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Monday, March 28, 2005
PSP Launch: Dead Pixels


Are you having a hard time wiping that little speck of what looks to be dirt off the screen of your PSP?

According to Ign "...That's probably because it's probably not a speck of dirt, but a permanently burnt pixel on the LCD screen that happened during the manufacturing process. That dot (or dots in some cases) is called a dead pixel, and it's a common flaw with devices the use LCD screens, including computer monitors and even expensive HDTV screens, and like your PSP for instance.

Dead pixels are the most common term for LCD manufacturing errors, but a number of other errors are often also lumped in with the term (including stuck pixels, where a pixel stays lit, and trapped dust particles and bubbles, which look like pixel problems but are actually specs of dust or pockets of air trapped between the plastic layers of the screen.) These are common problems in LCD manufacturing, but when you are paying $250 and change for a game system, that's not reason enough to settle for. Since launch, IGN has received a few dozen dead pixel reports, and forums including the IGN Message Boards and others have been blazing with questions and complaints about the problem. One of the five PSPs that we have in the office has a few dead pixels as well.

Sony is currently developing policies to deal with the issue. When we talked with Sony Computer Entertainment's public relations representative about the issue, we were told that Sony Customer Service is taking calls and will deal with the issues case by case as they come up. A call to that Customer Service line (a yellow Technical Support leaflet is included inside the PSP packaging), a customer service representative we spoke with about the issue explained that the current policy is that they are asking customers to play with and use their PSP for a week to see if the dead pixels disappear, as they sometimes do. If, at that time, the pixels are not firing or cycling, customers can mail their PSP in for an exchange. As of now, the policy is that customers will incur the cost of shipping and returning, and it was not known how much that would be.

When the Nintendo DS came out in Japan, this same issue came up, with similar numbers of complaints about dead pixels. Nintendo took a strong stance on the issue, with an official policy announced early on and a good customer service mechanic to keep gamers with a system in-hand during the process. In Nintendo's warranty exchange system, gamers returning systems with dead pixels would automatically be sent a second, brand-new DS system; once gamers received the DS, the customer would then send back the system they are not happy with. (A valid credit card must be put down to make this particular exchange, as Nintendo will bill the customer for the second system until they have received the problematic system in exchange.) Sony has not made official statements on how it will address warranty exchanges, but the company policy seems to mirror Nintendo's customer service line quoted below:

"We suggest you use your system for a few weeks to determine whether this interferes with your enjoyment of game play. If, after using your system for awhile, you feel that this tiny dot is too distracting, the Nintendo DS does carry a one-year warranty. We are happy to inspect and, if necessary, fix your system at no charge within the warranty period."

Customers can also manage their concerns with dead pixels at the store they purchased their system at. However, these policies vary by retail chain and even from store to store. Presently, some stores we talked to in the San Francisco East Bay are sticking by the page 13 in the PSP manual where it explains that the sports are normal:

"Red, blue or green spots (bright spots) or black spots (dark spots) may appear in certain locations on the LCD screen. The appearance of such spots is a normal occurance associated with LCD screens and is not the sign of a malfunction"

Whether these stores will continue to stick to this policy remains to be seen. Most stores we talked to have implemented a certain degree of warranty exchange despite the PSP manual's description on what falls within the official warranty. The issue here is that stocks are not always there to make the replacement (particularly in stores that have been taking pre-orders over the months leading up to launch and still are waiting to deliver to all customers on their pre-order list. In the stores that do have stock (and also in stores that have no stock but are preparing for exchanges), various policies have been implemented -- some stores have zero-tolerance policies to exchange anything customers are not happy with, others are setting guidelines that as many as 16 dead pixels must be present before they make an exchange. Policies may also change at given locations as customer complaints come in, so be sure to keep in contact with the store if you are on a waiting list for an exchange from the next PSP shipments.

Sony will likely make official statements and more clear policies regarding its handling of dead pixels in the coming weeks. If you have a system with issues, check with the retail outlet you bought your system at to find out their exchange policy, and if you are still unhappy with how their policies handle your problem, be sure to give Sony's customer service line a call at 1-800-345-SONY (1-800-345-7669), or visit the official SCE PSP site for FAQ info, installation guides, customer service contacts and more..."


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