back to article Lenovo Thinkpad X280: Choosing a light luggable isn't so easy

Despite being a “mainly Mac” person for a long time, I’ve used a Thinkpad X series for writing for 15 years now – and the device has played different roles over the years. At one time, it was the only genuine portable I’d trust on a trip. Apple perfected the thin and light laptop with the MacBook Air design of 2011, after …

  1. Bronek Kozicki

    The best part about ThinkPad X280?

    ... model X270 will be available at a discount early next year. I've been waiting for this moment too long.

    1. BillG
      Mushroom

      Re: The best part about ThinkPad X280?

      Once you remove the annoying Microsoft bundle cruft - and I cannot believe such garbage is bundled in business machines in 2018

      And it's important to remove all that bundled crud, adjust your privacy settings, uninstall all the telemetry updates, and install a privacy manager BEFORE first connecting it to the internet. Of course if the laptop has Windows 10 you have no privacy anyway.

      Brand new Windows laptops are persistent in wanting to phone home to Microsoft, like mosquitoes banding up against a screen door.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The best part about ThinkPad X280?

        And make sure there's no Superfish, not sure what Microsoft has to do with that.

        1. Bronek Kozicki
          Linux

          Re: The best part about ThinkPad X280?

          Not much trouble at all - just boot from appropriately prepared USB device and continue installation according to the directions of the setup script.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Care

    >> I kept an X around because it would withstand getting bashed and dropped

    >> I was surprised to see scuffs at the edge appearing after only a few days

    What the hell are you doing to your laptops?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Care

      they could give the new model away ~ not interested.

      Support is worth way more than the hardware, and Lenovo's support has gone to the bottom of the pile.

      1. Patrician

        Re: Care

        "Lenovo's support has gone to the bottom of the pile."

        This exactly; Lenovo's RMA/Technical support has to be the worst of the major manufacturers to the point that they completely refuse to RMA a machine that was delivered with chassis damage. Lenovo state that no machines leave their plant with physical damage so it must have been transit damage; transit sourced and supplied by Lenovo mind you.

        Considering the awful build quality of Lenovo products you would think their RMA system would run like a well oiled machine.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Care

        Hear hear.

        Lenovo Support is pretty much non existant in business environment. My complaints about how Lenovo supports their products has gone as high as "Services Ops Manager for UKI, BENELUX & Nordics". While at first he was interested and promised they will improve he stopped responding after I contacted him few times some weeks later.

        Dell on the other hand. One phone and in most cases the engineer is banging on the door next day. One of the few reasons I have 3 E-Series at home.

        PS

        Dear God. 2018 and Lenovo still haven't switched Fn and Ctrl.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Care

          >Dear God. 2018 and Lenovo still haven't switched Fn and Ctrl.

          I have an X250 and you can switch them in the BIOS. I was fine the way they were but I have an ASUS laptop where you can't switch them and they're the other way round. So I switched the Thinkpad. It's easy enough having them the other way round as you get used to it quickly but using two machines interchangeably is not so easy.

        2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Care

          "Dell on the other hand. One phone and in most cases the engineer is banging on the door next day. One of the few reasons I have 3 E-Series at home."

          Had exactly the opposite issue. All our kit is on next day call outs for repairs. Lenovo guys invariably turn up, do the job and leave us a repaired and working device. Dell guys often turn up a week or more late and often it's an "assessment" visit where they confirm the fault and order parts and come back a week or so later to do the actual fix.

      3. GrumpyKiwi

        Re: Care

        "Lenovo's support has gone to the bottom of the pile."

        Sadly got to agree with you here - it's just as true in this part of the world. And that's kind of tragic as it wasn't more than 3 years ago that the opposite was true.

        Now I get:

        Laptop under warranty (X270) with dead keyboard - two weeks to get parts

        Laptop under warranty (X270) with dead screen - four to eight weeks to get parts

        I pissed and moaned to my account manager and Lenovo support about how pathetic this is and got a "that's just how long things take" reply.

  3. StuntMisanthrope

    Where art thou, Sapper?

    I used to love my X31 with extended battery, docking station and extra bits for emergencies, you could throw it in a board meeting and it was the swiss-army knife for anything and everything, I even saw a ThinkPad in MOMA. #longerbeacapulet

    1. onefang

      Re: Where art thou, Sapper?

      "you could throw it in a board meeting"

      Your board meetings sound seriously dangerous. Throwing laptops at each other? Or have you mixed up your agile scrums with your rugby scrums?

  4. a pressbutton

    X220

    The last one that had a proper keyboard.

    Built like a tank

    Still in use

    ... Love it.

    But...

    The only signature characteristics retained are the distinctive air vent and hinges - and the massive bezel around the display.

    reminds me that the X220 vent is about 80% blocked when you plug it into the docking station.

    wabi-sabi.

    1. Steve Evans

      Re: X220

      Aye... I miss the Thinkpad keyboard, that was always one of their big plus points (that and the Thinklight and "nipple").

      But, alas, they've followed the trendy and copied Apples horrible flat keyboard design in an effort to further copy Apple and make the damn thing thinner... (Same can be said for phones too! Make them thicker with more battery, and they won't keep flippin' bending!).

      Sod the thickness, this is a Thinkpad, give us a proper keyboard, a whopping big battery and an ultra bay we can swap out for a second HD/CDR or even more battery!

    2. Chez

      Re: X220

      I've long maintained that the 20 series were the last true thinkpads. I've got a T520 that I've been using for 5 years, and is still going strong. Lots of chassis dings and chips, lots of falls from various desks, and it simply won't stop working. Just got a T420 from a scrap pile a few months back, that's become my new linux box.

      1. AK565

        Re: X220

        I have two x200s's and I agree completely. The only reason I want to upgrade is my ageing eyes; the horrible contrast ratio and lack of a lit keyboard are becoming a problem. Otherwise, they're damn near perfect for me.

    3. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

      Re: X220

      I still use my second hand x200t (original battery too good for about 2 hours though which isn't so good but helped since I switch to an ssd).

      It's latest all the torment travel to foreign climbs could throw at it and then asked for more.

      Lovely keyboard for a laptop too.

      But yes the t series is much better than they used to be (t430's track pad I'm sure was mentioned in dantes inferno, now using a t470.. much, much better) but just doesn't feel as solid.

      1. AK565

        Re: X220

        I naively bought a T431, thinking it'd be am improvement. HA! I agree 100% about the trackpad. I'd dearly love to take a hammer to it. My x200s is leagues better save for lack of lit keyboard and shitty contrast. And while we're at it, the x200s proves a damn trackpad isn't even necessary to begin with!

  5. James 51

    Accaptable screen, workhorse cpu, replaceable RAM/HDD/Battery. Robust chasis. Good keyboard. No bloatware. Why is that so hard?

    1. Waseem Alkurdi

      Workhorse CPU = 1-2 hours of battery life.

      I've once imagined a line of business laptops that has all that. Even gave it a name (Ambassador). But there are lots of different types of business users.

      You're a "mobile workstation" type of guy. Mr. CEO is the Ultrabook type. Try to sell to both! ;-)

      1. James 51

        By workhorse I mean something like a plough horse, not a racing thoroughbred.

  6. Roopee
    Happy

    Plenty of X220s on eBay

    Why not buy one - find a good one, sling in a new battery and SSD, pick up a dock for a tenner and you're good to go for about £250 max, genuine Windows 7 licence included. That's what I did.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

      actually, a reasonably well-kept 2nd hand x220 would cost quite a lot more - if you want a better processor (i7), screen (I forgot what it is), usb3 support, ssd + extra ram, altogether around £400, I'm afraid.

      p.s. but still, SO MUCH BETTER than my wife's dell-whatever-the-flagship-equivalent costing well over a grand. And this is 2011 v. 2017 machine...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

        ...out of curiosity, I've just had a look on ebay.co.uk, not bad at all, the prices have gone down a bit, x220 i7 (with a LARGE) enter button - very helpful!), usually with 8 Gb ram and some ssd:

        £270, £300, £215, £260

        Perhaps I should buy one and keep it in storage, until my current one goes up in smoke? After all, with built-in batteries and other "improvements", no point waiting for 2nd hand more current lenovo x-shite :/

        1. Waseem Alkurdi

          Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

          Try the ebay.com (US) site - there tends to be more sellers over there, and as a result, better pricing.

          EDIT: The prices you guys are talking about are blasphemy. The US site lists them for ~$100 - $150!

          I have a whole lot of examples but afraid I can't post them here.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

            They'll all have US keyboards though

            1. Waseem Alkurdi

              Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

              So? My laptop is from there, got shipped halfway across the world (from Texas to Amman), and has a Canadian keyboard layout. I touch-type both English and Arabic on that, blindly. And you can't live with a few keys shifted from the US layout? If it's really a big problem, get an extra keyboard with the purchase, and install it yourself!

              Edit: Or you can use these little stickers, but I personally detest them from the depths of my heart ... Too ugly when they wear out ...

              1. AdamWill

                Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

                You can't really 'convert' a US or Canadian layout to a UK or other European one with stickers, as they're associated with actually-physically-different keyboard shapes. UK / European keyboards are generally 102/105 key physical layout, US / Canadian ones are 101/104. The two physical layouts have differently-shaped keys in different places, particularly on the right-hand end of the main key bank. You can't ever make a US keyboard feel like a UK one, no matter how many stickers you use or what remapping tools. :P

                1. onefang

                  Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

                  "You can't ever make a US keyboard feel like a UK one, no matter how many stickers you use or what remapping tools. :P"

                  The only way I ever end up getting a Dvorak keyboard is to swap keytops around. Makes for a rather lumpy keyboard. Tried the stickers, they tend to come off after a while. Happy Hacker used to provide a Dvorak version, until just before I ordered mine.

                  When I tried getting a Happy Hacker keyboard, you couldn't buy them in Australia. One of the overseas suppliers we tried refused to sell it to us, due to RoHS, which restricted things in Europe. They had seen "Australia", and thought "Austria".

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Plenty of X220s on eBay

            I must be blind, but those I see are mostly 300 - 500 USD (even one joker for a cool 1500 USD, yeah, why not). But, more importantly, the enter key for the us version is of the small type, for me a no-no (even though, at home, it sits on a docking station with proper keyboard plugged in). Ironically, the best deal shown on ebay.com is from the... UK :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    X just has the built-in pack with 45w

    ok, that info was crucial. Oh well.

  8. Dave K Silver badge

    Seems they're going backwards with each new model. Even the lauded X220 was a downgrade on the earlier X201 (16:10 screen with thinner bezels, trackpad with proper buttons), then with each new version the keyboard has got worse, the trackpad has been poor for a while, removal of status LEDs, lousy screen with awful fat bezels for a while now, then they go and kill the removable battery as well.

    Such a disappointment to see what has happened to the X range over the last 8 years. Sorry Lenovo, I'll be sticking with my trusty X201 for a while yet! Love it for long-distance traveling due to being able to swap the battery over once the first one starts to run low

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      My X250 has two batteries - one on the inside and a swappable one. It discharges the latter first so if you do have a spare you can swap it out without powering down.

  9. Gordon 10 Silver badge

    I have never forgiven Lenovo for moving the FN key from outside on the X220 to 2nd key in on the X1.

    My muscle memory never coped with it. Stupid unnecessary change that alienates all your loyal users.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      See above - you can swap them in the BIOS now.

      And I thought they were always this way round. But I do have a crap memory to be fair.

      I missed the page forwards and backwards keys you used to have by the arrow keys but I'm used to it now.

      It's when you get laptops without home and end keys that's annoying. Why ditch essential keys?

      1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        The page forward/backward keys are a deal-breaker for me - too useful to ever go without again.

  10. m0rt

    W. T. F. ?

    No RJ45? On a thinkpad?

    Lenovo, you are now dead to me.

    Fsckers.

    1. Christian Berger

      Re: W. T. F. ?

      And no easy to replace battery. I mean the X250 has the nifty concept of 2 batteries, one internal one (which you need a screwdriver and a quiet place to replace) and one you can replace on the go.

  11. Dan from Chicago

    Service -

    The old Thinkpad warranty service center was on the edge of the main FedEx hub in Atlanta. You'd drop your notebook off at a FedEx box as late as 9PM, they'd work on it overnight, and then you'd get it back by 10AM the following morning. And shipping was covered, as well.

    ...but the notebook cost about $8,000 in today's dollars, so there's that, too. With current notebooks you could just buy a new one and move over the hard drive, more than once, and still spend less. It would be even quicker. But the "wings" folding keyboard was a really useful trick!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My six year old x220's fan just died..

    ...so I bought another x220 on the local equivalent of craigslist. Where I bought the first x220.

    Now the funny thing is this has been my main dev machine for doing serious big compiles, multi-100k's C++ codebase, etc. And not one single new X released in the last 7 year has justified an upgrade as the small increases in real computational power has been greatly outweighed by the serious reduction in features and build quality. Just threw in a mSATA SSD about 5 years and the X220 is good for another few years of heavy duty compilation. If I can get a nice i7 X220 might get one of those but a quad core i7 W520 is the most likely upgrade. Not one single X / T or W Thinkpad released by Lenovo in the last 6 years has justified the loss of many features for only very small increases in real world processor power.

    If I were the Thinkpad people in NC I'd be very worried by people like me. An otherwise a very satisfied customer since my first A20/X20. But I suspect my x220 is the end of the Thinkpad road for me. A real pity. As they were the best laptops for such a long time and a very easy recommend when people asked for advice on which laptop to buy. But not anymore.

  13. RegGuy1 Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Lenovo -- super kit

    But don't be silly and put Redhat 7 with Gnome 3. Then it will stink[1].

    You have been warned.

    [1] To be fair I think it is Gnome 3 that's pants.

  14. Justy

    Still no good for southpaws...

    Got an x240 instead of a an x220. Gutted at the time as x220 had a great keyboard layout, extra row etc. Refusing the replacement x270/280. Can’t cut and paste effectively. Left handed so use Delete and Insert. Combining End and Insert just doesn’t work for me, can’t reach the Fn key and don’t get on with using C an V Lenovo of no help. Not permitted to install anything that would allow me to remap keys.

    Lenovo, so close yet so wrong. Perhaps try listening to customers?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Still no good for southpaws...

      lenovo have LONG stopped listening to customers (or just common sense). I guess the x series is going the way of woolworth and maplin, and all other snows of yesteryear.

  15. John Doe 6

    Well, I still use my IBM ThinkPad X61s, with a new SSD, and it runs decent...

    1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

      That makes at least two of us! I've recently been looking for another to have in store, and they seem to be in short supply, though.

  16. Christian Berger

    It's sad to see that so far no model could fully improve on the X200

    I mean, sure the X250 is said to have a larger battery capacity and you can apparently swap the external one while it's running on the internal one.

    However there are some models like the X240 or this X280 trainwreck which just lack essential features people desperately need, like the middle trackpoint button or Ethernet. I wonder how those decisions got made.

    1. Waseem Alkurdi
      Mushroom

      Re: It's sad to see that so far no model could fully improve on the X200

      I wonder how those decisions got made

      Beancounters.

  17. Tannin

    No LAN, no go

    No network connector. Good grief! That is the most ridiculous thing to leave out of a supposedly "high-end" notebook I have ever heard of. I never buy anything else except for Thinkpads. I wouldn't go near this one. I don't buy crippleware.

    1. GrumpyKiwi

      Re: No LAN, no go

      It does have a network connection, it's just that it's one of those external plug in adaptor jobbies. Which I'm against on the grounds of that the one time I'll need it, it'll almost certainly still be on my desk while I'm 2500km away.

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