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This content is a little crusty, having been with me through 3 separate platform changes. Formatting may be rough, and I am slightly less stupid today than when I wrote it.
10 Aug 2015

Beware Asus RMA and Support Services

My horror story

I’m a long-time fan of Asus motherboards for my custom PC builds, however that positive experience has been stretched to the breaking point with my latest round of upgrades.

I bought the ASUS X99-A recently, and the initial product experience was awesome. It comes loaded with great features, including 8 (eight!) RAM slots, a built-in power button, a digital readout reflecting POST steps in real-time (“Q codes”), and easy overclock switches for CPU and RAM. On the software side, the BIOS provides great overclocking tools for novices and pros alike. It also makes setting up RAID’s a snap; couple clicks and restart and you’re all set.

Unfortunately, the experience after and around the product itself killed the mood, as is often the case with bad purchasing experiences. The motherboard’s BIOS corrupted when I attempted to perform a flash update to the latest version; the board would not complete a POST (Power On Self Test, aka that black and white screen you see when you turn your system on). It would get so far into the process and then lock up.

I attempted every single recovery trick I could find in the manual and support docs, and then ran through them again with a support rep. I ultimately decided to RMA the board for repair through Asus.

The board returned two weeks later demonstrating the exact same failed POST behavior. Another call to technical support and I learned that the board had apparently been repaired for “bent pins.” To be clear, there was no physical damage to the board, and nowhere in my RMA documentation did I ever state that physical repair was necessary.

I requested that my case be escalated, and was told to expect a call back with 48 hours. That was 4 business days ago. I called Support again, and was told they saw nothing in the case documentation that suggested my case had been escalated as requested. I requested to talk to a supervisor, and was asked to leave my contact information and await a call back. I do not hold out much hope for that call back. I was also told that the “escalation department” could be reach directly via a web form, which I also completed.

To date I have not received a single human response from any of my inquiries, and here I sit with a $300 dead board.

To say that I am disappointed and frustrated in my experience would be an understatement. I am a firm believer that a product is only good as the support you get behind it. Based on this experience, I cannot in good conscience continue to use Asus products for myself and my employees, nor can I recommend them to clients.

Silver Lining

Enough wallowing. Here’s what I (and you) can do to avoid these kinds of disasters in the future.

1. Read Reviews

I am going to pay closer attention to reviews that discuss dealing with customer service, RMA’s and warranty coverage. After my bad experience, I wasted no time in sharing my experience via NewEgg reviews. Afterwards I re-read existing reviews and found a number of similar stories: boards dying unexpectedly, RMA requests (having to get them at all is a bad sign), and poor customer service experiences.

You have to read between the lines, as the negative reviews naturally tend to be pretty charged emotionally. However if you boil them down to facts and keep tally, you can start to see patterns emerge. This aggregate information should inform your purchasing decisions.

For example, one Product A reveiws frequently discuss RMA’s, while Product B reviews mentions RMA’s plus positive reconciliation. Obviously some Product B purchasers had problems, but they got them fixed; the lack of such feedback on product A is a red flag.

It’s also worth investigating the manufacturer support services in advance. For instance, I found a vendor several years ago that had almost no support native to North America, everything was done out of Taiwan. That’s an exercise in insanity, and I now avoid this vendor vigorously.

2. Know the return policy

You spend a lot of money on these parts, and their delicate (read: prone to innate manufacture failures), so get intimate with store return policies. How long do you have to return? Are there any restocking fees? Will they simply provide a replacement if requested? What behaviors void the return policy (this is big for CPU’s)?

3. Keep the boxes until you’re sure

Part of my problem was the fact that I had already trashed the box for my mobo, and just about every store requires the original packaging for a return. I was well within the return period and other requirements. Had I simply held onto the packing until I was sure everything worked smoothly, I could have sidestepped the hellhole that is Asus support.

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