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Help Me, Laptop: What's the Best ThinkPad Replacement?

Laptops get refreshed almost every year and sometimes even months after the last update. Of course, you don't have to go out and replace yours with every new version, but after 10 years, you might notice some slowdown.

Member tbarb enlisted us to help find them a laptop within the $900 to $1,300 range to replace their 10-year-old Lenovo ThinkPad. The user wants the machine to have at least an 8th Gen Intel Core i7, 16GB of RAM, an Nvidia GeForce GTX 1050 GPU, a 15.6-inch (1920 x 1080) display, and an SSD and HDD combo. Their primary focus would be using Adobe Lightroom, Adobe Photoshop and TradeStation.

They also requested a laptop with a DVD drive, but to be honest, that's very uncommon on premium laptops nowadays, and we suggest getting an external one. So, tbarb, here are the laptops we recommend to replace your ThinkPad:

Dell XPS 15

You can get the Dell XPS 15 (4.2 pounds, 0.7~0.5 inches) for $1,329, and it'll come with a Core i7-8750H processor, a GTX 1050 Ti Max-Q GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 256GB SSD.

We tested a version with 16GB of RAM, and it transcoded a 4K video to 1080p on our HandBrake benchmark in 10 minutes and 12 seconds. For graphics performance, it ran Rise of the Tomb Raider (Very High, 1080p) at 22 frames per second.

This machine's 15.6-inch, 1920 x 1080 display is incredibly vibrant and vivid, covering 115 percent of the sRGB spectrum and emitting 371 nits of brightness. It has a low-travel keyboard, at 0.7 millimeters (we prefer travel between 1.5 to 2.0 mm), but the keys feel bouncy and relatively comfortable to type on. However, the keyboard does not have a number pad.

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If you plan on using the Dell XPS 15 on the go, you should find some comfort in that it lasted 11 hours and 53 minutes on our battery test. The machine isn't cheaply made, either, as it sports a sleek aluminum exterior and a sturdy carbon-fiber interior.

Lenovo Legion Y7000

If you want to stay in the comfort zone of Lenovo land, then the Legion Y7000 (5.3 pounds, 1.1~0.9 inches) is a great option. It keeps the price down to $1,099 and comes with beefy specs like a Core i7-8750H processor, a GTX 1060 GPU, 16GB of RAM, a 256GB SSD, and a 1TB 7,200-rpm HDD.

This speed demon crushed our HandBrake benchmark in just 9 minutes and 24 seconds. It even ran the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark at 37 fps, pushing above the 30-fps playability threshold.

The Legion Y7000's 15.6-inch, 1080p display is surprisingly colorful, too, hitting 153 percent of the sRGB color gamut. But it could be just a little brighter, as it averaged 277 nits. True to Lenovo's standards, this keyboard is satisfyingly clicky, with 1.4 millimeters of travel.

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However, in comparison with the XPS 15, this machine's battery life is subpar. It lasted 4 hours and 28 minutes on our battery test, which is technically good for a gaming laptop. The Legion Y7000 also has an aluminum top-cover, but the interior is plastic.

Alienware m15

Like the XPS 15, the Alienware m15 (4.8 pounds, 0.8~0.7 inches) leaps slightly out of budget, at $1,329, but it comes with a Core i7-8750H CPU, a GTX 1060 GPU, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hybrid drive.

Our review unit was slightly more powerful than that. Its 16GB of RAM carried it through the HandBrake benchmark in 9 minutes and 51 seconds. And its GTX 1070 hit 49 fps on the Rise of the Tomb Raider benchmark. We imagine that the GTX 1060's performance will be closer to the Legion Y7000's.

The Alienware m15's 15.6-inch, 1080p panel isn't the brightest or most colorful screen out there, but it boasts a smooth 144-Hz refresh rate that's hard to resist fawning over. The display covered 150 percent of the sRGB spectrum and registered 277 nits of brightness. This machine's keyboard delivered enough feedback to be comfortable to type on, despite its 1.1 millimeters of key travel.

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The GTX 1070 version had an impressive 6 hours and 25 minutes of battery life, and presumably, the GTX 1060 model will last slightly longer. The Alienware m15's chassis is made mostly of anodized aluminum.

Bottom Line

If you're more interested in value for performance, the Lenovo Legion Y7000 is a great choice, but it has a larger profile. The Dell XPS 15 is a slimmer and sexier alternative, with a much more discrete chassis. However, you might not want to miss out on the Alienware m15's smooth 144-Hz panel. Hopefully, this response helped you in your quest to replace your ThinkPad! Let us know what you decide to go with.

Credit: Laptop Mag