It is time to finish the tale of the cursed ASUS G73JH. Warning: semi-depressing, repetitive madness ahead.
The FIFTH RMA
CES 2012 found me working with the laptop in a semi-operable state: about half of the keyboard worked, and the touchpad was behaving very strangely—the pointer would jump about the display erratically any time contact was made with the touchpad. Everything else appeared to be in good shape. The solution was to pack the Thermaltake MEKA mechanical keyboardand NZXT Avatar S mouse. It worked well, though it was certainly inconvenient.
Upon my return from that voyage, the laptop went back to ASUS’s Chris Ambrose, the gentleman who had been diligently working to resurrect the laptop. He confirmed the problems and determined that one of the ribbon cables attaching the keyboard to the motherboard had come loose—probably during shipment as there weren’t any issues when the laptop was sent to me. The touchpad issue was a bit trickier, but after some tinkering, a newer (and not-provided-by-ASUS) version of the touchpad drivers seemed to get things under control. Everything seemed to be working again.
The laptop returned and after a few minutes of tinkering, things seemed exactly the same as they were when it was sent in. Chris and I did some troubleshooting over the phone and discovered that somehow Windows decided that it didn’t like the drivers and reverted them for me. How kind. With that part of the mystery solved, the unofficial drivers were located and reinstalled. Everything seemed to be working again, again.
Cue insane laughter
The next day the touchpad was back to its usual broken ways, even though the drivers were still installed and everything was still configured correctly. Another call was made to ASUS for more troubleshooting. As a final attempt before a sixth RMA, I was asked to reset the touchpad’s settings and then reconfigure them—basically the equivalent of clearing a cache and reloading. It worked for a few hours, but (surprise!) that wasn’t sufficient to actually correct things on a permanent basis.
A sixth RMA was set up, but this time it wasn’t for a repair. Finally ASUS acknowledged that this machine was an irredeemable lemon. The problematic G73JH would be replaced. By what? It depended on what was available once the laptop arrived at ASUS and the replacement paperwork was processed.
And so the tale of the G73JH ends. It’s gone to visit Wheezy, and that’s probably for the best. My immense frustration stems from the fact that it took two years to get to this point. Read that again: It took two years, days of my life, and incredible stress, frustration, inconvenience, and logistics for them to get to a point where ASUS admits, hey, you know what, you’re right, this laptop is broken.
A day or two after the G73JH arrived at ASUS I got a phone call. My new laptop would be the ASUS G74SX-A1, and its tale begins now. I have to say that for all the trouble, the replacement is a fairly significant upgrade:
|CPU||Core i7 720QM
||Core i7 2630QM
|RAM||8GB (4x2GB) DDR3-1333||12GB (3x4GB) DDR3-1333|
|GPU||Radeon HD 5870M||GeForce GTX 560M|
|USB||4xUSB 2.0||1xUSB 3.0
The CPU is 25% faster just on its base speed, and the architecture improvements should further improve that number. The GPU should be a bit faster than the Radeon GPU. The RAM and storage each got a 50% capacity boost. The Blu-ray burner would be transferred from the old laptop into the new one.
Now if they could just get it to me…
Chris tested the laptop to make sure everything was correct—the last thing he wanted at this point is another RMA from me. In testing, he determined one of the fans was making a bit of noise. Replacing the fan should only take a few minutes, and once his tech returned the laptop he would check it out again to make sure everything was still in order. I should have my new laptop the Friday before Icrontic St. Patrick’s Day celebration for sure. I was heading up to Detroit to hang out with the Icrontic crew and it would have been great to have my new laptop.
Except it didn’t take a few minutes. Apparently someone couldn’t get around to fixing things for a couple of days. I was assured overnight shipping would be provided—but I was leaving Wednesday afternoon. No problem though—I could provide the address for ICHQ and Chris would overnight it to me there. I would have the laptop in hand on Wednesday evening for sure.
Wednesday arrived and still there was no shipment. A call to Chris just hours before heading to the airport revealed the tech (finally) had the laptop open and was replacing the fan as we spoke. The laptop would definitely get shipped that day.
Then, during my layover en route, I got a call. During final testing, the tech couldn’t identify the motherboard model. Why is that important? This is a Sandy Bridge system, and a check was being done to make sure a B3 chipset was present—the original chipsets had an issue with the SATA 3.0Gb/s controller and required a recall. Unfortunately nobody present at the time could identify the model, so things would be delayed a day. No worries though, someone would be in the next day to ID the board and things would move quickly. I’d have the laptop in hand on Friday for sure.
Thursday arrived and, after a hard day of working at the new ICHQ, everyone popped down to the pub for a well-deserved pint. It was there that I learned that the motherboard situation was worse than expected. Was it a pre-B3 chipset? Hard to say. So what was the problem? The motherboard was for the wrong laptop model.
Now, it’s a pretty safe thing to say that it wasn’t a motherboard for an entirely different kind of laptop—that sort of thing would have been obvious. No, somehow a motherboard from a different G74 variant got installed, and it was definitely not supposed to be in my laptop. No worries though, as the repair shop had already been notified and a replacement part should be delivered that day. Unfortunately, this also meant that a Detroit delivery was now out of the question. The laptop would be in my hands early the next week for sure.
The worst luck in the universe
That didn’t happen.
On Tuesday I was called and told that the replacement motherboard had been installed. During final testing, though, a bad stick of RAM was found. No big deal, that’s a five minute fix and Chris had a replacement stick nearby. One (hopefully) last round of testing would take the rest of the evening, but after that was finished, the new laptop would be ready for shipping. It would be shipped the next day via FedEx overnight and should be in my hands on Thursday.
It didn’t go out on Wednesday. In fact, there was no phone call or e-mail with tracking information.
Finally, on Thursday evening I got a call that once and for all assured me that the laptop would be delivered Friday afternoon. It was FedEx calling to make sure someone would be home to sign for a package. I made arrangements with the office so I could be at home waiting for the delivery…and what a painful wait it was. I was afraid to do anything that would prevent me from getting to the door in under half a second—with the way my luck was going, that would be the exact moment my usual FedEx delivery guy would show up.
Sure enough, Friday afternoon saw the delivery of the new laptop. I’ve been checking out the laptop for about four days now, and so far there hasn’t been a problem. It’s been wiped, reloaded, poked, prodded, and pushed. So far it has performed well. It does feel a bit more sturdily built than the G73 did, and the layout—everything from user upgradeable components to the cooling system—has been improved over the previous generation.
I really do appreciate the work Chris did to make sure things were right before shipping the laptop. I feel that he really was pushing to get things done correctly despite the slowness of the rest of the company.
In closing this chapter, I’m cautiously optimistic that I finally have a fully functional laptop, and that hopefully another ridiculous addition to the story will not be necessary. I still feel burned by the overall experience, but at least there is the opportunity for a relatively happy ending.