Types of Hardware Warranties
Before getting started on the actual warranty process and compare hardware warranties, we need to illustrate the differences between a retail RMA (like Newegg, NCIX, or TigerDirect might do) versus a manufacturer warranty.
RMA: Return Merchandise/Material Authorizations can be submitted either to a retailer or manufacturer. Newegg’s policy is (generally) a 30-day period guarantee, after which point it’s between you and the manufacturer. If it’s DOA or otherwise breaks within 30 days, you can return it to Newegg – NCIX has a similar policy, as does Amazon and most other retailers. After that point, it becomes a game of phone numbers and circus-like hoop-jumping-through-ing acrobatics. For your convenience, we’ve included RMA policies and warranty policies near the end of this article. Jump over there for more details on where to find all this info.
Replace vs. Repair vs. Upgrades vs. Loans
Warranty Replacements: These are pretty straight-forward. The system stops working, you pinpoint the part, call the maker, and send it back. They then send you a replacement part at (hopefully) no cost, perhaps other than shipping. Some warranties, as we discuss in the next pages, feature companies that will even send out the new part once you’ve confirmed your shipment of the defective one, thus eliminating the painful wait times.
This is the preferable route to take with a warranty.
Warranty Repairs: As the name suggests, this is when you send the manufacturer your bricked part and they try to fix it. ASUS uses this model with their motherboards. Send the board in, it gets repaired (with ASUS as an example, this takes 10 business days), and then receive your board back in around 14-30 days. Yeah, pretty bad. Additionally, it is possible that you’d be charged for pin repairs or other operations. Don’t let them make it your fault. Continuing with the motherboard example, we see a lot of motherboards ship with bent pins – these don’t necessarily impede usage initially, but adding a new heatsink or replacing a CPU may later result in enough force to push them to the failure point.
Be careful with this – companies can and will use repairs as a method to put the fault on you and claim user error, so try not to give more information than necessary and be sure to thoroughly explain why you think it’s their fault, not yours.
Warranty Upgrade: Some video card manufacturers, like EVGA, have (or used to have) upgrade plans for now-defunct product lines. In the waning days of the 8800’s reign of power, EVGA allowed owners of defective 8800s to upgrade to their newest 9800 model. Upgrades are an awesome plan, but are very rare with manufacturers. If you find a product you like that has upgrade options, go with them!
Warranty Loaner: This is a hybrid of a repair and temporary replacement, and is pretty exclusive to local repair shops (and also why buying local can be great, despite price hikes). A warranty loan plan is the option to use another piece of hardware to tide over a system until its injured compatriot is returned to working condition.
Which type of warranty is the best? Personally, I prefer warranty replacements. They’re simple and normally have more allowance for user-error. Repairs are tedious and involve many hoops, which normally result (again, personally) in my purchasing of new hardware instead. Upgrades are fantastic, but quite rare.