The Lenovo Laptop Saga (And A New Contest)

By Jonathan Timar

It’s been a while. Here’s why (warning: the majority of this article is off topic).

I am writing this on a brand new Lenovo W520 mobile workstation. It’s a beautiful machine. It’s fast, quiet, has an amazing full HD screen, it’s loaded with ram, and the battery life is downright incredible for such a powerful laptop.

But this is not the laptop I ordered.

I ordered a W510, and I ordered it back in February of this year. I think I got a grand total of two months a commutative usage out of that machine in the entire time I had it in my possession. Actually, it is technically still in my possession until UPS comes to pick it up.

I had only had the laptop for just over a month when, while I was writing a blog post very much like this one, the screen suddenly went berserk. When I mean berserk, I mean it looked as though Richard Simmons had seized control of my monitor and was conducting a dancer-cise routine within its pixels. Had I been epileptic, I would be dead now.

A quick call to tech support and I was given a claim number and instructed to take it to a local authorized repair centre to have the LCD panel replaced. I chose to take it to Express Computers of White Rock, BC, as they seemed reputable, and they were conveniently close to home.

That turned out to be a huge mistake. Express Computers told me that I should have my computer fixed within 3 days. when 3 days had passed and I still had not heard from them, I called to inquire on the status of my laptop. I was told they were unable to fix it because they found physical damage on the screen, and Lenovo did not want to honour the warranty. Upon hearing this, my jaw nearly hit the floor. Apart from the Technicolor light show I was seeing on my screen, that computer was in mint condition, and was treated like a baby. They claimed they had evidence that the LCD had been pried open, and the metal around it was bent. I told them that was insane, and they relented, and told me they would go ahead and replace it. Later on they would insist that Lenovo never paid them for the screen replacement, and that they did it at their own expense. I have my doubts.

Actually I have my doubts that they even replaced it at all because after taking it home on a Friday evening, I was able to use it for now more than an hour before the screen returned to it’s Technicolor state of crazy. Once again I found myself on the phone with tech support, and I was instructed to take it back to Express Computers. I had to wait until the following Monday to do so.

Long story short, Express had the computer for the entirety of that week as well, failed to make any of their promised phone calls to me to notify of the status of my machine, and when they finally did return it to me, they returned it to me in such disgraceful condition I can still hardly believe it. It had been determined that what the system had really needed after all was a motherboard replacement, and apparently this is what Express did during this second week they had my computer. Apparently during the motherboard replacement they decided to also smear something all over the new screen, not bother to actually connect the RAM to the new motherboard, and lose a bunch of screws from inside the unit, as well as leaving some wires unprotected and unsecured inside the case (I would find out about the latter two issues from the technician would ultimately send to my home.

Despite these issues, the computer did appear to be working, so I took it home, once again on a Friday evening.

And, once again, I was able to use the computer without any apparent issues. That is until I decided to plug it in and charge the battery. Upon plugging it in, the machine began to emit a loud ticking noise, not unlike a time bomb. Also, the battery would not charge, and the SD card reader no longer read SD cards.

I considered crying at this point, but instead I called Lenovo tech support again, and after expressing my complete frustration, they agreed to elevate my case to a manager. It took several days of waiting, but finally a manager called me and offered to do me a one time “favour” and have an on-site technician come to fix my computer even though I only had mail in service on my warranty.

The technician who came was well and truly awesome, he replaced the motherboard for the second time, and replaced all of the missing screws and other various pieces that Express Computers had lost. Unfortunately, in replacing those screws, he accidentally used one that was too long and shortly after he left my house I discovered the screw had come straight up through the palm rest of my laptop. I called him and told him, and he went out of his way to return to my home the next morning and replace the palm rest (which, incidentally, meant replacing the touchpad, colour sensor, fingerprint reader, and SD card reader too.)

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    Finally, nearly a month later, I had a fully functioning computer. And it stayed fully functioning for about a day and a half before it stopped booting. I called Lenovo, and was told that my file had been closed, so in order to have a technician come out again, it would once again have to be approved my a manager, and it would take at least three business days to get that approval. I was pretty ticked off at this point, but I had no choice but to wait. When I finally did get a call from Lenovo, the person I talked to told me that my request for in home service had been denied, and that instead I could expect to receive a box in the mail for me to send the machine to Toronto so it could be tested at their facilities there. Needless to say the prospect of sending my PC away and being without it for several more weeks was not the least bit acceptable, and I was about to call the manager with whom I had dealt with originally to complain bitterly (without much hope has he had not returned my phone call the most previous time). However, not long after speaking with Lenovo, I got a call from IBM service (IBM still provides service for Lenovo products) letting me know that a technician would be coming at my convenience to once again replace my motherboard.

    For those of you keeping score, this would be the third motherboard replacement, and the fourth motherboard to be inside my laptop overall. It was installed by the same very nice and diligent technician as the last time, and once again, I had a computer that worked or so I though, because it didn’t get much use after that.

    Not long after I went away for Hawaii for ten days, and left the laptop at home. When I returned and started using it again, it worked for a few days before it started randomly shutting itself off. This time I wasn’t going to get caught, I paid $50 to upgrade my warranty to in home service to avoid having to wait around for several days for a manager to approve sending a tech out to me. The joke was on me however, as I was still forced to wait nearly a week for my warranty upgrade to be “verified”. After which, they did send a tech out, but a different one this time, and I was not impressed in the least.

    He wasted two hours of my time running diagnostic tests on the computer before declaring it “fine” and saying I had a software problem and should try re-installing Windows. When I kindly explained to him that I have been using computers since I was five years old, was comfortable taking them apart and building them from scratch, and that I was quite capable of telling a hardware problem from a software problem, he switched gears and decided that actually the real problem was my wireless mouse, he was quite certain that the particular wireless mouse I own was well-known to cause systems to lock up and shut down randomly. I once again politely informed him that I had been using the same mouse with this computer and the previous one for three years with no trouble, so he gave up on that work avoidance tactic too.

    Finally he set to work putting motherboard number five into my machine, and when he was done, well, nothing happened. It was just a brick. (I have since learned that Lenovo doesn’t actually replace broken parts with new ones, they swap them for a supposedly refurbished one out of someone else’s broken machine, so for all I know the tech had just put one of my old defective motherboard back into my machine). He told me he would have to come back, and, you guessed it, replace the motherboard again.

    Well I had had enough. I got one the phone with Lenovo, and wrote a long letter detailing the entire saga and sent it to every Lenovo contact I had. I demanded that my money be refunded, or I be provided with a new PC. Once again, it took several days of waiting, but finally a representative called me back, and told me he would recommend a replacement be provided to me. He said it would take three days or so to get an answer, but it took about another week. Finally he got back to me and let me know it had been approved, and that now I only had to wait for the “replacement coordinator” to call me back and order me a new machine. He also said that to make up for all my trouble they would offer me a spare battery or something else extra.

    It took another week for the replacement coordinator to get back to me. He treated me like a nuisance, and reneged on the offer to give me a spare battery or anything extra and basically told me the other guy was an idiot who shouldn’t have promised me anything like that. But he did order me a new machine, and it did arrive about ten days later.

    And so that it why I now have a brand new Lenovo W520 sitting in front of me. And it is a fine machine. Let’s pray it is not a lemon like the W510 that preceded it.

    Am I a happy customer? Absolutely not. It took Lenovo nearly four months to do what they should have done in the first place; replace my lemon with a working computer. During the time I owned my W510, which was six months, I got maybe 1-2 months of actual use out of it. I lost countless hours of productivity, had to turn down contracts that would have made me significant money, and was more or less unable to properly run my business. My impression of Lenovo is that they are a company committed to doing the absolute bare minimum when it comes to customer service, and that they have atrocious quality control. They came through in the end, but with something well short of flying colours, and certainly not enough that I would buy another laptop from them unless there was no other viable option.

    As for Express Computers? All I can say is avoid, avoid, avoid. They will do sloppy, half-assed work, lie about it, and then call your integrity into question if you challenge them on it.

    And that is the end of this off-topic rant, may it be of service or at least entertaining for some of you. As for me, I have a computer again, so I’d best get back to writing, eh?

    Oh yes, and one more thing, I will shortly be announcing a contest in which the prize will be an HTC Sensation smart phone. This is an awesome dual-core super-phone, so you will definitely want to enter this one!