Academic Toolkit: ThinkPad x260

If, in an alternative dimension, I did product reviews, I'd think they'd look like this. 

There are a lot of general consumer review sites so I will not replicate what they do.  Instead I am going to review my new Lenovo Thinkpad X260 in terms of how it fits an academic life-style and working habits. The ThinkPad range is Lenovo's business aimed line and not to be confused with their cheaper laptops.

Black is the new black - if you want sleek good looks then you are looking in the wrong place.

Black is the new black - if you want sleek good looks then you are looking in the wrong place.

As a management academic, I tend to live in MS office, Nvivo and also light use of Android Studio and Lightroom. I have a desktop machine at home and this is my portable solution. If you do want to consider this as a sole device, you can get a dock for it so that at home it instantly connects to a monitor, external keyboard etc. 

For academic purposes, I think the key reason you should consider this laptop (and why I picked it over a macbook) are:

* Excellent battery life - I get about 15 hours on medium brightness with the six cell battery. Yes you read that right, 15 hours. This is because the ThinkPad has a swappable external battery and an internal battery. I don't charge it for two or three days at a time. If I am going away for a weekend break, I don't bother with the charger at all. For conferences, this means that when out and about, I'm not searching for power or having to carry the extra weight. During term, I can go from class to class with no worries about power. In two years or so if needed, I can simply replace the external battery. 

The battery life is fantastic.

The battery life is fantastic.

* Good keyboard - the keyboard on this device is excellent with a good range of travel. Yes the Macbook is thinner but the trade-off is in the feel of the keyboard. I can type for hours on this beast. I should also point out that due to the design of the x260 if you spill anything on the keyboard, it drains straight through. The keyboard also lights up if you like that sort of thing. 

The keyboard has a lovely feel to it - I can write for hours on it with no problems. 

The keyboard has a lovely feel to it - I can write for hours on it with no problems. 

* Ports - yes,yes I know you can get an adaptor for the Macbook but this thing has three USBs (one you can use to charge other devices - handy at the airport), Ethernet, SD, HDMI, Display port and has a VGA adaptor in the box. VGA is an old standard but you just know that when you rock up to give a talk, the one connection will be a VGA one. My university is slowing moving more and more rooms to HDMI but I think it will be a while until VGA completely dies out in the sector. 

* Fingerprint reader - I initially didn't think this would be much of a benefit but academics are 'corridor warriors' going from meeting to meeting. This is really useful because I open the lid, slide my finger over the reader and away we go. It's a little thing but on a daily basis is a neat little touch.

* Connectivity - You might not want or need this but I can put a data simcard in this device and use it with no other devices or without wifi. If you are using this on wifi, you can turn it into a hotspot for other devices to connect to.

* Upgradability - I don't actually plan to do this for the moment but it's fairly easy for the user to upgrade the RAM, hard-drive etc - something that a lot of thinner laptops have made harder if not impossible...

* Toughness - I throw my laptops around, the Lenovo is designed to meet Milspec - for academic purposes this thing will take a beating (and a glass of wine on the keyboard - see below). People who buy Thinkpads tend to stick to them for that reason.

 

So when considering a new laptop, I'd certainly recommend looking at the Thinkpad - with academic discounts and a few voucher codes I got it for £770 with a three year onsite (they come to me) warranty. I went for a midrange spec but many people could get away with the base spec. Now you might be reacting to the price but find that the reason that people have such terrible experiences with Windows Laptops is that they spend £250 on a consumer grade laptop and wonder why the experience isn't as good as a £1000 macbook...  

The specification of my device for people who care is:

- Intel Core i5-6200U Processor (3MB Cache, up to 2.80GHz)
- Windows 10 Home 64
- 12.5 FHD IPS (1920 x 1080) Non-Touch
- 8GB DDR4-2133 SODIMM
- Intel HD Graphics 520
- Software TPM & Hardware dTPM
- Keyboard Backlit - English UK
- UltraNav (TrackPoint and ClickPad) with Fingerprint Reader
- Software TPM Enabled
- 720p HD Camera
- 192 GB Solid State Drive, SATA3
- 3 Cell Li-Ion Battery 23.2WH Front
- 6 Cell Li-Ion Battery 72WH Cylindrical Rear
- 45W AC Adapter - UK(3pin)
- Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC(2x2) 8260, Bluetooth Version 4.1
- Integrated Mobile Broadband
- Mini DP/VGA Adapter
- Think 3 Year On-site