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Used ThinkPad Buyers Guide

Last updated 11 July 2017

This Buyers guide covers ThinkPads new enough to fully support Windows 10 with all updates and costs under $500.

There are 2 prices for each model in this guide.The prices listed in BOLD are the outright buying price. This is what you should expect to pay if you want your ThinkPad Now.The prices in NON-BOLD are the ideal Online Auction price. This is what you should expect to pay if you are willing to sit around on eBay for auctions and Craigslist, but if you’re a lucky one, you can get one well below the listen auction prices.

Quicklinks:T-Series | X-series | X-series Tablet | W-series | Other Important Info | Alternatives

Used ThinkPads are cheap because after businesses are done with them, which is 3-4 years after they’ve been released, they flood the market. New ThinkPads currently aren’t worth it because they usually cost a lot more than other laptops with similar specifications and sometimes even more than Apple laptops, which are known for being heavily overpriced.

Why ThinkPad?

The first thing you should do when you get your ThinkPad is to format it and install a fresh copy of Windows or your favourite flavour of Linux on it to make it run as efficient as possible. It gets rid of any risk of viruses and unneeded bloatware that some people left over or preinstalled for you.

T series (Medium sized laptop)

If you don’t know what size you want, just go for the T-Series

Good ValueT400 (14.1" Core 2 Duo G3) - $100T500 (15.4" Core 2 Duo G3) - $100T410 (14.1" Core i-series G1) - ~$120, $150T510 (15.6" Core i-series G1) - ~$150, $190Relatively NewT420 (14" Core i-series G2) - ~$140, $180T520 (15.6" Core i-series G2) - ~$170, $240T430 (14" Core i-series G3) - ~$180, $250T530 (15.6" Core i-series G3) - ~$290, $330T440 (14" Core i-series G4) - ~$250, $300T540 (15.6" Core i-series G4) - ~$370, $440T550 (15.6" Core i-series G5) - $500

On their way outT60 (14.1", 15" or 15.4" Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - <$100T60p (14.1", 15" or 15.4" Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - <$100T61 (14.1" or 15.4" Core 2 Duo G2) (non nvidia) - <$100T61p (14.1" or 15.4" Core 2 Duo G2) (nvidia) - <$100

T series models with an ’s’ suffix (eg. T410s) means they’re slimmer than the regular T series laptops but unlike the X series, they have worse battery life compared to the regular T laptops. They also usually cost more than a regular T series.T series models with a ‘p’ suffix (eg. T61p) means they’re more powerful than the regular T series and come with stronger dedicated GPUs. These are replaced by the later W series.T series models with an 'i’ suffix (eg. T420i) are basically the same as the Regular T series but with lower specs. Avoid the ones with Celerons, they’re piss slow.An aftermarket Quad Core i7 CPU will work in a T420, but they do not come as standard on any T420.T520 prices vary depending on the configuration, the lower end price is listed here, but you may spend a bit more if the screen, CPU and GPU are excellent.Warning!, the T440 doesn’t have physical TrackPoint buttons, which might be a no-go for ThinkPad fans, but if you’re okay with Touchpads, then they’re fine. Some have successfully transplanted the T450 TrackPad into the T440.T61 models with Nvidia GPUs are known to have higher than normal failure rates, avoid. Nvidia T61s made after 08/08 are safe but they are very rare.If you are an unlucky owner of these older Nvidia T61 laptops, try to make it run as cool as possible by keeping the fans clean and using fresh thermal paste, this would extend its useful life quite a lot. Also, avoid sellers selling  reballed/reflowed T61s with the older Nvidia GPU, they’ll most likely die within months if not weeks.

X series (Small sized laptop)

Portable and great battery life

Good ValueX200 (12.1" Core 2 Duo G3) - $100X201 (12.1" Core i-series G1) - ~$120, $150Relatively NewX220 (12.5" Core i-series G2) - ~$170, $220X230 (12.5" Core i-series G3) - ~$200, $250X240 (12.5" Core i-series G4) - ~$250, $310X250 (12.5" Core i-series G5) - ~$450, $490

On their way outX60 (12.1" Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - ~$100X61 (12.1" Core 2 Duo G2) - ~$100RareX300 (13.3" Core 2 Duo G2) - ~$150, $190X301 (13.3" Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$160, $230

Note:X series with an ’s’ suffix (eg. X200s) means they’re slimmer than the normal X series and use Low Voltage CPUs compared to Full Voltage. This means they’re even more portable and last longer on battery at the expense of CPU power.Warning!, the X240 doesn’t have physical TrackPoint buttons, which might be a no-go for ThinkPad fans, but if you’re okay with Touchpads, then they’re fine.X series models with an 'i’ suffix (eg. X220i) are basically the same as the Regular X series but with lower specs such as being equipped with Celerons, Pentiums and i3 CPU options. Avoid the ones with Celerons, they’re piss slow.

X series Tablet (Convertible PC)

A bit bigger than the X series. It has pen input thanks to a 256-level pressure sensitivity Wacom Digitizer and some models have finger multi-touch as well. And it twists! How cool is that?

Good ValueX200 Tablet (12.1" Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$120, $140X201 Tablet (12.1" Core i-series G1) - ~$150, $210Relatively NewX220 Tablet (12.5" Core i-series G2) - ~$200, $270X230 Tablet (12.5" Core i-series G3) - $240, $300

On their way outX60 Tablet (12.1" Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - ~$100X61 Tablet (12.1" Core 2 Duo G2) - ~$100RareX60 Tablet/X61 Tablet 1400x1050 - ~$170, $280 (Rare)

There are some X60/X61 Tablet models that have a 1400x1050 display. They usually cost a lot more than a regular one, so if you see one selling for cheap, don’t pass up on that deal! Unfortunately the High resolution versions of the X61 Tablet also suffer from a very ugly bubble problem where the glue leaks out and creates bubbles inside the display as it ages. The X60 Tablet Hi Resolution display doesn’t have this problem.X series Tablets; X41t, X60t, X61t, X200t and most X201t models use Low Voltage Intel CPUs. X220t, X230t and very few X201t models use Full Voltage Intel CPUs.X series Tablet models with an 'i’ suffix (eg. X220i Tablet) are basically the same as the Regular X series Tablets but with lower specs. Avoid the ones with Celerons, they’re piss slow.

W series (Desktop Replacement)

If you lift (heavy weights) or just like a desktop replacement, look no further than the W series.

W500 (15.4" Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$140, $190+W700 (17" Core 2 Duo G3 Quad-Capable) - $470+W510 (15.6" Core i-series G1 Quad-Capable) - ~$340, $360+W520 (15.6" Core i-series G2 Quad-Capable) - ~$450+

W-series prices vary greatly depending on the configuration, the lower end prices are listed here, but you may spend almost double if the screen, CPU and GPU are excellent.

Pictured is a W700ds, it costs $1700 as of 1 August 2014.>tfw you will never have one. ;___;

Other Important Info

Found an older model not in this guide?

For stuff like T42, X41 or earlier, don’t bother, unless you’re collecting.

Other SeriesUnless the deal is excellent, avoid:R-seriesL-seriesSL-seriesZ-seriesEdge/E-series

These are cost-cut versions of ThinkPads which are thicker, are made of lower quality plastics and are less durable. Terrible hinges on the Edge series especially, some Edges have electrical shorting issues.

Where do you look for one this cheap?eBay, Craigslist, Gumtree, your local newspaper, garage (yard) sale or flea market.You may even be able to find newer models such as the T450, T550 and X250 on the lenovo US outlet for under $500 if you’re lucky.There are a few tips for when buying a ThinkPad in person.1. Check for physical damage. Make sure you’re happy with the physical condition of the ThinkPad that you’re buying.2. Make sure there’s a charger and it works3. Turn on the laptop, make sure everything lights up. While it’s in the boot screen, press the Blue ThinkVantage button. It should go into the BIOS with no password.4. Navigate the BIOS menus, in Security, make sure no other password is set and Intel AMT and Computrace is Inactive or Disabled. (Check the right side of the BIOS screen for current status.)5. If the hard drive is working, it should boot into an existing OS unless the listing states, NO OS INCLUDED.

WARNING!Never EVER buy ThinkPads with BIOS locked (Supervisor) passwords, you cannot reset it by taking out the CMOS battery. The Supervisor password is stored on a chip and requires special equipment to extract it or a complete motherboard replacement.If you do know what you’re doing, there is a $100 tool which can be used to recover the BIOS/Supervisor password from almost any ThinkPad (except some SL models) available at www.ja.axxs.net.This link shows BIOS Password Contact Points for each model.There are a number of ways to check if the ThinkPad is safe to buy, make sure it can actually access the BIOS. Sellers selling parted out ThinkPads that “Boot to BIOS” are safe. For you collectors out there, if the old ThinkPad cannot advance past the 00161 and 00163 (Dry CMOS battery/No time set) errors, there’s a good chance that the BIOS is locked because the time couldn’t be set.

ComputraceIf your laptop comes with Computrace enabled, there’s a chance that the laptop was stolen, or the previous owner forgot to disable it. You and your ThinkPad can still be tracked and be remotely disabled if Computrace is enabled.

There’s an empty WWAN/PCI-E slot in my ThinkPad, what can I use it for?On models with Core i-Series G2 and newer (X220, T420, etc.), you can install a bootable mSATA SSD module (currently up to 1TB) in the empty slot. On older ThinkPads (X201, T410 or older), you cannot install mSATA SSDs, they will not work at all. hwtools.net has a lot of interesting things you can put in a regular WWAN/PCI-E slot such as SD card slots and connectors for external GPUs. In order to use these special PCI-E cards, you will need to remove the Wi-Fi whitelist, which involves flashing a custom BIOS.

Should you get a genuine lenovo battery or a cheap Generic battery?It is tempting to cheap out on a battery for your ThinkPad. There are a few things to keep in mind if you’re thinking of getting a generic battery.

  • Generic batteries rarely have their advertised capacity.
  • The batteries usually come with 70-80% of the designed capacity of the Genuine battery
  • Can be a lot bulkier or have a different design
  • The battery meter isn’t very reliable but slowly gets better as you charge it more. For example; the battery will work fine till about 15% then instantly jumps to 0% and shut down.

So take your pick, a reliable, but costly (over $100) battery or a slightly annoying and shorter lasting battery for $30.

Can all of those ThinkPads listed play my high quality 10bit Chinese Cartoons Movies and TV Shows?720p sure, very high bitrate 10bit 1080p playback not guaranteed on Core 2 Duo and ULV CPUs.

Can I play games on the ThinkPad?See my Netbook Games list. The listed games will play on any ThinkPad listed in this guide.

Does CoreBoot work on a ThinkPad?CoreBoot has been tested to work on the T60, T530, X60, X200, X201, X220 and X230 models.

Thinking about getting a Hard Drive upgrade?Make sure you get the Correct size drive otherwise it won’t fit!Regular Size 2.5" 9.5mm SATA Drive:T60, T60p, T61, T61p, T400, T500, T410, T420, T510, T520, T530.X60, X60s, X60 Tablet, X61, X61s, X61 Tablet, X200, X200s, X200 Tablet, X201, X201s, X201 Tablet.W500, W510, W520, W530.Slim Size 2.5" 7mm SATA Drive:T420s, T430, T430s, T430u.X220, X220 Tablet, X230, X230 Tablet.1.8" µSATA Drive:T400s, T410s.X300, X301.

Intel Processor and Chipset Generations guide:This section shows the limitations of each Intel chipset generation used in ThinkPads.CPU Performance is measured by Geekbench 4, Single Core/Multi Core.GPU Performance is measured by 3DMark06. (No dedicated graphics benches)PS: These performance numbers have been obtained from Notebookcheck.net for GPU scores and Geekbench 4 for CPU scores. I did not run these benchmarks myself.

  • Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1 = Yonah/Merom Socket M (Napa Centrino Platform)Max 3GB DDR2 RAMIntel GMA 950SATAI 1.5GbpsDDR2 RAM is currently more expensive than DDR3 RAMCPU Score (T5600): 1000sc/1600mcLV CPU Score (L2400): 750sc/1350mcIntel GPU Score: 130
  • Core 2 Duo G2 = Merom Socket P/Penryn 800 (Santa Rosa Centrino Platform)Max 4GB DDR2 RAM (8GB unofficially)Intel GMA X3100SATAI 1.5GbpsMiddleton BIOS mod can unlock SATAII 3GbpsDDR2 RAM is currently more expensive than DDR3 RAMCPU Score (T7300): 1100sc/1950mcLV CPU Score (L7500): 800sc/1500mcIntel GPU Score: 400
  • Core 2 Duo G3 = Penryn 1066 (Montevina Centrino Platform)Max 8GB DDR3 RAMIntel GMA 4500MHDSATAII 3GbpsThese are picky on which DDR3 modules would work, 1066MHz speed modules are your best bet, but they are more expensive than newer, faster DDR3 modules.CPU Score (P8400): 1280sc/2250mcLV CPU Score (L9400): 1000sc/1800mcIntel GPU Score: 740
  • Core i-series G1 = Arrandale (Capella Centrino Platform)Max 8GB DDR3 RAMMax 32GB DDR3 RAM on the W510 with 4 SODIMM slotsIntel HD GraphicsSATAII 3GbpsCPU Score (i5-540M): 1970sc/3700mcLV CPU Score (i7-620LM): 1700sc/3200mcIntel GPU Score: 1500
  • Core i-series G2 = Sandy Bridge (Huron River Centrino Platform)Max 16GB DDR3 RAMMax 32GB DDR3 RAM on the W520 with 4 SODIMM slotsIntel HD 3000 GraphicsSATAII 3Gbps on mSATA SSD slotSATAIII 6Gbps in Main Drive BayCPU Score (i5-2520M): 2400sc/5000mcIntel GPU Score: 3400
  • Core i-series G3 = Ivy Bridge (Chief River Centrino Platform)Max 32GB DDR3 RAMIntel HD 4000 GraphicsSATAII 3Gbps on mSATA SSD slotSATAIII 6Gbps in Main Drive BayCPU Score (i5-3320M): 2800sc/5700mcLV CPU Score (i5-3317U): 2200sc/4300mcIntel GPU Score: 4500
  • Core i-series G4 = Haswell (Shark Bay Centrino Platform)Max 16GB DDR3L RAM on Haswell-UMax 32GB DDR3 RAM on Haswell-MIntel HD 4400 Graphics on Haswell-UIntel HD 4600 Graphics on Haswell-MSATAIII 6Gbps or M.2 4x PCI-E 3.0 SSDCPU Score (i5-4200M): 2800sc/6000mcLV CPU Score (i5-4200U): 2500sc/4700mcIntel M GPU Score: 6300Intel U GPU Score: 5100
  • Core i-series G5 = BroadwellMax 16GB DDR3L RAM (32GB unofficially) on Broadwell-UIntel HD 5500 Graphics on Broadwell-USATAIII 6gbps or M.2 4x PCI-E 3.0 SSDLV CPU Score (i5-5200U): 2600sc/5300mcIntel U GPU Score: 7000
  • Core i-series G6 = SkylakeMax 32GB DDR3L/DDR4 RAM on Skylake-UIntel HD 520 Graphics on Skylake-USATAIII 6gbps or M.2 4x PCI-E 3.0 SSDLV CPU Score (i5-6200U): 3000sc/5600mcIntel U GPU Score: 8600
  • Core i-series G7 = Kaby LakeMax 32GB DDR3L/DDR4 RAM on Kaby Lake-UIntel HD 620 Graphics on Kaby Lake-USATAIII 6gbps or M.2 4x PCI-E 3.0 SSDLV CPU Score (i5-7200U): 3500sc/6700mcIntel U GPU Score: 9600

Core 2 Duo Generations 1-3 refer to the Centrino chipset generation, not the CPU generation because some models such as the T61 offer both Merom 65nm and Penryn 45nm CPUs on the same chipset.

These are the current prices in the US.Prices listed are in $USD

Thanks to ThinkWiki for the ThinkPad pictures.Please visit ThinkWiki.org for more details such as specifications of each ThinkPad.

Alternatives

HP EliteBookDell Latitude / Precision / XPSApple MacBook Air / Pro

Please use the comment section if you want to ask questions about ThinkPads, I can’t easily respond to anonymous questions in the “ASK ME ANYTHING” section. Just use a throwaway email account if you don’t want to give your real email to Disqus.

Also you can go on the ThinkPad subreddit or the ThinkPad /g/eneral to ask questions, but please read this guide carefully before asking questions, those guys will tear you a new asshole if you ask something that has already been answered.

Also, go read the extended eBay and Local buying guides by sauceyjames at www.dankpads.com he is also quicker at answering ThinkPad questions than I am.

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