Sunday, October 16, 2011

I Hate Shiny Laptop Screens

The Worst, and the Best, and the Worst Again

Three parts to this story: Dell's mirrored laptop screens, Photodon's antireflective film, Photodon's extraordinary customer service, and my complete inability to apply the film even with a second chance.

I made the first mistake: I bought a Dell Inspiron laptop, which is huge and weighs a ton, instead of buying a svelte 'netbook' and saving myself a lot of arm-pulling grief.

I don't know what I was thinking.

Compounding the weight problem, the Dell has a perfectly shiny, mirror-like screen that perfectly reflects all light sources above or behind you -- making the laptop almost useless anywhere but in a dimmed room. Why on earth would they do that? Amazon likes to tease Apple for its mirrored iPad, while its Kindle has a matte finish, so you can read it anywhere, even n broad daylight sitting poolside. Can't do that with an iPad - or with a Dell laptop.

I don't know what they were thinking.

Solution: Anti-Reflective Film from Photodon

I finally searched for an anti-reflective film I could apply, and came to Photodon, LLC, a Traverse City, Michigan maker of such films, as well as monitor hoods and screen-care products. The films aren't expensive -- $20 or less, depending on the size of your screen, plus shipping. They are sized to fit your specific laptop model, so you don't have to cut anything to size, thank goodness or this blog post would include a section on bleeding.

The package comes in a stiff, flat mailing package, with a cleaning cloth, instructions, a link to online video demos of how to apply the film, and the film itself, which is impressively thick and stiff and durable-seeming, not like cellophane.

You're supposed to clean the laptop screen thoroughly, pull away the protective plastic, and carefully lay the film from one edge of the laptop screen and gradually down until it's all on. The only problem is the bubbles -- you know, the bubbles that persist in showing up whenever you try to lay down a film like this -- if you'veever tried to put antiglare film on a car window, you know what I mean. A credit card can act as a squeegee to help this process, but it's hard anyway. Tiny bubbles appear wherever the film encounters a speck of dust -- then you have to pull is back, dab the spot with scotch tape to lift off the mote, then attempt again to lay it down across the screen.

And again and again and again. And pull dust motes off until it becomes obvious that you live in the dustiest house in America. No matter how many times I cleaned the screen, no matter how careful I tried to be, I could not get the film to lay down cleanly.

And of course the demo video shows someone performing the operation as if it's nothing at all.

Me, I ended up with enough bubbles to qualify for a 7-Up advertisement.

Trying to Help

After an hour of this, I gave up in frustration. I emailed the company, telling them I was a failure at applying their product and had given up. I asked them to send me another one, and bill me.

They suggest I try cleaning the film in soapy water and reapplying.

So I did that. I did it a couple of times. I got more bubbles than ever.

The frustration was compounded by seeing that in places where the film was clear, it did exactly the reflection-dimming job I was looking for! If only I could get the doggoned thing on, I'd be in laptop heaven!


So I threw the damned thing in the trash, and sent a depressed woe-is-me note to Photodon customer support.

Whereupon Photodon sent me a replacement film. Free.

Just like that.

Without me even asking.

I would never think to ask for that -- not free -- it's my own imcompetence with physical objects, not their film. But no, they just sent a replacement.

I've never seen customer support like that. If they are handing out medals and plaudits for customer-support saintliness -- please send Photodon to the front of the line -- they deserve it.

Just Shoot Me -- Again

I got the replacement package and put it next to my desk for several weeks, afraid to open it and try again. Finally, this evening, I screwed up my courage and tackled it again. I will be going to a trade show tomorrow, and the idea of the glaring lights coming up from my laptop screen forced my hand.

Unhappily, I again completely failed to lay down the film on the laptop screen without a dozen bubbles appearing. Nothing I did could make them go away, no re-laying-down, no sticky-tape attacks on miniscule bits of lint, no caution, no clean hands.Nothing.

In the right kind of world, Photodon's extra-extra efforts to make a customer happy would have a happy ending. I don't live in that kind of world, darn it. So I have Lessons Learned, and ttired of learning lessons I am.

I see two lessons in this, I think. Plus a bonus lesson, but that one applies only to me.

1. Dell and all other laptop makers should produce matte-finish laptop screens. Period. If there is some techical reasons why they can't be made in that size -- they should as a matter of course buy film from Photodon and apply it before sending it to the customers.

2. Photodon has the greatest customer support in the world. I take my hat off to them, and so should you.

3. I cannot apply antiglare film to a laptop screen, period. Perhaps I should stick with virtual tasks; meat-space work only frustrates.

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