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Shock! Computer Breaks Outside of Warranty! :

Don’t buy AlienWare Area 51-m or Sager laptops!

Here’s why:

I’ve owned an Alienware Area 51-m and a Sager NP5560Ultra both purchased within 2 months of each other. One came direct from AlienWare in Florida, the other from PowerNotebooks in Nevada. PowerNotebooks have bent over backwards in their customer service and they are a great bunch of guys. AlienWare I would expect better of but they have been categorically useless. Their tech support is great if you have a software issue, completely crap if you have a hardware problem.

So here’s the deal on why you shouldn’t consider buying these machines.

On both laptops the keyboard broke for various reasons. On the Sager the Q key stopped working completely, which then began to affect other keys. On the AlienWare the key tops started breaking off, then stopped working.

Both machines have coloured cases. The AlienWare was black, the Sager was silver. Within 6 months both machines are turned generic cream plastic coloured due to the paint wearing off where you rest your hands. The AlienWare had a marginally better paint job, but frankly, I’m disappointed.

The Sager originally turned up from with a defective screen. And two dead pixels on top of that. As Sager is only 30 miles from where I live rather than box up and ship the machine back to Nevada, which would then be shipped to Los Angeles, I decided to drive out to the factory in the hope that we could just do a swap. No deal. Had to leave the machine at the factory so they could replace the screen.

Which took five days. For a screen replacement on a brand new machine.

Which was then handed back to me with 3 dead pixels.

When I pointed out the dead pixels they informed me that their replacement policy is to only replace the screen if there are five or more dead pixels. Which is not stated anywhere in any brochure, literature or on the website. So where do I read this mysterious policy? Strangely nobody could produce anything written down or point to a web page with it on, but I was assured that was the standard policy. So I have dead pixels on the LCD on a machine that cost me over $3,500.

On both laptops the power supply brick failed at around month number four. The fan inside of both bricks developed an annoying squeak, then a really loud whirring sound, and finally the AlienWare power brick just died completely, it got so hot the case began to deform so it was lucky I spotted it or it might have started a nasty fire. The Sager brick still has the annoyingly loud whirring going on but I refuse to give the manufacturer $90 for another power brick when two have failed already within the first 6 months.

So after 14 months of ownership the left hinge on the replacement screen begins to crack. I point this out to them but hey, what do you know, it’s out of warranty. Call Philips, they handle extended warranties. So I call Phillips, who inform me they don’t cover external components like the case or the power brick. How convenient for them! So I inform them that the case is going to crack and damage the screen and I’m assured that should this happen they’ll certainly replace the screen then.

I have them make a note on my warranty file that I warned them of impending doom and I’d call them back in 6 months when the problem caused the LCD to fail. So then the right hinge starts to crack.

Bear in mind I hardly move this laptop, it’s been off my desk a few dozen times, far less than would an ordinary laptop due to the sheer weight of the machine. I hardly ever close the lid and I get very annoyed when people make use of my laptops and then slam the lid shut. Let’s put this up front, I treat almost all my electronics with kid gloves. My iPod gets slammed around because I bought that “for the road” and I fully expect it to fail within 2 yrs. My $3,500 laptop? Other than Moore’s Law overtaking it I fully expected it to keep going a decade or more.

And crack… And crack some more…

Until one day week the LCD, when I’m delicately moving the laptop a few inches out of the way, bends over backwards, the machine gives a small “cheep” and dies in front of me. No power, nothing. A quick look confirms that the cables connecting the LCD to the motherboard have been partially severed so some weird power short took place inside the case.

I call up Philips extended warranty and they wriggle and they bob and they weave and they duck and they dive, and lo, the defect isn’t covered. Oh sure, had the LCD on it’s own failed that would be fine, but because the failure was due to the case cracking, no deal.

The Philips extended warranty is worse than useless. Save your money. In fact, when you laptop breaks down, go to a local casino and put the money you would have spent on the extended warranty on to a game of chance of your choice. You stand a greater chance of getting enough money to buy a new laptop than you do with the warranty company. Because Philips only warranties the internal components, not the case or external components, my Sager power brick was not covered. And these aren’t just bricks you can pick up at CompUSA. They are $90 direct from the manufacturer. And no, the manufacturer does not have the fans they use in stock, in fact they don’t even sell them. How can you not sell a fan for a component you manufacture?

So I have a $3,500 paperweight.

So save your money, don’t buy AlienWare Area 51-m or the Sager NP series. And avoid the pointless Philips extended warranty.

— Justin Lloyd

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