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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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Acer

Acer Tech Support Results
Hold Time Minimum<1 minute
Hold Time Maximum2 minutes
Average Call Length10 minutes
Phone Grade 2010D
Web Grade 2010C-
Overall Grade 2010D+
Overall Grade 2009C-
Overall Grade 2008B+

800-571-2237
support.acer.com

In the past year, Acer claims their customer service reps have received better training, and that the company's laptop repair process has been better developed. They also maintain to have "made significant investments in IT systems, which include more in-depth call monitoring and sophisticated data analysis," but these improvements are beyond the scope of our testing for this story. One thing they make no claims on improving is their web support, which hasn't changed much since we last evaluated it. Though you can easily procure user guides for your system, the issues addressed in the FAQ sections are often obscure, and many are in French or Spanish (odd considering we were on the U.S. version of Acer's site). And, while there exists a dedicated section for upgrading your system to Windows 7, little else is available in the way of support for Microsoft's latest OS.

During our first live web chat with Acer, we were connected with Aadil within 5 seconds. After he helped us register our system, we asked him how to reduce the boot time of our Ferrari One 200; he e-mailed us a Gateway support site link (Acer owns Gateway) that contained general suggestions for speeding up your Vista system, but not the boot time. He didn't even ask us to check our Startup folder for programs that could be bogging the machine down. After this 23-minute chat, we were no closer to getting into Windows faster.

We then sent in an e-mail query through Acer's dedicated Aspire One subsite in regard to our file sharing issue, and received a response from Noby 2.5 hours later; because our Ferrari One is not a netbook, he explained, we would have to resubmit our query through the notebook side of Acer's support site. (This is more than a little confusing--various areas of Acer's site treat the Ferrari as a netbook, though this is clearly not the universal consensus of the company's support team.) Why couldn't this rep just forward our query for us?

Anyway, we complied, and received another e-mail an hour later telling us that we'd have to speak to an Answers by Acer technician, which costs $59.99 for 30 minutes (packages go as high as $199), to resolve the issue. This is a hefty premium for getting someone to tell us how Windows 7's HomeGroup works, but Acer is hardly alone in charging customers for software-related issues.

For our last question on power management, we prepared to send off another e-mail query. However, before your final submission, Acer includes potentially helpful links based on a query's keywords. In our case, one of these links included brief directions to Windows 7's power options, where we could "change the length of time before any component is shut down." This is more or less the information we were looking for, and it saved us the trouble of going through with a full e-mail query.

Whereas during our last Tech Support Showdown Acer's phone support frustrated us with a 2-minute voicemail interrogation followed by an extended warranty sales pitch, our initial Wednesday afternoon call put us straight through to Naveen in India with absolutely no holding. When we asked him how to shorten our boot time, he said our only recourse was to back up the system and restore the computer to factory settings. If we wished to complete the backup and call back, he said, someone could then walk us through this process. When we asked Naveen to help us back up our system, he said he'd have to transfer us to an Answers by Acer technician.

Our second call, placed at 9:53 p.m. on Thursday, went directly through to Ranjita (also in India) after we confirmed our Ferrari One's SNID number. When we asked her if she could help us share files across multiple computers on our home network, she curtly informed us that our one-year limited warranty did not cover that kind of support, since it was "not related to the system's hardware"; again, we'd have to pony up to an Answers by Acer package to get any kind of Windows 7 help.

During our third call, Ragu from India greeted us pleasantly and quickly navigated us to the power options from the Control Panel in Windows 7, where he said such tweaks as modifying the time to go into standby mode or shut off the display could increase our system's battery life. He mistakenly told us that our Ferrari One included Acer's ePower Management software, and that there should be a dedicated button for it on our keyboard. When we searched for the button to no avail, he put us on hold for 2 minutes to look up more information and correct his mistake. Before hanging up, Ragu also gave us a few helpful hints to maximize our battery's lifespan, such as avoiding laptop use in hot environments and fully draining the battery as often as possible.

Overall, Acer's support is prompt but not as helpful as we'd like.

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