Sold my Lenovo, Bought Macbook Pro

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After using my Lenovo ThinkPad 13 for 7 months, I decided to sell it away. I came back to the Mac. When it was announced at this year’s WWDC that Apple is going to refresh the entire Macbook Pro line with the new Kaby Lake processors, I just could not resist it. I put my Lenovo ThinkPad 13 on Carousell and within minutes I had several offers of wanting to buy my 7-month old laptop. I barely even started to do a factory reset of my laptop including file backup when I started receiving several offers online. I sold the Lenovo within 2 hours, ordered the new 13 inch MacBook Pro (without Touchbar) online and within 2 days, it arrived at my doorstep.

Now, as I type this entry, I am already using my new Macbook Pro. So what were my first impressions?

Right off the bat, you are immediately struck by the beauty of this device. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The level of workmanship and design meticulousness is, to this day, unrivalled.  The Macbook Pro is a work of art, truly. When I opened the laptop and switched it on for the very first time, the next thing you noticed was how gorgeous the screen is. Colour just pops, everything is super sharp and it is really really bright when you max out the brightness setting.

That is the two most prominent feature I noticed the moment I started unboxing the laptop.

I am no stranger to using the Mac. My last laptop was the classic MacBook Air. Back then, it was considered a revolutionary device, known for its ultra portability and thinness that competing brands found it hard to replicate with grace.

But now, the Macbook Air has adopted some of the design principles of what made Macbook Air so great. You now get a far more powerful computer, but none of the added bulk, with a great, sharp, colourful screen to boot.

I got the non-TouchBar version. I figured that it is still largely a gimmicky feature that, while it adds some useful functions depending on the application that you are using, I am still not convinced that it would increase my productivity in incorporating the use of the TouchBar in my daily workflow. Add to the fact that a majority of reviewers on YouTube lamented the fact that they themselves don’t use the TouchBar extensively and you are better off saving a few hundred dollars and get the non-TouchBar version. They assured viewers of those reviews that you are not missing out on anything fundamentally important with regards to how you use the laptop.

I still cannot believe that I have a new laptop in my hands. Apple just announced the new refresh MacBook Pros and here it is right in front of my just days later. There are a few more accessories that I have ordered recently that have yet to arrive. One, is a sleeve by Tomtoc to safely store my laptop away and inside my backpack for use outside. Second, is a Thunderbolt 3 hub that would give me access to USB slots, SD card slots and additional Thunderbolt connections. Right now I cannot connect any peripherals to my laptop because none of them uses either the USB-C or Thunderbolt connections. I will have to wait for the dongle hub to arrive.

Adieu Macbook Pro.

For years I have always wanted a Macbook Pro. What started out as an experiment, plungin myself into the whole Mac OS ecosystem many years ago starting with the Mac Mini, slowly evolved into something more powerful, more mobile to the Macbook Air. As my needs changes over the years, so does the products that are required to meet my needs.

The Mac Mini and Macbook Air are both excellent computing devices. It was the first time I felt that art and technology can coexist peacefully. Something so beautiful can be at the same time be so practical. And the design philosophy behind those two products have no equals. And for many years I believed that.

The new Macbook Pro that was recently released violently shifted my paradigm. No doubt, Apple continues to release excellently designed products. Sleek, and minimalistic with a keen eye in the tiniest detail. But sadly, the new Macbook Pros were unable to meet my needs, much less my budget. There are criticisms to the new models, and they are all valid in my opinions. Things like the lack of ports, the absurd use of mutiple dongles, the questionable usefulness of a TouchBar, and the overall price increase of those new models were all aspects that were very much criticised.

And it was from then on that it made me realise that it is time for me to depart from the MacOS ecosystem and embrace Microsoft Windows once again.

It took me a while to come to grasp, especially in finding a worthy replacement to my aging MacBook Air. Actually, I would have been fine without a laptop. I am having loads of fun with my DIY gaming rig. But because I am going back to school, I forsee that I would need a portable laptop for school assignments and also work from time to time. But buying a whopping S$3000 on a MacBook Pro, just for my part-time studies is just too much for me. It was hard initially to change my perception on the overall quality of Windows laptop. For a long while, I have held to the belief that Windows laptop are far inferior than what Mac as to offer. This actually remains true. When it comes to design, nothing beats the MacBook Pro. Design wise, it is still widely lauded and a benchmark for all other laptop to aspire to. Thinner, longer battery life, powerful. And it is only recently that certain models from certain laptop companies are slowly hitting that benchmarks. They are not exact copies of the MacBook Pro or Air counterparts, but they are close in achieving the feel and look of Mac laptops that many people just love.

So I had to spend time to have a close look at what the market was offering. It was tedious to go through so many different Windows laptop. A majority of them were still very inferior. But a handful of them was quite well design.

But the tricky part was to find a good balance between finding a Windows ultrabook that is relatively thin, light, with long battery life and packing a fairly powerful CPU without bursting my budget.

It is only then I came across the Lenovo Thinkpad 13. Out in the wild, during my search, came up Lenovo. Lenovo, best known for business laptops. Chunky by design on most models, nothing worth lauding about. Its just a business laptop. Black, plastic, nothing to wow at. But I had to be realistic here. I had to find the perfect balance between price, weight and performance. Thinkpad 13 was the best I could find. And a good find it was. At just S$930, this laptop actually pack quite a punch. Intel Core i5 Skylake, 256GB SSD, 8GB RAM, 13inch IPS display, all day battery life. A middling spec of a computer but at a terrific price. The best aspect about the Thinkpad13 (and for most of Lenovo’s laptops) is the keyboard. Its an absolute joy to type on. Great travel distance and just the right size and distance between keys, typing on the keyboard is both accurate and fast. I dont think I have used a more comfortable keyboard on a laptop before.

So there you have it. It looks like a laptop from the 90s, but at least it’s cheap, reliable, sturdy enough to bring around in your bag, respectable battery life and just works.

I think Lenovo has opened my eyes to the possibilities that other laptop makers can be just as good when it comes to designing terrific laptops. I also came to realise that there are laptops out there that ticked all the right boxes for your needs, and it need not have to be expensive at all.

 

Lenovo Thinkpad 13 + Aer Fit Pack = Perfect

The Aer Fit Pack and the Thinkpad 13 is a perfect combination. The laptop is relatively light, coming at 13 inches and fits snugly into the laptop compartment of my Aer Fit Pack. I brought my laptop to work to see how the bag would feel on my back when I carry my laptop with me, and with the added weight, it still feels comfortable using the bag. I have yet to fully load up the bag with my running shoes and running clothes, towels, water bottle and shower foam. I would be a little bulky in the end, but I doubt all those extras would significant add to the overall weight that I would be carrying to school. Afterall, my new New Balance shoes are pretty light, and all I would be bringing next is a pair of running shorts, and dri-fit t-shirt for running with a small tower and a small bottle of shower foam to shower after a run.

All in all, I am almost ready to start school in January.

Lenovo Thinkpad 13

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As with any other big purchases I have made, I make sure that I do my research thoroughly. The research phase is especially important when it comes to buying electronics and gadgets like computers, laptops and mobile devices. There is a huge range o choices to make and one can easily get paralysed in simply deciding the best for one’s needs.

So it comes as no surprise that finding the ideal laptop for school (which I am starting my Master’s Degree in January) requires a lot of research. So many factors to choose from, so my conflicting priorities, so many laptops out there. Do I want to choose a thin and light laptop at a cost of battery life? Or do I want a powerful laptop with all the bells and whistles that costs a ton and compromise on weight? Am I willing to spend that much just so that I could get a nice looking laptop, or do I simply need a cheap and simple one that would just get me by during lectures and writing assignments?

It’s easy to just go with the best reviewed ones and pay the premium. After all, the most sought after laptops are the one that ticked all the right boxes when it comes to battery life, performances, weight, durability and design. But if you carefully analyse your needs, you soon realise that there are other laptops out there that may perform just as good, if not better at a fraction of the price and still meet all your needs.

Take my purchase decision in getting a Lenovo Thinkpad 13 for example. Initially, I would never have imagined that I would get a Lenovo laptop. I never liked the design. It’s too traditional, plasticky, and very business-like in design. I set my mind on a Dell XPS 13 which has been touted time and time again as the laptop to get under the Windows platform. Dell really set the bar high. But there was something about the laptop that was gnawing at the back of my head: Price.

Yes it’s true, that if you want the best, expect to pay a premium. While the Dell XPS 13 suited my needs perfectly – its portable, light, comes with a great screen and awesome battery life – I sought to challenge myself, if I could find one that closely resembles what I was looking for, at a fraction of the price.

So off I went, scouring through various websites, looking at catalog after catalog of various laptops, reading reviews, analysing the pros and cons, readjusting my priorities and needs.

Price was a huge factor this time round. The last laptop I owned was a MacBook Air. It was quite expensive, but not exorbitantly so. My priority at the time was longevity and durability. I needed to use that laptop for 4 years during my undergrad studies and it paid off. It was a wise decision to get that laptop. For a premium, you get a device that lasts really long and performed really well. And the MacBook Air is still running strong. Now my dad uses it and loves it.

For my grad studies, I needed something simpler. It’s just a two-year Master’s course. I just needed a laptop that could do simple productivity work using Word, Powerpoint or Excel. I needed battery life to be decent. I don’t need a super high resolution screen, or a super accurate, high contrast monitor. What I do need is a comfortable keyboard, easy to type on and a fairly accurate trackpad. I need a laptop that performs well enough, boots up fast enough, at least an SSD installed. And all these features I need, must not cost more that the cost of the Dell XPS 13. And none of my needs mentioned above placed design and aesthetics high on the list. Upon reflection, I came to realise that I don’t really need a laptop that turns peoples head and grab their attention. That is where I found my ideal laptop.

The Thinkpad 13 is perfect. 13 inch screen at Full HD resolution. Perfect. Screen brightness is average but meet my needs perfectly. Battery life is long enough for the whole day, provided I just use simple applications and light web surfing, which is what I intend to do on this laptop, not to play games or run complex tasks and programs on it. Keyboard is astounding. I have heard numerous times that Lenovo keyboards are some of the best and it rings true. I have felt or typed on a more comfortable keyboard in my entire life (at least on a laptop) As I am writing this, I am typing on my Lenovo Thinkpad 13 and it is just splendid. Fingerprint scanner for logging into Windows is a bonus and the trackpad is fine enough that didn’t leave me terribly annoyed by its inaccuracies or unresponsiveness. I would prefer the keyboard to be backlit, but its a minor inconvenience, one that I can live without. It’s running on a Core i5 Skylake processor, not some underpowered coreM, has a DDR4 RAM (that’s right DDR4), 8GB of it, which is more than enough for my needs and it comes with a 256GB SSD. For me, it doesn’t matter what kind of SSD its inside, so long as its an SSD. I don’t need the superfast kind, just fast enough to boot windows without the time it takes to make coffee. I/O wise, it has 3 USB 3.0 ports, an SD card slot, USB-C, which is a amazing and HDMI out. It’s ports galore! Oh, did I mention that the Thinkpad 13 is MilSpec certified, meaning it pass military specifications when it comes to surviving rugged and rough treatments, like shock, and dust exposure? Thinkpad 13 is rugged. Rugged enough to be handled, transferred and used outdoors in rugged conditions.

All these specs came at just S$930. Yes its under S$1000. Originally, it costs around S$1300. But because I am going back school, I took advantage of Lenovo’s student pricing and got it down S$1030. Timing was perfect. SITEX was just around the corner in Singapore and they announced further discounts on select laptop models. On the Thinkpad 13, it went down to $930. I immediately ordered online the moment the price went down further. That was how I got the Thinkpad 13 at just S$930. It’s a steal.

So far as of this writing, I have used the Thinkpad 13 for a couple of hours and I am loving it. Typing is absolute bliss, which would definitely help in my future writing assignments during school. It’s light enough that I can tolerate bringing it around in my backpack, and overall looks really minimalistic on the outside. Barring any technical issues that might arise as the result of using it (touch wood), I think I made the right personal choice in getting the laptop at a great price that would perfectly meet my needs. One think that I truly appreciate right now is that I have cultivated a habit of thoroughly doing my research before buying something, rather than going with my emotions and getting something expensive that I might regret further down the road. One aspect of research that is important, which I only realise is that you have to be brutally honest with yourself, when it comes to choosing one expensive item over another. You really need to think logically when it comes to making such decisions, list down your needs and separate your wants, and then make the decision. In the end, you will soon realise that you can save a lot of money getting the thing you need rather than paying extra on things that you don’t.

 

Laptop decisions for school

I’m going back school in January 2017. I will start my Master Programme at NUS, taking night classes a couple of times a week. In between lessons, assignments need to be done, project work completed, reports written. I would require a laptop for school.

I have been researching for quite a bit on what is the ideal laptop for my needs, especially as a part time student. Sure I could go and get a Macbook Pro, which was just recently updated, or the popular Windows laptop, the Dell XPS 13. I could even be adventurous and use the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 for all my lecture and school assignment needs. But do I really need to get a high-end laptop, some of which costs more than S$2000?

After thinking hard about it, I decided, that I do not need a high-end laptop. My part-time Master Programme is only 2 years. I only need something simply and most importantly light for the duration of my course. Light,  because I would need to bring it during lectures after work, and possibly on group meetings, project assignments and for general purpose study. And because of that, I prioritise weight over performance, since all I would  be doing on the laptop is just word processing, web surfing, and the occasional video streaming like YouTube, or online lectures.

But having a lightweight machine, with a relatively long battery life, surprisingly comes at a hefty price.

The Dell XPS 13 is a perfect candidate for being portable, light and having a pretty long battery life. The cheapest model based on my desired specs; at least an 8GB RAM, full-HD screen and core i5 model, comes in at around $1699, give or take. It may sound quite reasonable, but it is still a little bit pricey for me. The purpose of using the laptop does not justify the cost. I would be more than willing to make the decision in going for the Dell XPS 13, if it would cost around S$1400 at the very most. Anything higher is a tough sell for me.

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There are other cheaper models from Asus and Acer, some with pretty good specs, respectable battery life and light weight construction, but most of them feels rather flimsy, despite the fact that they may use premium materials. Others, jittery trackpad, 2-in-1 laptop tablet functions, which I don’t obviously need, and some, just outright ugly.

The only other option I have is one from Lenovo. The Lenovo Thinkpad 13 is the entry level laptop from the Thinkpad series. The screen is 13 inches, sporting a full-HD screen, core i5, 6th gen processor, 8GB RAM and 256GB RAM. And the price; S$1020. This is a special price for students. Lenovo have a special dedicated online store for students and educators, where the prices of their laptops are heavily discounted, some by more than S$300. With these specs, and at S$1020, I believe that it is a steal. The design is nothing to gawk about. The screen is just ok, but at least it is full-HD. The keyboard is excellent, although not backlit, which I can live with. On the upside, the laptop is Mil-Spec, meaning that it is rugged and suitable for everyday use outdoors. It is not the thinnest, but not thick either and the weight was surprisingly light. An ultrabook class laptop, battery is respectable. Everything is just average, nothing is terrible, and nothing is fantastic either. The price is hard to resist. And for the specific purpose for a laptop, I think this is the perfect laptop for my needs.

A laptop that is business-like in looks, yet with specs that are suitable for college use, and a budget that hits the sweet spot among college students on a budget.

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I would need to purchase Lenovo Thinkpad 13 online through the Lenovo online store for students and educators.