Saturday, November 22, 2008

Why Did I Return My New Laptop - Part II

A couple of months back, I bought and returned a Dell XPS 1330. But I still needed a laptop, so I waited until October 14th, when Apple announced the new MacBook.

I was a bit disappointed at first with the specs and the price, but convinced myself that since I'm getting 2 laptops (a Mac and a PC - see my Bootcamp review) for the price of one, and since I love the Mac OS, this will be a worthy investment.

Another reason to purchase the MacBook was my interest in developing iPhone applications - an option Apple currently limits to Macs running Leopard (remember that the next time someone accuses Microsoft at tying people to certain hardware and operating systems).

A few things that annoyed me, even before I bought the machine, were:
  • No way to connect the laptop to an external monitor, without purchasing an adapter. Unlike the rest of the world, that supports VGA, DVI and even HDMI, Apple chose to go with the least-used DisplayPort technology, claiming it's the best digital display protocol out there. I'm not a vieophile, so I won't argue this point, but please show me a single monitor or TV (outside of Apple monitors) supporting this technology. This is just another way to get people to buy additional adapters.
  • No media card reader. Yes, I can use a USB adapter. Yes, they only cost $5-10 nowadays. But why would I want to lug another piece of equipment, when most laptops provide a reader out of the box? And tie a USB port in the process? Which brings me to the next point...
  • Only 2 USB ports. I may be alone in this, but when at home, I use 3-4 USB devices with my current laptop.
  • No PC card reader, which means I'd have had to call Verizon Wireless and replace my cellular modem from a PC card to a USB version. See previous point.
But, as mentioned, I convinced myself that I can get over those minor issues. I paid $2000 at the Apple online store, for the following configuration:
  • 13.3" glossy LED screen
  • A P8600 Centrino 2 2.4GHz processor
  • 250GB HD
  • 256MB ATI graphics card
  • 4GB DDR3 RAM
  • AppleCare for 3 years
  • A ViewPort to VGA adapter
After more than a week, the laptop arrived (having followed a convoluted trail: Shanghai-Alaska-Missouri-Oakland-my home). I managed to use it for 2-3 hours and started configuring it, before hitting my first issue: the DVD reader refused to read several DVDs (software and movies) that my old Mac Mini read without a problem. It then refused to eject some of the discs.

This has been an issue for me ever since I used my first Mac with a CD reader, more than 10 years ago (I believe it was a Mac Quadra): there is no hardware eject button for discs. If the OS refuses to eject a disc, you're screwed. Even the pin hole, allowing for a manual ejection, that existed in earlier models, disappeared. I had to reboot the machine to get my disc back.

The second issue I had was that the Mac promptly went to sleep as soon as the lid was closed. I'm used to assigning my laptop with lengthy tasks, closing the lid - to conserve energy - and leaving it be. Similarly, when I listen to music, I don't like being distracted by the screen's glare. Imagine my surprise, when I tried burning a DVD (a task that was estimated at 32 minutes), closed the lid, saw all lights go dark, and when I opened the lid, the burning operation failed and the DVD turned to a coaster.

I took a long time looking for the option to stop the machine from going to sleep when the lid closes. I tried the Apple sites and researched online forums, and found nothing but frustrated users asking the same question. I later found out Apple did this by design: due to many complaints about the Mac heating up during use, they found an original way to cool it - turn it off when you're not looking. They've also placed the fan hole at the back of the body, directly underneath the screen, so it's blocked when the lid is closed - chalk that to bad design.

The only solution offered, came in the form of a freeware utility called InsomniaX, that forces the Mac to stay awake (use it at your own discretion - this may damage your Mac)

The next day, I went to the Apple store, to try and solve my DVD issue, and ran into another - at the hands of the support engineer (Apple calls them "Geniuses"), my Mac refused to shut down, and later refused to start up, until the battery was removed and re-inserted.

The genius (no offense meant - he was an extremely nice and helpful guy) claimed I had a problem with the power distribution, that may explain all the issues I've suffered. He suggested I replace the machine, since I had it less than 24 hours at that point. He also mentioned that this was the price I paid for being an early adopter. Indeed.
I remember the old "Don't install a Microsoft Windows OS until the first service pack is out" joke. Guess you can add Apple to this conclusion.

Since I purchased my Mac online, the guy at the Apple store couldn't replace it for me. The guy on the Apple support line (again, nice and helpful), informed me that I need to send back the Mac and that it'll take 10 days for a new one to arrive - counted from the day they receive the old Mac.

At this point, I really didn't have a lot of patience and just returned the Mac and got my money back. I brooded for 24 hours or so over the fact almost every laptop I touch misbehaves. Am I technologically cursed? Do I emit an electromagnetic laptop-destroying field? Or is it just bad luck?

But I still need a laptop. So once I'm back from Europe I'm going to try going back to a ThinkPad. I owned one for 2 years and have nothing but good things to say about it. Next stop then, is the ThinkPad T400. Wish me luck, I really don't want to write another post in this series smile

PS: still looking for a way to develop iPhone apps. Guess I'll have to upgrade my Mac Mini to Leopard...

1 comment:

Shlomo W said...

Well, as you know it's lonovo by now - or you can get one of the good old Thinkpads which are outdated by now, I guess.
Well, at least you'll be able to eject your disks, I guess.