March 5, 2019

Shop for a helper, end up with a second job – the X1 Carbon

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Executive summary: Don’t buy Lenovo laptops! Their features are ok, their service is an insult.

As an avid user of the old ThinkPad series, I was looking to upgrade my 2008 model for a newer one. As I travel a lot, I need a lightweight model with professional power, so I bought the Lenovo X1 Carbon 20BT, that’s the 2015 version, for my wife and myself. The previous models had a touch screen, which wastes a lot of battery power, and other fancy gadgets which proved to be evolutionary dead-ends.

The X1 Carbon’s anti-glare screen is big enough at 14″. 8 GB of RAM and a Core i7 processor make it powerful enough for most professional situations and they keyboard design follows the famous classics.

I’m not looking for too many new functions; IMO laptop tech was mature by 2008, and the only thing that’s really improved is the weight. However, a lot of things have also gone to the dogs, as I was soon to find out. I bought the X1 Carbon BT20 used for about EUR 800, which is roughly half of what a recent model would cost.

The people I bought them from had both switched to Macs. After some experiences with Lenovo’s customer service, I now know why.

First thing were the scratches in the screen caused by the keyboard. Both our laptops have permanent marks and bright spots from the screen pressing against the keyboard. This is a major design defect – can’t I just fold the thing without breaking something?

While a new X1 carbon has a good battery life of around 6 hours, the battery quickly gets old. My wife’s computer doesn’t hold a charge too long; no problem, I thought, I’ll just order a new battery, and I know how to hold a screwdriver. Boy, was I wrong!

There’s not a single vendor in Germany that sells original batteries for the X1 Carbon. I had to order one from Duracell in the UK, and sent it back twice, since it just didn’t work. Lenovo’s customer service is outsourced somewhere to Slovenia or someplace, and if you ever get through, they’re totally clueless.

There’s one workshop in Berlin that does Lenovo repairs, and even they said they have no idea where to procure batteries. After my the hinges on my wife’s laptop broke for no apparent reason – the spare part alone costs a whopping EUR 70 – we had to pay EUR 170 to get the laptop fixed, even though we still had a year of warranty left. Lots of forum rants prove that this is a serial error, which Lenovo refuses to cover under warranty.

My X1 Carbon took a fall, and one corner got smashed, so it’s now patched with duct tape and likely not resellable. It survived without other major damage, I guess that’s a plus. Although I’m fairly happy with the performance otherwise, the Lenovo bloatware in Windows is another big con, as well as the lack of an Ethernet port, which forces you to use a dongle.

Many power users still swear by Lenovo, but I’m fed up with their non-existent service and serial defects. It’s not worth paying big bucks for this. In any case, buy an old model, the things are totally overpriced and thrown on the market with unripe features, which the customers having to do the QA.

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