Sony SZ1XP/C: battery problem resolved

In my review of this notebook, I mentioned that battery died rather quickly after being purchased, which was very unfortunate for me as my warranty was not valid in Serbia (Sony is not selling notebooks here).

At the end of January, I finally had a chance to go to UK, for four days. As soon as I got there, I called Sony support numbers and got online with CS guy who was a pleasure to talk to. After hearing reports that other companies are using off-shore CS, it was nice hearing a person speaking excellent english.

Initially, he told me that batteries are not covered under warranty and that the only thing I could do was to buy a new one. I said I’m fine with that (I read the warranty terms and knew this) but was worried that there was nothing actually wrong with the battery and that notebook itself was the problem. My concern was that if I buy new battery and it dies too, I’ll be £200 down for nothing, essentially for their fault.

The reason I thought this is that notebook was, with all possible updates installed, showing this:

Constantly charging…

I suspected that never-ending charge actually destroyed the battery. My wife’s old Dell did not have this shown, nor any other notebook I have seen:

Dell Latitude D505 display

The support guy acknowledged this and ask me to stay on hold while he checks that with supervisor. After a close to ten minutes, he came back and said: we are happy to offer you an exchange, as I was just told that there are suspected problems with batteries on entire SZ series. Thus we are doing an exchange on everyone having problems.

Quite a nice turnaround for me. :)

As at the time I was in north England, I asked them to send a replacement to London, to my company’s HQ. He said that due to the fact that batteries are ordered from Japan, they will arrive on Monday at best (it was Wednesday). Having no other option, I said fine, I will leave the old one in the office (they needed it to be sent back, probably to investigate what happened).

Nicest part of the surprise is that when I got back to London on Friday night, the DHL package from Sony was waiting for me. Even though it said on the box “do not deliver unless exchange package was given back” it was still left there. Inside, I found my brand new battery, and bunch of stickers for sending the old one back. I re-packaged everything and left it there - I assumed that DHL people will come back to pick it up.

In the end, all finished better than I expected - not only I got new battery, I got it ahead of my return flight on Saturday.

The problem with constant charge was still present though. Worried, I asked Sony (over online support) to explicitly confirm is it safe to keep the battery plugged in while computer is on AC power. They confirmed, but I was still suspicious, because they first asked me to install the latest BIOS from support page - R0083N0 (which I did months ago).

Thus I was pulling the battery out when working on AC power for longer periods. By accident, I saw a message in notebookreview.com forums (great resource for notebook owners) where a guy said that Vista-related BIOS update (R0092N0) fixed the problem.

And it really did:

Constantly charging…no more!

I’m puzzled why Sony does not put this BIOS update to SZ1XP/C with WindowsXP support page. It clearly fixes a previously reported problem.

Whatever the reason, I’m now very happy with the VAIO laptop: works fine, very quick and runs cool although fan runs most of the time…probably because I really put it to hard work, always having several big apps running at the same time. It’s not noisy though..

I would be sorry to part with it in summer - but I have decided to switch to Mac OS X and will be getting a MacBook Pro once Leopard is out. I’m certain that SZ1 will still be worth a good price then and will offset that new purchase quite a bit. The SZ1 is, hardware-wise, waaaay better than MacBook and there are no MBPs in this form factor…but such as life.