Longtime readers know that I am a ThinkPad partisan. I’ve owned four laptops over my life and once I went with the ThinkPad I never went back. My first computer was a Sony Vaio, which I dropped once on a hard floor and was never the same again. Parts of the keyboard stopped responding, the battery stopped recharging, the monitor would cut in and out, and so on.

I’ve dropped the old ThinkPad (“Hermes”) a total of five times, two three of which on hard floors. The last time I dropped it was apparently once too many times. The monitor got slightly cracked. Ever since then, there are black spots creeping up on the monitor along the sides. The only real bad area is the original crack, which blocks the system tray icons and the time. There are little blotches along the top that make it hard to see what application is open.

So far this isn’t really a problem. I have a watch to tell me what time it is and I usually know what application is open. But as time passes it will become more and more of a problem. The black areas mostly creep whenever I accidentally put something on top of it or hold it too tightly in transport. I don’t treat my things gently.

In any event, I’ve had the thing for well over five years and I’ve treated it like crap. It’s done its time. Whenever I retire it, I’ll still be able to use it as a desktop with a monitor and all that.

Nonetheless, I’ve had a sick feeling in my stomach when it comes to shelling out another couple grand for a new laptop. Last night I bit the bullet and did some surfing to see how much a new ThinkPad would cost. Apparently, ThinkPad prices have fallen like a brick. Notebook prices have been falling for some time now, but ThinkPad prices have always lagged. Most of the time the low-end laptops skimp on quality of parts and since ThinkPads use good parts, they haven’t felt the easing of component prices.

A new laptop will cost me about 60% of what the last one I bought, in 2006, cost me. Of course, it’ll be better in every measurable way. It’ll even be better comparatively among what’s out. The last laptop I bought was upper-middling. The current laptops I’m looking at are lower-upper. The last ThinkPad I bought required upgrading the RAM, these don’t.

So now a part of me wants Hermes to die sooner rather than later. I am salivating at the prospect of a new toy to play with that won’t be as limited as this 2002 machine. One that can tell the time and have a slightly bigger monitor and have wireless that isn’t a limp thing hanging out of a port. Instead of living in fear that Hermes will die, I live in fear that he will survive. Of course I won’t do anything to hasten her departure, but a part of me will be a’waiting.

In addition to offering a great product, IBM and now Lenovo (the former and current maker of the ThinkPad line) offer unbelievably good service. They offer a great repair/replacement plan where I can throw it off a cliff and they will give me a new one and the contract is written that there is no way that they can say that I need to contact a manufacturer or developer for a problem on their computer. I’ve bought this with my last three laptops, but I might not with the next one? Why? The product is too dang good. I’ve never once had to cash in on the warranty. I know some other people that have (which is how I know that they honor their contracts), but I’ve not even come close despite my manhandling of my stuff.

So in a sense, the durability of their product hurts part of their sales. Who would have figured that?

Category: Market

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5 Responses to Are ThinkPads Built Too Tough?

  1. bobvis says:

    For what it’s worth, I have a friend who bought a $600 Toshiba from Best Buy the other day, and it speeds along in Vista perfectly fine. 2.0Ghz Core 2 Duo, 2 GB RAM. I use a thinkpad myself, and I wonder if I should have settled for a cheaper model. (I got the X61 tablet. I still like the tablet, but I find myself using it less and less.)

    And yes, you are totally right about their sapping their own business by making higher quality products. Good for us though!

  2. trumwill says:

    I was salivating over the convertible tablets when shopping. That’s the next big advancement that I think I’m looking forward to, though it’s not the financially sound decision for me to make right now.

    Having purchased a Toshiba before when I was an IT dude and having dealt with my wife’s Toshiba, that’s one brand that I will never, ever be buying. I’d go to Gateway or Dell first. Last time around I considered getting an HP because for a lot less money I could get a much faster system with more resources. It was as close a call as I’ve had to getting off the ThinkPad reservation. I don’t regret my decision, though. I’ve since learned of a couple people very dissatisfied with their HP laptops.

    One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I can go without extra speed or performance (RAM being an exception) in exchange for knowing that my slower machine is stable, durable, and protected by a good warranty. If I were a gamer, my priorities would be quite different. It’s actually rare that the speed of the dying, five year old ThinkPad is really even noticed. This is particularly true since I busted the OS down to Windows 2000. In fact, most of the time that its inferiority is apparent it’s because of the limitations of the Windows 2000 OS rather than lack of speed. That and non-speed and non-dexterity related things like having a WiFi dongle, a diminished battery, and of course the cracked monitor.

  3. Linus says:

    I got a cheapo (but still Core Duo, not Turion X2) Dell last June. Granted, I can’t say anything about reliability at this point, but it’s functioned well thus far. Paid $657 shipped.

    Frankly, I think tablets will always be a niche product. It’s just not revolutionary unless you run into a lot of situations where you would use your laptop while standing. Besides business uses, I can’t come up with a user that could really justify spending hundreds of dollars extra for that.

  4. Webmaster says:

    I can see the convertible tables as the one way I’d ever manage to draw a webcomic or something of that nature. It’s far cheaper than a desktop Wacom monitor.

    Added bonus: being able to carry around PDF’s of gaming books (assuming a large enough hard drive) on it.

    Problem: they’re going to tiny-sized flash hard drives and Windows Vista (ewwww).

  5. trumwill says:

    Hopefully it won’t be hundreds of dollars more forever. It’s new, so there’s going to be a premium on it for a while. Once the price comes down, I’ll give it a closer look.

    The big advantage of tablet PCs for me would be reading. Reading computer comic books and eBooks and whatnot is not comfortable with a standard laptop and being able to hold it like a tablet would be much more comfortable. It’d also be good for watching videos from a recliner. Despite the smaller screen, I often prefer watching and reading things on my Pocket PC than the laptop.

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