February 7, 2005

The Darkness

I bought my HP Pavilion n5415 laptop around Thanksgiving of 2001. It has served me pretty well, as it got me through the next two and a half years of college and grad school as well as a summer spent in California with no car where I used it to watch a lot of movies. It helped me finish a senior project and stumble through the spring of 2004 where I had lots and lots of computer related homework. I spent countless hours trying to make my projects for grad school work. It's been a good laptop, even if the battery is worn down to the point of near uselessness, and I was looking forward to a few more years out of it, as my only real complaints were the lack of a CD burner and a paucity of hard drive space (just over 9 GB). At the time of purchase, it was a pretty good deal. It's only given me one real problem since purchase, and that was a malfunctioning cooling fan. I was able to purchase a new fan and install it myself at the cost of only $40, and it's worked like a champ since then.

Until this weekend, that is. I was attempting to use the composite video output to get the display to appear on the television in order to watch a movie off of the computer. I installed the proper driver, but when I tried to change a setting on the computer, the screen died, and nothing appeared on the TV. The thing is, the screen didn't actually die, it just got incredibly dim. I could see it if I changed to a white wallpaper, cleaned the screen off, and shined a bright light on it at just the right angle. I also had to put my face really close to the screen and make sure that I gave the mouse pointer a reference point so I knew where to look for it. I probably should have seen this coming, as three or four times in the last two months the monitor has not come on when I turned the PC on. This was easily remedied, at the time, by either restarting or putting the computer to sleep and then waking it up. Since it died mid-use on me, I haven't been able to rely on this method. The switch that a protrusion on the monitor presses when it is closed seems to be malfunctioning so that it remains in the "off" state even when it is not pressed down. Whereas I could simply replace the broken fan, this part doesn't look like it is replaceable, and repairing it would likely cost several hundred dollars that would be better spent on a replacement that doesn't have over three years of wear and tear.

A replacement is what I seek. I have spent some time looking around and trying to figure out what it would cost me to get what I want. There are two main options, as I see it: brand new and refurbished. Brand new should be the most reliable, but you pay for the privilege of being the first owner. Refurbished can allow you to get a lot of PC for your money, but a refurbished/open box laptop scares me just a little bit, as they usually have shorter warranties and less reliability. I'm working on figuring out how much of a reliability hit I would be taking, as there are some eMachines refurbished laptops that are pretty monstrous systems at rock-bottom prices. Another option is an IBM. Typically, IBM is really expensive, but we have the IBM friends and family discount as a result of someone Janet works with, so it's another option with a great reputation for reliability, as long as you're willing to take a small hit in your specification list. Added to that are all the electronics stores, both online and brick and mortar. It's a big decision, but I feel like I'm well on my way.

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