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July 25th 2011 12:40 pm

Which laptop?

It's time to replace the wife's desktop, which really means it's time for me to get a new laptop and give her my Dell. The only laptop I've ever really loved was the Thinkpad they gave me when I worked at Ziff Davis so I'm pretty zeroed in on a Thinkpad. No, I'm not going to switch to Apple just yet. Weight is important b/c no matter how much I've tried to leave my main computer at work, to be fully productive at home, I think I need a rig I can take back and forth. It's partly that the cloud services never seem to work perfectly, but it's also that the "backup" laptops I use at home are a drag. Within reason, I'm not super concerned about price b/c I just figure it's about time I have a laptop I really love. I've even been looking at the super slim Samsung Series 9 laptop, but it's way expensive. I'm basically a pretty straightforward user - lots of tabs open in Chrome, multiple Office programs open, Tweetdeck, Skype, etc., but no video editing or gaming really. I've configured a couple rigs on the Lenovo site and the cheaper one appears to be as good, if not better, than the more expensive one so my questions are really about the differences. . .

1. Is there a major difference between 4 GB DDR3 - 1333MHz (1 DIMM) and 6 GB PC3-10600 DDR3 SDRAM 1333MHz SODIMM Memory (2 DIMM).

2. Is there a major difference between Intel Core i5-2410M Processor (2.30GHz, 3MB L3) and Intel Core i5-2520M Processor (2.5GHz, 3MB L3, 1333MHz DDR3)?

3. What are the benefits of SSD drives? They sure add a lot to the cost.

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barry's pick

1. 4GB vs 6GB is not much, but from a standpoint of upgradability, I'd stick with the 4GB, because in the future, if you do want to upgrade your RAM and if you had gone with the 6GB (2 DIMM) option, you will most likely have to get rid of one of the sticks of RAM, therefore throwing memory away. 4GB of RAM is plenty for what you do.

2. The difference is also marginal. With a slightly higher turbo boost frequency as well as for the integrated graphics, (­/products­/52224 vs­/products­/52229 ), I'd just go with the 2410.

3. SSD drives are extremely beneficial in terms of raw speed. They generate much less heat and provide near instantaneous access times. This means much faster boot times as well as applications that launch much quicker. Obviously though this comes at a high price though, but the gains are well worth it (at least, in my experience)

Have you looked at the T420s? It is a thinner version of the T420, if you are looking for something closer to a Series 9.

I really do miss my ThinkPad and the TrackPoint. Someday I'll buy one again (X121e perhaps :) )
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I'm with dpmt and I'd recommend taking a look at the X220, since it seems that portability is your prime concern. It has extremely long battery life, with the 6-cell it's comparable to the T420, lighter at 3.5 lbs with the 6-cell (compared to the ~4 lbs on the T420), has a better display (with an IPS panel, which means better viewing angles, make sure you've configured it with the "premium HD" display), can be cheaper (depending on how you've configured it) and has an optional slice battery that can last a purported 23 hours.

In terms of CPU, for what you want to do with the computer, it doesn't seem that you'd need to really go with anything better than the Core i5-2410M since there won't be anything too intensive pushing the computer.

If you want the best performance, then I'd stick with at least 4GB of RAM or whatever is cheapest, since you won't really notice a difference in usage from 4GB to 6GB, and spend the extra on a SSD. You'll see a larger performance boost from the SSD than upgrading any other component in the computer. If you feel like you'd need more RAM, then get it's pretty easy to do an aftermarket upgrade and buy cheaper RAM on sites like newegg. I don't think I can ever go back to standard HDDs on any of my future computer purchases.

I was able to configure the T420 (actually called the T420i) for $1129 and the X220 at $1229 with the 128GB SSD and 4GB of RAM on Lenovo's site with almost the same specs. I stuck with the minimum Core i5 on each, but changed the display type to HD+, has a higher res screen, on the T420 and the Premium HD on the X220. The only thing you lose from the X220 and the T420 is an internal optical drive.

Based my battery life figures on these reviews:


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1. I disagree with acaurora about getting 1 DIMM vs 2. You lose redundancy as well as taking a performance hit by not taking advantage of dual channeling. When upgrading it considered the best option to get a kit so there is waste either way.

I agree with acaurora on 2 and 3. My biggest regret in getting my last computer is not springing for an SSD.

The X220 looks like the lightest Thinkpad that Lenovo offers.

As far a Ultraportables go I'm pretty temped by the new Vaio Z with its sweet 1080p display, but it's so expensive.
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