My laptop search is now in the decision phase. It's fairly clear that I've not only passed the point of diminishing returns on the scouring of the online reviews and benchmarks, but that it is fast becoming a distant memory.
I've more or less narrowed the choices to the Lenovo X301 (refurb) or the Samsung X360 34P (do they do refurbs?), with the Lenovo T400s (refurb) an outside contender — although it has a bit more weight, its processor benchmarks are about double the other two.
As between the X301 and X360, the Samsung weighs less and seems to have a much better battery life; despite a slower clock speed the Lenovo may be a little faster (although the T400s blows them both out of the water). The other benchmarks I can find are broadly comparable. The Lenovo has an unparalleled reputation for standing up to mistreatment; it is hard to get a sense for how sturdy the Samsung is, other than it's not flimsy.
The Lenovo X301 has a slightly smaller screen than the Samsung (and the T400s has the biggest); the Samsung comes with a bigger SSD for the money (not that I really need it). The Lenovos have optical drives; the Samsung doesn't. The X301 lacks the media card reader and Express Card slot found on the Samsung. (The absence of a docking bay for the Lenovo is not something I care about, as I don't use those.)
Here's a table with more details:
|Lenovo X301||Samsung X360 34P||Lenovo T400s|
|Core 2 Duo SU9400/1.4 GH /800 mhz bus||Core 2 Duo SU9400/ 1.6 GH /800mhz bus||Core 2 Duo SP9600 / 2.53GHz, 6MB Cache / 1066MHz FSB|
|12.1” 1440×900 ||13.3” TFT 1280 × 800 (WXGA ) 300 nits||14” WXGA+ 1440×900 LED backlit LCD 200 nits|
|Intel GMA 4500 MHD||Intel GMA 4500 MHD||Intel GMA 4500 MHD |
|3.3 lbs (w/ six cell)||2.9 lbs||3.91 lbs|
|64 GG SSD||128 GB SSD||80/128 GB SSD|
|DVD Burner||none||CD/DVD comobo or DVD Burner|
|3 USB ports||3 USB ports||3 USB (1 powered when off)|
|None||7 in 1 card reader & Express Card||1 ESATA (doubles w/ USB) & Expresscard (or 5 in 1 )|
|VGA & Displayport||VGA & HDMI||VGA & Displayport|
|c. 3.5 – 4 hours real world battery||5.5 – 6 hours real world battery||c 4 hours real world|
|PCMark05 4457||PCMark05 3061||PCMark05 7590|
|PCMark Vantage 3157||PCMark Vantage 3158 (for 1.4 GHz version, 1.6 should be better)||PCMark Vantage 5251|
|3D Mark06 712||3D Mark06 996|
|Build and keyboard are known to be high quality (FN/Ctrl keys reversed)||Build looks ok, keyboard looks at least ok, maybe quite good||Build and keyboard are known to be high quality Redesigned “crumbproof” keyboard looks great (FN/Ctrl keys reversed)|
|Retail price: $2630 – 2969||Retail price: $1826 – 1998||Retail 2BG, RAM, 128GB SDD, Vista Biz $1814.65|
|Refurb w/out DVD, 3gb, 64 SDD c. $1476||$1638.30 (w/ 128 GB w/out DVD)||Not available yet?|
|Refurb w/ DVD (rare) 128 SSD : $1930||Not available yet?|
Now how do I decide? Not to mention that given the existence of substantially cheaper and adequate — but not as light or as powerful — alternatives it seems a lot of money, even for something I'll probably use frequently over the next several years.
I wish I could see them before buying…