Faceoff: Apple Macbook v. Lenovo ThinkPad T400 v. Dell Precision M2400

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My old ThinkPad T43 is dead and I have been shopping for a new laptop. I value three things above all: portability, durability, and performance. I take my laptops everywhere, so they need to be thin and light. That means they also take a lot of abuse. And I like to keep my laptops for three to five years, so I prefer high performance components that will not slow me down over that time.

I have narrowed the field to three: the Apple Macbook, Lenovo ThinkPad, and Dell Precision. The laptop with Lenovo.com and Dell notebook are both business-class Windows PCs. The other is a Mac. I am having trouble deciding, so I decided to put together a detailed comparison. This is going to be a long post. Tune in, true believers, for a head-to-head comparison on the features I consider most important.

(Spoiler: I got the ThinkPad.)

Overview

So why these three? The Lenovo ThinkPad was an automatic contender. My old ThinkPad T43 was an awesome laptop. Not attractive, but thin, light, and tough as nails. I have always kind of wanted a Macbook, and the new aluminum ones add some serious durability to an already-nice package. The Dell Precision is more of a dark horse. The Precision line got some good press when it released, and it has some impressive features that make it a real contender.

Although I have not used any of these laptops, I have some experience with each brand, and I have been poring over their specs for a few days now. With that in mind, I wanted to compare them head-to-head.

Form factor

The Apple Macbook is clearly the best-looking of the three, and the aluminum shell bodes well for its long-term durability. The Precision is not bad-looking for a business-class laptop, but the Lenovo ThinkPad is an ugly brick. When it comes to size and weight, however, all three are pretty comparable. As measured by the manufacturers, the Apple Macbook is the thinnest (.95″) and lightest (4.5 lbs.). The Precision (1″ and 4.77 lbs.) and the Lenovo ThinkPad (1.1″ and 4.7 lbs.) are just a bit chunkier with their bigger screens.

Advantage: Apple Macbook.

macbookScreen

Mac does not offer a 14″ screen, so the Apple Macbook is smaller right off the bat. The extra size of the Dell Precision and Lenovo ThinkPad is nice for working with documents, though, especially since the widescreen format robs the user of vertical space for editing documents as it is. An LED screen is important to me, both because they are more environmentally-friendly and because they use less power to create a brighter picture.

The Lenovo falls behind here. While it does have LED screens, they are available only in the lower-resolution WXGA. The Precision has a WXGA+ LED screen, and while it is not as bright and impressive as the Macbook, it is also available in a matte finish, which means less glare.

Advantage: Dell Precision and Apple Macbook.

Keyboard & trackpad

I hate the Apple Macbook keyboard. Typing on a Macbook is like running with my shoelaces tied together. Even basic commands like copy and paste require awkward finger contortions, and the absence of the Delete, Home, and End keys makes me feel like I am typing with only nine fingers. The Macbook trackpad, on the other hand, is big and very useful, although the button (even on the button-less aluminum Macbook) is too hard to press, and the travel is too short.

ThinkPads are famous for their amazing keyboards, and amazing they are. The key travel is perfect, and they are so good, I would rather type on a ThinkPad than on any other keyboard. The trackpad is okay, if a bit small. The buttons work well, but in my last ThinkPad, they wore down over time and I replaced that piece once (it would have needed to be replaced again if I had kept it).

I have never used the Precision, so I have to rely on anecdotal evidence. The keyboard on my Dell Inspiron was perfectly good, just not as good as the ThinkPad’s. According to NotebookReview, however, the Precision’s trackpad is ridiculously small. I believe it, but it does not look much smaller than the ThinkPad’s.

Advantage: Lenovo ThinkPad.

Battery

Battery life is important for portability, whether I want to work in the backyard or in a coffee shop with too few power outlets. While the Precision and ThinkPad are available with larger batteries, I am not interested in adding weight. 5 lbs. is enough.

Lenovo claims 4.3 hours from the 4-cell battery in the ThinkPad T400. Even allowing for some manufacturer inflation, that is impressive. Dell does not have any numbers on its website that I can find, and it seems to have sent out test units with only the larger, 9-cell battery, so I am guessing at the battery life. Let’s assume it is close to the ThinkPad, since it does have a larger battery.

Neither of the Windows PCs compares to the Macbook, however. Apple claims up to five hours, and Notebook Review found that was about right, getting 4.75 hours with average use.

FYI, the Lenovo figures on battery life are ridiculously inflated. My T400 shipped with the bigger, 6-cell battery, and I get less than 4 hours with regular usage. That’s an extra pound or two, and closer to half the battery life of the Macbook.

Advantage: Apple Macbook.
thinkpad_t400

Operating system

OS X is pretty nice. It has its quirks (the Dock is pretty useless, for example), but it blows Vista out of the water.

Vista is pretty awful and annoying, but since I will want to run Ubuntu Linux on my laptop, and Lenovo and Dell have an advantage. I would expect some real frustrations getting the Macbook running smoothly.

The upcoming Windows 7 is pretty sweet, too. While OS X gives the Macbook the advantage over Vista at the moment, Windows 7 will erase that advantage in the near future.

Advantage: Dell Precision and Lenovo ThinkPad.

Price

Here’s the biggie, right? Configured as closely as I can get them, here are the prices of each laptop:

  • Apple Macbook: $1,599
  • Dell Precision M2400: $1,547
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T400: $1,482

Lenovo is having a big sale at the moment (they always are), so that price is probably a bit lower than usual. Of course, the Dell Precision and the ThinkPad have a few higher-end options not available on the Macbook, like faster processors and up to 8 GB of RAM on the ThinkPad.

More importantly, if I bought the Macbook, I would have to buy a new scanner ($446) for use at home. Plus, since using GIMP on a Mac is incredibly painful, I would need to buy Photoshop, a $700 piece of software (or $300 with my teacher’s discount). And I am sure there are a couple of other things I am missing.

Advantage: Dell Precision and Lenovo ThinkPad.

Conclusion

So the final, unweighted score is:

  • Apple Macbook: 3
  • Dell Precision M2400: 3
  • Lenovo ThinkPad T400: 3

Not very helpful. Which leaves me where I started: unsure about which laptop I should buy. But in the end, I bought the Lenovo ThinkPad for a few reasons.

Mainly, it came down to price. When I added up the real cost of switching, the Apple Macbook was way too much. With necessary hardware and software purchases, it would have been nearly $1,000 more.

While the Dell Precision is not much more expensive than the ThinkPad, I was able to get an IBM Friends and Family discount on the ThinkPad, which allowed me to load it up with options, including a faster processor, bigger hard drive, and a four-year service plan, and still come in under $1,600 before taxes.

And I feel good about my decision when I consider the keyboard. Writing is what I do, so I need a keyboard I can write with. The Dell Precision’s keyboard would have been fine, I am sure, but the Apple Macbook’s keyboard is simply inadequate for me.

So those factors pushed the ThinkPad into the lead, and I am eagerly awaiting my ship date. The last few days of mooching computer time from my wife in the evenings have been awful!

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  • Will Geer

    I would have made the exact same choice, Sam. Personally, I feel that for computer-savvy folks, the operating system is just not that important. I spend 99% of my time on the computer online, so for me, my web browser pulls more weight than what OS I use. Sure, Mac OS X looks pretty and is easy to use, but there’s nothing I can’t do with Ubuntu that OS X can do. As far as software support, Windows wins hands down. The real reason I would not buy a Mac is the inability/impossibility to self-repair/upgrade. For a computer geek, that is instant disqualification. Besides, if you really want OS X, just install OS X on another laptop. There are plenty of guides online on how to build a Hackintosh.

  • I did forget one important category: customer service.

    Lenovo’s customer service is solid. They use American employees, as far as I can tell, and the turnaround time with their “depot” service has always been about 1 day for me. I have not felt the need for on-site service.

    Dell was once famous for customer service. Unfortunately, by the time my Inspiron was reaching the end of its life, I would have rather yanked out my fingernails than deal with Dell. Although I have heard that Dell has made strides in the right direction, I think I may have loudly sworn never to buy another Dell at some point.

    Apple’s customer service gets mixed reviews. I have dealt with it only once, and my experience was excellent. With that being all I have to go on, I will have to say:

    Advantage: ThinkPad and Macbook.

  • Randall Ryder

    Just when I thought you were going to join the good guys. Funny you rag on the Mac keyboard, because I cannot stand the Thinkpad keyboard. Writing my exams on those loaners is a tedious exercise for me.

    But, I suppose, given your other costs (scanner + pshop) you were doomed (I mean destined) to buy another IBM.

  • I suppose you get used to what you use.

    Every time I need a new laptop (well, that’s twice now), I try to convince myself to get a Mac. Every time, it ends up being a better idea in theory than in practice.

  • Lee

    Odd contortions for copy and paste…wow. There is now way any PC can hang with a mac period. If the 14″ is too small step up to the Macbook Pro, it’s a beast of a machine that can run anything you need.

    I regularly run my OCR software, Photoshop, browsers and more with no prob.

    If OS is your concern Parallels is fantastic for that. You can create a folder and instantly transfer between the 2 OSs.

    I’m a mac and I get ill thinking of a PC. Just had to chime in

  • The Macbook is nice. I thought I made my feelings clear on that point. But it just isn’t for me.

    You are dead wrong on speed, though. I will put Linux up against OS X for speed any day. And Windows 7 may be faster than both. It sure felt like it when I was testing all three (although OS X was running on faster hardware, it was still slower).

  • J

    “Odd contortions for copy and paste”

    I’ve no trouble using CCP on my aluminum macbook.

    My fingers never leave the trackpad.

    Easier and faster than Windows.

  • That is another thing I don’t like about Macbooks: the emphasis on the trackpad. I would much rather use the keyboard than keep switching from keys to trackpad.

    Using the trackpad is never faster than doing the same things with the keyboard alone.

  • Good decision on the T400! I have been making a similar decision to replace my T43. If you can get the Lenovo Affinity discount I don’t think there is another comparable laptop on the market. Especially if you have already made an investment in Windows software/hardware. Buying all the accessories for a mac pushed that dream away. If price wasn’t an option I’d buy a Macbook Pro and run Windows…
    I decided on the T500 instead of the T400 as I wanted the extra screen real estate and the extra 0.5kg doesn’t bother me. I’m now waiting for the right discount to appear on their site and I’ll snap one up:)

  • Before you get the T500, try to find one. They are huge. It isn’t just a half kilo. They are enormous, clunky, and heavy.

    I will report back on the T400’s size and weight tomorrow. I am hoping it stays close to my T43, which was just about perfect in those categories.

  • Granted – it looks huge compared to the T43, but compared to the T400 it’s not much of a consolation. I want the flexibility of displayport as well as the bigger screen. I’d probably go the T400 if I knew that I wasn’t going to regret not having displayport over the next 3 years… I’m considering a netbook for my wife to fill the ultra-portable space

    T400 Dimensions: 13.2″x10.6″x1.1-1.3″ (WxDxH)
    Weight: 4.7lb (4 cell) 5.0lb (6 cell) 5.4lb (9 cell)

    T500 Dimensions: 14.1″x10.0″x1.2-1.3″ (WxDxH)
    Weight: 5.8lb (6 cell) 6.2lb (9 cell)

    T43 Dimensions: 12.2″x10.0″x1.0-1.2″
    Weight: 4.9lb (6 cell)

  • However, I will take your advice and go to my nearest store before I submit my order… Its not quite the same trying to simulate the weight

  • Yeah, you really need to touch and feel them. I just got my T400, and while I am happy with it, it feels much thicker than my T43. Technically, it is only .1″ thicker, but it feels like much more than that. And it is at least a quarter inch thicker than my wife’s white Macbook.

  • Andrew

    I own both a unibody MacBook Pro and a ThinkPad T400, so I’d like to comment on your comparison and on the two machines.

    First off, the cut/copy/paste issue is pure bunk. What is the difference between Control-C and Command-C from a workflow standpoint? You don’t need the touchpad in OS X any more than you need the TrackPoint in Windows.

    Windows 7 speed, well, Windows 7 is still beta (release candidate). It is faster than Vista, but not by huge leaps and bounds. I have 7 installed on my MacBook Pro using bootcamp and have compared its speed to OS X ON THE SAME MACHINE, and it is a mixed bag. OS X takes longer to boot, but shuts down, sleeps and resumes much faster. Network shares open faster in Windows 7, but file transfers are faster in OS X. In the end, the speed differences are minor. Also, don’t forget that at about the same time Microsoft releases Windows 7 Apple will release Snow Leopard, which also promises significant speed gains. Call it a draw.

    Hardware wise, both are premium systems. Both are very well built, light weight for their size and both have EXCELLENT, though different-feeling keyboards. The MacBooks are much thinner because of the unibody case, but that thinness compromises versatility. You cannot swap out an optical drive for a second battery on a MacBook and there is no docking connector. The ThinkPads are thicker than the old ones because they have a magnesium rollcage under the motherboard and behind the LCD. Both are very strong, but I would probably give the edge to the ThinkPad for rough use.

    Finally, you mention battery life, and again I’d like to clarify. The MacBook or MacBook Pro will get better life from its standard battery than the ThinkPad, but the Apple machines have larger, 6 cell batteries. I get 5 hours on my MacBook Pro while my daughter gets 5.5 hours on her aluminum MacBook. On the T400, I get 4 hours on the standard battery. Of course, that standard battery is a 4 cell, smaller, lighter and with less juice than the 6 cell in the MacBooks. When I use my 9 cell I get 9 hours, which the MacBook Pro cannot touch. Add the ultrabay battery and it runs for about 13 hours.

    Both are outstanding machines, and anyone should be very happy with either of them.

  • I went thru the exact same exercise about 8 weeks ago, agonizing all the way, except I had a Sony in the lineup instead of the Dell (I’m a long-time sony laptop buyer). I have never owned a ThinkPad but read the reviews of the T43 and others. After nearly a month I finally heard my wife shout “oh, just make up your mind” and I ordered the ThinkPad T400. It arrived in about 10 days and I’ve been happy ever since. Everything you said about it is absolutely right. I did get the bigger SSD drive and more memory and an extra battery that is swappable with the dvd drive and which boosts the battery life considerably. It runs like a charm and the built-in keyboard light makes working at night easier without disturbing my wife in the evening. Now that I’ve had it a month or so, I wouldn’t go back to another brand and am totally satisfied.

  • Don’t forget that OSX runs on Unix and is inherently more secure and more versatile than any iteration of Windows.

  • Back when the new MacBook was released late 2008, I was the first on my block to buy one. Simply stated it was the most amazing laptop I have ever used. I ran Windows XP in boot camp. It was perfect. On April 10 I spilled some coffee on my desk and it washed over the keyboard. The screen sputtered out. I took it to my local Apple Store. They sent it in for repair. Within two days they called to say it was DOA and they would not repair it. $1,700.00 down the drain for 6 months use. One would think Apple would build a computer a little more resistant to liquid since it is marketed to a younger segment that spends lots of time in coffee shops online.

    This computer is just too delicate for use in a work environment. It was really cool. I replaced it with a new Compaq Presario I bought at a discount club for $379.00. This one has a rubber membrane under the keyboard.

  • Leo

    Odd contortions to copy and paste on a Mac?

    Let’s compare:
    Windows Machine- Control + C and Control + V
    Mac – Command + C and Command + V

    Useless dock? Granted, I rarely use my dock, but only because I use Quicksilver. With a simple keystroke, I can open up any program on my computer.

    Software: There are hundreds of free open-source software programs for Macs. Example: Like word? NeoOffice does most of the same things, for free. Also, you can save anything as a word file.

    Of course, Macs are a bit pricey, but I think, overall, you end up with a superior product in terms of usability.

    I used to be a PC person as well, but I am glad I made the switch.

  • Yes, copy and paste require only two keys on both computers. But they require different keys. Cmd is a thumb key, unless I move my hand or use both hands. Either disrupts my typing far more than hitting Ctrl with my pinky on a Windows or Linux layout.

    It is a small matter, but an annoyance.

    I also use a keystroke launcher. Quicksilver is nice, but Launchy (Win) and Gnome-Do (Ubuntu/Linux) do the job just as well. In fact, I believe keystroke launchers originated with Katapult on KDE/Linux, for the record.

    In any case, I am happy with my choice. My ThinkPad is rock solid. The 6-cell battery gives me a good 3.5 hours. I also am happy I got the 14.1″ screen. Just a bit bigger than a MacBook, but not too big, like the 15.4″ MacBook Pro.

    Vista isn’t so bad. I have been forcing myself to live with it, and since I have ample storage and processing power, I actually like it. I will definitely upgrade to Win7, though. Based on my extensive use of the beta, Win7 suits me better than OS X. And maybe even better than Ubuntu.

  • N Slade

    As I said numerous times in the office, just because you are too rigid in your old age to learn to use a different keyboard shouldn’t be a strike against Mac. Also, I don’t know what or how you cut and paste things, but when I cut and paste things, I have to move my hands off their keypad orientation in order to highlight what ever it is I am going to cut and then move the curser to where ever it is I intend to paste, so the pinky versus thumb thing is your own. If you are actually doing this from the laptops trackpad rather than a mouse, I would rate the new Mac Multi Touch track pad very highly.
    Ultimately a lot of this comes down to your own subjective feel of things.

    As to Windows 7, my feeling is how many strikes does Microsoft get?

  • Andrew Russell

    I recently ordered a T400 from the Lenovo Outlet (holy crap that was cheap – $1127 for a 2.53, 4GB RAM, 64 GB SSD). It hasn’t arrived yet, but I’ve recently been having second thoughts about the size. How would you characterize the size difference between the T43 and the T400? Is the T400 noticeably larger? Is it a pain to carry? How annoying are the big gaps between the keyboard and the edges and the screen and the edges? I have a T42 right now, and I think it is just about the perfect size.

    Also, some notes: I disagree about the Apple keyboard. I used a Macbook for about 2 years (before going back to the T42) and I think the keyboard was just as good. The key travel was much shorter, but still very clicky, which led to very fast typing. I type the same speed on both, according totypingtest.com (about 80-90 wpm), but my hands get much more tired on a T42 keyboard because of the extra force required. Plus, there is the weird effect where your fingers catch the edge of the keys on the Thinkpad (which doesn’t happen on the Macbook). Overall, I’d say either keyboard could be great for most people.

    Also, as far as copy-paste, the Thinkpad’s keyboard has the Ctrl key in the wrong place, which also requires a bit of getting used to.

  • Jim Scarff

    I recently made the same comparison (mid-May 2009), and ended up with the T400. I’ve loved small Thnkpads in the past (particularly the keyboard), but disliked the dim screen. This time I got the Hi-Nit LCD backlit screen which is VERY bright (I haven’t tried it outdoors yet, but if any laptop is readable outdoors, this one is). What was the deal-clincher for me was: (1) the discount offered to members (and non-members for all I could tell) of the California State Bar (www.lenovo.com/calbarconnect) and, in particular the (2) icons – “Additional Savings” then “Special Offers” which yield dramatic savings ($300-400) off the sale & discounted prices already on the site. I got a T400 w/ 4GB RAM, 320 GB HD, DVD/CD R/W, fingerprint reader, 9 cell battery & many upgrades + MS Office Basic for $1,300 + tax when the “sale” price for such a configuration was $2,000+! It just came yesterday, and so far I’m quite happy with it.

  • @Andrew: Don’t cancel the order. While the T400 is slightly larger than the T42/3, it is still a very compact laptop. I am perfectly happy with the size, especially since most of the extra .1″ is from the magnesium rollcage, which makes the whole thing feel very solid and stiff.

  • This whole article is biased toward the Lenovo. How much time did you spend running your firm on OSX before shooting it down? Seems to work just fine for me…and I have no complaints about the dock!

    Stop shilling for WinTel and give us a real review!

  • It is biased towards the Lenovo because that is the computer I liked best, after considering all the options. I have tried giving Macs and OS X the benefit of the doubt, but they don’t work as well for me.

  • Whatever you say, Sam. I agree with Chris.

    It’s clear, since you decided to buy a computer running Windows, that you are a shill for Bill Gates and his evil Microsoft monopoly.

    If you weren’t a sell-out, you would advocate for Mac, as all good people are Mac people and all bad people are you! Shill!

  • Chris just acknowledged, offline, that he is an Apple fanboy.

    I will post pics of Steve Jobs in a Darth Vader helmet shortly.

  • eugene

    well, i have been using lenovo t400 for the past 3 months and i’m very happy with it. I have no reason to change brand for the coming laptop.

    what so special about OS X? i believe window can also carry out what OS X does… no reason for me to switch OS :>

  • In defense of my preference for a keyboard that does not require a two-key combination to forward delete, Lenovo just enlarged the Delete key because it found it was one of the most-commonly-used non-letter keys.

  • zak89

    Good comp. I think I would have gone with the Dell, simply because I like their customer service (their business support is excellent, despite the accents ;) ).

    However, I noticed one loophole that might have swung your favor back to the Dell.

    You chose the Precision 2400 as the Dell contender. However, that model actually just a Latitude E6400 with a fancy lid and extra graphic card options. The Precision is a mobile workstation (with an emphasis on 3D/CAD), and competes with the likes of Lenovo’s W series (whereas the Latitude E6x00 and E5x00s compete with Lenovo’s T and R series, respectively).

    Since the the Precisions command a $500-$600 premium over their Latitude siblings, you could easily have out-spec’d the Thinkpad T400 with a Latitude E6400 for the same price.

    I have found that identically spec’d Latitde E6x00’s and Thinkpad Txxx’s generally come out in Dell’s favour by at least $200, and that’s with a backlit keyboard + 3 year warranty on the Dell versus the stock one year warranty on the Thinkpad (when the warranty comes into play, the difference can easily reach $500, and you have to give up that awesome backlit keyboard).

    Just some thoughts. I think the match is a bit uneven here becuase, as I said, the Thinkpad T series and the Dell Precision are two different classes of machines.

  • Price was not the deciding factor for me between the Dell and Lenovo. It was my experience with my last Lenovo vs. my experience with my last Dell.

    I actually had awful customer service from Dell, while I have had consistently excellent customer service from Lenovo. And while my last ThinkPad was nearly indestructible, my last Dell literally fell apart several times.

  • Yehia

    Alright guys, I have to say thank you to sam glover, funny enough I was in the exact same position as you and for the past 6 days i’ve been confused between T400 and precision, I made my decesion, im going for the T400.

  • Fred Jabs

    I would just like to add, that ‘Buyer beware’ is the order of the day when speccing SSD’s in these machines if they are an option. Only a small handful (hic), of SSD’s offer improved performance over the better hard drives available…and guess what, Apple and Lenovo aren’t using them.

    Unless you physically go and purchase an Intel X performance SSD or the better offerings from Corsair, OCZ and Samsung then the best advice is to avoid the SSD offering from OEM’s. They may offer performance gains over the cheapest drive Apple can get that week off Seagate or WD which usually spins at 4200 rpm or 5400rpm and has poor aureal density, small amounts of cache (but large capacity to woo the consumer), but it will be a poor relation to high performance (and not high cost I might add) drives like the WD Scorpio black 7200 and Seagate Momentus 7200.4.

    As the hard drive is often the slowest part of the chain of operational parts on a laptop it makes no sense to spec up fast Core 2 or even Core i7 or the older Core 2 Quad 45nm (some firms are offering both of these now), if the hard drive is going to be the weak link.

    Often slower processors specced with faster hard drives can offer greater all round performance than faster processors with slug like 4200rpm drives, like the ones Apple were palming off on consumers in a certain vintage of Macbook Pro’s. The Aureal density wasn’t great either (Samsung has recently showed with the F2 range, even a 5400rpm drive can be fast be high AD) because of the platter arangement.

    Large firms don’t spec up HDD’s by brand or performance, but but by price and size. If Seagate budget 250gb is cheaper than WD budget one week, you can see performance differences week to week, depending on when your machine was made.

  • Yasser

    Thanks for the review, I was waiting for my dad to come home so i could use his credit card to order my T400 when i started having doubts and started having second thoughts. I started thinking of getting the mac but the review changed my mind again. I’m going to order the T400 as soon as my dad gets home. By the way they have a 25% sale + the code discount.I just saved $589.35 on a $1621 laptop.

  • I dropped my laptop the other night. It bounced edge-on off the coffee table and hit the floor. It was at least a 4-foot fall, with a bounce in the middle.

    It woke right up from sleep, and no damage to the screen. It worked just fine. The case cracked a bit where it hit the edge of the coffee table (the aluminum Macbook surely would have dented), but that was about it. This laptop is tough as heck. My wife (a Macbook user) reminded me this is why I am not allowed to buy anything but a ThinkPad.

    I have accident protection, because I know I am a klutz, so I sent it in to repair the cosmetic damage. It was about 36 hours from the time the box (which Lenovo sent) left my office to the time it came back, repaired. Excellent service once again.

  • Stephen

    All the posts on this page did nothing but changed my mind: I’ve been having this agonizing process of deciding between T400 and MacBook Pro, and I’m probably back to T400. Well, I would’ve ordered an Apple in a couple of days if it were not for these posts.

    Sam, could you compare T400 and MacBook Pro’s screens under Windows condition? I love taking photos so the screen matters to me. But I hear that Mac’s screen works pretty disappointing under Windows, so I was hoping that you could give some input regarding that. Thanks~

  • I haven’t had a chance to compare the two screens with both machines running Windows. The Macbook Pros have beautiful screens, although you have to pay extra for a matte finish. The glossy finish is all glare.

    I like my ThinkPad screen just fine, but I am hardly a connoisseur of fine screens. I have glanced at some reviews, and my impression is that while some people swear by the ThinkPad screens, the Macbook Pro screens are consistently top-end.

    Also, the Macbook Pro feels significantly larger than the T400 if you compare them side-by-side. It is not thicker, just bigger overall.

  • Stephen

    Thanks for you info, Sam. There’s one more thing I’d like to ask: compared to T400, is the Mac’s screen size apparantly smaller? I’m hoping to use this laptop as my only computer, so it’s important not to have a screen so small that discomforts my eyes.

  • mike

    Interesting to come across this- I’m also agonizing over the choice between a Macbook pro and a T400.

    For my $2000, I can get a 3GHz t400 with 8 GB of ram and a solid state HD versus a 2.8 GHz Macbook with 4 GB of ram and a conventional HD. The graphics and display are nicer on the macbook.

    I’ve always been a PC person. People tell me that the macbook outperforms its specs, though. I am feeling this pull to see for myself… Mac users seem to all agree that macs are faster and that they age better. Is it because there’s something to be unanimous about or is it, as we PC users fear, a massive cult phenomenon?

    I remember when ipods first came out. Good Mp3 players already existed from a bunch of different brands. Apple created a cool, robust, but not particularly better product. The thinkpad/macbook comparison smells just like this to me… muvo vs. ipod, blackberry vs. iphone, etc. The apple product is way cooler in each case, but in each case hiding behind the delusion that apple had re-invented the whole concept was the same technology with a little more style and a novel interface.

  • @Stephen: I notice the difference between the Macbook’s 13.3″ screen and my ThinkPad’s 14.1″ screen, but it is not a big difference. I would not let that be the deciding factor unless every pixel is important to you.

    @mike: I do not think Macs are all show, but they won’t make up for 1 GHz and 4 GB of RAM. They are undeniably good computers, and very pretty, but I do not think a Macbook is any better than a ThinkPad, just different.

  • Matt

    I randomly came across this page, I’m facing a similiar dilemma. I’m trying to choose between the T400, the Samsung q320, and the dell 14z. The stuff the t400 doesnt have that the others do: HDMI, 14z has backlit keyboard (but no optical drive), as well the samsung has ddr2 memory instead of ddr3. All the other specs are more or less the same, p8700 (2.53), 9400M (samsung and dell) vs 3470 on the t400, and the t400 rocks in battery life. Any suggestions?

  • Tom

    I just got a thinkpad T400s, which is thin and light, less 4lbs. It’s good, just it looks like a little ugly. Apple mac is amazing. However I need a 14″ screen. Before the thinkpad T400s, I use dell, the temperature control is bad for my dell laptop. And the thinkpad t400s is not very expensive. Mac pro 15″ is beyond my budget and heavy than thinkpad T400s. So it’s okay, just looks ugly.

  • Anon

    I have a T400. It is awesome. It’s amazing how cool it runs at peak CPU utlization. Built very well. Mine has a 14″ WXGA+ CCEL displays.

    I alos will get my hands on a dell e6400 with a WXGA+ LED display in a week. Unless the display is significantly better and other are things i have a feeling i will end up keeping the T400.

  • Rip Rowan

    I tried out a MacBook 15″ and punted. It’s a beautiful machine, but in the end, I live in Windows (whether I like it or not) and it was too expensive just to be a Windows machine.

    I purchased a T400 / 2.8 GHZ Core2 Duo / 8GB RAM / 320 GB 7200 RPM drive / WXGA+ LED display / etc. and love it. In my purchase I got the ultrabay adapter for a 2nd hard drive and a dock. I dropped a Crucial 128GB SSD (250MB/s read / 200MB/s write) into the machine as the main drive, installed Win7 RTM on it, and put the 320 GB in the second bay as a data drive.

    Folks, this machine is *HELLAFAST* Total system price incl. dock and SSD $1800.

    Beat that, Apple.

    The dock is perfect – one button and I’m on the road, and don’t have to move my power cord. Drop the computer into the dock, and all my USB, sound, and video devices are immediately connected.

    Beat that, Apple.

    And, @Bill, if I spill a latte into the Lenovo, it will drain out from the bottom leaving the computer undamaged.

    Beat that, Apple.

    I <3 my Lenovo.

  • Rip Rowan

    @Anon – I 2nd the heat comment – even when the CPU is maxed the machine produces amazingly little heat. I am rendering an HD video as I type and the fan is slow and the computer is silent. By comparison the Mac and the two Dells I tried got VERY hot even under light loads.

  • Tommy

    I recently (yesterday) purchased a very well equipped T400 w/t9600 2.83ghz & 6mb fsb, 14.1 WXGA+ LED screen, 3gigs of ram and XP Pro, 160g 7200rpm HD (solid state still to expensive) and few other bells and whistles, with the holiday sale and an additional 15% off I payed a very decent price. My first choice really was the 13.3 macbook pro but the thought of having to spend more $ on software deterred me. I am an office manager/blogger and do some volunteer work doing graphic design and love to edit my own photos so publisher in office 03 pro and photoshop are 2 programs I’m not willing to lose so I stayed with windows. After the shock of spending $1300 dollars on myself a week before x-mas I figured while I still could cancel the order without penalty I should do some final research to know whether I made a good decision or not. After comparing my t400 with personal configurations I could not find anything from Dell or HP that met the specs in my T400 and matched the price point. I am anxious for it to arrive so that I can really test it out. I consider myself an educated buyer and would like to know how your T400 is holding up?

  • Mine is holding up great. This was the only hitch. I upgraded to Windows 7 without incident, and I am glad I chose as I did.

  • Tommy

    did you upgrade to windows 7 32bit or 64 bit? and how is 7 at running older 32bit programs? I’m running an older software photoshop 7.0 and Office 2003 Professional I figure as I make the upgrades in software that can run native on 64 bit systems I’ll plan the upgrade to win 7 but also I do some light network management in my office and all our systems are running XP so i figure it was just safer to stay with XP, I’m not really sure how upgrading to windows 7 would be an issue since my system tech came with it but I don’t know yet I haven’t even received it yet

  • I upgraded from 32bit Vista to 64bit Win7. Everything is running smoothly, including both 32bit and 64bit software.

    It does not always wake from sleep smoothly, but I have had that problem with every Windows computer I have owned. Every time you restart or sleep, it’s a crap shoot whether it will boot up or wake up again.

  • AlvinZane

    I had Toshibia SatPro (2.20/4gig) that I sold because it was two years old (worked great) and thought I need a MacPro (2.40/3gig). BIG MISTAKE…every time I wanted to do do something with it I was nickel and dime’d to death! Or the software I wanted to use wouldn’t work with OX10, so I split the hard drive and loaded WinXP on the other side with OX10 on the previous half…did this on the suggestion of the MacHous folks that sold it to me. (I’m already at more than $2000 total here.) After a myriad of problems that required me to sign up for MAC for-fee tech help, I finally found out that the hard drive partition with WinXP will still not run all MS programs flawlessly…..was told that by the MAC for FEE tech help person.
    After pulling out the few hairs I had left, I ordered a ThinkPad T400 7417 and am very happy with it.
    Oh the MacPro….well I had the opportunity to go on a ski trip to the Alps with a group of mine. It would have cost me about $2500 for the basics and probably a little more after I had the first beer. So instead, I took the MacPro out to the skeet range and launched it off a modified clay thrower. Was able to get three shots into it with Goose load. That total was about $2600 with MacPro expenses and trap fees, however, the enjoyment of “blowing the living hell out of it” was far more enjoyable and therapeutic than the ski trip would have been. NEVER WILL BUY ANOTHER APPLE PRODUCT!

  • Tommy

    Ok so I’m a little upset with Lenovo! I still haven’t received my t400 yet. The expected ship date was delayed from 12/31/09 till 1/5/10 due to me changing my order on 12/24/10 to WIN7 x64 and upping it to 4gig of ram. I called yesterday to check the status since I hadn’t rec’d a tracking # and I was informed that it was due to ship this week. I figured ok its an estimated ship date nothing to get my feathers ruffled over. Today I go to check my order status and the estimated shipping date is now 1/13/10. I being a true and true NYer flipped out. They had the nerve to tell me I was the reason for the delay because I changed my order stating that the change didn’t go through till today. Finally after speaking to the sales dept and going over the fact that I rec’d confirmation that they were able to change the order and that was what delayed it till the 5th. After explaining myself for an hour or 2 my order was pushed to critical status and I got a free sleeve from my pain and suffering. This laptop better be all its cracked up to be since Lenovo’s customer service is now ranked with Apple’s to me.

  • Greg George

    Just a few things on your excellent posting:

    – Using VirtualBox I am running Ubuntu, SuSE and Fedora Core with no issues at all. They run at virtually full speed and do everything I need to do. VIrtualBox is free and allows you to run almost anything on your Mac including Windoze and BSD.

    – Software: There are many software packages that are now running native on OSX including Gimp. Look around before looking at another software program because someone probably has ported it already. As far as your scanner, look at the company website because most have realized that Apple is gaining considerable ground and selling lots of computers. It is stupid for them to now write drivers.

    – Keyboards: Lenovo used to have the best keyboards but I have been reading that the quality has been slipping. The keyboards do not have the bracing that they used to and the keys are flexing much more than they ever did. This is sad because Thinkpads had the best keyboards on the planet. I am very curious to know what the blogger things when he gets his new computer. Note that Apple does not have a great keyboard but the lighting is very nice in a dark airplane at night.

    Greg

  • Lenovo did a lot of buttressing between the first T400s and the one I bought. I haven’t experienced any flex.

    However, I will say that while the keyboard is nice and firm, it just does not feel quite as solid as the keyboard on my old T43 did.

    After 8 months with my T400, though, I am quite happy with it. Macs are nice, but they are not for me. I am too particular about my hardware and software, and Macs just don’t have what I want. Besides, I am quite sure my ThinkPad would outlast a Mac in any torture test.

  • Cleve

    I am also in a similar situation as the author and am looking for a new laptop. I would describe my needs to be exactly as his and I’m glad I stumbled upon this blog.

    From the in-depth comparisons I believe I would get a T400 as it has the option for a very formidable ATI 3470 (slightly better than the 9400M in the Macbook), the better keyboard (thanks for pointing out the missing Delete, Home, End keys) and an anti-glare display. On top of all that, the coupon deals that you can get from Lenovo can allow you to spec up your laptop very well for a good price.

  • Graziano

    @Greg George
    The keyboard problem you are talking about is related to the first batch of lenovo thinkpad t400. Read the last point here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ThinkPad#Criticism

    Immediately they recognized the problem and solved it.
    This is a company, well done Lenovo!