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My first ThinkPad was an IBM T40p. The build quality was rock solid. It got me through college and I carried that thing on my back nearly every day for four years. As a sys admin I have deployed many IBM and Lenovo ThinkPads. The T4x was well built machine, and ran for a long time but tended to need repairs just after the warranty period. Since we had a fleet of identical machines I had plenty of systems to cannibalize. The decline in quality was hardly noticeable at this point.
I used a T420 for work for a while. It seemed nice. I had no complaints, but I didn’t get to keep it long since I didn’t stick around.
Now I have a new T530 and the build quality SUCKS! The chicklet/island style keyboard wouldn’t be bad, but the flex is terrible especially at the top edge by the F keys. I don’t like the new keyboard layout with the different bottom left corner (fn, ctrl, win, alt). The monitor/lid flexes a lot when opening and closing and there is a lot of play left in the monitor after the hinge has latched. Also, there is a gap at the back edge when closed. Picking up a closed laptop from the back edge will again flex the monitor. The battery is loose and rattles when locked in place. That is about everything I can remember about it right now. Oh, the power brick for it is huge, like a brick. One thing that good about it that I can say is that it is smoking fast, but I think I have Intel to thank for that.
While ThinkPad’s quality has been declining, Inspiron and Vostro quality has been improving. The thing I don’t like about their 15” is the 10 key. It forces you to have an offset keyboard, but overall it has a good build quality. Not as good as the old ThinkPads, but better than the new ThinkPads. If it weren’t for the 10 key I might have gotten a Dell instead of my rickety T530.