In the past I liked my HP 4310s notebook computer, mostly for the keyboard. Unfortunately, its time has come. At the moment I have about 20 minutes of battery power after fully charging. My AC power source died once and I have replaced it with what the HP store said is original equipment AC charger, but, I’m going to call it a fake. I routinely get warnings to replace it with an authentic HP part number.
The keyboard on this HP ProBook is nice for writing. I’ll even call it great. One problem – it has no backlighting. It’s fast enough at 2.something GHZ, and despite Windows XP Pro not recognizing the full 4 GB of RAM, I still get 3 GB out of it. It’s 5+ lbs. It has a very small touchpad, and it has a traditional, spinning hard drive at 5,400 RPM which I don’t like for battery and heat reasons. I’ve also had bad luck with spinning hard drives lately and would like to put that all behind me with an SSD in my next notebook computer.
In my search for the ultimate writer’s notebook computer, I’ve considered 3 models:
1. MacBook Air 13 inch.
2. Lenovo ThinkPad X1.
3. Lenovo ThinkPad X220 with touchscreen.
4. MacBook Pro 13 Inch Retina.
Early on I knocked the ThinkPad X220 out of contention by asking myself whether I really needed a touchscreen on my notebook. The truth is – no. I don’t see much use for an iPad, Kindle Fire, or any other tablet – they are for fun and games, not for serious writers. What would I use the touchscreen on an X220 for? Angry Birds? I can do without that. Because I have it on my phone… ;)
Today, after writing up a Google Spreadsheet of all the important criteria, I made the decision to buy the ThinkPad X1 for the reasons below.
The first and absolute best reason a writer should buy the ThinkPad X1 is the keyboard. It is the smoothest, most responsive and magical keyboard I’ve ever typed on. Within the last couple years, Lenovo changed to this chicklet-style keyboard that had everyone wondering – WHY? How could they possibly improve on the traditional ThinkPad keyboards that were the industry standard for what seems like a decade?
They improved on an already great keyboard. They added backlighting to it as well – with 2 levels of brightness to choose from. They added a TrackPoint and trackpad, so you can choose between them. Personally, I loved the TrackPoint for a year or so of owning a Thinkpad years ago, but then I started to get carpal tunnel syndrome from the thing. I much prefer the trackpad but will try the TrackPoint again to see if they’ve improved it.
The keyboard is reason enough to buy this machine. Anything else comes second in my opinion. I need a keyboard that reacts instantly to what I’m thinking. I want to type very fast when I’m writing – without errors. If I make errors I want to be able to hit the backspace very fast and keep going. I want to continue thinking creatively about what the next thing is to write – not worrying about the physical process of my fingers hitting keys.
Here is a short video by Lenovo ThinkPad engineers talking about the best keyboard they’ve ever made – that now is part of the X1. X1 Keyboard Video ->
For me, battery life is the next most important feature to consider. The MacBook Air i7 has about a 4.5-6 hour battery life, depending who you believe. The ThinkPad X1 has about a 5-hour battery. The difference is, the ThinkPad has a wedge add-on battery at .9 lbs that ads another 5 hours of battery life. The MacBook Air – has nothing to enhance the battery. This is huge. Ideally, I’ll be away from home for 5-10 hours at a time working on the computer.
Rapid Charge technology allows you to charge the ThinkPad X1 battery to 80% in just 30 minutes of AC charging! That’s amazing. Add to that, this battery is designed to last 3 years.
Next, I looked at the weight. The MacBook Air is no fatty. The 13 inch is 3 lbs. The ThinkPad X1 is 3.7 lbs. Pretty substantial difference, but there are sacrifices. The Lenovo X1 is VERY durable, military spec’ed. They even say it can be dropped from 1.5 meters and shouldn’t go blackscreen. That’s pretty damn tough. It has strong Gorilla glass and a better grippy finish on the outside of the notebook. I haven’t seen anyone suggest dropping the MacBook Air.
So, while the Air wins by weighing in lighter – it’s at a cost. I’d much prefer to carry another .7 lbs and have my notebook last longer. I have an expensive habit of dropping computers from waist high. I dropped this HP ProBook out of my backpack as I ran down a steep mountain road. My zipper opened up – and out it popped, sliding down the road. There is a crack by the hinge, but this thing still works! I used it for 18 months after that – and it’s fine. I need computers that are tough – because I’m an idiot when it comes to being careful about electronics.
Some of the other pluses that helped me decide “ThinkPad X1”.
Excellent stereo speakers – loud and great sounding for a notebook computer. Perfect really!
Good webcam, SSD option, and something I’ve not seen on any other notebook – that I crave, is the SIM card slot! Here in Thailand, we use SIMS a lot and it’s easy to get an internet data package for the SIM and then use the notebook from anywhere in the country for simple things not requiring a lot of bandwidth – like email. We don’t have country-wide 3G yet. Yeah, I know… Laos has 3G for crying out loud.
One major problem I have with going to Mac is that I just don’t want to learn the operating system. I am a PC guy from 1994 when I bought my first IBM ThinkPad brick with Windows DOS and 3.1. I know Windows inside and out. It’s not perfect, but then neither is Mac OS. I don’t want to have issues finding graphics programs, or converting anything between my old files and some new format required by a Mac. I want the new notebook to increase my productivity – blowing it off the top of the chart. I want nosebleeds, not nosedives.
One thing I didn’t let factor into my decision was price. The Lenovo ThinkPad X1 will likely be a couple hundred dollars more with the extra Wedge battery and 160 SSD option. I don’t care much about the processor speed, preferring a weaker processor to gain battery life – so that too wasn’t a consideration.
I only had hands-on with the ThinkPad X1 for fifteen minutes in a store in Kuala Lumpur. I have spent probably an hour with the MacBook Air 13 inch in various Apple stores around Asia. For me, it’s the keyboard that is just ideal for writers – and seals the entire deal. If this notebook was $2,500 USD – I’d buy it for the keyboard. Really, I value it THAT much. Next time you’re in the market for a new notebook and you want to experience the best keyboard on the market – try the Lenovo ThinkPad X1. It puts the MacBook Air keyboard, and most other non-ThinkPad keyboards, to shame.
Good overview video of Lenovo ThinkPad X1 – but he doesn’t mention the backlit keyboard.
Another X1 video review mentioning the awesome backlit keyboard:
It’s December 2016. Which computer do I have?
MacBook Pro 13″ Retina, late 2014 model.
Am I happy with it?
Yes. Pretty much. It has done the job for a while now. I have few complaints. I do wish I’d opted for the bigger 15 inch now that my eyes are failing me. I’m becoming really far-sighted, and can’t see the screen so well. I’m just at the edge of not being able to see the screen properly at typing distance from my eyes – so, I anticipate having to buy an iMac or something with a huge 21-inch monitor and 4K screen. Glasses feel awkward.
Which computer should you go with?
The MacBook Air 13″ is probably fine. The Lenovo X1 Carbons are incredible. They have the best in class keyboard. Typing is a dream on them. I love them. If I wasn’t considering programming IOS applications and need this MacBook – I’d just go get one. And they did finally figure out the touchpad and it works well. Any older MacBook Pro Retina from late 2015 and older should be great for writers.
The new 2016 MacBooks are junk. The keyboards suck for anyone who types a lot – writers, for instance. You COULD get an external Bluetooth keyboard for it – but those kind of suck too. Still, they’re a level or two above what you get with the new MacBook Pro units just released at the end of 2016.
WHICH KEYBOARD DO YOU USE TO WRITE? WHY?