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.”

~ by J. R. R. Flores on November 22, 2010.

5 Responses to “The Age of Lemon Laptops”

  1. I disagree that laptops are not made to last; I know someone who has a 10-year old laptop, namely Fujitsu as the brand. Yours is an Acer, which is known for the maker of cheap and faulty laptops. It doesn’t mean all laptops are as crappy.

    And oh, some laptops are not compatible with some graphics card, maybe that’s what killed your Sakuya.

  2. Thanks for your comment. I don’t really see myself as an expert in this regard, but I am speaking from my experience with them.

    While it is likely that some laptops can last for a long time (in that they are still usable), the existence of a statistical outlier does not necessarily mean that ten years is the norm. A ten-year old laptop that still works fine is definitely a good thing, but that does not mean it can necessarily keep up with the demands of current trends. Besides, it was made ten years ago. That doesn’t mean that today’s laptops are like it.

    I agree that Acer is a lousy brand, but that’s only after experience with it. Not everyone knows that Acer is a lousy brand; I let others know about my problem with it and yet they still go ahead and buy. It’s best that this information is disseminated; that’s the point of this entry anyway.

    Finally, the problem isn’t a graphics card issue. It does not appear when I use an external projector. A lot of people I know using the same model have experienced the same problem, and it’s an issue with faulty wiring.

  3. SAKUYA’S DEAD???? :O

  4. Hi sir, this is Remo.

    And the Laptop I use is Acer. Been using it for 4 years now. And it’s second hand, so I don’t know how old it is.

    Here’s the good part. Never have I once gotten any major problems with it. Minor such as viral infections and the like were fixed but consistent crashing, rampant BSOD, and hardware problems are unheard of. I don’t even give my dear Sarina (Laptop) any special treatment like you do sir, and it’s working fine. Sarina’s been through a lot, but is still going strong. Maybe because she’s XP hence the longevity. That or she subscribes to Nietzschean Philosophy of what doesn’t kill her makes her stronger.

    Don’t mind the late comment. Mapua is is hell. My only consolation in free wifi in the campus and free plugging sites.

  5. 😀 Many models of the HP Compaq Presario CQ40 models suffer that stuff. Lines appear at the bottom of the screen and start growing even until your task bar is covered by it. I’ve experienced it, and HP fixed it, with the nearly expired warranty. Thankfully, it hasn’t given way for quite a long time.

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