Wednesday, April 22, 2009

With the Shopping and the Dropping and the Never Stopping

After suffering a variety of unresolved problems with my laptop over the last few months, I will probably never buy a Lenovo machine again. Thinkpads were good, solid hardware when IBM owned the brand, but now they're living down to their reputation as cheap crap from overseas.

Tonight was the last straw. Without warning, my laptop's primary battery failed. The error message was singularly unhelpful: "Battery 1 : A battery error has occurred. The battery cannot be charged. Replace the battery." This was, of course, after the machine suddenly died when my secondary drive-bay battery ran down. The power management software leaves something to be desired.

So I requested support via Lenovo's labyrinthine web site, and got a call back from a very courteous but also unhelpful call center drone. He verified that my battery wasn't included in their recalls, confirmed that my extended warranty did not cover the battery (its warranty expired at the end of January), and offered to sell me a replacement battery for the discounted price of $150 (retail for this thing is $180). I politely declined and went to the Internet to find a better deal.

Amazon matched the $150 for an OEM battery, but there are lots of companies who sell knockoffs for much less. It's just a battery, for crying out loud--get the right voltage and current, mold the plastic case into the appropriate shape, make sure the terminals fit, and you're good to go. And no, I'm not worried about quality, because even OEM batteries catch fire. Roll the bones.

After half an hour of research, I found a replacement battery for $80 (that's 55% off retail) from Level 8 Technology, a Texas company which has gotten overwhelmingly positive reviews on several merchant rating sites. They offer free shipping for orders over $50, a 30-day money-back guarantee, and 1-year warranty. By going through Microsoft's Live Search Cashback program, I'll get an additional 8% rebate, which covers most of the Washington state use tax. And because I used my Discover Card (via PayPal) for the purchase, I'll get another 1% back eventually.

I would have preferred to not spend any money on computer parts tonight, but as consumer object lessons go, this one was pretty inexpensive. Online shopping FTW!

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