Batteries not included

Technology prices may, in general, keep falling, but that doesn't make it any less frustrating when new toys don't work out of the box, says Matt Wade

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By  Matthew Wade Published  January 21, 2008

In the words of The Fast Show's shed-inhabiting farmer Jesse, this week I have been mainly... testing photo printers. And not one of them came supplied with the USB cable required to actually connect it up to a PC or laptop and print.

It's true that many new printers are designed to be operated without use of a PC (via inputting memory cards or USB sticks, or syncing via Bluetooth and WiFi), but the most common type of printer use is still printing from a connected computer. Which of course needs a cable. Which isn't supplied. Ever.

It could be argued that picking this particular type of product to kick off my rant is a little unfair, seeing as printer vendors make little - if any - money on the initial sale price of inkjet models (which from a price/performance ratio standpoint are, let's tell it like it is, an absolute wonder of modern engineering - as you'll read in our next issue), and so these firms can be understood to be wanting to keep costs down.

However I'd argue that from an end user's point of view, that simply doesn't matter. A bargain, after all, only makes its buyer feel warm and fuzzy for ten minutes or so, if they then discover that after unpacking it they must head back to the store to buy more bits.

Are printer vendors assuming that everyone who buys a printer is a ‘replacer', and thus already has such a cable? Maybe, but that's not necessarily the case. I'm looking to buy a home printer soon and unless I can charm our WinLabs editor into parting with his then I don't have a lead myself, the reason being that in the past the only printing I've really done has been at work.

But let's be objective here - it's not just printer cables that are a cause of out of the box frustration. I've lost count of the number of battery-operated gadgets (MP3 players for example and low-end digital cameras), that don't arrive with their much-needed little cylinders of grunt.

Here are some further in-the-box inclusions my team and I would like to see:

Game consoles
Sony and Microsoft should supply component or HDMI cables with their PS3 and Xbox 360 Arcade consoles, so that users with HD TVs can connect these consoles up out of the box.

Laptops
Standard ‘portable' and ultra-portable models should come with carry bags. Always.

LCD monitors
These should be supplied with the D-Sub cable required for normal PC connection. It's astounding when they're not.

Heatsink fans (PC component)
Should be supplied with decent thermal paste (which is used to stick a fan to the PC's processor, where it resides), rather than the gooey rubbish often included.

PC water cooling kits
If selling a water cooling ‘kit', a vendor should include anti-corrosive chemicals. These are mixed into, and circulate around, the kit's tubes via the system's cooling water. Even better, do as Gigabyte does and supply a soluble mixture that contains both anti-corrosive and anti-freeze elements.

DVD writers
More than one blank media disc please. Five would be ideal.

Food for thought for vendors then and plenty of points to action if said companies are truly serious about meeting all of their customers' needs.

What ‘out of the box' nightmares have you endured? Rant away on windows@itp.com

3613 days ago
Osama A.

I know this is way off topic, but regarding the 'USB cable not included issue', this will be redundant since Realtek introduced the RTU7105 Wireless USB device at the CES 2008 show and Intel has also developed their single-chip Wireless USB Host solution. Since the approval of this technology was made sometime in March of 2007 and I quote "The International Organization for Standardization and Ecma International have finally signed off on ECMA-368, ECMA-369, and ISO/IEC 26907, which specify a distributed medium access control sublayer and a physical layer for wireless networks and forms the basis for Wireless USB." In terms of the rest of the article, personally as both an IT consultant and consumer I believe not having items mentioned in the box isn't a big issue, seeing that each consumer will have a different need. For example, you can buy a regular length usb cable or have the choice of a 5 meter gold plated one. DVD/CD media is also according to personal taste. I use certain brands of media and others not. So if I was given lets say four or five blank dvd's they might not be the brand I like to use, besides they've become so cheap that I don't think it's an issue. Do you?

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