After spurning the Mac, I bought a Lenovo ThinkPad T60 – here’s a comparison of the two.
Price: A Wash
The ThinkPad configuration is 15″ regular screen of 1400 x 1050 pixels, 1.83 GHz Core Duo, 2 GB memory, 100 GB 5400 RPM hard drive, Radeon X1400 with 128 MB.
This worked out £40 less than the new, cheaper, MacBook Pro (which wasn’t available when I bought the ThinkPad). The new MBP has a 15.4″ wide screen of 1440 x 900 pixels, 2.16 MHz Core 2 Duo and X1600 graphics. On the other hand the ThinkPad has a 3 year warranty (Apple is 1 year), weighs a bit less, and has a fingerprint reader and built in modem.
Uncrating: Apple Wins
My Mac Mini packaging was tear-apart so was quicker to unpack than the old-style sealed packaging of the ThinkPad. It’s a small thing, but good packaging doesn’t cost more than bad packaging.
Documentation: Apple Wins
The Apple documentation was all in English and covered everything I needed to know to get up and running. The ThinkPad documentation was bulked up by large multi-language boilerplate and bizarre freebies – including Lotus Notes. It took me a few hours to determine that the only useful stuff was the troubleshooting guide and a single page ReadMe. Lenovo needs to localize and shrink its boilerplate and spend the money it saves on including a decent user manual.
Mechanical Engineering: No Result
The ThinkPad has a splendid keyboard, brilliant display, effective keyboard light, and good ergonomics. Its only weakness is poorly designed palm rest locking tabs that allowed the guy who upgraded my memory to wrongly re-assemble it. Lenovo should fix this – it’s not hard to design components so they can’t be installed incorrectly
I can’t comment on the MBP, but the Mac Mini is just a box, and had no assembly problems.
Set Up: Apple Wins
I took several hours to get the ThinkPad configured on our wireless network. That’s partly my failure to RTFM, but also because Lenovo hadn’t pre-configured XP for wireless networks. The Mac Mini recognized the network when it first booted up and was sharing files within an hour.
Use: ThinkPad Wins
After all the reports of red hot MBPs; I feared the problem was the hot Core Duo rather than Apple. It isn’t – the ThinkPad gets only slightly warm underneath, and is much cooler than the 5 year old Tecra it’s replaced. That’s not at the cost of noisy fans – the ThinkPad is very quiet, sounding like a distant breeze.
The ThinkPad also has a TrackPoint with nifty scroll button, which I find much easier to use than a track pad (although it has one of those too). Plus it has keys that let you navigate between Firefox tabs.
To get the same text quality as the Mac I had to install ClearType (every XP user should do this).
Customizability: No result
I prefer to do an OS reinstall on a new machine to get rid of all the junk manufacturers foist on their customers. However Lenovo doesn’t ship the XP disks and all you can do is image the complete initial install, junk included – it took up 7 CDs! Then I had to hunt through the system individually killing Norton etc, and I’ve a nasty feeling some insurgents are still hiding.
I didn’t get OS X install disks with the Mac mini, so the MBP may be as bad.
For me, the ThinkPad is the better laptop. It’s light, cool, quiet, and has a great display, keyboard and pointing device. So it’s a breeze to use on my lap and on airline tray tables. The configuration is blindingly fast for my apps (Firefox, Word, Excel, and Outlook).
It took a lot of work to get XP & Firefox 2 configured and to throw out the junk and install decent apps. But now that’s done, I anticipate years of productive use.