View more on these topics

Sony and yet so far

Not so long ago, anyone who suggested you buy a new PC from Sony would have got a very curious look from most people. Over the last couple of years, however, the people who gave the world the Walkman have moved increasingly into the mainstream of digital and communications technology.

They have recently added some very stylish desktop PCs to the existing range of Vaio notebooks. This is in addition to mobile phones, digital cameras and the Clie handheld PC.

I am a big fan of Sony&#39s products and am now on my third laptop in 18 months. I have a Sony mobile and my office has just acquired a Sony digital camera which enables us to insert photographs and brief video clips easily into electronic documents.

This can be achieved either by a direct cable connection between the camera and a laptop or simply by taking out the memory stick on which the camera saves the pictures and inserting it into a dedicated slot in my Sony Vaio laptop.

The memory stick can be used with an increasing range of Sony&#39s digital equipment, including MP3 players and even its latest mobile phones. The sticks are basically tiny hard drives which measure only a few centimetres and range in storage capacity from 8Mb to 128Mb. If anything, I feel they are almost too small. With the biggest capacity stick costing £164 but weighing only 4g, I have a certain fear of losing such a tiny device.

For those who have not bought a Sony PC, the company has created a memory stick holder in the shape of a standard 3.5in floppy disk or a PCMCIA card into which you can slip your memory stick to communicate with other computers. The former does have some limitation as to which computers it can work with but the latter has the necessary drivers installed.

In many ways, used in this format, the memory stick becomes similar to the Iomega pocket Zip drive I reviewed a couple of months ago. On the positive side, it does appear less delicate than the Iomega drive.

Generally, Sony products look beautiful, frequently attracting admiring glances and compliments. More important, they tend to be well built with a range of innovative features. My Vaio PCG-Z600HEK laptop is without doubt the best I have used in terms of its practicality. It is very lightweight, small – but not so small that the keyboard size becomes restrictive – with an extended-life battery which works for more than five hours without mains power.

So far, I have had no serious problems with it. This is just as well for, while Sony may design and manufacture magnificent equipment, in my experience its technical support leaves a great deal to be desired. Poor technical support is endemic within the computer hardware industry. Some of my experiences with Gateway have been unbelievable and my experiences with Dell over the last year or so have led me to believe its interest in providing any kind of service ends the minute it gets your credit card details.

The full extent of Sony&#39s failings when it comes to customer support came home to me when I was contacted by Mike Cahill of IFA Warren Financial Management. He had a broken hinge on his Vaio laptop but, while his local technical support had offered to obtain and fit the part – a job that would have taken a matter of minutes – Sony would not agree to this and insisted the machine be returned via its own courier at a cost of £92 including the repair.

I am told it took Sony 19 days to send the courier. The laptop was finally collected on July 9 and delivered and signed for at the Sony repair facility in France less than 24 hours later.

Originally, Cahill says he was told the repair should take five or six working days. Sony&#39s system allows users to track the repair over the web. When Cahill contacted me on July 31, he told me his laptop was in diagnostics. Apparently, after 16 days, Sony was still trying to work out what was wrong with a computer with a broken hinge.

Cahill told me he had sent 19 emails and received seven responses, all saying Sony would look into the problem and get back to him. This was in addition to many phone calls and faxes to customer services.

I contacted Sony&#39s PR department on August 1 saying a Money Marketing reader had contacted me. Suddenly, things started to happen. By August 8, Sony had left a message saying it had dispatched the repaired machine. Unfortunately, when Cahill returned from holiday on August 14, the machine had not in fact arrived. Cahill had to track it down himself to the courier&#39s location at Heathrow airport. It had not apparently been able to deliver it previously due to Sony having given an inadequate address.

Finally, after nearly two months, Cahill has his equipment back. Sony is apologetic and is not charging for the repair, which I feel is the least it can do. Cahill is particularly annoyed at Sony&#39s failure to deal with the matter in the time specified. Normally, his PC operates as part of a local area network. Given to believe he would be without a PC for just a few days, he was working on a stand-alone PC.

He says: “This has been a major inconvenience. I have had to back up all my data separately on a day-to-day basis and it has taken half a day to restore this. If Sony had told me it was going to take this long,I would have had the stand-alone PC added to my network.”

While I continue to be a great fan of the quality and design of Sony equipment, anyone considering buying one of its products should be aware of what they might have to put up with if things go wrong.


GMAC enters buy to let with two fixed loans

GMAC Residential Funding is offering two flexible fixed-rate buy-to-let mortgages as part of its aim to offer loans across all market sectors. The mortgages are fixed until October 2003 at either 6.25 per cent or 6.55 per cent depending on loan to value. Both mortgages then revert to GMAC&#39s variable rate of 6.74 per cent. […]

Teachers Building Society – 5.9 Per Cent Fixed Rate

Wednesday, 22 August 2001.Fixed term: Until November 2, 2004.Fixed rate: 5.9 per cent.Minimum loan: £20,000.Maximum loan: Up to 75 per cent of valuation subject to a maximum of £200,000.Income multiples: Three times joint.Arrangement fee: £295.Redemption fee: 4 per cent of amount repaid in year one, 3 per cent in years two and three, 2.5 per […]

&#39IFAs must unite before N3 to save loan code&#39

The mortgage code could wither and die if brokers fail to secure co-ownership thr-ough a credible trade association before N3, the Intermediary Mortgage Lenders&#39 Association is warning. Imla chairman John Heron says the mortgage code could be left hanging by a thread unless brokers club together and ensure its future before statutory regulation comes into […]

Pinnacle launches portable MPPI online policy

Pinnacle Insurance is launching a new portable mortgage payment protection insurance policy online. Available at, borrowers can view the policy’s terms and conditions, get a quote, apply and receive an immediate acceptance through the website. The policy provides cover for unemployment, accident and sickness and can be transferred to any mortgage or remortgage.

Key themes for 2017

Capital Market Notes, December 2016 Dave Lafferty, chief market strategist at Natixis Global Asset Management, assesses the accuracy of his 2016 outlook and provides his thoughts and outlook for 2017. Click here to read the full article


News and expert analysis straight to your inbox

Sign up


    Leave a comment


    Why register with Money Marketing ?

    Providing trusted insight for professional advisers.  Since 1985 Money Marketing has helped promote and analyse the financial adviser community in the UK and continues to be the trusted industry brand for independent insight and advice.

    News & analysis delivered directly to your inbox
    Register today to receive our range of news alerts including daily and weekly briefings

    Money Marketing Events
    Be the first to hear about our industry leading conferences, awards, roundtables and more.

    Research and insight
    Take part in and see the results of Money Marketing's flagship investigations into industry trends.

    Have your say
    Only registered users can post comments. As the voice of the adviser community, our content generates robust debate. Sign up today and make your voice heard.

    Register now

    Having problems?

    Contact us on +44 (0)20 7292 3712

    Lines are open Monday to Friday 9:00am -5.00pm