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Well, That’s a Little Disturbing

June 6th, 2005

If you’ve read this blog for a while, then you know that I got a Toshiba TiVo-like box late last year, one that not only records shows digitally, but then archives them on DVDs.

But in April, the DVD burner started producing multiple disk errors, just as the hard drive filled up. I got it repaired–but now, only a month and a half later, the drive sputtered out once more, again producing disk errors. So I called up, and again, they sent a techie out to replace the DVD drive.

Now, just the fact that the DVD burner craps out twice, once after four months and again after one and a half months, is bad enough. But then the tech guy doing the replacement was kind enough to be honest with me: the drives, he said, are built to last only for about 600 burns. Prior models, he said, could last for 1000, but this one does about 600. And he was giving me a refurbished unit–no way of telling how far along the odometer was. And I burn a lot of DVDs. I could easily run through 600 in less than two years. So that’s the lifetime on the unit I bought?

Of course, I could always have the DVD unit swapped out, like I’m having now under warranty. But that costs about $300, adding 50% to the cost of each DVD I burn, from $1 a pop to a buck fifty. In addition to the original cost of the machine, which was over $1000.

Not exactly what I thought I was getting, and I’m none too happy about it. Is this considered the norm for DVD burners?

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  1. YouKnowWho
    June 6th, 2005 at 11:29 | #1

    Specifically what broke?

    A common issue is dust obscuring the led light source, or the light detector. Sometimes cleaning it w/ a paper towel & windex can help.

    Other than that, the only thing that is apt to wear over time is the motor, gears and belts (if there are any), yet not much force is being applied, and it therefore should last for a while; yet I don’t know what it is rated at.

    I suspect the product is BUGGY due to shipping before the engineers had time to do a good job on the design.

  2. Luis
    June 6th, 2005 at 11:32 | #2

    The guy claimed it had to do with the lifetime of the lens, but my understanding of his Japanese was not 100%.

  3. June 6th, 2005 at 14:51 | #3

    When we first got our dishnet box, the HD broke down 4 times in two years. I hypothsised that perhaps because of our wierd demographics (rural techies, urban refugees) they may have wanted to know what we were watching. Since we weren’t playing the game of connect the phone and pay for movies, the only way to find out was to send a self destruct message to the machine.

    The final incarnation has been working just fine now for 3 years with no hassles. I guess finding out we watch the NASA channel and other science a lot bored their marketing people to tears.

    I can’t imagine a DVD wearing out, unless a plastic polymer lens with a low melting point was used, or piss poor mechanical rotating parts. Seems a little nutzy to me.


  4. Luis
    June 6th, 2005 at 17:35 | #4

    Thanks for the info, Douglas. It makes me feel a bit better, though I’m still not thrilled about the breakdowns. The Toshiba guy said that the warranty is not officially extended beyond the first year if there are faulty parts, but still he gave me the impression that significantly recurring problems might be cared for gratis beyond the warranty period.

    Ah well. Technology and businesses. What a combination, eh?

  5. Shari
    June 7th, 2005 at 11:09 | #5

    A former employee at our company (who is pretty technically-savvy – used to work for IBM and was a software developer for us) told us that all optical drives will get wonky lenses after a certain number of uses. He told us this in reference to an MO drive we were having problems with but the principal is the same for CD and DVD burners.

    The only difference between older technology and newer technology seems to be that the newer stuff is built to fail after fewer burns/writes (possibly because the companies expect an average amount of use and that the user will buy new equipment before hardware failure). Since you’re a much heavier user than most, your use may tax the system more than anticipated.

    I’m sorry for your frustration but I’m not even sure that a different model would have offered you a better experience. “They don’t make ’em like they used to” seems a more apt saying than ever in an era of planned obsolescence and advanced demographic studies that will help target ‘average’ use numbers.

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