Why I went back to using a 2012 ThinkPad

I’ve sworn by IBM and Lenovo Thinkpads for their reliability, build quality – and my users loved them.

My daily-use laptop is a 12 year-old Thinkpad T410. While it’s heavier than a modern ultrabook, it’s got a traditional keyboard remimiscent of older desktop keyboards, and both a trackpoint and trackpad.
With a simple set of tools, I’ve been able to replace the fan, expand memory and replace the spinning hard drive with an SSD. Batteries are inexpensive, and spare parts are readily available.

This post is inspired by this article from the Low-tech Magazine. I highly recommend giving that a read as well!

Over my lifetime, I’ve used a bunch of different computers, mainly due to new ideas and requirements popping into my mind every time I’m content with my current setup. One of my last changes might be a bit of a headscratcher for some.

Background

 

At my current place of employment, I’ve had the opportunity to try out recently released laptops from Lenovo and Dell, with the goal of evaluating them for software development workloads and pick a default option for new hires. My work laptop at the time was the Lenovo ThinkPad T480 with some decent specs and an NVIDIA GeForce MX 150 GPU that was weak and throttled itself whenever it hit 70 degrees Celsius in Windows 10, making it absolutely useless.

I tried out a fair number of makes and models: Lenovo ThinkPad P14/T14 (gen 1 and 2) in both Intel 11th gen and AMD Ryzen 4000/5000 series configurations, plus some Dell Latitudes with Intel 11th gen CPU-s as well. And the result? A lot of disappointment.

The non-exhaustive list of issues I ran into with these machines on Fedora Linux 34:

  • The touchpad would sometimes randomly not work on one of the ThinkPads.
  • On AMD models, performance was less than stellar for my workloads and not a significant jump over a laptop from 2018.
  • The Intel CPU-s had throttling issues that made them unusable for basic things like calls over Google Meet as they would throttle to 400 MHz.
  • On one of the Dell machines, it was very easy to overheat the SSD, which lead to the CPU throttling to 400 MHz. Yes, the SSD caused the CPU to throttle.
  • Wi-Fi/Bluetooth would not work on one of the laptops, even when I was using an up-to-date Linux distro. Likely related to the type of adapter used (not Intel).

Once that experiment was done, we settled on the least crappy version of the ThinkPads that had an AMD Ryzen CPU, at least those didn’t sound like jet engines under load and didn’t have insane throttling issues.

It’s not all that bad, though. I was now committed to using my current ThinkPad T480 for as long as possible. It, too, had a rough start, but at least all the issues it came with have been ironed out over time.

 

[ via ounapuu.ee ]

 

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