Sony - If Only...

Regular readers will know that I became a huge fan of the miniature Sony notebook machines (see Viva WebDevCon Las Vegas). Travelling thousands of mainly Trans-Atlantic miles several times a year to present at conferences means you get very familiar with the weight of a laptop computer. So, the ultra-light and ultra-small Sony Vaio SRX is ideal. It has enough grunt to run PowerPoint and the examples for the sessions, is small enough to use on the 'plane, and has a good (if rather small) screen plus built-in wireless and loads of battery life.

However, being a confirmed "belt-and-braces" man, I like to take a second machine that is configured identically as a spare, and even use both in a presentation if the display gear in the session room can cope with that. So it seemed sensible, when my old Dell laptop finally expired, to add another Vaio to my travelling bag. That way I can share all the accessories, such as external DVD drive and floppy drive, video connector, large capacity battery, etc. And with an identical machine, I can even mirror the drives using imaging software to make setting up easier

Of course, in line with modern "must have a new model to sell" policies, Sony no longer make the SRX. More annoyingly, none of the replacement models use compatible peripherals! And, even worse, you have to lug around a complete "base unit" just to get video output for the equivalent model! Such is progress...

But, after browsing the Sony Web site I discovered they sell factory-reconditioned machines, and they listed the SRX 850 model I have. So, quick as a flash I banged in an order for one, at about two thirds of the price I paid for the original. Great stuff - just what I needed!

If you're waiting for the "however", here it is. The next-day delivery service took three days to get here, and when it arrived I noticed that the LED for the wireless feature didn't work. OK, I can live with that, except I then discovered next morning, while studying the machine in more detail, that it was the 800MHz model "B" not the 850MHz model "A". A quick inquiry with Sony confirmed that they didn't actually have a model "A", and I decided that I could probably live with the model "B" anyway. "No problem", they said, "we'll refund the 100-odd UK pounds difference in the price"

Then, later that day, I discover that the CMOS battery is dud on the new machine. It only shows up when you remove the main battery, of course. It seems like they've screwed up and sent me a machine that was waiting to be refurbished! Back on the phone to ask what to do next. "Leave it with us, we'll get back to you" I was told.

The lady I spoke to at Sony was very helpful, and tried her best to sort the matter, but it seems that they don't have any more of this model. And the only option her managers would offer was to return the machine for a full refund. So what do I do? A long search of the Web and a few 'phone calls revealed that there didn't seem to be a similar machine for sale anywhere. "Could Sony repair this one", I asked? "No, the only option is to return it for a refund".

I really want to keep this one. I guess I can live with the problems. It automatically resets the internal clock when I log onto my network, so I can cope with the CMOS battery problem. And even when not connected, it boots fine after changing batteries and I can set the time in Windows, even if it is a bit of a pain. I've even added extra memory to both machines (taking them to 384MB) so they run surprisingly quickly even with the Alpha of Visual Studio .NET 2.0.

So what could I expect from Sony, when I told them I would live with the issues and asked them to demonstrate their customer service capabilities? Would you believe:

So, if it blows up tomorrow, I'm stuffed altogether. What a shame, as the SRX is such a great machine. If only the new machines used compatible peripherals I would return it and buy a new model. As it stands now, I guess I can add one more comment:

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