An HP Pavilion barely made it two years, a Toshiba Satellite didn’t quite make three, and both were limping during their final months of service. This post is being written on a Lenovo T400 that’s still going strong after three and a half years as my do-everything and go-everywhere computer. My computers aren’t really treated harshly but they certainly aren’t pampered. That includes the Lenovo and I’m convinced that its relative longevity is due entirely to superior design and build quality. It seems to truly be an example of “getting what you pay for”.
The T400 was not my most expensive laptop but it did buck the prevailing downward trend and was fairly high in the price range at the time I bought it. It’s almost impossible to compare 2009 electronics with 2006 electronics but the T400 was not worlds above the Toshiba it replaced. Its processor was faster and its hard disk was bigger but those are improvements that often occur for free (or less) in the realm of electronics. At $1297, the T400 cost over $400 more than the Toshiba. That price includes aftermarket hard disk and RAM. I ordered the computer with the smallest hard disk available and immediately replaced it (with the much appreciated help of co-workers who really knew their stuff) with a 320 GB drive. I also installed 4 GB of RAM before putting the machine into service. The processor is a 2.4 GHz Intel Core Duo. The OS is Microsoft Windows Vista Basic.
Maybe some of the performance improvements were a little ahead of the cost reduction curve and account for some of the price difference but I doubt it’s more than half. I’m thinking that maybe $250 of the T400’s price went into things like the ThinkVantage Active Protection System and the ThinkPad Roll Cage. These things aren’t visible and don’t show up in performance tests. They are not as easy to justify as a faster processor or a bigger hard disk. I do think they are justified, however, by the lack of cracks in the case, which I’ve seen in every other laptop I’ve owned, and the fact that the machine is still functioning well in its fourth year of riding in trunks, backseats, and foot-wells. If the HP to Toshiba timeline is scooted to start with the Lenovo purchase, the HP would have expired long ago and the Toshiba’s life would already be about half over.
I’m sure others have had better and worse experiences with each of these brands and things have not been perfect with the Lenovo. I’ve had about a half dozen panic attacks when it failed to find any boot device. Cycling power a time or two has, so far, always resolved this. It has hung several times but I’ve attributed that to a particular application or, in one case, a faulty SD card. I’ve had to replace the battery though that could be considered a good thing; Most of my laptops haven’t lasted long enough to wear out a battery.
The only thing that even resembles an existing issue is disk capacity and that’s not Lenovo’s fault. Pictures just keep getting bigger and maybe I’m taking more of them. I keep as many pictures as possible on the disk and the time period that covers keeps getting less and less. I recall that when I first got this machine, it held every digital picture I had ever taken — roughly ten years worth. Now it barely holds one year and it requires frequent attention to do even that. That is still a lot of pictures and is definitely not a justification to retire this baby. So I expect this to be the last computer described in My Gear for quite some time. I’m hoping the next one is a few years down the road and there’s a good chance that it will be a new Lenovo of some sort.