Thinkpad X301

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Another Broken Thinkpad

A few months ago I wrote a post about “Observing Reliability” [1] regarding my Thinkpad T420. I noted that the T420 had been running for almost 4 years which was a good run, and therefore the failed DVD drive didn’t convince me that Thinkpads have quality problems.

Since that time the plastic on the lid by the left hinge broke, every time I open or close the lid it breaks a bit more. That prevents use of that Thinkpad by anyone who wants to use it as a serious laptop as it can’t be expected to last long if opened and closed several times a day. It probably wouldn’t be difficult to fix the lid but for an old laptop it doesn’t seem worth the effort and/or money. So my plan now is to give the Thinkpad to someone who wants a compact desktop system with a built-in UPS, a friend in Vietnam can probably find a worthy recipient.

My Thinkpad History

I bought the Thinkpad T420 in October 2013 [2], it lasted about 4 years and 2 months. It cost $306.

I bought my Thinkpad T61 in February 2010 [3], it lasted about 3 years and 8 months. It cost $796 [4].

Prior to the T61 I had a T41p that I received well before 2006 (maybe 2003) [5]. So the T41p lasted close to 7 years, as it was originally bought for me by a multinational corporation I’m sure it cost a lot of money. By the time I bought the T61 it had display problems, cooling problems, and compatibility issues with recent Linux distributions.

Before the T41p I had 3 Thinkpads in 5 years, all of which had the type of price that only made sense in the dot-com boom.

In terms of absolute lifetime the Thinkpad T420 did ok. In terms of cost per year it did very well, only $6 per month. The T61 was $18 per month, and while the T41p lasted a long time it probably cost over $2000 giving it a cost of over $20 per month. $20 per month is still good value, I definitely get a lot more than $20 per month benefit from having a laptop. While it’s nice that my most recent laptop could be said to have saved me $12 per month over the previous one, it doesn’t make much difference to my financial situation.

Thinkpad X301

My latest Thinkpad is an X301 that I found on an e-waste pile, it had a broken DVD drive which is presumably the reason why someone decided to throw it out. It has the same power connector as my previous 2 Thinkpads which was convenient as I didn’t find a PSU with it. I saw a review of the T301 dated 2008 which probably means it was new in 2009, but it has no obvious signs of wear so probably hasn’t been used much.

My X301 has a 1440*900 screen which isn’t as good as the T420 resolution of 1600*900. But a lower resolution is an expected trade-off for a smaller laptop. The T310 comes with a 64G SSD which is a significant limitation.

I previously wrote about a “cloud lifestyle” [6]. I hadn’t implemented all the ideas from that post due to distractions and a lack of time. But now that I’ll have a primary PC with only 64G of storage I have more incentive to do that. The 100G disk in the T61 was a minor limitation at the time I got it but since then everything got bigger and 64G is going to be a big problem and the fact that it’s an unusual 1.8″ form factor means that I can’t cheaply upgrade it or use the SSD that I’ve used in the Thinkpad T420.

My current Desktop PC is an i7-2600 system which builds the SE Linux policy packages for Debian (the thing I compile most frequently) in about 2 minutes with about 5 minutes of CPU time used. the same compilation on the X301 takes just over 6.5 minutes with almost 9 minutes of CPU time used. The i5 CPU in the Thinkpad T420 was somewhere between those times. While I can wait 6.5 minutes for a compile to test something it is an annoyance. So I’ll probably use one of the i7 or i5 class servers I run to do builds.

On the T420 I had chroot environments running with systemd-nspawn for the last few releases of Debian in both AMD64 and i386 variants. Now I have to use a server somewhere for that.

I stored many TV shows, TED talks, and movies on the T420. Probably part of the problem with the hinge was due to adjusting the screen while watching TV in bed. Now I have a phone with 64G of storage and a tablet with 32G so I will use those for playing videos.

I’ve started to increase my use of Git recently. There’s many programs I maintain that I really should have had version control for years ago. Now the desire to develop them on multiple systems gives me an incentive to do this.

Comparing to a Phone

My latest phone is a Huawei Mate 9 (I’ll blog about that shortly) which has a 1920*1080 screen and 64G of storage. So it has a higher resolution screen than my latest Thinkpad as well as equal storage. My phone has 4G of RAM while the Thinkpad only has 2G (I plan to add RAM soon).

I don’t know of a good way of comparing CPU power of phones and laptops (please comment if you have suggestions about this). The issues of GPU integration etc will make this complex. But I’m sure that the octa-core CPU in my phone doesn’t look too bad when compared to the dual-core CPU in my Thinkpad.

Conclusion

The X301 isn’t a laptop I would choose to buy today. Since using it I’ve appreciated how small and light it is, so I would definitely consider a recent X series. But being free the value for money is NaN which makes it more attractive. Maybe I won’t try to get 4+ years of use out of it, in 2 years time I might buy something newer and better in a similar form factor.

I can just occasionally poll an auction site and bid if there’s anything particularly tempting. If I was going to buy a new laptop now before the old one becomes totally unusable I would be rushed and wouldn’t get the best deal (particularly given that it’s almost Christmas).

Who knows, I might even find something newer and better on an e-waste pile. It’s amazing the type of stuff that gets thrown out nowadays.

Related posts:

  1. Observing Reliability Last year I wrote about how great my latest Thinkpad...
  2. I Just Bought a new Thinkpad and the Lenovo Web Site Sucks I’ve just bought a Thinkpad T61 at auction for $AU796....
  3. Thinkpad T420 I’ve owned a Thinkpad T61 since February 2010 [1]. In...
  4. Is a Thinkpad Still Like a Rolls-Royce For a long time the Thinkpad has been widely regarded...
  5. Thinkpad T61 I’ve now had my new Thinkpad T61 [1] for almost...
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4 thoughts on “Thinkpad X301”

  1. Martin says:

    I’m still happy with my X220i. If it ever breaks, I’ll try to get the same model again, because all later models (X230..X270) have a degraded keyboard (and cannot run coreboot). And it has more than 51 times the display resolution of my mobile phone (128 x 160). Still the phone has advantages: Less than 100g of weight, a fortnight of battery life, and IP67 rating.

  2. foobar says:

    I had my x200s (12.1 inch) for 7.5 years. Beforehand I had a Samsung x20 (15 inch) for about 5 years. Then since 1 year I have a x220 with already a tore in the palmrest. I am okay with that one, but I loved the 1440×900 resolution of the x200s and the x20 compared to the x220. Since a week I own as well a used x1carbon-2012 (14 inch). The battery is not so good, so I will exchange it. The fan is sometimes loud. The keyboard is really bad from the feedback and also the layout (which I cannot change). But the screen resolution with 1600×900 is okay. If I had the money and not security concerns with intelme, I would switch to a x270 or a T270s.

  3. Chris Barnard says:

    Hi
    I have 2 thinkpads.
    The old one is an IBM branded R52 which I got used fro AUD 395 in 2012 or 2011.
    It’s got a Pentium M at 1.866 GHz and 1.5 Gig RAM.
    The battery is pretty sick and the little knob which presses the lid switch is broken but everything else still works fine even the optical drive.
    It’s running Jessie with a Mate desktop and is ok for light stuff but it’s too heavy to carry around now.

    The other one is an E135 which I got in 2013 for 3 and a half million Indonesian Rupiah (about 370 AUD).
    It’s got an AMD E2000. I upped the RAM to 4 Gig and replaced the spinning rust with a 120 Gig SSD on purchase. (an extra Million and a bit)
    Everything still works and the battery still lasts a bit over 3 hours.
    It’s also running Jessie with a Mate desktop.

    Debian folk are wonderful – I rely on them all the time.
    It lives in a bag which I pick up whenever I go somewhere I think I might need a computer.

  4. etbe says:

    It’s interesting to see so many people using older laptops. For some things speed doesn’t matter much, EG I still have an EeePC 701 that I use as a ssh client and wifi gateway – both things it does quite well. But for compiles performance is needed. I can deal with a 6.5 minute compile on my X301 on occasion but will try to do more stuff in the cloud.

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