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Are Lenovo's ThinkPads Getting Worse? 271

Posted by Soulskill
from the laptop-market-slowly-drying-up dept.
writertype writes "Over the weekend, Lenovo launched the ThinkPad T431s, a ~$950 notebook with chiclet keys, no trackpad buttons, an integrated battery, and Windows 8 but no touchscreen. The T431s is also thinner and lighter than the bulletproof bento boxes we all know and love. The argument ReadWrite makes is that ThinkPads are becoming slowly, but significantly, worse. Do you agree?"
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Are Lenovo's ThinkPads Getting Worse?

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  • Selling points (Score:5, Insightful)

    by discomike (1291084) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:01PM (#43218689)
    I'd say the lack of touchscreen is a positive feature =)
    • Re:Selling points (Score:5, Insightful)

      by writertype (541679) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:05PM (#43218743)

      I'd say the lack of touchscreen is a positive feature =)

      But trying to navigate a tablet interface using a touchpad really isn't.

      • Re:Selling points (Score:5, Insightful)

        by X0563511 (793323) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:07PM (#43218749) Homepage Journal

        ... which would by why you don't install a touchpad OS on it, or leave that feature disabled if your OS can do both ways.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        So simply blow out the Useless Touch based OS that comes on it by default and install a REAL Operating system like Linux or Windows 7.

        • Re:Selling points (Score:4, Informative)

          by lucm (889690) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:54PM (#43219969)

          I disagree. In my experience Windows 8 is annoying at first but after a while it becomes more convenient than Windows 7.

          When they released Windows 8 I took advantage of the upgrade deal (something like $40) and installed it on my Windows 7 laptop (which has no touch screen). I wanted to experience the real thing so I fought the urge to install one of those 3rd party start menu. It felt more natural to work in Desktop mode but a few things got in the way, like pictures or PDF opening in Metro mode, and after a while I switched back to Windows 7. Meanwhile I got a tablet that comes with Windows 8 (not RT) and got the hang of it.

          I now regret having switched back to Windows 7 on my laptop. Turns out that pinning shortcuts to the task bar does the job 95% of the time, and for everything else the start screen and the Search charm in Windows 8 are infinitely superior to the Start Menu navigation or the Start Menu search in Windows 7. The integration with the Live ID is also convenient as I use Sky Drive, Office.com and Outlook.com extensively for work. Some other features like the quick multi-display setup or the wifi picker are also superior in Windows 8. And I found out that I prefer browsing the web in Metro mode (Chrome so I can keep my bookmarks) and reading news is also more pleasant because lateral paging is way better than scrolling down, even with a mouse.

          So Windows 8 is not all bad. The transition between Metro and Desktop is weird and at first I was always switching to Desktop, but after a while I was actually disappointed when I had to launch a non-Metro application. I really think that when most applications are Metro things will be much better but I guess it will take a while.

          I probably won't reinstall Windows 8 on my laptop but whenever I buy a new one I'll be happy that it comes with Windows 8, touch screen or not.

          As for Linux that's a different discussion.

          • by adiposity (684943)

            > the Search charm in Windows 8 are infinitely superior to the Start Menu navigation or the Start Menu search in Windows 7.

            I find that classic shell does a better job of searching for what I want, than the Windows 8 (or Windows 7) search.

            http://www.classicshell.net/ [classicshell.net]

      • Re:Selling points (Score:5, Insightful)

        by quenda (644621) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:20PM (#43219767)

        *Real* Thinkpads don't need a touchpad either, just the nipple-mouse. Sorry, trackpoint.

      • by colfer (619105)

        Just install a classic start menu and disable Metro. I forget which 3rd party start menu I installed, but it's great. Win8 is now a better Win7, as far as I can tell. But I haven't done any real work with it.

    • Re:Selling points (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fractoid (1076465) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:28PM (#43218927) Homepage
      February: "Touchscreen notebooks coming whether we want them or not?"
      March: "The killer flaw of this notebook is that it has no touchscreen."
      • As long as they insist on pushing a touch-based OS, they'd damn better supply the proper hardware.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      I'd say the lack of touchscreen is a positive feature =)

      Especially if it comes with a matte display!

  • While we all know about Betteridge's Law [wikipedia.org], the answer here is yes.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Miamicanes (730264) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:22PM (#43218881)

      Normally, I'd agree with you about Betteridge... but as a life-long Thinkpad owner, yeah... compared to 5-10 years ago, their quality has gone down the toilet, and they're slowly turning their laptops into cheap shadows of their former glory.

      Being a "Thinkpad" used to mean something... it meant you were buying a laptop built to survive Armageddon (well, at least one that's neither wet nor sandy) that you'd feel compelled to hang on to forever as a future family heirloom, because it just seemed morally wrong to ever throw one away. Compaq's high-end laptops used to be the same way, until HP destroyed them & turned them into the same throw-away crap they sell at Walmart (but with enterprise management features added to their BIOS, a TPM module, and drive encryption enabled by default).

      It used to be, if your Thinkpad died, it was almost guaranteed to be your fault (or the fault of somebody in your general vicinity, or to whom you made the mistake of temporarily delegating possession or stewardship of it). If you were on board a hijacked jet, you could remove the battery, put it in a pillocase, and go after the boxcutter-wielding hijackers using your battery as a hybrid club-mace, and your beloved Thinkpad as a shield.

      I just pray to ${deity} that the Trackpoint IV patents all expire before the dark day that they decide to start eliminating them from even their expensive models in a misguided attempt to shave another $1.17 from the manufacturing cost, and take away my last remaining reason to stick with them instead of trying to hack my own guerrilla lunchbox PC with a microATX mobo, a body-transplanted Model M (with Trackpoint), a suitable 2560x1440 display, and the fruit of a Makerbot & a week or two of printing & gluing-together a new case, one 4x4 inch piece at a time.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:29PM (#43219425) Homepage

        "it meant you were buying a laptop built to survive Armageddon (well, at least one that's neither wet nor sandy) "

        Those of US that wanted to survive the Outdoors bought a Toughbook. I can use mine in heavy rain, while it is snowing on it, or at the beach laying in the sand, or even buried in it.

        My favorite feature is being able to beat someone senseless with it and not worry about damage.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by tippe (1136385)

          Speaking of Toughbook, if you want to learn absolutely nothing about Toughbook but have a good time doing it, read http://lookrobot.co.uk/2013/01/14/the-panasonic-toughpad-press-conference/ [lookrobot.co.uk]. Absolutely hilarious!

        • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Miamicanes (730264) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @12:26AM (#43220797)

          ^^^ Fatal flaw: no Trackpoint, and the same indexfinger-optimized touchpad as every other PC laptop on the planet(*). God knows, that's just about the only reason TO buy a Thinkpad anymore.

          Giving credit where credit is due, Lenovo DOES have one truly kick-ass new product that they could make a KILLING if they were to sell it as a thirdparty accessory compatible with other laptop brands: their combination power supply + powered USB hub. Others make power supplies that can act like a source of 5v power, but only Lenovo makes one that's a real powered USB hub in its own right. Now, if only they'd let us have one that's big enough to supply the laptop with 95 watts (so it can run at full speed AND charge)... or better yet, supply 95 watts to the laptop, AND power a bright LED-backlit USB LCD screen with the same dimensions and resolution as the built-in display. Maybe make it for the W-series, and design it to piggyback onto the back of the main display for travel (protecting the back of the built-in display from crushing, protecting its front from cracks, and eliminating the need to bother with yet another carrying case). When running on batteries, you'd just leave it clamped onto the back. When at someplace where you're going to do real work, unlatch it, fold out the kickstand, pull the recessed USB cord out, and plug it into the power brick-USB hub. (before anyone brings up weight, ask yourself... seriously... if you had this, how often would you really, truly have the laptop someplace where you wouldn't be carrying the display with you *anyway*?)

          (*)Back in the ancient days of yore, sometime around 1997, I remember the very first touchpads... they emulated the ballistics of a thumb trackball, and understood that a curved sweep with a tiny bit of vertical motion and a moderate amount of horizontal motion meant "move the pointer in a straight line". Then, sometime around 2000, it all went to hell... I don't know whether it was value-engineering, or just pandering to people who don't know how to type properly & use touchpads with their index fingers instead of their thumbs, but all the manufacturers changed their touchpad ballistics, and within a year they went from being "eeeew. I like Trackpoint better" to "utterly and completely unusable". Every now and then, I'll stumble upon some random laptop whose touchpad doesn't completely suck, and try to figure out what makes it different from the other 98% -- but if there's any particular brand, firmware-version, set of configuration settings, or whatever... I've never discovered it/them, nor figured out what precisely differentiates a trackpad that sucks completely from one that's merely a piss-poor substitute for a Trackpoint.

          Once in a great while, I'll stumble across a laptop that goes a step further, and puts a real IBM trackpoint in what's (IMHO) the ideal location for it -- below the spacebar. The story I've patched together over the years is that IBM patented the Trackpoint mechanism, GHB location, and rubber tip, then Fujitsu patented their own (inferior) mechanism and below-spacebar location. As a result, anyone who tries to put an IBM-style Trackpoint under the spacebar risks an infringement lawsuit from Fujitsu, so the only companies who dare are companies like Sony (who Fujitsu wouldn't dare to sue, because they have plenty of ammunition to fire back at them). In my dream world, my keyboard would have a Trackpoint directly below the spacebar (able to slide up to an inch to the left or right of center, then lock it down tightly with a tiny screw) flanked by two buttons on each side (nw, sw, se, and ne of the stick) so you could have one thumb on the stick, and easily press the left or right (really, top or bottom) mouse button with the other thumb. And a pair of thin, rubbery wheels between the F|G and H|J keys, serving as the scroll wheel (two, because I'd rather not strain to reach one between G and H, and there are both left- and right-handed users to accommodate).

      • by Telvin_3d (855514)

        You say Micro-ATX, but that just means you have more looked at SFF builds in the last couple years. Check out the Mini-ITX spec and some of the stuff available.

      • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

        by bemymonkey (1244086) on Wednesday March 20, 2013 @02:37AM (#43221263)

        It's not only the quality. They're killing off all the features that make me want to keep using a Thinkpad.

        1. The 7-row full keyboard layout with the Delete/Home/End island and separated blocks of F-keys
        2. The trackpoint buttons
        3. A way to keep the lid closed unless I decide I manually want to unlatch and open it (the latch-hooks are being or rather have been removed on most models)
        4. Big swappable batteries - I'm typing this on a machine with a 94Wh 9-cell that gives me about 12 hours of battery life. The devices they've shown so far with integrated batteries are all 40-50Wh
        5. Easily swappable RAM and hard drives with multiple places to actually stick hard drives so you can use two or three at once

        And through all this, they still haven't added any decently high display resolutions. Yes, I"m typing this on a 15.6" Thinkpad T520 with a 1920x1080 screen, but tbh at this screen size I'm yearning for 2560x1440 at 100% Windows scaling...

        I've actually been looking into getting a 13" MBP Retina and running Windows on it, but unfortunately all the Mac users I ask either say "Just use OSX" or have no idea what kind of battery life I can expect in Windows... and tbh, 7 hours (the "wireless web" runtime in OSX) is cutting it a bit close already :(. And then there's the price - I'm running my Thinkpad with a 256GB SSD as the system drive and a 1TB hard disk as the data drive... I'll need to get at least the 768GB SSD option on the MBP :(

        But what're the alternatives? Dell? Much crappier driver support than Lenovo, better on-site support, much much much worse input devices... What do I do when my T520 (I'm planning on upgrading it to a dual core i7 when the i3 I bought it with for thermal reasons starts to become too slow) is too slow to keep me happy? I think I'm fucked, tbh... I'll probably be clinging to this T520 until the mainboard dies or the backlight expires...

    • by AvitarX (172628)

      My R60 had an option to re-install from recovery, and every piece of crapware (such as the completely worthless think tools and search tools, and outdated browser plugins etc) was a checkbox to choose to install (I chose only the CD burning software), my T400 lacked that option on re-install, and I stopped buying thinkpads from then on.

      • by armanox (826486)

        My R60 had an option to re-install from recovery, and every piece of crapware (such as the completely worthless think tools and search tools, and outdated browser plugins etc) was a checkbox to choose to install (I chose only the CD burning software), my T400 lacked that option on re-install, and I stopped buying thinkpads from then on.

        I remember seeing that on an R40 (IIRC) at work and saying "That's pretty awesome." It's a shame to hear that's no longer the case.

    • Betteridge's Law makes no sense at all.

      You can find proof in my essay titled: "Does Betteridge's Law make any sense?"

  • by Kenja (541830) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:04PM (#43218725)
    It's based on the Ultrabook standard put forth by Intel, Lenovo doesn't get a lot of say on some of those missing features. If you dont like it, dont buy an Ultrabook. They do still make other notebooks, including the T430S which has track-pad buttons etc and should be very familiar to Thinkpad fans.
    • by timeOday (582209)
      How about not having a removable battery, does Intel mandate that? That's just taking advantage of consumers' inability to foresee future pain at the time of purchase IMHO. I suppose the couple of millimeters saved are more defensible in a phone, but not in a laptop.
    • by Optic7 (688717)

      Yeah, from what I've heard, Ultrabook spec does mandate integrated batteries. I don't know about the rest. Anyway, the answer is that they should never have labelled an Ultrabook as a Thinkpad, because it goes against the idea and spirit of Thinkpads.

      • Yeah.. I think they could have easily called it an UltraPad (assuming no trademark conflicts)
  • Well, if my company forces one of these on me, I'll worry about it...when they get to it 3 years from now.

    • 3 years? Lucky!

      Now if you'll excuse me, this thing won't shovel coal into own hopper. Gotta keep its boiler goin' 'til its saved my spreadsheet!
  • Having owned multiple Thinkpads, starting with the 600e, the new T431 is very disheartening. I have a W520 and I am hoping they leave the W line alone.

    I absolutely LOVE the grouped F-keys, beveled keys, dual "mouse buttons" and dual pointer control. I just hope they don't cheap out and turn the chassis into a piece of fragile plastic.

    • The limiting factor of the W line will be the power supply. It's been growing exponentially. The one for my W520 packs 170W, is brick sized and could be used to crack open coconuts in a pinch. If it continues at the current rate, the power supply will soon be bigger and heavier than the SchtinkPad . . . about around the time when the W590 is released. With a cool 1TB of RAM and a wattage of a wind tunnel!

      But don't even think about trying to take my W520 away . . . I get all NRAish about it. I'll whack

      • by s4ltyd0g (452701)

        If they didn't have that big 170W power supply, you wouldn't be able to run the thing and charge the battery at the same time.

  • Yes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by armanox (826486) <asherewindknight@yahoo.com> on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:09PM (#43218771) Homepage Journal

    They just don't hold up like they used to. We've got at work several 2009-2010 aged Thinkpads that are about done, while older ones (2007 era) are still showing no trouble aside from user error (dropped, etc). I've even got really old Thinkpad 600e (Pentium II, 96MB RAM) that won't die. I'd rather work off of the 600e then deal with the chicklet keyboards on the new ones (purchased a few T and W series laptops at the beginning of the year, they all suffer from it).

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      Which chicklet keyboards? The proper Thinkpad ones are as good as ever, but the Ultrabook/cheap versions are just average.

      • by armanox (826486)

        I hate the style in general - I have a 2008 Macbook that is my main experience, two co-workers have Sony Vaios that aren't any better. We just bought at the 4 T530s at work, which have them as well. I just don't like the feel of the keys, or the spaces in between. Makes me appreciate my 2006 MBP all that much more. I also have a Dell D510 that I use (VPNed into Fed's network). Something about how far down the keys go too. I feel like the newer keyboards don't push as far (my main keyboards are desktop

  • Pieces of junk (Score:4, Informative)

    by colinRTM (1333069) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:15PM (#43218821)

    I bought a then-still-IBM Thinkpad in 2005. It was a T42, I think. Over the next five years it did over 700,000 miles of flying with me, was dropped (in and out of its case), stood on, had coffee spilled on it and was generally abused. By the time I replaced it in 2010 the CDROM had packed in and the letters on the keys were mostly worn out. That's it. I gave it to my mother as her first laptop and it's still going strong, three years later. So 8+ years uninterrupted service.

    Obviously I was immensely impressed with that, and contrived to immediately buy a new Thinkpad. "They can't be all that different" I thought. I could not have been more wrong.

    Its replacement (I forget the model right now) was DOA. The replacement lasted three weeks before suffering a terminal mainboard failure. Lenovo, declining to replace it, took almost three months to return it to me.

    Over the next year it progressively disintegrated. The DVDROM died, the keyboard had to be replaced, the hinges needed constant tightening and the hard drive was replaced twice and it developed cracks in the lid, and the battery was almost useless after a few months. The power adaptor socket also broke. It looked cheap, it felt cheap, and it was anything but cheap. Lenovo could not give a fuck.

    I will never buy another Lenovo product, Thinkpad or not.

    • Re:Pieces of junk (Score:5, Informative)

      by AmiMoJo (196126) * <mojo@@@world3...net> on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @09:44PM (#43219915) Homepage

      Your anecdote is rather useless without knowing the model number. Lenovo do both proper Thinkpads which are still pretty good and a range of cheaper average quality machines.

      It sounds like you bought the consumer line because the business range has much better support than you describe. Rather than going back to them they usually send someone to you.

      • by dbIII (701233)
        I can't seem to find any that have as high a screen resolution as one of their earlier models :(
        They've gone backwards to 1080 pixels high. Hopefully the high-res Macs will inspire them to action.
  • by stemarcoh (2110284) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:16PM (#43218829)
    They used to be known for the keyboards - precise and firm with Insert/Delete/Home/End/PgUp/PgDown keys in a 3x2 layout. They used to have good trackpad button that worked perfectly with the red nav stylist thingy. The need to be distinct. They need to be the best. They need higher resolution; 1440x900 is an absolute minimum in my book. They need a solid keyboard. They need the 3x2 layout. They need a differentiating, defensible position. They've lost it. Sad.
    • by Rossman (593924)

      Every once in awhile these Thinkpad stories come up, and I generally read all of them. This is possibly the best comment I've read on the subject.

      Someone at the top of the Thinkpad product division should read it.

      • by router (28432)

        You would have to translate it to Chinese.

        I loved my old T20, it was a primary workstation, for work, that took three years of 40-120 hr weeks without a fault. The keyboard was the main selling point, and the shugging off of abuse. I spilled both Dr. Pepper and Dr. Thunder into the keyboard, and it was fixed with a keyboard removal, rinse, dry, and reinstall. Thinkpads were the gold standard of the business world, and the T-series was the pinnacle. Fast, light (including the power brick!, fer gds sake), I c

      • by colfer (619105)

        I keep my old TP500 (4MB) for some reason. It's in a closet, but still. It ran PC-DOS instead of the probably identical MS-DOS. Why do I think it ran OS/2 instead of WIn3.1 on top? Maybe it did. Anyway, it was a bare bones ThinkPad at 4MB even then.

  • Last Lenovo I had was an IdeaPad S205. EFI was crap. Windows didn't boot in EFI mode, Linux had problems with Wireless, reboot, everything ACPI related in EFI mode. There are still problems with either working card reader OR working USB ports (arguably a kernel problem) also in BIOS mode.

    Do the Thinkpads work in EFI mode?

  • X1 Carbon (Score:5, Informative)

    by mederbil (1756400) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:21PM (#43218863)

    Having just purchased a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon I am finding it to be fantastic. It still feels solid like my ol' T42 and it was considerably less expensive than most (but not all) ultrabooks on the market with comparable specifications.

    It has an incredible keyboard (in my humble opinion) and does not look flashy which I consider to be a huge plus.

    I'd say the ThinkPad series hasn't changed one bit.

    Oh yeah, and they've still got a clit mouse!

    • ... clit mouse? I'm going to have to google this.
    • Agreed. I recently got an X1 Carbon to replace my old X61s. While there's still something nice about the x61s's form factor (oh 4:3 screens, how I miss thee), the thinner, lighter x1c is incredible to me. It's sleek, light, and comfortable. It's also far more feature-full: the hard mute button with an indicator light is a lifesaver for me when turning the computer on when I don't know if it's muted or not (and need it to be); the fingerprint reader that's always-on so you can swipe your finger from full-off
    • by wscott (20864)
      I am liking my x1. I have used a 600s, t20, t40, t61 and now the x1 carbon. But I hate what they did with the Home/End/PgUp/PgDn buttons. They had room, why did they have to mess up the standard thinkpad keyboard layout. My fingers have taking weeks to adjust. Also something is funky with the touchpad. I almost never use it because I love the trackpoint, but when I do it is just not as responsive as it should be.
    • by Jim Hall (2985)

      I really like my X1 Carbon (it runs Linux just fine!) - and from the photos, the new T431 looks to be of a similar design. Basically the same keyboard, similar form factor, same hinge. The T431 trackpad is different of course, but the lack of buttons isn't a problem. I also have a Samsung Chromebook (the ARM one) and the Chromebook has a trackpad with no buttons. And I don't miss them. Neither does my wife. You can click the trackpad to select something, and use another finger to complete the selection. Thi

  • I've had this for a couple of months. I don't prefer the keyboard more than the larger T520 ones and the touchpad is ass, but I love the laptop as a whole. It's light, powerful, and the touchpad is a non-factor because I use a bluetooth mouse.
  • Lenovo was going to be my go-to recommended machine because Dell has gone downhill. It looks like the HP Elitebooks have improved but they still have shitty keyboards. I guess the MacBook Pros are now the best ones out there. After all, you can run Windows on it.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:33PM (#43218967) Journal

    chic-let keys back. After all, didn't we decide that was a bad design with the IBM PCjr?

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IBM_PCjr#.22One_of_the_biggest_flops_in_the_history_of_computing.22 [wikipedia.org]

    • by quenda (644621)

      Hang on, the 90's called, and they want their joke about previous decades calling back.

  • by isorox (205688) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:35PM (#43218985) Homepage Journal

    I have a T410S. The spare battery (in place of the CD drive) often falls out, the tiny rivets holding the screen together has failed on both sides -- I've put screws in the lid to fix it. It still has a trackpoint, matt screen, and half decent keyboard though

    That said, It's survived the last few years, the two original batteries are still giving me a couple of hours, despite being charged and discharged probably 1500 times, physically (despite the modifications to the screen, which must have been opened over 10,000 times), it's racked up enough miles being flung into overhead lockers in my rucksack (may times while still powered, chunterring away compiling something) on it's travels to get to the moon

    Doesn't feel as solid as my 380ED was 15 years ago, but that didn't get half as much punishment.

    My 15" macbook (about 18 months old) sits next to it in the rucksack and isn't doing too bad (despite having a coin stuck in the sd slot), but I don't use it half as much as the thinkpad (running ubuntu 10.04)

    It's probably nearing time for a new thinkpad, so on my list is
    * decent screen
    * matt screen
    * trackpoint
    * keyboard light
    * built in 3g card
    * extra battery slot
    * Large SSD (significantly more than my 128GB one)
    * 8GB or more of memory

    I'm not convinced by the look of the new keyboards, however there's not exactly a great deal of choice in decent laptops.

  • by ischorr (657205)

    My work-issued T420 is probably comparitively the worst laptop I've ever owned. And I've had 12 from 8 different manufacturers over 18 years.

  • by thenextstevejobs (1586847) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:38PM (#43219007)

    I have written about this on /. before but it's more relevant than ever to me now

    A few years ago (late 2009), I bought a ThinkPad and a MacBook Pro around the same time. I used the two machines side by side for awhile, and I really, really wanted to like the ThinkPad. However, the MacBook Pro's screen was brighter, clearer, speakers were better, battery lasted longer, and, of course, the profile was a lot smaller. Power cord was nicer. Touchpad was miles beyond the ThinkPad. Also, power management didn't work perfectly on the ThinkPad (Ubuntu, Debian, FreeBSD, all of them wouldn't suspend to memory on closing the thing and resume properly when opening it. Sometimes it would, sometimes not). ThinkPad fan was noisy.

    I'd once again like to buy a laptop, and run Linux/BSD on it. While OSX was giving me a decent dev environment and not pissing me off too much on a daily basis at the time, lately the lack of configurability, Finder being slow as fuck, development environment issues, generally using OSX being not as badass as running something made by the community, Apple's legal positions, etc... I'd really like to get off the Apple stuff.

    However, it's obvious that there's no laptop made by anyone else that isn't an ugly piece of shit. ThinkPads used to have that nice weight to them, the look and feeling like you just stepped off the space station with one. Something reasonably classy about them. But if you look at them directly next to the latest Macbook Pro, it is obvious which one is better hardware (OS political issues aside).

    Honestly I'm thinking about just not using laptops anymore. The ergonomics of the screen/keyboard placement is obviously terrible, and there just doesn't seem to be any option I'd want to use every day other than handing Apple a huge check for their hardware and running another OS on it.

    If anyone has any suggestions about other brands, products, or experiences I'd be happy to hear them. Because I certainly can't seem to find a reasonable alternative

    • However, the MacBook Pro's screen was brighter, clearer,

      The screen on my Thinkpad W500, after a few years, is TERRIBLE.

  • My previous Thinkpad experience was an A31P. I finally just parted with it, reluctantly, a couple of weeks ago. Newer Thinkpads, up through the X61 were ones I very much wanted, but couldn't justify the price. At that point I do think they started going downhill for a while. This one actually looks to me like it has possibilities again.

    I really like the idea of a MIL-SPEC. I do think it would have been better with a replaceable battery, but in trying to keep up with the thinness of the competitions product
  • by XXeR (447912)

    I recently purchased an x230. It's light as hell, has an IPS display, quad core, 16GB RAM, 160GB SSD, and displayport. Best of all, ALL HW was detected perfectly by fedora 18.

    So not all Lenovo laptops are getting worse..

  • by ScottCooperDotNet (929575) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:43PM (#43219057)

    Let's also not forget the bad old days when ThinkPads had twice as many screws and screw lengths as Dell laptops had, making servicing them a major pain. Putting in a too-long screw in the wrong place risked damage to the motherboard.

    That being said, PC makers really do a poor job of marketing what their premium offerings are, and what's a value offering. Outside of Apple, which is almost exclusively premium, no one gets this. Dell didn't with Alienware, HP didn't with VoodooPC, and now Lenovo doesn't get it with ThinkPad. While the exact target of each brand is different in these 3 examples, all are upmarket items.

    • How long ago was that? My 7 year old T43 has only a few more screws than my new W520 and many fewer than my wife's 2 year old Acer. And each screw location is labeled "1", "2", or "3" and there is a big sticker that shows which screw length corresponds to which number.

    • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:12PM (#43219305)

      Let's also not forget the bad old days when ThinkPads had twice as many screws and screw lengths as Dell laptops had, making servicing them a major pain. Putting in a too-long screw in the wrong place risked damage to the motherboard.

      Which is why ThinkPads have always had a freely downloadable hardware service manual, which would include every step of disassembly, including which screws went where!

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      If you look on the base there is a diagram showing screw lengths and each hole has a number indicating which one to use next to it.

      Dell laptops were terrible because they relied on plastic clips that were easy to break and the service manuals cannot be downloaded.

  • Build quality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Vaer (121548) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:43PM (#43219061)

    My company purchases several hundred ThinkPads every year that are given to users who use them ~12+ hours per day 7 days a week and who generally abuse them. X series tablets (starting with the X40t up to X230t), T series (T60-T430s), a smattering of W series and a couple X1's. The ThinkPad line is still as bulletproof as ever, with excellent warranty support (we purchase accidental protection on everything).

    The new systems we are getting have (so far) been just as robust as the previous systems we've had. Of the various groups who purchase computers where I am at, mine is the only one that is exclusively Lenovo. My group is also the only one that doesn't consistently complain about their vendor of choice.

    The new keyboard is a monstrosity compared to the old ThinkPad keyboard, but is still much better than anything else I've tried.

    Also, anyone comparing Lenovo's IdeaPad line, to their ThinkPad line should think about them as two separate companies. ThinkPads are built like tanks, the IdeaPads are built like a Kia and the support model is completely different.

  • I've used Thinkpads exclusively since I bought a 560 in late 1996. I'm currently using a 2009-vintage W500 and hoping it doesn't break, because it has more pixels (1920x1200) than any Windows laptop made today. They've always been rugged, functional, and effective tools for getting work done.

    What did I want from yesterday's Lenovo announcement? A retina-class (i.e., 2560x1600) display, modern CPU/memory/SSD hardware, and no significant changes elsewhere, because Thinkpads are in fact pretty darn well-eng
  • ...at "Windows 8".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @07:48PM (#43219107)

    Microsoft made the PC market, and MS is going to break it. While those that make PC kit can choose between Intel and AMD, or Nvidia and AMD, for either the CPU or GPU, by definition the PC has to use Windows from Microsoft. Those that makes PCs therefore have to trust MS's choices and commandments.

    Think back to when IBM controlled the essential hardware spec of the PC. Clones were clones because they used the same types of components and interconnects as the original. Luckily, when IBM became even more senile (these were the losers behind the dreadful 'token ring' bus, for instance), an industry group of OEMs created new standards for the hardware- standards that ultimately gave Intel most of the control over new bus designs.

    Microsoft can, in a sense, be chucked too if Windows is replaced with Linux, but a computer with Linux is NOT a compatible PC. The IBM solution makes no sense here, and that is the issue.

    Microsoft is going senile. It no longer has a sense of viable purpose. By some miracle, it survived being last to the Internet (as nonsensical as this will sound, MS supported CDROM in place of the Internet, which is where things like Encarta came from- MS 'geniuses' stated that the Internet could NOT beat the bandwidth advantages of local optical storage, and so should be ignored). Today, MS faces almost too many challenges to be listed, and has an answer to none of them.

    The 'ThinkPad' reflects MS saying 'this is how the future of notebooks looks'. Microsoft knows that 'fashion' is the answer, even though we know that MS has NEVER succeeded this way, but by offering (indirectly, of course) serious, value for money, work-horse products with insanely good third-party software support.

    How many things has MS copied from Apple over the last couple of years, through blind replication? The top management of MS currently state "if it associated with Apple hardware or software, it is a magic ingredient for success, and therefore we must do the same in exactly the same way." So Microsoft gave us the world's most expensive tablets, with the world's most restrictive software store, and failed once again in the most humiliating way.

    Rather than rethink their strategy, MS prefers paying an army of online shills telling us that everything MS does is 'genius', and if we fail to appreciate this we are the idiots. So, suggesting that an ARM based tablet from MS should 1) support full windows (with recompiled apps, of course), and 2) sell for the same price as tablets from Google and Amazon, will get hundreds of 'shill' responses explaining in detail why such a proposal is clearly nonsense.

    Here's a question. Why did MS NOT insist all new laptops have touch-screens? The answer, of course, is not a happy one. MS is NOT about choice (a lappy with a touch screen gives the user choices between screen, touchpad or external mouse input). MS is about control. It thinks Apple wins by telling its customers what they may, or may not do. Apple sez a laptop is not a tablet, so MS agrees, at least until that moment Apple laptops commonly include touch-screens.

    For years, MS whined on about how its OS and Office suite should be sold as a 'service' with recurring costs. But who was first to making such concepts popular and commercially effective. Why, it was Google with the Chromebook. Where is Microsoft's equivalent to the Chromebook?

    As I said, MS has gone senile. No longer will it listen to its users. No longer will it care if its products receive approval from those forced to use them. No longer will it care if the competition is encroaching from a million different directions at once. All Microsoft cares about is that THEY control the PC, and whatever they say goes, no matter how self-destructive.

    When Google steps up in the next year or so, and makes Android a true OS for the desktop and notebook, MS is toast. The fact that our CPU is going to change architecture for the first time since the PC spec was created by IBM is the most critical factor. When proper Windows finally go

  • Let's see, just to cherry pick a few points in Lenovo's history:

    ThinkPad in 2006: Windows XP
    ThinkPad in 2012: Windows 7
    ThinkPad in 2013: Windows 8

    Yes, I can see a definite decline there.

    • How about:

      Thinkpad [linucity.com] in 2013: Ubuntu 12.10

      Easily the best laptop I have ever owned. I know Unity sucks but the this Thinkpad actually makes it usable.

  • by linguae (763922) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:06PM (#43219249)

    Last night I looked at pictures of the new ThinkPad T431s. While looking at them, I thought to myself, "Hmmmm. How does this laptop look any different from any other high-end PC laptop?" I will be in the market this summer for a new laptop to replace my aging MacBook. I wanted to replace it with a ThinkPad due to the ThinkPad line's reputed reliability and its conservative design. The current ThinkPads, in my opinion, are well designed, and I don't mind the chiclet keys in current-generation ThinkPads such as the ThinkPad T430s and the X230 (although I sympathize with those who prefer traditional-style keys). However, the ThinkPad T431s, in my opinion, doesn't resemble a ThinkPad. Where are the mouse buttons? To me, the design looks like yet-another MacBook Pro clone.

    Doesn't Lenovo understand that part of what makes the ThinkPad so desirable is its conservative design, including the keyboard layout? ThinkPads are like HP's calculator line in this regard, which have a similar fan following who likes the calculators' high quality and conservative designs. Older HP calculators from the 1980s and early 1990s such as the 15C, 32S, and 48GX are highly regarded due to their high quality (not to mention their support for RPN input). I have a HP 48S that I bought on eBay six years ago that I like a lot due to its feature set and its quality. However, HP's late-1990s offerings (during the Carly Fiorina era) deviated from the style and quality that were characteristic of HP's older calculators. These offerings were not well-received by HP's customers. HP's older calculators started to sell for very high prices on eBay. Thankfully HP listened to the input of its customers, and HP has recently been making calculators that nearly match the quality of their older models, such as the newer HP 35S and the HP 15c Collector's Edition models. Hopefully Lenovo realizes that they have a special brand with a loyal fan following, and that Lenovo doesn't make the same mistakes that HP made during the Fiorina era.

  • by Misagon (1135) on Tuesday March 19, 2013 @08:06PM (#43219255)

    Like all ThinkPad's before it, it has a trackpoint, but how the L did the Lenovo designers think that trackpoint users are going to be able to click with no mouse buttons?

    Apparently, you are supposed to click by pressing on the top of the trackpad...
    However, there are quite a few users out there who are used to disabling the trackpad in the BIOS because it is too easy to nudge it by mistake. With such a large trackpad (twice as wide than before) and practically no space between the Space Bar and the trackpad this is bound to happen more often.

  • I don't know about the rest of the world but last year, Lenovo Australia changed their support arrangements. Previously Lenovo support was excellent - now it's abysmal. We had a small form factor desktop power supply fail. Our "onsite next business day" support contract ended up being to a three week wait for parts, along with the engineer coming onsite before the part had arrived, twice. It was a joke.

    We couldn't get a firm answer from Lenovo support - eg "the part is on route" or "we're out of stock" or "

    • I was bitten by a lack of support a few years ago (had to ship a server halfway around the world when the local support centre closed, then Fedex put a forklift tine through it on the way back, but that's nothing compared to the confusion of dealing with Dell (other Dell clients looking for the same part were given my contact details and rang me thinking I worked for Dell)), so just gave up, bought spares and sent people to training courses for odd hardware (eg. IBM3590 autoloading tape drives) which also h
  • I am not sure why that machine would START at $950! That is for a low end model!! Let's compare....

    In late November I bought a Lenovo Thinkpad Twist for $1100. But that was with twice the memory, an SSD instead of HD, and the fastest mobile core i7 available. And the case looks nearly the same, it has the identical keyboard, and the identical trackpad and I think the same battery. What I bought was a new model, it was not clearance or anything and it is also classified as an "Ultrabook".

    The only thin

  • I have an old X30 that I bought for about $150 on ebay a few years ago and is still going strong. It's great for travel because it's very small but has full-sized keyboard keys, and I don't have to stress out if it gets stolen or broken.

    They're usually great laptops to buy used because they're so tough and they have traditionally only been used by businesses, usually on relatively short leases, and not subject to the same kinds of punishment that personal laptops suffer from mostly home use. I also supporte

  • The right title should be, "Are ThinkPads getting worse ever since Lenovo took control from IBM?" And the answer is yes. Pretty much from the point Lenovo took over (along with the new, fat AC connectors), ThinkPads have declined steadily, but surely. You could say maybe it's because IBM is a US company and Lenovo is a Chinese company; all I know is yes, they have indeed gotten worse.

  • you can spend a pile of money for a well made think pad, or you can spend practically nothing for a chunk of worthless i3 3gig no keypad, no wifi, so poorly made you have to twist the case so the battery engages, large heavy SHIT that look like 1987 threw up on (but you have 2 mouses)

    but is that really different from any other era? Thats why fans always make sure to mention their model numbers, cause some outside sales drone looks at his bottom of the barrel stinkpad and wonders what the hell people are tal

  • I've been using Thinkpads since 1997. I currently have a T420s. The machine cost 2K USD with Windows tax for Win7 Professional and Office Professional. It is 1 1/2 years old. Here is my list of problems:

    1. The side USB 2.0 port came off the mother board. I'm super careful, but ports get tugged on from time to time. Last week I opened up the machine, and the connection had been tacked to the mother board with two tiny bits of solder. I used a solder gun and 10 minutes to fix it myself. Ports need stron

  • What an abomination. I hate touchpads, and indeed disable them upon boot. They always f up my typing whenever my palms hit them. I wouldn't be able to even use this thing. And what was wrong with the old thinkpad keyboards? I don't want chiclets!

    What are they going to take away next? I bet it's the matte screen...

  • I started my current job (trade floor support) around the same time Lenovo took control of the design as well as the manufacture of the ThinkPad. I was given my companies standard laptop (a TP R60) and told to make it work! I tried dozens of configurations and worked with IBM engineers and ultimately we only found 1 video card that would work in the 6x series Ultra-Dock.

    Because of corporate refresh cycles IBM had always guaranteed any updates in a series would be compatible with that series accessories (a
  • I have owned several ThinkPads over the years and can attest to the declining quality over time, particularly right after Lenovo acquired the Think brand.

    My first ThinkPad was an IBM T40p. The build quality was rock solid. It got me through college and I carried that thing on my back nearly every day for four years. As a sys admin I have deployed many IBM and Lenovo ThinkPads. The T4x was well built machine, and ran for a long time but tended to need repairs just after the warranty period. Since we
  • Been using Thinkpads for years, and I've seen more models at work than I've owned.

    The X-series subnotes (not the Tablet PCs) are great - the X200/201 was terrific, the X220 was great, and I can't say enough about the usability and the battery life of an X230 with a 9-cell battery in it. The new keyboard takes a little getting used to, but it's good and sturdy.

    The X1C is a nice system, and the T4xx models have been pretty solid. The Lxxx models can be iffy, but I can't say that they're any worse than the R40

  • I have an X220 with a clickpad. I have only used it a few times. Instead, I reach above the touchpad to tap the pointer thingie buttons, which by the way take way to much pressure to use.

  • Let's see... I owned a T20, T23, X30, T41p, T43, T60, T60p, and a friend owned a T600e, T42, X60, X201, X220 and now X230. Of all these machines that were never abused, here are the problems:

    T20 - just stopped powering up one day, when it was about 5 years old, never figured out why because by then it was not worth repairing.

    X30 - LCD stopped working when the laptop was 3 years old, same as above

    T41p - Ethernet flaked out, turns out the chip had desoldered and the only fixes were reflowing or new motherboar

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