Sunday, July 22, 2012

Intel WiFi Link Network Cards and HP Laptops

$10 part number
The wireless network card on my three year old HP laptop has recently been malfunctioning.  It was disconnecting by itself and not reconnecting without a reboot.    Naturally, this was occurring at convenient times like when I was doing client presentations.    Since the laptop didn't have any other real problems, it would be a shame to replace it for this issue.

And by "shame" I mean it would cost me $2,950 (after tax) for a brand new Apple Macbook Pro, not that I've been visiting the Apple Store to drool on them.

The device driver was up to date so I suspected the card simply had a loose or ever slightly corroded connection.   I pulled the card out, looked for physical signs of a problem (didn't see any), and reinstalled the card.  

So far, so good.

The card was easy to remove.   It's accessed by removing the speaker cover on the bottom of the laptop (one screw).    The antenna connections can be removed by gently pulling on the plugs with small pliers and two small screws secure the card in place.  Total time to pull the card - about 5 minutes.

Here's the curious thing.   Some bright young MBA at HP decided to label components that are likely to need replacement with HP part numbers.   The idea was probably to make it easy for HP repair monkeys ("technicians") to confirm that replacement parts match.  Too bad it doesn't make it easier for consumers to order the part.  

You'd think that searching HP's website by the HP part number would lead you to a simple way to purchase the part.   But that's not how it goes.   HP's website says that HP no longer carries the part but links to a list of resellers.   The list starts with Canadian companies and US companies are further down (why?).

The first US based HP reseller linked from the HP website didn't have a searchable website, so I gave up and easily found it on eBay and various other places for $15 to $18 (plus shipping).    I ripped off the haphazardly attached  HP label and searched eBay by the Intel part number where I found used network cards for as little as $3 (plus shipping) and brand new ones for $8 (free shipping).

Here's a few things that HP clearly doesn't understand.

1. Consumers develop relationships with products that extend onto the web.    An HP website that is 99% focused on selling new laptops and buries parts and service with crappy menus and poor search tools is deeply frustrating.   The relationship isn't positive here, it's negative.    Are you listening HP?   Fix your damn website.    

2.   If you're going to cover up the manufacturer label with your own part number, at least align the label and put it right side up.   And cross reference it with the OEM part number.

3.   Don't put links on your website to resellers who without online capabilities to search and purchase parts.  Our time is value and we aren't going to call a reseller, spend 20 minutes on the phone talking when we can spend 2 minutes searching the web.

Laptop:  HP HDX X18T-1200 CTO Premium
Wifi Card:  Intel WiFi link 5100 512AN_MMW
HP Part:  480985-001

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