~650,000 machines still ship every day, but that’s the lowest total since 2007

Source: PC sales still slumping, but more slowly than feared • The Register

Simon Sharwood writes:

Both analyst firms suggest that rising component prices have led to rising PC prices which has led to falling enthusiasm from buyers, especially consumers. DRAM, LCD panels and solid state disks prices all share some of the blame for the rise, as all are in short supply.

This is nonsense: not Sharwood’s reporting, what the analysts say. They are clutching at straws. Rising PC prices are not the issue, prices have only ticked up a smidgen. That is not enough to affect sales if there is an underlying demand.

The demand is not there. Customers have little appetite or need to start buying PCs again in large numbers. Not today.

Two points stand out from the latest PC sales figures.

First, HP moved ahead of Lenovo. Sharwood quotes a Gartner analyst talking about Lenovo pulling back to focus on margins.

That’s a plausible explanation, but I think there’s more to it.

HP has been on a roll since the business split from HP Enterprise. Hardware quality is better than in the past and the designs are more interesting. While it would overdoing it to use a word like excitement, HP has momentum. Some good products too.

Second, Apple has moved to fourth place. Apple’s year-on-year sales are flat, in a falling market that means the company’s market share has climbed. It’s not much of a climb, about 0.3 percent, but that’s enough to move Apple past slumping Asus.

Lenovo thinkpad e570 NZ

Lenovo serves up a mid-price, not-so-small business laptop. The ThinkPad E570 is so traditional it borders on retro. It will please laptop conservatives. If you need greater mobility, look elsewhere.

Lenovo ThinkPad E570 at a glance:

For:Configurable
Latest processor
Against:Heavy
Large
Build quality
Maybe:No touch screen
Removable battery
Verdict:Mid-price large screen laptop. Will appeal to small business owners.
Price:From NZ$1100. Review model NZ$1300.
Website:Lenovo NZ

By 2017 standards, the Lenovo ThinkPad E570 is bulky. The review model weighs 2.4Kg. It measures 376 by 262 by 34 mm at its widest, broadest and deepest.

Part of the heft is because the case includes a large, bright 15.6-inch display and a DVD drive.

There’s a lot of plastic around the edge of the screen. Indeed, there’s a lot of black plastic full stop. It’s chunky and robust which adds protection but you’ll need a backpack to move it.

Another reason for the bulk is the battery and studs rise the base a few millimetres off a desktop. This gives breathing room so air can flow through vents. There’s also a heavy-duty fan vent on the left side of the case too.

Rough in places

An E at the start of a product number indicates the E570 is from the lower-price ThinkPad range. That means you get a lower quality finish than you’d find on more expensive models. It’s a little rough in places and the matt black plastic picks up smudges with a vengeance.

The front of the lid doesn’t sit flush with the bottom part of the computer. This makes it easier to open. The hinge has a small amount of give, but nothing to trouble anyone.

While the case is not pretty, it does look like Lenovo made the computer to do business. If you like the red and black ThinkPad look, you’ll be happy with the effect.

Desktop replacement

Given size and weight, you won’t want to carry the E570 all the time. If portability is important get something else. It makes a fine desktop replacement that can travel at a pinch.

A big case means there’s room for a full-size keyboard and numeric keys. The layout takes getting used to. A week or two of reviewing was not enough time to master the keyboard idiosyncrasies.

Among other things, having two backspace and one delete key in the top right corner is strange. Also odd is the off centre touchpad and the small space bar.

TouchPad

Because there’s no touchscreen, you’ll use the touchpad a lot. It’s small by 2017 standards. The little red signature ThinkPad cursor joystick is some compensation. In practice the touchpad is erratic, that could be a Windows 10 driver problem.

If you owned this computer and used it often, trackpad aside, all these things, would be no trouble after a few weeks.

The lack of a keyboard backlight is disappointing.

As already mentioned, there is no touchscreen. The display is 1366 by 768 HD format. There is a FHD 1920 by 1080 model that, at the moment, costs $100 more than the review computer.

It comes with a faster processor and a better video card, that’s a lot of extra value for $100.

One minor worry about the display is that the default setting is 100 percent brilliance. While that’s fine, there’s nothing extra for when you need a boost.

Video and everyday Windows apps work fine with the display. It’s not state-of-the-art, but its good considering the price tag.

Kaby Lake

The review model has an Intel i5 7200U processor running at 2.5GHz. That’s a Kaby Lake chip or the seventh generation of Core processors.

Intel says they are faster than last year’s processors, enough for users to notice. They are video optimised and should be more power efficient.

Lenovo says you can get eight hours on a single charge. As always, the manufacturer’s claim is pushing it. In practice, it works for a little over six hours before power supply nagging starts. Battery life isn’t so vital in a computer that will sit on a desk most of the time.

There’s a DVD drive, which feels anachronistic, but will please many users. There are three USB ports — again, that pleases some users not others. Lenovo also includes HDMI, Ethernet, a multi-format card reader and an audio jack.

Old fashioned

Despite a state-of-the-art processor, the ThinkPad E570 is, in many ways, old-fashioned. It’s been a long time since a review non-touch Windows PC with a hard drive instead of SSD has turned up here.

The question is how the specification trade-offs work with value for money. The biggest downside is the quality of finish. You can find better-made computers at the same price, although they may not have the same mix of features.

At first sight it looks as if Lenovo charges a premium for its 15.6 inch display. On a more positive note, you get a lot of processor performance for your money. It would be a good choice if you crunch numbers on a spreadsheet all day.

It’s clear the $1400 top of the line model with a Core i7 processor, higher resolution screen and better graphics card is better value. This is a promotional price and may not be available for long.

You might want to swap the 1TB hard drive for a 256GB SSD, that would add around $170 to the list price.

Not everyone prizes slim and light over big screens, full keyboards and processor power. The Lenovo ThinkPad E570 isn’t for the kind of person who works from cafés or airport lounges. There are many who still want DVD drives. This will hit the spot for some demographics.

lenovo-miix-510If you want a Surface Pro 4 but find Microsoft’s price too high, the Lenovo Miix 510 may fit the bill.

Lenovo’s Miix 510 has more than a passing resemblance to a Surface Pro 4. It’s a Windows 2-in-1 with a kickstand. Ignore the Lenovo logos on the front and back and you could almost be looking at a Surface Pro.

There are compromises. Lenovo’s 12.2 inch display shows 1920 by 1200 pixels. The Surface Pro 4 screen is a fraction larger at 12.3 inches and has 2736 by 1824 pixels. This is noticeable.

If the build quality of the Surface Pro is ten out of ten, the Miix would rate a nine.

Lenovo misses small details that Microsoft got right. The power brick and connector are not as well finished.

Lenovo chose an inelegant power supply arrangement. A USB-C port would be better.
There are fewer ports. The Lenovo Miix 510 has one standard USB 3.0 and one USB 3.0 type-C port. Microsoft includes an SD card readers and a Mini DisplayPort on the Surface Pro 4.

It weighs more.

The Miix 510 is 880g when the keyboard is not attached and about 1.25kg when it is. This compares with around 790g for the bare Surface Pro 4 and a shade over a kilogram for a Surface Pro 4 with a keyboard.

While extra weight is enough to make a difference in your backpack or briefcase, 250g one way or another is not a deal breaker for most people.

Backlit keyboard

There is a payoff. You get what some users will think is a better, backlit keyboard. In general I found it easier to type on and more laptop-like than the Surface Pro 4 Type Cover.

That’s saying a lot more than is apparent. Lenovo has an odd arrangement for the right shift key which takes some getting used to.

The small right-hand shift key presents problems, the full size arrow keys are a good design choice.
The keyboard is more robust than I’ve seen on other Surface Pro-like computers and doesn’t rely on Bluetooth thanks to plug connections. It flexes a little in use, not enough to trouble most people.

Like other Windows 10 2-in-1s the Miix 510 touchpad is disappointing. It feels more like an afterthought for people who don’t want to spend all their time reaching for the touch screen.

In practice the touchpad is functional enough, if you were looking for a touchscreen computer it won’t be the most important consideration. If you want or need a better touchpad you need to look elsewhere and spend more money.

There’s a kickstand to prop the Miix 510 on a desk. The hinges look neat, but in practice the arrangement functions just the same as the Surface Pro.

A grand less than a Surface

None of this should put you off. At the time of writing, Lenovo’s Miix 510 costs more than NZ$1000 less than a Surface Pro 4 equipped with the same processor and storage.

For a start, the Lenovo price includes a keyboard which it is a optional extra with the Surface Pro 4.1

Like the Surface Pro 4, the Miix 510 is a plausible laptop replacement. It offers more than enough power for most everyday tasks and is light and portable.

It misses many of the Surface Pro specifications, but not by much and not in ways that will matter to all buyers.

Everything written above compares the MiiX 510 with the Surface Pro 4. That’s a tough call. Microsoft’s 2-in-1 is the gold standard.

Compared with every other Windows 2-in-1 the Lenovo MiiX 510 is a standout.

While the MiiX doesn’t reach Microsoft’s lofty Surface Pro standard, it doesn’t fall far short. Put it this way, it is nine-tenths the computer at six-tenths the price.

Unless you need the higher screen resolution, you wouldn’t be disappointed with this computer.


  1. While I was writing this review Noel Leeming offered the Lenovo Miix 510 for NZ$1600. That buys a computer with a 2.3GHz Intel Core i5-6200U dual core processor and 256GB of storage. The same basic Surface Pro 4 configuration in the same store costs NZ$2350. The Surface Pro 4 Type Cover will set you back an extra NZ$240. ↩︎

IBM may be exiting the hardware business. Dell and HP would like to move their focus from shifting boxes to selling software and services.

Meanwhile, Lenovo is building up a head of steam to dominate computer hardware.

The company has been around since the 1980s. Things took off in 2005 when it purchased IBM’s PC business. It still makes the iconic ThinkPad laptops.

Lenovo – world’s largest PC business

Last year Lenovo became the world’s largest PC maker – at least in terms of unit sales – ahead of HP, Dell, Acer and Asus.

The company has revenues of more than US$30 billion and, unlike some other PC makers, is profitable. In 2012 it posted a net income of around US$500 million.

I can’t think of another recent major PC industry acquisition as successful as Lenovo’s take over of the IBM PC business. The Chinese owners had the sense to leave the ex-IBM engineers and managers get on with doing what they do well while providing the financial and logistical support needed to succeed.

Servers, phones

2014 has barely begun, yet already this year Lenovo has moved to buy IBM’s low-end Intel-based server operation and pay Google almost $3 billion for the Motorola phone business.

Both acquisitions are huge.  They represent huge risks. IBM wanted to exit low-end servers at least partly because the margins aren’t great. Google’s reasons for selling Motorola are probably more strategic – owning a handset maker conflicts with its Android strategy.

And then there’s the painful matter of integrating cultures – although as we’ve seen with the IBM PC business, Lenovo is good at that.

Industry domination?

Lenovo is on a trajectory towards dominating technology hardware. Today it is still a distance behind Apple or Samsung, but it represents a clear challenge. It has strong management and first-rate research and development. The operational side of the business is second to none.

The company was already building a head of steam in the phone business – although that was mainly in China. Buying Motorola propels Lenovo to become the number three handset maker worldwide. The IBM server deal cements the company firmly in business markets – that will help sell its branded PCs and phones to corporate customers.

It’s already time for us acknowledge Lenovo as a third hardware giant alongside Apple and Samsung. It is a company worth watching.

Lenovo’s ThinkPad celebrated its 20th anniversary last week.

The portable computer brand occupies a unique niche. Its distinctive looks are stylish and functional, not pretty. ThinkPad electronics focus on work, not play.

Don’t laugh, these are the reasons I chose a ThinkPad the last time I needed a laptop.

That was long ago. Mine is an IBM model. The company sold the brand along with its PC division to Lenovo in 2005.

It is a business class portable. It is a tool to get work done. When there’s a long feature to write or a report to compile, the ThinkPad is the fastest route from introduction to conclusion.

ThinkPads don’t look like toys. They are built like Russian tanks on the outside. If anything their innards are more sturdy. Mine had a hard drive that could detect if a knock was likely and safely park the drive heads. I could take it anywhere. I did.

Being this businesslike is unfashionable in today’s world of flashy gadgets. At least it is in most circles. Don’t get me wrong, I love my smartphone, my iPad and my big screen desktop. I’ve found ways to be just productive with them.

Yet none of them say “business time” quite like the ThinkPad.