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T61 falling apart - what now ?

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Sydney
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T61 falling apart - what now ?

#1 Post by Sydney » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:01 am

Hi, has the hardware quality and robustness of Thinkpads improved since the T61 came out ? Or has it gone (even further) downhill ?
I need to replace my T61 simply because I have had endless problems with it ever since I purchased it (new). And I am now wondering whether it is worth investing another small fortune and buying a new Thinkpad or whether I could just as well go with some cheaper brand.
Problems with the T61 included:
- broken speaker plug (one-sided sound only)
- broken LAN-port (contacts broke and fell out)
- broken WLAN-antenna (does not recognize any signals)
- battery good for <1 minute after 2 years of use only
- defective mouse-buttons (no clicks possible)
- defective fan (not plugged with gunk)
- broken hinge.
I still have an old T30 as an emergency back-up and that one has never had any issues whatsoever although it had a much rougher life. The T61 sits in one place, does not get moved, has never been mistreated or mechanically over-used in any way. These sort of material flaws and fabrication defects that I have experienced with it are just not acceptable. Has Lenovo done anything about them in the later models ? I'd be very grateful if someone could tune me in :-) Thanks a ton !
Syd

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#2 Post by RealBlackStuff » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:08 am

From your description, it sounds like you are not treating your laptop too kindly.
I would suggest to get a Panasonic Toughbook.
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Sydney
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#3 Post by Sydney » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:30 am

Haha, a Toughbook ? I don't need to take it scuba diving or mountain climbing !
As I said: "The T61 sits in one place, does not get moved, has never been mistreated or mechanically over-used in any way." That pretty much sums it up. It has never been dropped, been sat on, been spilled on etc.
I have used Laptops since the mid-90ies and this one has by far led the most sheltered life. I could not imagine a more pampered existence for a laptop. At the same time this is the first one I have had any sort of material problems with. I am not to be blamed for Lenovo's poor quality product in the case of this T61. But I would like to know if things have improved in the meantime. Thank you.

Neil
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#4 Post by Neil » Sun Sep 29, 2013 9:40 am

I can't speak from much experience, but... I do own T61 and T400/T500 models, and will say that the build quality of the 400/500 series is about the same as the T60/61 series. From what I've read, especially on this forum, the newer models have declined further in features and quality. The same can be said for most (if not all) brands. Laptops are now built to a price point, while trying to look sleek and appealing to the eye. They are not built to last. The days of the 600X/T30 build quality are long gone.
Collection = T430 - T500 - R400 - X300 - T61 (14" WXGA+) - R61 (15" SXGA+) - X40 - T43p - T43 - T42p - A30P

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#5 Post by ajkula66 » Sun Sep 29, 2013 10:33 am

Neil wrote: Laptops are now built to a price point, while trying to look sleek and appealing to the eye. They are not built to last. The days of the 600X/T30 build quality are long gone.
Quoted for truth, plain and simple.

To OP, your T61 was likely a lemon to begin with. They are not bad machines, generally speaking, but my first T61p (brand new) was a piece of garbage and likely one of the worst ThinkPads I've ever owned.

If I could bring myself to completely forget the ThinkPad keyboard and trackpoint, ToughBooks from the business line such as CF-52 would be all I'd ever use. I'm not at that point in the game. Yet.

As for ThinkPads newer than your T61, T410 was a very fine machine IMO (and the last 14" model that offered 16:10), apart from horrendous touchpad which I don't use anyway. T/W510/520 - presuming one can tolerate the 16:9 screen ratio - offered quite decent LCDs in the FHD guise, and reasonable overall quality. I always felt that T420 was a step down from T410 in build quality as similar as them may seem, but that the 15.6" range was actually quite decent until the keyboard change on the *30 generation.

With all that being said, compromises are to be made when purchasing any new laptop, be it ThinkPad or not...sad state of affairs indeed.
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Sydney
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#6 Post by Sydney » Sun Sep 29, 2013 1:47 pm

Thanks for the honest replies. Exactly what I was looking for. It seems that I'll have to go by "the lesser evil". Sigh. I don't see why I should spend the same amount of money on products that just get worse with every generation...

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#7 Post by precip9 » Mon Sep 30, 2013 2:41 am

I have purchased nine Thinkpads off eBay for myself, and relations:

3 W500
3 X61s
2 T400

This is a pretty fair sampling of Thinkpads newer than the one you own, all apparently business surplus, and it is not likely that the users were particularly careful with them. Of this sample, only one unit had a mechanical defect: a W500 with a broken pivot post on the battery latch.

I am not sure of the time period, but, after the sale of the company by IBM, the new CEO had serious difficulties with fraud within the company. Top executives were selling machines out the back door. The machines may have not actually been assembled by Lenovo, but made from stolen or defective parts, because in China, any kind of fraud is possible. Even recently, one of my relatives acquired a T420 with indications it was made from junk parts.

So given your experience, there are two possibilities:

1. You have really rough hands, but I doubt it, because you mentioned the machine was not frequently moved, which indicates a consciousness about mechanical fragility.

2. Your machine was the product of the above described fraud.

If you're not keen on the trend toward disposable equipment, there is one holdout: Dell Precision mobile workstations. I would consider for my next machine.
W500x3 with T9900, , T400 highnit 1280x800 with P9600, X61sx3, X61Tx3.

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#8 Post by Medessec » Mon Sep 30, 2013 4:43 am

Meh. A lot of the Thinkpads you pick up off ebay is very much luck o' the draw, you can get one that was used by the employee for everything, as his only computer, and on all of his travels, bumped around in his luggage, etc. On the other side of the coin, you could wind up with a Thinkpad that was assigned to an employee, but the Employee never touched it, and left it on his desk while he used his Desktop computer for his work's work, and his own laptop for his travels. Both these sort of Thinkpads, and everything in between, are tossed into a pile, stripped of their Hard Drives, chargers, and other parts on occasion, and sold en masse to recycle centers or to other places who resell the laptops.

Ajkula66's assumption that it might've been a lemon is a pretty fair one too. I haven't heard about this fraud thing... but a lot of the people who were working for IBM when they were making the T43 were still working for Lenovo when they made the T60. Although all Thinkpads are assembled in the factories with a particular standard and procedure set in concrete, there's still that occasional worker or piece of machinery that slips up, or doesn't do *as good* of a job. Which is why the whole NVIDIA chip thing happened, as well as the ATI chip on the A31p, and the adhesive bubbles on X61 SXGAs.

I believe unless you think the circumstances were at all unfavorable for your T61, you should've long ago contacted Lenovo about a warranty replacement. Obviously now that's not an option, but just for future reference. I've taken apart a ton of laptops, and even the newer Thinkpads are much more well engineered and well put together than some of the other pieces of junk laptops I've seen. Your T61 I can vouch for as well. I've fixed a friend's Lenovo Ideapad Y-series, an HP dv7(the worst engineered laptop I've ever seen), Acer Aspire, Acer Eee PC, MSI Gaming laptop and an ASUS ROG. Thinkpads may not be anywhere near as solid as they were a decade ago, but they still kick any other modern laptop's butt.
Trying my hardest to collect Thinkpads, but college and being broke kinda gets in the way. However...
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#9 Post by Temetka » Thu Oct 03, 2013 4:49 am

I have owned about 20 laptops in my life so far. Mostly Thinkpad's and various Mac's with an odd Micron or Gateway laptop thrown in. (The latter 2 were freebies). I also used to repair them for Circuit city from various brands such as Acer, Sony, Gateway, HP, and occasionally a Lenovo. There is a reason I will only ever use or purchase Thinkpads. After having been in the guts of literally about 300-400 laptops I can say with certainty that most consumer and even a lot of "business" class laptops are junk. Cheap plastic, weak solder, crappy hinges, the list goes on.

As a poster above me stated, laptops are built to a price point and to be shiny.

Thinkpads have always been solid for me. I've owned many, serviced about a hundred more and proudly recommended them to friends, family, coworkers, and customers. Minus the Toughbook, in my professional opinion (I am an IT Administrator), Thinkpads are the best.

Yes, quality control has slipped a bit. At the end of the day production rates, overhead and the bottom line will dictate how robust a given series is. That being said, for my money there is no better brand on the market today. I was recently gifted a stack of Dell machines from D630's to M4500's and a few in between. Each and everyone managed to piss me of in some manner. Except the E6500. That's a nice machine. The Dell QC is terrible. The plastic is weak, the screens are crap, the keyboards are carpal tunnel inducing torture devices. I could go on and on and on.

I recently acquired an X61T, and it was like coming home. I had a T61 I gave to a friend of mine to replace his failed T42 (GPU died) and figured since I had the Dell's I was covered. Worst few months of my life these Dell's. When I received this X61T, I could literally feel the stress leaving my body. They keyboard is amazing, the machine is amazing. Built to a high standard - the Thinkpad standard. It was like coming home after being out on the road and your old friend is there waiting for you, not with questions, but with understanding. It's a tough world out there. Better have the right gear. For me there is no better gear than a Thinkpad.
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Sydney
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#10 Post by Sydney » Thu Oct 10, 2013 2:19 pm

Thanks again for the detailed replies. I really appreciate+++ you guys typing out all this background info and experience.
I have done some more reading and searching and decided to stick to my prior decision to give Lenovo another chance. It looks like I'll be getting either the T430 or the T430s in a demo-version as they are considerably cheaper yet still come with warranty. And I am just not convinced enough to dish out the money for a brand-new T440s and the T440 are not out yet anyhow.
I do have some questions with regards to the T430 / T430s and their compatibility with Linux but I will ask about that in another thread since it's a different topic.

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#11 Post by ZaZ » Fri Oct 11, 2013 3:52 am

The T440(s) will offer better screens, but a worse trackpoint setup. I reviewed the T430 last year. It was rock solid, but the screen was average.

Generally, something a little bit older like the T430 will have better Linux support.
ProBook 470 G5

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#12 Post by hellosailor » Sun Oct 20, 2013 1:02 am

My T61P had occasional problems but nowhere near what the OP had. I'd call it typical of most laptops in quality. An HP Elitebook series might be more robust, that's how they are sold and some have metal bodies instead of plastic, which might also help. HP quality even on the consumer machines seems to be about the same as Lenono, maybe a touch higher maybe not.

But the Toughbooks are built to a whole other standard. They're darn pricey, but they are built stronger in many small ways.
"The only good silicon life form, is a dead silicon life form." [Will Rogers]
-- Harboring a retired T61P with Vista/U/32 and housebreaking a younger W530 foolishly upgraded from Win7/64 to Win10.

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#13 Post by 28CarsLater » Tue Oct 22, 2013 11:58 am

@precip9

Great information, I'll be on the lookout for these subpar examples.

I've worked with Precisions professionally they are probably the best outside of their equivalent high end Thinkpads, trouble is they tend to go for twice as much used as Thinkpads. I've never serviced one so I can't say if they are any more or less serviceable.
Primary: Split between a T430S and a Precision M4700.
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#14 Post by Tõnis » Sat Oct 26, 2013 5:03 pm

Hmmmm. I have an R61. The case is a bit beat -- I've given it regular hard use in my vehicle -- but it's still reliable. I've replaced the fan three or four times, and I had a broken hinge, too (replaced the set of hinges this year). I think I got this computer back in '07 or '08, so I'd consider it pretty sturdy. I think replacing the fan and even the hinges is normal maintenance when a notebook is kept for any significant length of time.
R61, Core 2 Duo T8300 at 2.40GHz, 15.4" WXGA, XP Pro

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#15 Post by hellosailor » Sat Oct 26, 2013 5:43 pm

Actually...I've got a spare T61P, I bought it off-lease last year so I could just swap drives and keep using my installation, while figuring out how to fix my own 5 year old T61P. Since that's both fixed and replaced...I've got a really clean T61P with licensed XP installation on it. If anyone wants to stay with a T61P, PM me.
"The only good silicon life form, is a dead silicon life form." [Will Rogers]
-- Harboring a retired T61P with Vista/U/32 and housebreaking a younger W530 foolishly upgraded from Win7/64 to Win10.

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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#16 Post by miamicanes » Sun Oct 27, 2013 7:40 pm

Does anybody have any particularly strong opinion about the keyboards and pointer sticks on relatively recent-vintage HP Elitebooks, compared to new/recent Thinkpads? In particular:

* 8760w (of particular interest, because I have the opportunity to buy one at a really good price)

* 8470w/8570w/8770w

* zBook 15 or 17 (ok, I'll admit it... the only way I'll be able to afford one of THESE is maybe 2 years from now when they start showing up on eBay.)

* The non-w Elitebooks, like the 840w/850w/870w.

I played with a Thinkpad E430 at CompUSA today. I wasn't terribly impressed. My typing speed was OK (95wpm), but the keyboard just didn't feel *right*. It had slippery keycaps that weren't sculpted enough, and the pitch felt a tiny bit cramped. The travel and tactile feedback was good. I felt a lot of tension and stress while typing on it, and it just didn't feel like a natural extension of my fingertips. I felt like I was fighting with it.

I tried the keyboard on an Ideapad Y500. It almost felt better than the E430, and might have been a contender if it had a Trackpoint, but the keycaps still felt too slippery for my liking. However, I only got 90wpm with it.

I had a similar experience with the keyboard on a Probook 4540s, but worse. The keys were too flat, the pitch was too small, the travel wasn't enough, and the tactile feedback felt too subtle. Somehow, I managed to get 94wpm out of it, but it wasn't a pleasant experience.

Does anybody know how the Elitebook keyboards (both -w and non-w, if they differ) compare to the Probook 4540s keyboards? Same shallow travel, or do they get to have keyboards with deeper travel? Years ago, I had an Armada m700, and from what I remember, I was pretty happy with the keyboard on it. I definitely remember that the m700 was an armored tank in the "ruggedness" department, and from what I've read, the Elitebook (at least, the -w family) maintain that tradition. In all honesty, every laptop I've owned since the m700 has felt flimsy and plastic by comparison.

ajkula66
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Re: T61 falling apart - what now ?

#17 Post by ajkula66 » Sun Oct 27, 2013 8:09 pm

miamicanes wrote: * 8760w (of particular interest, because I have the opportunity to buy one at a really good price)
The keyboard is here and there, trackpoint is good when the cap is replaced by a genuine ThinkPad one.

Non-backlit keyboard offers better typing experience IMO.

The screen - presuming it's a DC II panel - is outright stunning. The best one on the market, hands down.
...Knowledge is a deadly friend when no one sets the rules...(King Crimson)

Cheers,

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FlexView AARP club members:A31p, T43pSF

Abused daily: T520, X200s


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