Sunday, 14 September 2008

Am I Just Unlucky Or There Is No QA These Days? [Status update]

What is common to my Razer Tarantula keyboard, Citizen Aqualand Eco-Drive Titanium, Apple iPhone, Sony-Ericsson W910i, Lenovo L220x, and finally MSI Wind u100?

Firstly they are expensive and secondly and most importantly they all have manufacturing problems.

So what what's the problem with each and any of them?

1. Razer Tarantula: from day one some of the keys, some of the time, when pressed produce two characters. Eg. pressing M key once, you can get "mm". I didn't pay much attention first few days to that, I thought that as this was a pretty "special" keyboard, I had to "run in" the keys. Problem was, the problem was getting even worse with time. Then I made a mistake. I didn't return the keyboard straight away, but I just took out my previous keyboard and continued to type on it. Few months have passed until I returned the keyboard, and as I expected, trying to get something repaired/replaced under warranty in Croatia is extremely difficult and unpleasant experience. Ok so I returned it, guy there said that he never heard about that problem and that he is going to send it to their larger center to service it. At least two weeks passed and the same guy gave me a call to get my keyboard in the shop. He told me over the phone that the keyboard was found to be "working normally" and I had to pay for their working hours from my pocket. I almost exploded over the phone, but kept my calms. Returned to the shop, and some other guy told me to come back 4 hours later because their repair man hasn't come yet. Great, returned 4 hours later and told the guy that I cannot accept the keyboard back because I still claim that the keyboard is not functioning properly. You wouldn't believe how far those "repair" guys go to try to persuade you that it is your problem, and the keyboard is working fine. So lets see his line of argument and my responses.

Repairman: As the keyboard was tested by their professionals and deemed "working normally", I have to pay for their fees and take the keyboard back.
Me: The keyboard is still not working properly and I can prove it by plugging it to a nearest computer and testing it.
R: Very well, but I tested it this morning and it was "ok".
(the keyboard was installed in windows, guy runs a notepad and starts to mash buttons)
R: See, its ok.
Me: Not really, when I press for example M and Q lightly I get two chars like this.
R: I can't reproduce it. You have to press keys like this (guy pressed really hard every key), not lightly. When you type you have to press keys hard. It is a difference when typing. [and your typing style is wrong and keyboard is ok]
Me: I'm typing for the last 20 years, I typed on like 10 personal and hundreds of other keyboards and I never seen this problem. So it is not a matter of a "typing style".
R: Ah, but I now remembered you have to turn down the the keyboard delay in control panel. [guy turns repeat delay all the way down]. See, now you try!
Me: The problem is still the same. (this is even more pronounced now because on a normal keyboard this should be impossible)
R: [guy tries another you-are-doing-it-wrong-routine]
Me: It is not a "typing style" problem.
R: Ok, ok, I'll send it again to our tech guys.
Me: And what will happen if they don't find anything (as they didn't found it before)?
R: Ok ok. I'll order a new razer tarantula keyboard to the shop and we'll (him and me) compare the new one and the old one. If the new one doesn't have the mentioned problem you can keep it. I'll just give you a call when we get it in a few days.
Me: Fair enough. See you in a few days.

Aftermath: more than 2.5 weeks now passed, and I still didn't get a call. The dialog above was considerably more complicated and included many more "traps". It is an art how to avoid those pitfalls. I'll check the paper which I got first time I went there because after 45 days if they didn't manage to repair my item they have to give me new one. Update: they have less then 15 days not to repair the keyboard or give me the new one (by law). I'm afraid that they probably have some software which reminds them when warranty claims are due to close.

[status update]:
Actually, the last sentence didn't came true. In fact more than 45 days passed from the day I returned the keyboard. So according to the Croatian law, I had to be issued a replacement. Let me just get a quick sidenote here. The very same day I went to replace the keyboard and a seagate hard disk (but at a different vendor) which died after 3.5 years of use (god bless 5y warranties). So after 45 days nobody contacted me nor fixed/replaced the hard disk so I went there to get the new one. The guy there just looked at paper I got when I deposited the disk, and without a word started to search for new equivalent disk. As he couldn't find one guy told me that he'll order another one and contact me in 2-3 days. Fair enough, I was done in 5 minutes. And this is hg-spot, probably the worst IT vendor by reputation, so I was really surprized. Then I went to the other shop where which was responsible with servicing my razer tarantula. But as I said 45 days was up and I went there demanding a replacement. Guy there called their servicing department in another city asking about the keyboard. I didn't hear the conversation but he told me that I have to call their servicing department myself. I was starting to get pissed but I called them immediately from the shop.

Let's see how the conversation went:
Guy: Your keyboard is at the razer importer company and I should call that company to see what's with it.
Me: Its not my problem where the keyboard is right now, I bought the keyboard from them, not the importer. I would ask you to issue me a new keyboard according to the 45 day clause (which is even written on the receipt)
Guy: But there is a problem because 45 days are still not up because you gave the keyboard for servicing 2 weeks later again (after the keyboard was deemed "ok" the first time).
Me: 45 days passed because when they tried to return the keyboard to me I didn't accept it because I claimed it was still defective (the problem wasn't corrected).
Guy: This is most unusual, I'll call you back when I get some additional info (as in soon-ish).

Guy didn't call for a whole day and the next day I called back. Then he caved in and told me that I'll get a new one. This was all I wanted to hear. I officially "won" then. Then the guy told me that he'll order a new keyboard from the importer and call back when he get any news. Day and a half passed and still no call but I got them now though. So I wasted so much energy with a warranty service claim which I hope I wouldn't need to repeat it in the near future. And finally would you believe this company was famous for their service support.

2. Citizen Aqualand Titanium EcoDrive diver's watch [UPDATED]: Bought it last winter. It seemed all ok, but on this summer it displayed its true colours. When your hand gets moist from sweat (as it happens all the time in the summer), the watch would go into the diving mode, register around 2.5m, return to 0.0m, sound the alarm (for ascending too fast) and do this all the time. Truth be told, the problem was a bit more complicated but I won't bore you with it. Returned it to the citizen dealer in Italy, guy there sent it to Milano for repair.

Update: The watch was returned from the milano factory to the trieste watch dealer. They concluded that watch is working normally (which as we know is load of rubbish). I'm waiting for a friend to pick it up in trieste and bring it back. I'm going to write a letter to Citizen about this problem and demand they repair it. This is completely unacceptable behavior. Having a watch which doesn't work 1/4 of the year is unacceptable. Screwing with a diver who co-owns a diving center is never a good reference because divers like to spread information by word of mouth. And telling all those divers that citizen sucks because they didn't repair a clearly defective watch can get some people turned away from buying another citizen watch.

Another update: I left the watch to the salesman (friend of a friend) in the shop where we bought it to try it out himself (this is the second time) and he promised that he will test it now more thoroughly. Couple of weeks later, guy called and said that the watch was repaired at the factory. Everything inside the watch was being replaced. I got the watch back two days ago (9/12/2008). I'm not sure how shipping+repair+shipping again "less than" giving a new watch though.

3. Apple iPhone: all of this was said in my older blog posts. Just to recap: managed to get two brand new 1st gen 1.1.4 fw iphones, one was ok, the other one had a dead wifi. Apple in *USA* didn't want to service it because it wasn't activated with at&t(wtf?). (I'm especially bitter about this one because I had to involve two people I didn't even know to return the phone to apple in US).

4. Sony Ericsson W910i: Actually this isn't my phone, but my dad's. After a few months of heavy use (phone and sms) the phone developed a problem. When you slide open the phone a bit faster than really slow it turns off. The phone is going to be returned this week.

Update: phone was repaired in a matter of 2 weeks. Quite speedy for Croatia. Working fine.

5. Lenovo L220x lcd display: 22'' 1920x1200px, great reproduction of colours. What more do you need? Sharp characters. All characters and objects are blurry on the bordering pixel with white. Looked on the web in panic, but alas people report that this is "normal". I was thinking of returning it but what would I gain? Nothing really, all panels have this problem. But what did get me angry was that people who tested the first batch of monitors all said that the text was sharp etc. As I bough this monitor around month ago, this surely isn't from the first batch. Then I realized the truth. First batch was good, and then they started to put lower quality parts on later batches. I can't remember what is the name for such a nasty practice unfortunately. There are many reports of other manufacturers doing the same which doesn't surprise me even a bit. They should make this illegal really. I'll review this monitor one boring day and take a macro photo of the pixels to demonstrate the problem.

Sidenote: Previously I had 17'' LG lcd which died 3 months after a 3 year warranty period (talk about planned obsolescence). Then I had (still have) samsung 731BF. Ok monitor, not really good colours though. Then I had samsung 226bw (was borrowed for like a year). Ok monitor, not really good colours unfortunately. But all this monitors (and couple of laptops I had) had extremely clear characters.

Update: I'm not certain that there was a problem with this monitor at all. I turned off ClearType and forced myself to use the monitor for couple of days. After that, probably my brain accustomed to the text I was reading so now characters don't appear blurry or anything else. I'm quite baffled by this though. At first my eyes were literally full of tears when I was looking at this monitor without Cleartype (I prefer it that way).

6. MSI Wind u100: As you may guess from this blog post I updated it to include this subnotebook (not a netbook you twats, every (sub)notebook works "offline" too). So whats the problem? After a few days of use ventilator started to get very noisy. I could clearly hear those winglets rubbing against other plastic (which is very noisy and iritating). So I searched the web for the resolution of the problem and I found that the screws on the back panel aren't screwed good enough so the fan inside is a bit lower than it should be so it starts to scratch (because it is hanging upside down). So the simple method is just to tighten the screws. This is the simplest solution I have ever heard to solve some hardware problem, but it probably was the most potentially expensive one. One of the two screws which are directly responsible for the fan is covered by the "warranty void if removed sticker". I mean great. So I had to make a choice between this options:

1. Tighten the screws voiding the warranty.
2. Send the computer to the dealer (only one in croatia!) and wait for a month to get it back.

Naturally, I did 1. And seconds later the whirring and irritating sound was gone. I was thinking though, as the sticker is very low quality (not a fancy one as you can see on some other general computer components) I might be able to duplicate it if I ever would need a warranty service. I would need to do that if the MSI would have done their part of the bargain in the first place!

Update: It wasn't the problem with the screws. I still haven't discovered what the real problem is (it sounds like those winglets brushing the ventilator case, but upon direct eye observation that doesn't happen) but I did discover how to aleviate the problem. Few small drops of machine oil in the center shaft of the ventilator seems to do the trick. First time I've put only one drop and a week and a half later the sound came back. A month ago at least I've put a few drops more and now it seems like it is working normally. But I'm afraid that it will require some additional oiling in the future.

Update (30/1/2009). The second oiling I did fixed the problem. The ventilator doesn’t scream as it used to, and it is as quiet (but again, not nearly as quiet as a macbook) as the day I bought it.

So what to conclude from all this. I know, plural of anecdote isn't data and maybe I was just "unlucky". But I call BS on this. All things considered, all this items I mentioned before are bought in the last year. So almost everything (computer related) I bought in the last year was defective. Luckely, MSI Wind on which I'm typing this is ok for now (review coming soon). I'm just sick of it all. Manufacturers in the past actually tested the equipment before they shipped it to dealers. Now to cut costs (and maximize the profits) they skipped this step. You and I are testers/consumers. Why would manufacturer waste their resources on testing when they have morons^Hconsumers to do that for them for free? Now that apple's of 0-15 day return policy actually makes sense. Your iphone's wifi isn't working? Here is a new one. And off they send the DOA one to the factory. Screw them all.

update: sony-ericsson mobile changed to 910 from 890. It was a typing mistake.

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