Replacement Macbook Pro Good (for now?)

My replacement refurb Macbook Pro was shipped to me by Apple and arrived at my doorstep on July 29th. For those new to the story, this replaced a previous refurbed Macbook Pro (2008 model, 2.5Ghz, 512mb VRAM) that was purchased at the Apple Store online. I had this laptop for about two weeks before the video started to go to crap just about every time I was running on battery. The video problems I described following my first of three visits to local Apple Genius Bar and then further after the 2nd and 3rd visits and the follow-up call with Apple.

Although, I’ve had this system for about a week and a half I’ve really only tested it out for about four days of that. The wireless Airport card didn’t fully function and only allowed periodic and very slow wireless connections. I took it to get fixed under warranty at a local certified Apple repair vendor (the two nearby Apple Store Genius Bars were all booked up) but this was a slow process. I probably could’ve (and maybe should’ve) just insisted Apple send me another laptop as this one clearly failed out of the box, but as the video seemed to work I thought it better not to press my luck.

However, I was disturbed with how long it took to get resolution of the wireless problem both on the phone and at the repair place. Apple makes some decent tools (like Network Utility) for troubleshooting this stuff and there are a lot of other third party tools that will let you analyze your wireless signal strength. But I was never asked to try any of these. Even though I made it clear that my other wireless clients were working fine, both sets of people I talked to wanted to blame it on the router (an Apple Time Capsule) or some sort of interference. A quick look at the output from Ping while on wireless about 5ft from the router would’ve showed that there was a problem, especially when compared to an example from a working system in the same location.

— 10.0.1.1 ping statistics —
20 packets transmitted, 7 packets received, 65% packet loss
round-trip min/avg/max/stddev = 3.582/435.349/2004.191/727.535 ms

The 65% packet loss and 2000 millisecond return trips would’ve been a big indicator that there was an issue with my particular system, especially as my wife’s crappy and ancient Toshiba had no packet loss and less than 2ms replies from the same spot. Of course, I only thought of this after I’d already spent an hour and a half on the phone with Apple and then taken 3 trips to the repair place. In the end they replaced the Airport card and behold the problem was fixed.

So now I am a happy yet somewhat apprehensive Macbook Pro user. The video updating issues I had seen with Webkit and list views have not reared their ugly head again so far. Scrolling in iTunes no longer looks like this (thankfully). But, though I am hopeful, I know that my problems took a couple of weeks of usage before they surfaced…

I also know that there are still lots of other users plagued with these problems. More information is continuing to come out about the NVIDIA chipset flaw that may or may not be related. For a good recent example see APC’s recent (August 1st) post NVIDIA DISASTER: thousands of GPUs faulty (to which NVIDIA responded) and also check out the post at Macrumours in their page 2 discussions and all the comments.

There is also increasing traffic at the Apple support forums for the Macbook Pro display. Some of these seem to be started by people not seeing any errors but just freaking out over the NVIDIA news, but many others are from people with real problems. The failure modes being reported are not uniform in all of the complaints but many are similar to what I have seen. And many have not been able to get any resolution so far (see the comments on my 3rd post for a couple of examples).

So now we wait. I wait to see if the display glitches come back (and I begin cursing my favorite computer maker again). Many others are still waiting for a fix to the problems with their Macbook Pro. And all of us will undoubtedly wait (and wait, and wait) to see if Apple (and maybe NVIDIA) will actually give us some in-depth information about what they plan to do about all this…

If there’s any lesson to be taken away from my experiences, it’s that buying a refurbished Macbook Pro is a bad bet right now. I gotta wonder a bit whether it’s ever a good bet with any of the Apple refurbs given my failed wireless card. I’m willing to cut them some slack on that, and if it had just been the wireless card I doubt I’d be all that concerned about them. But the display problems are another issue. Of course, these seem to be an issue with the brand new non-refurbished models as well, but I have to suspect that there may be more of these that were not fully diagnosed and fixed in their refurb stock. If Apple still has it’s head in the sand regarding this problem (and there’s no external evidence that they don’t), some of these refurbs might be returns like mine that have not been properly diagnosed with the display issues and thus not really repaired and proven free of them.

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