Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Saturday, May 20th, 2006
I can't believe it. Just 3 days after my YABHTU announcement, my Tablet PC is really dying. This disappointing news does not change my position on Tablet PCs - I still think it's an ideal computing platform. And, optimistically, I still think that the Tecra M4 is the ideal Tablet PC for my needs. (At least until I can get my hands on one of these.)

My next challenge: Getting Toshiba to repair my M4. Quickly.

20060520 - Toshiba Tecra M4 Dead Screen.jpg

I'm not as concerned that my Tablet PC is showing its last pixels as I am concerned with how difficult it could be to get it repaired. As you may recall, my last call to Toshiba tech support was not a happy one.
The outcome of this experience will influence whether or not I purchase another Toshiba product and whether I allow my clients to do the same. I hope that Toshiba comes through for me and for my clients.
The fact that many dissatisfied Toshiba customers have been sending me their Tecra M4/Toshiba support problems, is not encouraging. James Stewart, of Otaku software, even blogged about his Toshiba Repair experience, stating that he will never buy Toshiba again.

I'm not ready to go that far. I like the M4 and I think it is an excellent tablet. I love the large screen, built-in multi-drive, and the overall design.

20060520 - Toshiba Tecra M4 Dying Screen.jpg

I have many corporate clients, representing a great number of laptops. (No tablets yet). I understand that laptops fail from time to time, which is one of the reasons that I often specify IBM/Levono to my clients for all mobile computing purchases - their support is typically excellent. My clients can often get a broken laptop turned around in 2-3 days time. For some of my clients, like David Allen, we keep a hot spare - an identical laptop - on a shelf, ready to deploy, if needed, at a moment's notice. I had planned to purchase a second M4 for myself for that purpose, however, I changed my mind after my first encounter with Toshiba support.

The screen is just the latest in a series of problems that I've encountered with my M4. My screen actually started exhibiting serious problems about a month ago, but I was unable to give up my tablet. The colors started changing. Everything that should be black was now red. Because I had become so reliant upon this computer, I continued to use my tablet anyway.

My first problems with the Toshiba Tecra M4 Tablet PC (UFO on my M4 Tablet PC ) appeared within 2 weeks of my purchase. Like many, had problems with a squealing power supply, but that noise was quickly drowned out by my Toshiba Tecra M4 Fan Noise. Then, I had a problem with the SD memory card slot - it doesn't work. Some of you will remember my frustrating experience, trying to get Toshiba to give me a product install disk. You may be wondering why, if I had all of these problems, I did not simply ditch the Tecra M4 and succumb to Michael Sampson's Get Mack a Mac campaign. Michael, by the way, bought a Tecra M4 shortly after I did. No idea if he's YABHTU, yet. (Michael?)

For the record: here are my Tecra M4 problems, in order of appearance:

1.        Large specs of dust under the screen
2.        Excessive fan noise and grinding
3.        SD Card slot malfunction
4.        Screen power inverter high pitch squeal, only when on AC power
5.        Video card problem: stripes on screen, everything black is now red

I want my M4 repaired and I want it done quickly. If Toshiba comes through, within 5 working days of problem report, I will not hestitate to recommend Toshiba products to my clients.

I'll have to wait until next week to start this process. I will certainly share the experience with my clients.

Perhaps I should blog the experience, here, too?

Discussion/Comments (18):

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Absolutley blog it, Eric. Keep us posted.

Posted at 05/20/2006 8:13:56 by Warner Crocker

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Eric, I had an issue where I shut down the tablet (M4), packed up, went home and open it and it would not turn on, couple of lights for a second then nothing.

I called Toshiba that night and they gave me the address of a local repair shop (it was about 15 min from the house) I brought it in the next day and they had it back to me within 2 days. No shipping, no packaging, no bill from the repair shop, no hassel at all. If there is a local repair place near you I highly recommend it.

Posted at 05/20/2006 11:16:40 by Paolo

I can also recommend HP

Hello,on the subject of reliable laptops, I can thoroughly recommend HP: the one I'm writing this comment on survived a very bad train crash three years ago and still works fine. I was working on it quietly when the crash happenned and the laptop was sent flying down to the other end of the carriage in the darkness and disaster. When I picked it up later on, it had a blank screen but when I got home I discovered that it was just because the battery had run out.

Posted at 05/21/2006 3:11:03 by Matthew Bennett

Second the Take the Tecra M4 to your local repair shop.

I recently had a problem with my year-old M4. I called support, and after going through a bunch of needless troubleshooting steps, Toshiba receommended I bring it to the local repair shop. I emailed the local repair shop, and they were able to fix my problem over email. (Based on my experience, don't turn on Fast Standby unless you plan on keeping your M4 plugged in all the time - fix remove battery plug m4 change bios setting back to normal standby.)

Posted at 05/21/2006 8:58:32 by scott

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

I have the Toshiba M200. I was having the problem with a fan that was too noisy to use the machine in a meeting setting. I had dust under the screen, enough that it was affecting the responsiveness of the digitizer and I wanted the internal bluetooth option installed. After reading horror stories of Toshiba support, I opted for a local repair shop (I live in Houston). Turn around was 6 business days because some of the parts were on back order. After the parts arrived I had my machine back the next business day. I had decided that having the option of walking in a door and being able to yell at someone in person was something I wanted.

After all of that, in the (snail) mail today is a thank you from the service company, thanking me for my business. What a nice change.

Posted at 05/21/2006 17:17:21 by Jenny

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Sorry to say that although I am very happy with my HP TC 4200, my experience with HP repair was awful.

I sent my Machine in for repair, and it took them a solid month to return it to me. I tried to follow it up with them, and got caught in their incredible bureaucracy. The best answers I could get came from a call center in Costa Rica, which wasn't even owned by HP.

I was never able to escalate it enough to reach an actual employee of HP, which I found infuriating! I have sworn that I will never buy another HP computer, but I don't know what I'll do because Toshiba sounds as bad if not worse.

Posted at 05/22/2006 10:12:08 by Andrew Oliner

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

I experienced the exact same problem--the M4 had strange stripes on the screen. I had to reformat to verify it was a problem with the hardware, and then sent it in.

I had horizontal bars, just like in your picture, plus garbage on the boot screen. When I sent it in, they replaced all sorts of things...but it's back and working well now.

I got it back within 10 business days at least; I don't remember exactly how long it took. For the most part, it was fairly quick, it seemed.

Posted at 05/23/2006 23:35:14 by Marcus C.

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

This happened to me last week and there was no explanation for how it happened. A tech at the help desk took one look at it and diagnosed it as the main system board - apparently this is a frequent M4 problem. He had to order a board (2-days) and then he replaced it. Sound like it should be pretty straight-forward, except that a repair shop or experienced person should do it - he said it was one of the more complicated laptops to replace the system board in...

Posted at 05/26/2006 9:15:55 by Owen A.

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Well it's June 1 - can you give us an update on the process and what is happening so far?

Posted at 06/01/2006 6:46:23 by Mark

Latest Update


I've been dragging my feet - out with clients and otherwise discouraged by the Toshiba feedback on my blog.

This weekend, I migrated my data and applications from my M4 to a new IBM ThinkPad T42. As it happens, I needed to set up the T42 for an upcoming client project, so the timing worked well.

This week, I'll call Toshiba and begin my adventure.


Posted at 06/04/2006 16:01:23 by Eric Mack

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

I am on my 3rd attempt to send my notebook to have nearly the exact same problem fixed. However instead of black, anything white is now a soup of pink and green distortions and text is completely unreadable.

I have sent it in twice so far to get the problem fixed. Twice it has come back _worse_ than it was before. The hilarious thing is the repair form says they recognize "bad internal video" yet their action was to replace the LCD on the 2nd round. The first round they claimed they replaced the motherboard, fans, and LCD but suspiciously that didn't do anything and the notebook that came back had the same problem.

I am in the process of sending it back to them a 3rd time, but this time I am filing a report with the attorney general and BBB and have thus told Toshiba that I am not going to accept them basically refusing to fix the problem. So far they have just made it worse, as originally I sent it in because it was overheating and did not have the graphical problem yet, just massive rebooting and refusing to turn on because the notebook had gotten so hot.

I loved the M4 while it worked, but now it is just a nightmare trying to get a working machine... and it just turned 1 year old on May 27th. I never had a notebook die so horribly... in fact, I never had a notebook die on me before, and still have a Fujitsu (which is what I am stuck on) from 2000 that runs admirably except for having a dead battery.

Posted at 06/06/2006 22:09:08 by Sean McNulty

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Buy the new Fujitsu 4210 convertible. Best tablet and customer suppor

Posted at 06/07/2006 13:56:00 by Ken lui

Disturbingly familiar

I had my Tecra M4 for about a week or two before I had junk trapped under the screen protector. Not wanting to void my warranty, I dealt with it. Little did I realize that five months later I'd have more serious problems.

{ Link }

I too am stricken with this display problem. My screen was intermittently green everywhere it was supposed to be black. I called it in to support and they referred me to a local ASP. The following week I took time off from work to drop it off at their location. The original estimate was about two weeks. After making sure it wasn’t just a loose cable, they claimed to replace the screen (and yet the protector is somehow still dirty). After that didn't work, they ordered an entirely new cover assembly, which was on backorder with no ETA. Weekly calls for updates did nothing but make them increasingly defensive, as they insisted Toshiba must be having problems getting it through customs. When it finally did get an ETA, the date came and went. I called to ask about it twice that week before they told me the deadline had been pushed back another two weeks.

After seven weeks of that BS, I asked them to return my property to me and to call me when the part came in. I took off more time from work to pick it up…six weeks ago. I signed off on the “work” they had done, but not on the ticket as a whole, which they said they’d keep open. I've all but given up hounding them over the phone, as that hasn't accomplished beyond increasing stress levels. Honestly, I’d have called Toshiba and shipped it off to them weeks ago if I hadn’t read so many horror stories about them keeping machines for months at a time. That being said, I should have at least called Toshiba support and given them an update long ago. As for the ASP, they’ve never called me through the entire course of our transaction. I even verified they had the correct contact information for me.

To add insult to injury, before I dropped it off it "just" had a graphical glitch. Now it regularly locks up, making it so unreliable that I've found better use for it as a $2000 paperweight.

I need to finish writing a letter to Toshiba...

Posted at 06/14/2006 16:05:23 by James Lupiani

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

James, that screenshot you linked...

Is exactly what I have (had? I'm getting it back friday from Toshiba... again) except mostly pink with some green.

I haven't seen the horror story of them holding it for weeks. They hold it for exactly one week each time I sent it in, 3 times total. I don't know if they will fix it this time, but they replaced all the internals yet again (new motherboard! new lcd!), or at least the website says so.

I'm not very confident given that the first two attempts they had on repairing the notebook just made things worse than they were before.

Posted at 06/14/2006 22:40:29 by Sean

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Did you have any luck with the repair depot this time, Sean?

Posted at 06/21/2006 7:09:25 by James

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

I received my notebook.

The display problem was fixed, but now a USB port (the rear one) is busted and on the repair report they said the unit did not have bluetooth (it did) and so it also now does not have bluetooth. There also appears to be dead pixels, although I haven't had time to figure out if it is dust under the screen protector or not yet.

I have tried to talk to Toshiba, but get put on hold. The last time I called them I was on hold for 74 minutes to talk to a tier 3 tech that the customer relation person insisted I talk to before they do anything else, then I got disconnected. I was promised a callback if disconnected, but no such thing has happened yet.

Posted at 06/21/2006 17:04:58 by Sean

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

I had the same green lines screen problem and dirt under the screen too. Took 10 days at a local shop to repair it under warranty. The tech listed it as a Motherboard Replacement. I then noticed a couple days into using it after the initial shop visit that the rear USB no longer works. Sounds like we are all experiencing the same problems. I hope it doesn't crap out right after the warranty expires.

Posted at 08/27/2006 0:02:04 by Dave

Oh No! Now I’m an Unhappy Tablet User!

Oh I also get a annoying freeze up with high fan noise when I download images from my Canon Powershot A80 digital camera. I also have 2 cracks on the screen plastics near the corners of the rectangle opening around the hinge area next to the two square tabs.

Posted at 08/27/2006 0:04:18 by Dave