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!



Jeff Allen said...

Proposed solution: sell your piece of crap Lenovo and use the proceeds to buy a real IBM Thinkpad. I bought a used T43 in November. Sure, my tech was a half-decade old when I bought it, and given that I expect it to last 5 years, will be a full decade old when I retire it. So what? It's not like the numbers 0 and 1 will be changing their order anytime between now and 2014.

(Side note: there's another story idea for ya, right there.)

I maxed out the machine with 2 gigs of RAM. I configured Ubuntu with no swap space whatsoever, figuring "either 2 gigs is enough, or I should be doing less". I've never used a faster computer in my life. Swapping sucks. Don't do it.

Retro-computing: it's not just for C-64's anymore.


PS: My last computer was a T23 bought in 2004 and retired in 2008. It was retired early because I let the ENTIRE WEIGHT of a DLink 24 port switch fall 1 meter onto an ethernet cable plugged into the laptop. Everything but the ethernet port survived the insult, though the earphone started shocking my ear when the laptop was plugged in!

CKL said...

Yeah, I probably should have asked IT if I could purchase my work laptop (minus the hard drive) when I left Google. I might have been able to keep my sweet adhesive decorations. Oh well.

I needed a newer machine anyway--something with enough horsepower to run Portal and Spore. :)

Andrew said...

We have T43s (IBM) and T60s (Lenovo) at work, and in my experience they're pretty close in quality. For both, the batteries are very short lived--we had many batteries malfunction (can't get over 0% charge) and many unable to last over an hour after less than a year. Other problems i've seen with the T43 are keys often get sticky, and mouse button springs fail.

The biggest advantage newer high-end laptops is battery life...even with the extended battery, the t43s didn't last long.

CKL said...

Thanks for the perspectives. I've never gotten the mythical 9-hour battery life, even with a secondary in the drive bay.

I may also have spoken too soon about the new battery--it's died three times since I installed it, and now it won't hold a charge. I'm sending it back for an exchange and hoping that something else isn't broken in the laptop itself. (I can get it repaired under warranty, but it'll be a damn hassle.)