IBM vs Dell Laptop

When we read about books about several years of transition of competition, we take it for granted that some brands can quickly take over the other brand, but in reality, since that happens slowly, we are also slow to recognize the shift. IBM laptop vs Dell laptop is an example.

Previous Perception of Quality and Service

I always consider Dell as the brand of “bad quality + good service”. The image was there since I started to use Dell desktop and laptop in 1998 in Microsoft. Dell’s computer parts break easily, but they offer second day on site service, and they are happy to exchange any part in their service period. I especially love their “service tag” design.

On the contrary, IBM’s ThinkPad series is of so good quality. I switched to IBM many years after I used Dell, and started to understand why so many people insist in buying IBM ThinkPad over Dell, even when it is much more expensive. It just gives people the feeling of safety – never breaks, and works as solid as stone. However, IBM’s service is so bad – I never saw an IBM service people, but I even know some Dell guy by name and face.

What about Now?

Today, the IBM ThinkPad quality goes down dramatically. I feel it is even worse than Dell. Meanwhile, Dell’s E-series gets better and better reputation. I heard about many good things about it (just as I heard about good things about Windows 7).

Now the competition becomes:

ThinkPad = Bad Quality + Bad Service

Dell = Good Quality + Good Service

Dell is also relatively cheaper than ThinkPad.

I won’t hesitate to bet on the result.

IBM vs Lenovo?

To correct what I wrote, ThinkPad is no longer IBM ThinkPad. It is Lenovo ThinkPad.

31 thoughts on “IBM vs Dell Laptop

  1. Hello Jian Shuo,

    I have worked w/ IBM for 3 years… It’s part of IBM strategy to sell their computer lines to Lenovo… IBM never went bankrupt (i think they just want to make it look that way), it’s really a business strategy… However, IBM still hold part of the trademark as Lenovo is using the name “Thinkpad”..

    Whatever deals between the 2 companies, IBM are still making profit from Lenovo…inside deals, I supposed… But whatever IBM has started, Lenovo continues it. Quality and durability are all the same… If you happen to own an IBM thinkpad and a part needs replacement you can just buy the Lenovo part… It’s the brand name that change, but everything is the same…

    Anyways, even without IBM as the brand printed on the thinkpad, Lenovo thinkpad is still way way better than DELL and even HP or CompaQ….

    As for IBM, they are more focus on business services. They cater to servers and big companies… (I’m no techie so hard to explain)… anyways… compared to DELL, acer, asus, HP or compaq… Thinkpad is still better… (noticed I didn’t put SONY… hahahahahaha….I’m a SONY VAIO user…SONY is SONY!!!) :D

  2. I think thinkpad started to go down when Lenovo takes it over from IBM. We can’t really say it’s an IBM problem.

  3. Dear Wang Shifu,

    I always respect your advice but here I dare to disagree. Nearly all reviewers in the US praise the “build quality” of Lenovo Thinkpads compared with other brands, including Dell. But more important are the surveys of failure rates, number of computers that arrive dead, number needing repair, success of repair, etc.. From these data Lenovo, Asus and the brand with some kind of fruit name are shown to be the most reliable. It is possible that computers for export are subjected to higher quality controls (like many Chinese products in the past). At our university I have seen more failures with Dells than Lenovo Thinkpads. While this is consistent with the surveys involving thousands of computers, my sample is too small to draw any strong conclusions. Personally, I like Lenovo Thinkpads, and not just because they are made in China.

  4. FYI, HP is now the largest worldwide seller of PC, surpassing rival DELL, and Lenovo is still trailing behind Acer.

  5. This isn’t a question of good vs bad, but worse vs worst. Modern electronics manufacturing is not about quality, but statistical failure rates and warrantly/customer service. I buy many computers for my business, and my criteria are raw perfermance and my perceived customer service of the manufacturer. It is certain that some parts will fail in your computer in 1, 2, or 3 years time. (In fact, the makers are pretty sure when any given part in your computer will fail). Every computer will fail eventually, and much sooner than most think. The question is once a part does fail, will the manufacturer quickly fix it for you without hassle.

    i like dell because they have a very efficient operation, and I can be sure that any problems will be quickly resolved. The cost of days wasted waiting for a computer to be repaired is an unacceptable cost, and would keep me away from buying from smaller manufacturers.

    I know in china that people still hold very much to the thought that “better” brands have better parts that will last longer, and some marginally might, but for the most part this is really an obsolete idea. Maybe this idea sticks in china because a computer purchase, relatively speaking, is a larger percentage of one’s income than in the west and the want to protect their investment. Another reason might be that the customer service culture has not take hold yet in china. However, from the manufacturer’s view, there is not enough profit to be gained from putting in “better” internal parts nobody can see, as compared to using the lowest priced but acceptable part and competing on price (and customer service for the business users).

    The purchaser would better be served buying from a maker with a good customer service reputation and spending a little more on extended or enhanced warranties. For example, I paid $50 more for “accidental coverage” for the laptop I’m typing on, and for me, it makes complete sense. As a business traveler, I can easily imagine dropping it or spilling coffee on it, and Dell will have it fixed or replaced in a day or two. This wonderful peace of mind is a great value for a mere $50, and allows me to continue my business with minimal interruption. Compare this to a small time manufacturer or one with bad service that might take two weeks to fix a problem, at which time my business may have been severely impacted.

  6. I’ve been a PC guy since the 80s, and eventually switched to Apple Mac a little over 3 years ago. I think the hardware is far better (I own a MacPro and a Macbook unibody), and OSX is, well at least for MY needs, just perfect.

    I installed Snow Leopard Golden Master a couple of days ago, I like it a lot, but I must admit I also tested Windows 7 inside out for the last 2 weeks, I’m running it natively on my MacPro, and to me it’s the best Windows you can dream of : stability & simplicity of XP and nice GUI.

    My point is : it’s a shame those Macs are damn expensive, because to me that’s pretty much the only downside. Other than that, I mean … Just put a Dell, HP or Lenovo or whatever laptop beside a Macbook or Macbook Pro unibody … Those PCs will look so poor compared to the Macs …

    Just my 2 cents.


  7. What about HP?

    Not so bad quality.. not so bad service.

    Heard about Thinkpad quality aura, but never liked the design

    Now we get new Thinkpads at the office instead of our old HP NC6000 workhorse.

    I am still looking at this Lenovos with suspicious eyes.

    Yes, it is a Chinese computer, but at least is made in China by Chinese company, not by someone else.

    Some software glitches already but it looks solid. Queer arrangement of interfaces, but usable. Lots of USBs, I liked that.

    Main complain is the size of the CTRL key. I am not used to that

    By the way, my old HP NC6000, has some queer design choices.

    Most interfaces on the rear where they are difficult to reach and the mainboard contributes to give rigidity to the computer case. The problem is that if you twist to much the computer eventually some chip pin connections get broken. Mainboard switch required if that happens.

    An it took two years to find out it has a SSD card reader. It is well hidden!

  8. This February I bought a Dell laptop for my wife as a Valentine’s Day gift. IBM has never been into my choice pool. Simply because their appearances are so boring – always black! While Dell’s “Inspiron” offers 7 colors for me to choose from. I happily chose a pink one.

    I think IBM lost another score on this aspect. Although technical performance is always critical, appearance design is getting more & more important nowadays. Apple is a good example – appearance design is Apple’s sharpest cutting edge (at least that’s the situation on China market).

  9. Last year I brought 3 ThinkPad in US for a friend of mine in Beijing. They saw online sale, Lenovo US, and the site only takes US credit cards. I was told that the price for those 3 systems was a lot cheaper than buying them in China… that was the price after adding cost of international shipping, plus shipping insurance, plus tax they paid when they picked them up in China. I was really surprised… it was Chinese company, Chinese products… how could it be that it was more expensive in China.

  10. check out the new Dell Latitude series. The outlook is much nicer and techie. It is a major improvement in terms of the outlook.

  11. Last year I brought 3 ThinkPad in US for a friend of mine in Beijing. They saw online sale, Lenovo US, and the site only takes US credit cards. I was told that the price for those 3 systems was a lot cheaper than buying them in China… that was the price after adding cost of international shipping, plus shipping insurance, plus tax they paid when they picked them up in China. I was really surprised… it was Chinese company, Chinese products… how could it be that it was more expensive in China.

    Lenovo need to pay a 17% Tax for its products selling in China mainland, however 0% Tax for export. That’s the reason.

  12. I agree with Luo Bin, the “build quality” of Lenovo Thinkpad is perfect, although you may not like it’s black.

  13. I suppose the Thinkpad service problem you mentioned is only a kind of endemic in Chinese market. I am a Thinkpad user holds 2 Thinkpad laptops. One is T43p and another is X61s. So, you may find, T43p was from IBM while X61s’s from Lenovo. To be honest, there are no difference between them whenever we refer to quality or post-sell service, I think. I encountered problems when I was in Japan and USA. Thinkpad always sent FedEx guys to take it back to prepare and then, quickly they just returned as fast as I expected.

  14. I used to work for IBM and now Lenovo. From inside point of view, I don’t see any difference for design and manufacturing between IBM and Lenovo. The same tech engineers, same labs, same manufacture and same people. I don’t know why a lot people assume the quality will go down since Lenovo purchase Thinkpad. Comparing to DELL, definitely the quality will be far better.

  15. Hi, Jianshuo,

    I don’t know why you said this. But I do not agree with you indeed. I think IBM is still the best quality in my mind. And I don’t think it becomes worse or not good any more as it belongs to Lenovo. I insist this as I use a Lenovo desktop at office and many of my friends use Thinkpad, the quality is very good I know, but the price for me is also too good to buy a new one now, hehe.

    And also I want to say that you can’t complain the thinkpad is not as good as before because IBM sold this brand to Lenovo, as we know Lenovo use the same line and same material to produce the products. So whey do you think it isn’t as good as before? Only because it belongs to a local company? I am very confused……….

  16. Well. To add something about my assessment of IBM quality – the heating system started to have problems so the whole machine is as hot as burning rocket – I cannot even type on it. It happens to my new X60, not the previous one. It hangs much more frequently then before. My Microsoft experience helped me to identify it is a hardware incomparability problem. I saw few bluescreen – again, hard ware problems.

  17. I couldn’t understand some parts of this article internet, but I guess I just need to check some more resources regarding this, because it sounds interesting.

  18. The strategy applied by Google to sell the phones might be the reason behind less number of sales. Google launched its Nexus One mobile in January and decided to sell it through its own online store instead of selling it to other networks.

  19. That’s right 4 months before i had dell but was faced by many problems like hardware disk… yeah that’s correct dell has a good service but IBM think pad is really awesome man .. its very hard and not easy to break . now iam satisfy with my IBM

  20. As long as we can do our job and get the applications installed & up and running, we are happy. But there are the occasions where clients do ask for my opinion on what server hardware they should purchase – and time after time, I recommend IBM. I usually receive an eyebrow raise and then the question “Well, why not Dell – they are cheaper” – and I then tell themÂ…

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  23. Hmm, nice insight, thank you for the post. Not so many companies do this right. If I were to buy a computer, i would buy from a name that I know (could be dell, hp, ibm, toshiba) and just because I know their name, they are trusted companies.

    Just as you said bad product+good service -this is just like any other brand; if they were to have the best product in that price, we would use a machine for 50 years and don’t bother to get a new one.

  24. I really liked your blog quite informative and interesting facts and figures you have discussed on your blog even the comments are very fruitful and helpful in enhancing the knowledge regarding the topic.

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