I Just Bought a new Thinkpad and the Lenovo Web Site Sucks

I’ve just bought a Thinkpad T61 at auction for $AU796. My Thinkpad T41p has cooling problems which I have previously described[1]. It’s also started to rattle a bit when I hold it upside down since I took it apart so I guess I didn’t do a great job at trying to fix it (probably the fan is getting obstructed). Now it has developed some screen problems where the screen back-light will periodically turn off and stay off until I press and release the lid-close button (to turn the screen off and on again), this is apparently the symptom of a broken inverter [2]. I was quoted $160 to fix the inverter and $250 to replace the entire screen by (a very reliable laptop sales and repair company that I’ve dealt with before) [3]. Also the system has the red screen problem where intermittently the screen turns reddish so paying $250 for a replacement screen is worth considering. I decided not to do this as I have seen refurbished Thinkpad T41p systems on sale for about $400 and spending $160 now and possibly $250 later on a $400 system didn’t seem like a good idea. One thing that has annoyed me about my Thinkpad for a long time is the lack of PAE support in the Pentium-M CPU which makes it impossible to run Xen [4], so upgrading to a newer system will allow me to use virtualisation for the purpose of fixing bugs in Debian/Unstable among other things.

As I want a Trackpoint it seems that a Thinkpad is the best option (Thinkpads are also great in many other ways). So really all want is a new Thinkpad with an equal or higher resolution screen, more than 1.5G of RAM (what I’ve currently got) and at least PAE (but ideally hardware virtualisation for KVM) as rumor has it that ACPI doesn’t work well with Xen and also Xen has a history of being a little unreliable at the best of times. I’m after a portable desktop replacement system, so I’m not after an X series or anything else light either.

Even though the new prices on Thinkpads are generally more than I want to pay I first checked the Lenovo web site. It sucks in a magnificent way. First there were some basic site navigation issues, such as the fact that I often can’t click my middle mouse button on a link to open it in a new tab (I get some sort of Javascript error) – it seems that the Lenovo web team didn’t consider the possibility that I might want to have the details of different series of Thinkpad open in different tabs for the purpose of comparison. But the kicker is the fact that most Thinkpads don’t have the screen resolution displayed! It seems to me that one of the most important factors in purchasing a laptop is the screen resolution – and Lenovo generally don’t provide it!

The Ideapad is described as having a resolution of 1024*600 (a netbook not a laptop), the Thinkpad Edge has 1366*768 (not that good), and the R400 and R500 are WXGA which is anything between 1280*720 (sucky) and 1366*768 (slightly less sucky). So it seems that the low end models have technical details which could allow a potential customer to reject them, while the high end models don’t have technical details needed to justify the purchase price! Fortunately a friend who works for IBM was able to find me the necessary information, this site allows you to enter the part number of any Thinkpad and receive a reasonably complete set of specifications (including display resolution) [5]. With the information on that site I was able to successfully bid on the single Thinkpad in a Lenovo auction of refurbished systems that had a resolution that was satisfactory.

The fact that the Lenovo auctions of refurbished systems also lack the details is another think that Lenovo do wrong. In this case I started bidding one minute before the auction closed and had to push the price up by $125 to win it. Given the number of auctions that Lenovo runs world-wide they would probably benefit from fixing their web site just to get the occasional Thinkpad price increased by $125. Not to mention the number of people who are discouraged from buying new Thinkpads because they can’t get information on what they might be paying for.

7 comments to I Just Bought a new Thinkpad and the Lenovo Web Site Sucks

  • Just out of curiosity, where abouts were you doing the bidding? Was it GraysOnline, or eBay, or do Lenovo use their own auction site? A Google for “lenovo refurbished auction” wasn’t particularly helpful, and as the owner of a T40 myself, and liking the machine (whilst acknowledging its age), I’m curious about the prices of a replacement.

  • etbe

    Nick: It was Lenovo, HP, and Dell are among the vendors that run official auctions of refurbished systems with warranty there. Dell also runs auctions of broken systems, they would be good for spare parts if there weren’t so many idiots who apparently fail to read the description – the prices for broken systems often aren’t much lower than that of working systems.

    eBay stores sometimes have similar official auctions.

    I wouldn’t buy a computer from a regular eBay auction.

  • John

    There are other places to buy used refurbished laptops that are not auctions. Recompute ( are one and they give you a 1 year warranty as well. I’ve seen auction prices go to ridiculous levels that are just not worth it. Especially given that you’re not going to get any sort of support and your not dealing with a specialist.

    Sometimes you think you’re getting a cheap laptop at an auction but the outbidding makes it not the case.

  • Chris

    Yep Recompute is one and also have a look at

    I’ve used them in the past for many used machines and have always found them to be more than satisfactory.

  • etbe

    Christine: It was Grays Online. You won’t find them in a Google search for refurbished Lenovo stuff because usually they aren’t selling it. But if you poll their site every few days for a month then you are almost certain to get something.

    Also I deleted your other two comments and removed the URL from this one. If you want to advertise on my blog then contact me by email and tell me how much you want to pay – or just place Google adverts!

  • @etbe : the comments from “Christine” are a verbatim copy+paste of my comment, so my guess is the “Christine” is some new type of spam bot that takes previous blog comments, and reposts them, with a URL to some site, in order to give a SEO boost to that site. It’s irksome that comment spam has reached this level, but it appears it has :-(

  • etbe

    Nick: sorry, I didn’t read all the other comments again. I’ve seen this type of spam before and I should have recognised it. I’ve deleted Christine’s comment.