The Age of Lemon Laptops
Last Christmas, my father purchased for me a new laptop: An HP/Compaq Presario CQ 40. Since I had a lot of problems with my previous laptop (an Acer 5100), I was relieved to see that it was a different brand. (All Acer laptop owners I know have experienced the same problem that I did: recurring, sporadic, and hitherto unexplained crashing.)
For about a year, my new laptop, which I had fondly named Sakuya, worked very well. Since it had been upgraded with an NVIDIA Geforce video card, I was able to play games that a lot of laptops hadn’t been able to run (namely, Starcraft II). The moment I got it, I took good care of it, cleaning the top, using a layer of cloth to protect the LCD from the keys, and using a neoprene, heat-breathing case, and carrying the entire thing in my backpack’s laptop sleeve. I thought it would be fine.
It was only late last October (a few days after the warranty expired) that my laptop started giving me a problem: a hardware problem.
It started with an almost imperceptible screen flicker. I only noticed it out of the corner my eye at first.
Then it became a greenish flickering line across the top or bottom of the screen that appeared every five or six seconds. I noticed it got worse when the room was hot. At this point, I decided to have it serviced, but then they said the warranty had already expired. Since this was purchased abroad, I didn’t have the receipt with me, which was the only document the service center honored for the purposes of warranty.
I pulled it out of the service center, since I didn’t want to spend several thousand PhP on a problem I could tolerate. I prayed the problem wouldn’t get worse.
However, it did. Now the entire screen zaps every few seconds, even in a cold environment. I don’t trust myself enough to have this fixed, but at the same time it’s annoying and now that it’s shown a trend of deterioration, I feel I should have it fixed in an unofficial service center.
Now on my second problematic laptop in a row, I think I have a few pieces of advice to give for people who want to buy laptops.
1. Laptops are NOT MADE TO LAST. Keep this in mind. This is why they’re so cheap now. I’m tempted to go on a rant about typically capitalist computer companies here who don’t really care about their customers, but I won’t go that way. Wait, I already did. But anyway, you must realize that laptops are only made to last up to 3 years before they should be replaced.
Consider this: Computers are complex marvels of modern technology. However, they have to be miniaturized properly for use in a laptop, not to mention that giving them the ability to function on a battery makes them even more complicated.
The more complex a machine is, the more likely it is to break down. Considering that laptops are now ubiquitous, manufacturers don’t really care if they’re well-made, as long as they sell. Since it’s easy to drop smaller machines we carry around all the time (as opposed to something mounted on a table), it’s also easy to write off problems to carelessness.
2. Research potential problems. In this age of mass production and quality control, we’d think we’d see less manufacturing problems. I don’t have any statistics, so I can’t make any comments on whether problems are more or less common, but it’s always safe and relatively easy to search online for problems that tend to come up with a particular model. In my case, I found out, too late, that the CQ40 was notorious for its screen problems.
3. Keep all documentation. You’ll never know when you might have to have it repaired, and as my experience has shown, you might have to prove that you bought the laptop at a certain date. When they checked my serial number in the database, they said my warranty expired on October 31, but I was pretty sure that my father had not purchased the machine until November. The stickers on the document folder my laptop came with clearly showed that it was purchased on November 8, but this was not honored. Had I the receipt, I might have been able to have this repaired (though that’s not a guarantee of further immunity to the problem).
Laptops, like any other machine, break down. However, sometimes, there are problems that can be avoided. I do hope, however, that in this age where laptops are more in demand, companies care a bit more about the quality of the products they sell. I’m extremely frustrated that this issue was not detected and that the machines were not pulled out at all. Considering the frequency of the problem, this SHOULD be seen as a factory defect and not as just “wear and tear.”