Note to Vendors: Give Us Warranty or Give Us DIMMs

Just yesterday, we posted a news article on MSI’s anti-upgrade warranty policy for the Wind. But MSI is hardly alone. Today, we see that Kevin C. Tofel of mobile blog JK On the Run has written a post about the larger trend of notebook manufacturers denying warranty coverage to users who add RAM. Kevin writes:

Many new devices are coming with minimal memory amounts in the 512 KB to 1 GB range. However, many of these same devices are advertised as capable of increased RAM capacities and some even offer a second, open SoDIMM slot. It’s a catch-22 though: if you take advantage of the advertised feature and upgrade your RAM, you risk voiding your warranty. It’s like advertising for an included feature that you effectively can’t use.”

Kevin isn’t alone. When we posted about MSI’s warranty policy we got some choice comments from our readers, including one who said “It’s like dangling candy in front of kids saying don’t eat it!” So what’s the deal here, notebook vendors? Why do you torture us this way? You’re such a bunch of slot teases, flashing your empty DIMM slots at us and then telling us we can’t fill them with RAM. Kevin suggests that vendors either:

  • Reverse their warranty position and make it even easier to upgrade a system’s RAM by putting the DIMM slot behind an easily-accessible door.


  • Remove temptation by limiting the RAM capacity to what comes preinstalled. This could be done by limiting the amount the BIOS recognizes and by not including extra DIMM slots.

I’ll propose a third option: give us more RAM to begin with! Honestly, when you look at the cost of DDR2 SODIMMs today, it’s just ridiculous how cheap they are. As I write this post, I’m looking at bargain blogs like Techbargains, where you can find a 1GB module for under $20 on any given day. Today, I saw an entire 4GB kit for just $50. How much do you think an extra GB or two costs notebook makers, who obviously get their RAM at wholesale prices? That’s peanuts for such a crucial upgrade. Depending on how you use your computer, more RAM can make a huge difference in boot times, multi-tasking, and in extending your battery life (the more RAM you have, the less your hard drive will spin). No wonder most users are willing to plunk down a few dollars for another gigabyte or two. Unfortunately, adding more RAM before you buy a notebook, mini or otherwise, either isn’t as cheap or isn’t possible. As an example, I went to the HP’s site and tried to configure a dv6700z series notebook. By default, the system comes with 1GB of RAM. Want to add one gigabyte? Add $50 to the price. Want to go the full monty with 4GB? Plunk down another $200! That’s $200 for an additional 3GB of RAM, when you can get a full 4GB kit for under $50 on your own. In the case of mini-notebooks, most vendors don’t let you add RAM before you buy (HP has an option to go from 1 to 2GB, but the price for the RAM upgrade alone isn’t spelled out). Most of the current skus are preconfigured with either 512MB or 1GB , but the models with more RAM usually also come with faster processors, bigger screens, more storage, or a different OS. A 32-bit operating system, like most versions of Windows and Linux, can support up to 4GB of RAM. So we really ought to have at least 2GB, even on a mini-notebook. I’ll bet anything that vendors could afford to sell every mini-notebook with 2GB if they added a handful of dollars to the cost or removed a USB port here or a useless fax modem there. Maybe the extra RAM could come in lieu of the goofy spandex slips packaged with most of these lilliputian laptops. Users are going to continue to upgrade their own RAM and risk losing warranty protection and vendors are going to continue to alienate potential customers by voiding their warranties until they offer a lot more RAM standard or drop their upgrade-unfriendly policies.

Avram Piltch
Avram Piltch
The official Geeks Geek, as his weekly column is titled, Avram Piltch has guided the editorial and production of since 2007. With his technical knowledge and passion for testing, Avram programmed several of LAPTOP's real-world benchmarks, including the LAPTOP Battery Test. He holds a master’s degree in English from NYU.
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