Wednesday, November 23, 2011

HP Refuses to Replace s3120n Junk They Sold

In 2007 John Proios of Clearwater, Florida, purchased a new HP Pavilion Slimline s3120n TV PC (refurb value $318 on 23 Nov 2011), a beautiful, compact desktop micro-tower powered by an Athlon dual-core CPU with 2G RAM, 320G 7200 rpm hard drive, DVD burner, built-in television tuner, monitor, keyboard, mouse, and Windows Vista. 


John spent over $1000 on the system but he didn’t use it often.  Nevertheless, about 3 months later, the computer stopped working properly, taking several hours to boot up and show the Windows desktop.  John contacted HP support and sent the product for repair.  HP returned it in due course.  It still functioned as it had when he sent it to them.  It had become useless.


Like so many other computer buyers, John immigrated to the USA from Europe.  At the age of five he watched Nazi warplanes lob bombs onto his Greek island home, spent over 2 years in an Israeli refugee camp, returned home with his parents to rebuild, and made his way to seek his fortune in New York City at the age of 17.  John worked as a bookbinder and as a furrier, married, learned to play classical guitar, and in time moved to a retirement condominium in Florida.  There, knowing nothing about computers, he bought his junk HP Pavilion Slimline s3120n TV PC.


Instead of complaining again at HP after the company’s first failure to repair his s3120n, John set it aside and used an old laptop with a cracked screen. He bought a cheap monitor and used the laptop to play chess and conduct trade on e-Bay.  I, a 40-year computer industry veteran, met John because of our common interest in guitars.  One day about 6 months ago he asked me to look at his HP s3120n to see what I could find out. 


First, I tried to boot it up, but walked away in disappointment when the screen remained blank.  Hours later I returned to see a Windows Vista desktop on the screen.  I realized that the computer did work, but ran slowly.  I put in my live UBUNTU disk and booted it.  It took hours to come up, and I installed it on the hard drive.  It still took hours to work,.  That convinced me that John’s computer had a hardware problem.


I opened the computer and saw not a single fleck of dust.  The computer looked brand new.  Well, why wouldn’t it?  John barely used it and HP repair folks (I hope) repaired it.  I reseated the memory module and TV card and powered it up again.  As before, it took nearly forever to boot.  I concluded it needed a component change.  I visited the web to look for repair hints to corroborate my assessment.


What I saw shocked me. There in front of my eyes I saw dozens of reports of heat sensitivity in this model.  When the s3120n overheats, motherboard or other components start dying.  That means you cannot merely swap a card, chip, module, or drive.  Typically, you have to remove the plug-in components and swap the motherboard, a project that typically costs $300 to $500 for a name-brand repair company (like HP) to do.  Maintenance professionals well know that if the repair costs less than half the price of a new system, the customer will usually fall for it and buy the repair job.


Some of the writers concluded that the s3120n has a fatal heat sensitivity problem and went on to discuss how to cool the system.,  This one typifies them:

Installing an additional fan in an HP Slimline s3120n

I've read many terrible things about this particular computer model's overheat issues. In addition, all of the dozen or so reviews I've read mention that the motherboard fries with 6-12 months of use. One guy claimed to be on his fifth mobo in less than a year.

Having just refurbished one of these puppies for my brother to use as his office PC, I'm worried, even though there's not much dust in his office and there's plenty of room around the case in all directions. I want to permanently forestall these potential overheat issues. I'm supposing the best way to do this is by installing an additional fan. The main problem so far is...

... the s3120n's case is tiny.

It seems that the only location in which an additional fan could be installed is on the side below the CPU's fan. Even then, no fan larger than 50mm is going to fit, and even a 50mm is going to be a tight squeeze against one (currently empty) card slot. Thus, I'm considering a 40mm fan like the SilenX IXP-13-14 (20mm deep), mounted on the side and pushing into the case and onto the mobo's heat dissipator (or what appears to be the mobo's heat dissipator). This would be perpendicular to the PSU's intake/exhaust fans' flow (front to back) as well as the CPU's single fan (which pulls from the front).

I'm comfortable with computers' "guts", but I've never installed a case fan. I've found no guidance online on how to install a case fan when there's no special fan-mounting location on the case, as with this surreally tiny Slimline. My current trajectory is to get the fan and install/jerry-rig it on the side using the case's many tiny side-vent holes.

Here is an HP article and video that should give an idea of this case, its dimensions, and the relative locations of its internals.

My questions are general ones: Am I on the right track? How might you, my dear saving answerer, go about this? Thank you in advance for simply bearing with my long, detailed explanation.



This complaint pretty well summarizes what disgruntled customers have to say:

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful:

1.0 out of 5 stars HP s3120n runs so hot it will burn out within a year - mine did
Putting an Athlon 64 into a small form factor case is a BAD IDEA. You need laptop chipsets in a small form factor case otherwise the thermal load on the system will lead to premature failure. My s3120n is now a door-stop that will not even POST. 

This computer has inadequate cooling and runs really hot. Heat kills computer chips.

Published on August 1, 2008 by App’s Senior Editor Matt Elliot has written this: 


A typical PC should give you 3 to 5 years of good use before you need to look for a replacement or upgrades. By comparison, though a monitor loses its brightness over time, it certainly won't need to be replaced every 5 years..”


The typical s3120n customer gets less than a year of trouble-free performance, and when it does fail after the 1-year warranty, repair becomes prohibitively costly.  Customers have a reasonable expectation that their computers will last well beyond the traditional one-year warranty, up to 5 years.  If it does not last that long and repair cost makes repair unfeasible by approaching the cost of a competitive replacement, one can reasonably assume that the manufacturer cheated the customer by delivering a substandard product, substandard according to industry standards.


I concluded the following as a consequence of the foregoing:


1.       HP employees poorly designed the s3120n, neglecting an important standard in computer construction – provision of adequate cooling. 

2.      HP employees discovered its terrible flaws during burn-in and simulated life-testing, but ignored the resulting failures, probably under some senior manager’s time pressure. 

3.      HP managers responsible for the s3120n ordered shipment of the product in spite of knowing about the heat sensitivity problem. 

4.      HP managers reasoned that they would pay for repair costs during warranty, but after one year they would ignore the fact that customers worldwide expect to get 5 to 10 years of service out of a computer without a catastrophic motherboard failure.

5.      S3120n sysrems began failing widely, but HP senior managers refused to issue a product recall notice, even though they knew that hundreds or thousands of systems would become doorstops because the customers they victimized would simply refuse to pay exorbitant repair costs.


I called HP support to test my theory.  The support man spoke kindly to me but resolutely insisted he could do nothing to compensate me for the junk s3120n computer John had bought on good faith.  I complained vociferously to him, explaining that I had worked in the Loveland Instrument Division of HO back in the 1970’s and that we would never subject our customers to such a cavalier distribution of known-defective products as HP did with the s3120n.  He suggested I write to the HP CEO executive team at  I sent him this text, alleging I, not John, suffered loss of the computer, to conserve explanation:



I write to take issue with HP's manner of dealing with heat sensitivity of the Pavilion Slimline s3120n TV PC. I believe mine constitutes a case in point. Within the first year of use the computer became so slow that it took several hours to boot. A friend of mine had used it and set it aside for several months to use his laptop. Then he gave it to me to fix. It worked as I mentioned above. I tried reseating components. The system had no dust or debris in it because of its scant use. I googled for others with similar problems and I found several, most notably the vocal customers who wrote about it at, thoroughly condemning it for heat sensitivity and repeated failures after repeated repairs.

A FAQ at hp web site suggested putting a fan in it and maintaining adequate clearance around it for air flow.

I have determined that the s3120n has a serious design flaw. Components overheat because of poor circulation, probably caused by insufficient ground clearance and insufficient fans for the tight space of the ATX form-factor inside that tiny case and the powerful dual core CPU in it. But for this you would have happy customers.

I found no warnings to buyers or recall notices. I asked for some accommodation. The support person refused, politely of course, claiming expired warranty. I have concluded that HP knew of this problem after many customers complained about it, and yet swept it under the rug thankful for expired warranty. As you know everyone expects their computer to last years, not a single year. With this system, HP has cheated customers out of that expectation.

In the mid 1970's I worked for the Loveland Instrument Division in Colorado. We developed and manufactured high reliability test and measurement instruments. Our customers would have condemned us if any equipment ever operated as the s3120n has. This computer therefore constitutes a grave embarrassment to me and to HP. Unfortunately, HP behaves about this item as a bumpkin guest might who just eructed loudly at the dinner table and pretended not to smell the stench or notice the sound emanating from his body. Such behavior goes way beyond the faux pas. The embarrassment would convince all present never to invite that guest.

I know HP has lost a lot of business because of this product, owing to the incessant failure and irreparable damage to customer good will. I for one have made up my mind never to purchase another HP product UNLESS HP provides me with a suitable replacement for the s3120n, GC665AA, SN CNH78023DK, now out of warranty.

I can't fire your engineering manager, but I can fire HP and buy elsewhere while I blow the whistle far and wide about HP's dereliction of duty to its customers. I don't mean these comments as a threat, but rather as a conviction. HP has one way to remedy this aside from full refund: a replacement system with similar or better performance for my friend John Proios who suffered considerable disappointment and inconvenience, even more than I did, from the premature failure of the system.

I look forward to hearing from you. If you react ethically as we both know you should, I'll write a glowing report of your accommodation efforts, subject to your approval.



The next day I received a call from HP Case Manager Douglas, caller ID 650-857-1502, in response to the above complaint. I reiterated my complaint and asked for remedy, such as a replacement computer of some kind.  He said because of policy and warranty he couldn’t do anything about the problem.  I insisted that he bring a supervisor to the phone.  Executive case manager Jody said “there is nothing we can do – the unit is 2 years out of warranty.”  I said give me someone who can say yes, not a thousand who can only say no.  Finally, HP Escalation Department Floor Manager Garfield Wilson came to the phone, listened to my explanation and appeal, and said emphatically before hanging up on me. “We are not going to replace the unit because it is out of warranty.”  I insisted that he put the CEO on the phone.  He refused.  I alerted him that I intended to make the public aware of HP’s intentional defrauding of s3120n buyers by selling them units with known design flaws that would dramatically increase cost of ownership, and then refusing to give customers remedy outside the one-year warranty period.  He told me “Do what you have to do.”


I have decided to follow through on my commitment. 


Therefore, I hereby encourage all who feel inclined to purchase or sell Hewlett Packard brand name computers to remember the above story.  If it can happen to one model, it can happen over and over and over to innocent buyers and salespersons.  If it does, the salesperson will become complicit in a what I consider a fraud – intentional misrepresentation that results in injury and damages to the customer.  And, the customer will receive a lemon with a design flaw so bad that every one will exhibit serious performance or reliability problems that will become expensive to repair.  Such victims will expend time and money and suffer frustration because the computer will stop working, the customer will have to troubleshoot it, then call support, then do without a computer while sending it for repair.  This can happen several times during the first year.  In succeeding years, the customer will have3 to payh nearly half the product cost to repair it, then eventually give up and use it for a “boat anchor” or “doorstop”, send it to Florida for use in building an artificial reef, drop it out a 10-story building in frustration just to see it smash and scatter parts on the concrete below, or salvage any possible parts from it and sell it for scrap or trash it.


For all of you, why not tell HP to consider bypassing you and all that trouble, and just scrap it themselves?


I shall NOT KNOWINGLY PURCHASE ANOTHER HP PRODUCT OF ANY KIND, not EVER, unless HP gives me and John remedy for this outrageous dereliction of moral and ethical duty, and for our frustration, expense, and waste of parts of our lives we will never get back, all because HP employees made a business decision to cheat customers rather than conduct business honorably.


I encourage EVERYONE contemplating purchase of an HP computer to look to a competitive product instead.  I encourage a general boycott of HP till the CEO makes the RIGHT decision to make up to its customers for selling them junk which HP employees KNEW was junk, and using the warranty period to get out of the good faith obligation to provide computers that live up to market expectations of a  3-to-5-year useful life.


In my thinking, HP deserves to suffer a class-action lawsuit for fraud and racketeering for this kind of shoddy business.  I contemplate filing a criminal complaint against HP under 18 USC 1346, Honest Services Fraud.  Remember Enron?  The DOJ prosecuted CEO Skelling for Honest Services Fraud, and won a conviction.  He deceived shareholders about the value of the corporation.  HP cheated customers out of millions of dollars by selling systems with known n flaws -  the Paviloion Slimline s1320n TV PC, a truly good-looking, but terrible computer and bad investment.   I encourage all others affected by the shoddy quality of the s1320n to file a complaint, too, or to fight back through boycott and exposure of the fraud, or both..



Think about this:  HP sold the product under a one year limited warranty, but industry consumers expect computers to last 3 to 5 years.  Didn’t HP have the legal duty to inform customers that it had a 3 to 6 month Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF)?  I say yes, they had that duty, and all computer makers have it.  If they don’t fulfill that duty, and they sell their known-junk to unsuspecting, trusting consumers, take customer money, full price, as they would for a properly designed computer, and the computer then breaks repeatedly, requiring warranty repair, and keeps breaking likewise after warranty does that not injure the consumer?  Does the unnecessary expense not constitute damage?  Does the failure to give notice, the sale, and the damage not constitute fraud on the part of the manufacturer?  Think about it. Then contact an attorney for remedy.




WARNING:  I do NOT function as  law practitioner, lawyer, licensed attorney-at-law, or legal advisor.  Construe my comments ONLY as speculation or general information, and NOT as legal advice for you or anyone else.  Consult a well-qualified attorney (good luck finding one) in all questions of legality or law.


Bob Hurt

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Morgan and Morgan inquiry ID number is 166500.

Please forward to Meg Whitman, CEO & President, HP

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