Top critical review
125 people found this helpful
The Good, The Bad and The Horrible
on July 4, 2014
No need to discuss the computer specs as they speak for themselves. This is a mid-level entry laptop for home or small business use so if anyone is concerned about processing speed or hard disk capacity you don't need to worry. The overall speed and disk size is more than sufficient for the average consumer. Anyone who wants something lightning fast with lots of bells and whistles wouldn't be looking at a $520 laptop. Having said that here are the pros and cons as I see them.
I just purchased several of these laptops 10 days ago to replace my SONY VAIO laptops which have been in continuous use since 2008. The SONYs have been working just fine but they are running XP SP3. If websites, hardware and software companies weren't dropping support for XP I would continue using them. However that's not the case. I have been using XP since 2001 so it's not like I didn't get good use out of the OS. Since I absolutely loath Windows 8 my back was against a wall with very few choices. I wanted Windows 7 and figured I'd better act now before that OS is totally pulled off the market.
I did my due diligence and after much searching found that Lenovo is pretty much the only manufacturer that still sells laptops with Windows 7. If you are looking to avoid Windows 8, Lenovo is pretty much your only option. Microsoft has already discontinued Windows 7 so whatever is out there is out there. It won't be long until laptops with Windows 7 are just as impossible to find as laptops with XP. So if that's your goal and since retail stores (like Best Buy) do not carry any laptops with Windows 7, then just buy this, sight unseen, like I did.
So here is my assessment:
First The Good:
1) OS is Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit
2) The CPU speed is sufficient, the RAM is sufficient and HDD is sufficient for the vast majority of users
3) Has all desired ports desired by the average consumer (i.e. two USB 2, two USB 3, HDMI, SD Memory Card, VGA, mic/headphone combo and a few others)
4) Has a DVD/CD drive which seems to be moving toward extinction like the old floppy A drives
5) The price is reasonable for what is out there. Used laptops with Win 7 HP 64 bit on eBay (regardless of brand) are priced in the same ballpark. People are realizing that they need to act soon before Windows 7 goes bye-bye and so the price is holding steady right now but I would not be surprised if by Black Friday the cost of this laptop (which is now $520) goes up past $700 and by next year, as Windows 7 is even harder to come by, the price surpasses $900. Folks, this is a $500-$550 laptop. If the price does jump as I think it will, keep in mind that it's not because it's a great unit - it's supply and demand.
Now the Bad:
If you look at the laptop without touching it, it looks sleek and dare I say a bit elegant in its simplistic design. HOWEVER looks are deceiving. Once you put you hands on it you're likely to feel disappointed.
1) It is constructed out of flimsy black plastic that feels cheaply made. The edges are sharp and rough - so much so that if you use this laptop on your lap with your forearms resting on the edge of the laptop, your forearms will get red, irritated and possibly cut from the rough edges That is what happened to me. To make it tolerable I had to put electrical tape over the edges. Why they did not round the edges or smooth them is beyond me but it's these simple things that the end user notices that the designers always overlook.
2) The plastic is so thin and weak that I can assure you that if you accidently drop it, drop something on it or even bang it slightly (even if it's in a case) the plastic will crack. IT IS that cheaply made. This laptop needs to be handled delicately like an egg. If you plan on traveling with this unit make sure it's packed well with bubble wrap and be very careful.
3) The DVD/CD tray is also very flimsy. Be gentle when opening and closing or it will break.
4) They keyboard is smaller than a standard keyboard. If you're used to typing on a phone you probably won't mind. Also if your hands are the size of a 10-year-old girl's hands you probably won't mind. I have average sized hands and find the keyboard cramped. Like most people who know how to type (or play the piano as another example) once you put your fingers on the keyboard you don't have to look down that often to know where the keys are in order to type. With this keyboard design you do. Because the keys are smaller and cramped together if you attempt to type blindly with normal positioning of your fingers as you would on a full size keyboard, you're going to wind up typing gibberish. The reason for the cramped keyboard is because someone thought it was a good idea to put a dedicated number keypad on the right side. Unless you're an accountant or actuary most people do not need this feature, but since it is not an option, the rest of us who prefer a standard sized keyboard with normal sized keys are out of luck.
Last but not Least the Horrible:
I have to admit that when I read Lenovo offered 24/7 support I was intrigued. Things rarely happen Monday though Friday from 9 - 5. However, their tech support is as bad as it gets. Yes they have someone answering a phone but you better brush up on your foreign language skills because you are only going to speak with someone in the Philippines, Costa Rica or the Dominican Republic. There are no support centers in the US. But put aside the communication barrier, the reps (or at least the ones I spoke with) lack basic computer trouble shooting skills, training and knowledge.
I called multiple times this past week because I wanted to test the quality of their support. I spoke with 10 reps over 2 days both in the software division and the hardware division (they would transfer me back and forth.) Each rep was told the same story. "I just ran the Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit First Time Installation Setup program that comes preinstalled on the computer without any issues but I can't print anything" - short, simple and to the point.
The five reps I spoke with in the software division all told me to "uninstall and reinstall" the entire OS from the recovery partition as the first step to attempt to resolve my printing problem. Their script specifically said to have the customer uninstall and reinstall the software. The five reps I spoke with in the hardware division advised me how to go about sending the laptop in for repair.
The solution to my printing issue scenario - TURN THE PRINTER ON! Not a single person asked me if the printer was plugged in, turned on, connected to the laptop or even if it had paper. Not a single person asked me what I was trying to print. Not a single person asked me to check printer settings or program settings. And no one ever asked me to try to print a test page directly from the printer to confirm the printer was working. These are basic trouble shooting steps. Several reps actually said that my problem was beyond their ability. One told me that if I wanted to have the issue resolved I would need to speak with a level 2 support rep. I told her to transfer me and I'd be happy to speak with a level 2 support rep. Then she asked me how I wanted to pay for it. It turns out you have to purchase a yearly subscription to speak with someone in level 2 support (even if the laptop is brand new and just 1 hour out of the box.) After giving them sufficient time to try to resolve my issue I eventually told each rep that I figured out what the problem was - "Oh... I forgot to turn the printer on." In almost every case, each rep said they were glad THEY were able to resolve my issue and that I should call back if I need additional support. Seriously? THEY resolved my issue? If I left it up to THEM I'd be either reinstalling software or shipping my new laptop in for repair.
As long as you have a basic understanding of computers and know how to search the internet don't let the 24/7 tech support play a role in your decision because the best support you're going to get will be from other users posting questions and answers in chat forums and not from their tech support reps.
The Bottom Line is...
This laptop has decent hardware and performs well but is it is poorly designed and encased in cheap crappy plastic that is bound to crack, snap or break. If I had seen it in the store would I have still purchased it? Well, right now in mid 2014 the answer is yes only because I wanted Windows 7 and this was the only item on the menu. Would I have purchased it if it was 2010 and laptops with Windows 7 were available everywhere and offered by every OEM - not a chance in hell.
And BTW - it doesn't matter if you select this model or the i3 or the least expensive B590 (which is currently $379.99) - The guts may be different but the outer casing is the same cheap crap black plastic.
Hope you found this helpful.
It is now July 27, 2014 and I have had roughly 5 weeks to "test drive" this laptop.
Here is some additional info that you may find helpful.
1) Despite my dislike of the "cramped keyboard" you will get used to it no differently then you get used to using a new remote control for the new TV you purchased. After a while you adapt.
2) The overall performance of the laptop will satisfy almost everyone looking for a Win 7 OS in this price range. Your processing speed is going to be hindered most by the type of programs you use. It's a game of Catch 22... Let me elaborate - Since the systems they now build have larger HDD, more RAM and faster processors software developers take advantage of this and create larger programs with more bells and whistles. As a side effect this consumes more of your resources and so you don't really get to see as much of an increase in processing speed as you would think. I have found that those programs I used with XP (some of which were also compatible with Win 98) fly like "a bat out of hell." More recently released programs/versions run more slowly. Just as an example - I still use Quicken 2000, MS Office 2003, Adobe Acrobat 9 and Adobe Photoshop Elements 5 and 7 . With these programs I AM the rate limiting factor since the programs run faster than I can respond. When using Acrobat X and above, Photoshop Elements 10 and MS Office 2010 and above the programs are the rate limiting factor due to all the add-ons and extra features all of which I don't want, need, use or even care about.
3) The edges are still sharp and the plastic still feels fragile but I did not expect either of those to change.
4) Tech Support unfortunately remains non-existent. I thought I would give them another chance since they failed miserably as noted in my initial review. When you call they will ask for your model number. Then all they do is read to you from the instruction manual that pertains to your specific model. Seriously... THEY READ TO YOU DIRECTLY FROM THE SAME MANUAL YOU ALREADY HAVE. I told the rep I know how to read and that the answer to my question is not in the manual. She then started typing and believe it or not all she did was a Google Search. She then read to me word for word the results of her search. I know because I did the same search and was reading from my Google Search results the same exact thing she was reading to me. This leads me to conclude that they don't provide legitimate support. The rep specifically told me that the only information they have at their disposal is the manual and whatever they can find on the internet. They do not have access to any internal documents or other sources of information which might provide information not available elsewhere.
So in summary...
1) You will get used to the keyboard
2) If the programs that you used with Windows XP worked well for you and suited your needs then don't upgrade just because you can. Continue using them as you will see better performance using those programs than you will using the most recent versions.
3) If you really find yourself in a jam and truly need tech support from Lenovo you're gonna be SOL (S*** Outta Luck). You'll get better and more accurate support calling you're 12 year old nephew or your neighbor's kid.
4) The price has dropped $20 since the time of my purchase so don't sit on the fence too long debating in your mind whether or not to get one of these laptops. If you want to hold off as long as possible moving to Windows 8 or changing to a MAC then you really don't have much of a choice. Windows 7 as I mentioned is already obsolete. The buffet of Win 7 OS OEMs no longer exists.
5) And lastly, for those who want to know about increasing RAM, gigabit adapters, docking stations and gaming, the reason this selection of B590s are priced as they are is because they are BASIC, simple, bare-bones laptops. If you plan on adding additional RAM, changing the HDD to a SSDD and adding additional hardware for graphics you're defeating the purpose of buying an inexpensive laptop. When all is said and done, your total out of pocket expenses will be more if you make those upgrades yourself than if you just spent the money outright on a system that already had the things you wanted.
The reason I gave it 3 stars was as follows
Computer price, processing speed and features gets 4 1/2 stars
Cheap feeling design and sharp edges gets 2 stars.
Technical support gets 0 stars
End result was 3 stars because I did not want to turn people off totally to this laptop simply because the technical support is HORRIBLE! I am very computer literate and probably will never need Lenovo tech support but it would have been nice to know it was out there if I ever did.
Hope this update helped. Sorry for any typos :)
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