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Macbook Air Fan issues...

by fbbbb / June 3, 2008 5:28 PM PDT

... and others. I ask because this machine (1.8 SSD) has been back to the 'shop' twice for the same problems now and they claim it is 'normal'. I'd like to know if people have similar problems and how, or if, you had them addressed.

1. Backlight does not turn on in near darkness.
The backlight comes on in dusk, indoors, etc - all low-light situations where you can actually still see the keyboard without a backlight. Open it in the back of a running car at night when you actually can't make out the keyboard for example... and no light, unless you fumble for F6. Because backlit keys when the backlight isn't on have lower lettering contrast (although on the Air it's not as bad as the Macbook Pro) this arrangement is actually slightly less useful than a non-backlit machine. I explained the exact problem since its a completely reproducible situation, and they proclaimed the backlight was working normally after they tested it. I am aware of Lab Tick, etc. However I want it to work as it should.

2. Battery charge while slept.
Full charge while the machine is plugged in and being used comes in about 4.5 hours - which for a laptop of this class and endurance is a little too long, but not a huge problem. But that's only when you're actually in front of it. On plugging it in while slept, it takes the better part of ten hours to recharge. Apple's last given technical reason for the charging time after the tech support tried various other excuses which I shot down, was that it "only comes with a 45W power supply". I asked them in that case to sell me a 45W+ PSU that works with the Air. Indeed they failed to produce one - and in any case if it charges faster when it's running should indicate it's not a matter of Watts. After this, the excuse became "it's just the way it is" with refernces to KB's that they could never actually produce for me. They might as well have stuck out their tongues at me and gone 'na-na, boo-boo'.

3. Fan noise & heat, or heat & fan noise
While doing nothing of consequence (solely non-media-rich web apps, etc) the machine stays quiet. However when running something only a little more demanding - Entourage, a Citrix session and Firefox for examle - the fan frequently spools up and stays there. It's not just that the fan is coming on, the heat is triggering the machine. When the fan is spinning at 6000rpm or whatever it is, it is the loudest notebook I have at any kind of load. The heat also seems to contribute to erratic running of the machine - in terms of freezes and momentary wireless outages.

For example, today my main notebook has been the Air. And what I've used is Terminal (mainly vi), Firefox, Entourage, Excel and Word 2008, Numbers + Keynote '08, Juniper SSL gateway client and the Citrix client, the Microsoft Beta 3 RDP client. I have not been running more than two of the heavyweight apps - i.e. the MS Office components or iWork components simultaneously. Ambient has been about 24C average and for most of the time it has been on top of a wooden desk - and the fan has been on max or high rpm's for about a quarter to a third of the time I've spent using the machine today, as well as exhibiting the freezing problems during the worst of the overheating. Once again, this behaviour is apparently 'normal'. Once again, I am aware of Coolbook and smcFanControl. I just want it to work as it should.

On any of my 1.33ULV SSD'd Vista notebooks for example the above sort of usage pattern makes the machines barely break a sweat, and in fact in most cases my ULV notebooks respond just as quickly to the above sort of usage as the 1.8 MBA. And while the Air is quieter than any of my Sony or Lenovo ultraportables when at idle, in actual use its seems to be more often than not noisier than any of them, and by a significant amount. Needing OS X I don't really have another choice but no other manufacturer's hardware has yo-yo'd between me and the Store/depot as often as Apple, while ironically no other manufacturer's hardware costs me as much in terms of support.

And although I've finally caved and ordered a spare Air to tide me through the downtime of a machine that needs looking at, I'm not sure one spare is enough. After two years of constant problems with the Macbook Pros there are things such as the dirt-poor build quality, heat issues and even keyboard backlight problems that I've just given up on and just rotate my spares to and from repair with a 'jeez, again...' sigh as and when the notebooks inevitably go wrong. The Air is new enough for it to cause me a lot of grief - and until take delivery of the spare it is the only one I have. And call me unreasonable, but I don't think I HAVE to buy two or more machines to get the sort of continuous use I consider normal with just one Lenovo, Sony or even Dell.

Have you had any of the problems above, if you did was the problem solved, and if so how did you gain the speediest resolution?


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You should get a windows laptop.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 12:26 AM PDT

I agree with the 45 Watt supply and what that means. You will NEVER be happy with this laptop so its time to start the process of asking them for a full refund since your issues will NEVER be resolved. It is what it is.

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OS X, portable...
by fbbbb / June 4, 2008 3:24 AM PDT

... leaves me with pretty little choice. I have a variety of Sony TZ's, UX's, Lenovo X300, an Ideapad U on the way, and even a Dell D430 gathering dust somewhere so I'm not exactly short of Windows ultraportables.

I don't need to be happy with the laptop. I just need to not be distracted by fundamental issues with the machine in daily use, as every other Windows ultraportable - some of which push current tech significantly more than the Apple does - I have manages to do. Some of them I might not be happy with either, but they actually work normally.

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How would you approach?
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 3:34 AM PDT
In reply to: OS X, portable...

Just looking at 2 out of 3 complaints I see nothing more than a deep education process would be needed to explain how it works. No where would any maker change the design to "fix" those items. So here's my question.

-> How would you deal with customers that don't understand the technology?


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All right, I'll bite.
by fbbbb / June 4, 2008 3:58 AM PDT

Please educate me on why I shouldn't be listing all three as defects.

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That's not what I asked.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 4:01 AM PDT
In reply to: All right, I'll bite.

I asked how should companies do this. Or if they should bother.

You have a fine example here of where a company and consumer can't come to an amicable end and should part ways.

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Reading the post once again,
by fbbbb / June 4, 2008 4:19 AM PDT

You are saying that from what you've read there is no fundamental defect, and that the customer needs to be educated as to why a notebook which for example is insufficiently cooled under fairly normal use enough for the CPU to go into essentially a self-preservation mode is not actually a design or manufacturing issue and needs no resolution from the manufacturer except for better education on the part of the customer.

In case we got our wires crossed, I'd like you to confirm what you meant by two out of three problems require the education of the buyer.

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I asked
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 4:23 AM PDT

What to do about the disconnect from company to consumer about issues like this. If you feel these issues must be resolved then take it up with them as a warranty issue until its resolved or you ask for your money back.

I know the battery thing too well but am not offering to explain it but to use this as a fine example of disconnects from product makers to consumers.

As you are the consumer why not get your money back since you feel its defective and they won't explain it or fix it?

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A few reasons.
by fbbbb / June 5, 2008 3:34 AM PDT
In reply to: I asked

a) It is the only all-day portable machine in the Apple lineup. I have no other choice.

b) I couldn't deal with a Crudbook (aka Macbook). I bought another Macbook recently in the hopes that it has improved since my completely disastrous experience with them back in '06, with a view to evaluating it as a possible candidate to replacing the Air. No dice. It's too heavy and just gets crazily hot in regular use. I acknowledge it's better presented than an XPS M1330 for example but it is such an inferior machine in so many other respects that it almost makes me angry while using it. At least the Crudbook Pro has some plus points, but it's even heavier and the 15-incher isn't viable for me as an all-day portable. I have enough of them lying around to know for sure.

c) I have asked for repair or replacement. They have looked at it and proclaimed it normal, when it clearly isn't.

Backpedalling aside, what you're effectively recommending to do is to resign myself to the fact that Apple deliver crap products, period. The fact that you recommend Apple hardware on a regular basis must mean you have some faith in their ability to deliver quality products.

Or is it just a case of superficial fanboyism?

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Sadly it's a disconnect.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 5, 2008 4:05 AM PDT
In reply to: A few reasons.

I'm noting the disconnect from designers of products, the company that makes stuff and how they explain how it all works to the consumer. I feel for you but I'm unsure if such a gap will ever be closed. You as the consumer have to vote with your wallet.

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Given your track record of Macbook problems
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 3:06 AM PDT

I am surprised that you continue to purchase them.
Just give up on them, it may help you to avoid an ulcer


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I run OS X apps
by fbbbb / June 4, 2008 3:56 AM PDT

...Which is the key factor here. And if OSX86 worked fully believe me I'd be jumping on it on Lenovo T/X, Sony SZ/TZ or Dell Latitude hardware of far more consistent quality. However it doesn't.

Besides that, is there anything wrong with expecting premium-priced Apple hardware to 'just work' (as all the fanboys go on ad nauseam) especially if you do a little more than Twitter in Starbucks all day?

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I guess that's a fair enough reason
by mrmacfixit Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 5:13 AM PDT
In reply to: I run OS X apps

and no, it is not expecting too much to ask for it to work and it does seem as though you and MBF have more than your fair share of problems with Apple stuff.

Not sure I understand the reference to Twitter in Starbucks all day though.


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Just for closure.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 4, 2008 4:31 AM PDT

"Microsoft Beta 3 RDP client."

That's dead. Any beta user deserves their own bottle of G.O.M. (see "God's Own Medicine".)

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Aren't we feeling sanctimonious today.
by fbbbb / June 5, 2008 3:17 AM PDT
In reply to: Just for closure.

I use the release client too at times, but that contributes to overheating issues even more thanks to the fact that it's non-UB.

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by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / June 5, 2008 3:33 AM PDT

There's a fine reason to go native.

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