Wednesday, February 23, 2005

TCR - Deal meisters

OK, so yesterday, I went to the London gadget mecca that is Tottenham Court Road. I went armed with only a few spec requirements and a list of a few laptop models I had seen on the web (from Acer, Samsung, Sony and Toshiba). I diligently meandered from shop to shop looking for a killer deal.

The most impressive range I saw was consistenly that from Sony. I was mainly looking at the B1XP (I want XP Pro), but also was quite enamerred (sp?) with the new X-black displays which were very impressive (there's even a 2nd generation of X-black out it seems). I'd heard about these before, but had never gotten around to investigating (i don't hang out in computer shops).

I was looking for a smallish (non-widescreen / 17") laptop with more than 800px vertically (I'm mainly going to be programming on it and I find vertical context hugely important when coding). Unfortunately, the combination of wanting XP Pro and a high res screen restricts the laptop range quite significantly, unless you want to push the price up quite a bit (was trying to keep around 1200 GBP inc VAT). The meandering continued.

After being through 6-8 shops I was becoming quite jaded with the task -- too many shops with too many models and too many variables to keep in my head. Also, as you progress through the shops the salesmen become keener on the sale especially if they can undercut their neighbour (it's real friendly down there). In this condition I stumbled into Shyamtronics, an IBM auth dealer. Now, I've never been a huge fan of ThinkPads, mainly cos I think the general styling is horrendous -- when compared to a Sony or many other brands, the look of a TP is pretty dire. However, they've always had a good write up, esp for being sturdy / reliable.

As you've probably sussed from the story so far, I caved in and bought an IBM laptop (T40) . It actually looks a lot better than the average TP, mainly because it's so thin. It has a hi res screen (1400x1050 i think), wifi, bluetooth, gbit ethernet, ~2kg, blah blah blah. The guys did a great deal (as far as I can tell) including a second battery (8 cell, chould last up to 8 hours!), took the RAM up to 1Gb, a case (thin one) and a lock. Laughin.

Once home, I had to start priming it with software - first of which was a new set of drivers and XP SP2 (it came with only SP1) -- a bit of a pain, esp if you're not technical -- but the broadband just kept ticking away with occasional reboots while it updated everything. Cool.

Next job - cancel the Dell order, while getting through to cust service, i ended up hearing the order had slipped into March.. glad to be shot of that. I have to say, that the Dell box I ordered probably would have been cheaper for the features I got, but the wait and the hassle and the lack of knowledge far outweighed the advantages.

I noticed Dion had a little hassle -- despite Dell saying (I'm pretty sure i've seen it anyway) that they may choose to send in multiple parts if its easier for them. Oh well.

One thing I have to say to almost all the laptop mftrs out there - your websites, describing the products, are terrible! No, really. No. Really. If you want a laptop from Dell / Sony / Acer, but don't know the model you want yet (hence why you are going to the site) it's incredibly painful to find one you want. All sites should have a decent search like LaptopShop . They have a search form, where you specify the bits you care about and they return a matching list. Wahey. You know, that kind of flexible search, is just the kind of technology that might just take off in the World Wide Web...


Just be glad your laptop works, as the Thinkpads sold by Shyamtronics don't come with the 3 year warranty they claim.

In fact, they are all old stock, the one we bought (which has now failed) in fact had years warranty on it, which expired before Shyamtronics even sold it to us.

The shop deny all responsibility, and IBM won't play, say they get streams of similar complaints about Shyamtronics.

As a good place to go and see some (out of date) Thinkpads in the flesh, but absolutely not the place to invest your hard earned cash!

Thank you for the warning on Shyamtronics.

They are indeed very good salesmen with the full IBM Thinkpad range on display.

Bought our T61 Thinkpad from More Computers online and no problems so far.

I disagree - I've bought an X40 and an X300 from Shyamtronics. I knew the X40 was essentially an End Of Life product, but the warranty was new (put the serial number into and it shows a 3 year on-site next day warranty, which I used after 18 months and an IBM tech really did turn up at my home the next day).

When I bought the X300 I made sure it had a 3 year warranty too, I got the guy in the shop to open the box and put the serial number into to prove it has a 3 year warranty, which he was happy to do.

They may not be the cheapest place in the world to buy a laptop from, but in my experience they are a good place.
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