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IBM Portables

Change the ThinkPad and It Will Die 347

ErichTheRed writes "Here's an interesting editorial piece about the ThinkPad over at CNN. It mirrors what many ThinkPad devotees have been saying since Lenovo started tweaking the classic IBM design to make the ThinkPad more like a MacBook, Sony or other high-end consumer device. I'm a big fan of these bulletproof, decidedly unsexy business notebooks, and would be unhappy if Lenovo decided to sacrifice build quality for coolness. Quoting: 'Before doing anything drastic, Lenovo would be wise to review the spectacular rise and fall of Blackberry-maker Research in Motion. The mobile handset manufacturer tried to take on Apple by launching a number of products aimed at the retail consumer after the launch of the iPhone. It released the devastatingly bad Blackberry Storm as a response to the iPhone and later the Playbook to take on the iPad. The Storm failed because it was hastily put together in a mad dash and lacked the signature Blackberry QWERTY keyboard ... The Playbook failed because the Blackberry ecosystem had at the point of its launched more or less collapsed, making the Playbook just another iPad clone no one wanted. Meanwhile, the original Blackberry was left to wither away as the company focused on chasing Apple and wasn't updated in a meaningful way, making it look just old and tired.'"
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Change the ThinkPad and It Will Die

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  • by cayenne8 ( 626475 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:47PM (#42525199) Homepage Journal
    Trouble is, last lenovo thinkpad I bought...was kinda flimsy and plastic when compared to a real IBM one from a few years ago....that and the docking station was a bit flaky when trying to keep hooked to a DELL u2700...freaking thing brand new if tapped would get out of sync and is a major PITA to get back to normal view.

    I think lenovo has already hurt the Thinkpad, it does not look, feel or act like the robust 'tank' of old...

    My macbook pro feels more solid than the lenovo which is only about 1 year old now. And I put 16GB into the macbook, so, not that big a deal to load up other laptops with more RAM (I do video work which can get pretty RAM intensive)...

  • by Dahamma ( 304068 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @06:53PM (#42525293)

    Agile is a horrible model for hardware design. The whole point is a rapid release cycle to get that constant feedback from users. That only works if you can update your product rapidly, which is a bit hard when it's a complex and highly integrated piece of hardware. Redesigning even a small custom piece of plastic has a huge pipeline to get it designed, prototyped, final mold made, tooled, and built.

    The only way hardware like this is remotely affordable or profitable is giant economy of scale (manufacturers routinely spend hundreds of thousands to redesign motherboards just to save a couple dollars each), so making custom batches of 100 laptops would be insanely expensive.

  • by __aajfby9338 ( 725054 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:07PM (#42525429)
    I've had two T410s at work. I have not been impressed with their quality. Both have wavy, warped case plastic in spots. Both have audible digital hash in the audio at times. One has a docking port that is too unreliable to be usable. I haven't had much experience with pre-Lenovo ThinkPads, but the Lenovo ones I've used do not strike me as having any better build quality than other brands of laptops. They certainly don't hold a candle to my MacBook Air in that area.
  • T60 (Score:4, Interesting)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:07PM (#42525433)

    I've had a T60 for 7 years, including all through college. The things are tanks. It spent class after class being thrown around in my backpack and on the ground and kept trucking. After 4 years of abuse, the plastic over the vent cracked a little. And it's missing an arrow key, but that was due to a milkshake incident (which is survived without flinching) and me misplacing the key. I upped the RAM to 2.5GB in 2007, swapped in a 7200rpm HDD in 2008 and put Windows 7 on it in 2009, which runs quite beautifully. The only issue I've had is the battery went from providing nearly 7 hours on a charge (with tweaked settings) when I first got it to less than 30 minutes on a charge two years later. I bought a replacement battery for ~$45 and that's provided a steady 4 hours over the last three years. I eventually had to replace the ac adapter too, which had taken more abuse than the laptop.

    This past year, I got my parents a refurbished IdeaPad... not quite as sturdy as the Thinkpads but still leagues ahead of other laptops in the same price range. As long as they keep their basic design, my next laptop will definitely be a Thinkpad.

  • by canistel ( 1103079 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:17PM (#42525531)
    What is it and North Americans claiming RIM is dead? What a bunch of blind people... RIM is only hurting in North America, in many other markets they are on the top or close enough. They still make money every quarter and are a in transition phase. Nobody is claiming RIM doesn't have an issue or two to work out, but to close your eyes to the rest of the world and blabber like you have any clue what is going on just shows how little you know...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:33PM (#42525689)

    Have you ever used the new TP keyboard? I mean *used*, not fingered once in a store. I have (I actually bought an X230), and I think it's great. They completely fucked up the layout and hopefully they'll get to their senses and fix it soon, but the chiclet keys are a definite step forward. Yes, every chiclet keyboard you've ever used has been terrible. This one isn't.

    This isn't to say there aren't quality issues with the new models (bright spots on IPS screens on X220/X230 comes to mind), but complaining about chiclet keys is bullshit.

  • by AchilleTalon ( 540925 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:37PM (#42525717) Homepage
    Not true, I want a cheap piece of plastic that computes fast. Provided a reasonable keyboard and display. These pieces of plastic are used to be changed every 24 months anyway. I was a Thinkpad customer for a long time, it ended up abruptly two years ago when Lenovo managed very bad an important problem with the nVidia chip on its T61p line of products. I did buy these because they were the top end product at that time. I did buy Thinkpad instead of another brand because of the high quality I got in the past and the service. Lenovo just managed to replace the laptops likely to fail before the end of the warranty and made a recall for these serial numbers only. Many of us did have our lovely T61p just die not long after our warranty expired and we were told by Lenovo to go to hell (not in these terms of course) our warranty is expired and they won't do anything for us. Then I started to see if I could buy a replacement board and in Canada they charged over 1500$ for a replacement board while you can buy yourself a new machine for that price. I then decided to drop Lenovo once and forever. Since that time, I am committed to buy cheap pieces of plastic that computes fast instead.
  • by Nixoloco ( 675549 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @07:47PM (#42525827)

    Though Apple is exceptionally good at balancing nice and cost.

    No, Foxconn is. Sweatshops tend to do that.

    Foxconn just assembles things that Apple designs and ships the parts to them. They are close to the last step (maybe *the* last step) in a long supply chain. Apple is exceptionally good at designing products that people want and maximizing their profit on those items. Sometimes that means leaving off a few features but it always means very effective management of their supply chain. I don't think there are many companies in the world with Apple's skills in acquiring and locking up its component supplies. It helps having 10's of billions+ of dollars to throw around. Samsung is also pretty good and getting better.

  • by Shark ( 78448 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @08:13PM (#42526051)

    I think Lenovo beats Dell on the high end too (wouldn't know about HP). I bought a fully loaded Precision M65... It was great on paper and out of the box. It was also bloody expensive and I found out later very keen to cut corners where things do not show too much at first, like flimsy hinges, a magnesium casing that at first looks awesome but was prone to cracks from stress fatigue ( never tried dropping it).

    I bought a fully loaded W520 for about a thousand bucks less when it came out. It may not have a metal casing, but it's built like a tank, every little detail that made the M65 reveal its cheapness was carefully engineered in the W520, solid hinges, everything is built to last. The M65 was a nice laptop but it just doesn't compare. Now I haven't tried whatever was a replacement for the Dell when I got the Lenovo but I'd be surprized to find a major design improvement.

  • by realityimpaired ( 1668397 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @08:30PM (#42526227)

    I work somewhere where I'm paid enough to be able to afford $2000/mo in rent, in addition to payments on a new car and still live comfortably. I still think that Apple's products are overpriced for what you get. They certainly are good quality, but I don't abuse my laptop and have had nothing but good luck with Dell's build quality on their recent stuff. It says something that you can get a $400 laptop from their business line and it includes 1 year of NBD onsite support. I'm typing this on the 13" ultraportable I paid $430 for from Dell more than a year and a half ago, and it's still working as well as the day I bought it. I don't see any point in replacing it until the battery kicks the bucket but it's still good for about the same time as it was when I bought it.

    Same story with my cell phone, btw. While I could buy an iPhone, or a One X, or a GS3 if I wanted to, I went with a One V instead. It was $150 without a contract, and is plenty for what I actually use it for. I don't need a quad core processor with 2GB of RAM in my cell phone when all I do with it is listen to FM radio, check e-mail, check wikipedia from time to time, watch Netflix, and maybe play the occasional tower defense game, so why would I spend 4x as much on the phone or let myself get tied into a long-term contract where I'm paying more than I need to for service?

    As a general rule, the only times I spend money on the higher end product is in food, clothing and shoes. Food because it's better for my health, and clothing/shoes because it's a false economy buying the cheaper product: higher quality clothes last a *lot* longer than the cheap stuff and end up costing less in the long run (and no, by "high end clothing" I do not mean brands that treat their customers as billboards). When it comes to consumer electronics, it almost never pays off to buy the expensive product, especially not with the pace that the technology is advancing.

    Essentially, what I'm saying is that there's 3 classes of consumers. There's the people who genuinely can't afford a higher end product, there's the people for whom the more expensive product is a status symbol, and there's the people who search the best economy which may or may not mean the more expensive option. You are assuming the person you're replying to fits into the first category when they could easily fit into the third.

  • by PRMan ( 959735 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @08:40PM (#42526339)
    I dropped my Samsung Galaxy S2 at least 5 times from holding height onto a hard surface such as tile, concrete or asphalt. Twice, it even exploded into component parts in spectacular fashion. All three times, not a scratch on it. I really don't know how they do it (they copied Apple?).
  • by TubeSteak ( 669689 ) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @08:54PM (#42526501) Journal

    Foxconn just assembles things that Apple designs and ships the parts to them.

    I don't think you understand why everyone manufactures in China.
    When Foxconn needs parts, they put in an order to a company down the street

    Foxconn's factories are company towns, inside a city made of companies.
    Literally, the entire supply chain is there.

  • by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Wednesday January 09, 2013 @12:56AM (#42528331) Homepage

    The Retina MacBook Pro handles 16GB of RAM and has a video resolution that makes the ThinkPads cry. Lenovo has slowly been trimming back from having the best displays you can get in a laptop over the last few years. If you want a touch screen, the ThinkPad is your system. In just about every other case they're hard pressed to compete with Apple's best stuff in anything but price.

    The new Thinkpad T530 comes with a crummy keyboard and the top resolution is 1900 x 1080. It's a step backward in many ways from the 1600x1200 T60 with great keyboard I bought in 2006. And the build quality...Lenovo is not even close nowadays. Sad, really, that I find myself giving up on the brand after a solid 10 year run where they were the only reasonable choice.

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