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MacBook Pro vs. Lenovo T-series Feature and Cost Comparison

Lenovo Thinkpad T-series vs. MacBook Pro 2011 comparison - Don't fall for enemy propaganda posterIt has come to my attention that more and more people are falling for enemy propaganda and start thinking about purchasing a Mac rather than state department approved Windows PC. Don’t fall for enemy propaganda, report uses of Macs to the closes TSA branch or directly to the State Truth Department.

Sorry, it’s a long weekend and this article promises to be rather long, so a bit of humor should lighten the load. Here’s for your consideration, a feature and cost comparison between MacBook Pro 2011 (Sandy Bridge) and Lenovo ThinkPad T-Series. It’s understandable why I picked MBP for comparison. MacBook Pro is a popular machine and it gets even more so – even malware producers have decided to turn their attention to Apple’s platform. But why Lenovo? Well, I’ve been a consistent user of IBM/Lenovo laptops for 5 years now and I know this line very well. Not only that – ThinkPad line of laptops is, by far, the only line that is associated with names IBM and Lenovo.

Another consideration for comparing T-series, rather than anything else, is that it’s the most expensive (aside from W, which currently only offers one W520 model) line, so it should stack up closely with Apple’s premium pricing.

One more reason is that laptop manufacturers don’t make it easy to figure out what line of laptops is supposed to be doing what. I understand it’s a long-term marketing strategy, where manufacturers rely on buzzwords and gimmicks to sell subpar hardware for the same money you could have bought a newer and better machine. HP does it more or less right. Dell is just… well, being Dell:
Lenovo Thinkpad T-series vs. MacBook Pro 2011 comparison - Dell website
Acer is trying to beat Dell in terms of telling customers “Nothing to see here, move along”:
Lenovo Thinkpad T-series vs. MacBook Pro 2011 comparison - Acer website

Lenovo, coming from serving corporate folk, is trying to bore everyone to death:
Lenovo Thinkpad T-series vs. MacBook Pro 2011 comparison - Lenovo website
Click on the picture to enlarge and try to figure out what Lenovo laptops target what market and how are they different. Now, imagine how much work their marketing department has to do to keep all that somewhere in their crazy minds. Borderline insane.

Now, having said all that – Apple got three tiers of MacBook Pros: 13 inch, 15 inch and 17 inch screens, with two choices of CPU for 13 and 15 inch models and single choice for 17 inch. What I will try to do is match Lenovo Thinkpad specs as close to those of MBP as possible and see what kind of machine we end up with. The issue here is that Lenovo Thinkpads come in as many as 7 (SEVEN!) different flavors. It’s kind of hard to pick and choose which one to compare, so I have opted to compare T series against 13 and 15 inch MBP models. It came as a surprise to me to find that Lenovo has discontinued a 17 inch model offering – especially that I own a Thinkpad W701, which is a 17 inch laptop. Therefore I will use Lenovo Essential G770 model, even though it is not a configurable model – i.e. all hardware specs are set when you pick a model, you can’t customize anything, but warranty and accessories.

Therefore the matching will be done as follows:
13 inch MacBook Pro vs. Lenovo Thinkpad T420/T420i
15 inch MacBook Pro vs. Lenovo Thinkpad T520
17 inch MacBook Pro vs. Lenovo Essentials G770

Since Thinkpads don’t come by default with Bluetooth and built-in camera, all Lenovo’s were configured with these additional options. The closest CPU, video resolution and hard drive capacity were picked where exact match wasn’t possible. Additionally, all Thinkpads come with Windows Home Premium 64 bit. A default 6-cell battery was chosen for all models as well as all other options were left at their default values since we are comparing “out of the box” configurations.

Here’s the resulting comparison table:
Lenovo Thinkpad T-series vs. MacBook Pro 2011 comparison - Comparison Table

As you can see in 13 inch category I had to choose lower T420i over T420 to match it against lowest MBP model – simply because Lenovo does not offer Core i5-2410M in regular T420 models. In both cases Lenovo’s offering slightly better in terms of screen size, resolution, hard drive speed (Lenovo’s 7200RPM is noticeably faster than Apple’s 5400RPM offering), number of available USB ports and price. Speaking of price difference – $270 on lowest models and $240 on a step-up – makes it a big difference, at least in my book. Getting laptop with better specs for around $250 less should be a strong point against picking up Apple’s MacBook Pro 13 inch models.

In 15 inch category things did not quite match up either. For some reason Lenovo does not offer 750GB hard drive for T520, however, they still have 7200RPM disks against 5400RPM from Apple, which inherently makes their default system faster. Lenovo is a little less flexible in terms of graphics offering NVIDIA NVS 4200M Graphics with Optimus Technology with 1GB of memory as the only option on T520 Thinkpads. If you are buying T520 mostly for office-related tasks this is obviously an overkill. Lenovo, however, offers 1900×1200 resolution screens on its 15 inch laptops, something that Apple’s MacBook Pros definitely lacking. On the lower end the 2 CPUs are a bit different (Core i7-2635QM vs Core i7-2630QM, you can see side-by-side comparison on Intel’s web site), but for real world use it shouldn’t matter much. Price gap, however – $460 on lower model and $775 on step-up – makes a world of difference. Having over $700 in cost advantage can allow you to configure Lenovo system that will beat MacBook Pro in every category. As a matter of fact – $2,034 will buy you a T520 with Core i7-2820QM Processor (2.30GHz, 8MB L3), 8GB RAM, 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) LED Backlit Anti-Glare Display and 500GB 7200RPM hard drive. Should you opt out of upgrading memory while ordering and get your 8GB somewhere else, you could still end up with cash to spare for an additional 750GB 7200RPM hard drive plus Ultrabay dock. Again, Lenovo’s offering in 15-inch category beats Apple by even wider margin.

Lenovo has discontinued their 17-inch W7xx series, therefore a direct comparison with premium series is not possible. As of right now, Lenovo only offers one model (Essentials G770) in 17 inch segment. I hope it’s a sign of better things to come (IPS screens maybe?). However, since Lenovo doesn’t have a premium machine to match against 17 inch MacBook Pro I used whatever is available at the moment. You can see that G770 offers the same low-end i5-2410M CPU as do 13 inch models, it sports sub-par 1600×900 pixel screen, AMD Radeon HD 6650M 1GB video and slow 750GB 5400RPM hard drive. Obviously, in terms of performance it’s no match for 17 inch MacBook Pro. However, if you look at the price and unless it turns out that Lenovo components are dead soldered to motherboard – you still have an option to upgrade – i5-2410M supports FCBGA1023 and PPGA988 sockets, so there could be other options available, depending on motherboard design. Nevertheless, I still believe Apple summarily wins 17 inch category because opponent failed to show up. If I could speculate a bit, I would imagine Lenovo’s W720 machine to sport a configuration of Core i7-2820QM Processor (2.30GHz, 8MB L3), 8GB RAM (expandable to 16GB), NVIDIA Quadro 1000M Graphics with 2GB DDR3 Memory, 17.1 FHD (1920 x 1080) and 750GB of 7200RPM storage (with RAID options – my current W701 has 2 HDD bays and supports RAID). I would imagine the cost to be in the vicinity of $2,500 and this would be on the level with 17 inch MacBook Pro. This configuration would be better in terms of specifications, but hardly different in terms of price, so the only major selling point for Lenovo would be expandability and graphics card. This, essentially, could have been a tie, but such Lenovo system does not exist.

To summarize it all up – if you are shopping for 13 to 15 inch laptop, then Apple’s MacBook Pro laptops are consistently more expensive and provide a lot less computing power for the same amount of money when compared to premium line of Lenovo’s Thinkpad T-series laptops. If you opt for cheaper lines of Lenovo Thinkpad laptops (S, SL or Edge) or other lines (IdeaPad, Essentials) – your savings could be even bigger. In other words – Apple’s 15-inch laptops are the biggest rip-off, comparing to Lenovo’s premium laptops. In 17 inch category Lenovo does not offer anything of a value, therefore 17 inch Apple MacBook Pro has no competition here.

New Laptop Is In The House: Lenovo W701 Core i7 Review

Lenovo-W701 Review As you may have already noticed, I always was a ThinkPad junkie. This year I did a very extensive research, having that Lenovo was one of the last manufacturers to add Core i7-based laptops to their inventory. None of the laptops appealed as a worthy replacement, so as soon as W701 model was up on Lenovo’s site I had it ordered.

The specs aren’t beefed up as much as I would want them to be, but 8GB of RAM (with ability to upgrade to 16GB) and Core i7 were a must. While I was at it, for some reason, I decided to go with 17 inch screen option – which clearly was a mistake. The laptop came out to be extremely bulky and heavy – which sort of defies the whole purpose of having a laptop as a mobile (as in – you will be able to move with it) computer. On a bright side – the system can host 2 hard drives (with option for RAID) and an optical drive, something that had cost me a USB slot before.

The screen option, since I was going with 17 inches, is the WUXGA (1920×1200) RGB-LED-BL with hueyPro color calibrator. Since I do a lot of photography this turned out to be a good idea, having right colors and all. Of course, I did calibrate all my previous screens, but having a combo of a high-quality screen and color calibrator tailored for that specific screen is definitely a better approach.

Next big thing for any laptop is the keyboard. You think having laptops so many years around most manufacturers would have that part figured out, but it’s not the case. Most of them, following Apple’s lead, have attempted to create those “island” keys. They might look good, but hardly useful, especially for people who alternate between different keyboards all the time. Lenovo, while also following the trend with such keyboard on ThinkPad Edge systems, have made yet another improvement to the “real” ThinkPad keyboards. Just as I fell in love with my T42 keyboard and somewhat disliked T60’s, the keyboard on W701 is a step above all. Typing is a pure pleasure I haven’t experienced anywhere else. Since the size of the laptop allows it (it’s a beast) Lenovo has a numeric keypad included as well. Not that I personally has any use for it, but I’m sure I will – now that I have it available.

Perks of the system, aside from 5 USB ports, CompactFlahs and SD card slots, color calibration, web cam, fingerprint reader and both DVI and VGA connectors include small Wacom tablet with Wacom pen (which even has its own storage in the right side of the frame). While ordering I thought of this as of purely waste of money (there is no way to skip it if you order color calibrator option), but surprisingly I had immediately found the pen option very useful. Some of my mail (the one that comes in paper form) was stolen and some bank statements with it. Obviously I had to close the account and move all the automatic payments to new one, which – in some cases – requires sending a voided check with account number. So I scanned the check, voided it by simply writing over it with Wacom pen, signed all the required forms using the same pen and e-mailed everything back within minutes. Once I’ve realized what just happened I thought that such option might have some merit not only for artists, but even for ordinary people like me.

Overall build of the laptop feels bulky, old and excessive. I am used to thin boundaries of the screen, so the W701’s full inch (or more – on the top and bottom) frame around 17″ screen looks ancient. I am sure there are perfectly justifiable technology reasons behind it, like wireless antennas, web cam and so on, but I’m a consumer and I don’t care – I want the frame around my screen to be as thin as possible.

Speaking of bulky – the power supply issue is one of my major points of despair. Lenovo has changed the power connector YET AGAIN! Older power supplies from T60 and X60 series are not compatible – just like they weren’t between T40 and T60. But more to that – the power supply falls a few inches short of the size of my X61s. Yes, it’s that large. Surely, you need a lot of juice to power this laptop, but the power brick the size of another laptop itself – that’s something.

The battery is located underneath the front edge, below the keyboard, and there is no room for a larger battery, like in case of IBM/Lenovo T series. I realize that this is a desktop replacement, not really a portable solution, but it is still a laptop, so some effort should have been made to make larger batteries available. Given that 9 cell can only drive this powerhorse for less than 2 hours, I want more options.

The W line of ThinkPads is a newer addition to the growing inventory of Lenovo laptops. The T series is no longer a top level in terms of performance. Lenovo seem to be bringing the best from A, R and T series into the W line, but there’s definitely a room for improvement. We all used to having limited options for our hardware configurations, but given the size and capabilities of Lenovo’s T and W series, I would expect a lot more options in the next iterations.

The overall experience (I am using W701 for two weeks now) is very positive. Of course, there are couple of drawbacks, but in general I am very happy about the purchase – it provides me with all the features I need to get current and most of the future things done.

Living On The Edge With Windows 7 and Office 2010

In preparation to release of beta of Visual Studio 10 and .Net framework 4 (due out this Tuesday for MSDN and Thursday for general public) I have installed Windows 7 x64 and MS Office 2010 Technical Preview on my Lenovo ThinkPad X61s laptop. It has Core2 Duo L7700 CPU, 3GB RAM and 30GB OCZ SSD hard drive. So far it has been a great mobile workhorse for Windows XP, and since I can’t risk my main workstation’s setup I decided to test the combo on X61s. It still feels a little like living on the edge, even though this isn’t my primary work tool.

First culprit I hit was that Google Chrome wasn’t working under 64-bit Windows 7 version. No matter what I did it was just displaying a blank page. Turns out the issue is already fixed in Developer channel build. For others, adding a –in-process-plugins to a shortcut should do the trick. Alternatively, if other shortcuts are still giving you headaches, here’s the fix I have found (from quite a few sources) to be working:

The registry keys to change:

* HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\Applications\chrome.exe\shell\open\command
* HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command
* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\Applications\chrome.exe\shell\open\command
* HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Classes\ChromeHTML\shell\open\command

Each key needs to be changed from looking like
…\chrome.exe” — “%1″
to
…\chrome.exe”–in-process-plugins — “%1”

Next stop – Lenovo’s Vista drivers don’t always work for Windows 7, despite Microsoft’s assurances that whatever works in Vista will work in Win7. As of right now the two biggest problems that remain are the power gauge (still shows about an hour of charge right before going to hibernation) and trackpoint driver, that only works in classic Windows applications. Even though the trackpoint works in Firefox, both Safari and Chrome ignore the scrolling feature making the ThinkPad’s trackpoint effectively useless.

Windows XP virtual machine worked fine, although Windows 7 only allocates 256MB of memory for it, which is nearly not enough. Pitching it up to 1024MB made it work just right, although increases the VM’s startup time, if only by half a minute.

Another thing that came as a surprise (since I haven’t used Vista heavily) was that telnet application is missing. For some reason you have to go to Control Panel ->Programs and Features -> Turn Windows Features On and Off and pick Telnet (as well as old trivial FTP, while you’re at it) to get installed. Thankfully, you won’t need an installation DVD for that.

Also, you will have to adjust the CPU’s power settings to make sure your applications as well as virtual environment aren’t bogged down by them. For some unknown reason Win7 sets something around 5% CPU power for laptop running on battery. Therefore – anytime you plan on watching those YouTube videos on the couch the performance would be so low that you will be pushed to fetch that power cord. Alternatively – drum up CPU power in advanced power settings.

Since power setting in Windows 7 are a bit more granular than those you had before, you will have more control over how fast your battery is depleting. Given that, your mileage may and will vary, although I’ve noticed that under WinXP the same battery lasted about an hour longer. My perception is that this is mainly due to me being more active (since I install and tweak stuff heavily rather than use the laptop for average browsing or writing stuff) and that I tend to run screen brighter in Win7 than I did in XP.

One of the parts of Office 2010 that I was mainly interested in is Outlook. So far this is the most valuable tool in the whole suite, since I don’t use Excel macros heavily. I do, however, track a lot of things in Outlook, keep contact information and their history, e-mails, tasks and notes. Additionally, contacts, tasks and notes are easily synchronize with heavily customized Windows Mobile phone that I use. However, much to my disappointment, the only major change in Outlook was the ribbon menu that became even less intuitive and more cryptic. Since this is a Technology Preview version I can’t complain about all the images and icons that are missing, but overall I was definitely struggling to complete tasks I got used to doing in Office 2007. Since I’ve only spent about half a day tweaking things around, I guess I will have to make a separate post about other parts of the Office 2010. So far the IMAP accounts work fine, although I missed the new setting Outlook uses for SMTP server (it’s 587 now). Luckily I noticed it early enough to tweak my server to run exim on port 587. Also, csd+lfd had to be told that it’s okay if someone tries to use this port for inbound connection (outbound was already there). But these are minor nuissances that you only get to encounter once. Oh, and for those of us who were hoping – no, you can’t export e-mail account settings (including username and password) from Outlook 2010. Not in this version anyway.

Subjectively, Win7 x64 “feels” a little more sluggish on this setup that Win7 x86 felt on the same laptop with 120GB WD Scorpio on 5400 RPM. There’s a noticeable “drag” on things, but as I’ve said – this is just my subjective impression. Now I’m just going to wait couple of more days for betas of Visual Studio 10 and .Net 4.0 to see how things will work then.