Feature Article
Laptop Woes

July 1, 2003
By Scott Lewis

We have been using our Sony Laptop with little to no trouble for some time. We switched to wireless operation with a Linksys 802.11g router/hub and card partly because the LAN port was flaky and would drop connections. But other than that, and the ever decreasing battery life (we mostly run the laptop plugged in), the laptop has been very reliable. The only service the laptop required was the replacement of the power "brick."

Well, we were struck with a big problem. The laptop ran out of power while my son was using it. We only discovered this when the battery had about 3% of a charge left. The laptop was plugged in, but it was running on battery power.

My wife called me in, and I immediately tried to backup a couple of directories to my network. But the power completely died before a significant amount of data could be saved.

Alas I don't have a happy ending... yet. We bought our original laptop 2-1/2 years ago. That was a HP model. We got an extended warrantee then to protect us for three years. The HP had a few problems, and when we took in to to be serviced they just let us pick any other laptop of equivalent price. We took a Compaq model.

That Compaq turned out to be a real lemon. And it turns out HP and Compaq (before they were the same company) handled repairs vs. replacements differently. Compaq said the laptop had to come in for its 4 repair before they would replace it. Best Buy also lost me records after I brought it in 3 time. So on the fourth time I had to still have it fixed. I had to go through a bunch of hoops, including contacting Compaq myself, to prove that the laptop was repaired 5 times (it need another repair just during the time I was dealing with Best Buy for a replacement.)

We replaced the Compaq with the Sony. The Sony, outside of one failed power brink, has been great. Unfortunately, I believe there may be more to the current problem than the power brick. 

When I brought the Sony to Best Buy they tried to take the power adapters from a couple of customer's Sony laptops to see if it would charge the laptop. No go. Also, the guy behind the counter was very helpful... at least in his intentions. He checked the other Sony laptops in the shop to see if they had a battery that would work in mine so I could at least backup up my data. Again, this failed. This is a problem I think with the industry. They can never settle on a battery format... even within one company. That doesn't make any sense. I would think it would be cheaper in the long run to standardize the battery size or connectors while only developing the technology inside the battery case.

Oh well. The rep at Best Buy also made sure to inform me that it is my responsibility to backup my laptop before bringing it in for service should they decide to replace it. Ouch! For the first time I am hoping they don't replace the laptop. I don't know what Sony's policy is when dealing with Best Buy, which ultimately will determine what happens here. This laptop is over 1 year old, and is outside the factory warrantee. Will they ship it to Sony and eat a huge repair cost if the power unit inside is bad and requires a motherboard replacement? Or will they just tell me to pick out another laptop from the store shelf?

I'll have to tell you next month when I have an answer.