This is the story of one man’s dream of owning a working laptop and one company’s never-ending quest to crush that dream.
Love at first sight
Our story begins at CES 2010, at a party hosted by a company called AMD. Now, AMD was celebrating, and for very good reason: they had just completed the launch of a phenomenal product called the Radeon HD 5000-series GPU. At this party, there was a laptop on display that was handling games like a boss. It was one of the latest games, too, and the graphics flowed smoothly even with the settings cranked up. I knew immediately that I had to have this laptop. I discovered that it was the ASUS G73JH, and it had been announced the day before at the ASUS press event. It was supposed to be available almost immediately, and would be everything I wanted in a laptop: powerful quad-core CPU, top-of-the-line mobile graphics, 8GB RAM, good quality 17.3″ display, dual 7200RPM hard drives and a Blu-ray drive. And so the search began. Web store after web store had no knowledge of the laptop, but I would not be deterred. After what felt like an eternity of searching, a small handful of web sites started selling this notebook. Those few sites were narrowed down to XoticPC.com because it had the best combination of price and customer support (their support community is quite good). The laptop was configured and ordered. The estimated ship date was mid-April due to an extreme level of demand. It was early February. The wait was excruciating, but in mid-April, my laptop arrived. Eagerly but carefully, the laptop and its components were extracted from the packaging. It really was everything I wanted in a laptop.
The reviewing process began in earnest.
Trouble in paradise
Right in the middle of testing, half of the screen went blank, and the other half turned all sorts of colors. The first RMA was set up and a two week turnaround was quoted. “No problem”, I thought. It’s still late-April, a review will still be relevant then, and Expo Icrontic was still months away. So my laptop was shipped to one of ASUS’s repair facilities, to be returned in about two weeks.
And the wait began.
Two weeks had passed and I had received no update or confirmation my laptop was on its way back, so I checked the ASUS customer support web site to see what was going on. The repair status was listed as “waiting”, with no other information. A call to ASUS produced a promise the laptop was being worked on and it would be ready…within two weeks. The representative said I should continue checking the web site for updates as this would give the most timely information.
Rinse, then repeat—weekly. During the course of this seemingly infinite loop, late June rolled around and with it, Expo Icrontic. Sadly, I still did not have my laptop back.
To really kick me in the balls, I received a phone call from ASUS the day I arrived to ICHQ for Expo. The good news was my laptop was shipping out and would arrive at my house…the day before I returned home. No, they couldn’t rush the laptop to me at ICHQ because that wasn’t the address they had for me and ASUS will only ship via FedEx 3-day. I could pay to upgrade to next day shipping but, as it turns out, that’s really expensive.
But wait, there’s more
The laptop was waiting for me when I got back home. I was pretty disappointed in the timing, but whatever. At least I had the laptop back and it was in working condition. I opened the box, plugged the laptop in, and turned it on. I was greeted with the normal splash screens and then…
It was a sound I’m all too familiar with: the sound of a dead or rapidly dying hard drive. That’s probably just bad timing. So another call to Asus and a cross-shipment RMA for a new hard drive was set up. No big deal. The new drive arrived and the old one was swapped out and returned. With the problems now resolved I began testing again until…
Right in the middle of the first gaming test, I had an experience similar to that of the following video:
Now, this video does not do the noise justice. It’s not nearly loud, deep, and horrifying enough, but it should give you an idea of what was going on. Of course with something like that, the first thing I did was shut the laptop down as fast as possible. Once things calmed down, I turned the laptop on and resumed testing, thinking it might have been a really odd one-time glitch.
Not so. The game testing finished without issue, but things started going downhill right after that. About five minutes into testing video transcoding the noise returned and the fast shutdown was performed again. Testing clearly was going to be an issue until this problem was resolved. With this in mind I began poking around the internet to see if anyone else was experiencing the same problems. Apparently I was far from alone. Owners of just about every version of the G73JH were having the exact same issues, and then some. Several had sent their laptops in for repair only to experience the same insanely long repair times I had only weeks prior. Things were not looking good.
Unfortunately this all happened right in the middle of a rather busy period of frequent travel and overtime at work, so a new RMA wasn’t possible for several months. It was probably for the best though, because I started experiencing other issues that were commonly noted on various forums: the touchpad receives phantom input and/or stops working, extreme keyboard lag that can sometimes rearrange keystrokes, overheating due to improper application of thermal material, rubber feet coming off due to the overheating problem, and, of course, the aforementioned sound issues.
I would just have to deal with the laptop as it was for a while. There was just too much going on to risk another two months without a laptop, even if that meant abandoning its intended purpose—portable gaming and workstation tasks. Expo 2011 would again see me having to work around this miserable piece of equipment. No video editing…it’d all have to be done on a desktop. Just basic computing tasks that any bargain bin laptop could handle.
In October life settled down to the point that the laptop could be sent in for repairs. CES was far enough away that even a two month repair wouldn’t be an issue. One call to set up the RMA, and a quick trip to the local FedEx and the laptop was away to get all of its problems fixed.
The day after the laptop arrived, its repair status was changed to “Waiting-[WF9]-Wait for customer confirmation – NTF”. NTF means “no trouble found”. The rest means the repair center is supposed to contact me via phone or e-mail for further information on the problems. Neither one happened, and despite repeated calls to customer service (the customer cannot call the repair center directly) and subsequent promises of returned calls “within 24 hours”, I was never contacted. The laptop, as far as I could tell, was just sitting there waiting for information to be magically passed along to the repair center.
After two weeks of calling customer service, I was able to speak with a supervisor who would elevate my case. Apparently “elevate” is code for “tell the repair center to ship the laptop now”, because within a couple hours of that phone call (another in which I was promised a call from the repair center) the status was changed to notify me the laptop was on its way back to me. No word on whether anything had been done. In my research, I had stumbled across a secret (at least not easily found) customer service escalation system… Perfect. I whipped up the following:
* Subject：RMA Problems
* Topic：1.Product Quality;2.Service Quality;
I purchased the G73JH in April 2010 with an extended three year warranty. Since the day it arrived I’ve had nothing but problems. First the display died. It took eight weeks to get fixed. As soon as the laptop was returned, one of the hard drives died, causing a second RMA. The third RMA (USG11A4754) was requested on October 26 for the following:
-Since the day the laptop arrived, I have been unable to play games properly. Randomly during gaming the laptop will emit a very loud static/roaring sound. This is not the sound of fans nor does it appear to come from the speakers. It happens at the same amount of loudness regardless of volume settings.
– The touchpad does not function correctly. Despite making sure that nothing but one fingertip is in contact with the touchpad, the system acts as though many fingers are attempting to provide input.
– The keyboard misses keystrokes. I have to type very slowly as a workaround. This is unacceptable.
– Both the CPU and GPU overheat, causing shutdowns. I understand there was an issue with thermal paste being improperly applied and I believe that to be the issue in this case as well.
– Due to the overheating, the rubber feet on the laptop have come off.
All of this was detailed on the RMA form included with the laptop.
For this third RMA, my laptop arrived on October 31. On November 1 the repair status was changed to “Waiting-[WF9]-Wait for customer confirmation – NTF”. At no time during the repair process was I ever contacted to confirm anything. In fact, I called around November 3 to find out what information was needed. I was told someone would contact me regarding the repair. On November 10, having not been contacted, I called ASUS support. The representative promised me a call from the repair facility within 24-48 hours. This promised call never happened – three phone numbers were provided and none received any calls regarding the repair. On the morning of November 15 I called ASUS support again, and was told the case would be “elevated” because problems were not immediately found. I was promised a call from the repair facility that day. Again, the call never happened. Instead I received an automated e-mail that night stating my laptop was being shipped back to me.
The laptop is scheduled to arrive on November 18, and based on the previous description of events I do not expect to find the problems resolved.
This is my third ASUS laptop (also have a W2P and F3SV), and will likely be my final ASUS laptop based on the troubles I have had in getting repairs and poor customer service.
I want my laptop fully repaired. It should not take multiple RMAs to do this. If the repair facility is unable to duplicate the problem, I expect them to contact me for further information. If I am promised a phone call within a specific time period, I expect that promise to be fulfilled.
It was jumping the gun a bit, but at this point I figured it would just be a preemptive strike. After all, the notes on my case indicate that nothing had been done and I had little to no confidence that anything would come of the service anyway.
A ray of hope
Surprisingly, within a day (November 17, to be exact) a response was waiting. The system put me in contact with Chris Ambrose, a Customer Care Specialist who (as I found out later) also owns a G73JH laptop and is very familiar with its internals. His response was somewhat promising:
Dear Mr. Mertes,
I look forward to seeing the results. Email me back when you are done.
Asus Customer Care Specialist
So at least someone at ASUS was interested in the results. That was refreshing. I resolved to get back to Chris as quickly as possible.
Seriously, did you guys even test this?
The laptop arrived and I immediately unpacked it. The repair papers simply stated that new thermal paste had been applied. Windows booted up without an issue, but for some reason the touchpad wasn’t working. That’s usually a simple fix—there’s an Fn-combo to enable/disable the touchpad and I’d probably disabled it before sending the laptop in.
No dice. Some poking around revealed that Windows didn’t even see a pointing device connected, much less one that might have been turned off. Great start so far.
I grabbed a mouse and plugged in. That worked just fine, so I proceeded to test the remainder of the issues. As it turns out, everything else was fine. There were a couple of scenarios I knew would reliably cause problems before the laptop was sent in, but even those weren’t causing problems.
So with one problem remaining, on November 17 I composed the following message:
The laptop seems to be mostly working now. It is definitely running cooler since the thermal paste was re-applied. So far the laptop has been able to handle normal usage without an issue.
The only problem that remains is the touchpad. When I sent the laptop in, the touchpad was behaving erratically. Now it doesn’t function at all (the touchpad and its buttons are completely dead). I have tried using the Fn keys to enable/disable the touchpad, but this has not worked and will need another RMA to be fixed.
My only concern here is how long this will take. Each of my previous RMAs has taken well over a month to complete and return. I will need the laptop back in time for CES in Las Vegas in early January (I depart Jan 6, so Jan 5 at the latest would be needed). Do you think this would be a problem?
And with that, I pressed the Send button…
… and an error message popped up:
Can not input HTML tag
I was unceremoniously dumped back to the ASUS support login page. Thinking it was just a random error, I tried again. Same result. OK, third time is a charm. Nope. The Technical Inbox was having problems, and I couldn’t relay my message back to Chris.
Every day after that I’d try two or three times to send the message, but without success.
On December 21, I was finally able to get the message through. And, true to form, Chris replied back within a day:
Dear Mr. Mertes,
Your new RMA is XXXXXXXX, and will be coming to me here at HQ. If it’s just a loose TP cable, which I suspect it is, the turnaround time should be very quick. If you want, you can have a local tech check for this before shipping.
I can have it here for Tuesday/Wednesday, and possibly ship out same day.
Cool. The laptop was packed up and shipped off. Sure enough, the delivery was set for Wednesday. Sure enough, on Wednesday Chris called me. He informed me that the touchpad repair was badly botched and that the glue the tech had used was improperly applied (I don’t recall if glue was even supposed to be used), and the cables hadn’t been connected. He had cleaned up that mess, made sure the touchpad was working, and double-checked the previous overheating issues, and everything was looking good. The laptop would be sent off that evening and I would have it in hand by Friday. Sure enough, Friday evening FedEx delivered.
Once again, I unpacked the laptop and turned it on. Once the touchpad was configured the way I liked it, things behaved nicely. It looked like everything was in working order.
I clicked on my ASUS Technical Inbox shortcut to log in and tell Chris the good news…
…only to find out that about half the keys weren’t working. It wasn’t anything as simple as one side of the keyboard not working either. Nope. Random keys didn’t work.
I actually had to turn the laptop off and walk away at this point. There was an immense level of rage building and I was actually afraid I’d hulk smash the laptop.
The next morning (December 31) I returned to assess the situation. Twenty-eight keys didn’t work, and there was no logical grouping of those keys either.
The laptop was returned yesterday and I have to be honest…I had to wait until this morning to compose a reply. I am simply livid and disgusted. The touchpad mostly works now, though I had to turn off almost every feature and reboot for it to work as a basic touchpad. The keyboard, on the other hand, is not functioning properly. Below are a list of keys that simply do not work (listed according to keyboard rows):
both control buttons
left, right arrows
number pad keys: 4568*end
This is going to require a fifth RMA. Unfortunately unless ASUS pays for overnight shipping to and from the repair facility I won’t be able to get it in for repairs until after CES—I depart Friday afternoon.
I cannot express how thoroughly disgusted I am with this laptop. I am still waiting for day one of having a working laptop that was purchased April 14, 2010. I don’t believe a refund to be an unreasonable request at this point.
This brings the story to today. I haven’t received a reply yet, but that’s likely due to the holiday weekend.
It’s been twenty-one months and I am still without a fully working laptop, and CES is right around the corner. Fortunately thanks to some previous review parts I have a workaround, though it’s less than optimal. No in-flight work, and certainly nothing on the show floor.
So to anyone still contemplating the purchase of an ASUS product, be it a motherboard, laptop, GPU, or some other thing…don’t. If, after reading this, you still decide to go with ASUS, good luck if something goes wrong. The RMA and customer support processes I have fought with for nearly two years are the same terrible processes for every other product the company produces. ASUS has proven at every step of the way that they don’t care once your money is in their hands.
Congratulations ASUS. You’ve figured out how to lose a customer.
UPDATE: Here’s a continuation, unbelievable as it is, to the saga.