David Heinemann

Retiring the ThinkPad X220

The day has finally come to retire my ThinkPad X220. This laptop has been absolutely bullet-proof—it has survived 9½ years of almost daily use, and is still going strong!

I purchased the X220 in July 2012 for $1,066 AUD, with these specs:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5-2520M Processor
  • GPU: Intel HD Graphics 3000
  • Display: 1366x768 IPS display
  • RAM: 2×4 GB RAM
  • Storage: 320GB HDD

And I steadily upgraded it over the years, for a total of $928 AUD:

  • 250 GB SSD (2013)
  • Ultrabase (2013)
  • Replacement battery (2016)
  • Replacement palmrest (2018)
  • Replacement battery (2018)
  • Bluetooth adapter (2018)
  • 2×8 GB RAM (2020)
  • 1 TB SSD (2021)

9½ years of daily use for just shy of $2,000 AUD isn't a bad deal. The laptop is still going strong, and I could keep using it today. Unfortunately, the CPU isn't what it used to be. It can barely run a single VM these days without being thermal throttled, and although I could replace the thermal paste to extend its life a little longer, I think it's time to move on.

I've spent a lot of time over the years thinking about what I would buy next. I always expected to get another X-series ThinkPad—but not any more. I'm not happy with the soldered RAM in newer models. Moreover, I want to play the odd video game, and I no longer need a portable computer. Buying a new laptop just doesn't make sense for me. However, I have a limited amount of space to work with, so I knew that if I were to upgrade to a desktop PC, it would have to be a small one.

For that reason, I decided to go with a mini-ITX build. Although it would limit my options for components and cost more, it would also avoid using up too much desk space. After doing some research, I decided the Cooler Master NR200 would be perfect. It's just large enough to fit all the usual components, plus a full-size GPU, cooler, and extra case fans.

That said, I decided not to use a dedicated GPU for the time being. I do have a spare Nvidia GTX 970 lying around, but I decided not to bother due to the potential for Linux compatibility issues (i.e. with Wayland). I settled on the Ryzen 5 5600G CPU instead, which has zero-hassle integrated graphics that are almost as good. When the GPU prices eventually (hopefully) return to normal, I'll buy a dedicated AMD GPU to complete the build.

In the meantime, the build is as follows:

Excluding the SSD (which I kept from the ThinkPad), the build cost $1,423 AUD.

The ThinkPad X220 used to idle at about 60-75°C (140-167°F), and routinely reached 96°C (205°F) at load... before immediately being thermal throttled into oblivion. I'm happy to say that the new build idles under 40°C (104°F), and sits around 65°C (149°F) at high load. A significant improvement! Now I can spend my Christmas holiday enjoying Disco Elysium.

Here's hoping I get another 9½ years out of this PC.

Update 2022-01-13

The Ryzen 5 5600G performance has been great for Disco Elysium and most other games I've tried. However, I could only achieve a stable 30 FPS in the Witcher 3 by playing at 720p with all the graphics settings on Low. I was hoping for better, so I decided to install the old GTX 970 and try my luck.

I was expecting to encounter issues, but it's been completely fine. I was able to install the drivers through RPM Fusion. It seems to work well with Wayland (although Fedora 35 now selects X11 by default). I'm now getting 40-60 FPS in the Witcher 3 at 1080p on High. Much better!

I'd still go with AMD over Nvidia if I were to buy a new GPU, but the GTX 970 holds up well and is working great.