Lenovo is about to complete a full year of customers complaining about the Trackpoint on the company’s popular ThinkPad business laptops.
Problems kicked off in January, with clientele grumbling on Lenovo’s community forums that the TrackPoint on their machines would “abruptly stop working.”
For the uninitiated, the TrackPoint is that odd, mini-joystick nub thing that can be found in the middle of ThinkPad keyboards. Designed as an alternative to a touchpad (although Lenovo includes one of those as well) or mouse, a good few Lenovo customers opt for the company’s hardware specifically because of the small, red device. Others, frankly, could not care less.
Rival PC-makers have also toyed with including pointing sticks/nubs, such as Toshiba (when it still made laptops) and Sony, although Lenovo’s TrackPoint cursor controller was arguably the best of the breed. Until now, it seems.
Sadly, all does not appear well in the Lenovo TrackPoint world, judging by the 31 pages (at the time of writing) of wailing, rage and disappointment on Lenovo’s forums and those who wrote in, including Reg reader Robin Edgar.
The issue is an odd one. The TrackPoint simply stops working, seemingly at random. Multiple laptops are affected, from X1 to P15v and T14. Despite hardware swaps, BIOS updates and driver fiddling, customers have struggled to bring the beloved nub back to life. Some shortlived joy was reported when devices were put to sleep and then awoken, while others found if they plugged in and unplugged a mouse, the TrackPoint would be revived for a while before the problems returned.
One user posted a link to a workaround that apparently forces the driver to scan for and reinitialise Synaptics devices, although being a third-party bit of code, we’d have to recommend a good deal of caution with this. Other customers have issued dark mutterings that maybe, just maybe, Lenovo doesn’t really care too much about the TrackPoint any more.
We put the problem to Lenovo, and the company confirmed it had spotted the ever-sprouting tree of woe:
“We are aware of the issues raised in the forums and we want to apologise to our loyal users for the inconvenience caused,” the company said.
As for its commitment to the red nub of pointing, it said: “The TrackPoint is an ever-present feature of our ThinkPad laptops and a technology we are very proud of.”
And the issue itself? “We have teams working on the problem. In order to provide a reliable fix, we first need to consistently replicate the issue in our labs, which is proving challenging.
“This is what we call a ‘ghost in the machine’, which is the worst type of problem to solve. Rest assured that our engineers will persevere until a permanent fix can be found.”