
A X320 with a WXGA+ IPS LCD, now there's a killer notebook.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#12 Post by Kimmo » Mon Aug 22, 2011 10:33 pm

sanjuro wrote:Macbook air looks pretty but hinges aren't that great or reliable.
I've heard many people say the hinges on thinkpads are good, but I've not noticed anything remarkable about them. Both of the two thinkpads that I own have broken hinges, and not because I've dropped them.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#13 Post by ThinkRob » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:14 am

sanjuro wrote: Not sure what's worse: 768 vertical pixels but with an IPS display on X220 or 900 vertical pixels but glossy display on macbook air. The look of an X220 is an acquired taste. Some calls it pretty but it is an ugly duckling compared to the slick aluminum chasis of an macbook.
I'd say that the glossy displays are worse.

You can work around low resolution with software: font resizing, UI adaptation (Firefox can use some extensions to get surprisingly minimal, UI-wise), etc.

The only way you can work around glossy screens is to stay away from bright lights or to resign yourself to adjusting your display every time you shift your head position slightly. I've been there, done thtat, and I think it sucks. You can add a matte overlay yourself, but that's an imperfect "solution" at best for a couple reasons.

As far as the looks go: in every business setting that I've been in, ThinkPads look a *lot* more professional than shiny metal laptops. Obviously if it's for home use this doesn't matter -- but if you're considering the laptop for business, consider whether the workplaces that you'll be using it in are the sorts of places where a MacBook would be viewed as a business machine or an entertainment device. YMMV, but I've definitely been in a number of situations in which whipping out the latest iWhatever would make the wrong impression.

(For the record, I think that it's rather silly to judge people's work intent based on the model of laptop they use -- I know plenty of hackers who use Apple-branded hardware and plenty of ThinkPad users who spend most of their time using the machine for recreation -- but such is the world that we live in.)
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#14 Post by pianowizard » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:15 am

Kimmo wrote:I've heard many people say the hinges on thinkpads are good, but I've not noticed anything remarkable about them. Both of the two thinkpads that I own have broken hinges, and not because I've dropped them.
Thinkpad hinges were legendary in the late IBM and early Lenovo era, but they have been going downhill in the last couple years.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#15 Post by sanjuro » Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:47 am

Kimmo wrote: I've heard many people say the hinges on thinkpads are good, but I've not noticed anything remarkable about them. Both of the two thinkpads that I own have broken hinges, and not because I've dropped them.
Which model(s) of thinkpads had broken hinges? Never had any broken hinges before.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#16 Post by pianowizard » Wed Aug 24, 2011 6:16 am

sanjuro wrote:Which model(s) of thinkpads had broken hinges? Never had any broken hinges before.
The T61 was the first recent Thinkpad to have widespread hinge problems. After the T61, at least two other models have exhibited this problem though I don't remember their exact models.

And based on my personal experience, the X2* of the IBM days had weak hinges as well.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#17 Post by ThinkRob » Wed Aug 24, 2011 11:57 am

pianowizard wrote: Thinkpad hinges were legendary in the late IBM and early Lenovo era, but they have been going downhill in the last couple years.
I'm not sure I agree with that. Actually, I'm sure I don't agree with that.

As pointed out above, the X20 series had hinge issues, and the venerable 600 series, while not prone to hinge failure, certainly wasn't exceptional in terms of maintaining hinge tightness. I wouldn't describe any ThinkPad hinges, apart from the hinges on the famous "butterfly" ThinkPad, as being "legendary". All generations that I can remember are vastly superior to consumer notebook hinges, and on-par with most other business laptop hinges: no better, no worse (on average -- individual models vary.)

The T61 series did seem to have some hinge issues, but subsequent generations haven't, in my experience, shown any higher rates of failure than I'd expect. (My workplace uses a *lot* of ThinkPads, and I haven't heard any rumblings about the *00 or *10 series hinges. In fact, I don't know of any of those machines that have hit our support desks due to hinge failure under normal conditions.)

Edit: That's not quite true. The X200 tablets that I've seen deployed did wind up with pretty wonky hinges towards the end of their lifespans -- but given that they're tablet hinges, I'm kinda ignoring them for the purposes of this discussion.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#18 Post by pianowizard » Wed Aug 24, 2011 12:32 pm

ThinkRob wrote:I'm sure I don't agree with that...All generations that I can remember are vastly superior to consumer notebook hinges, and on-par with most other business laptop hinges: no better, no worse (on average -- individual models vary.)
If you had used more non-Thinkpads or at least read more about them, you would agree with me. Until very recently, most of Dell's and HP's business-class laptops had notoriously high hinge failure rates, i.e. failing within two years. Compared to their contemporaries, the T4*, T60, X4* and X6* had infinitely better hinges.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#19 Post by azX32 » Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:04 pm

pianowizard wrote:Thinkpad hinges were legendary in the late IBM and early Lenovo era, but they have been going downhill in the last couple years.
pianowizard wrote:Until very recently, most of Dell's and HIP's business-class laptops had notoriously high hinge failure rates, i.e. failing within two years. Compared to their contemporaries, the T4*, T60, X4* and X6* had infinitely better hinges.
So, your argument is:

a) hinges on IBM/Lenovo competitors' business-class laptops used to be inferior to hinges on ThinkPads

b) the competitors' hinges have recently become better

c) therefore, ThinkPad hinges have been going downhill in the last couple of years.

I guess I don't follow the logic of that. Do you have some specific data regarding the failure rate of ThinkPad hinges that you could include to support your statement?

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#20 Post by pianowizard » Wed Aug 24, 2011 1:24 pm

azX32 wrote:So, your argument is:

a) hinges on IBM/Lenovo competitors' business-class laptops used to be inferior to hinges on ThinkPads

b) the competitors' hinges have recently become better

c) therefore, ThinkPad hinges have been going downhill in the last couple of years.

I guess I don't follow the logic of that.
Of course you don't follow the logic of that because you seem to have read only half of what I said above. What I said was, Thinkpad hinges are now less "legendary" both because the competitors' hinges have improved and because certain recent Thinkpad models' hinges have gone downhill. You also need to remember how this discussion got started: Kimmo wrote "I've heard many people say the hinges on thinkpads are good". Why did so many people praise the hinges of Thinkpads? That's partly because Dell's and HP's were terrible. Also, ThinkRob claimed that Thinkpad hinges were no better or worse than other brands, which further prompted me to compare with non-Thinkpads.

In summary, pre-T61 Thinkpad hinges were good relative to other brands and relative to some of the more recent Thinkpads.
azX32 wrote:Do you have some specific data regarding the failure rate of ThinkPad hinges that you could include to support your statement?
My statement is based on what I have read on this forum. Reports of hinge failures have become much more frequent in the last two years or so. And no, this isn't just because the number of posts went up in general.

UPDATE: Yet another post about loose hinges just popped up: http://67.214.227.38/~thinkpad/forum/vi ... 46&t=98851
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#21 Post by ThinkRob » Wed Aug 24, 2011 7:40 pm

pianowizard wrote: If you had used more non-Thinkpads or at least read more about them, you would agree with me. Until very recently, most of Dell's and HP's business-class laptops had notoriously high hinge failure rates, i.e. failing within two years. Compared to their contemporaries, the T4*, T60, X4* and X6* had infinitely better hinges.
I *have* used plenty of non-ThinkPads, but I will admit that my reading in this area has probably been far less than yours. None of the machines that I used displayed anything more than the usual hinge loosening that most laptops get after a while.

Still, I haven't done or dealt with any large-scale deployments of said machines, so I'll defer to your expertise on this.
Also, ThinkRob claimed that Thinkpad hinges were no better or worse than other brands, which further prompted me to compare with non-Thinkpads.
That's not quite what I meant. I specifically referred to what I observed to by the average performance across the generations that I could remember, comparing it to competing brands of the time (again, that I can remember.) Some models of ThinkPads have worse hinges than their contemporaries, others have better. I most decidedly did not mean to make an absolute, sweeping statement -- I don't have nearly enough data to make that sort of assertion.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#22 Post by asiafish » Sun Aug 28, 2011 5:38 pm

underclocker wrote:Completely different laptop philosophies.

The Air is gorgeous, sleek, great performance and is seen as a luxury item. The Air (any MacBook) will run OSX and Windows together seemlessly (with Fusion or Parallels). However, durable and expandable, it is not. The aluminum on all MacBooks is so thin, not durable and non-compliant that you'll have scratches within hours of owning one and dents soon thereafter. Furthermore, upgrades are next to impossible and replacing cosmetic parts is a daunting task. Forget about WWAN, WiMax or any upcoming connectivity, too.

The ThinkPad is durable, gorgeous in a classic business black way, upgradeable, easy to work on and expandable to the max with many wireless connectivity options. Without extreme hacking, it will only run Windows (or Linux).

Both are great machines in many ways, but it comes down to personal needs and wants. For me, the bottom line is that OSX is the only real reason to choose a MacBook, while the hardware designs are attractive, they are just too delicate. If you don't need/want OSX, buy a ThinkPad.
Yes, completely different philosophies. I own both the 11.6" Air and the X220i.

The X220i is definitely more durable, but the Air is not in any way a delicate computer. I've bumped and dropped mine and there are no dents. I take with me to court every day, carry it in a soft leather briefcase along with three or four case files and don't even bother with a sleeve for the MacBook Air. It is very well made and durable, in my opinion.

There are fewer connectivity options on the Air as there is no optional WWAN and you cannot connect to wired Ethernet without either a USB adapter or some sort of ThunderBolt solution (the ThunderBolt display has FireWire 800, USB3, eSATA, gigabit Ethernet AND another ThunderBolt port that all connects through one port). The ThunderBolt port (and Apple's ThunderBolt display) is the ultrimate laptop docking station, but on its own the Air limits you to a pair of USB ports, wifi-n and Bluetooth.

The Air can only be configured with up to 4 GB of RAM, but the SSD most definitely is upgradable and currently you can get them up to 480 GB.

Windows 7 runs very well on the Air, though not as fast or with the same battery life as OS X.

The X220 has many advantages (HDD AND SSD capability, WWAN capability, most importantly (to me) the battery options, but these are both PREMIUM ultraportables that compete well against one another. That includes build quality, which I believe is stronger in the X220 (more impact resistance), but better (tighter tolerances and quality control) in the MacBook Air.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#23 Post by Kimmo » Mon Aug 29, 2011 3:36 pm

In regards to the hinge discussion, I have had 2 R60s. Technically the hinge didn't break. What broke was the plastic around the hinge. So when I open and close the lid, the hinge bends the plastic--the plastic is no longer able to cause the hinge to move open or shut.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#24 Post by sanjuro » Tue Aug 30, 2011 3:40 am

asiafish wrote: The Air can only be configured with up to 4 GB of RAM, but the SSD most definitely is upgradable and currently you can get them up to 480 GB.
The SSD in Air may be upgradeable but it is quite pricey. 360 GB is $699 and 480 GB comes at $1265.

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#25 Post by asiafish » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:41 am

sanjuro wrote: The SSD in Air may be upgradeable but it is quite pricey. 360 GB is $699 and 480 GB comes at $1265.
For now. Best bet if you want a larger SSD is to upgrade it when you order your Air. Apple charges $300 to upgrade from the 128GB to the 256 GB, which is a pretty decent deal as exotic form-factor SSDs go.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#26 Post by ThinkRob » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:21 am

asiafish wrote:Apple charges $300 to upgrade from the 128GB to the 256 GB, which is a pretty decent deal as exotic form-factor SSDs go.
It's a self-created problem though. Single-vendor lock-in means that you can't get the same economies of scale that you could with the 1.8 or mSATA form factors, and the fact that said lock-in forces the vendor to do the upgrade means that you can't even sell off the old one to recoup your costs.

Moving from a 128 to a 256 GB drive (with your garden-variety SSDs) would cost a lot less, since you can sell the former to help pay for the latter.
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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#27 Post by illini71 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:27 am

Both have there place thats for sure, like the previous poster that takes his to court with him. The X220 is for those that want a on the go Windows machine thats got some muscle.

On the other hand the Air is for some one that doesent need the muscle, just enough to run some apps.

Both air great products, maybe the question is do you want Windows or OSX. I know you can run win7 on a mac, but you dont buy a mac to run windows. I have had mac unibody's in the past and believe me you will checking for scratches and dents on a daily basis. Im in school so the X220 was my choice.

Air-Pros
Touchpad
Flash Mem
Slim factor
OSX Lion

X220- pros
CPU Power
Expandability
Connectivity
Matte IPS Screen
Keyboard

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#28 Post by asiafish » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:03 am

ThinkRob wrote: It's a self-created problem though. Single-vendor lock-in means that you can't get the same economies of scale that you could with the 1.8 or mSATA form factors, and the fact that said lock-in forces the vendor to do the upgrade means that you can't even sell off the old one to recoup your costs.

Moving from a 128 to a 256 GB drive (with your garden-variety SSDs) would cost a lot less, since you can sell the former to help pay for the latter.
Price isn't everything. I bought the Air because it is ridiculously thin and light. My point is that the Air most definitely is upgradeable. If being CHEAPLY ugradeable matters to you, then the Air is not for you.

Actually, if price and budget are your primary concerns, the entire class of premium ultraportables is probably the wrong place to shop.

Finally, the main reason ultraportables buyers choose the Air is because it is a Mac. That was certainly my reason. I use OS X as the exclusive operating system in my law firm, with all calendar, contact, project and billing handled in a business management suite that is Mac only.
"An atheist is just somebody who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or Baal or the golden calf. As has been said before, we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

Richard Dawkins, 2002

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#29 Post by asiafish » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:55 am

illini71 wrote:Both have there place thats for sure, like the previous poster that takes his to court with him. The X220 is for those that want a on the go Windows machine thats got some muscle.

On the other hand the Air is for some one that doesent need the muscle, just enough to run some apps.

Both air great products, maybe the question is do you want Windows or OSX. I know you can run win7 on a mac, but you dont buy a mac to run windows. I have had mac unibody's in the past and believe me you will checking for scratches and dents on a daily basis. Im in school so the X220 was my choice.

Air-Pros
Touchpad
Flash Mem
Slim factor
OSX Lion

X220- pros
CPU Power
Expandability
Connectivity
Matte IPS Screen
Keyboard
Which unibody did you have? Scratches are very common, and my Air is covered with them. Dents however are just not an issue unless you really abuse it. Early unibody models (and the prior aluminum non-unibodies) were more delicate, also the larger machines are likely more delicate as well as there is more weight (and more force) whenever they hit something.

I have not babied my 11" Air at all and it still looks near new (scratches are there, but barely noticeable). My 15" Pro, however, has two dents (nicks, actually) along the edge of the case that are noticeable. That machine IS babied as it tends to just live on my desk.

X220 is definitely more powerful. Air uses a ULV i5 and of course has a maximum of 4GB RAM. the RAM is not as much an issue running OS X as Windows for routine office work, but will be an issue with applications like Photoshop.

X220 has MUCH better battery life when configured for such (20+ hours), when when configured for minimum weight (4 cell) the Air is equal (11") or better (13") at the same or less weight. This is as it should be, given the ULV vs. normal processor.

Air has a much better touchpad, but of course X220 has the TrackPoint. I used to be a huge TrackPoint fan and still prefer it, but Apple's touchpads really are orders of magnitude better than anyone else's, including Lenovo's. Apple's touchpad is good enough that I don't miss the TrackPoint when I use an Apple machine, which was a real problem for me when I first started using Apple touchpads in 1994 (PowerBook 500, the older trackball PowerBooks were just as nice as the early TrackPoints).

I don't know about the screen as my X220 with IPS has not yet arrived (next week). I had, very briefly, an X220i with the non-IPS display and despite my preference for matte, the Air has a much better display than the X220i. I expect the X220 with IPS to be equal or better than the Air.

As far as glossy, I HATE glossy, and returned my first unibody MacBook Pro for just that reason. The Air is glossy, but like a high-end camera lens has a very effective non-reflective coating. It is the least reflective glossy screen I've ever used, and while not up to the standard of my matte 15" MacBook Pro, is very, very nice as laptop displays go.
"An atheist is just somebody who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or Baal or the golden calf. As has been said before, we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further."

Richard Dawkins, 2002

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Re: Undecided on X220 or Macbook air

#30 Post by illini71 » Fri Sep 02, 2011 2:15 pm

I had just had a 13in unibody macbook, the one without the sd-card reader. You just looked at that thing and it would scratch. I'm quite sure that your air is made of a thicker case. I know what your mean i have used the 11in air and its well constructed feels really solid. Plus it has that bead blasted finish that should be better for scratches.

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