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by Franki

Current news has it that Laptop computers for the first time outsold their desktop cousins, but just exactly what do you get for your money? All the test sites on the net and in PC magazines get the laptops, run them though lots of benchmarks give opinions on quality and appearance, and once they are done they usually get shipped off to the next group of testers and that’s the end of it. None of them can give you any idea of how long it’s going to last longer then it’s warranty period. I’ve got desktop machines running here that were built in 1997, but I don’t have any laptops that are still running after reaching their second year.

Recently laptop manufacturers have been getting much bad press due to recalls and possible design flaws in their products. All of which begs the question, are today’s laptops designed to outlast their warranty period of 1 year by any significant margin? For example, my third last laptop was a Compaq M700 and it fell to pieces before it was 14 months old. Next was a Toshiba TE2000/Satellite Pro 6000 which ended up suffering from a flaw in the motherboard/power supply connection that resulted in it being unable to boot and requiring a new mainboard. This happened at around 18 months and rendered the laptop unusable.

My current laptop is a 16 month old Dell Inspiron 5150 and I now have the same flaw reported by many other users. The board has flexed too many times, and so touching the palmrest restarts the machine. So many users have complained about this, that one thread on Dell forums (one of many on the subject) had 57 pages of complaining users. Repairers even devote pages specifically to a known problem of particular laptops like the i5150, This laptop spent the vast majority of it’s life being used on a desk with an external mouse so it certainly hasn’t been mistreated. You know something is seriously wrong with a laptops design when users get together and put up web pages about how to fix the design flaws themselves as can be seen here for the 5150 and here for the Satellite Pro 6000 but you are unlikely to hear the manufacturer admit to anything.

No brand is particularly safe, there have been issues with IBM, HP, Sony and even Apple has had to recall faulty power adaptors. Yet it is practically unheard of for a manufacture to say “Yeah, we blew that design, sorry about that” unless there is potential legal liability. So are we to assume that Laptops are not supposed to last longer much than their warranty period nowadays? The M700 needed so many replacement parts that the only thing I had that still worked properly was the screen. The Toshiba TE-2000 needed a new mainboard and the Dell 5150 also needed a new mainboard. The M700 I gave up on as a lost cause, the Toshiba mainboard replacement was going to cost me 800 dollars and the i5150 motherboard was about $600 AUD and none of these laptops were more then 2 years old. My clients have just as many laptop horror stories to tell proving that although laptop sales are outnumbering desktops now, they don’t really deserve to. I’m typing this on my 16 month old $3500 AUD inspiron 5150, I’ve already had to start the story again because I slipped while typing and touched the palmrest and it restarted the machine.

My point in mentioning all of this is that we need some regulation and standardization on laptops, the manufacturers know that you can only get a new mainboard from them, so they can charge ridiculous prices for replacements. If they can keep the laptop running for just the year of the warranty period, then they don’t seem to care if they die immediately afterwards. It’s fair enough that laptops put tight space and heat constraints on the hardware, but if people knew they were not going to get 2 years of use from a laptop, would they fork out the thousands of dollars buying them? Should the manufactures of laptops with known design problems be forced to rectify the issue rather then sweeping it under the carpet as sometimes appears to be the case? Perhaps I’ve just been really unlucky to strike out 3 times in a row, but doing some research shows that there are many thousands of users out there who are not happy with their laptop experience so I’m apparently not alone. I most certainly would not have paid $3500 AUD for my Inspiron 5150 if I’d known it would fail before it was two years old and would require an expensive replacement mainboard. Perhaps it’s time for the laptop industry to standardize the same way that desktop hardware has. At least then we’d have more uniform and tested designs and implementations. Most manufactures seem more concerned with rushing new designs though to market then they are with the quality of what they are selling.

2 Responses to “Laptop standards. There aren’t any.”

  1. Daisy Says:

    When the Toshiba Satellite 1625cdt came out, I believe it was 1998, it had a flaw in the floppy drive. Toshiba bent over backwards offering a monitary rebate for this flaw to the consumer. Now, I don’t see that happening. What happened along the way?? In regards to my Toshiba TE2000 flaw, I had heard that Toshiba in Australia will take responsibilty for it, but Toshiba in the U.S. said they will not when I called them.

  2. linda Says:

    I hae an inspron 1521 and all of a suden it would not start up at all.My brother called dell and had to pay $50 in order for them to say it is the mother board. I have had problems with it sence i got it in 2008 and now i have a useless laptop.what should i do?

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