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|
||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…
If you’re dropping that kind of bread, why not just get a Mac?
@Paul, Michael’s mentioned several times that he’s a word perfect guy and honestly, I am not convinced that the mac is a better alternative to any of those machines (and I have a MBA and before that _several_ MBPs, so I’m certainly no hater.)
@Michael – Hard decisions indeed, but I think for a machine that you’ll be using for a while yet, it points towards the T400. For me, the doubling of specs while only being 2/3 of a pound heavier than the X301 is probably the winner for me. Why not call up Lenovo’s customer service and inquire about their return policy? If it’s friendly enough with no restocking fees or other hassles, purchase one and play around with it before you make a final decision.
Lenovo’s return policy is not friendly on new machines, and even worse on refurbs. I think people abused it.
Another thing I haven’t been able to find out is what sort of extended warranty/service deals are available for refurbs, something I want to know before buying.
It wasn’t easy to find — it certainly isn’t set out anywhere on the Lenovo site! — but according to this thread on the Lenovo user forum it is possible to upgrade the warranty/repair period.
My experience with my IBM laptop is that the warranty for those machines is worth its weight in gold. Seriously. Never had a problem. With the depot plan (which in theory means you can drop it off somewhere, but I’ve never quite figured out where) they will send you out a box, which you might get the next day. If you can pack it up and give it to the shipper that day, IBM will have it the next day, fix it all, ship it out overnight and you may then get your machine back the next day. Obviously YMMV but that’s been mine on my 2003 T40, whose warranty I’ve been able to extend into 2009. I’m so satisfied I won’t even look at another brand (well, except Lenovo).
As for seeing the models up close, try a campus bookstore. Schools often sell them, so they often have floor models. You might even be able to get an academic discount?
What’s the difference between a T400 and a T400s? I myself need a new machine (mine is obviously pretty old now…) and have been researching. What I don’t like from the T400 I saw already is that it seems kinda big (it’s bigger than my T40). It’s 13″ x 9 1/3 ” x 1 1/4″ IIRC.