Lenovo has promised to replace 60,000 protective cases and around 600 screens for laptops provided to NSW schools under the Government's Digital Education Revolution (DER).
Last May, the vendor won a $150m, four-year contract to supply the NSW Department of Education and Training (DET) with 220,000 custom-built laptops.
Laptops have been progressively rolled out to 571 schools in the state, with some schools receiving Lenovo's IdeaPad S10e in 2009, and others receiving the more powerful ThinkPad Mini 10 this year.
Both models were shipped with custom protective plastic cases. A "small number" of the 2010 devices have developed screen breakages believed to have been caused by ill-fitting cases.
A DET spokesman told iTnews that less than one percent of the 60,000 blue ThinkPad Mini 10s had developed screen breakages.
"The Department is working closely with Lenovo engineers to identify the cause of these breakages," he said.
"Lenovo cannot say yet definitively that the case is causing screen breakages, however they are in process of manufacturing better fitting cases."
Lenovo's regional product and marketing director Chris Kelly acknowledged "speculation that the problem is a result of the plastic case issued with the notebooks to protect them from damage".
Kelly explained that the ThinkPad Mini 10 was slightly larger than the IdeaPad S10e due to a wider keyboard and higher resolution screen. However, both were shipped with different cases "designed specifically for its shape and size".
While it was as yet unsure of the exact cause of breakages, Lenovo has commenced a pre-emptive redesign of the protective cases.
Two production engineers and two design engineers are involved in an examination of the cases, laptops, environment of use and deployment process.
"During the investigation process Lenovo would like to reassure parents and students that as long as the machines do not show signs of deliberate mistreatment then the standard warranty will be honoured," Kelly said.
The DET spokesman added: "Lenovo will be providing replacement plastic cases to all schools at no cost."
As schools had been provided with 15 percent more laptops than enrolled students to account for new students, or replace those being repaired, the DET did not expect the breakages to disrupt student learning.
Besides Lenovo, the NSW DET had considered five other laptop providers for the DER: Acer; ASUSTeK; Dell; Hewlett-Packard; and Perth-based distributor Anabelle Bits.