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Customers voice concern over ThinkPad quality

The ThinkPad brand of notebooks has been long synonymous with quality and reliability. Developed in 1992 at IBM under the guidance of Arimasa Naitoh, the ThinkPad quickly established itself as one of the most trusted line of notebooks. Since the sale of IBM's PC division to Lenovo in 2005, many have voiced concerns about whether or not Lenovo could maintain the ThinkPad reputation established by IBM.

During a conference today, Arimasa Naitoh attempted to ease the fears of customers by saying "user concern is, because Lenovo is a Chinese company, they will [produce] cheap stuff and put the Lenovo logo on top of it. We will continue to develop the ThinkPad as we have been doing, so please don't worry; trust us."

Naitoh is presently VP of development for Lenovo's worldwide notebook division. Widely accepted as the "father of the ThinkPad", Naitoh said that customers need not fear that quality and reliability will be compromised. "Lenovo Corporation well understands the importance of keeping research people in other areas of the world, not just in China."

DailyTech recently reported that Lenovo received customer backlash for the change in appearance in ThinkPad notebooks. Lenovo had changed the LCD cover from the well known black-matte look to a silver titanium cover. The new look unfortunately did not go over well with many customers. Lenovo's CEO Bill Amelio admitted "We've had a lot of feedback. The CIOs (Chief Information Officers) that we deal with like to have this system the way it is, and by putting different colours or models in can create some angst."  Lenovo, for those interested, is partially owned by Chinese state-owned enterprises.

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just because...
By Quiksel on 7/26/2006 8:41:09 AM , Rating: 2
...they make good hardware does not mean that they are overall great machines. We have a lot of these machines, and the overall hardware quality is okay. The thing that really kills me about this product is the unbelievable amount of ThinkVantage software crap that is loaded up on it at first boot. I have to remove nearly 15 software applications to prepare a machine from Lenovo to get the performance up to par. They come with nearly 62 processes running after first boot, which is just ridiculous. Uninstall all the crap, and they are fine, but I'll tell ya what: It doesn't matter how great they are hardware-wise. I personally have a negative feeling about Lenovo after trying to clean up a brand-new computer of every resource-sucking application they can think of, and the real kicker is that they don't include any reinstall cd's or the like. It's just a backup image in the Rescue and Recovery software, which also is not the greatest in the world, either.

/not happy with Lenovo,

RE: just because...
By Quiksel on 7/26/2006 8:51:22 AM , Rating: 2
oh, and this is in stark comparison to the Dell Optiplex lineup of computers... At least Dell ships them clean of practically anything other than device-related software. They also include the reinstall cd's, complete with drivers for the product (no scouring the net for them like Lenovo/IBM).

We also have an X41 TabletPC, and I'll tell ya what: it's a real piece. After first boot, and 5 minutes later, it's still loading stuff up. This is with 1GB RAM, and the HDD just keeps on spinning, loading up all kinds of stuff. Stock it came with 83 processes running. After cleanup, it's still only down to the low 70's. Unbelievable.

RE: just because...
By fbrdphreak on 7/26/2006 8:51:25 AM , Rating: 2
Just because you don't use the "crap" that comes preloaded doesn't mean its "crap." If you knew half of what the ThinkVantage technologies did and could actually use it, you would be blessing them for developing such awesome features. If you don't need it, uninstall it. But the fact of the matter is Thinkpad are business machines, not whiny-individual machines. Businesses want those features, individuals for the most part don't need them.

RE: just because...
By Quiksel on 7/26/2006 9:00:32 AM , Rating: 2
Dude, this IS a business setting. And believe me, if they could offer utilities that would not cripple a system's performance by 10's of percentage points, then perhaps it'd be something we'd utilize. As it is, it is crap.

I'm not some whiny individual on this. Do the comparisons to the other vendors. They are beating Lenovo's ass when it comes to corporate viability.

RE: just because...
By KorbenZander on 7/26/2006 9:02:57 AM , Rating: 2
If you knew half of what the ThinkVantage technologies did and could actually use it, you would be blessing them for developing such awesome features.

Please explain what half of it does.

RE: just because...
By masteraleph on 7/26/2006 9:37:35 AM , Rating: 2
Well, there's Access Connections, which is a much better wifi settings manager than Windows, Active Protection System and Password Manager which allow you to save multiple passwords to one or to fingerprint (also help you manage general system security), System Update and Software Installer, which give you automatic updates to things like BIOS, drivers, etc, System Migration Assisstant, which is nice when you're deploying new computers for old ones...that's more than half, actually.

Truth be told, some of them are good, some of them are not. Access Connections is fantastic for managing wifi, and I probably wouldn't pull it. CSS/APS are good if you need security, secure passworded sections of the disk, etc. Otherwise, it's really kind of up to you. They do drop performance a little, but in my experience the main issue is that they eat up ~200MB of RAM. I use a T60 with 1GB, and never really run into performance issues, but if you keep the stock 512, you'd probably have problems.

As for reliability- The T60 and Z6* series are just as good as anything IBM put out in the last few years (there are some who argue that older machines, like the T2* series, are built more strongly, though I disagree). Thinkvantage may or may not be an issue, but not a new one to Thinkpads. There was exactly one model with a silver coloured cover- one of the Z60 type, which is already a little unusual for Thinkpads as it's widescreen.

I have yet to see anyone show that there's a link between thinkpad reliability and build and the transfer to Lenovo. People do seem to have various issues...but those issues certainly seem more to do with perception than reality.

RE: just because...
By Quiksel on 7/26/2006 9:51:04 AM , Rating: 2
There's an SA I know from IBM that totally swears off Access Connections, saying that it's one of the worst pieces of software they've ever made. Period.

Not to mention it's one of the craziest resource hogs I've ever seen.

We have the Z60t widescreen titanium lid portable, and it's pretty well-made. It's also the one that you couldn't do a vanilla XP install and get the audio driver to work. Way to go, Lenovo!!

But Access Connections was like the first thing we canned when we got the machines in. What a bad piece of software.

RE: just because...
By Oscarine on 7/27/2006 10:20:31 AM , Rating: 2
Clearly an opinion, I for one think its an excellent program. I don't see "Crazy Resource Usage" either...

Access Connections is one of the fee I kept, not that I thought the others were horrible, just unnesecary for our workplace.

You have your opinions others have theres, obviously were all pretty biased about this.

RE: just because...
By Spoonbender on 7/26/2006 9:22:12 AM , Rating: 2
Couldn't they just deliver them on a separate CD then? So you could install the bits you liked, and leave the rest?

RE: just because...
By Quiksel on 7/26/2006 9:27:06 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, they COULD. But they DON'T.

It's not fun to try a vanilla build. The drivers don't install right, even directly off of Lenovo's site. We couldn't get audio to work with a Lenovo-supplied audio driver installer from a vanilla install, no matter what we did. It was a total wreck. Had to fall back to using their backup image just to get audio back. What a mess.

RE: just because...
By mino on 7/27/2006 4:56:15 PM , Rating: 2
Same with HP's we bought on XPhome. No hibernation with vanila XPPro install.

RE: just because...
By TomZ on 7/27/2006 5:45:37 PM , Rating: 2
Hibernation requires both a functioning device driver as well as to be enabled by the user (it is disabled by default). If you don't have a functioning device driver, blame the hardware vendor, not Microsoft. If you don't have hibernate turned on, well you know what to do.

By fliguy84 on 7/26/2006 7:51:06 AM , Rating: 2
So what? It's not the appearance that matters, it's the features.

RE: so?
By bxero on 7/26/2006 8:37:18 AM , Rating: 2
When you are buying corporate machines, it is important that no matter what's under the hood, the exterior is basically the same.

If you get a salesman a new laptop because his was 5 years old and falling apart, but the CEO got one last year that is perfectly fine, and the CEO sees the salesman got a snazzy new laptop that "looks" better even though it might not be, you'll have an email the next day to purchase a brand new laptop for the CEO.

It's the same reason that Dell sticks with the same chasis for their Optiplex line for 3 or 4 years at a time, so everyone's PC looks exactly the same no matter where they are on your corporation's product refresh schedule and nobody gets uppity about someone else getting a new PC or what they see as preferential treatment.

RE: so?
By Sunday Ironfoot on 7/26/2006 11:00:19 AM , Rating: 2
"...and nobody gets uppity about someone else getting a new PC or what they see as preferential treatment."

Politics in the workplace! Don't get me started :(

RE: so?
By mino on 7/27/2006 4:52:14 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, sad it is.

IBM T40p very high quality
By Vesuvius on 7/26/2006 3:56:12 PM , Rating: 2
I puchased an IBM T40p almost 4 years ago, after my POS dell lasted less than a year. I can honestly say, I doubt any other popular notebook will take a beating like this one and continue to perform so well.

It's the first of the Pentium M's and very little changed to seriously increase speed over the years, 1gig SDR mem not much slower than DDR, extremely good battery life. W/ Extended battery the notebook is barely 5 lbs, and i get 6.5-7 hours(regular use)! New battery purchased NOV 2005. Only thing slow is the 64meg fireGL.

I have been reluctant to buy another ThinkPad since the acquision, but hopefully we will hear some news about the quality. Without the ThinkPad at this level of quality, I don't know what I would do. I have not yet seen a better notebook.

RE: IBM T40p very high quality
By sxr7171 on 7/26/2006 6:32:02 PM , Rating: 2
Let me tell you. Honestly as an X31 user I have had no change in service quality since the acquisition. Customer support goes directly to "IBM Support in Atlanta, Georgia" as it always has.

Honestly I beleive that they wanted to preserve the legacy of the Thinkpad so much that they retained the same people and the same teams that designed the previous models. They do not want to kill off a brand so powerful as Thinkpad. I used my friend's X60 a couple of times and it has the same solid feel of a Thinkpad. They haven't screwed with it other than removing the red-blue-red stripes on the three click buttons (which annoys me, but the machine overall more than makes up for it).

Honestly if Thinkpad quality went down I wouldn't even know who to buy a laptop from anymore - maybe the Toshiba Portege R200 or a Panasonic Toughbook. But this keyboard and solid magnesium alloy chasis and solid metal hinges are all to die for in a laptop.

The trackpoint alone is worth the price IMHO, with it's precise control and low exertion of use and never needing to lift a finger to move the cursor anywhere on the screen all the while resting your palms on a solid palm rest that does not flex like on a Dell Latitude.

These machines are truly perfect in usability under mobile conditions, they really think everything through.

Yes, I know about the bloatware that comes with these machines and I did take the time to remove a lot of the pre-loaded stuff, but I keep the most important stuff like rapid rescue and recovery which lets you boot to a mini OS even if your Windows installation is FUBAR. It really gives you and the business user a lot of recovery and backup options. With the extra (albeit sometimes very convenient) software gone it performs like a champ and gives me the advertised 6 hour battery life under extreme power saving settings when needed.

Who else thinks of placing 2 antennas high up on the screen to capture a better signal or the thinklight which is an inexpensive yet effective solution to a real problem?

IMHO, these machines (X-series and T-series) are the ultimate in mobile computing.

By jbwhite99 on 7/26/2006 11:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
Just to clarify, Lenovo stock is traded freely on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. If you want to buy shares in the US, you can buy ADRs. And just like Dell and (ex) Compaq, a lot of it is owned by Texas companies. And a big chunk is also owned by IBM.

The same people that built Thinkpads 2-3 years ago are making them now. The same people that designed them 2-3 years ago are designing them. The only thing that changed (other than putting on those stupid Windows keys) is that you write your check to Lenovo instead of IBM.

On the Thinkpads I have, they have a rubberized paint on the outside - so I don't have fingerprints. Why rubber paint? It makes it easier to hold the machine (so you won't drop it).

Even if I can get a Dell notebook $300 or $500 cheaper than a Thinkpad, I'd still take the Thinkpad. The quality is so much better, and I get Tech Support people that speak English!

By masher2 on 7/27/2006 10:00:24 AM , Rating: 2
> "Just to clarify, Lenovo stock is traded freely on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange..."

Just to clarify, the bulk of Lenovo (46%) is owned by Legend Holdings, which is controlled by an arm of the Chinese government. An 'unspecified' Chinese equity firm holds another 7%, and is rumored to be government controlled as well.

IBM holds 18.9% of Lenovo.

China Syndrome
By drewsup on 7/26/2006 9:12:33 AM , Rating: 2
You can trust us, we're not like those other military communist dictatorships. : (

RE: China Syndrome
By masher2 on 7/26/2006 10:19:04 AM , Rating: 2
Few people seem to know that Lenovo isn't just a Chinese company...its one that the Chinese government has a controlling share of ownership in.

Not only that.
By Dfere on 7/26/2006 1:11:08 PM , Rating: 2
Not only That.

This is a communist country, ideologically and nationally, long before the soviet inspired revolutions.

Any company, joint venture, foreign branch of even a US company doe not have the liberties we take for granted here. Want phone records? Want sales info? Here you go, officer.

China does want to keep foreign investors and customers happy, so it will most likely play by what promises it has made. Even for a government owned business. For now. When their economy is stable throughout he entire country, when they have a GDP to rival the US, then we will see what this really means, I think.

Price down, quanlity down
By c4xiayu on 7/26/2006 12:21:22 PM , Rating: 2
Even before lenovo took over thinkpad, thinkpad was already not so reliable.

RE: Price down, quanlity down
By TomZ on 7/26/2006 2:39:40 PM , Rating: 2
Even before lenovo took over thinkpad, thinkpad was already not so reliable.

Not according to data from Consumer's Reports. Based on a sample size of 49,000 responses in their 2005 Annual Questionaire (most recent data available), here are the percent of respondents reporting problems (lower is better):

Sony - 16%
IBM - 16%
Toshiba - 17%
Apple - 17%
HP - 18%
Dell - 18%
Compaq - 19%
Gateway - 19%

So I think IBM quality is pretty good according to these numbers.

RE: Price down, quanlity down
By TomZ on 7/26/2006 2:40:46 PM , Rating: 2
Sorry, typo: Consumer's Reports -> Consumer Reports.

By santa590 on 7/26/2006 6:52:10 AM , Rating: 2
Shouldn't it be 2005?

RE: 1995?
By Tuan Nguyen on 7/26/2006 6:57:19 AM , Rating: 2
Corrected. Thanks.


Thinkpads known for reliability and quality?!
By Chalmus on 7/26/2006 9:29:12 AM , Rating: 2
My company received 5 thinkpads through a grant a few years back. I replaced 7 of them, (yes, a couple of them twice), and they have all blown up again out of warranty now.

Those things were the worst laptops I have ever seen. We buy about 60 laptops a year, and I wouldn't touch an IBM (Lenovo) with a 10' pole.

By stmok on 7/26/2006 10:32:00 AM , Rating: 2
Which series were they?

X-series and T-series are the ones to go for...R-series is something you don't wanna touch. :)

The look?
By jabber on 7/26/2006 11:49:53 AM , Rating: 2
"The new look unfortunately did not go over well with many customers"

Why is it that folks who pay quite a good sum of money for an IBM Thinkpad are always happy to accept a casing material that just attracts greasy fingerprints and dirt like a magnet? If I had paid around £1000 for a piece of kit I wouldnt expect it to look old and tatty within 48 hours of ownership. I like the practicality and robustness of the Thinkpad, not the grubbiness that comes with it.

RE: The look?
By TomZ on 7/26/2006 12:18:26 PM , Rating: 2
Why is it that folks who pay quite a good sum of money for an IBM Thinkpad are always happy to accept a casing material that just attracts greasy fingerprints and dirt like a magnet?

I don't think my A21p "attracts greasy fingerprints and dirt like a magnet." It has a matte black finish, it doesn't look dirty or greasy, and I don't think I've ever cleaned it in 5 years, other than to dust off the keyboard and screen.

I think the trade-off is that lighter case colors show dirt and grime more, and darker colors show dust more.

By Loc13 on 7/26/2006 10:56:34 AM , Rating: 2
My university (Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute) has a mobile computing program where every undergraduate student must have a laptop, and the school offers custom configured Thinkpad every year to students at very attractive prices ($200-$800 off IBM website) along with accidental protection. I got a T40 3 years ago (top of the line at the time) and have not had any major problem with it. The quality of the laptop itself is great, and most people i know at RPI never have major problems with it. I've accidentally dropped it a few times against hard surface, nothing got damaged! Even after Lenovo bought IBM's pc division, the majority of the incoming students (mostly geeks here at RPI) stick with the thinkpad. The accidental damage protection program is also great. I've had to sent in my laptop a couple times when I have internships outside of school, and each time the customer service was great. I tell them the problem, they send me a box next day without asking me long questions, and I get it back in a week. And each time I call, i get support from IBM, not Lenovo's...

any time
By michal1980 on 7/26/06, Rating: -1
RE: any time
By SilthDraeth on 7/26/2006 7:34:16 AM , Rating: 4

I only read what is posted here at Daily Tech, but even so I learned something from this article.

Previously, I had known that IBM made the ThinkPad, and it was always considered one of the most reliable notebooks. I also knew Lenovo is now making the ThinkPad, and that the quality concerns where voiced.

What I didn't know, was, who Arimasa Naitoh is. I didn't know that the ThinkPad was developed under his guidance, and that he is VP of Lenovo now.

Basically all they did was change the parent company name, and manufacturing location of the Thinkpad. It is still the same product, managed by the same guy. But of course, he did say "Trust us" so he's automatically wrong. No, I would say, that now knowing his track record, and knowing that he is the VP of Lenovo, that I can now in fact trust Lenovo.

Thank you for your attempt at trolling.

RE: any time
By masher2 on 7/26/2006 9:38:01 AM , Rating: 2
> "Basically all they did was change the parent company name, and manufacturing location of the Thinkpad.."

And the ownership of that company, along with a majority of upper management. And the source of many of the internal components. And the case itself.

Basically all they KEPT was the brand name, and a few of the original people.

RE: any time
By SilthDraeth on 7/26/2006 10:44:25 AM , Rating: 2
Are you sure the source of the internal components have shifted? I really do not know.

The point I was making though, is that the same guy who is credited with being the father of the thinkpad is still in charge of it.

So I believe he has earned his credibility. The only negative part listed in the articles so far, was changing the external color, which people didn't agree with.

So yes, if you sell the company, and that company takes a previous, well built, well designed product, and changes everything about its successor, but keeps the name, then you run into problems, and quality control concerns.

Hopefully Arimasa retains his credibility.

RE: any time
By masher2 on 7/26/2006 10:49:22 AM , Rating: 2
> "Are you sure the source of the internal components have shifted? I really do not know."

I doubt all (or even most) of their sources have changed recently. I only know *some* have, as I've read channel news about some recent Lenovo contract awards.

I'm not saying the laptops are less reliable as a result...they could be more, less, or just the same. My only point was that considerably more has changed than just a name.

RE: any time
By Samus on 7/27/2006 1:32:43 AM , Rating: 2
Yyou guys are acting like morons, Lenovo ALWAYS made the Thinkpad, IBM just but their name on it.

With that in mind, anyone who thinks Thinkpad quality is going to suffer since IBM isn't re-badging them anymore is misinformed.

RE: any time
By masher2 on 7/27/2006 9:53:24 AM , Rating: 2
> "Yyou guys are acting like morons, Lenovo ALWAYS made the Thinkpad, IBM just but their name on it."

Before you begin calling people morons, you should get your facts straight. The Thinkpad brand has been around nearly 15 years. Lenovo briefly sold them under the IBM name (as part of the purchase agreement) but the idea that Lenovo *always* made them is utterly incorrect.

RE: any time
By tcunning on 7/26/2006 10:30:56 AM , Rating: 2
My father bought a top of the line ThinkPad just before IBM sold out to Lenovo, and it was not only made in China, it was shipped directly from China to his house. So not much change there. I'm not even sure if Lenovo is building the computers themselves; they may still be outsourcing manufacturing to another Chinese company.

RE: any time
By cassiohui on 7/31/2006 2:02:38 PM , Rating: 2
basically, nothing but the name and the management people has changed...the people/equiptment/factories/etc who actually do stuff are the same...lenovo doesn't make thinkpads...the factory who made thinkpads during the ibm-era still do...yamato labs in japan is still in charge of all the r&d for a thinkpad

stop bitching just because lenovo's partly owned by the chinese government

i'm from hong kong, but i'm no fan of the chinese government. however, that doesn't make lenovo-branded thinkpads worse than ibm-branded ones

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer
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