Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Caveat Emptor

Cheap technology is cheap. Sounds witty, right? Not terribly funny, however. Cheaply made electronics are as much a problem now as they have always been. The trouble is that these days they are more prevalent due to the number of them arriving on these shores. When I was a teenager, my parents bought for me an inexpensive Setico radio from Pic-n-Save; this item was made in Japan, not a country we associate with inexpensive electronics these days. That wasn't always the case. While good products could be had from Japan even then, discount chains such as Pic-n-Save would import from lower quality sources. These items would inevitably fail after a few months. My radio lasted for just shy of a year before there was a pop, the acrid smell of burning epoxy followed by blue smoke. Right in the middle of Peter Frampton.
Today, cheap electronics come primarily from China as well as southeast Asia.
We have more consumer electronics than ever, and the vast majority come from these sources. Too often, the quality in these products is lacking, and there is inevitable failures. This occurs from the component level up. Like the old saying about chain links, one minor failure can bring down the entire device.
So all it takes is one minor hardware glitch to kill a system. Caveat emptor; you get what you pay for.
It is only logical, therefore, that a $99 netbook would be a risk.
I purchased two more of them for testing purposes. One of them, a slightly older model, turns out, barely booted the first time. The second time... nothing. Not even the initial start up screen.
So, failure rate of 33%, at least for my set of three.
Just a bit disappointing.
When compared to older Windows CE handhelds such as the Jornada palmtop computers, the Sylvania laptop seems a little flimsy. Other inexpensive laptops also seem flimsy as well, to be honest. Keep in mind, though, that the Jornada really was really a pricier machine for its time, as much as $900 in 1999. It is rock solid; you got what you paid for.
This is not an indictment of the $99 netbook. It is a concern. These little netbooks have quite a bit of potential. The failures are disconcerting, though, and a look through the Internet reveals that there have been plenty.
So far, mine has run 100%, and the second machine appears to be doing well. Perhaps the manufacturers have gotten their acts together. With any luck, perhaps, they might even spur a rennaissance in the operating system that most of them come equipped with, Windows CE. In the mean time, caveat emptor.

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