Fast Forward: Out-of-the-Box Experience

Fast Forward: Out-of-the-Box Experience

Recently I helped my brother get his first new home computer in eight years. (Geek genes don’t run in our family.) Civil War General William T. Sherman said war is hell, but he never had to set up a new PC. My brother and I spent two days on the job—and this system was an off-the-shelf Acer with Windows Vista preinstalled. I’ve built PCs from scratch in less time.

What went wrong? Everything. We had trouble with the monitor, computer, printer, cable modem, optical drive, operating system, and even the blank DVDs and CDs we bought. Nothing was outright defective—replacements wouldn’t have made a difference. No, our problems were mostly caused by poor instructions, crappy product design, maddening customer service, and clueless tech support.

Example: the LCD monitor. Out of the box, the screen tilted toward the floor. We couldn’t straighten it and were reluctant to apply too much force. We couldn’t find a lever that might release the spring tension. The instructions were as terse as a teenager’s text messages, saying nothing about adjustments. We had purchased the system at Best Buy, so we called the Geek Squad. Incredibly, they told us the screen wasn’t adjustable. Finally we reached a lowly salesperson who confirmed that brute force was OK.

Vista Premium was “preinstalled” on the hard drive, but it took nearly an hour to boot and configure itself during the first powerup. Heck, I remember when clean-installing Windows from floppy disks took less time. For hours afterward, Vista’s pop-up dialogs nagged us for permission before allowing trivial actions. But when I accidentally bumped the hair-trigger power button on the computer’s front panel, Vista promptly shut down the system without asking for confirmation.

Instructions for the Lexmark printer told us to install two ink cartridges. We searched the box in vain for the missing black-ink cartridge. Another call to Best Buy brought an admonition to read the fine print on the box: black cartridge not included. The instructions lied.

I could continue, but I’m running out of space, and you get the idea. Doesn’t anyone care about customers anymore? I bet it will be eight more years before my brother buys another PC. And I don’t blame him.

Tom Halfhill was formerly a senior editor for Byte magazine and is now an analyst for Microprocessor Report.

1

Comment

+ Add a Comment
avatar

dentaku

I found that lots of OEM systems (I set up some Toshiba laptops recently) have the OS only partly installed and they have you do the rest then once it's finally done they nag you to make restore DVDs because they're too cheap to just give them to you.
After that you need to remove all the useless trialware and shovelware they include with these computers which can be rather tricky because it's not always obvious what you can remove or disable without affecting the basic functions of the computer (especially with laptops).

Building your own IS easier.

Nothing is easier than getting good brand name hardware and installing Vista yourself. Installing Vista was dead simple and it found all my hardware with no problems.

In your case you DID have an unusual string of bad luck too.

Log in to MaximumPC directly or log in using Facebook

Forgot your username or password?
Click here for help.

Login with Facebook
Log in using Facebook to share comments and articles easily with your Facebook feed.