When you spend over $800 on a nice new flatscreen TV, you kinda expect it to last more than a couple years, right? There’s really no excuse for a pricy piece of equipment from a big name brand to fail so soon after purchase, but that’s exactly what has happened to a huge number of Samsung TVs — including mine. When I bought my 46 inch Samsung LCD (model LNT4665F), they had excellent consumer reviews. The picture looked fantastic, and nobody had yet owned them long enough for the problems to begin manifesting. But after about 18 months (conveniently after the warranty expired), it started clicking repeatedly for 10 or 15 seconds before the power eventually came on. I knew right away that something was probably wrong, but I also knew that it was out of warranty and I didn’t feel like spending a bunch more money to diagnose the problem. And besides, after it did eventually power on there would be no further issues with the picture or sound. I tried my best to ignore it.
But of course, the problem just kept getting worse. Those 10-15 seconds turned into a minute, and then 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 20 minutes… (Click-click… Click-click… Click-click… etc.) It got to the point where we really had to plan ahead; if we wanted to watch something, we had to make sure we turned the TV on well in advance. Then about a year ago we started experiencing times when it just wouldn’t come on at all. At that point, if I was lucky enough to get it to come on, I was liable to just leave it on for a week (or month) at a time, simply because I wasn’t sure it would ever come on again.
It was around that time that I finally bothered to do a little internet research to see if other people had similar complaints. Lo and behold it turns out that a huge number of people had exactly the same problems! Naturally, Samsung doesn’t want their failure rate to be common knowledge, but I’ve seen some estimates that it’s 4% or higher. It all comes down to bad capacitors. Specifically, Samsung tried to cut corners and used ultra-cheap Taiwanese piece of crap capacitors, a widespread problem that has plagued all kinds of electronic equipment from various brands. The thing is, even really good capacitors are not very expensive parts, and the price difference between a good one and a piece of crap is relatively small. I think most consumers would gladly pay an extra few bucks for a device that won’t fail after a couple years. Samsung didn’t manufacture the crappy capacitors, but they knowingly used them.
But the bad capacitors are really only half the problem. Even if they had used better-made capacitors from a more reputable supplier, it turns out that the capacitors they used are simply underrated for the job — so even the best made components would still have high failure rates in this TV, because the design itself is a piece of crap right from the start. That pisses me off.
I discovered the problems were widespread enough that there was a class action lawsuit against Samsung, which they settled (without actually taking any responsibility for the poor components or product design, of course). My initial reading made it sound like my model number wasn’t covered in the settlement, which really bummed me out; at that point I sorta resigned myself to buying a new TV. But when we came back from our week-long summer vacation and the TV just wouldn’t come on again no matter how long we tried (click-click, click-click, click-click), I finally decided to get on the phone with Samsung and complain.
Fortunately, I discovered that my TV model was actually covered in the settlement after all, so they scheduled a service call with a technician, and about a week later a guy came out and replaced the faulty capacitors with new ones. That was a relatively quick process, taking only 15-20 minutes. He made a point of explaining to me that he was replacing the blown capacitors with others that were rated differently (I forget the specifics). So I just asked him point blank if the root of the problem was the poorly made capacitors, or a design flaw that used improperly rated capacitors in the first place. He hemmed and hawed and basically gave an evasive non-answer, which is what I expected.
Anyway, after finishing, he put everything back together, plugged it back in, pushed the power button said confidently, “Now, you should hear it click only once, and then it’ll come right on…” Click-click… Click-click… Click-click… Click-click… “Umm, OK, it’s not supposed to do that.” Yeah, no kidding! Needless to say, that was hardly encouraging. So he tore everything apart again and then re-replaced at least one of those capacitors. I guess that time he got it right, because after that it did work.
I’m pleased to say that since then the TV has worked just fine, and seems good as new. Of course, I realize that even when it was new, it was really just a ticking time bomb of problems, but I suppose I’m grateful that the clock has been reset. Nevertheless, I am NOT completely placated! In fact, I’m very disappointed and annoyed that Samsung would knowingly use such lousy components and design specs, no doubt shrewdly calculating that the products would only begin to fail after they were out of warranty. So yeah, because they settled that class action lawsuit, I didn’t have to pay anything extra for them to fix this. But I did have to put up with a very poorly functioning TV for almost two years, and there’s no reimbursement for that. Sorry Samsung — you’ve lost my future business, and you’ve earned every bit of this bad press.