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Tech Support Showdown 2010

Your notebook is only as good as the help you receive when something goes wrong.


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MSI

MSIĀ Tech Support Results
Hold Time Minimum<1 minute
Hold Time Maximum<1
Average Call Length>5
Phone Grade 2010B+
Web Grade 2010F
Overall Grade 2010C
Overall Grade 2009*C-
Overall Grade 2008N/A

888-447-6564 (Mon--Fri, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. EST)
us.msi.com/support/TechSupport.asp

MSI's support site has barely changed since we evaluated it earlier this year: it still desperately needs a copy editor, and the few FAQs listed all address catastrophes, such as a laptop's failure to power on. While MSI lets you search the FAQ section of the technical support site using keywords, you have to select a category--such as Laptop or General--from a drop-down menu. The closest we got to answering one of our three questions was finding the FAQ, "How do I maintain my battery?" Even then, we were more interested in learning how to maximize our battery life. However, the main technical support page now has attractive icons denoting each category of tech support; previously, they appeared as an unwieldy list.

Annoyingly, MSI still requires customers to create an account and then register their laptops before calling the phone support line. Worse, signing up requires handing over your mailing address and, by default, MSI will thereafter send promotional e-mails unless you opt out. To register, you'll need your laptop's model, part, and serial numbers, and even the date you purchased it (yikes!).

In our first call, we sat through about 1 minute and 15 seconds of introductory greetings and then waited on hold for just 15 seconds before David in California picked up. When we asked how to make our notebook boot up faster, he quickly and clearly showed us how to remove unnecessary startup items by typing msconfig into the Windows 7 search bar. Including the recorded greetings, we were on the phone for 4 minutes and 15 seconds before restarting our computer to make the removal of superfluous startup programs take effect.

During our second call, placed around 8 p.m. (EST), we again spoke to David, who picked up after 28 seconds. This time the same David didn't know what we were talking about when we said we had heard a new Windows 7 feature could let us wirelessly share files with other PCs in the house (that would be HomeGroup). Finally, he had us share our D (data) drive, which involved going into advanced settings. Throughout the call, David asked us to explain what we saw on-screen instead of beginning his sentences with, "Now you should see this box," etc. This call lasted 9 minutes and 48 seconds (including the long introductory greeting), and the MSI rep didn't once mention HomeGroup, much less help us set it up.

Our third and final call, placed just before 2 p.m., lasted 3 minutes 23 seconds, including the introductory message. John in California picked up after just 12 seconds and proceeded to answer our question without asking for a serial number or even our name. When we asked how we could maximize our Wind U115 netbook's battery life, he gave some helpful advice, including activating the screensaver sooner and avoiding online video. But he failed to mention that we could choose a power-saving profile in Control Panel. John also recommended we avoid watching DVDs, an irrelevant tip given that the U115, as with all 10-inch netbooks, lacks an optical drive.

MSI deserves credit for offering fast, friendly phone support with a staff who's willing to ignore that a notebook hasn't been registered. We're also glad that MSI doesn't require customers to pay extra for support on issues that don't involve the notebook breaking. While affable, however, the representatives we spoke with didn't seem completely prepared to answer our questions. Good intentions aside, MSI could stand to polish its tech support by keeping the lines open 24/7, better training its reps on the latest OS release, and rewriting its website to make it easier to understand. Amid an increasing number of companies that insist on charging extra for advice on non-disasters, however, MSI's willingness to tackle problems large and small redeems it somewhat.

* 2009 testing was performed in January 2010

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