CautionaryTale, Acer 3680 computer. Good service, not so good reliability.

About a year ago (November 2006) I picked up a laptop for Mich from MicroCenter. The guy I usually deal with has always been trustworthy in the past so I worked with him to pick up this new machine.

I didn’t want to spend a *lot* of money on this laptop, according to Michelle her existing (200 MHz) laptop was fine. But I knew that the browsing experience on that old machine was glacial and unsatisfying. So we compromised and went for one of those “back-to-school” type of machines.

We settled on an Acer 3680 for which I also shelled out for an additional Gigabyte of memory to ensure that it would be as fast as a lower end machine could be. Al, the MicroCenter guy, practically begged me to not buy this machine. He told me the warranty was such that you needed to send it to Acer yourself if you have problems so if I *was* going to buy this box, I should at least get the extended warranty so that MicroCenter would deal with problems and the manufacturer on my behalf.

The machine was a night-and-day improvement for Michelle’s experience, nicer screen much more responsive, the new battery actually worked (the old machine was a sell-off from my old company and I got it with a pretty much dead battery… but the price was right and it was never intended to be mobile.).

Heh, it seems I should have listened to Al. The Machine’s motherboard failed sometime in late April 2007 and they were good enough to do some basic troubleshooting over the phone and quickly agree that we should ship it to them and they would replace it.

We sent off the machine in late May (hey, life happens) and they were true to their word. A few weeks later the repaired machine arrived and we were right as rain again.

Man, a couple of months ago – after one of those 2nd Tuesday M$ updates, the machine rebooted but did not come back up. Complaining about a missing hard drive – never a good sign. Using the old 1 inch drop rule the machine corrected itself but I knew this was going to grow into an issue soon. Sure enough a couple of weeks later the machine failed again. Opening and reseating the hard drive worked until the next reboot at which point NOTHING I did helped.

So the machine is winging its way back to Acer in Texas again. I’ll credit them with pretty good customer service as far as addressing these failures, but I am concerned about modestly-used hardware having so many failures. I’m more concerned about what to expect once the warranty period ends (oh.. next week).

I just wanted to toss out this cautionary missive. I cannot speak for anybody else, but I’ve personally owned 3 laptops and probably 6 or 7 desktop computers not to mention the ones that have been in my care for work and I seldom have failures. Prior to this I’ve had a video card fail on a Dell machine near the end of it’s life as my primary machine (for which their dismal customer service on a $25 part cost them my business for my next machine) and a couple of power supplies on an NEC box for which their repair and replacement service was outstanding.

But I’m not used to defective products. I own two Honda cars. A 1995 Civic and a 1997 Odyssey. I do basic routine maintenance on them, major services and such. I also make sure that their braking systems and tires are kept in top-notch condition – rule 1 for cars: always be able to stop – but for both of these vehicles the worst thing that’s happened is that one of my Odyssey electric windows (rear left passenger side) needed to be repaired. This is a level of quality that I’ve come to expect from every corner of my life and I am significantly disappointed if products do not clear that bar.

I do not repatronize merchants that do not live up to their claims or my expectations. I vote with my dollars. I am willing to pay a little more up front for less hassle down the line. And I will evangelize anybody who I feel has done right by me.

**Update** I wrote the above before sending the Acer off to Texas for repair. I just wanted to report that the machine was returned in working order (albeit with all the data and programs missing from the hard drive). So so far so good. Hopefully, if we treat the machine with especial kindness it may last through my hoped-for lifespan of 3 years…

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