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Apple MacBook ThinkPad

Apple MacBook vs. Lenovo ThinkPad – Final!

Well, as much as I love OS X, the MacBook just wasn’t cutting it for me. The MacBook is a great computer for people who want to get things done and not have to worry about the underlying technology. I need to be able to get things done without futzing with configurations, but I also need a flexible environment where I can work with new technologies, get back to working on my open source social networking project, and also be able to work with Linux environments like Fedora, OpenSuse and Ubuntu.

The MacBook is great for multimedia things and I will probably continue to use OS X for video editing, managing my music collection, and managing the fast increasing number of digital photos that I take. However, it will probably NOT by my MacBook. I have decided to sell my MacBook. It was a tough decision, especially since I bought it less than six months ago and I upgraded the RAM to 2GB less than two months ago. I might try another Apple portable someday in the future but for now, the geek in me is screaming for a ThinkPad running Fedora Core 6, OpenSuse 10.1 and Ubuntu 6.10.

On Thursday, I picked up a Lenovo ThinkPad T60. Sorry, but i was just too excited about getting a new ThinkPad and I didn’t take the required unpackaging pictures. The ThinkPad T60 comes with 1 GB RAM, 120GB 5400 RPM HD, Intel 3945abg Wireless, ATI Mobility Radeon X1400 with 128MB Hypermemory, SXGA+ video at 1400×1050, Intel Core 2 Duo T7200 at 2GHz, DVD Recordable, 56k Fax modem, Infrared, Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet, Verizon Broadband Connect EVDO, 3 USB, Mic and Headphones, 1 PCI Express Full and 1 PCMCIA Slots, Fingerprint Reader, Security chip, 9 cell battery, and a three year warrant. The only real difference in specs is that the ThinkPad doesn’t have any sort of webcam (Apple MacBook has iSight) or remote control (Apple MacBook has FrontRow).

The ThinkPad has an Intel Core 2 Duo chip, 128MB of video RAM, double the hard drive capacity, double the RAM of the MacBook, and also the Verizon EVDO built-in. That’s a substantial amount of hardware for $1600. The only thing I’ve found so far to complain about the ThinkPad is that the screen isn’t as bright as the MacBook and considering winter is approaching, the ThinkPad can’t double as a heater like the MacBook can.

The 14.1″ version of the ThinkPad T60 is a bit smaller and lighter than the 15″ version. I had considered an ThinkPad X60 or X41 but I decided against it mainly because they both use an Intel 950 graphics chip with 64MB of shared memory, the units in stock didn’t have DVD-RW capability and the HD was maxxed out at 60GB.

The feel of the lenovo ThinkPad T60 isn’t very different from my old IBM ThinkPad T40. However, Lenovo has made a few changes like changing the battery type and the power adapter. I won’t be able to use the battery from my T40 nor will I be able to use the two T40 chargers I have. I presume that dock options are also different for the T60 than for the T4x series of ThinkPads. This ThinkPad T60 also has the Lenovo name displayed prominently next to the T60 logo.

I’ll get into what I’m doing with my new T60 in another post but suffice it to say, I am very happy to be typing on a ThinkPad. However, I do miss having OS X working with such ease and finesse. As much as I love Linux, it is a serious PITA getting things to run and things still don’t run as cleanly or well as they do in OS X. Synchronizing a phone over bluetooth with your PIM is a perfect example … Oh well, I guess that’s part of the fun and challenge of using Linux πŸ™‚

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8 replies on “Apple MacBook vs. Lenovo ThinkPad – Final!”

I just ordered a ThinkPad Z61t. It’s my first ThinkPad. What do you think? I was debating between the 14″ WXGA (1280×768) and WXGA (1440×900) display options, but eventually chose the lower-resolution 1280×768 because that’s the same width as my desktop LCD, I don’t want to have to struggle to see small details (I do a lot of web design and coding), and it cost $50 less. What do you think?

I configured the ThinkPad Z61t with an Integrated Camera, so in that respect it’ll be just like the MacBook. I don’t know what software to use with the camera, though.

I am a Windows XP user, but I’d be interested in using Linux if it doesn’t make things too hard for me.

Elliot,
I haven’t used any of the Z-series laptops but, I don’t think you can go wrong with a ThinkPad. There’s a premium to be paid, but it’s worth it in my opinion. i would have gone for the higher resolution since it’s only $50 more. I can always reduce the display resolution but if the hardware doesn’t support it, I can’t increase the resolution.

The integrated camera is a nice plus. If the T series had one available, I would have gotten it. Though I didn’t use the one on my MacBook for anything other than snapping some funny pictures around the house, it’s a nice to have if the price isn’t obscene. Unfortunately, i’m not sure what software on Windows supports a cam, but i am pretty sure Skype, MSN and Yahoo Messenger support it. I don’t know of any applications like Apple’s PhotoBooth for Windows.

The only Linux distro that I’ve used that really works out of the box is Ubuntu. It supports most hardware and you can try it out without installing anything (LiveCD). Linux always requires a bit of work but, the freedom and flexibility are enough that I don’t use Windows for anything. I use my Mac Mini and MacBook for my iPod and iTunes and managing my digital pictures, movies, etc. I use Linux for all my day to day activities, including some web development.

If you decide you want to give Ubuntu a whirl, I’d love to hear about your experiences.
Cheers,
Pankaj

Hi there. I am using a ThinkPad R50e and have had no glitches accept after I ran the Ubintu Live Cd.
Do you think that the Live CD could have installed something on my system such that it slowed down my ThinkPad by 3 times.

Dhanesh,
I haven’t installed Ubuntu on the T60 yet but I have booted into the Ubuntu 6.10 LiveCD many times and have no issues at all with my existing Fedora Core 6 or Windows XP installations (yes, it’s installed but purely to backup my Nokia E61 and Motorola SLVR L7 and for iTunes)

Are you sure that the LiveCD you have is not corrupt and the MD5 hash of the iso matches the Ubuntu website? I don’t think the LiveCD installs anything unless you ask it to install Ubuntu to disk.

Please let me know what you find out.
Cheers,
Pankaj

Hi Pankaj. I need your opinion, nothing about linux though.

Since you had both, which one has the better feel on the keyboard, T60 or the MacBook? I’m a writer and I type –a lot–. Right now I have to go mobile, and have to choose (luckily!) between t60 and MacBook.

Please let me know what you think about them. Thanks…

Javanicus,
Having been a long time user of ThinkPads, I’ve grown accustomed to ThinkPads and I love the feel of the ThinkPad keyboard. However, the MacBook also has a fairly decent keyboard. The main difference is that the ThinkPad keys are spaced like any normal laptop keyboard and the keys have a bit of a “bounce” to them which I like. The MacBook keys have a wider spacing that takes a little to get used to but once you get used to it, you feel like the keyboard is no longer cramped like traditional laptops. The MacBook has a bit of a softer feel to it. Both are excellent machines but my personal preference brings me back to a ThinkPad.

I can’t comment on the MacBook Pro since I’ve never owned one. Please let me know which one you decide to pick up!
Cheers,
Pankaj

I like Thinkpads as well. I started on a T20 something, had a T30, now a T41 and Just ordered a T60 with a 2.1ghz processor.

My only complaint on the T41 was as follows:
6 cell battery barely even lasts 1 hour when wireless is on. Useless on a plane without an extra. Maybe its just my battery.

The SXGA screen is terrible unless you have a magnifying glass. Man was never made to view 1400 x 1050 on a 14″ screen. I have a desktop 1600×1200 screen that is 21″ and that is about right.

On my new T60 which has about the same form factor, I got the XGA screen. When I demo software, I’m connected to an XGA projector anyway and when I’m docked, I have a 19″ monitor. Using dual monitors on my SXGA screen is useless because I have to squint to see the 2nd screen on the laptop versus my desktop screen.

The hard drive isn’t that easy to swap. It is better than alot of laptops, but is no picnic to go between a demo drive and my live drive. It feels like the bracket you need to insert and pull it out with is going to break (but it never did).

On the new T60, they offer a SATA based DVD rom drive bay swap in that you can install a real SATA Laptop drive in. Thus I can leave my main drive in and snap in that drive on demand. USB drives are way to slow to boot and demo from. Looking forward to the new 100gig 7200 rpm laptop drive.

Widescreen is cute, but I rarely watch movies on it and widescreens either are way to big for carrying cases without getting a large one, or they fit in a carrying case, but all you are doing is cutting off working resolution when you are not watching a movie.

I still miss the days of laptops that pivot about 40% in the middle instead of at the end. I’m just waiting for a coach airline seat to come down and crack the display. This is a problem with all laptops. IBM could actually overcome this due to their use of the “Track Point”. But since they offer both touch and trackpoint, then the touch forces the hinge and keyboard to the back.

Mark,
You bring up some really god points about laptops, in general.

Your T41 battery issue isn’t uncommon. I would get about 2 – 2 1/2 hours of battery life on my T40. I suspect, like the MacBooks, that the batteries on the ThinkPads need to be recalibrated fairly regularly. On my 9 cell T60 batter, I can rarely get more than 3 or 3 1/2 hours battery life.

As far as screen resolutions, I think this is about taste and comfort. I use my T60 at 1400×1055 on Ubuntu and find it to be very comfortable at 14.1″.

Swapping drives is a pain at best but I think the ThinkPads handle it better than most, as you pointed out. However, it is a little more of a pain on the T60 than my previous T40. I also hate that I can’t use the bracket from my T40 with my T60. USB drives are basically unusable to run an OS off of. I tried booting Ubuntu off a USB drive and it would take roughly 30 minutes to get a Desktop. I wound up getting the 120gig 5400rpm drive with my T60 which is good enough to keep a factory install of XP and two installs of Ubuntu (I keep my MP3s and other data on a 60gb USB drive as well as run World of Warcraft off the USB).

I’m not a big fan of widescreens as well but I think the MacBook has implemented it fairly well where you don’t compromise too much screen real estate. I also don’t watch movies on my laptop but I do wind up watching Battlestar Galactica (from iTunes) on my MacBook πŸ™‚

My sound suddenly died on my Ubuntu install and i’ve yet to troubleshoot it but other than that, Ubuntu is a great OS!!

Good luck with the T60 and if you decide to run Linux on it, definitely let me know how it works out. Watch those reclining coach seats by moving the laptop closer to you πŸ™‚

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