Thursday, November 13, 2008

(Defective) ThinkPad SL500 in da house!

So the new computer is here, BUT...

First, a little backstory. After my previous experiences with my last couple laptops, this is what I was looking for:
  • Build quality!

  • Matte (non-glossy) screen

  • Dedicated graphics

  • Windows XP

And it had to be cheap, because this was an unexpected major purchase.

I figured I'd need to compromise, and I did. I didn't get my Windows XP or my dedicated graphics, though I could have if I'd spent another $200 or so (that actually surprised me). I did get my matte screen. And buying a ThinkPad, I thought I'd be getting good build quality too. I had a ThinkPad a few years back, when they were still sold by IBM, and it was a tank.

The SL series are Lenovo's entry-level ThinkPads. Mine only cost $561. I knew it wouldn't be quite as good as the T series or above, and I was right about that, but I think mine is also just defective. Take a look:

Weird, huh? I've never seen anything like that. The keyboard and palm rest are actually warped. This thing is going back.

It actually looks somewhat worse in the pic than it does in real life (mostly because you're not usually looking at that angle), although it's noticeable. I can feel it when typing. When I called Lenovo support (which is still run by IBM), they actually wanted me to fix it myself! I'm not afraid of getting my hands dirty, so I did try - but I couldn't get one of the screws out. Anyway, I feel like they need to know what's going on in their factories - this is unacceptable quality control. So they're sending me a box and I'm sending it in to them. (Not for replacement, though - they're still going to try to repair it. Given that it's going to IBM and not Lenovo, I have at least a little confidence.)

Other than this bit of weirdness, I'm generally happy with the SL500. It is definitely not what I'd consider a "real" ThinkPad, in that it's got a plastic case, a glossy top, and no roll cage. But I knew about all that stuff. It does have enough of what makes a ThinkPad a ThinkPad to justify purchasing it (notwithstanding the problem above).

The power connector is really chunky:

The anti-glare screen is wondrous in this day and age of ludicrous mirror-like finishes:

It does also have the anti-shock thingamajig for the hard drive that's common to all ThinkPads. It's kind of funny to open up the anti-shock app, shake the laptop around and then watch the little laptop icon shake around the exact same way.

Oh, and it's got a Trackpoint. God how I missed this! I hate touchpads. Hate 'em! They're so imprecise, and if you slow them down enough to where you can actually click things without missing, then it takes about five swipes across the pad to move your pointer across the screen. You also need to take your hands off the keyboard to use one, which was IBM's whole point in developing the Trackpoint - your hands stay in typing position the entire time.

Most people who haven't tried one look at a Trackpoint and say "how the hell can you use that thing?" But almost anyone who has used one will tell you that they can never go back to touchpads. You can zip all over the screen, then stop on a dime and click exactly where you want, every time. And your hands never move.

In fact, I'd have been happier if I could have ordered this thing without the touchpad at all. That's the way ThinkPads used to be.

Lenovo also doesn't load a lot of junk on their ThinkPads, which was always an IBM trademark too. They do load some, but none of it's actually set up by default - Mcafee, Office 2007 trial, maybe a couple other things. You don't end up with 100 different tray icons and apps running the first time you turn it on, though.

Speed and all that seems good, though I haven't tested the graphics yet. It has an Intel 4500MHD, though, which is at least a somewhat nice surprise - their web site just says it's an X4500. That's a step down from the MHD, so I got a slight upgrade from what I thought I was getting. This is an integrated graphics card, but it's the best one Intel makes and is on par with some low-end dedicated cards. It runs Vista Aero just fine.

Here's the ultra-shiny outer case - I actually think it looks quite nice, even if it is a fingerprint magnet and not very ThinkPad-like:

I just can't wait to get the damn thing back so I can type on a flat keyboard.


  1. I think the point with touchpad is that you use the thumb while typing. In this way, you don't move your hand.

    But I totally agree with you, it stinks. Good luck with your new puta. My first laptop eight years ago was a thinkpad, and it kicked ass.

  2. Anonymous4:39 AM

    Doesn't MS call this sort of thing an "ergonomic keyboard"?

  3. Well yeah, when it's on purpose :)

  4. Anonymous11:41 AM

    My school actually required us to buy Thinkpads, and I have a Lenovo X61. It's really nice (but expensive as hell) and it only has a track point - no touch pads whatsoever. Yippee!

  5. Oooh, you're lucky with that X61. I wish I could afford a better model like that.

    btw are you the one who I owe a post on Atlantis? If so, I haven't forgotten, I'm just slow :)


About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP