It's that time of year again: time to don the silly hat and play high-tech Santa to my wife and children. For the latter, I finally gave in and bought them a Wii, their first gaming console. To my wife I'm giving the early (as in now so that she can pillage eBay) "gift" of a new Windows 7 laptop.
I put "gift" in quotes because so far it has been anything but. Glitchy and error-prone, this unit has been a thorn in my side since the first boot cycle. In fact, I can't recall a more disappointing initial product experience (though installing OS/2 version 2.0 for the first time comes close). This slick-looking, ultra-low-power-usage unit is a real clunker, full of half-baked features and questionable design decisions.
It's enough to inspire me to express my lamentation in song -- which is why I've arranged my top dozen grievances in true holiday fashion. Here, in all their glory, are my 12 miserable days of pre-Christmas PC support hell, aka "Ode to a Lousy Laptop."
12 random reboots: It's a cross we all must bear. Whether because of a buggy driver or some superimportant Microsoft automatic update, Windows simply decides it needs to reboot. This is especially true on a crapware-laden PC like this one. The lesson here? Save early, save often.
11 flimsy hinges: Coming from an IBM background, I got spoiled by those wonderful titanium hinges. Nothing is as smooth and reassuring as an original ThinkPad, certainly not this creaky, clumsy-feeling model. Yuck!
10 drive trays catching: Can someone please design a CD/DVD drive tray that doesn't catch on every possible surface? From tablecloths to carpets to random sheets of paper, this thing just won't keep to itself. It makes me long for the slot-loading bliss that is Mac ownership.
9 wares a-nagging: Norton and MacAfee trialware -- on the same system? I haven't seen this kind of double-teaming since that steroid-addled human freak show jumped from the top of a WrestleMania turnbuckle wearing nothing by spandex and a feather boa (I still have nightmares).
8 twitchy touchpads: I thought touchpads we're getting smarter? This unit's has all the bells and whistles -- chiral scrolling, multifinger gesture support -- yet it's as twitchy as a meerkat on meth. And those random character insertions when typing! I'll trade clever for smooth and consistent any day.
7 stuttering videos: Integrated graphics processors are the bane of the PC industry. They're glitchy, underpowered, and generally useless for anything other than basic 2-D GUI navigation. This unit is no exception: Its Intel 4500 series unit can barely play back a DVD consistently, and full-HD video is a joke. Can ... you ... hear ... me ... scream ... ing?
6 keys a-sticking: Whose bright idea was it to put Chiclet-style keyboards on full-sized laptop computers? I mean, I can understand the motivation in the netbook form factor: Limited deck space means the need for compromises and work-arounds. But this is a standard 15-inch size. There's plenty of room for a real keyboard, so why the elaborate trip through the Wayback Machine to the time of the IBM PC Jr. and its retarded, candy-inspired layout?
5 glitchy games: Nobody is expecting a sub-$1,000 thin-and-light to be great a gaming rig. However, this unit struggles to play even simple Flash animations smoothly. And you can forget about any sort of educational titles or interactive games for the kids. My 10-year-old daughter's Atom-powered netbook runs faster than this thing.
4 flaky fans: What is it with laptop fans these days? Every time this unit's CPU cooler kicks in, it's like someone started a wing of pre-1942 British Spitfires. Is there some global shortage of high-quality fan bearings? I swear sometimes this thing is preparing for takeoff!
3 hours of battery: All-day battery life? Yeah, right! I'm lucky if I get four hours out of the unit under moderate use, and most of the time it averages a bit over three. I guess the vendor's definition of "all day" includes suspending the unit and walking around with it tucked under your arm half the time. At least it's lightweight -- though still not as convenient as a netbook.
2 corrupted files: It's a brand-new PC, with an untouched (by me, at least) hard disk and an otherwise virgin USB port. Yet somehow it managed to corrupt two critical documents during a file transfer from a USB key. And while I can't be sure it's a hardware issue (Windows 7 was no doubt complicit), it's still quite disturbing. Fortunately, I kept the original on the key.
And 1 random BSOD. Need I say anything more?