Wednesday 4 August 2010

Lenovo - It's Little Red Eye isn't Evil

Now I'm probably with you when you think of computers made in China. Traditionally China has had a bad rap and not entirely without reason. Ask any top IP solicitor where their main cases are based and it's China (I have actually asked this question of a top IP solicitor). Make something good and the Chinese get hold of it take it apart and work out how to make it cheaper, that's not an insult it's just the way it is.

They have a larger, cheaper workforce, the time and inclination. It would also be very naive to think that other companies elsewhere in the world don't get hold of a competitor's product and take them apart.

So it's fair to say that when I found out that Lenovo had very quietly taken over IBM 'ages' ago, I gave a bit of a groan and thought to myself well that's that product condemned to the stupidly low price shelves of Dixons or Staples, possibly even Asda...

But listen up and buckle in for a surprise. I .....quite.... like..... them. I also like the history of the company and I liked the passion of the chap who patiently answered my questions and lent me a laptop to test drive. I personally (and this might be a female thing) need to like a company before I'll buy a product from them. It's that emotional buy in thing, I don't like parting with cash for a company I don't actually like.

So a quick history lesson.

Lenovo is a Chinese company formed in 1984 by a group of Academics from the Academy of Science, originally with the goal of writing Chinese language cards. The first pentium product in China was a Lenovo and the first home pc was a Lenovo.

In May 2005 Lenovo decided to takeover IBM's pc division as a way to get into the Global Market. They have been No.1 in China for 11 years and No.1 in AsiaPac for 9. They have a worldwide market share of 10%.

The ThinkPad Edge 13" and 15" have both been designed for the SME market, they are their value line in the consumer market with a slightly less business look and feel. Initially I didn't like the little red eye dot on the lid and inside which to my strange mind looked a bit evil and seemed to follow me round the room.

But put it in the context of the Chinese, red being a significant colour of good fortune to them, it takes on a different feel. The laptops look like the IBM's did and they have quietly phased out the IBM to the ThinkPad brand and I like the way they've considerately done it so as not to alienate the IBM fans out there.

It's got the red 'nipple' and old IBM keyboard layout and style

They are good, a stalwart choice. They will never be a Sony Vaio and don't claim to be but they are better than an Acer or a Dell. They work hard on retaining cost effective quality and are proud to call themselves innovators.

Did you know, for instance, that the McClaren Formula 1 team use ThinkPad's and ThinkStation's?! Or that they are still the only laptops certified for use in Space Stations?! The geek in me thinks that's pretty cool.

They are solid laptops and feel familiar because of the IBM history. They would make good business laptops, comfortable to use if you are a field sales person, or to use in an airport or on an airplane. They'd be a good choice for companies looking to refurbish their staff with a new suite of laptops.

The only downsides I can think of....They didn't rock my world although I was pleasantly surprised. There was one design fault on the 13". Underneath the base there is a convex strip designed to raise it a little at the back. But because of the small size of the laptop it makes the screen top heavy and at a slight risk of being awkward or tipping if you don't hold the base when you open the screen. It would have been better if flat or weighted, but I guess the point was to keep the weight down.

They were quick, easy to use and intuitive. Sound was not particularly great so I wouldn't watch The Watchmen or Transformers on it. Music would be okay if a little tinny, depending on your musical preference, so if you're a basshead forget it. When I paired it with a Brother Printer we wondered if there would be an issue with the driver, but it found it and downloaded it automatically, with little fuss or fanfare.

My verdict? I don't love them but I like them. I think they are good value for money, robust and something you could rely on for a lot longer than a Dell, Acer or dare I say it... Samsung.


  1. I'm interested that you twice compare Dell and Acer unfavourably - but unspecifically - to the Lenovos and suggest that they, and Samsung, will not last as long. Do you have any specifics of how Lenovos are 'better', or evidence for asserting that they will be longer-lived? If so, perhaps you could share it. If not, well, how much notice should we take of your reviews?
    By the way, I have no commercial interest in any PC manufacturer. I have, however, bought and used daily four generations of Dell laptops for several users, all of which have proved spectacularly reliable and were retired working after 3 - 4 years.

  2. In response to anonymous who is not a PC manufacturer and is a big fan of Dell. I am pleased you have had such a fantastic experience with Dell computers.

    My comparison is based on speed, ease of use, navigation, design, ergonomics, internal components and keyboard layout. With regards to being 'longer-lived' through direct experience I have found Lenovo / IBM laptops to last longer under heavy usage than Dell's, Acer's and in some cases Samsung's.

    Early in my career, an entire company I worked for used Dell's and they were consistently unreliable, faulty and prone to burning out quickly.

    I also had a Dell at home at the time which was consistently unreliable and the customer service was not only awful but on occasion I would go so far as to say, insulting.

    My husband bought an Acer not even a year ago and the battery life doesn't last five minutes any more. My mother has an Acer and due to a fault with the battery cannot use it without it being plugged in. Which kind of defeats the object of owning a laptop instead of a desktop.

    Many calls to customer service (with Acer, if you can get through) have been fruitless.

    I am however about to review on an Acer product which just on the reading of alone, I am impressed by, so I am more than happy to be proved wrong or shown new products that compare favourably to others. I hope you might read it.
    If you have suggestions for my reviews in future they would be most welcome.

  3. I bought a Lenovo 18 months ago and within a week or so it started developing a fault. I spent quite a bit of time on the help line and although they were very courteous, the laptop required returning to Lenovo, in Livingston Scotland. It was duly returned but a week or so later the faults re-appeared. Again it was returned (at no cost I must say) and the hard drive was replaced. Since then I have had no problems whatsoever. My criticism? I don't like the position of the delete button on the keyboard. I am accustomed to it being the last one on the top row, not the third one in. Other than that I am pleased with it, and I would buy another. Indeed I bought a Lenovo netbook for my daughter on the strength of my experience. Finally I have used my daughter's Dell laptop and I don't like it anywhere near as much as the Lenovo. So it's not perfect, but it is pretty damn good.