Click for Care

If your notebook is behaving strangely, you have three options: take it back to the shop; call up the vendor in question; or head online for help. As we're in the digital age, Windows went undercover and tried the third approach. Here's how the help on offer compares…

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By  Matthew Wade Published  March 30, 2006

|~||~||~|Our approach was simple. First, we decided upon a technical issue relevant to all notebooks (namely dead or 'nonconforming' pixels within the LCD display), then we tracked down the e-mail or online support contacts for different regional notebook vendors and dropped contacted each asking for advice. Our query was sent from a pseudonym Gmail account and it explained that: we had purchased a {vendor name} notebook and everything was going well until last week; on booting, we'd noticed that certain areas of the screen remained a certain colour whilst everything else changed; and, having researched this problem, we'd discovered that these are 'dead' pixels. We then asked, what could we do about this? Analyse this... We judged each vendor's online support offer in the following ways: - Does the vendor actually offer online or e-mail support? - How easy is the firm's support website to use? - How quickly did we receive a response (preferably typed by human hand and not sent by an auto responder)? - How useful was the info provided? We then ranked each vendor. Here's how they compared… HP Middle East 1/5 Online support option? Yes Ease of use: 2/5 Speed of response: 1/5 Quality of help: 2/5 Tracking down and logging into HP's support section isn't easy. First, we clicked onto its Middle East site at www.hp.com/me and chose 'Support & Troubleshooting'. Then we had a choice: submit and manage a support case either with or without a service agreement (whether you own such an agreement will likely depend upon how you purchased your machine - i.e. from a retailer or through your company). We chose the 'without' option, which limits you to receiving help with business notebooks. We then chose the country we reside in (in our case, the UAE), after which we had to sign-up with HP for a Passport (similar to Microsoft's online ID tool of the same name, though - we suspect - applying to fewer crucial online services ). Of course this takes a few minutes, then you submit a new case. Five hours later, we received an automated e-mail containing our case's ID number, useful links and details of how to check our case's progress online. At the time of writing however (12 days later), our case was still classed as 'In progress' (defined as "A Response enter Engineer is working on it."). Acer Middle East 4/5 Online support option? Yes Ease of use: 4/5 Speed of response: 3/5 Quality of help: 3/5 Getting to Acer's online support page is simple. First, head to the relevant regional site (in our case www.acer.ae) via acer.com. Then click Service & Support and then hit 'Technical E-Mail Support', which opens up an online form. Thereafter just enter your type of product, details of the problem and then hit submit. The site then shows your case's log number and a number to dial if you can't wait for help. 23 hours after we posed our question, we received a personal e-mail from one of Acer's support team. This explained the "phenomenon" of dead pixels or "discoloration dots" (a.k.a. 'nonconfirming' pixels) and a link to an online PDF that outlines Acer's particular policy for the replacement of LCDs with defective pixels (note: most notebook vendors will only replace a screen if a set number of pixels or more have stopped 'conforming'). Acer's replacement policy applies to screens that feature more than four dead pixels. The employee who wrote to us also requested a serial number and offered to discuss matters further if required. Dell Middle East 3/5 Online support option? Y es Ease of use: 3/5 Speed of response: 4/5 Quality of help: 3/5 From Dell.com we headed to the relevant country site. No support options are given, so we clicked Contact. In the UAE, the only available e-mail support is for business users (the actual e-mail address given is one for one of Dell's distributor partners, Key Information Technology). They mightn't be Dell direct, but they are pretty prompt as we received a human response to our e-mail in just over three hours. It only suggested was that we drop into Dell's nearest service centre for a chat, but it did include names, numbers, and location details. Not bad. DTK Middle East 1/5 Online support option? Yes Ease of use: 5/5 Speed of response: 0/5 Quality of help: 0/5 DTK is a regional vendor so we started out from the firm's primary website at www.dtkme.com. We headed for the site's Service & Support section, after which we clicked on: 'Contact Technical Support to resolve a problem via email.' We then submitted our query via an online form. At time of going to press (12 days after submitting our question), we hadn't heard from the company. LG Electronics 3/5 Online support option? Yes Ease of use: 4/5 Speed of response: 5/5 Quality of help: 2/5 At www.lge.com we tried choosing the relevant country site from the left-hand menu. However this failed to load, so we tried the second drop-down menu's Service Site option. On its UAE page, the click of choice is Contact, which takes you to a technical support form. We submitted our query and just over one hour later received what appeared to be an automated response, requesting that we took our product to a named authorised service centre (a phone number was provided, but no address or contact name). Sahara 1/5 Online support option? Yes Ease of use: 2/5 Speed of response: 0/5 Quality of help: 0/5 Sahara is a South African firm so its site reads www. sahara.co.za. From there we hit Support, which brings up four options, none of which related to getting online assistance (some of these, in fact, seem to incorrectly link to a vendor support page). We then tried the Contact link instead. This encourages users to send comments, but is strictly not for technical queries. Instead, Sahara states: "Technical queries can now be answered on the Support Forums." So we ploughed through the forum registration sign-up form and waited for the activation link to be sent to our e-mail account. At the time of writing, twelve days later, we were still waiting. Toshiba 2/5 Online support option? Yes Ease of use: 2/5 Speed of response: 4/5 Quality of help: 2/5 From Toshiba.com we headed to www.toshiba-gulf.com/site and Customer Support. This leads to text that asks you pick a category from the 12-strong menu on the left. We chose Product & Technology, then Computer Systems. This brings up a huge list of Toshiba divisions and branch offices in different countries. Finally, under Toshiba Gulf FZE we found just a general 'info' e-mail address. It was to this that we sent our query. Two hours later we received a human response. This didn't include technical information, but just read: "The set industry standard is 10-12 dead pixels for any replacement or repair action for all vendors of notebooks and manufacturers of notebook screens." Presumably Toshiba users must live with the issue until a few more pixels have died. Hardly impressive. ---------------------- IN CONCLUSION How they compare… Acer 4/5 Prompt and enthusiastically helpful Dell 3/5 No technical advice given, but full details of where to go and who to see when we got there LG Electronics 3/5 Super quick, basic details of where to go for further help Toshiba 2/5 Quick yes, but helpful and accurate advice? Far from it HP 1/5 Online support 'available', just sadly not forthcoming DTK 1/5 See HP comment above ---------------------- ||**||

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