Some business buyers find they are happier now that IBM sold its desktop computer business to Lenovo, a Chinese company that had been making most of the components for IBM’s desktop line anyway. “Lenovo has made the buying process a lot easier,” says IT consultant Thomas Carroll of Computer Services in Huntington Station, NY. Apparently Lenovo is able to focus on selling its desktop and laptop computers, whereas PCs had been a demotivating loss leader for IBM for years.
So prices are competitive, and the Web site is clean, but of course there are a confusing number of confusingly positioned and confusingly priced business product lines: the ThinkCentre A, M, E, and S lines — sounds like the New York subway system. For our purposes, however, it’s simple: The M and S series target large enterprises, so for our small-business readers (up to 99 employees) we stick to the E series, which is the value line of preconfigured models. And for the more demanding or more ambitious small/medium-size businesses, Lenovo offers the A series, its middle-of-the-road line that’s also offered in preconfigured models but can be configured in detail if you like.
On the Lenovo online store, the E series are all preconfigured. In addition, the “Think Express” offerings of A and E models are preconfigured both for convenience in buying and also for guaranteed fast shipping. Neither the E nor the Think Express offerings can upgrade hard drives, RAM, or the version of Windows XP installed.
Lenovo also has a “Lenovo Direct” Program whereby you sign up as a frequent customer and get your own personal salesperson, who keeps track of your orders. Some of the other vendors have similar direct programs — a good refuge for the Web-store-battered. You can also go down to the Office Depot and see some models for yourself. And, as with most of these vendors, your friendly local consultant/systems integrator/IT outsource shop can get ThinkCentres for you.
We found some bargains in the E series–but then, we were able to take advantage of the 17-inch CRT monitor being offered as a freebie in January 2006. Which reminds us to remind you: This market is a constant swirl of incentives, so keep an eye peeled for this kind of freebie special offers–free monitors, free RAM upgrades, and free shipping can turn a reasonable deal into a great buy.