Laptop Quality Sucks Just A Bit Less

from the fewer-failu... dept

When it comes to things like the quality of products or services people can be guilty of having a selective memory. The phrase “They don’t make ’em like they used to” often seems to apply, though at least in some cases this is a good thing. It seems that according to surveys, laptop quality is getting a lot better. In just the past few years, failure rate has come down, as has the need for getting repairs. Still, 15% of laptops have some kind of problem within the first year, which still seems pretty bad. For computer makers these numbers are incredibly important — think of all the trouble Dell’s had because they misjudged the need for good customer service. If they could alleviate the number of follow-up customer support calls, many of these problems would be solved. So at the risk or jinxing ourselves, we’ll stop talking about this subject while the computer is still working.

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Comments on “Laptop Quality Sucks Just A Bit Less”

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I, for one says:

Laptop design

Laptops are always likely to be more delicate machines. They are quite a different design problem from a desktop. Component density and corresponding heat dissipation issues are the big weakness.

Imho, the problem is that manufacturers try to compete with desktops on spec. A laptop should probably run at about 50% to 70% of the current top of the range desktop.

Study the MIT $100 laptop project to see how design decisions on robustness have been made. This isn’t a very meaty machine, but I intend to buy one in the 3:1 donation scheme this Autumn because I like the idea of a solid and reliable device for field work.

ZA says:

Re: Laptop design

They aren’t as delicate as you might think. Laptops cost more because they are designed to take a drop or two. Components are also smaller and lighter which also drives the price up.

One of the things that “I Don’t Proofread Joe” failed to mention in this article is that a lot of the 15% of laptop repairs are because of blatant abuse.

When was the last time you dropped your desktop computer? Or, spilled a cup of coffee into your tower?

$100 laptop? Good Luck. Remember, you get what you pay for.

I, for one says:

Re: Re: Laptop design

The “$100 Laptop” is just a marketing tag ZA, in reality they sell at about $200-$300 in Europe and USA depending on the scheme you buy them under. The 3:1 initiative is a pledge where us rich westerners buy them at three times the price and they donate two.

It looks like a toy, yes. And you get what you pay for…well almost.

See, that’s exactly what I want. What I want is $100 of computing power. I use Linux micro distros like DSL and Dyne for field measurements. They have a good reputation for being robust and easy to repair. Horses for courses.

ZA says:

Re: Re: Re: Laptop design

I misread the MIT $100 laptop comment.

In the scenerio of field work, where you run Linux or another less resource intensive OS this is exactly what you need. There are a lot of old, outdated, even disposable machines out there that would suit those needs as well.

Machines that are used for field work usually don’t last longer than a year or so. It is the nature of the beast.

Topher3105 (profile) says:

MIT laptop is a joke

Sorry, stop promoting this as anything more then a toy, in fact, I expect that this Christmas, Leap Frog or Fisher Price will come out with a similar device that costs $79.99. The point and purpose of the $100 laptop is completely misguided.

In any regards, laptop quality does seem to be improving, as each year I see new laptops around the office suck just a little bit less, but I still see a slew of them sent of to be serviced for such things as bad screen latches, hard drive problems, screen problems, battery problems, etc, etc, etc. While the quality of the materials and screens might be improving, in general when you compare laptops to desktops, you will probably return a laptop 5 to one compared to a desktop system.

This, surprisingly, includes the latest round of MacBooks Pros, and the few I have seen all have many minor annoances outside of what I have been reading online.

Does anybody wonder is perhaps the culprit here is the cheap slave labour in Asia putting these things together? When Dell sells a few million laptops in a quarter, does anybody need to question how quality can result when quantity is valued greater?

Some guy says:

I must be lucky

I currently have 4 desktops and 6 laptops of varying ages. All of the laptops have proven to be very reliable and have been excellent workhorses over the years. I’ve never had any major issues, other than age related (my Dell CPi 366 is still going strong expect the hinges don’t hold the screen up anymore). Conversely, my pieced together desktops have problems from time to time that I’m sure someone would say is operator error issues (and wouldn’t be far off the mark).

Pete Valle says:

Lucky too perhaps?

Like Some guy I have had great luck with laptops. My first laptop was a TI I bought used on ebay around ten years ago. The thing actually outlived two desktops. Then my parents got me a Compaq, which outlasted two more desktops and is still running strong, even though my brother-in-law who inherited it broke the screen off. He now uses it with an external screen. I’ve had an Acer for a year now and I have had no problems whatsoever. In fact, I have never had a hardware problem with a laptop. Ever. And I remember only having one software problem, but that was thanks to the horrible Windows ME that came installed in my Compaq.

Mind you, I’m not particulary careful you my laptops. They travel with me in my backpack and I take them everywhere. My Compaq went camping, hiking and survived many other activities when I was writing my dissertation in it.

Meanwhile I’ve had to reinstall Windows more times that I can ever remember in my desktops due to HD crashes, motherboard failures and a particulary interesting incident involving a HD that blew up.

EW says:

A bit shortsighted re: $100 laptop

How is it that so many people are still so shortsighted when it comes to advancements in technology (and attendant costs to consumers)? Doesn’t anyone remember VCRs (and later DVD players) that cost $800 or single-disc CD players selling for $1,000? Plasma TVs for $10,000? Or even better, what about laptops for $8,000? These are all widely used appliances in their own fashion, and if history is our guide, we know that the cost/quality ratio of appliances becomes more and more favorable with time. I certainly don’t know when, but the low-cost laptop (or its futuristic equivalent) that we toss around like a calculator will come.

Rchizzle says:

You lose!

It’s actually the grammar checking tool that would spot such an error.

“Thinks” is still a word in the english dictionary and is spelled correctly so the spelling checker would disregard it.

It’s the grammar checking tool that would (or should) pick up that the word “thinks” doesn’t belong in that particular sentence.

You are incorrect my friend, junglerot has you beat. You lose.

Celes says:

Re: Re: You lose!

At least Microsoft Word 2003 doesn’t pick it up… I just tried it. Sorry, but those auto-checkers just aren’t a substitute for proofreading. I once had a coworker who quite nearly sent out “garbage holder’s insurance” (the correct word was garage). In this case, the part of speech is also incorrect, but Word still fails to notice. Let’s face it – computers just aren’t human!

(This is by no means a jab at Joe. After all, I was the one who once sent a departmental memo saying “If the actual cash dropped for the day is less than the total from our audit, we are shot.” ^_^)

BillDivX says:

First of all, DEBATING on the internet is great, IMHO. Arguing on the internet, not so great. Unfortunately most people are completely inept at debate and resort to argument without realizing the difference 🙂

Second, that mistake is neither spelling nor grammar, and should not have been caught. This is a good example why a spell checker or grammar checker is not an excuse to be lazy and not proof read (not saying this guy didn’t, typos make it through proof reading all the time.) There are things that fall under the category of neither spelling nor syntax, but just don’t make sense. This is one of those.

“The elephant doves into the refrigerator and froze.” is a good extreme case. The sentence will pass any spelling or grammar checker, but we all know immediately that it is nonsense. Same deal here.

“When it comes to thinks like the quality of products” is definitely incorrect, but recognizing that requires understanding of the sentence. That understanding is so automatic for humans that we have trouble decoupling it, and we think instead that it’s incorrect because “comes to thinks” is bad grammar, but really it’s not.

Consider a valid phrase with those two words: “Come to think of it.” That could have been misused as “Comes to think of it.” The grammar checker would say that is a error in either “Comes” or “think”, because plurality does not match. “Comes to Thinks” passes grammar, because it is just two valid verbs chained together, and the plurality matches. The confusion starts because we understand what was meant, therefore we know it’s wrong, and our brain screams “NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!” and wants to call it bad grammar. It’s actually just bad logic.

BillDivX says:

oh, and a great proofing trick, if you don’t already know it, is to read the document backwards. It seems like nonsense, and it is! that’s why it works. Ever notice your brain tends to “fill in the cracks”? when you come across something that’s close, but not quite right? Reading something backward shuts down the logic function of your brain, because you know that it’s backwards and should not make sense, therefore your brain makes no assumptions, and does not “autocorrect” for you.

Tin Ear (user link) says:

Re: Crazy! This could go on forever...

Okay. The original premise for this thread was the fact that laptop computers seem to be getting built better than ‘older models’. So be it. Fine. I still cannot afford one, however inexpensive they may be.

I do have an issue with people arguing semantics while using inarticulate grammar and incorrect terminology. It’s like Bush saying “Nucular” all the time. It grates on my nerves. Didn’t you people actually pay attention in class?

As for arguing ‘mute’ points, so far this point is FAR from mute. Mute means ‘without voice’, ‘silent’. The word you were looking for was ‘moot’, meaning a hypothetical point of discussion or debate. Thus, a moot point, however debatable, is one that has no practical value.

Just my 2 cents…

Robert Rittmuller (user link) says:

Quality does seem to be getting better but....

I could not help but notice that many vendors are producing laptops that have a much better external build quality. However, the interals don’t seem to match this trend. Where I work they deploy several hundred laptops a year with mixed results. Most of the problems I have seen are centred around the internals (hard drive failures, bad motherboards) where only a few years ago most problems resulted from basic construction issues (poor screens, cheap plastic, etc). If I had to make a judgement I would say that better quality plastic and screens has simply become cheaper.

Just my .02

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