Apple MacBook Vs. Thinkpad T40

As sturdy as Thinkpads are, there are a limited number of drops that even an IBM Thinkpad T40 can sustain (I’m sure the new Lenovo Thinkpads maintain the sme level of durability). I dropped my Thinkpad another three times in the last two weeks and apparently, the system board is damaged. I can send the Thinkpad to IBM and have it fully refurbished for $600. I can buy a refurbished T40 for around $800, or I can pick up a new Thinkpad that will run me at least $2,000.

Yesterday, I went to the new Apple Fifth Avenue store to decide whether I wanted to switch from a Linux based Thinkpad T40 to a new MacBook or MacBook Pro. After getting to the store at about 3pm and looking the line go around the corner, I figured it would be about an hour before I even got in the store. I have no idea what kind of madness was going on inside the store. I decided to visit the SoHo store instead. After battling traffic and spending 40 minutes looking for parking, I finally got to the store.

At the SoHo store, it was crazy as it usually is but it wasn’t difficult to get my questions answered by a very helpful Apple consultant. I decided that spending over $2,000 for a MacBook Pro probably wasn’t wise, considering it would be my first foray into using a Mac for all my development, business, and non-business needs. I necided I would get my feet wet with the new MacBook instead. I opted for the midrange, $1,299 model. I figured $200 was worth the extra processing power and the Superdrive. I was still very skeptical about my purchase. I have been a Thinkpad user since 1992 (a total of 6 Thinkpads in 14 years). The Thinkpad keyboard and Trackpoint are undoubtedly the best in the industry. The comfort with the user can switch from the keyboard to using the mouse is invaluable and more importantly, it has always felt incredibly natural and ergonomic.

Here are some required glamor shots of the new MacBook.

The Box

The other side of the box

And the lovely packaging

Here’s a shot of the MacBook booting up for the first time.It is easy to see why Mac users have always laughed when they heard about all the problems in the PC world. The MacBook is a beautiful piece of artwork. The Thinkpad on the other hand, has nothing art-like about it. It’s a no nonsense, “Get the job done” machine. The MacBook booted up without any problems. It prompted me to register and run through my initial settings. It then gave me the option to migrate my user information, documents, and Applications from my Mac Mini. WOW!! It took about an hour using a standard Firewire cable (Firewire is the only way to do this, your other computer is basically mounted as a Firewire disk). An hour or so later, my new laptop had all my user info, bookmarks, files, moviews, photos, music, and applications setup and ready to go. I removed some applications as they weren’t appropriate for the MacBook (e.g. Microsoft Keyboard and Mice drivers).

I have been using the MacBook for a little less than five hours total and I have found the keyboard to be pretty good compared to the T40. I still prefer the T40 keyboard but that could just be a matter of bein used to it. I HATE, with a passion, the Trackpad and wish that Apple and Lenovo would do some licensing deal to get the Thinkpad Trackpoint onto the MacBook. The Trackpad feels odd, uncomfortable, and unnatural as compared to the Trackpoint. The other problem I have so far with my typing experience on the MacBook is that the edge of the MacBook, right below the Trackpad is a bit of a sharp edge. As I type and use the Trackpad, the edge is irritating my wrists and palm. I almost feel like I need to sand it down to be smooth and comfortable.

The display on the MacBook is excellent. It is a glossy finish, unlike the matte finish the Thinkpads have. It is far better than the T40 that I have and the T42p my Dad has. However, the drivers for the shared memory Intel graphics card are terrible. I have regular bleeding of edges ocurring.
Emacs causes bleeding and recovering from sleep as well. I hope there are updated drivers for this problem ASAP.

From a software perspective, OS X has been very stable on Intel. No crash so far, though, I have had iPhoto crash on me a few times. I have submitted the crash report to Apple. The MacBooks also have the same problem as the MacBook Pro with heat. I could cook a meal for 35 people on this laptop.

I feel like the MacBook is less sturdy than the Thinkpad but I’m not sure. It’s not a theory I want to test. This is all the observations I have after using the MacBook for a few hours. I think the features packed into the MacBook make it a worthwhile purchase, e.g. iSight, built in mic, Superdrive and Frontrow. Getting a new Thinkpad T60 with a DVD burner, better video card than the MacBook, and other all comparative specs pushed the Thinkpad well over $2,000. Lenovo has also been having some very serious supply problems. A friend bought a Thinkpad Z60 back in February, and received it early May. Any of the T60s that I was looking at, had a 1 to 3 week lag time before shipment.

For the price, the MacBook is a pretty good piece of hardware but I do miss my Thinkpad. OS X is the icing on the cake. My ideal laptop would be a Thinkpad T60p with Bluetooth, DVD Burner, WiFi, built in mic and cam, 2GB RAM, 256MB RAM on an ATI video card, 15 inch screen with 1600×1200 resolution, 120GB 7200 RPM drive, running OS X. I’d pay $3,000 plus tax for that laptop in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, I still have to buy a Thinkpad with Windows on it – a little ransom to Microsoft, then format the machine and put my flavor of Linux on it. Lenovo – you’re not IBM anymore …. think about it!

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8 Replies to “Apple MacBook Vs. Thinkpad T40”

  1. Joel,
    Thanks for your comment. I have not yet tried Parallels, though, I have read about it. I decided to download the Mac Os X port of Qemu called Q. I will try to install Fedora Core 5 and Suse 10.1 via Q and see how it goes. I will post my findings as soon as I get a chance to complete the installation.

    I’ll give Parallels a try after I’m done with Q so I can compare the two.

    FYI, I am not able to get to your blog on .Mac
    -Pankaj

  2. One of the reasons I think you will find the trackpad so annoying is because is no way to turn the “mouse acceleration” off. Not on my previous iBook G4, (OS 10.4.3) anyway. One of the reasons I went back to a TP.

  3. Jase,
    On my ThinkPad, I had disabled the trackpad because I found it to be incredibly annoying. I turn on the mouse acceleration on all my computers because I like being able to move the mouse very quickly from one of the screen to another. The main reason I don’t like the trackpad on the MacBook is purely because I have to take my hand off the keyboard when I’m typing and then move it back when I’m finished. The only saving grace on the MacBok trackpad is being able to use two fingers for scrolling and also using two fingers to open up the “right-click” context menu. I still maintain that THE KILLER LAPTOP would be ThinkPad T60 running OS X and dual (or triple) boot into other OSes such as Linux.
    Pankaj

  4. I too am considering switching from my faithful T42/43 series laptops to a the same MacBook you described above. Would you please give an update on the following items?
    – Sturdy factor?
    – Productivity? (in line with tp?)
    – Application friendly?

    Thanks for the great review,

    JD

  5. JD,
    Thanks for the feedback. I will be posting an update addressing your questions in the next few days. Would you mind clarifying what you mean by “Application friendly”? Are you referring to specific applications or specific types of applications.
    Pankaj

  6. Pankaj,

    In the PC (M$) world I use a number of applications like Instant messengers / Blog software / plug-ins for FireFox / USB devices – mice, etc, and am curious if on the application side you found any difficulty in accomplishing the same tasks on a Mac?

    I look forward to your post,

    JD

  7. JD,
    There are plenty of IM clients that work with GTalk, AIM, YIM, MSN Messgenger, Skype, etc. If you’re using some proprietary application, you might have a problem but otherwise, no problems here. Are for blog software, that would depend on your software provider. Most of the blogging applications I have seen use web based clients which are not a problem. I haven’t yet come across any Firefox plugins that don’t work on OS X. I’ve moved to Flock as my primary browser on OS X and Linux. I am using a logitech mouseman trackball, a usb hub, Microsoft Natural Keyboard 4000, and a few other random USB and firewire devices without any problem.

    Please let me know what you decide to do and how it goes.
    Pankaj

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