September 16, 2007

Acer's Big Bluetooth Fraud

I recently bought my second Acer notebook, after my Acer Ferrari 4000, the Travelmate 8210. It's great. Nice and thin, looks sharp, dual core processor, big screen, carbon fiber case, fast graphics card, webcam, smart card reader, dual layer DVD burner… You name it it's got it.

Except for Bluetooth. Acer left that out -- but didn't bother to tell anyone.

There is a Bluetooth switch on the front of the computer. There are Bluetooth drivers on the Acer support site. There is an optional Bluetooth phone available with the computer. Almost every single merchant of the Acer notebooks list Bluetooth as an installed feature. But it's not there.

In fact, Acer left Bluetooth out of most of its line. Here's what Acer told another notebook owner:
"Although there is a button on the notebook for Bluetooth, Your notebook models that ship in the US and Canada does not ship with a Bluetooth module on the motherboard. Therefore it does not support Bluetooth as it ships. In order to get Bluetooth, you will need to purchase a third party device such as a USB to Bluetooth transceiver, or other external device that provides Bluetooth capabilities. These type of devices are available at most computer shops that sell options and accessories for notebook products. Acer America does not offer an update to Bluetooth on systems that did not ship with Bluetooth from the factory."

Post after post shows people with almost every Acer notebook model made trying to figure out how to get Bluetooth working. At first those helping them suspect a driver issue, or maybe a BIOS configuration, or an OS update requirement or similar. Nope. It's just not there -- despite the Bluetooth switch on the front and the manufacture and merchant websites claiming that it come with Bluetooth. I'm a smart guy and have spent hours on this already. Apparently the key giveaway is when you try to use the button on the front to turn on Bluetooth and the screen says "No Device". That means you got ripped off by Acer.

Another user writes that they went through this same issue with Acer to find out that there is no Bluetooth on her notebook, despite the fact that Tiger Direct had her notebook listed as having Bluetooth. She contacted Tiger to complain and they took the Bluetooth label off of her exact model, but to her disappointment they still have Bluetooth listed for all the other models they carry.

Now, I have the top-of-the-line Acer notebook. This is a four-figure notebook with every freakin' possible feature. If this notebook doesn't have Bluetooth then which ones will? Well, the Ferrari 4000 did, so the 5000 probably does too, but what about the rest of the line? I'm not saying no Acer notebooks have Bluetooth, I'm saying that there are a LOT of angry owners out there who were sure they were getting Bluetooth and didn't.

Don't get me wrong, this notebook is great, I love it. However, I hate having to get a Bluetooth dongle and I hate being deceived even more. The damage to the Acer brand can't possibly be worth the few dimes they saved by leaving the Bluetooth chip off the motherboard. There is a product manager somewhere at Acer whose head should be put on a stake in the Acer break-room as a warning to future product managers that doing something so incredibly stupid won't be rewarded.

So, bottom line is: If you buy an Acer notebook in the US, you have NO RELIABLE WAY OF KNOWING IF IT HAS BLUETOOTH OR NOT until it's in your hot little hands. The Acer website is unreliable. The online stores selling the notebooks are unreliable.

Caveat Emptor when you buy an Acer and want Bluetooth.

Posted by rick at 01:11 PM