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Has the Quality of Consumer Electronics Declined?

Cliff posted more than 11 years ago | from the detecting-a-trend dept.

Technology 890

NewtonsLaw asks: "With Christmas coming up I dare say that lots of people are going to spend big bucks on consumer electronics in the next few weeks. This column asks an interesting question -- are consumer electronics manufacturers sacrificing quality and reliability for an endless list of features? If you're like me, you've probably got a TV, VCR or other appliance you bought over 5 years ago which is still going strong -- but much of the stuff you've bought in the past 2-3 years is already giving trouble. What's more, it seems to be the big-name manufacturers such as Sony who are most affected by this decline in standards. I'd love to hear the experiences of other Slashdot readers in an effort to get as many data-points as possible. Are you better off buying a $49 DVD player on the expectation that it will only last a year or so -- or do lay out two or three times that amount something made by a big-name manufacturer in the (possibly vain) hope it will provide superior performance and last longer?"

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g to the oatse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866647)

c to the izzex
fo shizzle my nizzle my rizzle gizzle shiznizzle!

That's easy (1)

unterderbrucke (628741) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866653)

All of our goods are being based on selling them as cheaply as possible.
Do YOU think their quality might decline as a result?

Re:That's easy (5, Interesting)

dj2fast (564691) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866724)

As an avionics technician I can attest that consumer electronics is not the only field suffering. I work for a company that prides itself on quality, and most of the new units see my bench
less than a year after manufacture, however there is a slow flow of instruments built 10 years ago that are just now seeing the shop for the first time. Kind of a horrifying thought for you while riding on that airplane

yes. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866663)


First? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866670)


FYFI OH YEAH!@# (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866750)

First YOU FAIL IT ALL up in the goddamn place you be, you suckers.

Re:FYFI OH YEAH!@# (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866851)

you fucked up that fyfi like a car crash

Economy Issues (5, Insightful)

BlkPanther (515751) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866672)

In America at least, I think the struggling economy is mostly to blame. Manufacturers are just trying to cut costs to bring their profit margins up, and one of the easiest ways of cutting costs is cutting quality.

This seems to be a disturbing and all to common trend, but hopefully they (manufacturers) will get bit in the ass by customer support and replacement costs, causing them to rethink their strategy!

Re:Economy Issues (0, Troll)

Anonvmous Coward (589068) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866834)

"In America at least, I think the struggling economy is mostly to blame. Manufacturers are just trying to cut costs to bring their profit margins up, and one of the easiest ways of cutting costs is cutting quality."

In Corporate America, quality products decline you! Heek heek

Re:Economy Issues (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866865)

The problem lies in the lack of quality standards.

Look at cars for example, if there is a serious problem with cars it will be pulled from the market. If there is a serious problem with electronic equipment no-one really cares.

We need much tighter quality control for both hardware AND software.

In soviet russia (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866676)

this would be a first post.

Hey you: delete your all your posts immediately or else... remember my father is the local KGB commander.

Made in America = cheap as crap (2)

emptybody (12341) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866677)

more an more , the model seems to be make it cheap so that the consumer will keep buying more.
Build in expiration so we can rely on future purchaces.

It should be build it solid to last and make money off of acessories etc.

Re:Made in America = cheap as crap (3, Informative)

tricknology (112298) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866733)

Most consumer electronics aren't made in America.

Re:Made in America = cheap as crap (2)

Lemmy Caution (8378) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866862)

No, but the choices of which subcontractors to source with are made with the US market in mind.

Re:Made in America = cheap as crap (2, Funny)

Computer! (412422) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866744)

Nice troll. Can you name a few electronic products actually made in America?

I FAIL IT! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866678)

Um... (5, Funny)

Zildy (32593) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866680)

...decline in standards...

Madonna's signature on an iPod.


Re:Um... (2, Funny)

misfit13b (572861) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866817)

i'll see your Madonna iPod and raise you a Michael Jordan Palm Pilot []


SHIT YES!!!!!!!!! (1)

ramdac (302865) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866681)

EVerything's plastic. Drop it and it'll break. Get it wet and it shorts out. Get it warm, and it melts.

Everything seems to be manufactured at 50% the quality it used to be.

Re:SHIT YES!!!!!!!!! (2, Funny)

MrP- (45616) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866726)

Yeah! Where are my solid steel TVs, with solid steel remote controls that weight 37 lbs.. Where's my 400lb solid steel monitor, and my mouse made of titanium.. Where's my sandwich!? oh nevermind!

Re:SHIT YES!!!!!!!!! (2)

Computer! (412422) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866796)

There's nothing wrong with using steel and wood when making electronics. Plastics, when used in manufacturing items you actually touch, are not always the best choice. Take a look at high-end audiophile equipment. A lot of aluminum, titanium and wood are used in their construction. Although you won't be around to appreciate it, those plastics will also be a part of a landfill indefinately.

They are easier to mold, and less costly to produce, but not always the best materials for construction of consumer goods.

Re:SHIT YES!!!!!!!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866801)

In Soviet Russia, where else!

Today's Ask Slashdot Brought To You By Sony (1, Funny)

Alt_Cognito (462081) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866683)

I'm happy with my cyberhome DVD player!

Q. Has the quality declined? (2, Funny)

dsb3 (129585) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866685)

A1. Yes.

A2. D'uh.

digital cameras (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866687)

I have been through 2 digital cameras in 3 years... for a total of $650. Never buying Olympus again.

g to the oatse (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866688)

c to the izzex
fo shizzle my nizzle my rizzle gizzle shiznizzle!

pizzle fizzle dizzle shiznigzle!

nigga nigga nigga lips is bigga

put all the niggaz in your pepsi can


I reject the premise.. (5, Insightful)

ProtonMotiveForce (267027) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866692)

I have not noticed this at all, so I can't really comment too much on the rest of the post.

If the point is "do I spend extra for a name brand over a cheap brand" the answer is the same now as it was 5 years ago - are you willing to pay for the extra features and name brand?

Is this a question? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866694)

I have a house fan made in the early 80s. It has been running continuously for about 10 years, and is still quiet and perfectly functional. I have a fan bought in the late 90s. It is loud, obnoxious, and requires CONSTANT attention.

A decision was made in the early 90s that consumers would rather replace items than pay a little more for soemthing that is better made. Welcome to the consumer culture.

All I want is another fan that'll last 15 years without a hitch.


In Soviet Russia, the Quality Consumes YOU!!! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866699)

thank you very much. I do what I can.

Re:In Soviet Russia, the Quality Consumes YOU!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866838)

in soviet russia, people don't post soviet russia jokes on /.

Annoying (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866703)

People always make claims like this but they can't back it up with actually proof. Too often people claim personal experience as fact.

"A friend of a friend of mine said his Western Digital Harddrive died out of the box".

Before you make claims like this think about %s of total owners who have had failed devices not just you. This doesn't mean the MTBR either.

Re:Annoying (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866854)

Personal experience IS fact. I think you meant to say, "too often people generalize from their personal experience". However, in this case, it seems as though the author is attempting to determine if his personal experiences are, in fact, shared by many others.

I'm sure we'd all like to live in a world in which our first thought, when something broke, would be "gee, I must have the 1-in-a-million lemon". However, that would be foolishly optimistic. So, when something breaks or fails, the only way to determine whether we wre just unlucky, or whether the object was of poor quality, is to ask around.

Sure, I suppose the scientific way would be to examine the sales records of the manufacturer (and any districutors, retailers, etc.), contact the buyers, and have them fill out a questionaire. However, unless you have secret powers (or, I suppose, bilions of dollars), that simply isn't a feasible response :p

Sort of... (5, Insightful)

craenor (623901) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866706)

The quality has declined across the board, but high quality parts are still available. As demand from retailers like M$, Wal-Mart, Best Buy and others increases for discounted electronics, the supply likewise increases.

However, as more and more people become "Tech Savvy" there are more manufacturers willing to produce the high quality, awesome electronics that modern geeks will shell out the cash to buy.

So has overall quality declined, maybe...but the good stuff is still there to be had. Just don't go cheap on everything you buy.

IN SOVIET RUSSIA (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866707)

IN SOVIET RUSSIA, Consumer Electronics fail you.


dameron (307970) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866780)

IN SOVIET RUSSIA, Consumer Electronics fail you.

Oh my, somehow you actually managed to screw up a Yakovism...


Sony (5, Interesting)

ciryon (218518) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866710)

For some reason most of my home electronic equipment comes from Sony. I have a stereo, a surround receiver and stuff like that. And, oh yeah, a Sony Ericsson phone. They've never caused me any problems ever. Just plain works. Not the best gear out there, but good value for money. Perhaps other brands are worse, I don't know.


Re:Sony (1, Flamebait)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866748)

According to Consumer Reports, Sony actually makes some of the most unreliable garbage out there. You've gotten lucky.

Sony vs. The World (2, Insightful)

Computer! (412422) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866713)

I would say that overall, Sony equipment is made to last. It's not the most feature-rich for the dollar, but it tends to work for a long time. I had a Sony boombox during the entire 80s. Never missed a note. Their car audio is ugly and underpowered, but also works forever. Samsung is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Sure I can play Nuon [] games on my DVD player, but what good is that if it freezes right before the $$$-shot in my favorite pr0n?

Re:Sony vs. The World (5, Insightful)

RzUpAnmsCwrds (262647) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866793)

I have never had a Samsung product fail on me. I have two HDDs (they are one of the few companies with a 3 year warranty), two CRT monitors, an LCD, a 32" HDTV, and a DVD player. None have ever given me trouble.

To be fair, neither has my Sony reciever, Discman, or CD changer.

YMMV, but I have found Samsung products to be of excellent quality and durability.

Please do provide some evidence before bad-mouthing a manufacturer. At least say what products you have and what has happened to them - one vague reference to a DVD player is not exactly evidence (BTW: Samsung didn't even program your DVD player; )

Two examples (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866722)

Example one [] . 2mm steel plate, drain holes for liquid spills, removable key caps, removable cord. I have personally witnessed this keyboard withstanding a sledgehammer blow without breaking in half.

Example two [] Useless, gimmicky 'features' that are software defined. Not very durable. No clicky feel, due to cheapness of rubber dome caps. Will most likely last until you spill Coke all over it.

Solid State (3, Insightful)

NineNine (235196) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866725)

Actually, I'm a big fan of 20 year old hardware, where it can be used. I find solid state electronics from the 1970's to be absoutely reliable. But I tend to agree, consumer level electronics, by and large, are garbage unless you're willing to shop somewhere other than Circuit Shitty or Worst Buy.

As far as computer components go, they've been garbage for years. Everything past the old IBM XT's have been plastic disposable junk, btu for good reason. Most people upgrade so quickly, there's no reason to make good, lasting components. As far as computer stuff, I buy the cheapest I can find, and just throw it out every so often.

Quality! (5, Informative)

m_1072 (607792) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866728)

I have found again and again that you get what you pay for...both in terms of functionality and life-expectancy.

Something to remember... (5, Insightful)

bravehamster (44836) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866730)

Higher price does not always equal higher quality. Sometimes all you're paying for is a name. Case in point. At our shop we've sold a ton of CDRW's made by BenQ (formerly Acer). Most customers have never heard of this brand, and sometimes they act suspicious because the price is so good. We sold 10 computers to a certain client, who insisted that all the components be name brand. For CDRW's, they demanded Sony, even though they were quite a bit more expensive, and Sony isn't exactly well known for it's CDRW-making acumen. Half those drives failed over the next 6 months. This is not a bash against Sony, sometimes you just get a bad batch. My point is that paying more for a brand you've heard of isn't always such a good idea.

Re:Something to remember... (5, Informative)

cperciva (102828) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866842)

Sometimes all you're paying for is a name.

Another example of this: IBM's low-end laptops were (and probably still are) made by Acer. Curiously, laptops sold under the "Acer" brand tended to have exactly the same specs as the low-end IBM laptops, and cost about $500 less.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866731)

there are no niggers

The quality of everything now is worse (5, Insightful)

mgs1000 (583340) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866734)

We, as consumers, by buying the cheapest, lowest-quality stuff out there, are responsible for this. The old adage is true: You get what you pay for. As more and more companies keep cutting costs to satisfy out demands for cheap products by using low-cost parts and low-cost labor(China), this is just going to get worse and worse.

Floppy Disks (5, Insightful)

0x00 (224127) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866735)

I swear the quality of these has declined over the past 10 years. There used to be a time when I could reliably transfer a file between machines on these. Now I open a new packet and 4/10 won't work.



Re:Floppy Disks (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866760)

Same with me, My 1999 disks can beat any ones made now, but floppy disks are dying and you can expect them to be crap!

Re:Floppy Disks (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866814)

They've always been like that, as soon as they switched from 720k's to 1.44's. Higher density = higher failure rate.

I still have crates of old 5.25 and 3.5 relatively low-density disks for my c64 which still work.

If I try to span something across a few 1.44s, like the NT setup disks, at least 1 in 4 always dies.

But it's the same whether a new shrinkwrapped disk, or the old shrinkwrapped box of disks I found in the storage closet (complete with a reciept dated 1997).

FDD always sucked.

Re:Floppy Disks (2, Insightful)

jandrese (485) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866833)

I have a suggestion for you: Networking. Floppies today suck because the floppy is a dead technology. Nobody is willing to put the effort into building a high quality floppy because very few people use their floppy drive anymore. The explosive growth of personal networking has made sneakernet obsolete.

Re:Floppy Disks (2)

littleRedFriend (456491) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866858)

Well, what do you know? Maybe after all this time, it is time to buy a new floppy drive :)

I agree (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866736)

I've noticed the same thing. It seems like most of the stuff I bought 10 years ago still works, but stuff I've bought in the past few years hasn't lasted. (I have noticed two exceptions to this: high end computer monitors and the DVD player I purchased wayyyyy back in mid-1998).

Yes (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866739)

So amd me!

Consumer "purchase protection plans"... ? (3, Insightful)

AtariDatacenter (31657) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866740)

I wonder what role, if any, those play into this? Would manufacturers, as a whole, be more inclined to produce lower quality goods with the justification that consumer protection plans are out there? Or would retailers balk at this... or push up the price on those... or use quality as a major selling point for these plans?

I think though, in almost all goods, there is the perception that older is more reliable. This isn't anything new, but is it really becoming true right now?

Umbrella repair (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866742)

Long, long ago, there used to be umbrella repair shops. Eventually umbrellas became so cheap that you just throw them away when they break (which happens pretty fast) and just buy new ones.

It's much the same with consumer electronics. For example, VCR/TV repair places in my town are either struggling or have already gone out of business. Things are so cheap these days that you might as well buy a new one when the old one breaks.

So, basically quality has indeed gone down, but prices have dropped accordingly.

We live in a disposable society. Disposable cell phones seem like a huge waste to me, but they're cheap [] .

Coincidence? (3, Funny) (591224) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866743)

Let's see on the front page of /. right now is: Has the Quality of Consumer Electronics Declined?" which is followed immediately by: "Apple Hawks Madonna iPods"...

Hrm... seems like /. answered its own question.

My opinion (1)

Bendebecker (633126) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866745)

"The more they complicate the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."
It holds true for wear as well. The more features and extras they add, the higher the liklihood that something will go wrong with one of those features sometime down the road. In my opinion, you should buy the device that gives you what you want and very little beyond that. That way you can buy the highest quality brands at a reasonable price with a reasonable degree of certainity that it will still be working two or three years down the road. You buy soemthing thats got all the extras and your just asking for trouble.

You don't always get what you paid for (1)

Itsik (191227) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866747)

I can honestly say that from personal experience you cannot assume that by paying more or relying on a brand name that you are getting a better quality product. The more complex products are the bigger the chance that more companies are involved in manufacturing the various parts that make the end product. Which means that the final assembly relies on other companies QC (Quality Control) and not just the company carrying the brand name.

Sony has been declining for years (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866753)

I have noticed a lot of friends having huge problems with Sony equipment, especially TV's and CamCorders. However, I personally prefer Panasonic brand products. They cost a little less and are very long lasting. In fact, I have a Panasonic: TV, VCR, 2 DVD players, Camcorder, Receiver, CD Changer, and Fax Machine and *every* one of them is working complaints at all. They have my lifetime business.

Re:Sony has been declining for years (1)

truenoir (604083) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866824)

My experience has also been that Sony is not too great. Especially for the cost. Panasonic is good...Pioneer..Yamaha...Toshiba...brands I have that have kept going..and going... Sony products that I've had have generally just been on the flaky side. No huge failures or anything. Yeah, so basing this discussion on Sony products is probably misleading ;)

Hmm... (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866755)

>> If you're like me, you've probably got a TV, VCR or other appliance you bought over 5 years ago which is still going strong

I don't consider 5 years is a ridiculously long life-span.

But, 5 years or more ago, I bought a TV that died in about 4 months. And I remember a Sony CD Walkman with first-gen 'ESP' biting the biscuit in a year or so.

I don't think anythings changed in 5 years, except lower prices all around.

I picked up a 31" TV, a cheapo no-name brand, about a year ago, and it's built like a brick shithouse.. Not the most 'quality' set on the block, but I'm sure it'll be around for a few years.

Of course, if you want to talk about 50 years ago, when a TV set, radio, or major kitchen appliance was a finely crafted piece of furniture.... thats a different discussion.

Quality is less, conolidation of parts is bad (5, Interesting)

jgerry (14280) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866759)

Quality of new items seems to be lower than it used to be. I own tons of consumer electronics devices, way more than the average person, I'm sure. The things I buy now don't last as long. I've been through 3 dvd players in 4 years, and they were all over $150. Yet I have a set of speakers that are 12 years old (!) and still work perfectly.

There's also no point in fixing any of these items, everything is soldered onto one PCB board. If one trace comes loose... Time for a new unit.

Check out a Technics turntable...

Technics SL-1200 MK2 []

You'll find a pair of these in pretty much any club in the entire world. The design hasn't changed at all in over 20 years. It's a beautiful piece to behold, it's built like a tank. It weighs 26 pounds. And every single component, motors, tonearm, etc -- can all be replaced. These things are built to last.

This is how things used to be built. I can't think of anything new that I own that has the build quality of my turntables. And that's sad.

We've turned into a disposable society.

This is exactly what Microsoft does with software (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866763)

While many vendors (and most of the OSS community) writes software to be error free, stable and secure, MS focuses on features they can market to get you to upgrade. Consumer devices are no different.

The theory of the endless lightbulb (2)

jpt.d (444929) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866764)

The endless lightbulb - the myth of the bulb that would never go out and stay strong forever.

Can this be done? I do not know, but I do know that nobody would make them because of being predisposed to a declining market.

The same is about electronics.

In capitalist America (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866769)

you gey what you pay for.

Would you expect the quality of a 30$ CDROM driver to be the same as a 100$ unit 3 years ago ?
What about a 8$ floppy drive ?

"Cheap" vs. Inexpensive (5, Insightful)

pvera (250260) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866772)

The "good" stuff is still good. We just got more "cheap" stuff that does the basic stuff only the "good" stuff used to do.

The best example is the stand-alone $49 DVD player. To somebody that is not a total video freak, the $49 does the same job as a $200 unit. My first DVD player cost me $300, a Toshiba that worked for over 2 yrs without any problem. My second DVD player was for my PC and cost me $80. My third one was a stand alone that came as part of a Teac receiver combo and cost $150 with 5.1 speakers plus FM radio (no, they don't sound like Bose, but dammit, that's $150 for a 5.1 home theater). I bought another combo like that one for $130. My wife buys $49 DVD players for my little kid so if they break out of warranty we are out of just $50 (a cheap VCR costs more).

Each and every DVD player I have bought looks exactly the same on my piece of crap TV. Every one. The original Toshiba was the only one with a decent remote, that is the only thing I have to say on its defense. Each of the $49 DVD players we have bought can read VCD and MP3 CDRs and CDRWs. The last one she got is smaller than our digital cable box, and weights maybe 1/3rd of what my xbox does.

Notice I said this only applies if you are not a video freak. To us normal Joes, a DVD plays the same regardless, and the only thing you can do to make it better is to get a better TV.

There are many more examples like this, but to me the most obvious is the cheapo DVD players.

Who cares? Just read reviews to assist decisions. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866774)

What difference does it make if quality is less? This has always been part of our capitalist economy: high-end, mid-grade and low-end. Cars, clothes, appliances, furniture, etc. all fall into this statement.

Is a $50 DVD player lower quality than a $300 unit? Who knows. Read Consumer Reports (or epinions, Consumer Reviews, etc.) and decide for yourself.

No one can make a blanket statement that says less expensive electronics mean less quality!

Warranty (1)

PantyChewer (557598) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866775)

Look at / Ask about the product's warranty before you buy. If it isn't at least 2 years, you'll likely have to replace it soon. Do some research and see what other people say about the product and their experiences before rushing off to buy that gadget. Don't get sucked into paying extra for extended warranties from the reseller either.

What else is new (2)

mao che minh (611166) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866776)

I never bought into the whole "if it's a big name product, it much be far superior in quality" when buying simple home electronics (excluding Radio Shack hardware, of course). I have owned plenty of no-name TVs, an Apex DVD player, a few old no-name VCRs, "universal" remotes that I can't recall if they even had a brand name on the packaging, etc. None of it ever went bad, and many, like the Apex DVD player, actually offerred a ton more features then $200 Toshiba or Sony gear.

Alot of the electronics in a $75 DVD player is just as reliable as the components found in a $250, shiny silver deal with a great big animated LCD on it and a million buttons. The same goes for most electronics, be it the controller for a laser printer or some random PCB in a VCR.

When Sony walkman were made of metal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866778)

And they had amazing ones like the Budokahn with a real headphone? I'm talking the mid 80's here. Remember the Kenwood Chef all made of metal too? the Tonka Toys? Quality in most appliances and good has been killed as of the early 90s in fact. This "discovery" is 10 years behind the times.

My DVD drive just died, some else's Hard Drive croaked, no one knows what I'm saying when I ask for a time base corrector for my VCR or an equaliser for my old Denon or Revox gear...

Yep these are signs of the times.

But the fault has always been the one of the consumers. They are the ones who should have started saying "Wow, $200 for that thing? It looks like a cheap taiwanese knock-off sold at $10" But nope. In Circuit City it was always the cheapest looking one that was a best seller. People don;t even know how to buy (heck they don;t even know how to cook).

Time for that Alien invasion and a return to a life in the underground shelters. Yeah, we need an other war. That's what I tell them kids today.

It's just about costs (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866779)

Manufacturers of new high priced equipment can't afford not to give high quality components, and good build quality. For example, the leads that came with my Tivo have gold plated plugs. My early soundblaster card has very little noise compared with the cracklyness of the alegedly better chip on my motherboard. But when something costs a lot, adding little extras to the price doesn't really increase the overal cost by more than about $20. For an expensive piece of equipment, not having this sort of attention to detail can actually cost sales. Early adopters are fussy purchasers. They'll care about picture degradation in cables, and noise from nearby components. Once you get down to the $150 range, that $20 is a lot to add to the price of the unit. Prices have to be kept as low as possible, but we're aiming at a different market segment, who generally don't care too much about anything apart from whether it will work adequately for a year. They aren't going to spot that picture quality is 5% more grainy, or the signal to noise ratio from their soundcard has dropped by half a decibel. The only solution is to buy a DVD recorder or a PVR instead. Not a lot of good for playing tapes back, but the onl;y way you can get good components.

Quality is declining (5, Interesting)

geek (5680) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866784)

I refuse to buy most big brand names now. I've been burnt by just about everyone, mostly recently Microsoft and my xbox that died 3 weeks after the warranty was up.

My dad has a Mitsubishi 36 inch TV that he bought close to 14 years ago. It still works like a champ, no problems at all. I've got a 3 year old 36 inch Sony that I'm already seeing problems with.

I can't say exactly why this is happening, but I can venture some guesses. The quick buck is killing our economy. Everyone wants that easy money. No one takes pride in their products and builds them to last.

I recently looked at the feature lists of some home stereo equipment and was shocked. Most of the stuff on your average home stereo will never be used but you can't find simpler equipment. Additionally we are still using some pretty ugly wiring schemes for home audio. The back of my home theatre setup is insane! I have wires everywhere and while I'm usually good at labeling them, it's still a nightmare to work with.

No one is making these things better. They are making them cheaper and more complex. This goes against what people actually want. Features are nice, yes, but not at the expense of quality and ease of use.

Business Deals and Manufacturing (3, Informative)

FreedOhm (325284) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866785)

A lotta times, you can find out who actually does manufacturing-- and this means you can get the same product under a different name at less cost. I dig sony, but they mass produce a lot of electronics, and a lot of the time you're just buying the name... They outsource manufacturing for business reasons. I think this is especially true in say, computer monitors- a lot of manufacturing is done by manufacturers, and the same hardware gets released under a whole host of names. Sometimes the packaging is different tho- so if you're buying the sony for the sleek look, this might not work out. When I go to buy something like a DVD player or TV or monitor, I find out who manufactures the one I want if if there are any hardware clones out there... or I take my EE degree and build my own ;-)

Quality Declined? err.. (2)

Anonvmous Coward (589068) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866786)

I'm not really sure how to answer that question. What I've seen lately is bolder, riskier products coming out.

You all remember that voice activated R2D2 toy that Slashdot reported a month or two ago? I bought one of those. I have to say, I'm rather impressed with what it can do. It's voice recognition is pretty good, and it's a fun little toy to play with. Is it going to survive a drop off the bed? Probably not. I'm not terribly concerned with that, though. Thing is, I like when products are released that do stranger and stranger things. It seems to me that if they were to ruggedize Mr. D2, it'd cost me some of the things I really like about it.

Sometimes you get what you pay for, but consider that we live in a digital world. You'd be hard pressed to buy a gadget that doesn't have a microchip in it. As long as that keeps happening, products will advance every year to the point that you develop interest in replacing it. I am wiling to bet that in a year or two, they'll release a new R2D2 toy with a USB 2.0 port and flash memory. Chances are good that I'd buy one too because it's a significant upgrade over the original which has no upgradability options.

These products don't need to survive very long because the companies pushing them are going to find new ingenius ways for you to buy the latest one. And you wanna know what? That's good for the economy. Nobody's interested in building a fridge that'll last 25 years anymore. Your business dries up real fast.

Re: Has the Quality ... Declined? (2)

Dunark (621237) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866787)

I think quality has declined, and it's not just electronics. My mom has a fourty-year-old Frigidaire refrigerator in the garage that still works fine, but she's had to replace two newer units that were purchased more recently. The most recently-replaced one failed after only 6 years of service.

The public puts up with inferiority (0)

Kyd_A (243948) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866791)

Companies know this, so making products that either aren't as good as they could be, or fall apart quickly (or both) makes good business sense. It's more profitable for two big reasons: cheaper R&D and production, and you force consumers to replace units more often. Duh?

You can add Mistsubishi to the list (IMHO) (5, Interesting)

bovilexics (572096) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866792)

Last January I purchased a Mitsubishi Platinum HDTV unit from a big-name electronics store. Just a few weeks ago (less than 11 months after purchase) the TV went out. Ugh, what a bummer!

The television repair person came out to diagnose the problem but couldn't figure it out - of course. So he took the guts out of the TV for diagnosing back at the shop. On his way out he mentioned that Mitisubishi has been having problems recently with the reliablilty of their picutre tubes so he thought that may be the problem. (hint #1 that these can be unreliable)

Come to find out that it was not the picture tube but the power supply of all things - my goodness, how hard is it to put a good quality power supply into a piece of electronic equipment that cost over $3k. (hint #2 that these can be unreliable)

Well at least I will be getting my TV put back together tomorrow and all it really cost me was time away from the big screen and my Tivo - which isn't really a bad thing. Luckily the extended service warranty paid off for once, didn't pay a cent.

Just as an aside I don't usually buy those extended warranties but it was less than %10 of the cost of the item and I don't consider this type of item a throw-away item - the author of the article considers his DVD player tossable after a year - this TV is a little different I think.

Just my $.02 - I had heard that Mitsubishi was pretty good in the realiability department on their TVs but personal experience has proven otherwise for me. We'll see how long until the next issue arises - hopefully long into the future.

obligatory homer simpson quote: (2, Funny)

digable (615041) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866795)

"... i know a genuine panaphonic when i see it! ..."

Non advertised features (2)

JordoCrouse (178999) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866797)

Are you better off buying a $49 DVD player on the expectation that it will only last a year or so?

I wouldn't knock the cheap equitpment. Personally, I think that $69 is a really good deal for []
this, especially when combined with this feature [] .

Lets see a $500 dollar Sony player do that!

Old Panasonic VTR (1)

demi (17616) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866805)

This thing was a tank, it lasted 20 years. It still worked in fact, I just got tired of using a VCR without a remote control. It was an all-metal toploader, and when you ejected a tape it blew it out like a gourmand spitting out corked wine. It was huge and indestructible.

With the cheaper models, yes (1)

bashibazouk (582054) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866807)

I have found with Sony if you buy the bargain model made on the asian mainland then yes you get what you pay for. If you get one of the top of the line models made in Japan then it's likely to last.

CmdrTaco = FAGOT (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866823)

His ugly 'wife' has a horse penis. Click here [] to see CmdrTaco choking on horse sperm!

One possible explanation... (5, Interesting)

theirpuppet (133526) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866829)

I won't go into it too much, but this topic is dealt with very well from an Anthropological perspective. The book is called Why Nothing Works, by Marvin Harris.

Basically the premise is larger coporations eating smaller corporations, drive for profit leading to lack of quality standards and appreciation, more features to keep selling (who can survive if your product is only bought every 10-20 years)... There's more, but that's what the book is for, including giving a possible explanation as to why this came about in the first place, and why we let it continue to get worse.

FYI: Marvin Harris is not only probably one of the most influential Anthropologists of our time, but also writes many books (including this one) in a very easy to follow and understandable way.

DVD or TV or VCR (1, Offtopic)

jackb_guppy (204733) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866830)

Buy it cheap... You will be tossing it in a few if it is working or not.

HDTV is coming.

DVD do not contain enought info - better than what current can do but not enough for future.

TV is going to be tossed since you need a decoder to see new on old with even less quality.

VCR... well they are tape and locked into the old standard and... (see TV)

I explained this to buyer of DVD player looking at two dvd players and the store deeb standing there... He reached out an grabbed the cheap one.

Not feature glut, return buyer investment (2)

GrouchoMarx (153170) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866831)

Sony used to have a very good mid-range VCR line. For $300-$400 we got a solid workhorse of a VCR, lots of features, plenty of displays, excellent remote, fast rewrind, good video quality, all that other fun stuff. It lasted for 5-6 years of solid, heavy use. That was in the early 90s. We'd have bought another when it died if they still made them.

Now, Sony has two types of VCR. $1000 video toasters with more features than God that no one has any use for, and $50-$100 "um, it plays tapes?" models that break after a year.

What's a mindless, stupid consumer-drone to do? Well, we stopped buying Sony VCRs.

It's not feature glut that is driving the fall in quality. It's knowledge that return buyers are an important market. A $300 VCR that lasts 5 years averages out to $60/year for 5 years. A $100 VCR that last 1 year averages out to $100/year, or $500 over the course of 5 years. That's almost a 50% increase in profits for Sony (or RCA, or Phillips, or whoever, they all do it) over the course of five years, because the consumer is, on average, too stupid to figure out that he's being fleeced.

Executives pocket the difference, and you get a new model of VCR/DVD player/stereo/TV/CLIE handheld every year, feeding your gadget lust. Somehow I don't see that as an even trade, but that's just me.

Ex-Computer Salesman (5, Interesting)

Inexile2002 (540368) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866835)

Oh yes, how they have declined. Or at least I think so... they suck now and for some reason I assume that wasn't always the case.

I used to sell computers at Future Shop (a shitty Canadian retailer ala Best Buy in the US) and we would get shipments where head office would tell us to expect 1 in 10 to 1 in 6 be be defective right out of the box. At least twice, we got shipments where every other machine was defective. I started tracking returns and warrantee issues that would come back to the store and I would honestly estimate that some manufacturers (who rhyme with Bompaq and Baych-pee and eBachines) would hit over 25% defective units in the first year on some models.

Manufactures need to cut costs everywhere they can and quality just doesn't seem to matter. When I would get a serious geek (who was some how clueless enough to be in a Future Shop) I would quietly refer them to a local clone dealer with a rep for quality work and using good components

Best Kept Secret in CE (3, Informative)

kin_korn_karn (466864) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866836)

Samsung. I've never had bad luck with ANYTHING made under the Samsung name, from hard drives to TVs.

here come the hordes to say I'm just lucky....

Of course they are (1)

Krueger Industrial S (606936) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866837)

Why have hard drives gone from $100 per megabyte to $1 per gigabyte? Why have VCRs gone from $500 to $50? Increasing technology can only explain part of this. Musc of the cost reduction comes from cutting corners and reducing quality (third world slave labor doesn't hurt, either).

Everything's crap now... (4, Interesting)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866845)

Unquestionably, everything is crap. My VCR took a dump was a semi-pro machine and was bought by a major cartoon studio in 1993. My husband and I wound up with it in 1996 or so. It had served us well up until a few weeks ago, when it ate a tape, belched, and wouldn't play anything anymore.

Trouble is, you can't really replace something like that anymore. Most VCRs are made in China, Malaysia, Indonesia or Korea, and are trash quality. I didn't have the heart to buy a piece of crap VCR and possibly risk the demise of more irreplaceable tapes.

I'm waiting for reasonable DVD recorders. Then I will get on the stick and dub all my tapes to DVD-R. (or +R if that shakes out as being the winner) Right now they are way too expensive.

BTW you can't guarantee getting something good if you buy Sony. Sony gets things made for them in China like everyone else does. And worst of all: they belong to the RIAA and MPAA.

I still can control quality on my computers by home-building, but I wonder how long that will last. Everything roll the dice, you take the chance.

Sony WEGA == crap (2, Interesting)

ansonyumo (210802) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866846)

I bought a 27" Sony WEGA in Sep. 2001, and it had to have the tube replaced in Feb. 2002. Luckily I caved and bought the service plan from the retailer, otherwise I would have been stuck with the bill. I have two friends that have had problems with their WEGA TVs.

Stay away!

Quality has gone down (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866849)

I think there is a lot of validity to this statement. I've been loyal to Sony for while and I've now had problems with their CD players, PS2, and TVs.

Sony, if you are listening, shape up! Panasonic seems to be doing a better job than most others presently.

Korean brands are catching up big time.


the oracle sez... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866850)


Three words (1)

Z0mb1eman (629653) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866856)

Built-in obsolescence.


Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866857)

Quality consumes YOU!

You are buying the wrong brands (-1)

slashuzer (580287) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866861)

If you are observing a decline in quality, maybe you are buying the lowest rung of "chinese" electronics. I don't intend this as offence to any Chinese nationals (pr0pz to you) but more to highlight the fact that Japan too suffered from this problem in formative years of it's massive electronics and manufacturing industry.

The quality of products, if anything, has only gone up. That is, if you are willing to pay for it. Manufacturers are under increasing pressure to provide "value" oriented products so maybe that explains your dilenma regarding quality of Sony product. It's a bit unfair to expect top class quality in a $ 49 DVD player, don't you think? Kinda wanting the E-class engineering in your Accord.

Want good quality DVD product? Stay away from Sony and try Samsung. Or if you MUST get Sony, try other products in their range.

/me Babbles something about people buying Sony when better products are out there...

Definately declining... (1)

Skal Tura (595728) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866863)

Yeah, most today's consumer electronics you can get is very unreliable, for a example a logitech optical mouse i bought a little more than year ago, around year and two months ago. It worked fine until the warranty time is coming to get close, it few times gave me double clicks instead of one or ghost clicks, well this started to be really a problem, giving them all time when the warranty was closed... 3 days before!!! i have cleaned the button & inside of the mouse, tried many tricks but it just keeps giving way too often double clicks & ghost clicks.

Second example is my LG dvd drive i bought same time as that mouse, it's giving a lot of problems now also =(

Also i've seen many brand-new mobos been shipped broken =(

Another example is a Philips Mp3 cd player, expandium 200 or something which my mom bought, was broken also, it wasted batteries very fast =( warranty gave new one on which the batteries last a lot longer and sound volume is a lot higher.

Planned obsolescence (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866864)

Remember, when Sony sells you a TV that lasts forever, you don't buy another one. It's in their best interest for it to break so that you'll keep spending.

(Consumer electronics manufacturers would love to have something like what Microsoft and other software companies are after, where you pay them a subscription rather than buying it outright. Planned obsolescence is similar to this in its aim.

Yes. My new Sony VCR is not as good ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4866866)

... as my old Sony VCR.

Can't trust the name brand. (1)

mattkinabrewmindspri (538862) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866868)

I wouldn't say that the quality of all consumer electronics has faded, so much as some of the major name brands have gotten noticeably worse. There is still some very high-quality stuff out there. You just have to do research now. You can't just look at the name brand when deciding what to buy.

True, true.... (1)

kiolbasa (122675) | more than 11 years ago | (#4866870)

Shopping at Best Buy for a new television, the sales monkey tells me that the expected life of a television is about four years. I'm not too sure what he meant by that, or what kind of research Best Buy corporate goons do to reach that conclusion (and then train the monkeys to quote it), but the TV sitting in my living room that I eventually decided NOT to replace was made in 1982.

Funny thin is they're still pushing you to upgrade to a digital-ready TV because analog will no longer be broadcasted in about .... four years.

Moral of the story: don't listen to sales monkeys.

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