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*UPDATE, 31 OCTOBER 2009: Well, as an utterly (and literally) shocking testament to the build quality of this laptop, last night I inadvertently knocked over a glass of water on my desk, the entire contents of which went straight into my laptop while it was on and running. I watched in horror as it shorted out and went black. I picked up the laptop and shook it out, to find water pouring out of it everywhere. Griefstricken, I put it on the floor on its side in front of the radiator to drain and dry out as much as possible, in the hopes of at least salvaging the hard disk so that I could retrieve its contents. A couple of hours later, it seemed dry and just for the hell of it, I tried powering it on. And - it WORKED. It had a few funny moments, with error messages about the USB ports, and I had to restart it several times, but finally, it went into Windows.
And today, it's working (touch wood) fine as ever, and all the ports work, despite the error messages, and I'm typing this on it. Now, if that isn't true robust build quality, I don't know what is!! I wouldn't suggest trying this out yourself, however!
Iíve had this laptop for over two years now and itís still going strong. I bought it as a desktop replacement in May 2007 when my PCís motherboard died and, discovering to my horrified surprise that it was a proprietary board specific to that one make of PC with no replacements available, had to start thinking about buying a new PC. I decided that I would like to become more space-saving and to buy a laptop to use as a desktop computer.
Being in really dire financial straits, I was very limited as to what I could afford. Luckily, at that time the pound was very strong against the dollar and there were some good laptop bargains about. Good makes such as HP/Compaq and Toshiba had budget laptops at not much more than £300 plus VAT, so I had a good shoparound. Comparing several similar laptops in the £300-ish range, I narrowed it down to three and then finally to the subject of this review.
What swung it for me was the features included, which were more numerous than others in its price range, and the brand, as I have always been an IBM fan since my very first PC, a second-hand IBM PS/2 back in the early 90s. For those who have either not heard of Lenovo or had vaguely heard of it and assumed they were just another oddball small make, Lenovo is now the laptop division of IBM - they are a huge Chinese company who have bought out the 'Personal Computer Division' of IBM and are continuing to manufacture their products. I believe there are still a few laptops being sold under the branding of IBM (the higher range Thinkpads) but most of them have now been rebranded Lenovo. So, with this laptop you are getting an IBM product and all the reliability that that entails, for a budget price, in my case, £289 plus VAT, which is amazing value for what you get.
In true IBM style, this is a sturdy, chunky-looking laptop which will not be to everyoneís tastes visually. It looks a bit old-fashioned, resembling my old IBM Thinkpad T20 that Iíve had for about five years and which was also no style icon in its day. If you insist on something that looks like a Sony Vaio or an Apple MacBook Pro, you will scoff at this laptopís looks. However, the trade-off is that it is built like a brick and may last pretty much forever. Iíve had no problems with this laptop aside from about six months ago when it suddenly freaked out and went into a loop of rebooting itself non-stop, and after much tearing of hair, removing the battery cured it and itís been fine since. So in over two years of continual daily use, a duff battery has been the only problem. Itís a masterpiece of practicality over style.
The features that decided me to buy this laptop over the others included an S-video output, which no other laptops in its price range had Ė this enables you to connect the laptop to a TV, so you can watch downloaded movies or stream videos off the Internet, on the S-video equipped TV of your choice. You also get four USB ports, a firewire port, microphone and speaker ports, a VGA output port, a multi-card reader, an Ethernet port, a built-in wireless receiver, and a DVD writer.
It has an 80GB hard drive, a 1.73Ghz Celeron processor, and comes with 512MB RAM which is upgradeable to 2GB (Iíve upgraded mine to 2GB). It runs surprisingly speedily, much better than I would have expected from such a processor. Although it obviously isnít meant to be a gaming computer, especially with its lowly Intel 950 graphics chip, it runs all of my favourite older games that I still dip into from time to time, such as Deus Ex, The Longest Journey, and Dreamfall, like a charm, runs The Sims 2 with all of its expansion packs and about 2000 items of custom content creakily but still just about playably, and even runs The Sims 3 albeit at low resolution.
The screen is 15.4Ē and has a bright good quality display for gaming and DVD watching, although be warned that its one and only stumbling point is that the maximum resolution is only 1024x768.
So, this is a decent-performing piece of kit, and to this day it still astonishes me how cheap it was. One of my main resource-hungry applications that I use often is Photoshop, of which I have the older CS version, so I canít speak for the latest all-singing-all-dancing version, but that too runs fine on here with no hanging about.
Iíve expanded it with an external USB hard drive for my worryingly enormous collection of old Public Domain movies plus a 2GB SD card that I keep permanently in the card reader to use as a backup device for all of my most important documents, and can say this has truly been a worthy desktop replacement for my needs.
Being a two-year-old model, I donít expect it is still available new. But if you are in the market for a second-hand laptop and you see one of these going for a good price and all in good working order, I can unreservedly recommend this one.
Regarding Ciao's selection boxes for 'Instruction Manual' and 'Manufacturer Support', I've had to simply choose middle-of-the-road choices of 'Satisfactory' as there is no real instruction manual, as is the case with most kit these days, and I've luckily never had to contact them for support!