Is it an upgrade, or a sidegrade?

Submitted by gwolf on Tue, 02/13/2018 - 14:43

I first bought a netbook shortly after the term was coined, in 2008. I got one of the original 8.9" Acer Aspire One. Around 2010, my Dell laptop was stolen, so the AAO ended up being my main computer at home — And my favorite computer for convenience, not just for when I needed to travel light. Back then, Regina used to work in a national park and had to cross her province (~6hr by a combination of buses) twice a week, so she had one as well. When she came to Mexico, she surely brought it along. Over the years, we bought new batteries and chargers, as they died over time...

Five years later, it started feeling too slow, and I remember to start having keyboard issues. Time to change.

Sadly, 9" computers were no longer to be found. Even though I am a touch typist, and a big person, I miss several things about the Acer's tiny keyboard (such as being able to cover the diagonal with a single hand, something useful when you are typing while standing). But, anyway, I got the closest I could to it — In July 2013, I bought the successor to the Acer Aspire One: An 10.5" Acer Aspire One Nowadays, the name that used to identify just the smallest of the Acer Family brethen covers at least up to 15.6" (which is not exactly helpful IMO).

Anyway, for close to five years I was also very happy with it. A light laptop that didn't mean a burden to me. Also, very important: A computer I could take with me without ever thinking twice. I often tell people I use a computer I got at a supermarket, and that, bought as new, costed me under US$300. That way, were I to lose it (say, if it falls from my bike, if somebody steals it, if it gets in any way damaged, whatever), it's not a big blow. Quite a difference from my two former laptops, both over US$1000.

I enjoyed this computer a lot. So much, I ended up buying four of them (mine, Regina's, and two for her family members).

Over the last few months, I have started being nagged by unresponsivity, mainly in the browser (blame me, as I typically keep ~40 tabs open). Some keyboard issues... I had started thinking about changing my trusty laptop. Would I want a newfangle laptop-and-tablet-in-one? Just thinking about fiddling with the OS to recognize stuff was a sort-of-turnoff...

This weekend we had an incident with spilled water. After opening and carefully ensuring the computer was dry, it would not turn on. Waited an hour or two, and no changes. Clear sign, a new computer is needed ☹

I went to a nearby store, looked at the offers... And, in part due to the attitude of the salesguy, I decided not to (installing Linux will void any warranty, WTF‽ In 2018‽). Came back home, and... My Acer works again!

But, I know five years are enough. I decided to keep looking for a replacement. After some hesitation, I decided to join what seems to be the elite group in Debian, and go for a refurbished Thinkpad X230.

And that's why I feel this is some sort of "sidegrade" — I am replacing a five year old computer with another five year old computer. Of course, a much sturdier one, built to last, originally sold as an "Ultrabook" (that means, meant for a higher user segment) much more expandable... I'm paying ~US$250, which I'm comfortable with. Looking at several online forums, it is a model quite popular with "knowledgeable" people AFAICT even now. I was hoping, just for the sake of it, to find a X230t (foldable and usable as tablet)... But I won't put too much time into looking for it.

The Thinkpad is 12", which I expect will still fit in my smallish satchel I take to my classes. The machine looks as tweakable as I can expect. Spare parts for replacement are readily available. I have 4GB I bought for the Acer I will probably be able to carry on to this machine, so I'm ready with 8GB. I'm eager to feel the keyboard, as it's often repeated it's the best in the laptop world (although it's not the classic one anymore) I'm just considering to pop ~US$100 more and buy an SSD drive, and... Well, lets see how much does this new sidegrade make me smile!

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vicm3's picture


After having a Dell 14" for some time also searched for something lighter and found the Acer Aspire ES1-111M at 11.6" it's really nice and much lighter than my old Inspiron, but the touch pad on this particular model tends to work well on like the half of machines, also from factory came with 2GB of RAM, I'm installed full 8GB RAM and swap hard disk with a Kingston SSD 128GB, the touch pad never worked correctly so in the event I needed opted for a optical mouse... mostly happy, the keyboard most probably won't survive your usage... cost me like 2999MXN (162USD) + other 100USD for the memory and SSD...

I also had wishes for a Thinkpad but the prices are sky high ;) if they are true for the design and longevity, may you have found a nice replacement for the XPS1210.

LeLutin's picture


I've just bought an x230 to replace my now-breaking-apart x201 (had a bicycle accident and since then it started coming undone -_-; ) The x230 is all I wanted in terms of size since it's a direct replacement of the x201. It's also a bit more powerful in terms of cpu and the video card is actually minimally usable. However I'm really annoyed by a couple of design decisions that were made for that model. The changes they made to the keyboard layout are not super fun: having the escape key jammed on the same line as the F[1..12] keys means that trying to hit F1 is harder since it's not on the side of the keyboard. what's worse is the placement of pg-up and pg-down right next to the arrow keys, and the print screen button right underneath the dot. Then there's the changes related to LEDs: there's no power/battery indicator below the screen, so it's impossible to know whether or not you're plugged into power except by moving your screen or feeling behind the laptop with your hand. Who thought those were good design changes? Nevertheless, I'm quite happy with the x230 and I hope to use it for a number of years if I'm lucky enough not to break it. WRT SSD: it's expensive to have it but it makes a huge difference on the experience. Comparing using a rotating disk with an SSD, it's like giving an instant performance boost to your computer, even grepping recursively on a large-ish file tree now feels snappy.
gwolf's picture

Arguing on the Thinkpad keyboards...

I know many people complained with the X220→X230 keyboard changes. I don't come from ThinkpadLand - I come from Acer. While I've been very happy with its keyboards, I am delighted with (most of) the switch. Of course, I find it stupid to have the Print key in the bottom row, but I have already mapped it to the Menu key (which in my case is the Multi key, to be able to easily compose insane characters ☺). I'm used to PgUp/PgDn to be composed with Home/End (via the Fn key), but I guess I can train my fingers to move to the upper row for those two...
I agree, it's quite odd not to have a hardware battery indicator visible from the working position, but I'm used to it being in my i3status, so... :-]
Anyway - I decided, at least for now, to spend my money on 8GB RAM (and stay with 12). At some point I do want to set up an SSD, but that will come later. I'm quite happy with the machine!

pascalin's picture

Kudos to you! After four

Kudos to you! After four wonderful years, I am also quite happy with mine (an X230 too) ;-) It has only run on Gentoo since day one and it is still my loyal and reliable workhorse. Cheers!

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