MacBook or ThinkPad X61

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by jdmlight, Mar 17, 2008.

  1. jdmlight macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2007
    Chicagoland Suburbs
    Here's a twist to the stale MB vs MBP posts.

    I am going to be off to college next Fall and will be buying a laptop to replace my (mostly working) iBook G3 500MHz. When I started browsing laptops, I assumed that I would be getting a MB or a MBP. Noting the price of the MBP, my choice was narrowed down to a MB. I usually prefer a little more choice than, well, none...

    So I began asking around on forums and on campus during tours and such. It seems that for Electrical Engineering (my major), I will be using Windows most of the time because nearly all of the programs run in Windows. This opens up a whole new array of options for laptop choices.

    I know there are other options for laptops besides the ThinkPads, but they are usually too big, too heavy, have too little battery life, or all of the above:eek:. Plus ThinkPads are built like tanks - in a good way. (of course, if you have used or know someone who uses another laptop, then please post - I'm completely new to the whole PC-buying thing:cool:)

    I was drawn to the X61 because of its form factor. It has a 12" screen (which is one of the things I like about my iBook), weighs 3.5lbs (with extended battery installed), and has 8 hours quoted battery life (with the extended battery). I have read many, many reviews of both the MacBook and the X61 and it seems that both are well-built, reliable, fantastic laptops.

    Things I like about the MacBook:
    • Option to run OS X
    • It's a Mac :apple:
    • MagSafe is kinda cool (although I heard that it is susceptible to breakage - comments?)
    • Larger base hard drive
    Things I don't like about the MacBook:
    • Glossy screen
    • Lack of expansion
    • Battery life is a little short (4-4.5 hours real usage time vs. 6-7 hours real usage time on the X61 - from various reviews and users on this forum)

    Things I like about the ThinkPad X61:
    • Weight (3.5lbs vs the MacBook's 5lbs)
    • Size (smaller than MB)
    • XP option from factory (aka take it out of the box, charge it, install antivirus, and you're done)
    • Plenty of expansion (3 USB, firewire, PCMCIA/ExpressCard combo slot, dock option)

    Things I don't like about the ThinkPad X61:
    • No OS X ever (well, except for some practices that will not be discussed here)
    • Never bought a PC before (I've been a Mac user forever)

    MB: $999 edu discount + $140 Windows XP Pro OEM version (at TigerDirect) = $1139
    X61: $1180 (XP, high-cap battery, bluetooth) + $125 MS Office Home & Student edition (at TigerDirect) = $1305

    Overall, the price is close (I won't base my decision on $166), the specs are identical (1GB RAM, 2.0 GHz Core 2 Duo, X3100 graphics), they are both high-quality laptops, etc.

    Any input is appreciated (well except useless "MACS FTW" fanboy responses:rolleyes:).
  2. flopticalcube macrumors G4


    Sep 7, 2006
    In the velcro closure of America's Hat
    To me, for a laptop, weight and size are the first concern. If you have no PRESSING need to run OSX then go for the Thinkpad.
  3. Cyroceon macrumors 6502a


    Feb 9, 2008
    I think that it is a no brainer to get the Mac. Just the fact that you can run OS X is a big deal. When I was debating whether or not to buy a mac, the thing that locked me in on the Mac was the fact that I realized I could just pop in Windows and boom, I had a PC. That cemented the deal for me.
  4. crees! macrumors 68000


    Jun 14, 2003
    Must correct :)
  5. KelchM macrumors regular

    Aug 17, 2007
    Heres a little background for you...

    I'm a long time windows user. When I was looking at laptops for college last summer, I initially decided on a Lenovo T61p. Basically, a laptop that is both powerful and small. Due to delays, I ended up going to the Apple store and buying a top of the line MBP for two reasons. Basically, it was the fastest readily available laptop at the time and I'd been wanting to use OS X for a long time. I had the thing for about a month and ended up using windows all the time. OS X just didn't play nice with me at the time and I wasn't willing to learn its ways. I was also annoyed that I couldn't upgrade the hdd without a complete disassembly and also that thatI had spent 2500.00 on a laptop. Within a few weeks I sold it and replaced it with a HP 6910p. I don't know what I was thinking with doing that because the battery life was rather poor and the screen was junk by comparison. I stuck with the HP for a few more months and ended up switching to a Fujitsu T2010. The T2010 is an amazing computer. It's a 12.1" tablet that weighs under 4lb and gets 5+ hours of battery life on a 4 cell battery. Its no speed demon, but its fast enough for every day tasks. I would still be using this now if I hadn't managed to break the screen somehow. I think it must have gotten stepped on. :(

    That brings me to where I am now. For some reason, I decided that I should give OS X one more chance. I figured this was a lot more doable than it had been before as I now have a windows desktop I use for gaming. IAfter lloking around, I decided that I really liked the black macbooks and started looking for a good deal. I managed to snag one of the last generation models for 1200.00. Pretty nice deal imo. I dropped in the ram (2GB) and HDD (250GB) from the T2010 and installed OS X and Vista. I haven't even touched Vista. I'm really coming to like OS X and I've been looking into how I might be able to afford a Mac Pro to replace my desktop.

    I don't know if this is of any help to you, but if you have any questions for me feel free to ask.
  6. compuguy1088 macrumors 6502a


    Sep 3, 2007
    In the Sub-Basement of Solitude
    I would say get the macbook, unless you use alot of windows apps, then I would get the Thinkpad.
  7. brad.c macrumors 68020


    Aug 23, 2004
    50.813669°, -2.474796°
    Simpler question: do you want to run OSX?
    Figure that one out first.
  8. kvasir macrumors regular

    Oct 9, 2007
    I have everyday experience with Thinkpads, from the T series to the X series to the R series and also the ThinkCentres. Honestly, I've never in my life seen so many problems with computers. When I was in college, even the Dells and HPs our school had were pretty reliable. I work in a school and spend time at many other schools and I have to say, three of the four computers in my classroom in the last year have had to be replaced or repaired. Not to mention out of a laptop cart of 15, there are usually at least 2 or more missing because they need repair.

    Now granted, our students are hard on these things, don't get me wrong. Most of the problems have been either motherboard or video card related, and some of the fans have failed on them as well. Honestly, we had pre-Lenovo Thinkpads and they were solid as a rock. When we got the new batch of Lenovo built laptops, it was all downhill. There isn't a day in the week that I don't get a "fix my computer" request from someone. I'm not talking software related issues or small keyboard issues. I'm talking the "it's not powering on" issues.

    Not to say Apple's perfect. My own MBP has been in to have the fans replaced, I had to have a new magsafe plug and I've needed two battery replacements. My sister's Macbook has had battery issues as well.

    The moral of the story here is: get a warranty. At some point, you'll need it. My experience with Lenovo has been bad, but your mileage may vary.
  9. gkarris macrumors 604


    Dec 31, 2004
    "No escape from Reality..."
  10. c:\windows macrumors member

    Feb 27, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    I have a x60 (tablet) and a x61 (tablet) (one from the office and a personal one). Needless to say I really like them both. They are fast, sturdy and have great displays. The keyboards just feel real. The only problem with them is the crap ware Lenovo puts on them. I just ordered a Mac Pro so I don't know if apple puts crap ware on their OS's. The laptops even have a LED built into the screen that shines on the keyboard so you can use it in a dark room.

    If you are in EE it is sort of assumed that you can use Windows. Frankly, if you go looking for a job and don't know your way around Windows, don't bother applying.
  11. jdmlight thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2007
    Chicagoland Suburbs
    I know my way around Windows and Mac OS X, though I know Mac OS X better because I use it more (as of right now anyway). But this brings up an interesting point: I feel that I need more experience in XP and a good way to build experience is through usage. I know OS X because I use it daily - if there's something that I don't know how to do, I learn by Googling and doing. My friend had an experience like this with Linux. He wanted to know more about Linux, so he installed Ubuntu on his Lifebook. In doing this, he accidentally corrupted his Windows partition (always defrag before resizing partitions) and has had no choice but to use Ubuntu since he doesn't have time to reinstall Windows. He now has gone from a complete n00b to having a decent idea of how to do stuff in Ubuntu.

    I know that I will need to be extensively familiar with Windows for EE (or pretty much any engineering), so I need to make an effort to learn Windows. The hard truth is that M$ still holds the majority of the market share and many users are not willing to embrace alternate OSes - more importantly, many developers are not willing to embrace alternate OSes. Therefore, I need to be familiar with Windows, as much as I would rather not.:rolleyes:

    Which is why the discussion of MacBook vs. PC laptop even came up. A year ago (or more) I would have never considered a PC an option because OS X met all of my needs. Unfortunately, my needs are changing and OS X will no longer be able to meet all of my (school- and eventually work-related anyway) needs. Sigh. I'll still have a Mac to come home to at night :(
  12. digitalnicotine macrumors 65816


    Jan 11, 2008
    My experience with Thinkpads has always been good, but I've only used them with XP, not Vista (so not in the past 3 years). In my experience, they have been freakishly sturdy, surviving several drops on cement without need for servicing. I'm not talking out of third story windows, I mean having it slip out of my hand while it was in a sleeve case, and surviving unharmed. None of mine died after 5+ years of daily use either. I ended up giving them away when I no longer used them.

    My cons were the bloatware, and lack of ram upgrade capacity, but I think they've gotten on board with that more recently, and offer the same expandability as the MB, (without the 64bit OS). It seems to me this will be the best choice with your field in mind, and what you are needing to master. And since you still have the Mac, you can enjoy best of both worlds. :) Good luck to you.
  13. Koz77 macrumors newbie

    Mar 13, 2008
    I own a MBP and also have a T61 Thinkpad that was given to me at my job.

    Both are tremendous computers, but if you will be using Windows mostly than get the Thinkpad. I don't think you will be too upset with either purchase, but the Thinkpad is great, I can't recommend it enough.
  14. trip1ex macrumors 68000

    Jan 10, 2008
    Yeah if you need Windows all the time then I wouldn't get a Mac.

    On the other hand you have Bootcamp. You probably need a larger hard drive though or at least I would want one if I'm going to have a major bootcamp partition.
  15. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    doesn't the X61 have no optical drive? That might be a deal breaker (assuming it's your only computer).

    Also, you can also check out the X61s, which supposedly has better battery life (supposedly...).
  16. LouisBlack macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2007
    Balham, London
    Controversially, I really don't like Thinkpads. They feel really plasticy and the one I used for work creaked when you picked it up.

    You obviously enjoy using OS X as you've been using an iBook. What's the point in changing just for changes sake and losing all of your applications/setting/etc.

    Everything you want to do will work on the Macbook with the added bonus of running Windows and OS X side by side.

    Don't be logical about it, computing should be an enjoyable experience and you enjoy using OS X. I'm not saying Windows won't do everything you want it to, but you might have a little less fun doing it...
  17. jdmlight thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2007
    Chicagoland Suburbs
    No, it doesn't have an optical drive. That's actually a bonus for me - I have used the optical drive in my iBook only a handful of times on occasion, so getting rid of the optical drive reduces weight (and stuff that can go wrong - laptop optical drives are notoriously easy to break).

    And yes, the X61s gets about an hour better battery life - but it costs $200 more and has a slower processor. Not worth it for me - 8 hours is plenty.
  18. jdmlight thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2007
    Chicagoland Suburbs
    I only really use MS Office, Mail, and Safari on my iBook. The only applications that I would need to run on a new laptop would be MS Office and whatever circuit design/programming/other engineering-based software.

  19. weedy macrumors newbie

    Jan 28, 2008
    If you are really so familiar with OS X, what is the problem having a macbook + a (cheap) Win XP license?

    Add to that - I have also heard a lot of complaints with Lenovo-built thinkpads.
    One of my friends actually switched one for the black macbook and is pretty happy.
  20. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    Get the ThinkPad X61.

    Your needs are very simple, you don't need an optical drive, and you also don't need speed (X61 is slower, has no optical drive).
    You clearly want a small laptop (X61 wins).
    You don't mind using Windows (both will do the job).
    You have mentioned battery life plenty of times, so this must also be important to you (X61 wins).
  21. LouisBlack macrumors 6502

    Jun 21, 2007
    Balham, London
    What I meant was - don't feel you need to have a PC laptop just because you need to run windows. It is more than just a logical decision when you buy a computer, especially a Mac. I just kind of assumed you enjoyed using OS X as you have been for so long.

    Oh well, it sounds like you really want a Thinkpad so just go ahead and buy one.
  22. closeupman macrumors member


    Feb 15, 2008
    If so, than a MB is fine. Just load XP or Vista on it and use Parallels or Vmware. If you don't care about macros for MS Office, you can just get the MAC version.
  23. c:\windows macrumors member

    Feb 27, 2008
    Houston, Texas
    If I want a mac fix on my pc I am planning to VNC into my mac pro.
  24. queshy macrumors 68040


    Apr 2, 2005
    If you feel like you really want a Mac and don't need/want the optical drive due to weight, there's always the Air.

    The x61 seems like an amazingly solid computer and you can get great prices on it, too. I'd recommend getting it customized with XP if possible.
  25. jdmlight thread starter macrumors regular

    Jul 15, 2007
    Chicagoland Suburbs
    Too expensive and not expandable enough. I need Firewire for backup purposes (backing up over a network is not an option...) and I use more than 1 USB port daily. Also, its battery life isn't that great. I'm sure future versions will fix two of these three problems...
    That's a no-brainer. Vista is NOT an option. I'm sorry Microsoft, you fail. (FYI I included the price of XP in the configuration in my first post)

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