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An Introduction to the World of ThinkPad

April 11th, 2020

Page last updated: 2020-12-07, version 1.21

"You filthy Apple plebs wouldn't understand the overwhelming feeling brought on from being the owner of the majestic device known as Thinkpad. A Thinkpad is as good as it looks. It's made from strong, beautiful materials like magnesium. It comes with enterprise-level processing, graphics, and memory. It implements features you won't find on any other computer. The keyboards have been approved by the FDA as a safe replacement for human sexual contact. A computer that gets your work done in a bulletproof black package? That's a Thinkpad."

Well said, random /g/ meme. [JPEG, 53K]

In all seriousness, a used ThinkPad is the only option anyone should be considering for a laptop.

But why should I buy one?

Wait, 2007? That's pretty old. I need a lot of performance.

If you need performance, get a desktop. There are very few circumstances where it's practical to spend almost double the cost just so you can take your workstation with you. If you don't want a desktop, or have a legitimate use for a high performance laptop, go buy an Alienware Area 51m or a P series ThinkPad and get out of my sight.

Okay, you've sold me. But I don't understand the model naming system.

Welcome to the dark side, I'm glad you could join us. The model naming system of modern ThinkPads (at least the ones you should be focusing on) can be broken down into two sections. For this guide, we will say that an 'x' represents a letter and a 'y' or a 'z' represents a number.

Section 1: XYY (2000-2007)

This section includes the following series: ('X')

The final two numerical digits in the names for this section ('YY') represent the model time period. For example, the T41 was released at about the same time as the X41, and so on.

Some of these models can have an extra "suffix" letter at the end. This indicates a specific edition of that model. Suffix letters for this section are listed here.

Note: The PYZ series ThinkPads appear to follow this general naming scheme, but are actually a different, much more modern line of computers. See P Series

After IBM sold their Personal Computer Division to Lenovo in 2005, some computers were still being sold with IBM branding. This makes the X43 range the last "real" IBM machines. Shortly after Lenovo's acquisition, they developed a new naming system.

Section 2: XYZZ (2008-present)

This section includes the following series: ('X')

The first numerical digit in the names for this series ('Y') represents the screen size. For example, The T420 has a 14" screen, the W701 has a 17" screen, the X230 has a 12" screen, and so on.

The last two digits ('ZZ') represent the model time period. For example, the X200 was released at about the same time as the T400, as well as the SL500, and so on.

Note: The XY01 and the XY00 are extremely similar, but the single number change means the difference is mostly on a technical level. They have the same outside shell to my knowledge. These two model ranges are the only ones in the XYZZ section I know of that has a single number change.

Some of these models can have an extra "suffix" letter (or two) at the end. This indicates a specific edition of that model. Suffix letters for this section are listed here.

Section 3: Outliers

Rather than following their already relatively complicated naming system. Lenovo have decided that some ThinkPads are more important than the others. These series are listed here.

X1 Series (2011-present)

This series includes the X1, X1 Carbon, and X1 Extreme. These are all made to be as thin and light as possible, as an extension of the 'X'YZZ series. The X1 was a one-off in 2010, which turned into the X1 Carbon (Gen 1) in 2012, then updated every year since 2014. The X1 Extreme is a higher performance version of the X1 Carbon. Sort of the MacBook Pro to the X1C's MacBook.

P Series (2015-present)

The P series is meant to be a continuation of the WYZZ series. Most P series ThinkPads follow an XYZ naming system, easily confused with IBM's XYY system, though an exception exists in the P1.

The second digit in the name ('Y') represents the screen size in the same way the XYZZ section does. For example, the P53 has a 15" screen and the P71 has a 17" screen.

The third digit in the name ('Z') represents the generation. The first generation P series ThinkPads are represented by a '0,' all the way up to the current 4th generation with a '3.'

The P1

Of course we need to have an outlier for the outlier, so Lenovo released the P1 in the third generation (PY4) of the P series. It is based off the X1 Extreme, and was updated in the 4th generation of the P series, as the P1 Gen 2.

Wow, I'm even more confused now. Which one should I buy?

Me too. There's supposed to be a section before XYY, but that's a whole other can of worms I don't want to be a part of. Besides, this guide is focused on laptops you can use effectively now. As for which ones you should buy, that's very simple. Stick to the T, X, and W series if you want the best build quality and performance. I don't recommend buying anything newer than XY40, or older than X60. Here are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your ThinkPad.

If you want a more detailed buyers guide, click here. This guide is mainly to introduce you to the world of the ThinkPad.

Hey, you idiot. You got something wrong.

I don't doubt it. Email me at 'mckinley at mckinley dot cc' and I'll update the page. I wrote most of this in one sitting, and by the time I'm getting here, I'm really tired and really want to quit writing this thing.



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