Nice support from Lenovo – Tales from the Crypto

Nice support from Lenovo

I’ve been wanting to post this comment for some time, but never seemed to get around to it.

I’ve been through a number of different laptops over the last decade or so – Compaq, Dell, Gateway, and Toshiba – and each time, I’ve found that they just don’t seem to last. I can’t point to anything in particular – it’s never the same thing twice, but for one reason or another, I don’t get more than a couple of years’ life out of a laptop. Sometimes it’s physical failure – the screen breaks, the drive fails, the battery stops holding a charge – and sometimes it’s simply that the machine is too slow and impossible to upgrade to support me as new software is needed.

Unless I buy a ThinkPad.

It’s not that the ThinkPad doesn’t have its problems – it’s more that IBM support always made things right. When the CD-R drive on my first ThinkPad started failing, I called them up, and they quickly sent me a replacement (taking, as usual, my credit card number as guarantee in case I didn’t send them the drive back). The replacement turned out to be a DVD-R drive, so I was ahead on that deal – particularly since the failure happened right at the end of the warranty period.

So my more recent ThinkPad concerned me, coming as it did with a Lenovo sticker instead of IBM.

As usual, problems with the laptop happened once in a while. About six months in, the laptop battery stopped retaining its charge. I’m used to companies telling me that the battery is only warranted for 90 days, and that when batteries stop holding their charge, it’s because of my usage patterns (whatever that means – isn’t a battery supposed to be used when you’re on the bus or train, or in a meeting?)

Not these guys, no, they sent me a replacement battery (after the ritual exchange of credit card numbers).

One persistent problem stayed with me from the first few months of the purchase of the laptop – the sound stuttered. Now, I should note here what I mean by “stuttered”, because I gather others have sound stuttering that isn’t the same problem as mine.

Imagine, if you will, that the speakers can handle sounds only “so” loud. Pass any sounds louder than that to them, and the sound ceases until the sound is back to a good volume. So, the timing of the sound is unaffected, it’s just as if someone’s repeatedly hammering the ‘mute’ button. Not a problem if everything’s normalised to below 70%, say, but then that’s difficult to listen to because it’s so quiet.

That’s the problem I had – the other sort of problem appears to be where the processing of the sound signal is held up, so the timing of the sound is affected, as if someone is hammering a ‘pause’ button repeatedly on and off.

I called Lenovo a couple of times about this, and assumed it was simply not going to be fixed, as they kept suggesting new drivers, or that I take it to a service centre where they would decide if it could be fixed there or had to be sent away. I wasn’t keen on the service centres they were suggesting.

Finally I reached the end of my warranty, and also the end of my patience with the problem – I was playing more and more stuff from BBC Radio (see a theme here?), and they were coming through normalised properly, rather than dead quiet. So, I either had to re-normalise everything myself, or get the problem fixed.

I called Lenovo, spoke to a nice man in North Carolina, and was told they’d have to look at the system. I’d have to send it in.

I hate being without my laptop – all the more so because I had to send in my hard drive as well. So, it’s make-a-backup time, plus delete-all-the-secrets. A box arrived, with paid shipping, I stuck the laptop in the box, and sent it back. Over Thanksgiving, so that “5 business days” became naturally closer to two weeks, and because it eventually took a while to fix the problem, closer to three weeks.

When I received the system back, I noticed a few things:

  1. The sound problem had been fixed.
  2. The mainboard had been replaced.
  3. These repairs had all been done for free despite the fact that I was a couple of weeks past warranty expiration when I first called.

You’ll often hear people bad-mouthing non-US companies for having poor technical support that doesn’t speak English and can’t often help – and though this may be true for Lenovo’s online support ‘chat’ (where you type into a browser window), it’s not true for their phone support, and I really can’t argue with the quality of the warranty work they’ve done for me (and how comfortable they were stretching the warranty in the instance that I had been complaining for a while before the warranty expired).

Perhaps it’s a little sad that I have to post a glowing review like this of support that matches roughly what I would expect. But I think Lenovo deserves a pat on the back for this support, and I can only apologise that it has taken me so long to get around to doing so.

I will likely be buying another Lenovo ThinkPad when I finally need to dispose of this one.

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