My personal laptop, this very day, is a Lenovo (Thinkpad) X201 from 2011. That’s more than 11 years of service, and still pretty well holding up (in no small part thanks to Archlinux and Xfce). Nonetheless a few weeks ago, it just decided after a very “helpful” spark when plugged in, that it won’t turn on nor charge 🙀… After reading a bit and experimenting with the charger, the battery, &c, the probable verdict that “it needs a motherboard replacement”. I did start to consider, whether to give it piece and just wholesale replace it with a new machine, but since I’ve already taken it apart a few times, I thought that self-service might just give it a bit longer lease on life.
First time ordering from AliExpress, I actually found a bunch of people still selling the board, and at ~80USD it doesn’t even break the bank (even if it wouldn’t work, or wouldn’t work for long). Thus ordered one with the right CPU that I vaguely remembered (it’s soldered on, so couldn’t be replaced), and waited. The predicted shipping time was something like 40-70 days, but actually it turns out things can arrive in less than 14, if the delivery company sets its mind to it…
Now just had to get my trusty little precision screw set and start working on it (like a few times before, but hopefully with better success).
I’ve been wanting to upgrade my laptop for quite a while. It was a good ol’ Acer Travelmate 4501wlmi from 2004. I’m not sure why I have kept it for such a long time, maybe I liked torturing myself. In the end the screen was barely hanging on its hinges, the video card memory was corrupt so the screen was all funky sometimes, but what finally did it is the flaky/failing wireless.
I did check out before what are the acceptable alternatives for a new laptop. Then last weekend I went and got myself a new Lenovo X201i, When I first went to the store, I wasn’t sure whether I’ll get it, or which model to go for. Tried to get some information from the clerk about the available options, but with this communication gap I usually have here in Taiwan, due to my limited Chinese, wasn’t for an advantage. In the end all I did is pretty much confirmed what I have already known: the Lenovo X-series is their smallest ultraportable, they can be quite powerful, and pretty popular. When he asked me what kind of system I wanted and I told him: none, I got a good confirmation that I came to the right place. All other stores the reactions range from apological raised eyebrows to statements that “selling laptops without Windows is illegal” (true story). Here on the other hand, he just got out his “No OS deals” sheet, and I just checked out of the most powerful of them: it had everything I needed and was altogether about 20% cheaper than the other model I was considering before. He was saying that there were only 3 left, so I just galloped off the the nearest ATM, and there I had it, good times.
A few days later I went back to get a few small details sorted out: exchanged to a larger battery (6 to 9 cell), upgraded the memory (2 to 8Gb) and switched the keyboard cover to the right one. This time the limited Chinese was for my advantage. I was talking to a different person this time, who knew even less English than my previous clerk, so whenever the new one was contradicting the deals I was promised, I just had to question it and they gave me the deal, instead of going into any conversation why I couldn’t have it. It’s all fine, I wasn’t abusing this “power”, but not going to be taken advantage of that easily either. All in all, it was quite good deal, even if it would have been cheaper to order it directly from America on the internet.
Experience so far (~5 days):
This machine does not compete for any beauty prize, so don’t mind that the 9 cell battery does not improve on that front. It is still okay for me. The matt finish on the cover picks up every touch, so it’s going to be pretty “used” looking soon. The keyboard cover is a good idea, knowing myself, but does not improve things either.
It is not really fair to compare it to a computer 6 years its senior, but it’s such a breath of fresh air how snappy it is. Not the most powerful computer I’m using (hard to beat the office’s quad core) but certainly a small powerhouse on the go.
The size is just right. Had an EeePC before, and I thought I could get really used to it, but in the end the limitations were just too much. Still got to find a good, small, laptop-enabled backpack, but with its 12″ it shouldn’t be a big deal
With the 9-cell I got about 6-7 hours of light use out of it. This is before I did any real power optimization. Linux does have a lot of tricks and even things like sound card power saving can go a long way. Still has to investigate
Installed my usual Arch Linux, now with all encrypted filesystem (not that I’m planning to let it be stolen). It will take a while to get my old settings back again, but at least I can organize them better.
That ESC key is at some weird place in the corner, keep pressing F1 instead. Even if No OS version (and they saved the “Windows7” sticker) I still have the Windows button. Will try to find some appropriate role for it.
Haven’t had a chance to try the WiMAX or the built in camera. The first will probably stay like that, the second I should get going with Skype.
Keyboard lighting is ace for nighttime stuff, just like now.
The pointing stick does not really like the keyboard cover. It is no big deal, I’m more of a touchpad fan. That touchpad has 5 different buttons but none of them emulates a mouse wheel as far as I can tell. Want to find out what does emulate it, should be very useful. The pad itself acts up sometimes, but nothing too annoying.
The 320Gb hard drive is not bad at all, but I’ll look out for a good SSD – should save on power and improve on speed.
The screen is a bit picky of the angles it wants to be looked at from. I know the tablet version (X201t) is muc better, this one I just got to live with.
Built in fingerprint reader – got to get the drivers working, but it would be awesome to use it for the constant sudo goodness that is required for a well secured system.
Now I have no excuse to be very productive anywhere and everywhere.