Midnight Pub

Advice about computers



A few days ago, one of our patrons asked for advice about computers.
And a good patron gave some recommendations.
I checked them out.

I won't go into the details now, but suffice it to say, that I'm
not a tech guy.
The limited knowledge I have about technology is purely out of

A brief background on why I'm making this post is that many years
ago, I went to buy a computer, and I got ripped off. I didn't even
realize that until I talked to my brother, and he got visibly upset.

The three "brands" listed:
How do you identify a good computer purchase?
1. Core specs - CPU, GPU, RAM, Storage type, size and speed. I use
the Specs term very loosely and specifically for these 4 
components; whereas specs generally includes everything on this 
2. I/O ports - the more ports, the better. Lack of ports would 
force you to purchase and carry a dongle
3. Battery capacity
4. Display - screen size, resolution, refresh rate, pixel density,
brightness, color gamut/sRGB,  PWM/Screen flickering etc
5. Upgradability
6. Backlit keyboard
7. Speakers
8. Cooling/Temperatures

I won't bore you with a lecture explaining each of these points,
but I've arranged them in the priority that I would have when
making a purchase.
That being said, everyone's needs are different.
A creator would focus on the laptop display and I/O ports.
A developer would prioritize the core specs, backlit keyboard,
battery life etc
A media consumer would mainly look at the display, speakers
and storage.
A gamer would focus on the core specs, cooling, and display.

The Penguin T4 GNU/Linux Laptop looks good.
I used it as the basis for comparison.
Intel i5-1335U, 8 GB RAM, 250GB NVME SSD, 15 inch display.
$992 with the optional Bluetooth adapter.

I'm going to skip to the Minifree laptops.
Libreboot T440p fully spec'd up.
Intel Core i7-4700MQ, 16 GB RAM, 2x960GB SSD, 14 inch screen.

Libreboot X230 fully spec'd.
Intel Core i5-3320M, 16 GB RAM, 2x960GB SSD, 12.5 inch screen.

Coming back to the Technoethical laptops.
Technoethical X200 Laptop.
Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, 4 GB RAM, 120GB SSD, 12.1 inch screen.

Technoethical X200s Laptop.
Intel Core 2 Duo SL9300, 4 GB RAM, 120GB SSD, 12.1 inch screen.

Technoethical T400s Touch laptop.
Intel Core 2 Duo SP9400, 4 GB RAM, 120GB SSD, 14.1 inch screen.

Technoethical T500 Laptop.
Intel Core 2 Duo P8400, 4 GB RAM, 120GB SSD, 15.4 inch screen.

Anyone with a keen eye would notice that the Technoethical 
laptops are priced too high.
There may be several reasons to justify that; one of them
being that the laptops cater to a very niche market.
But the fact is, I wouldn't recommend them to anyone.
It's not just the price, but the laptops are way too old
for modern standards.
These laptops aren't for your average user.
Even modern Linux distros have become bloated. You don't 
want to be stuck with a slow machine if it's your daily

Here's a comparison between the Core 2 Duo P8400 processor
featured in two Technoethical laptops vs the Intel i5-1335U
in the Penguin T4 laptop.


From the details above, I'd say the Minifree laptops offer
the best bargain for the specs, the Penguin T4 offers the 
best processor, and the Technoethical laptops are well, a
collector's item.

It's good to support small entrepreneurs that are taking a
stand against giant corporations in respecting user freedom
and privacy.
By all means, do it if you can.
If your budget is too low, however, you can get something 
for cheaper elsewhere,
and install GNU/Linux with a little guidance from the

One of the patrons mentioned buying a Thinkpad T60 for $50
which is an amazing deal.
These old Thinkpads were built like tanks. They were meant
to last for a really long time. Which is hardly what someone
can say for modern laptops.
Companies have really cheaped out on build quality in the
modern era.

What's the lesson from all of this?
Do your research.
I think that's the most important thing. Look around, 
search for options and alternatives, and weigh in the price
vs specs.


Thanks, ~rrraksamam. As the original patron who asked for computer advice didn't specify what they planned to do with said device, I tried to keep my reply brief and simply pointed them at a few sites that offered computers with pre-installed libre GNU/Linux distros. For me, software freedom is a top priority, and thus I think supporting small companies that promote hardware configurations that can run fully free software is the right way to go for many folks (excluding techies who are happy to swap out hardware components after the fact to get libre graphics and wifi cards). That being said, I appreciate the time you took to lay out a detailed comparison of the laptops currently sold on those sites. Hopefully that will help not only the original patron who asked but also anyone else here at the pub who is curious about this same question. Well done!



Thank you



I daily drive an old, used and battered X230 that I got for €80 from eBay, and then maxed out for another ~€200 more (16 GB RAM + 2 TB SATA SSD + new third-party 9-cells battery). I love it, but - that being said - machines this old are not really a good fit for most mainstream users' use cases, whether they are creators, media consumers, or gamers.

They are still extremely capable, but they are held back by (comparatively) crappy displays, power-hungry CPUs, and integrated graphics which lack support for modern codecs.

They are most definitely not worth it at those prices, though - €970 would more than pay for an xyte.ch X330 with 2k display and classic keyboard mod, or a whole fleet of maxed out X220-X230 laptops.

Still, I like seeing people taking them back, instead of letting them become e-waste. I wish more would consider refurbs as an option and be willing to adapt their computing to them, instead of driving the demand for more and more cheap machines with soldered RAM and future spicy pillows in them.



I checked out the xyte laptops.

At first I thought they're too expensive.

Then I went into the detailed custom modifications and upgrades this person makes, and I realized it all added up.

The Framework company (no affiliation) has some wonderful laptops designed to minimize e-waste. I'm so impressed by them that my next laptop would no doubt be one of theirs, unless another company comes out with something more revolutionary.



Thinkpads genuinely do last a long time. I have a ten year old one running as my main "desktop" at home.



That's wonderful!



This is very informative, very impressive. Thank you for your help.



I'm using a ThinkPad xX230 and have been since they were released. My wife also uses one, and I have one running as a server in the house (that has a slightly dodgy screen). The advantage is, if one breaks, I replace it on eBay for about 50 quid and take out all the higher-spec components from the broken machine and stick them in the new one. Same RAM, SSD, Network Card, Power Adaptor etc. There is an advantage to using something easily repairable and having machines with all the same hardware requirements.



That's a great idea.



I generally think people care too much about CPU specs when buying a computer, but I do also think that no one should be buying a Core 2 Duo in 2023 unless they really know what they are getting themselves into, and have participated in the Old Computer Challenge at least once. And the prices Technoethical are asking for them look like prices for collectors, not for users. I use a ThinkPad X230 (early-generation i5) for my daily driver, but it's upgraded in a few important ways, and, notably, though I have a pile of X230s, I have never paid more than $150 for one (before upgrades).



Yeah but like compiling large programs can take half an hour with an average CPU while making the system really sluggish. A developer working on large projects at their free-time could save a lot of time with a fast CPU



True, but with a slow CPU a developer working on large projects in their free time could just do something else while the computer works. There's always a book to read, exercise to do, household chores to knock out, kitties to cuddle, etc.