It's one of the worst experiences any portable computer owner can
face: by accident or from carelessness, a portable computer falls to
the ground and the screen is cracked, rendered unusable.
Though today's portables are often better constructed than those
of earlier years, and with many portable computer cases offering some
measure of protection, the fact remains: your laptop's screen can be
severely damaged in a drop or fall, making an otherwise-functioning
computer crippled or an expensive paperweight.
I've been there, and it's not fun. Now, there's a Houston
company that can save the day, if not your sanity.
ScreenTek Ltd. (www.screentekinc.com) grew out of a computer-
parts-distributing business, when Chief Executive Fred Pounds, Chief
Operating Officer Brandon Bailey and Marketing Director Kevin Bailey
saw that laptop-screen replacement was an important, and growing,
part of the business.
Where computer manufacturers previously said customers had to
spend a lot of money to replace a screen, or simply junk the system
and start over, Mr. Pounds and his colleagues saw a better way.
"Laptops are going to break, and when they do, the screen is an
expensive item," Mr. Pounds said in a recent interview. "[But]
because we specialize, we keep our prices extremely attractive," he
added, saying the firm's prices are "25 [percent] to 50 percent
lower" than going back to a laptop's maker.
Even though I once built a PC from a kit, fooling with screen
replacement seems daunting. How difficult is it? "Typically, all you
need is a razor and a screwdriver," Mr. Bailey said. "On the PC side,
it's pretty straightforward; on Macs, it's a bit tougher."
The company offers extensive documentation, online videos and
"unlimited phone support," Mr. Bailey said.
Though he didn't want to go into details, Mr. Pounds noted that
overseas military personnel make up a growing part of the firm's
customer base. "[We] currently supply military personnel all around
the world, people in front-line situations."
That would seem to reinforce the notion that replacing a screen
is something that can be done, if military personnel are attempting
it. On the other hand, Mr. Bailey said, even if a manager has his
company's information-technology department do the repair work, the
fix is made more quickly than sending the machine away for a
"vacation" to the manufacturer.
For those wanting to have the ScreenTek people do the repair, or
find a local shop, Mr. Pounds offered a solution. "We have a repair
shop network. One of our biggest customer segments is the repair shop
industry. We have over 2,000, probably 2,500 shops throughout the
world," he said, all of which are linked through the firm's Web site.
You can not only use this service to repair a damaged screen,
but also to replace or upgrade an older computer from "transflective"
to the new "high gloss" screens popularized by many models, including
the new Apple MacBook.
And for all kinds of screens, but especially the high-gloss
models, the company has a new cleaning product, PixelClean, which
they say handles the job better than anything else on the market.
This is the kind of service you will want to note and keep handy
for an emergency repair. It's nice to know there's another option
when it comes to fixing a portable computer that otherwise might