By Nelson Schneider - 08/12/12 at 01:14 PM CT
Catastrophic hardware failure: It almost seems like Microsoft and Sony purposefully engineered a limited lifespan into their 7th Generation consoles. Could it have been a clever ploy to sell more units to customers who needed to replace a broken Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3? Who knows? But there is a way to fight this seemingly-systematic cycle of purchase-malfunction-repurchase: Refurbishment.
It seems like nobody is immune to catastrophic hardware failure, and I am no exception. Back in April, I went to play a PlayStation 2 game on my fully-backward-compatible PlayStation 3, only to have the console beep at me and turn off after a short period of use. I turned it back on and, fearing the worst, attempted to do a hard drive backup, only to have the console give up the ghost entirely midway through the process. It beeped, flashed a yellow light at me, and refused to turn back on: It appeared that despite my low usage and careful handling of my PlayStation 3, I had received the Yellow Light of Death.
While many gamers would have simply cut their losses and wasted their money on a new Slim PlayStation 3, which ‘Barely Does Anything,’ that was not an acceptable solution for my problem. I was in the middle of a PS2 game when my PS3 died. Unlike the FPS-loving 7th Generation gamers the PS3 so desperately wants to capture, I use my console’s backward compatibility all the time. Heck, my PS2 backlog is still significantly larger than my PS3 backlog! I bought a PS3 because it would be an HD upscaling solution for ALL of my PlayStation-line gaming needs, NOT because it was a Blu-Ray player and NOT because it had an amazing library of current-gen games.
So, what was I to do with my dead, hulking, black monolith? Well, I could have sent it to Sony for repairs. Of course, I didn’t even bother calling them to ask for a price quote because I knew of their policy of not returning a customer’s original console, and possibly not even returning a refurbished console of the same make and model. I would have been infuriated if Sony had decided to replace my 60GB model with one of the original 40GB models (the ones that had all of the ‘It Only Does Everything’ features removed, but still had the fat-model case and predisposition to overheating). So instead I circumvented Sony entirely and sent my dead PS3 to a place in Minnesota called Gopher Mods.
Gopher Mods is not a big chain store like GameStop, nor are they a fly-by-night operation. They are a fully accredited BBB small business located on the University of Minnesota – Minneapolis campus. I had heard about Gopher Mods on a videogame forum where PS3 users had been sharing stories about the death and resurrection of their phat consoles. While I would have loved to support a local business and take my dead console somewhere local, Gamers, unfortunately, isn’t known for hardware repair so much as it is used sales.
On the Gopher Mods website, I chose a YLOD repair and, in an attempt to delay such a tragedy striking again, a variety of cooling upgrades, like a larger fan and additional thermal pads. I submitted my order in the evening, and the next morning looked in my e-mail box for the UPS mailing label I was supposed to receive. It wasn’t there. So I called Gopher Mods and asked them what the hold-up was; I wanted to send my PS3 on its way before the weekend. The person I talked to ensured me the UPS label would arrive within a half-hour… and it did! I know I shouldn’t be shocked by customer service that actually serves the customer, but poor service is, sadly, one of the hallmarks of the modern era.
A few days after I dropped my bubble-wrapped monolith off at UPS, I got a call from Gopher Mods. It turned out I didn’t actually have the YLOD, but that my power supply had gone bad. The price was about the same for the repair service, but replacing the power supply wouldn’t do anything to ensure the lead-free solder Sony used would continue to do its job. The Gopher Mods customer service representative I spoke with offered to add-on a thermal paste upgrade… with a 10% discount. While 10% isn’t very much, it was still nice of them to offer, so I added that to my total. $180 (including shipping) to repair and upgrade my old phat PS3 (that spends most of its time as a PS2 with upscaling) was both fair and much, much better than what Sony could offer.
When my PS3 returned home, I opened it up and was greeted by a flier tucked into the top of the box: THE THERMAL PASTE MUST CURE! DON’T PLAY FOR MORE THAN 4 HOURS PER DAY FOR THE NEXT 2 MONTHS! Okay, I could deal with that. My PS3 barely got any playtime as it was, so ignoring it for two months was no big deal. I actually made a bit of a game out of how long I could stay logged out of PSN, since it displays a ‘last login’ time on each user’s profile. I was only able to get it up to three months, though, as the rest of the MeltedJoystick crew wanted to watch “The Lord of the Rings” on Blu-Ray, and since my TV is the biggest and best, we had to use my PS3 for that.
But it seems, at least for now, that Gopher Mods did a great job of repairing my console. It runs quieter and cooler than it ever did. I highly recommend Gopher Mods for gadget repairs. They don’t just fix PlayStations, but Xboxen, Wiis, and smartphones as well. It’s impressive that a small business in the Midwest can provide so much better repair service for gadgets than the gargantuan multi-national corporations that make the gadgets in the first place.