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The great notebook rip-off?

3 May 2006
Posted in: Tech | 10 Comments

It’s no secret that products often get dumped on the Indian market when they are withdrawn in the West. My sister who recently visited a well-known clothing store in Frankfurt, Germany, was quite shocked at the difference in quality there from the “crap” we get here.

Me, I had a rather sinister revelation. On the lookout for an economical gaming laptop, I was shown a monster of a machine in an HP showroom the other day. Despite being no great fan of the company given the callous way they handled the rape and murder of their Bangalore employee last year, this one had me dazzled for a moment.

A dual core Intel Centrino processor, 15.4 inch screen, 1 Ghz RAM, NVIDIA GeForce Go 7400 graphics card, 100 GB of storage—all at an incredible price. Oh, yes, I nearly forgot—a Tata Indicom Internet access data card was thrown in for free. Witness. There is no competitive product for even twice that price!

The showroom manager insisted it gave up to 5 hours of battery power. Despite the drool pooling in my mouth, a little voice inside my head said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it is.”

I’ve been around computers long enough to be acquainted with a little issue called heating.

A week later, another interesting machine popped up, again from HP. This caught my eye because it had a 64-bit AMD processor, the Turion (I sense blank looks from Marie and Alpana— Turion is a processor made by AMD, as opposed to the Pentiums made by Intel) and 512 MB RAM. Again, at an incredible price. See for yourself.

These configurations suprised me not just for the price at which they were being offered, but because the concept of a gaming laptop in India is more or less non-existent. Dealers will always try to talk you into buying Intel machines and insist Intel’s integrated graphics are better than additional graphics options for gaming!

Probably it is just coincidence that earlier this year HP had to recall thousands of its batteries due to overheating—some say the figure is up to 135,000. It has been reported that batteries have melted and people have been injured.

A media contact warned us unofficially the other day that HP’s laptops may have heating issues. These may or may not be the same machines—don’t go by the model numbers; those are easy to change especially when machines are reintroduced in a different region. My mistrust of HP stems from the following:

  1. Given the prices of these machines, one would imagine HP would go to town with it. But that isn’t happening. Price does play a dominant role in the market, especially in the portable computer market.
  2. The configurations of these machines look great on paper, but don’t quite fit with IT companies’ perception of what the Indian consumer wants. Indeed, few people here look for a laptop when they want a gaming machine.
  3. Finally, like I said before, we are a dumping ground for substandard products, and this stinks of it. Multinationals might pay us lip-service, but when it comes down to it, India is but a dustbin for whatever they don’t want. And we have not done ourselves any favours by sucking up to anyone who waves a few pennies at us in the name of investment.

~PD

10 Responses

  1. Marie says:

    I know about AMD!

    *huffs*

  2. Payal says:

    *pats*

    There, there! 😛

  3. Alpana says:

    ok I was blank, but tell you what–buy one of those laptops and then sue HP.

  4. Payal says:

    If only it was that easy! I’d like to see the small print, actually. Does the warranty cover battery?!

  5. Laura says:

    Well. My head hurts. 😉

  6. Marie says:

    If you get a new laptop you can play OFB all night long!

  7. Payal says:

    My head hurts too… 👿

    The new laptop I get will probably be an iBook, so no Sims!

  8. Marie says:

    EVIL! You are evil for saying such a thing!

  9. Nimish says:

    What’s a bit disappointing is that HP tried to shush the battery recall issue even in the US, putting up a page about it on its official site only when online protests threatened to get out of hand. It’s stuff like this that makes one so cynical about globalisation. It just seems to mean that powerful MNCs now have the right to dump their junk wherever they want – Pepsi, for instance, dumps its used bottles in India (where, incidentally, they are not recycled, according to “No Logo”). The sad part is that most of these companies are getting away with murder to further their private gains – which puts them in the same bracket as politicians!

  10. Well firstly HP laptops are crap. I wouldnt accept one as a gift even. HP service in UK is pathetic. Average wait for the people to answer your phone is 15 minutes and they open only 9-5. So if your working then you need to set aside 15-20 mins of your day just to sit with the phone on speaker waiting/hoping/praying that someone picks up.
    Their power connector is so thin I am surprised it doesnt snap off after few months.

    Secondly laptops in general are not designed for gaming. I mean either its laptop or its a 15.4 inch size dumbell with batt. life shorter than the time it takes to boot!
    Thats why desktops live on. There is nothing better than to plug a heavy duty desktop into your mains and watch the graphics leap out of the screen (ofcourse you need a 256 MB Graphics Card too!).
    They might integrate cards into laptops but they will never have the same number crunching power due to power requirements.
    Ofcourse heating also kicks the teeth out of any decent graphics card. To counter that you need heat sinks and that means more power to drive the cooling unit and so on…
    The bottom line is if you want to play those 3D games get a desktop. If you need a good quality laptop then go for one with the basic features and good battery life.

    Finally the Indian consumer always gets a bad deal not because all Indian companies make infirior quality products but because the consumer is not aware of his/her rights. Any kind of legal entanglement sends shivers down our spines with the images of spending next ten years in court dragging heavy files around.

    But consumer courts have come into their own in the last few years. Hopefully things will improve as people become aware of their rights as consumers and see examples of how quick the process can be!

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