Used ThinkPad Buyers Guide

Last updated 27 August 2014

The ThinkPad X200 is now compatible with CoreBoot

This Buyers guide only covers ThinkPads that fully support Windows Hardware Acceleration and cost 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.

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

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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 aren’t worth it because they usually cost a lot more than other branded laptops with similar specifications and sometimes even more than Apple laptops, which are known for being heavily overpriced.

Why ThinkPad?

  • They’re really cheap when you buy a used one
  • Splash-proof keyboard
  • Keyboards feel excellent while typing
  • Great Durability
  • Utilitarian design
  • Spare parts are easy and cheap to obtain
  • Easy to repair, upgrade and maintain
  • TrackPoint (that red thing on the middle of the keyboard), great for those who type a lot

T series (Medium sized laptop)
If you don’t know what size you want, just go for the T-Series

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T400 (14.1” Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$100, $120
T500 (15.4” Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$130, $160
T410 (14.1” Core i-series G1) - ~$180, $210
T510
(15.6” Core i-series G1) - ~$210, $260
T420
(14” Core i-series G2) - ~$280, $310
T520
(15.6” Core i-series G2) - ~$390, $410
T430
(14” Core i-series G3) - ~$450, $490
T530 (15.6” Core i-series G3) - ~$490

T60 (14.1”, 15” or 15.4” Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - ~$100
T60p
 (14.1”, 15” or 15.4” Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - ~$100
T61
 (14.1” or 15.4” Core 2 Duo G2) (non nvidia) - ~$100
T61p
 (14.1” or 15.4” Core 2 Duo G2) (nvidia) - ~$100

T61 models with Nvidia GPUs are known to be faulty because of crap solder making them die prematurely. Nvidia T61s made after 08/08 are safe but they are very rare.
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.
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.
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.


X series (Small sized laptop)
Portable and great battery life

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X200 (12.1” Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$110, $140
X201 (12.1” Core i-series G1) - ~$190, $240
X220
(12.5” Core i-series G2) - ~$300, $380
X230
(12.5” Core i-series G3) - ~$490

X60 (12.1” Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - ~$100
X61
 (12.1” Core 2 Duo G2) - ~$100
X300
 (13.3” Core 2 Duo G2) - Rare $250
X301
 (13.3” Core 2 Duo G3) - Rare $300

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.
X series models with an ‘i’ suffix (eg. X220i) are basically the same as the Regular X series but with lower specs.

X series Tablet (Small sized 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?

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X200 Tablet (12.1” Core 2 Duo G3) - $180
X201 Tablet
(12.1” Core i series G1) - $320

X60 Tablet (12.1” Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1) - ~$120
X61 Tablet
 (12.1” Core 2 Duo G2) - ~$130
X60 Tablet/X61 Tablet 1400x1050
 - ~$200, $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 all use Low Voltage Intel CPUs. X220t, X230t and very few X201t 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.


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

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W500 (15.4” Core 2 Duo G3) - ~$160, $190+
W700
(17” Core 2 Duo G3 Quad-capable) - $470+
W510
(15.6” Core i-series G1) - ~$340, $410+

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.
;___;

Found an older model not in this guide?
For stuff like T43, X41 or earlier, try not to spend more than $100.

Other Series
Unless the deal is excellent, avoid:
R-series
L-series
SL-series
Z-series
Edge/E-series

These are cost-cut versions of ThinkPads which are thicker, are made of lower quality plastics and are less durable.

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 T430, T530 and X230 on the lenovo US outlet for under $500 if you’re lucky.

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.

Computrace
If 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, X60, X200, X201 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 limits of each Intel chipset generation used in ThinkPads

  • Core Duo/Core 2 Duo G1 = Yonah/Merom Socket M (Napa Centrino Platform)
    Max 3GB DDR2 RAM
    Intel GMA 950
    SATAI 1.5Gbps
  • Core 2 Duo G2 = Merom Socket P/Penryn 800 (Santa Rosa Centrino Platform)
    Max 8GB DDR2 RAM
    Intel GMA X3100
    SATAI 1.5Gbps
    BIOS mod can unlock SATAII 3Gbps
  • Core 2 Duo G3 = Penryn 1066 (Montevina Centrino Platform)
    Max 8GB DDR3 RAM
    Intel GMA 4500MHD
    SATAII 3Gbps
  • Core i-series G1 = Arrandale (Capella Centrino Platform)
    Max 8GB DDR3 RAM
    Max 32GB DDR3 RAM on the W510 with 4 DIMM slots
    Intel HD Graphics
    SATAII 3Gbps
  • Core i-series G2 = Sandy Bridge (Huron River Centrino Platform)
    Max 16GB DDR3 RAM
    Max 32GB DDR3 RAM on the W520 with 4 DIMM slots
    Intel HD 3000 Graphics
    SATAII 3Gbps on mSATA SSD slot
    SATAIII 6Gbps in Main Drive Bay
  • Core i-series G3 = Ivy Bridge (Chief River Centrino Platform)
    Max 32GB DDR3 RAM
    Intel HD 4000 Graphics
    SATAII 3Gbps on mSATA SSD slot
    SATAIII 6Gbps in Main Drive Bay
  • Core i-series G4 = Haswell (Shark Bay Centrino Platform)
    Max 16GB DDR3 RAM on UltraBooks
    Max 32GB DDR3 RAM on Regular Notebooks
    Intel HD 4400 Graphics on UltraBooks
    Intel HD 4600 Graphics on Regular Notebooks
    SATAIII 6Gbps
    M.2 4x PCI-E 3.0 SSD

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 EliteBook
Dell Latitude / Precision / XPS
Apple MacBook Air / Pro