Rodney Gedda's piece of the Web

Buyer beware: Virtualization technology


When is it a mistake to have a reasonable assumption about a technology? When it comes to desktop virtualization it seems you can’t be vigilant enough to avoid absurd anti-features.

So I need to upgrade my Acer notebook to a later model with comparable features to the one I have. If my main one gets fried then I will have a backup to continue working with minimal disruption.

The model with almost exactly the same hardware features for the price was the Aspire E15. It’s got everything I need and the main difference was the AMD CPU instead of an Intel. That’s where the two couldn’t be more apart.

Some 35 days after purchase I finally got around to setting up my virtual machines only to discover the system doesn’t support it. Okay, I’ll just boot into the BIOS and enable it from there. Of course, not only has virtualisation been DISABLED in the BIOS, but there is no way to ENABLE it! WTF?

So I head back to the store I bought it from and they can’t help me even though I purchased extended warranty. The additional warranty I purchased allows you to replace the item if it doesn’t satisfy a “reasonable assumption” within 30 days. Great.

This is not a reasonable assumption or a change of mind claim. It’s an expected feature that is unreasonable to have it not available to you in 2017.

So jump on the phone to Acer and after many conversations with the friendly technical support staff, we arrive at the conclusion that virtualisation is not supported on AMD notebooks. (Another WTF is why does AMD allow its OEMs to disable virtualisation technology? It’s simple fact that if you want virtualisation in an Acer you have to buy an Intel one. I thought they were trying to compete with Intel, not help it).

I think this is a strong case for more consumer protection. From my point of view:

  • It’s not clearly labelled Acer’s AMD notebooks have virtualization DISABLED in the BIOS and it cannot be enabled.
  • The technology has been around for about 15 years. It’s not something new or “premium”.
  • No option (e.g. BIOS upgrade) to enable it is offered. Incidentally, a family member’s six-year-old HP AMD all-in-one provides the option to enable virtualization in the BIOS. A sensible default indeed.
  • The Acer I have (Intel) supports the technology so I had no reason to think another (more recent) Acer model wouldn’t.

So why is this an anti-feature? Possibly because:

  • Without knowing for certain, it might cost more to disable virtualisation in the BIOS than leave it alone (or at least provide an option).
  • Now some of the staff in some of Acer’s retail channel know about this and won’t be able to recommend the product if the customer needs the feature.
  • A lot of phone support time was wasted.
  • Blogs like this tell buyers to beware.

It is a shame because I had great relationship with Acer for many years when I was a journo. I have two Acer notebooks (one useless) and an Acer 20-inch LED monitor so I’ve always had a positive experience with its products.

It remains to be seen whether I would buy anything Acer again. Incidents like this certainly don’t help brand loyalty. I’ll most likely sell this one and get another that doesn’t have the technology I need removed…

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