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MacBook broken Backlight

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Over the years of this decade I have developed a pretty low opinion of Apple hardware. I owned five different Apple notebooks in the period and every single one of them suffered from defects in the short time I owned it. [If you’re interested in the details, click yourself through the machines here.] Other Macs in my family suffer from similar problems, most of which seem to be not just unlucky but common design faults or consequences of poor engineering and manufacturing (between my brother and myself we had four broken MacBook handrests, for example).

With my current MacBook only having a shitty screen I was relatively happy simply because it didn’t break within a few months. Saving me the hassle of frequenting to our local Mac store and running through the usual procedures. Until last weekend, that is. After my screen backlight turning itself off a few times the week before in a non-reproducible way, that behaviour increased during the weekend, leading to a backlight that always turned itself off when run at full brightness on Saturday, to a backlight turned itself off after a while when run on half brightness on Sunday, to a backlight turning itself off after a second at the lowest level on Monday. I did my bit of Googling and tried all the standard procedures (SMC reset, PRAM reset, boot from install media to be sure it’s not some stray setting, Hardware Test DVD…).

The not-so-fun bit about this being that I got the MacBook in the first half of November last year, suspecting it may just be out of warranty. The local Mac store checked the serial number for me and confirmed my suspicion. It turns out that Apple counts your warranty from the day you place the order, rather than the day it is shipped or received. I placed the order on October 31st and, according the invoice Apple sent me, they shipped it on November 9th. So this was very close, or even ‘just-in’ with either date but outside the area where they could do anything for me in the store. However, they recommended to discuss this with Apple myself.

Given my history with Apple’s (German) phone support, I was extremely reluctant to call them because my past experiences were really bad. I invariably spoke to people who completely failed to understand the problem, failed to care just a bit or lied to me. As in the case of my broken Powerbook G4 I had the ‘pleasure’ of phoning them more than a dozen times, I don’t think that was just a singular ‘unlucky’ case.

But with the costs of a repair (apparently between €100 for a cable and €500 for the whole screen, i.e. potentially more than the value of the year-old machine - the used prices really suffered since the Intel switch…) I really needed to give that a try. And either I was very lucky or Apple improved their German call centre. The first guy I spoke to was quick to pick up the details for my machine, seemed to understand the story and simply believed me that I had done all the standard troubleshooting steps I told him I had done (previously I was forced to do them again while on the phone and it’s time consuming and rather impractical to do things which involve holding four keys at the same time or removing the battery while on the phone…).

The questions he asked made sense and suggested he understood the problem. I was then put through to a more technical person (sounded Eastern European, perhaps that makes people more helpful) who already had most of the details ready and just wanted to confirm some extra information. Finally they OKed the repair because it’s an edge case and the problem likely started within the warranty period, saying I can bring it into the local Mac store within a month and strongly suggesting that I buy AppleCare the next time. (The problem with AppleCare of course being that it does not give you a replacement machine if things go wrong and that its price tag completely destroys the reasonable value a MacBook represents.)

Which leaves me hoping that they can actually solve the problem now at our local store without costing me a fortune. And it also raises hope that Apple are trying to get their act together for the quality of their service in Germany. Which would be a good thing.

November 14, 2009, 10:38

Tagged as apple, apple defects, backlight, broken, macbook.

Comments

Comment by michael: User icon

Apple Care is not so expensive (round about 150 € for a MBP) if you buy it on ebay. Works like a charm, did that two times already.

November 14, 2009, 13:58

Comment by Florian: User icon

Shouldn’t the guarantee be two years anyway (“Verbrauchsgüterkauf”)? I seem to remember that there is at least a two year guarantee on electrical goods no matter what the company says.

November 15, 2009, 9:57

Comment by ssp: User icon

@Florian:
I think there is something like that, but as far as I understand the legalese what I am dealing with here is a proper warranty by the manufacturer (going beyond what’s prescribed by law which, I think, applies to the seller). I’m not totally sure here but I think the warranty works in the way that the company says that if it breaks they’ll fix it, whereas the other deal is that you have to prove the damage was present when you bought the machine and they have to fix it then. So you end up with the burden of some ‘proof’ which is probably impossible to make in complicated technical devices anyway.

November 15, 2009, 12:52

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