Should I get a new battery or a new laptop?
November 15, 2008 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Should I buy a new laptop battery or a new laptop?

I've been using my trusty Thinkpad T41 for ages. The battery is now completely dead (I know it's not my computer's problem, because my friend's battery charges quite nicely). A new battery from Lenovo costs $159. I've been looking at all of those netbooks that have come out that are ~$400. Their specs are all better than my Thinkpad (which has a 40GB hd and only 512 MB ram).

I use my computer to write, surf the web, occasionally watch a DVD and do email. For work, I usually connect remotely using putty. I don't need anything fancy. The Thinkpad still works great for me (although the fan has become a bit noisier), but do I just not know what I'm missing? Is it worth spending money for a new battery or should I look for a new computer? How much longer can my Thinkpad last?
posted by bluefly to Computers & Internet (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know if this will change the math for you, but you can buy new generic or IBM replacement Thinkpad T41 batteries on Ebay for $40-$70. You could also re-build it yourself with fresh cells if you are a fireproof daredevil.

At $50 I'd buy a new battery. At $150 thrown down the extra $250 and buy a new netbook because it is only a matter of time until more stuff starts decaying on the Thinkpad. I always predict a 3 year life cycle for non-IBM/Lenovo laptops. With Lenovo/IBM you'll get a few years on top of that but when they start to go it gets expensive to find replacement parts.

Good luck.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:29 AM on November 15, 2008

A replacement battery for a T30 is $139 from here. (A T31 is not listed). They say "We are currently shipping the original IBM brand battery". Check the photo & specs to see if it the same as yours, or phone them.
No connection with this firm, just a happy customer.
posted by lungtaworld at 6:34 AM on November 15, 2008

Sorry , a T41 battery is $119.00 from the same source.
posted by lungtaworld at 6:37 AM on November 15, 2008

Well, if you are using it as a netbook, then as long as it can run your browser of choice smoothly, there wouldn't be much point in buying a new lappy. I suggest you replace the battery cheaply as the guys above have said.
posted by dragontail at 6:44 AM on November 15, 2008

I was going to suggest a netbook, but a few things stood out. Weight, I ditched my 8lb laptop for my 3lb netbook largely due to weight but when your T41 is only 5lbs, your mileage may vary. The second thing was the writing usage. Netbooks vary in this area, but for writing you may appreciate keeping that full-size (well, for a laptop) keyboard. Third, since you use it for watching DVD's, keep in mind netbooks tend to lack optical drives to keep their size small, so you'd need an external.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2008

Best answer: I'm not sure that you need either. As long as everything still works well enough, you should be fine. When things start failing(aside from reduced battery life), the cost of a new laptop depreciates so well that you shouldn't think too much about the purchase.

At a hard disk size of 40GB your laptop is probably at least 3+ years old. So you spent less than a dollar a day.

If you have to get either a $160 battery or even a pricier $1,000 laptop, get the laptop.
posted by christhelongtimelurker at 7:04 AM on November 15, 2008

This is not a rational answer. It's a lusty answer.

Your battery wore down, and it's time for a new one. It won't break the bank, the battery.

But you're sick of other things as well. You're sick of waiting for websites to load. You're sick of your computer heating up until it burns you. You're sick of the fan going every time you try to play a Flash game. You're sick of the very sight of your sad old laptop. Whenever you go to coffee shops to work, you see other folks with newer computers. With bigger screens and -- you know, though you can't tell -- better features. You look at them with envy. You think, "This piece of crap is a good-for-nothing old dinosaur." You think, "If only I had a new computer, I would have written my novel by now. Really, I would have had it finished. I'd be on my way to the bank!"

But last year you put it off because you had other expenses. Maybe you had to find a new apartment. Maybe your car -- also a piece of crap -- was giving you more trouble than usual. Maybe you had some unexpected medical bills. Maybe you just couldn't see your way to spending a thousand dollars on a shiny ... oh, so shiny new MacBook.

And now, when you unplug your computer for even twenty minutes, it shuts down. No warning. No going to sleep. No, it just shuts down in the middle of whatever you're doing. And when you plug it back in and turn it on again, it claims you've still got sixty-four percent of your battery power remaining. But you know, it also claims that the year is 1969.

If you are particularly unfortunate, your browser has forgotten all the passwords you asked it to remember. That chapter you were working on has disappeared forever. A thousand words down the drain.

You're sick and tired of your stupid old computer. If you were in a movie, you'd take it out into a field and beat it to death with a baseball bat. But you're not in a movie. You're in real life, and I bet you are apartment-hunting yet again, and your car needs a new pump of some sort -- something that will run you two or three hundred bucks at least, and you have the holidays coming up and people to shop for. And you've got bills to pay, and your gym membership has expired so you're starting to feel all flabby, and there are new computers being released any day now and the prices are sure to drop on the old ones and you don't like the new look of those aluminum things anyway, and you've heard they get really hot, and the moment you buy a new laptop there'll be a new operating system out, or the prices will go down, or the world will come to an end and you'll find that there really is a Judgement Day and your computer is completely useless at it.

So, yeah. Just go with the new battery. And when your adapter wears out, replace that. One day maybe you'll buy some extra RAM. And then an external hard drive. But let's face it: You're as likely to buy a new computer as you are to replace your dying 1996 Toyota Corolla. Which is to say, it's never going to happen, at least not until the New Computer Fairy shows up at your door. Which will be about six years from now, by which time you won't even be able to connect to the internet, let alone Ask MeFi.
posted by brina at 7:18 AM on November 15, 2008 [16 favorites]

Best answer: Its worth replacing because now the drive you are using is three years old. Thats usually the next thing to go. Or a fan dies or starts dying and youre dealing with overheating.

Its worth mentioning that some netbooks have tiny keyboards. I suggest you get some hands on time with whatever model you are thinking of buying. Im guessing youre more interested in an ultraportable with a full size keyboard instead of a netbook with a tiny keyboard.
posted by damn dirty ape at 8:27 AM on November 15, 2008

Best answer: Here's one thing to take into account, if you are going to buy a new computer I would consider waiting until after Christmas. Retail sales are probably going to be horrible which means big big sales!

As to you actual question, I say if you are going to buy a new computer in the next year anyway, just buy it now. If not then it probably makes sense to get a new battery (or a newish one off ebay as others have said).
posted by whoaali at 8:49 AM on November 15, 2008

If I was you I'd buy a third-party-manufactured replacement battery like this one which costs $26 - which is a very small amount of money.

My thinking is a Thinkpad is an old expensive computer, while a netbook is a new cheap computer. The old expensive computer might be better overall.
posted by Mike1024 at 10:07 AM on November 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the responses. I saw those $25-$40 batteries on ebay. Is it ok to use a third party manufactured battery? I'm just worried that I'll spend $40 on something that will then burn the insides of my entire computer (which will force my hand to buy a new one, I guess).

If it's ok to use them, I'll probably just buy a battery to tide me over until I have time to go shopping for a proper laptop (I'll keep those new year's sales in mind whoaali). It's probably time for a new computer. I'm just so used to this T41. It's the right size, the keyboard is awesome, and I've never had a problem with it except for the battery.

Also, brina that's some awesome insight there. I am the kind of person who drives her cars into the ground; it's like you looked directly into my soul.
posted by bluefly at 10:38 AM on November 15, 2008

Best answer: This Article may be helpful to you. In short, DO NOT buy a cheap battery on ebay, but buying from 3rd party outlets isn't really a bad idea.
posted by Geppp at 12:02 PM on November 15, 2008

I highly doubt one of those sub $500 netbooks could actually compete with your T41 if you T41 were freshly installed and had an actually appropriate amount of memory (it has been inexcusable in my opinion to sell a computer with less a gig of ram for the past 4 years). Netbooks have crappy keyboards, most have low resolution screens (unless your T41 is one of those with only 1024x768), poor battery life, and slow processors.

My suggestion; get a new battery, get some ram (go for a one gig stick (it should be less than $50) get someone mechanically inclined to blow the dust out of the thing (this will require a little disassembly), and reinstall the laptop using the Thinkpad Recovery media. Your machine will once again be humming along quietly and fast, and it will perform better than nearly all of the Netbooks below $500.
posted by fief at 12:15 PM on November 15, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks! All of your answers were helpful. I think I'll get a battery from the place listed in the article Geppp mentioned. I'll probably buy a new computer soon, though, but I think I can find other uses for this old girl to keep it in repair.
posted by bluefly at 1:36 PM on November 15, 2008

Response by poster: I couldn't find a third party battery that was exactly the same as the one Lenovo was selling. They were all higher capacity. I bought one of them anyway, at $80, I didn't think it was a bad price. It does make my computer much heavier, though. I'm far less inclined to take it out of the house. I'll add the resolved tag as prompted by the mefi mail.
posted by bluefly at 10:23 AM on November 19, 2008

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