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An Oldie, But Goodie Laptop Choice

Sometimes I am just a bit odd.

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Okay, I won’t argue with you on that one little bit Harold, but what makes you say that this time.

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Well I am typing this post on a new-to-me Lenovo Thinkpad x230 that was released back in 2012 – which in the terms of the exponential changes in laptops over that time, is an eternity ago. The scary part is that I am enjoying using it more than most of the laptop computers that I have owned during that period and there have been quite a few.

Yeah, that is the odd part I suppose.

The sad part is that I did look at the X230s when I bought a different laptop that year, but couldn’t justify the cost back then. After using the X230 for a few days, now I really wonder if I really screwed up when I didn’t get one back in 2012? Especially since the one I bought that year was gone in less than 2 years.

Why the Change

Let’s back up a bit and talk about why I got the 2012 Lenovo Thinkpad X230T in 2019.

It seems that with technology (as well as a few other things) that I tend to bounce from one tech silo to another, depending on my most current experiences and whims. Since October 2017, I have been wandering around in Apple’s IOS silo and really enjoying the ease of how well everything worked together.

However, when my Zagg keyboard died last month, instead of going out and getting another one, I decided to go with a Brydge keyboard. After all it was supposed to be an upgrade.

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It looks great and gives my iPad Pro 10.5 the looks of a real laptop, along with the ability to be used whenever I want as a tablet. Unfortunately, the Brydge keyboard and I just did not click. Unfortunately, my typing speed went from 70-80 wpm with only a few errors down to something in the 30-40 wpm range, with LOTS of errors.

Which is probably me more than the keyboard, but either way as a result I was getting pretty frustrated with how the Brydge keyboard was not working for my needs. Whenever I would want to type something it was getting so that I was not talking with my fingers, it was more like thinking, attempting to type, correcting my mistakes, then loosing my focus/train of thought and getting very freaking frustrated by writing becoming such an ordeal on the iPad Pro.

Which was not what I wanted – to say the least.

We recently got an old Dell 6400 laptop from Ebay for Mary (she wanted the CD drive) and I set it up. While typing on it, I didn’t have any issues with the keyboard and remembered how much I liked a full-sized laptop keyboard. Which in turn got me to thinking about getting a used laptop that I could play with.

The more I thought about it, the better the idea sounded.

I bounced around looking at old reviews, wandering around eBay, Amazon and other similar places on the web to see what was out there and how much it would cost. Initially, I wanted some kind of Mac, but I found out that used Mac laptops are still pricey, along with the lower specs or age and lack of compatibility with some of the features of the current Mac OS, were not something that I wanted to deal with.

Which meant looking at a Windows, Chrome OS or Linux machine. Definitely my second choice, but I also didn’t want to spend big money on a Mac. Linux was just too much time on the Command line for me and with Google’s offerings, you are the product, not the customer. Based on my past experiences with all of the those operating systems, I decided to go with Windows, preferably Windows 10. More because I am very familiar with the OS having used Windows since Windows 1 and most of the other computers in the house are Windows based.

Another factor that was a considerations was that most of the laptops and tablets nowadays are not repairable or upgradeable unless you have some specialized training, tools and even then it is not all that easy. So I wanted something that I would be able to upgrade or fix, if I want to. Something that we used to be able to do pretty regularly and easily, but something that has been designed out of modern laptops/tablets.

We have a Lenovo desktop and have had zero issues with it since 2014 and I had an old IBM Thinkpad years ago that I remembered upgrading and liking a lot until it became obsolete. I got looking at the Thinkpad line and was pretty amazed at the low prices on Ebay and some other sites. I mean in the $100-$200 range for a pretty decently specced Windows 10 laptop. While they are a few years old, some of these old laptop’s specs still beats the hell out of most of the stuff you see new for several hundred dollars more at the big box stores.

After doing a lot of research, I really started to look seriously at getting a Thinkpad X220 or X230. While I was actually looking for a x230 – I7 Tablet, 8gb RAM, with a decently sized SSD. I would settle for an I5 with decent specs for the right price.

When a deal came up on Ebay for a Thinkpad X230 Tablet I5 processor edition, with free shipping for $20 less than I paid for the Brydge keyboard, I decided to do it.

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The only thing is the screen is not as good as some at 1366 x 768, but since I am not really a high-end gamer and the games I tend to play from this computer’s era anyway, that was not a big deal to me.

So what do I think so far?

I was very pleasantly surprised at how good the condition the laptop was in when I received it, the scratches and stuff were exactly as described and not nearly as bad as some of the laptops I have beat on. It came with Windows 10 Pro and had a legit license which was important to me – I don’t like a bandited OS. Everything worked the way that it was supposed to and I have had no issues with it since I bought it.

It is a little slower than my iPad is, but I feel that I can do more with the X230 and can see how a SSD drive will improve it considerably. However, I will have to figure out my new workflow with all the devices: iPhone 7, iPad Pro 10.5 (2017) and X230. It will be interesting to see how I use and/or integrate iCloud and OneDrive, along with a touch of Google’s Drive.

Keyboard – one of the best I have used in a long time – equal to or better than my 2009 MacBook Pro, which to me was the gold standard.

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Weight – The X230T is not a computer that I would want to carry everywhere and is more a replacement for a desktop than a daily carry kind of machine. While the X230T is not a heavy-weight, compared to the current crop of 12-13” computers out there you can definitely tell the difference.

Ports – It has real ports that can connect to other devices, without resorting to the dongle lifestyle. I can actually plug my Garmin in to my computer versus having to use my wife’s.

Screen – The X230 has a touch screen and will convert to tablet mode, so I am able to use many of the gestures and non-mouse skills that I use on my iPad Pro, so that works well for me.

Setup – Yes, it is Windows 10 Pro and I did a complete reboot back to factory specs and started from scratch, doing it this way also got rid of most of the crapware, except for the useless Microsoft stuff that I will never use. It also takes me longer to setup my computers because I choose not to use the default settings and install/experiment with non-default software.

As much as I might whine about how long it takes to setup the computer in Windows, I also know that at least until the next major update, how my computer is setup and what should be on it or maybe more importantly – what is not on it.

I took a couple of days to get everything close to where I want things and I will be tweaking things a bit more over the next year or so.

Apps – I played around with a bunch of browsers and decided to go ahead and give Edge a try for a while. However, I basically shut-down Cortana as much as I could. Having Siri on my phone is one thing, but I just do not use a voice activated assistant with a laptop – to my way of thinking it is too much of a security risk. Also I found that the Mail app does enough for what I want and I have an old 2013 Office license that I used, but I am still thinking about an Office 365 subscription. It will depend on how well OneDrive and iCloud play together or at least tolerate being on the same devices.

Update: Due to the wife’s computer acting wonky (a great technical term), I had to re-install the OS and lost a bunch of stuff, we decided to go ahead and get Office 365 for us, so it appears that I might be using the Microsoft silo a LOT more than I had initially intended and making the Apple devices I have become more integrated with that eco-system. Not a bad thing, but changes that I didn’t expect to say the least and this decision will change the workflow that I had planned on using quite a bit.

I love being able to use Windows Live Writer again. While I probably will not post too many posts directly from it, there is a bit of comfort for me in drafting my posts with it and not worrying so much about losing my work. Which has happened too many times over the years, using WordPress’s blog writer. I just upload the draft to WordPress and still have the draft copy on my computer.

Security is a priority and a pain in the arse with a Windows OS machine, more so than any other OSs – just the way it is. I have tried to be as proactive as possible, by the settings that I have chosen and apps that I have installed beyond the stock Windows offerings.

Another thing that I do like about returning to Windows is that I can play my legacy games, without going through several hoops to play them and I do not need an internet connection. Welcome back to playing Never Winter Nights 2 and few others.

Moving Forward

Over the next couple of the months, I will probably do a few simple upgrades:

1. Put in a 500gb SSD to replace the same size HDD. I probably don’t really need all that space, but at the same time it will be nice to have the extra space if I need it. Plus it makes it is easier to back-up the disk, all I have to do is clone it.

2. Increase the RAM to 16gb from the 8gb I have now

3. Get an new battery, while this one does work it is rather limited on the amount of use I will get before I have to plug in. One of the caveats to buying a used computer is that more than likely you will have to get a new battery – usually sooner than later.

4. Finding a docking station with a CD drive, which will make it easier to do a few things or watch DVDs that we already own. There is just something about streaming video that doesn’t really appeal to me all that much, especially when I have a very nice video library in the back room.

4. At some point get another cheap parts x230 tablet/laptop, so that if I need to replace something I have it on hand versus having to order the parts. That is one thing about the X230, they are fairly modular and replacing parts is pretty much using a screw driver – then plug and play.

The Reality is that

My new to me Lenovo ThinkPad X230 is a seven year-old computer and has a few scratches and chips on the body – yeah, it is a LOT like the owner.

However, it works well and the keyboard is great. Yes, I still make mistakes typing, but the more I use the keyboard the better and faster my typing is becoming again. My fingers are talking now and I am focusing more on my writing than worrying about correcting the mistakes I am making, when I am making them.

I foresee my iPad Pro becoming my online consumption device, which is what the original purpose of the iPad was and for that function, it works fantastic. At some point, I might find a Zagg Keyboard on closeout and retire the Brydge, except to wow people on the looks. However, for me it is function over looks and the typing on the Brydge keyboard, does not work for the way I type. Too bad, but the way it is.

I think that is pretty much how I see my Lenovo X230, function over beauty – it works more the way that I do. However, at the same time the black boxy ThinkPad look, is a classic and has held its own over time.

In my eyes the X230T was a bit ahead of its time, but is now held back in comparison to more recent computers by its weight and screen. If a modern screen could be added, without having to screw around with the BIOS, some possible soldering and stuff that would be great. However, I will take the extra weight since it means that I can upgrade and fix the machine myself, versus having to have someone else do it or this laptop becoming another disposable piece of technology.

Sometimes in our rush to have the latest and greatest technology, we forget how good some of the older stuff really was.

Does this mean I am moving back to the Microsoft silo? Probably not completely and I will still be using my iPhone and iPad Pro quite a bit, so I will have to develop a workflow that primarily is Apple-based, with my laptop being Windows. Things are changing, so I don’t know the answer to this yet, but probably more than I originally expected.

My older ThinkPad X230 might not be the perfect computer, but you know something at this point in my life, it is a good enough computer that makes a lot more sense than going out and spending $1500 (or more) on a new Apple MacBook Pro or overpaying by a pretty good stretch for a used Mac laptop, with the specs I want, to stay in their tech silo. Plus I have a feeling that the wife is happier with me back in the land of Microsoft, her computers gets some love too.

Now to find that new workflow that integrates things together and works well for me.

However, the more I use the X230T, the more I wish that I had gotten my X230T seven years sooner, I have a feeling that my technology use over those years would have been a bit different.

20/20 hindsight can be such a bitch.

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1 Comment »

  1. What’s not to love about these laptops? I’ve written my own dissertation of sorts on why Lenovo laptops are objectively better, even the old ones. You can check it out here.

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